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More Albania violence prompts all FMB workers to relocate

TIRANA, Albania (BP)–All Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board workers remaining in Albania left the country March 12 as violence in the southern region continued to intensify.

Nine workers evacuated to Greece and Bosnia earlier in March, but then rebel mobs seized more territory. Insurgents looted assault rifles, heavy machine guns and fighter planes from government bases, forcing army and police units to flee north. The continued violence prompted mission administrators to pull the remaining nine workers from the country as well.

Bill and Debbie McIntyre, Mark Hinton and Suzanne Lacy relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece, while James Bradley moved to Skopje, Macedonia. They all will continue their study of the Albanian language and work with the large groups of ethnic Albanians in those countries.

Kevin Walker, Gale and Leslie Hartley and Lawrence Duhon relocated to Sarajevo, Bosnia, where they will help with church-planting efforts. Eight of the nine workers who evacuated earlier also relocated to Bosnia.

In September and November 1996, six missionary couples entered Bosnia for temporary six-month assignments to respond to an openness to the gospel after four years of civil war. During the war, Southern Baptists sent more than $1.5 million in humanitarian aid through several Baptist-related relief agencies based in Croatia and Serbia.
Mission leaders hoped other workers would come forward for long-term assignments before the six-month commitments were completed.

“We have been praying for extra workers to go into Bosnia for more than a year,” said Larry Cox, who directs Foreign Mission Board efforts in the area. “I believe God has answered that prayer by using an unfortunate situation in Albania to send workers into Bosnia.”

In the Albanian capital of Tirana, President Sali Berisha agreed to June elections and a coalition government in an attempt to quell the insurrection, sparked by public outrage over failed investment schemes that depleted nearly every Albanian family’s savings.

Rebels, however, have insisted on Berisha’s resignation. About one-fifth of the country’s warplanes are in rebel hands after the capture of a key southern air base.

The violence threatens growth on one of the most responsive mission fields in Eastern Europe. Dozens of evangelical churches have sprouted across Albania in recent years as people have responded rapidly to the gospel.

More than 830 villages in Albania’s rugged countryside have been the focus of a program called Albania Evangelical Rural Outreach (AERO), carried out by Foreign Mission Board missionaries in cooperation with Campus Crusade for Christ, Helimission and Albanian believers.

Since 1994, hundreds of missionary workers have shown Campus Crusade’s “Jesus” film to more than 67,000 Albanians. That witnessing effort has resulted in hundreds of Albanians committing their lives to Christ. Churches have been organizing rapidly, workers say.

Hometowns of the newly evacuated missionaries are: James Bradley, Bynum, Ala.; Lawrence Duhon, Euless, Texas; Gale Hartley, Elizabethton, Tenn; Leslie Hartley, Mountain City, Tenn.; Mark Hinton, Prattville, Ala.; Suzanne Lacy, Louisville, Ky.; Bill McIntyre, Olympia, Wash.; Debbie McIntyre, Okemah, Okla.; Kevin Walker, Saucier, Miss.

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