Many young, educated Albanians leave their homeland in search of a better life, and Vera intended to be no different until she met God.
Mynevere Saliu, more often called Vera by friends and family, was born into a Muslim Roma family in the city Peqin.
Even though she had been raised to respect Islamic traditions, Vera didn’t really believe in Allah. When she was able to finally leave for university, she couldn’t wait. She met up with a close friend there, but suddenly her friend started talking about Jesus. All this “religious talk” chafed Vera.
“I even told her, ‘You’re stupid to believe in a God you have never seen.’” Vera remembered. “But she wouldn’t stop talking about Jesus until one day when I finally told her, ‘If you like my company, stop talking to me about this Christ.'”
Later one of World Challenge’s partner churches sent a group into her neighborhood; they held weekly meetings where they shared the gospel and taught community health lessons.
As someone earning a social work degree, Vera was intrigued.
Washed Clean in the Ocean
A friendly and peaceful atmosphere pervaded the meetings, and all of the lessons were based out of the Bible or Biblical concepts. Vera started reading the scriptures and meditating on the stories she found in it about Jesus.
His life as a servant-leader of the people, the miracles he performed as he took pity on people’s suffering, and his ultimate sacrifice on the cross stood out starkly to Vera as she read and asked questions in the meetings.
“The more I read the Bible, the more I believed Jesus must be real. I also became aware of how dark my life had been and how full of sin I was,” Vera explained.“I finally prayed and asked God to forgive me for denying him. Now…now he would be Lord of my life.”
Vera started going more frequently to the church meetings and became actively involved.
In June, she decided to get baptized on the beach of Spille. She wanted to show that she was shedding her old life in a way that she never could have if she’d continued trying to leave Peqin and her family behind.
“If the old Vera was trapped in selfishness and low self-esteem, always afraid about how her life would go, the new me felt like a bubble of light,” she said. “I have great confidence that God will guide me in his own ways now.”
Fighting for the Next Generation
After being baptized and graduating from “Aleksander Xhuvany” University in Elbasan, Vera’s attention turned back home.
Many people in her community were bound by a dependency mentality where they felt helplessly trapped in poverty and had to depend on government aid or charity. Others were burdened by cultural prejudices where Roma are not expected to continue in their education, hold higher level jobs or play a vital role in society.
“Children are the future. I love helping them forward in their education, because I see this as one of the biggest obstacles for my community,” Vera said. “I had the opportunity to finish my university degree, and I want to offer myself as an example to families that their children can go on to find academic success.”
Her new dream has become seeing her community finally break these bonds and find the freedom God desires for them.
Today, Vera is the chairwomen of a community health evangelism committee in Peqin, working with others to bring change in their neighborhood.
Working together with a church team, Vera has a passion to share the gospel with her community. “He is able to change them and transform their lives. Just as I came out of darkness into the light, I wish the same for them, to know the true God and the only Savior.”