When it comes to the journey of life, we all have our own story to tell. Each of us is unique and different in the path we took, but we’ve all arrived at the same place – the foot of the Cross. It’s at this point we make a decision, to continue traveling through life making our own pathway, or to put our trust in Him who died so that we may have life, and life in its fullest.
This is Lea’s story.
The last thing I had in mind when leaving for university was to become a Christian. I was a super happy 18 year old who was leaving her small and dull village life for the exciting life of Tirana – the capital of Albania. I would be hundreds of miles away from all the curious eyes and gossiping mouths, just to do what I wanted – enjoy life to the full.
I fell in love with the vast city straight away, and the intensity of life there beautifully embraced me. I appreciated the fact that I didn’t know any one, no familiar faces to be noticed. I was free!
In the middle of that first week, inside the concrete jungle, I was invited to go to a Christian students meeting. I knew no one, except for my roommates, so I thought knowing more people was the secret to more adventures. I remember that evening like it was yesterday. The room was full of young faces. Students of all ages were gathered and sat in horizontal rows numbering a couple of hundred. They were happy and kept hugging each other. I was welcomed and sat near to the person who invited me, then, after a short welcome, songs of praise like I had never heard before burst out from the stage.
I had never been to a church before that, but from watching TV I had the idea that church was a place where solace and quietness was the language you spoke, not noise and dancing. I sat there mesmerised at it all. I didn’t know what to do, run away or stay? I felt both sides. The problem was that it was dark outside and my dormitory was many bus stations away from the meeting place. “I will stay”, said to myself, and oh what a life changing decision that turned out to be.
I had heard the name Jesus before, but thought that was just for the Catholic’s and Orthodox people, not me who was born Muslim.
As soon as the songs quietened, a middle age foreign guy ascended the stage. He spoke fluent Albanian and after welcoming us all again, he started to talk about Jesus. Growing up as a Muslim I had heard of that name but thought that was just for the Catholic’s and Orthodox people, not me who was born Muslim. His words gripped me all the time he opened his mouth. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, just the fact that the desire to run from that place disappeared. My head was spinning and my heart was pounding. “I need this”, I kept saying to myself.
I had run from every form of religion at the age of 15. I was tired of unanswered prayers and paralysing poverty. I was very disappointed at a god who had allowed so much suffering and pain in my family. I had given up that way of life and chosen evolution and together with that I promised myself that I was the god of me, I will make my life happen from now on. Yet inside that room, the echo of “Jesus is my friend” and “He loves me” filled every corner of me. My head, mind and soul. I felt altogether powerful and powerless, needy and fulfilled, happy and sad. When the speaker asked if anyone in the room wanted to invite Jesus inside their heart I was one of the first to stand up. I still to this day don’t know how I answered so quick, but that was just the start of my Christian journey.
Jesus is my friend
Many days and years have passed since that Autumn of 1999, but one thing has not changed – Jesus is my friend and He loves me no matter what. He never promised me a perfect life, but a fulfilled, adventurous and satisfying one. I am still exploring that!