A letter from Becky and Eric Hinderliter in Lithuania
Our mission partner, LCC International University (former Lithuania Christian Fund College), has a vision statement about what sort of graduates it hopes to turn out: “To engage students in a transforming educational experience in order to create a generation of leaders for Eastern Europe who think critically, promote democratic ideals, develop a market economy, and re-build the network of civil society within the context of a Christian worldview.” As teachers we often wonder just what our graduates turn out to be after they leave LCC after their four years of study.
In the past 10 years about two dozen have come to LCC from Albania. Albania has some distinctive characteristics. In Soviet times it was one of the most closed societies in the world, on a par with today’s North Korea. In 1967 religious practices were officially banned in Albania, by many accounts making the country the first and only constitutionally atheist state to ever exist (Wiki). In 2011 the official census recorded a Muslim majority in the country. Protestants and evangelicals are a tiny fraction. Today surveys list Albania as the 13th least religious country in the world (Gallup 2010). It’s quite a background to come from—and return to after LCC.
This month we heard from two of our Albanian graduates. You might be interested in hearing what they had to say. Ledina Lamini graduated from LCC in business in 2009. She was a student in our accounting and economics courses. She reports about a conference she and other LCC grads attended back home in Albania:
Today was a new day, and a very special day! I met one of those gifted people who have changed the world when it comes to development, helping the poor and changing society. Five years after having taken that amazing Development Economics course at LCC International University, when I first heard of this great man, I met Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prince winner (and founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh), at a conference in Tirana, Albania. So, inspired and all, let's see what's waiting for those new social business ideas to come forward, and make Albania a better place to live.
At LCC she learned important principles about market economies. She writes:
Access to credit is a right that anyone should have, and that's his strive [goal], giving access to credit to the poor. Traditional banks don't do that, but a little bit of credit can make a difference in some people's lives, as his life story shows.
Today Ledina works for a bank in Tirana, the Albanian capital.
Another graduate, Aina Jonuzaj, is studying economics at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Because of her abilities, she was awarded a scholarship by the German government. Freiburg is famous for developing the concept of the “social market economy,” the basis of economic policy in postwar Germany. Aina recently gave us an update on her studies and her plans:
I am doing well. I am now close to the end of my third semester, a semester that has been filled with econometrics. :) It's been quite a good semester, throughout which I have really learnt a lot. We've dealt with so much in Development Economics that we already did in the class that I had with you that it was simply impossible not to think of you and that time. :)…I have also been doing the additional tutorials for two of the classes that the first year students are taking... I've really enjoyed the experience, though it has been challenging at times.
I'm more than thankful the Lord finds so many creative ways of touching people's hearts, ways that we would never be able to think of. And among these hearts I include mine as well, as I've learned to be thankful of what I have been given and to remain humble. It's the care and love that I've been given in my studies that I can, with God's grace, pass on to other students. And you know that your wife and you are part of those that God has used to pass His love on to people coming from countries often hardly ever heard of. :) At this point I believe that God wants me to work in teaching in the future. It's something that makes my heart passionate about working with people. And I know that He will open the doors to wherever His plan is.
I've had an internship at a bank in Albania over the summer…and I am going to have another internship there in March. The employers at the bank were quite pleased with the knowledge and skills that I was able to offer and seemed quite willing to offer me a job once I am done with my studies. I am not sure if right now I strive for working at a commercial bank, but I pray that I hear the Lord's guidance on the decision and step that I take. I just want to tell you from my heart that it's been great having you and your wife as instructors. It's really hard to express enough my gratitude for what the Lord has given me throughout that time. Thank you for letting Him use you!
In our teaching we talk about vocation, how students’ God-given gifts are needed in the world—and how God is calling them to use those gifts for the common good. These students from Albania see the future with hope. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). We’re glad to have been part of their lives. As Aina says, thank God for calling us to be his instruments. We may have planted the seeds—but God gives the increase! We include a warm thank you and an invitation to our faithful readers to continue to engage in God’s mission through prayer, correspondence, visits and financial commitment to help new students like these from Albania find their Christian vocation.
Becky & Eric Hinderliter
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 284
Read more about Eric and Becky Hinderliter's ministry