The need for intentional planning to follow up on people leaving Albania as immigrants. From a survey I did with my contacts that have left Albania living in Europe and North America, almost 40 % of them lost the contacts with the church they attended back in Albania. Almost 40% of them are not going to any church and one reason is they haven’t found an evangelical church nearby. New immigrants are in various stages of their spiritual lives when they leave the country. We can’t expect that all will react in the same way in the new life. Many pastors in Albania having not proper preparation on the changes a new immigrant has to face in the beginning of the new life in a country, might consider the lack of communication as a desire to be distant from the church and they might give up on following the person. In my survey only 5% of people who responded to my request to do the survey has less than 3 years as immigrants, and almost 75% have been more than 7 years. Can you see the trend? New immigrant don’t have time to do something that is not important/urgent for them. Those who are more stable, they find time to do surveys and give their feedback.
To solve this problem it is needed a system that helps local churches and those who leave the country to be connected again. Immigration is a fact and churches need to be prepared when people leave. We can’t afford letting the enemy cutting communication lines or building walls between both sides. In the time I left Albania it was still considered “a traitor” someone in ministry who immigrates. Now I hear that as a half joke. I am working on a Manual for Local churches to be better prepared for people’s migration and immigration.
I friend of mine who was pastoring a new church in a Muslim majority town had the challenge of migration while the youth he is reaching and discipling leave the town to go to University in the capital city. Most of them don’t come back. His work looked unsuccessful to compare with some churches in capital city, where somehow sent disciples who made the numbers and working force in the new church. I feel the pain of my friend seeing people move to another location. But if we all have the picture of working in the Kingdom for the King, we are better prepared in the perspectives of people moving from one location to another. In the Bible we have seen the migration of people as a blessing or a way God has intended to spread his message or preserve his people from harm.
I suggest these steps every church can make:
-Have a database with everyone they have been working with adding details that are needed for follow up.
-Be prepare that some people in the church will leave so preparing the church ahead of time, what to do if they leave the city, the country. When that happens everyone is prepared-the church and the individual.
-Assign a person who can follow by phone, emails, social media the person leaving the church, making sure that he/she doesn’t feel forgotten and looking for ways to suggest a local church in area to attend.
-If possible have a presence online, either on social media or website. If your church has a Facebook page, the person who leaves can still feel part of the group even far away. If you post sermons online, the person still can receive God;s word even far away.
-Don’t let people leave with guilt that they are not doing God’s will by immigrating or don’t have enough faith. Every situation is different and every person is in different stages of development as a believer or in different situation of need.
What are your thoughts? Any new ideas or perspectives. Share them with the rest of us.