Randal Burtis : Oct 4, 2012 : Luis Palau Association
"I think it's historic. For the first time, we have had the elites of Albanian society—the business community, the political community—being addressed in such a genuine way with the Good News of salvation." -Toni Gogu
(Tirana, Albania)—Just over two decades after the fall of Communism and state-imposed atheism in Albania, local churches and Luis Palau collaborated to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to more than 20,000 people at Tirana's Mother Teresa Square.
TiranaFest with Luis Palau, a massive evangelistic campaign, took Albania's capital city by storm September 22-23. The square resounded with live music; an extraordinary stunt show by skate, BMX, and motocross athletes; a program just for kids; and clear presentations of the Good News by Luis Palau and partner evangelists.
"This was totally different . . . something that has never happened in Tirana," Pastor Paulin Vilajeti of Albania Christian Center said. "Because people were attracted by different events. I believe and I hope that God touched different generations—from children to the old people."
TiranaFest's central message permeated all festival activities, with Christian speaker and BMX pro Vic Murphy sharing the Gospel at each stunt show and Reverend James T. Meeks leading the Salem Baptist Choir in astounding praise music.
Local church leaders acknowledged the campaign as one of the largest faith gatherings—and the largest movement of churches—Albania has ever seen. TiranaFest offered them a unique opportunity to spread the message of Jesus across the public sphere, timed to coincide with the nation's 100-year anniversary of independence.
"I think it's historic," Toni Gogu, an attorney and chair of TiranaFest's organizing committee, said. "For the first time, we have had the elites of Albanian society—the business community, the political community—being addressed in such a genuine way with the Good News of salvation."
Though relatively small in number (approx. 3,500), the city's church leaders and congregants alike boldly reached out to their countrymen and helped lead 2,300 people in public decisions for Jesus Christ.
Days before the festival, Luis met and prayed with government and faith leaders, including the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church and Tirana's mayor, Lulzim Basha. The latter attended the festival Saturday and offered his welcome and support for TiranaFest from the main stage.
A late addition to the Palau team's 2012 calendar, TiranaFest defied expectations as publicity swept throughout the city and the nation's top three TV networks carried the story for several days.
"Since 1985, I have loved Albania, I have read about Albania, and I always dreamt that someone would invite me," Palau said.
For three months prior to the festival, Tirana's churches performed a Season of Service to bless the city through medical clinics, dental clinics, and other community projects.
"We started a dialogue. We started asking the mayor and the municipality how we can help," Gogu said. "TiranaFest did this. TiranaFest brought the Church to the city, and brought the city to the Church. We put two feet to our faith; we proclaimed the Gospel and showed compassion and love for the city."
The Palau team is currently working with local churches to follow up with each new Believer and connect them with a church in their area.