Established in 1999
Address: Ulica Dragutina Rakovica 26, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
The history of Church in Albania
Lewis, born Dionis Katundi in Albania in 1894, emigrated with his family to the USA in 1901. After becoming a pharmacist in Boston, he responded in the 30s to a call of the General Conference to return to Albania as a missionary.
After his arrival, Lewis opened a pharmacy in Korça and later in Vlora. His early missionary work went slowly but soon several people joined a small company of Adventist believers and were keeping the Sabbath (Saturday). The Seventh-day Adventist Church paper, the Review and Herald, reported that five converts accepted the good news of Christ’s return and kept the Sabbath and six more were ready for baptism. Some early baptisms in Albania were performed by Pastor Christoforos A. Christoforides from Greece. However, Christoforides remembers that the first Adventist believers were baptised by D. Henneke, a German missionary, during his brief stay in 1932. The Hennekes were expelled by the Albania authorities and were unable to establish an Adventist company.
Difficult times for this small group of believers came when money could not be sent into Albania during World War II. Daniel Lewis went to Italy in 1942, where he married Flora Sabatino with whom he returned to Albania in September 1945. Flora Sabatino-Lewis recalls that, back in Korça, ‘it was difficult to be very active Adventist Christian after the war’.
In 1949 the government ordered that all religious denominations be registered. Knowing that such a step meant State control of Church funds, buildings and activities, Daniel decided to flee with his family. Caught near the border on 17 April 1950, he went to prison instead. Daniel was sentenced to twenty years. Later his punishment was reduced to ten years, but he did not live to see the end of his sentence. Although his faith remained strong, his body did not. After more than four years of beating, torture and overwork, Daniel Lewis died.
Flora survived her prison term of two and a half years.
One of the few early converts who survived the trying times was Meropi Gijka who had three dreams which kept her faith alive in those years:
‘The first was to be baptised. The second, to hand over my tithe and offerings to the Church. And now I’m waiting to see a church build here.’
She was baptised, but even before that she was anxious to be relieved of the burden of keeping her tithe hidden for more than 20 years. Meropi had a plastic bag under her bed where in the end she had the equivalent of US$533.89.
As for Meropi’s third dream. The only church building owned by the Adventist Church in the whole country at the time was dedicated in 1994, in Korça, an important centre of evangelistic activities from the very beginning in the 30s.
Starting with these few believers, the Adventist Church grew until in 1993 a hundred people were attending church in the capital city of Tirana.
As a result of several evangelistic campaign, the patient work of two missionaries, and a worker of Adventist Frontier Mission (AFM) with a number of volunteers, the Albanian Adventist Church grew to 200 baptised church members in 1996. The church members number 461 as of 2019.
Following a decision in July 1908 during the European Conference in Friedensau, four men, all German speaking, were sent to work among the South Slavs. Soon Adventist communities were formed in Belgrade and Ribare (Serbia); in Zagreb, Split, and Osjek (Croatia); and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina); and Maribor (Slovania).
However, apart from the Vojvodina (now northern Serbia), where different religious and national communities had grown accustomed to centuries of co-existence, the planting of Adventism was extremely difficult. In addition to language barriers and cultural and national differences, the socio-political instability in the region made all the political powers very nervous and change in the status quo. The desire of the established religious communities – Catholic in Croatia, Orthodox in Serbia and Macedonia, and Muslim in Bosnia and Herzegovina – to maintain their monopoly made it extremely hard for Adventists to evangelise. Nevertheless, despite the opposition, Adventism gradually took root in the region.
In autumn of 1931, the first theological school was opened in Belgrade under the patronage of the charity organisation ‘Preprod’ (Renewal). In 1932 the ‘Seminary for General Education’ moved to Zagreb, under the patronage of the ‘Samarićianin’ (Smartian). The school closed in 1942 because of the war.
Publishing and literature-evangelism also flourished, especially in the 1930s. A publishing house, Život i Zdravlje (Life and Health), was opened in Zagreb in 1938 to supply Adventist literature in the Croat-speaking areas (Croatia, Bosnia and Dalmatia). The faithful literature evangelists, under their long-serving leader, Živa Krdžalić, encountered much opposition, especially from religious leaders. They were often imprisoned, tortured, and their literature confiscated. Nevertheless, while charity work largely improved the Church’s reputation, the literature-evangelist work undoubtedly contributed to the church’s numerical growth – the membership in the Balkan region increased from 245 in 1921 to 4,024 in 1940.
One of the greatest drawbacks to the work in this period was the lack of meeting halls. Barns, cellars, and kitchens, the usual places of worship, were not large enough, neither were they particularly attractive for visitors. Renting halls in order to conduct religious meetings was illegal.
Generally speaking, Adventists did not enjoy widespread sympathy. Even after 1930, when the Church was granted legal recognition, they were still oppressed and harassed. They were tolerated only in places where the local authorities viewed them as good citizens.
The Church was forced to go underground. In many towns, the places of worship were confiscated and turned into convalescent homes for the supports of the new government. Therefore, meetings were usually held in homes of Sabbath schoolteachers or church elders. The publishing houses were closed, and literature-evangelist activities suspended.
The immediate post-war years were marked by unrelenting Communist hostility toward all Churches, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Communist repression took several principal forms: harassment and imprisonment of church leaders, nationalisation and expropriation of the Church’s already diminished property, infiltration of churches and monitoring of services by the secret police, and high taxes. Adventists are also expected to work and keep their shops and business open on Sabbath. Parents paid heavy fines for not allowing their children to attend school on Sabbath. Some children repeatedly failed classes because the final examinations were set on Saturdays. Adventist young men endured special hardships while doing military service. In addition to this, the building of new churches and restoration of old ones was nearly impossible. Nevertheless, thanks to the forceful influence of Radoš Dedić, the Adventist secretary for Religious Liberty and Public Relations, the Church was able to gain greater freedom for its members.
The Church opened the first theological school in post-war Yugoslavia in late 1955 in Belgrade. And in 1956 the Church begun to publish the official Church paper Glasnik (Herlad) and other religious literature.
In 1970 a secondary school was opened in Maruševec, Croatia. Four years later the theological school was moved from Belgrade to Maruševec, thus making the Adventist Seminary there and educational centre for Adventist youth from all over Yugoslavia. The Zagreb publishing house Znaci Vremena (Signs of the Times) reopened in 1970. New church periodicals were launched, promoting evangelism and health.
Since 1970 an Adventist Bible Correspondence School has provided two courses, the ‘The Voice of Hope’ religious radio programmes, were broadcast in six languages from the Adventist radio station in Portugal.
In 1989 Adventist established a branch of ADRA, officially registered as a Seventh-day Adventist Church legal entity. Within a short time ADRA became the second largest and most efficient religious charity organisation next to CARITAS, the major Roman Catholic charity. The work of ADRA proved to invaluable during the Balkan war in the 1990s.
The hostilities between Serbs and Croats which erupted in 1991, and later spread to Bosnia, tremendously affected Church activities in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not only were many church members made refugees, but much church property in those conferences were destroyed or damaged. With Slovenia taking independence and other republics following suit, it was apparent that drastic organisational changes within the Adventist Church were also needed to accommodate the new developments. In 1922 the Adventist seminary in Maruševec, for many years the centre of the Adventist educational work for all Yugoslavia, became a Croatian school. Union leadership then opened a seminary in Belgrade.
The history of Church in Slovenia
The first initial report of any Adventists in Slovenia came in 1908. At that time Slovenia was part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy and these members were Germans. After the First World War, most of the members moved from Slovenia to Austria and Germany.
The first Slovenian Adventist pioneer was Brother Albin Mocnik who studied in Fridensau preparing himself for the work in Slovenia. Whilst there, he taught others the Slovenian language such as Maks Ludevig and Alfred Tomas. The three of the later went to the Balkans and were among the first pioneers.
Reports of the first baptism was that of a couple – Terazija and Blaz Bolkovic – in the village of Rucmanci, Slovenia, in 1926 as a result of literature evangelism work. In Koroška the first family to accept the gospel was the family of Filip Virtič in 1926. They met some Adventists in Austria.
Mocnik translated a book entitled Al je konec blizu (The End is Soon) and had it printed using his own resources. After completing his studies, Mocnik went to Zagreb, Croatia, and then later to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In 1940 he went to Maribor, Slovenia, and conducted evangelistic meetings and with some assistance from others, they also did some evangelism work.