Ukraine rehabilitation centers coming to Albania
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Vinnitsa, Ukraine
When Brikeni, a young man from Albania, walked into the Nazarene rehabilitation center in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, on March 5, the Ukrainians surrounded the young man.

Even though Brikeni spoke a different language and came from a different culture from the other men going through rehabilitation, they all had something in common: they were addicts. They understood his need and what he was going through, and they didn't want him to go through it alone. It didn't matter that he was Albanian and they were Ukrainian. One of the men even began teaching himself Albanian from a pocket dictionary so that Brikeni would have at least one person he could communicate with.
On March 26, Brikeni accepted Christ. Soon after, he began fasting with the other men.

Brikeni and his new friend may be the seeds of a new work in Albania. His healing may open the door for the country's first Nazarene rehabilitation center. At the same time, an evangelical partnership is in the works with other churches that want to bring hope to Albanians in bondage to addictions, said Steve Beiler, missionary to Albania.

Steve and his wife, Rachael Beiler, serve as missionaries in Albania. Steve is the district superintendent and Rachael is the Work & Witness coordinator. They also help lead the Nazarene church in Kombinat. During the past year they began to realize the city's widespread addiction problem.

The country is a gateway through which drugs pass into the rest of Europe. Albania is also the poorest country in Europe. With over 12 percent unemployed and an average income of $3,600 per person, Albanians are vulnerable to the powerful temptation of gambling, as well as the desire to escape hopelessness through mind-altering substances.

"We started running into a lot of families in our church who have at least one member of their family addicted, to gambling for instance," Steve said. "In general most of the fathers have problems with drinking. A brother of a lady at our church got into debt so much from gambling the entire family had to pay off his debt and emptied out their entire savings."

Brikeni was a relative of one of the church members. Without resources to help him, Steve turned to Pastor Roma Lebedev, who leads the eight highly successful Nazarene rehabilitation centers in Ukraine. Lebedev visited Albania in the summer of 2009 to explain how the centers work.

Based on prayer and worship, the six-month program brings men together in a home where they share their everyday lives. They become a family of encouragement and accountability for each other. Trained lay people, as well as men who have gone through the program and are ex-addicts, lead each center. There are also separate rehabilitation centers for women.

Roma, a former addict himself, adapted the recovery process from Alcoholics Anonymous's "12-Step Program." He reduced the program to eight steps and replaced the step that expresses dependence on a "higher power" with explicit reference to Jesus Christ.

"The way the program works: six months is the rehab process, and for an additional six months you become a leader. You're leading guys who are just like you," said Joshua Allen, missionary to Ukraine. "It's a further strengthening of yourself."

The model is designed for replication. It's possible that Brikeni and his new Ukrainian friend could return to Albania and lead the first Nazarene rehabilitation center there, Steve said.

Evangelical partnership
The Beilers weren't the only ones recognizing the need for rehabilitation centers in Albania. In March the Evangelical Alliance (EA) in Albania approached them about developing a partnership.

The alliance noticed there was little work among churches in the country with people who have addictions, and the government has few to no social programs or government-funded centers.

"They wanted to (partner) with one church or organization that would be driving the ministry in Albania," said Steve, following a meeting with a committee member of the EA. "The EA wants to support us in getting the rehab ministry up and started. They are ready to begin writing and requesting grants - whatever we need to help get this started."

Most of the materials used at the Ukraine centers have now been translated into Albanian. In September, Steve will present the packet to the EA and develop a plan for how local churches in Albania can best minister to addictions using the Nazarene resources. Steve aims to set up the first rehabilitation center in Albania by spring 2011, with ministry beginning this fall.
--Eurasia Region Communications
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