Chapter 4 – The Trip to Albania

The Trip to Albania

Jonathan Fischer started on the Internet an English Bible correspondence course on which Vera Fischer called attention to. This woman was a shining role model in faith for Jonathan who was not surprised to hear from her that she planned to go to a dangerous journey to Albania which was strewn with bunkers and ammunition remains. The atheist state had just been freed from an evil communist dictatorship and has been called the alms house of Europe. No, even wild horses couldn’t drag him there, in these stretch of land well-known for blood revenge. His memories of baddish supplied Eastern-Bloc countries, which he had received as head coach at the Blind Chess Olympiad in Romania, were yet bad enough. Know, you never say never, because Jonathan was faced with an interesting decision. Eight women and a friend of Jonathan had registered for the development aid trip in the Balkan State. The Allianz AG staff Richard Frank turned out, because his employer started a new, large commission to support children. Now, Vera was looking for a male replacement as a needful protection against advances of suitors. Jonathan himself had not only cast an covetous eye on her, but also to a young student who lived in a sublet room at Vera’s home. She was of British origin, named Helen Richards and impressed him as a talented singer and musician. At a meeting about the objectives and risks of the travel which was planned at Easter, Jonathan met the other ladies of which one was prettier than the other. Naturally he would come along as the protector, for violent attacks of macho men were expected that he should fight off. Jonathan had little wisdom that the Almighty God looks deep into the hearts of men to check their motivations.

The day of departure had come and the two flights leaded from Stuttgart over Budapest to Albania. Landed in Tirana Jonathan looked out the window and was searching for the airport building. His visual organs gave him the feedback that he was brought back to the fifties. “What kind of water towers were these, and where did the horse-drawn carts come from?” he asked himself intently. Mistakes are made to learn from them. Therefore, the arrivals handed over their luggage on volunteers. Those carried the loads as fast in the direction of the W123 taxis with the result that no one was surprised at the lack of a suitcase. Fortunately, only toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes were inside, which were donated by a friendly company and would now find its destiny otherwise. It was difficult enough to get the bags in the trunk of the three Mercedes-Benz, as the young carriers didn’t hand them out without getting an unreasonable high tip. The speedometer of the classic car from the two hundred diesel production series indicated a level of four hundred thousand kilometres. The real acclimatization was at the hotel, where a reception committee greeted the new arrivals. The people were very warm-hearted and expressed this through hugs and kisses on the cheek.

The program of the first week played in the capital of the State on the Adriatic Sea. In her profession the engineer Vera was responsible for the waste disposal and public sanitary, henceforth she felt appointed to introduce the Swabian obsession of cleaning in the small country. In her human zeal she wanted to clean the streets of gold in heaven in her later life. For this reason a discussion started with the travelled with dentist Reinhild Scheu whether this would be necessary in paradise. The perspective of the Albanian roads was disillusioning, forasmuch the waste was thrown on heaps at the side stripes. The poor refuse workers had to scoop the rubbish in the garbage truck by hand. Evil-smelling carcasses were doused with gasoline on the ground and set on fire. Dr. Scheu attended the oral surgery department of the municipal hospital and took first photos of the outdated equipment. The setup of the establishment of a retired German dental practice was supervised by the kind medicine. The foreign colleagues were very pleased. It turned out, that the oral surgeon Martin Anrich who operated Jonathan had left a favourable impression too at this place in days gone by. Even the couple Marika and Stefan Barth from Stuttgart had gained a good reputation through the construction of a polyclinic in the Albanian capital. Was that not the working couple which had founded the Agapedia Foundation together with his idol, Jürgen Klinsmann, recently? Jonathan’s assumption was confirmed by his companion on the occasion of the football match between FC and Dinamo Tirana. The football enthusiastic Albanians loved the visiting German football stars and knew them and their friends well. Even the Germany flag was hung out from the windows of the people at major tournaments, and after German Goals they gladly shot with their illegal guns in the air.

Moreover, spending leisure activities, the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Albania was visited by the group. One of the most well-known Mozart works “The Magic Flute” was performed. Jonathan was astonished when he studied the opera guide and events more accurately. He suddenly realised that an attempt was made to win him for a Masonic lodge. His companions could not understand his scepticism and warbled away the world famous, known by heart “The Bird Catcher’s Aria” and “The Queen of the Night Aria”.

In the second week, the Group wanted to inspect the beauty of the northern mountains and went by train to Shkodër. The windows of the train were beaten up and the seat cushion ripped out, causing another culture shock to the foreign passengers. A dashing young man in the compartment was very pushy, because as soon as one of the pretty women opened a bottle, he wanted to have something according to the local custom. In Shkodër, they were welcomed by a Swedish missionary named Ulf Gouderner who established the Campus Crusade for Christ student work in the University. A small, fenced house which had only one shower serving also as a toilet drain was their place of accommodation. Getting used to it by his Black Forest farm stays, Jonathan didn’t care, but the female attendants had not seen and smelled anything like this. No wonder, there was a dispute among the women about the type-of-use time-frame of this special bathroom. However, the harmonious and nice handling with each other was marred only by little.

The Swedish, German, English and Albanian speaking Northman Ulf organized a gospel campaign in the auditorium of the University. First of all, the German team performed a pantomime piece and then Helen took the guitar and started to sing some praise songs. The highlight was a dance show by four faith sisters, accompanied by Christian pop music on a ghettoblaster. Almost all of the male audience went wild with enthusiasm and demanded an encore. A short sermon on Albanian by Gouderner and an invitation to a service formed the conclusion. His weekly Bible devotions had established itself already at the University. The talented linguist Ulf had learned in two years nearly perfectly Albanian and impressed Jonathan just as strongly as it did Pastor George Müller.

On one of the following days, the group repeated the show in a public place. In Shkodër it was common for people to stroll up and down in the pedestrian zone and to meat in the evening at the central green area with a beautiful, artificial pond. It was helpful for the team that they could repeat the usual routine once more in the program run, inasmuch as about five hundred curious people immediately had gathered in order to pursue the attractive spectacle. In the end, Ulf Gouderner made a call and asked who wanted to give his life to Jesus Christ. Half of the crowd indicated this with a visible raise of hands. Jonathan and his assistants began to distribute invitations for a newly planned Sunday service. As a result they got loudly berated by some Catholics. A runty riot raised, as some of the men tried by force to get the handouts and began to tear them. The Archdiocese had a large Cathedral which was turned into a gym from dictator Enver Hoxha during his reign of terror. The famous Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was educated at the Catholic girls school of Shkodra as a child. The Saint is better known under the name of Mother Teresa. The service of Ulf was greatly blessed despite all attacks, since he was able to start a well attended church on the following Sunday in the city with the largest mosque of the Balkan.

After an extensive breakfast together the tour group went to one of the tallest buildings of Shkodër. Ulf suggested Jonathan to line up a stair race to the lookout point. The winner should get a food paid by the loser. The certain of success and well trained Jonathan fell quickly behind, due to the fact that he could hardly follow the large, blond Scandinavian. On the final level access Jonathan mobilized his last strength and confused Ulf with the scripture: “He makes my feet like the deer’s feet, he enables me to stand on the heights.” Eventually the finish ended in equal place. The exhausted fighting cocks got handed over a water bottle as winning Cup from the women arriving some time later. A further reward for the effort was the picturesque panorama view of a barren landscape painted in full with lakes and mountains. The following race lunch in a garden restaurant the lanky, betting Ulf had to pay for the first time himself.

The royal company at table made the way with an old VW bus driven and owned by Ulf to the Adriatic Sea. There they enjoyed the unusually high temperature while it was April. Out of gratitude, Gouderner wanted to return the favour to his new friends in sharing time at the pristine and intact Mediterranean coastline. Some Albanian families had gathered on the beach, where Jonathan watched a small group of locals playing blitz chess. Kibitzing he realised, that the men were quit strong in the rapid chess game, giving each player five minutes time on the clock. He was invited in English to play a game for money and it was clear that he should be mugged as a rich tourist. In his life, Jonathan has been repeatedly ridiculed and underestimated, which he attributed to his mischievous voice and his narrow upper body. Jonathan won not only one game after the other, but also squeezed out all money out of their small pockets. He got filled with pride, seeing that his pretty companions began to admire him, since they knew nothing beforehand of his talent. All the more the blond with the curly hair boasted on his way back about his many successes and awards. A car overtook the bus from Ulf Gouderner and forced him to stop. The four-member gang of chess players furiously opened the sliding door and demanded to return the obtained money. Ulf urged Jonathan to meet the claim and warned him of the prevailing blood revenge. Jonathan didn’t want to hear after all, for he had paid his gambling debts always as an honest loser. A heated argument developed, leading in a scuffle, ending in a knockout punch.

When Jonathan woke up again Ulf was at the side in his bed and put his own heart on his heart in his chest. In the fist place Jonathan was spooked, thinking that his opponent could be light in the loafers, however he received a prayer for healing. Suddenly, the clergyman asked him why he had flown with the girls to Albania. Jonathan reddened and admitted that the main reason was the desire for a girlfriend. A forgotten word of advice repeated itself: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and and all these things will be given to you as well.” The pastor subjoined, “search the will of God for each day and do everything to his honour.” At the evening meal Jonathan could not enjoy the food, but the more he liked to be pitied by his companions and ouch, oh how he revelled to be cooled from Reinhild on his chin.

The following day brought another, unforgettable adventure for the story-hero Jonathan Fischer. Ulf Gouderner had the idea to give away Albanian New Testaments, operated by groups of two, going trough the streets and ringing at the houses. The team met first in the church rooms of the nice Evangelical Youth Minister Ares Kaftalli to fill the bags with the books about the New Covenant. According to the attractive German ladies, it wasn’t difficult obviously for Ares to motivate six Albanian adult males as interpreters. Only the group of Jonathan and Reinhild couldn’t speak the national language what turned out to be a disadvantage. Understandably, the new couple was rejected particularly in Muslim dominated households linked with incomprehensible curse rants. A large concern for Reinhild caused the stray dogs in the courtyards, since their loudly barking commanded a healthy respect. Jonathan enjoyed playing the protector, while he resolutely confronted the beasts. An elderly man watched whistling the hunt and waved them over. He was very pleased. Jonathan and Reinhild had to take place in his front yard and got a Turkish coffee served by the daughter of the house on a tray. The actual host vanished into his home to get back with a small sword and a few skewers. Reinhild became running scared. Help searching she embraced Jonathan. Signalling benevolence, the Albanian retiree put aside his murder tools. He put his right index finger again and again in a circle formed of his left index finger and thumb and pointed alternately to the visitors who blushed right up to the ears. After the situation seemed to relax, the whirling dervish took the skewers and pierced the cheeks, of course his own. Jonathan felt reminiscent of one of the Filipino Good Friday processions and the shy dentist Scheu shook, whether the high risk of infection in the head. The well-intentioned ecstatic performance was way too much for her. The Germans jumped to one’s feet exclaiming a hectic “Mirupafshim” which was rather meant as “Goodbye forever”. “Oh my God!” sighed Reinhild, “must evangelising always be so painful and exciting?” Jonathan got the idea to pray: “Dear Jesus, help us to spread thy word without stress and strain.” The encounter with the next pack of hounds revealed that prayers are not always immediately heard. Howsoever just the smallest, bouncing barker inflicted a minimum bite on Reinhilds left hand. Reinhild wept. Jonathan handed a handkerchief. A large group of pupils approached after the end of the lesson. Jonathan summed up: “Unless you change and become like little children, you can not enter the kingdom of heaven!” And Reinhild realised: “Then we pass out the writings to the youngest disciples, for they will receive the word with joy!” Thus, the distribution action came certainly to a successful end.

At noon, a spaghetti dinner was served in the community rooms. Ares and Ulf wanted to continue the prosperous postman rally, whereby they met little enthusiasm on the part of Reinhild Scheu. Such being the case, she was persuaded to accompany the experienced Swedish evangelist, while Jonathan was assigned for the change to the extremely charming Helen Richards. First of all the problems continued, since the unhappy dream couple encountered much opposition. “Helen, I feel like to be plunged in at the deep end!”, Jonathan stated and got the answer: “Then we need to start to praise the Lord like Jonah in the fish, Jona-than Fisch-er!” Wow, what a beautiful voice this woman had. No wonder so many songs are sung in English, was crossing the mind of the German singer. The spiritual atmosphere had changed, at least since one after the other New Testament was willingly accepted. Helen rejoiced and Jonathan praised the day. An Albanian woman started to reinstruct that you shouldn’t count the chicken before they are hatched. Suspiciously she scrutinized the presented book, just to bash it over Jonathan’s head. She probably screamed on Albanian, that she is “katolike”. The German missionary was tapping on his chest claiming also to be “katolik” (Catholic). The daughter was called who spoke as a secondary school graduate French. “Oh, mon Dieu”, Jonathan dropped the subject as soon as possible, having achieved only bad marks. Helen and her companion were invited in the state parlour. Jonathan scored with his monastic relatives, in as much his recently deceased sister aunt Hanna was a nun. On the other side, the stagnant talk made obvious, that Catholics should not read the Bible, because they cannot understand it anyway. After all, only the clergy was allowed to make use of the Vulgate (Latin version of the Bible). Following these explanations, the hostess tried to matchmake her daughter Leah with Jonathan. The girl was in fact very pretty. In any event she tried to twist Jonathan around her little finger with the charmingly flutter of her eyelashes. For a short time, Helen tried to listen more precisely, but the expectant teacher didn’t get the head around. Right after the discussions had arrived at the price negotiations, for the future mom in law asked about any lands and houses in Germany, the wisecracker Jonathan favoured to take Helen with him to return home to their accommodation. The participants exchanged their experiences, right before the evening meal arrived at the dinning table, where mainly Helen had much to smile about.

The next morning, the party left the area around Shkodër in the direction of the Albanian Alps. This time Ulf organized an edgy Puch G SUV model from Ares Kaftalli . The transport vehicle had also four hundred thousand kilometres on the speedometer. Another record was to transport even fourteen people in the 5-seater. At least, the spare parts supply seemed to operate in the developing country, concluded Jonathan.  As a matter of fact, he loved it to get squashed between Helen Richards and Reinhild Scheu, sitting together in the vertical box utility room at the back. Wow! The soft skin of the girls at his side was tender like a baby. It was sensational to get in touch with the beloved driving up the lopes of endless serpentines. The conversation got more and more excited when they arrived at a pristine mountain lake. There they wanted to take their brought along snacks and to spend a longer time in the spring. Jonathan impressed the group by jumping into the deep end. Ulf had already announced that very hard-boiled swimmers should bring their bathing suits. Helen and Reinhild followed Jonathan into the cold water and enjoyed it to wet him repeatedly splashing in the water. At the supreme moment, when these two heavenly beings left with their wet bathing suits the clear aqua, Jonathan knew not where he should look first. It seemed as if he had never seen more beautiful curves and characteristics of the opposite sex. Hormones were released in his body. His blood began to circulate faster. The observant missionary Gouderner took the opportunity to take him aside. He showed him a passage in the Bible where Job mad a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at a virgin. He further explained that God would give him exactly at the right time a wife, who will share with him the most exciting experiences. Then he prayed for him that he will perform his job as companion properly with the responsibility God is expecting.

Three boys in pubertal age approached who had followed from afar the bustle on the lake. Ulf told Jonathan he had the impression that this is the opportunity to hold his first mission sermon for the mountain residents with him as a translator. The teenagers listened curiously for half an hour his experiences as a driver at the World Championships in Athletics. Before they left, each of the three Muslim-pervaded locals happily received a Bible. Two of the blond Christian dancers had the idea to pray for them before dismissing, which was immediately appreciated.

After the group had spent a wonderful time in the Albanian mountains, they went on their way home. It began to dawn. Once again the vehicle was abruptly pushed aside from another car and forced to stop. Two shadowy men who carried pistols in holsters inspected the SUV. It seemed as if they were inquiring in Albanian where the passengers came from and what they are doing, for Ulf started to call the names of each one of them. One of the men opened the back door and took Helen at her arms. Jonathan freaked out and wanted to be violent again. Ulf came rushing to the aid of his friends. He calmed Jonathan down, telling them to just come out of the trunk. The two Albanian police officers sifted through the rear part, found a bottle of Coca-Cola and confiscated the smuggled good, making satisfied their way. The fact that ten people were transported in an approved five-person car, did not bother the police in this country. Jonathan had to reminisce about the day’s events before falling asleep. He felt like in a roller coaster ride of emotions when he thought of Helen and Reinhild. He did not know which of the two he should choose, because each one was extremely attractive and likeable in her own way. Instead of figuratively drawing a picture of the beauties in his mind, he saw the three boys whom he had given testimony suddenly in his head. An indescribable sense of joy surrounded him and tears rolled down his cheeks. The prediction of the nun, he would become a priest, returned in remembrance. Did not two pastors tried with their advices to make it clear that he should work towards the same goal.

The two-week Easter vacation was drawing to an end. Gouderner put the visitors in his VW bus, the luggage on the roof rack, targeting the airport in Tirana. He spoke of a coming revival. The pioneering earworm-cassette “I have loved you” from the Christian songwriter Kent Henry was played. Jonathan couldn’t forget the song “Help us” and “Prayer for the Wounded”. After his arrival in Stuttgart he straight away obtained the 1993 produced CD from the Charisma Shop. In this Christian bookstore Jonathan regularly stocked up with recordings and literature. Afterwards he especially enjoyed a bestseller by Ulf Gouderner, dealing with true spiritual life. The successful theological dissertation, entitled “An injured sheep is more important than ninety-nine healthy” showed church leaders and lay brothers how necessary it is to help emotionally wounded in the church. Later Ulf caused a sensation, when he returned to the far north of Sweden and founded the fastest growing church community in Europe.

 

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