April 9, 2014
By Emily Holladay
DECATUR, Ga. – Bledi and Blerina Mile (Meelay), an Albanian couple, have been chosen to lead PORTA – the Albanian House in Athens, a spiritual and cultural center for Albanian immigrants in Athens, Greece, founded by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Bob and Janice Newell.
After completing nearly 11 years of service as CBF field personnel, the Newells will retire as field personnel and return to the United States in the fall 2014. The couple founded PORTA in 2007 to provide a place of encouragement, personal development and cultural appreciation and Christian care for Albanians, whose mass influx to Greece in the 1990s led to discrimination.
PORTA grew out of a commitment that CBF Global Missions made to minister among Albanians in early 1993. That history has unfolded with ministry among Albanians in countries surrounding Albania, including Greece, where many immigrated to escape conflict and seek economic opportunity.
Bledi and Blerina Mile are themselves Albanian immigrants in Greece, and will transition into leadership of PORTA as the Newells prepare for relocation. An official installation of the new leaders as well as a farewell recognition for the Newells is planned for July 5.
“The appointment of Bledi and Blerina Mile marks an important step in the development of the Albanian immigrant community in Greece,” Bob Newell said. “We are thrilled to hand over this important responsibility to such a competent and qualified couple whose lives give excellent witness to the potential of Albanians in Athens.”
The Miles were born in Fier, Albania, during the latter days of the nation’s dictatorship but came to Athens in search of freedom and opportunity after the fall of the communist state. Despite animosity between Albanians and Greeks, the couple has become leaders in their community and is building a new life in Athens. They have two sons, Johnathon, age 5, and Samuel, who is two months old.
“Bledi and Blerina Mile are proven leaders in the Albanian community in Athens. Their many talents, tested experience and authentic personal faith in Jesus have prepared them well for this significant undertaking,” Janice Newell said. “The future for PORTA looks bright under their leadership.”
“Bob and Janice Newell have served in a selfless manner in Athens,” said CBF interim global missions coordinator Jim Smith. “Their willingness to venture out on such a mission near the end of their working careers brought much needed talents for personal relationships and ministry development.”
Upon their return to the United States, the Newells will continue to serve on an advisory council which is being created to assist the new leaders. They will also continue to speak and raise financial and prayer support for PORTA.
“We look forward to PORTA’s expansion and development in the future and are convinced that it will continue to bring hope, help and wholeness to Albanians in Athens,” the Newells said.
The CBF Offering for Global Missions makes possible the ministries of the Newells and provides support to about 130 field personnel around the world. The Offering is the primary means of support for CBF field personnel, and allows them access to a wide body of tools and resources to continue to serve people and equip churches, so that your gift continues to multiply its impact. To give to the CBF Offering for Global Missions, visit the Fellowship’s website.
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.