Capital City: Tirana
Area: 28,748 sq km (11.100 sq miles)
Major religion: Muslim 70%, Christian 30%
Adult Literacy Rate: 86.5%
Life Expectancy: 78
Organisation: Adriatic Union Conference
Website: Albanian Mission
Rruga "Irfan Tomini"
Vila Nr 70
Lewis, born Dionis Katundi in Albania in 1894, had emigrated with his family to the USA in 1901. After becoming a pharmacist in Boston, he responded in the 30s to a call of the General Conference to return to Albania as a missionary.
After his arrival in Albania, Lewis opened a pharmacy in Korça and later in Vlora. His early missionary work went slowly but soon several people joined a small company of Adventist believers and were keeping the Sabbath (Saturday). The Seventh-day Adventist Church paper, the Review and Herald, reported that five converts accepted the good news of Christ’s return and kept the Sabbath and six more were ready for baptism. Some early baptisms in Albania were performed by Pastor Christoforos A Christoforides from Greece. However, Christoforides remembers that the first Adventist believers were baptised by D Henneke, a German missionary, during a brief stay in 1932. The Hennekes were expelled by the Albanian authorities and were unable to establish an Adventist company.
Difficult times for this small group of believers came when money could not be sent into Albania during World War II. Daniel Lewis went to Italy in 1942, where he married Flora Sabatino with whom he returned to Albania in September 1945. Flora Sabatino – Lewis recalls that, back in Korça 'it was difficult to be very active as Adventist Christians after the war'. They knew the police were constantly watching them. 'There were about ten people who suffered as Adventists. These were beaten, left without food, thrown out of their homes, and now they are dead, so they can't tell their stories. They were Adventists with all their hearts. Some of them were not baptised because it wasn't allowed. They suffered much. They got beaten for keeping the Sabbath. They can't tell us their stories, but the Lord knows' she tearfully recalls.
In 1949 the government ordered that all religious denominations be registered. Knowing that such a step meant State control of Church funds, buildings and activities, Daniel decided to flee with his family. Caught near the border on 17 April 1950, he went to prison instead. Daniel was sentenced to twenty years. Later his punishment was reduced to ten years, but he did not live to see the end of his sentence. Although his faith remained strong, his body did not. After more than four years of beating, torture and overwork, Daniel Lewis died.
Flora survived her prison term of two and a half years. Her children had been taken to an orphanage. Yoni, her son, ended in a mental hospital. Ester was more fortunate. Meropi Gijka, now in her nineties, one of the few early converts who survived, had three dreams which kept her faith alive in those years:
'The first was to be baptised. The second, to hand over my tithe and offerings to the Church. And now I’m waiting to see a church built here.'
She was baptised, but even before that she was anxious to be relieved of the burden of keeping her tithe hidden. 'What must I do with my tithe which I have saved all these years?' Meropi brought a plastic bag from under her bed. In it was a carton full of Albanian leke and a few American dollars. For more than twenty years she had been on a US$4 per month pension, yet she paid her tithe and offerings. Opening the carton, we found the equivalent of US$533.89.