Former Albanian worker voices heart for witness to Kosovo Muslim refugees

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--The television flashes pictures of weeping refugees and hungry children, people in despair fleeing the war-torn country of Kosovo for safe haven in neighboring Albania. The pictures look foreign to most Americans, but Paula Chaney is looking at scenes from a place she used to call home.

Chaney, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student from Georgia, spent 10 months of her life serving as a leadership and discipleship trainer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board working in Albania, which borders Kosovo's northwest corner.

As she watches a people she loves torn apart by war, she said, "It is difficult, but at the same time, I have to look at this through God's eyes," knowing that even in the face of tragedy God's love and grace can be extended.

Watching refugees flee the ethnic cleansing of the Serbian military, Chaney said she believes NATO bombing of Serbia is "a necessary evil," but not the ultimate solution.

"For 900 years this area of the world has been fighting over land, and a few weeks of dropping bombs on them is not going to remedy the situation," she said. "Jesus is the only one that will bring peace to that area."

As Serbians, who claim to be Orthodox Christians, continue to rape, torture and murder their way across Kosovo, they are doing serious damage to Christians' ability to witness to the Kosovar Albanians, about 90 percent of whom are Muslim, Chaney said.

When Kosovars flee their country, they are often met by evangelical Albanians and internationals helping in the relief effort.

"They are saying they were driven out by the Christians," and as a result, they do not want anything to do with the Christians, she said.

"Satan is using the blanket of Christianity to create even more physical and spiritual disruption," Chaney said.

This is in sharp contrast to the Albanians Chaney met when she took the "Jesus" film to remote villages in Albania just two years ago.

"The Albanians were dry sponges, and they just sucked up the gospel," she said of a people who had lived under strict, atheistic communist rule for half a century.

"The Albanian believers had been so dry and had no hope for 50 years," she continued. "Now they are seeing that Jesus Christ brings hope, and they want to stand on the mountaintops and shout it."

As the Albanian believers minister to the refugees, Chaney wants believers worldwide to pray for the situation.

"We need to pray for them and pray for the believers who are there to be the light in the darkness that is happening there," she said.

Civil war is not foreign to Chaney.

"I know what they are going through," she said. In 1997, the Albania experienced its own civil war while she was there and she was evacuated to Bosnia.

"For the first time in my life, I felt like God had enabled [me] to love something more than myself and all of the sudden it was ripped away from me," Chaney said.

At first, she said, she could not see what God's purpose was for the war. But, as a result of their evacuation, the missionaries from Albania were able to undertake pioneer missionary work in another country.

"There was no work in Bosnia in the beginning," she said. "We began the work there and now there are strong believers."

She said she believes that good can come from evil. Even the war in Kosovo can result in God's grace and goodness, she said.

As she sees the Kosovars fleeing to neighboring countries like Albania, she is reminded of the way that God has answered prayers in unexpected ways. While she was in Albania, one of the missionaries she worked with tried unsuccessfully to get into Kosovo to start mission work there. Now, as a result of the war, the Kosovars are coming to Albania and the ministry and witness of evangelical Albanians and missionaries, she said.

"Jesus is the only one who will help the situation," she continued. "In the meantime, we need to be praying for the Christians who are there and working day and night to help."

The refugees need more than just physical help, said Chaney, who plans to return to Albania this summer to help with the Kosovo refugee relief effort.

"It is not enough to just give them food and water," she said. "They need the bread of life.

"The people in Kosovo are dying and I do not think it is God's will for them to die without them hearing the gospel."

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