The first Protestant church building constructed in Tirana, Albania's capital, is open for services after a joint effort by University Presbyterian Church (UPC) of Seattle, the ichthus congregations of London, and a Swedish mission group.

John Quanrud, the son of a UPC couple, began thinking about Albania while a Bible school student in Sweden in 1981. The fact that Albania's government in 1967 declared the nation officially atheist fascinated Quanrud, and he vowed to do something about it. In 1987, Arthur Beals, UPC's pastor of urban and global mission, offered Quanrud the church's support.

The breakup of Communist rule allowed Quanrud and his wife, Lynn, to move to Albania in 1991. The Quanruds, Beals (who has traveled to Albania 27 times since 1991), and a handful of Christians began to work in the country. The results include establishing not only Emanuel Church, but the Albanian Bible Institute; an educational project, library, and resource center for Christians; and a missionary school for children.

Emanuel Church is part of a three-level building that will also function as a bakery, providing revenue in the midst of a depressed economy. Albania still has no constitution, little civil order, and a staggering level of unemployment, estimated at upwards of 70 percent. Workers building the foundation of Emanuel Church found themselves ducking ricocheting bullets. There are 8,000 Protestants in the nation of 3.5 million.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.