Irfan Toska’s story would make for a sensational film on the big screen, complete with intrigue, suspense and a happy ending. Irfan was born in a small mountain village of Albania at a time when the country was controlled by a strict communist regime. After WWII, the communist party came into power and, among many other oppressions, set out to abolish God from Albania. All forms of worship were outlawed, clergy were incarcerated or executed, houses of worship confiscated or destroyed, and in 1967 Albania was declared the “world’s first atheist state.”
An uncle of Irfan’s escaped from communist Albania in the late 1940s and settled in Michigan, USA. All attempts he made to communicate back to his family were intercepted by the regime. They never heard from him. About the same time Albania was declared an atheist state, God spoke to a little girl in America through a dream and let her know she would, one day, bring the Gospel to her family in Albania. That young girl, Beverly, was a blood relative of Irfan. Years later, in 1990 when the communist regime collapsed, Beverly and her husband, Allen, pastors of a church in Texas, were the first “missionaries” sent to Albania. They arrived on a flight into Tirana (Albania’s capital city) without a visa; not knowing whether they would even be admitted into the country.
Irfan grew up under the oppression and deception of communist, atheist Albania. At a young age he began work in a steel factory in the city of Elbasan – 12 hour days; 7 days a week for barely a living wage. In 1990 he decided to escape across the border to Greece with the hope to earn more money and eventually send for his wife and two children. On the night before he was to cross the border he received a phone call – two strangers, staying at a hotel in Tirana, were asking for him by name, wanting to meet with him. Without one clue who these strangers could be, he was compelled to make the long journey to the capital city. There he met with Allen and Beverly. They explained how God sent them to Albania. Together they traveled to the small mountain village where Irfan was born and shared the Gospel with the family. They all came to Christ. Today, 25 years later, Irfan and his wife, Vera, with their daughter, Fabiola, and son, Eri, pastor Kisha E Ringjalljes (Church of the Resurrection) in Elbasan and oversee a dozen mountain village churches. Their heart and vision for the people of Albania is enormous. With limited resources, they continually reach out to the hurting and desperate with the love of Jesus and truth of the gospel. Irfan has a particular burden for children. He regularly visits schools, homes and sponsors an annual summer camp for youth.
The Toskas welcome partnership with those who care to help feed the hungry during this economically difficult time in the nation. Unemployment in Albania is presently over 20%. Many people have migrated to neighboring European countries looking for work. Church of the Resurrection does what it can to help families of the congregation to feed their families.
Their is also a need to raise funds for full time church workers who can help oversee the mountain churches and reach into new villages. The monthly cost to sustain a village pastor is $250.
Gail and I have traveled to Albania on numerous occasions, sometimes leading teams from churches in America. Team ministry is a great help to the work in Elbasan, especially during the Youth Camps in the summer. If you have an interest and would like to help as a partner with Irfan and the Albanian churches, you can contact Gail or I through Doulos Global Ministries or Faith Christian Fellowship International and we will give you all the information you need.