Paul and Sue Johnson (CRU)

Submitted by Paul Johnson

1. The mission statement for Cru: A community passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ. Movements everywhere so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus. Win people to Christ, build them in their faith, send them to reach others to Christ.

2. Here is how our personal ministry fits in the bigger picture: We have been in Tirana Albania for 1 ½ years serving with Sotmeria (the local name for Leader Impact). Our aim is to develop meaningful relationships with leaders and their spouses in order to win them to Christ. We have earned their trust through offering business friendly outreach events, and pre-evangelistic business book studies to which we add the Bible passages that parallel these principles. Our hope for 2019 is that several leaders will be ready for an investigative Bible study. For those who turn to the Lord we plan to build their faith through Bible discussion groups that emphasize practical Christian skills. Ultimately, our goal is to equip them to reach their peers and the greater community for Christ through their getting involved in evangelism and discipleship through this ministry and local evangelical churches.

3. Past year ministry highlights in brief: We have developed a bonus ministry in cooperation with the Young Professionals (YP) ministry of Sotmeria by mentoring several of their converts.  The YP team is training them in ministry skills but Sue and I are teaching them how to live the Christian life in their careers, dating relationships, and their families. We are the most senior staff here by at least a decade.  All the Albanian nationals are first generation Christians. Not surprisingly, a number of them want to spend time with us, ask our advice and look at us for a model of faithfulness in ministry and marriage.  The director of the YP ministry has asked Paul to continue a formal mentoring relationship this year, and the wife of one YP couples has asked Sue to do the same. Also, we are delighted to find a church home here, Kishen e Besimit Biblik (Faith Bible Church). It is one of the few Reformed congregations in Albania. One of our Cru colleagues planted it 6 years ago. He is assisted by an American couple who translate for us. Attendance averages 35, a minority of whom speak English. However, we love these people and are hosting 6 couples in our apartment monthly as we lead study of the book Sacred Marriage.

4. A new dimension to our ministry this year: IJR (Cru Albania) belongs to the American Chamber of Commerce of Albania (AmCham).  In March, I became the IJR representative to the AmCham since I have been a business owner. Since then I have been asked to be the Vice-Chairman of the Labor and Ethics Committee. My responsibility is the Ethics piece, a topic I have been very interested in for decades.  Corruption is pervasive and systemic in this part of world. That is one of the main reasons Albania is among the poorest countries in Europe.  This position has potential to make a difference by positioning the AmCham as a champion of ethical best practices.  The benefit to our ministry is that this will give me additional credibility and many new business contacts at the highest levels.

5. These are our goals for the coming year: Along with my co-facilitator, we expect our group of mid-level business owners and executives to increase to 12 to 15 members. Since these men grew up under the most repressive atheistic Communism, they are not particularly interested in religion.  But since they are open to improving their skills as businessmen, our meetings function as a positive peer group where we can learn from each other. As they have realized we are “safe”, we have begun to share parts of our testimonies, and elements of the gospel. This ministry year we expect to be able to share our faith completely, perhaps in the group setting, and certainly during individual appointments. Sue began a group for Women in Business last winter that quickly grew to more than a dozen participants. To her surprise, half of them are followers of Christ! She and her co-facilitator Irena, and Lida who has another group with Irena, hosted a special breakfast October that attracted 39 attendees. The official in the number 3 position at the American Embassy, Chief of the Political and Economic Section, is a woman who is a strong believer. She shared perspectives about being a woman in leadership, serving in Albania, and included a clear reference to her Christian faith. To our amazement, all 26 new attendees signed up for a series that will help them define their personal worldview while introducing them to the biblical worldview. Two new groups have formed, one of which includes 3 of the most influential businesswomen in Albania! Our hope is to see one or more conversions among the both the men and women.

6. We can’t do anything apart from God’s grace and your prayers. Here are a few requests: For a growing love for the Lord, for His people, and for the lost. For continuing favor with the Albanians God wants us to meet and deepening relationships of trust with those we already know. That this would be the ministry year we would see our first fruit among top business leaders.We have never experienced spiritual warfare like we have here. This is true of our entire Sotmeria team (13 Albanians and 4 Americans). Obviously the enemy doesn’t want to lose any territory.  That just renews our dependence upon the Lord and strengthens our resolve to resist Satan. This confirms Albania is where the Lord wants us to be.