A River Versus a Stone

World Challenge Staff

Merushe didn’t want to go to some Christian church. She’d been a Muslim all her life, and she’d die a Muslim.

There was just one little problem: the church had children services with skits and stories from their Bible, and her darling granddaughter loved it.

What was a poor Muslim grandmother to do?

She’d endure anything for her sweet mbesë, even these Christians.

Being Dragged to Church

Rruga-ura was hardly the touristy side of Albania’s capital. The Roma and poorest Albanians generally washed up in this ghetto, and few ever managed to escape.

World Challenge’s partners had started a children’s program through a local church, encouraging the ghetto’s next generation to continue in school, helping them with homework and giving them a safe place to have fun in the evening until their parents came home.

All of which made them tolerable in Merushe’s opinion.  

She’d captained a kindergarten class for 38 years; and when times were tough and her own children were hungry, she’d sold her plasma and blood to makes ends meet.

She’d steeled herself for the hard life. Her husband was an alcoholic, and one of her two boys was in jail, accused of being a thief. He was innocent, but maybe this would finally rattle him out of his drug addictions.

Doctors had told her that her second son had Down syndrome. He was a sweet, gentle man; if anyone gave him trouble, Allah and the prophet have mercy on them, because Merushe would not.

Her daughter had done what few ever managed when she married and moved away to Spain. However, Merushe received news that her daughter’s husband had tragically died. With nowhere else to go and crushed by this loss, her daughter decided to move back to Albania with a granddaughter.

Her beautiful mbesë.

So Marusha found herself trudging to the church, unable to resist the glitter in her granddaughter’s eyes at the games with the other children and stories about Jesus.

Healing the Daughter

Next the heathens got to her daughter. She’d been coming along with Merushe—good family always supported each other in trying times—and talking to the church workers.

Then lo and behold, her daughter said she’d asked this Jesus person to change her life. He was both God and the son of God who sacrificed himself to save them, according to her smitten daughter.

It was enough to make a good Muslim woman throw her hands in the air.

Merushe decided they would go to the local mosque every Sunday. Maybe that would clear her daughter’s head.

Then her daughter said she’d seen Jesus, and he’d told her, “This is not the way, you should not go there. You have to go back.” What’s more, her daughter usually smoked two or three cigarette packs a day, but suddenly she stopped. She said she’d fasted and prayed to this Jesus, and he’d taken away her addiction.

Her daughter was indeed changing, growing more hopeful and happy. She’d also met a Christian man, and Merushe had yet to find anything too dreadful about the infidel.

It was time to seriously investigate whatever this church business was doing to her family.

Changing a Heart of Stone

Merushe went to church like clockwork.

She sat through the sermons then marched up to interrogate the nearest church worker. She carefully observed how these people treated her granddaughter and disabled son. Even the Bible was not exempt from her exacting attention.

Little by little, like the Drin River carving its way to the Adriatic Sea, the Holy Spirit shifted into Merushe’s heart, clearing out decades of sediment, sorrows and old pains.

She made her peace with Christ.

Dusting off her hands, she went straight out and began evangelizing to neighbors and friends. Eventually, she became the chairwoman of church’s community outreach for children. Time for her town to know about the God of the Bible.