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12 May 2020 | Tirana, Albania [Victor Hulbert]  

Improvisation and innovation have become key words for the Thomollari family – including their children. Finding themselves in lockdown at home in Albania, they sought new ways for ministry.


“I have to say that creativity for our family has been a great gift from God,” says mum, Sanda Veidemane-Thomollari. “It helped us to pass the quarantine period with excitement, joy, and laughter, spreading this joy also to other families.”

As they started to film, they did not have even a tripod. The first productions were filmed by propping a smartphone up against a pile of books on top of an ironing board. An upside-down saucepan gave some extra height!

Thomollari's improvised studioPastor Thomollari's improvised studio.The family now have a tripod but do not allow the lack of other luxuries, such as a microphone, stop them from innovation. For them, creativity is key! A soft-box lamp to reduce shadows during filming is created out of an old stand-lamp, some cardboard, and aluminum foil, covered with some white gauze. It may look strange, but it does the job.

Studio backgrounds are created from old calendar pictures – or a green screen pinned together from green cardboard sheets.

Pastor Thomallori with young LukaPastor Thomallori with young Luka.Dad, Pastor Gentian Thomollari, is Personal Ministries director for the Albanian Mission. He started a video series called FINE Reflections. These covered various psychological and social topics like worry, hope, stress, depression, anxiety, love, fear, and honesty. There are now more than thirty programmes available in the series, which he develops week-by-week.

To identify more closely with Albanian people and culture, he recently started a second project, FINE Facts on Biblical Archaeology in Albania. These programmes demonstrate that Christianity arrived in Albania long before the arrival of Islam. Pastor Thomollari suggests that the Gospel was first brought to Albania by the Apostle Paul himself. The series also demonstrates the reliability of the Bible.

With shut-down affecting schools, the family quickly realised there was a need for children’s videos. Their young children were keen to get involved.

Mum worked with the two children to produce Stories of Wisdom. The first three short episodes teach the Christian values of perseverance, the beauty of character, and politeness. Based on a children's storybook, they teach Christian principles rather than direct Bible stories.

Mateo applesMateo recording a video about an Apple-pie.Six-year-old Mateo did a great job acting out the first story on an improvised green screen. His video of an Apple-pie was seen more than 100 times within the first 5 hours of uploading it to YouTube.

Four-year-old Luka then wanted to get involved and jointed his brother for the second programme, blue jay. He demonstrated that beauty is not all about how we look, but how we behave. Other Adventist parents saw the children in action and got excited, asking how their own children can get involved in future videos.

Sanda is thrilled at the positive response. “As I see it, after those videos, even more families will be willing to participate. And, of course, to share these videos with their friends and relatives.”

“All the videos got very good feedback from both churched and unchurched parents,” Sanda says. What started as a local church project is now being included in the church programme what is being shared nationally each weekend during lockdown.

She has also been video-making in her own right, addressing women with a video series "Heavenly Treasures", where she shares short messages that appeal to a female audience.

Ivo, their older son, has also been active. He gained some editing software as a birthday present and is now so proficient that he has given his parents some guidance on how to edit.

The simple prayers and creativity of a family isolated at home, and using simple equipment, have the potential of touching very many lives in this small country of 2.8 million people in south-eastern Europe.


Links to a selection of videos:

Children
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HplhHv9UZd0 Randy's Apple-cakes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MX237vcm0E&t=11s Blue Jay

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vClt3G7eZYU&feature=youtu.be Polite Otters

Pastor Gentian Thomollari
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6WvD5FRSdo&t=98s FINE Facts on Purple Codex of Berat (2 of 7 purple codexes existing in the world were made in Albania)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NQFESAM7_k&list=PL6h0hsmU_bI2il6yjBAMz0W3h6tJ6gldG&index=31 one of FINE reflection series episodes – on what causes depression

Sanda Veidemane-Thomollari
https://youtu.be/L6xt-fzXb88 Heavenly Treasure – episode on why we don't feel well in this world (why it is difficult to accept death and suffering in this world – because of eternity placed in our hearts).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2p7TVGA6As&t=68s Total Health series, episode introducing NEW START – how to live up to 100.


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division. Readers are free to republish or share this article with appropriate credit including an active hyperlink to the original article.




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