Tirana, Albania | Bettina Krause / ANN

The tithes and offerings Gjika saved during 46 years of communist rule in Albania.

The tithes and offerings Gjika saved during 46 years of communist rule in Albania.

Gjika waited 50 years to be baptized.

Gjika waited 50 years to be baptized.

Meropi Gjika, who under the communist regime of Albania was forced to wait 50 years for baptism, died February 17 at the age of 97.

Gjika accepted the Seventh-day Adventist message of Christian hope in the 1940s after studying with Daniel Lewis, an Albanian from the United States and Albania’s first Adventist missionary. When Christian churches were banished from the country by the post-World War II communist government, Gjika endured more than four decades of religious repression. When Lewis was arrested, she looked after him by sending food and clothing to his prison cell.  Despite having no contact with a larger Adventist community, she continued, for 46 years, to put aside tithe and offerings from her small income. 

Ray Dabrowski, communication director for the Adventist Church worldwide, was one of the first to visit Albania after the fall of the communist government and the lifting of some religious restrictions in the early 1990s, and he calls Gjika a “symbol of faith, hope, love, and obedience.”

“When I met Meropi for the first time in 1991 I was overwhelmed by the radiant faith and hope that she exuded,” says Dabrowski. ” I could not believe that against all odds, in a country that prohibited religion, she would continue to save her tithe money hoping that one day she would give it to the Lord.”

Gjika told Dabrowski that she had “three dreams. The first one was to be baptized.  The second, to hand over my tithe and offerings to the church.  And now, I’m waiting to see a church built here.”  Gjika’s first two dreams were fulfilled, but, although plans are being laid, she did not live to see the construction of an Adventist Church building in Tirana.

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