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Couple volunteers in Albania

by Sheila Gardner

Don and Marti Denham of Carson Valley have always been willing to pick up and go for the Lord. This time, their faith has taken them to Albania, where they are witnessing first-hand the devastation of the war in Kosovo and an occasional miracle.

The Denhams sold almost everything they own to go to Albania, according to Pastor Leo Kruger, whose church, Valley Christian Fellowship, is sponsoring their ministry.

“They’re very committed people, very sacrificing,” Kruger said Monday. “They sacrificed everything they had to go to Albania. They own hardly anything.”

The Denhams are working with a church in Albania which has a bakery operating 24 hours a day. They are living with an Albanian family in a fifth floor walk-up in Durres on the Adriatic Sea.

“Don started driving the bread run to the Kosovar refugees the very first day,” the Denhams wrote in an e-mail to Kruger.

“The church is giving away 800 to 1,000 loaves a day and the demand is increasing daily. The people keep coming from Kosovo every day. Today, another 1,000 arrived, they are living in every kind of housing you can imagine. Marti just started helping wherever, but the people found out she is a nurse and now she is busy trying to inventory and provide medicines to the camps, but it is such a hard problem to deal with, the lack of supplies, especially antibiotics and medicines for children. It pains the heart terribly to tell people you can’t help them.”

The Denhams relayed the story of a 14-year-old boy from the church who was badly scalded by hot water. His family was too poor to pay for medical treatment, so they put gun oil on the first, second and third degree burns over his body.

“Some of the boys came running to find Marti, and after she saw the burns, knew that the kid needed help. Now the church is helping the family to pay for the care. The Albanians who live here are so very poor, even worse off than the Kosovars who are flooding the area, but there is no help coming for the Albanians who were here before.”

Kruger met the Denhams in Great Falls, Mont., where Marti and Don were both truck drivers. Marti also is a registered nurse.

“I led them to the Lord in 1985,” Kruger said.

The Denhams came to Gardnerville in 1989 so Don could attend the American Diamond Cutting School, and he opened a business cutting diamonds. They also helped Pastor Kruger establish Valley Christian Fellowship.

Don Denham was ordained a pastor through VCF in 1994, and the Denhams served as missionaries in Washington with Transport for Christ at Seattle East Truckstop in North Bend, Wash.

“The stories from the refugees are really bad. It is hard to believe some of the things we are hearing. A lady came to the church asking for help. She is Muslim and thought the church was the Red Cross. God does work in unusual ways. This woman, whose name is Ficre, walked from Kosovo after losing her family there She begged the solders to kill her as her life is over. We have been able to help her, and she is grateful for the help, but has not found many reasons to stay alive. Yesterday, we saw a smile on her face, hope that is a good sign. Pray that she will be open to the gospel, she has let us pray for her, and says she feels the love we have shown her.”

They told the story of the Muslim woman whose family – two children and her husband – was slaughtered in front of her. She and other women from the village were raped repeatedly and sent away by their captors “to have Serbian children.”

Pastor Kruger said he has witnessed a change in the Denhams over the 15 years he has known them.

“I am sure they have been changed by the Lord tremendously. They were very rough people, but they have come to a place where they would weep frequently over the lost and people who are hurting. This is just a continuation of that. They are very unselfish in their reaction to people. Their needs as far as their personal survival are very small,” Kruger said.

Valley Christian Fellowship has pledged 5 percent of its income to the Albanian mission.

“That’s just where the Lord led us,” Kruger said. “Here we have all these people who had nothing to start with, now they have even less.”

Kruger invited anyone who would like to help to send donations to Valley Christian Fellowship, P.O. Box 1362, Gardnerville 89410. He said it’s too impractical to send goods overseas. What the church does is deposit the contributions to be accessed by the Denhams through their credit cards (which were stolen in Israel and finally replaced).

“That way, they can get money to purchase items in Albania,” Kruger said.

The Denhams hope to remain in Albania for six months, but the situation is so volatile, their plans could change on a moment’s notice.

“They haven’t indicated they felt in danger,” Kruger said, “but what they are doing and seeing is beyond what you can imagine. When you deliver 1,000 loaves of bread a day to people who are so in need, that has to be some reward.”

“We are fine, not fearful despite the fact that every evening the gunfire starts when it is dark. Pray for us and we will be faithful to continue praying for our family and friends at home.”

Don and Marti Denham

E-Mail from Albania, May 8