The tough path to ministry
Ylli Beqiraj’s story of how he became an Albanian Baptist pastor and Bible tutor, supported by BMS World Mission, is an extraordinary one.
Ylli Beqiraj, a BMS supported partner worker in AlbaniaGrowing up in Communist Albania with an Albanian Greek Orthodox mother and a Muslim father, Ylli Beqiraj’s upbringing was complicated.
But when he was just six years old, his father died and life went from being complicated to very tough.
After his father’s death, Ylli’s mother dedicated herself to looking after him and his brother.
“My mother never married again,” says Ylli. “She committed herself to taking care of the children and it was because of her and my grandmother that I actually had an idea of who Christ was.
They were the ones who taught me to pray secretly with a low voice the Lord’s Prayer.”
Ylli’s family soon had hardly any money. His Muslim relatives were against women working and threatened that they would take both boys away from his mother if she got a job.
They managed to survive on a small state pension. When he was ten, Ylli cleaned some houses that his Muslim uncle owned, but only got a meal as a reward.
As a teenager, Ylli sold cigarettes at the local port and furniture at the market, neither of which earned much.
When his aunt got him work at a Muslim charitable organisation, Ylli says “I thought of myself as Muslim.” At the same time a friend of his became a Christian and Ylli saw a great change in him. When his friend invited him to church, Ylli accepted.
Ylli (left) takes part in a baptism
“It was very unusual the first time I went to the church,” Ylli says. “My positive experience praying the Lord’s Prayer with my mum and grandma did help though.” Moved by the service, Ylli went to the front and prayed to receive Christ. “I prayed the prayer and I felt such warmth in my heart,” he says. “I felt so happy and really felt like something must have happened to me.”
Something had happened and immediately Ylli felt he and his brother had to quit the Muslim charity, even though they would lose a major stream of income and it would anger his aunt and uncles. Life became quite tough, but the church he was attending heard about his situation and gave some money to help him out.
"Albania needs people like me"
Ylli taught himself English and two years later, aged 17, he got a job translating for mission workers. He soon found himself starting to preach to others on evangelistic trips through towns and villages in southern Albania. “A missionary would step down and allow me to preach,” he says. “And he was impressed because when I stood up, people were listening very carefully to what I was saying.”
Ylli Beqiraj with his wife Albana and their children at Vlore Baptist Church in 2013
From that moment on, Ylli knew God was calling him to be a pastor. “I thought: Albania needs people like me,” he says. “There will always be people who become doctors and lawyers, but there won’t be many people to preach the gospel in this country. So I said I want to be a minister.”
Today Ylli is a Baptist minister. BMS has supported Ylli (and his wife Albana) since he succeeded former mission worker Graham Sansom as pastor of Vlore Baptist Church in 2012. We are now supporting him in his new role as a teacher at the Albanian Bible Institute in Tirana.
Life’s not always been easy, but the Lord has always been there for Ylli. “God has been so faithful,” he says.
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission