Miriam Adeney in her book “Daughters of Islam: Building Bridges with Muslim Women” shares a story told by an African.
“Elephant and Mouse were best friends. One day Elephant said “Mouse let’s have a party”! Animals gathered from far and near. They ate. They drank. They sang and danced. Nobody celebrated more and danced harder than Elephant. After the party was over, Elephant exclaimed “Mouse, did you ever go to a better party? What a blast!” But Mouse did not answer. “Mouse where are you?” Elephant called, He looked around for his friend and then shrank back in horror. There at Elephant’s feet lay Mouse. His little body was ground into the dirt, smashed by the big feet of his exuberant friend, Elephant”
Sometimes this is how I felt doing missionary work in the same way white Canadians were doing. I felt like the mouse who wanted to dance with my Elephant friends. I have been in conferences hearing encouraging stories how a church started with 30 people as a core group and now has 6000. Wow!
I Can do that! The only difference is that I don;t have those 30 core team members, after 3 years work among Albanians, there are still a dozen people who the maximum average they can offer is participation in Sunday meeting.
I hear stories which define what is a successful church plant and by what I’m hearing I’m not successful. Although I invested most of my 7 day week into the church plant, still the smell of being successful looks far.
Maybe I’m part of the tribe of “Mouse” who wants to dance like an “Elephant”. Although I see the Bible, I can’t escape the temptation to copy models around. In fact if they work, why I need to invent the wheel?
I arrived in Canada 6 years ago and while working to reach Albanians here, I learned that there are so many differences to compare with the ministry to Albanians in Albania. Yesterday one Albanian friend of mine, mentioned to me that Albanians he met who wanted to be like “Canadians” looked so weird. I thought about the Albanian church, can it look weird if tries to be like a Canadian church? What are your thoughts on my reflection? Do you have a similar situation you want to share?
Finally I though to add three main reasons why I think this church plant has practical challenges:
- Indifferentism. Albanians in general are not religious so they are not looking to join a religious place when they arrive in Canada. They are here to fulfill the Canadian dream and to enjoy life as most of their co-workers do without God in the centre.
- Ignorance. Those few Albanians with some religious interest either go to Albanian mosque or go the Greek Orthodox church or to the Albanian Catholic Mission. Evangelicals have started their presence among Albanians in Albania following the fall of Communism in 1991. Although the Evangelical Alliance is now accepted as a registered religion, it is not viewed so from the majority of people who started looking at the first evangelicals as a “sect”.
- New settlers. As a new immigrant community, most of Albanians are still in the season of settling, working or studying. That makes more difficult to engage in non-materialistic conversations.
- Hard work. Few believers are somehow involved in their communities of work and faith and thinking to do mission work among their people, is challenging. Every Albanian knows that dealing with our tribe is not an easy task, some of them even avoid doing bussiness with other Albanians. Explaining this can be an article on its own.
So why I still think, breath and plan to have an Albanian church in Canada? Because the love of God constrains me to do that. I’m obliged to preach the Gospel first to Albanians and maybe this might require that I change my “dancing” style. I might enjoy watching “elephants” dance but not involved dancing with them. I might learn from some principles of the “elephant dance”, but I need to adapt to a “Mouse dance”. And finally I need to get used of taking macropictures of my “mouse” missional work as they can be missed easily when “dancing with elephants”.