Everyone has a gate here in Albania. When we first arrived, the streets looked bare and deserted to me. All the side streets are lined with concrete walls and falling down metal wooden doors. But these are actually gates to people homes. It really is like walk through a neighborhood edition but everyone’s yard is hidden. On the outside many of them look run down and old. Surely no one lives THERE, I would say to myself. But if you can find an open gate somewhere, you can catch a glimpse into a whole other side of Albanian life. The obor (courtyards) are lush with greenery and plants. Trees are full of fruit in it’s season. Tiled sidewalks and driveways have replaced the concrete, pavement and dirt of the main streets. There are seating areas in the shade and tables for family gatherings. They are well kept and clean, a contrast to the dusty and trash filled streets of the city. These gates lead to another world inside the life and heart of an Albanian. Hidden from the outside world it is a place open to you by invitation only, unless you happen to be walking by when the gate is open and catch a glimpse of the inside. If you are uninvited you might be able to peek in, but you will be looked at with suspicion and wariness.
How this mirrors our ministry here in Albania! As you walk the street of Albania, you will find that no one smiles. Even if I am smiling at someone as I pass them on the street, they frequently stare me down with an expressionless face. Until I say “Mire dita (good day), Si jeni (how are you)?” The change is remarkable. This happened to me just the other day when I passed an old woman in a traditional black dress and white scarf. She was studying me (it is not considered rude to stare) but with a blank and expressionless face. But when I greeted her, the transformation of her face was remarkable. Her eyes lit up, she smiled a somewhat toothless smile and her entire demeanor changed.
The same is true when we meet Christ! We are transformed! What was blank and expressionless in us is transformed to His image. We become changed. Out hearts become the oasis from the world we live in because HE LIVES IN US! I am surprised and overwhelmed at how often I forget this simple truth and how I can tap into that oasis in my own being, in my own soul because He lives in me. His power is there, waiting for the greeting and welcome that I will give him. “Therefore I stand at the door and knock. Whoever opens the door, I will come in and eat with Him and he with me.” Praise God… I can open the gate!