By Jason Stryd, the Albanian minister at NE Community Church
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building — 1 Corinthians 3:7–9.
“Daddy where’s the plant?” My three-year-old son Caleb asked the day after we planted the sunflower seeds.
Of course, it was only after days and weeks of watering and sun that the first sign of a shoot finally broke through and was greeted with joy and amazement. Today the sunflowers are giant and tree-like towering over us.
Striking, isn’t it, how God chose the analogy of a plant and its growth to describe ministry. Like my son, we expect results to come quickly and in ways that we can control and evaluate. We grow impatient and at times give up. All the while God calls us to the patience and perseverance of a farmer.
This analogy of the mysterious slow growth of a plant fits perfectly what God has been doing among Albanian immigrants and how he is growing a worshipping and maturing Albanian community at Northeast Community Church.
It has not come quickly. It’s been nine years since Martin Katro and I began sowing the seeds of the good news of Jesus while serving Albanians in mercy ministry, social activities, and building relationships. There were certainly days and months when it looked like nothing was happening. There were Sundays when no one showed up for a Bible study or worship. There were moments when we wondered if anything was alive there under the surface.
And then the shoots started to break through—a few professions of faith and baptisms, more individuals and families coming regularly to worship, hearts beginning to embrace the love of God. Though the soil of many Albanian hearts is still hardened by the Atheism of one of the harshest communist regimes in history, God’s word has incredible power and is being demonstrated in front of us.
Today we stand back encouraged. Mysterious, marvelous growth has happened. There is the encouraging growth of believers who previously had come to Christ through evangelism in Albanian or as immigrants in other countries, but were often more like bystanders in ministry and disoriented by immigrant life. Today we see them taking steps toward a greater role and ownership in the ministry.
There is the encouraging growth of those who over the last five years have become believers in Christ and begun to actively share their faith and serve. Through them we have seen the addition of a whole new group of unbelievers who are now slowly but surely moving towards embracing Jesus and following him.
And finally there is the always constant, encouraging arrival of new individuals to hear the gospel and be affected by mercy ministry, many experiencing the gospel for the very first time. We don’t know how long they will stick around before being swept away by work, family, or life change, but we love the opportunity to sow the seed in their lives.
Martin and I and the rest of our team have planted, watered, pulled weeds, and waited patiently—and at times impatiently. But God in his grace and power is growing something great!
This plant is still young and fragile. It still needs roots, support structures, attention, and care. The 30 or so people touched each Sunday are nothing compared to the tens of thousands still untouched by the gospel. But its existence is God’s miraculous work. Praise be to God that today there is a community of men and women worshipping Christ in Albanian every week and together spreading the message of Christ to Albanians in Philadelphia and in other diaspora communities in North America and beyond.
Would you pray with us for God to continue to grow, mature, and multiply a community of worshipping Albanians in NE Philadelphia that he would use mightily to impact Albanians here and beyond?!
We thank you as a congregation for your prayers and your financial support. It has been and continues to be crucial to us. We hope that you too are encouraged and empowered to keep sowing the seed and waiting on God for giving it his glorious growth.