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Education means mission

A BMS supported international school has been enabling mission in Albania for the last 20 years

As a parent, you naturally want your kids to go to a good school and have the best education they can. You may even move to an area just so you have a better chance of getting your child into a certain school.

What happens, though, if you are a mission worker moving to a country where Communism has just collapsed and the education system is on its last legs? Where schools are in poor repair, have little or no equipment and are unable to accept foreign children. How do you get the best education for your children then?

That was a dilemma for a handful of missionaries who had moved to Albania in Eastern Europe in the early 90s. The solution was to start an international Christian school themselves. GDQ opened in the capital, Tirana, on 14 October 1993. Started with five teachers and 24 children, the school now has around 100 pupils with six of its staff BMS World Mission workers.

On 11 October 2013 GDQ marked its 20th anniversary with a special celebration featuring pupils singing, Albanian dancing and a ceremony with flags representing the nationalities of students that have attended since the school began. Former staff and pupils were at the celebration including the original director of the school, former BMS worker John Thompson, and his wife Lynne.

“It was a fantastic evening of celebration honouring what God has done in the last 20 years,” says current GDQ director and BMS mission worker, Roger Pearce.

In its early history, it was uncertain whether GDQ would last five years, let alone twenty. In 1997 national protests, swiftly followed by an armed rebellion in Albania, led to over 2,000 deaths. GDQ was closed down for a year. A security guard, named Bezniak, kept the school computers and photocopier in his house to protect them from the widespread looting.

Roger and his wife Nikki (who were not at GDQ but were working for BMS on an educational project in Albania) were forced to flee the country in dangerous circumstances.

“It was a difficult time of transition for the country,” recalls Roger. “A lot of innocent blood was shed and a lot of revenge killings were happening at that time. It was a very dark period in Albania’s history.”

After Roger went on a reconnaissance trip in the summer of 1997 to see if it was safe, he and Nikki and took the difficult decision to return to Albania with their young son in January 1998. On their return, Roger joined the board at GDQ where pupil numbers had reduced considerably. In 2001 he became chairman of the board and then became director of the school in 2003.

Becoming director of an international Christian school was the last thing Roger anticipated.

“When we came out to Albania with BMS, the one thing that I did not want to do, ironically, was work in a mission school with international kids. I really wanted to work with Albanian children.

“Some have said that working in a mission school is not frontline mission work. I think with the ten years I have been involved with the school, I would strongly disagree with that comment,” he says.

“It is a great opportunity for us as Christian teachers to impact the lives not only of our Christian students but also the other international children at the school. Everything we try to do at the school is from a Christian worldview.”

Roger has not given up on his dream to work with Albanian children or teachers. The school is fundraising for an Albanian Christian Educators (ACE) programme to enable Albanian teachers to have a two-year internship at GDQ and has received a £15,000 grant from BMS towards it. While the school’s original license does not allow Albanian children to attend, the school lawyers are looking for ways it can be amended so they can do so in the future.

GDQ is named after the famous 19th century Christian educator Gjerasim Dhimitër Qiriazi who started the first school for girls in the country and founded the Protestant Church of Albania. Roger believes that GDQ follows in Gjerasim Dhimitër Qiriazi’s footsteps with its commitment to excellent education and Christian values and mission.

“What GDQ allows is church planters and development health workers to be able to do their jobs safe in the knowledge that their kids are getting a good education. It releases those families to do their ministry and benefits Albania.”

This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission

Vickey Casey, 25/10/2013
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