For the last two decades, Miracle children’s magazine has been captivating kids across Albania. Creative distribution and content have made it a remarkable evangelistic tool in this post-Communist society. In celebration of Miracle’s 20th anniversary this year, MAI discussed the magazine’s journey and success with founder and editor Besa Shapllo of Mission Possible Albania.
Q: Less than 25 years ago, Albania was considered one of the most atheistic countries in the world. How did the magazine get started in this context?
Certainly, the situation in Albania has completely changed. People are now free to believe and worship, but the growing evangelical community is still a minority compared to the Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox communities.
The first issue of Miracle was published in late 1993, with 5,000 copies printed. We offered it free through a TV advertisement. The response was amazing. Maybe that was not a surprise, given that we were one of the first, if not the first, magazines for children after the fall of Communism.
Q: What sort of content does Miracle print?
When the magazine began, about 30 percent of the content was biblical. In 1999, the Ministry of Education blocked distribution of magazines or books with religious content in the schools. Therefore, we made Miracle more of a tool for pre-evangelism in which the materials are less explicitly Christian but still based on Christian morals and ethics.
Q: What was the initial response to the magazine?
We received some amazing letters. One man wrote, “At a time when we see all sorts of unpleasant things introduced with the opening of Albania to the world, your magazine is a real blessing to our kids. I am an atheist, but I would like for my children to believe in God.” One girl in the eighth grade wrote, “If growing up means that I have to stop receiving Miracle magazine, I’d rather not grow up.”
Q: What are Miracle Clubs?
We started the Miracle Clubs in 1996 three years after the magazine launched. They are Bible clubs for kids, and members receive a free subscription to the magazine. Initially the Bible clubs were attached to a church. Now we run eight Bible clubs at our Hope Center in the poor community of Bathore, which has only a few churches for a population of about 30,000. Bathore is predominately Muslim background, so our Miracle Clubs are a good tool to spread the Good News amongst the children of Bathore.
Q: What have been keys to the magazine’s success?
One key was that our team received proper training right from the beginning in the workshops offered by Magazine Training International and in which MAI’s John Maust was one of the trainers. Later, in partnership with MAI, we organized two training seminars in Tirana, Albania, for Christian writers and editors. I have to stress that MAI has never stopped encouraging our team to keep on going.
Q: What are your future plans for Miracle magazine?
We want to continue to improve its quality and for the magazine to become a best friend to many more kids. We pray that God will remove all the barriers for Miracle to become a good tool to evangelize to the children of Albania.
By Debbie Pederson
<<Read about Mission Possible’s launch of the first library in the shantytown of Bathore.