Growing up in a remote mountain village in Communist Albania made meeting a potential bride a difficult challenge for young men like Safiri. The usual practice was for parents to employ the services of a matchmaker. A match was duly negotiated for Safiri, without his opinion particularly being sought. The couple met for the first time on their wedding day.

The moment they were wed, the new husband was swept away: called up for two years of national service in the Albanian Army. Their wedding night postponed, village tradition required that the new wife move in to the home of her husband's parents. Safiri, far away on the Adriatic coast, was oblivious to the clash of cultures which followed. His parents hated his new wife, with her new-fangled ideas. She became their live-in servant, performing all the menial chores in the household, including washing the feet of the inlaws. When he returned, his parents wanted Safiri to leave his wife. He refused and their marriage began.

Helicopter

20 years ago Safiri's village was so poor and so remote that a Christian woman began flying in by helicopter to get food aid to the villagers. Her name was Alketa. She and Elona, her friend, intrepid as ever, today drive their truck hundreds of miles into the mountains on precarious rock-strewn tracks every week. Their mission: to bring food, friendship and financial aid to the villagers living in poverty in this beautiful, yet deceptively harsh landscape.

Safiri became a follower of Jesus, because of the determined love he met in these two young women. His wife, however, could not see why she should change from being a Muslim. The land on his small farm was given over to the production of tobacco, as were the smallholdings of his neighbours. This began to make him feel uneasy, as he was now following Jesus. One day he prayed that God would use his tobacco seeds (drying in his roof) to speak to him, if God wanted him to do something different. On returning home he discovered that birds had eaten all of his next year’s seed. Apparently, birds don’t enjoy tobacco seeds and this had never happened before.

Safiri understood this to be a sign from Jesus that he should pursue another living. Straight away he burned his entire crop of tobacco. Before he could change his mind, he watched his year’s income of £800 go up in smoke. The poppies that sprang up on the land after the fire fetched more money as cut flowers than he would have ever made before. He now grows flowers.

Miracle donkey

One day, not long ago, his donkey died. The donkey was his tractor, car and family member. He and his wife were heartbroken. “We should pray to your Jesus to raise up our donkey”, she said. Safiri suggested she should pray. His Muslim wife prayed to Jesus to raise up the donkey and it returned to life. His wife is now a Christian.

Safiri and his family have experienced many divine interventions which have improved their lives, but not everyone has been happy for them. The story of the donkey miracle spread around and jealous people started attacking his house with stones. The attacks reached a peak when the villagers set fire to the miracle donkey and burned it to death. Finally, his three year old granddaughter stood at the door of the house and confronted the attackers: “I am a daughter of God and you cannot attack my house!” The attacks stopped.

Operation Christmas Donkey

Over the next three weeks we are inviting parents and children to each bring £1.00 (or more if you like) to the Prayerhouse and put it in one of the special donkey envelopes. We will buy Safiri’s family a new donkey for Christmas.