When Communism fell in Eastern Europe, Pastor Jimmy Franks and his wife Janice surrendered to be missionaries in Europe. Seeing and being burdened for people who never had access to the Bible before and the open door for the first time to share the message of Christ with those people, Jimmy founded the organization, Hope for the World. Hope for the World started in Romania with crusades and teaching Romanian pastors, and then, seeing the poverty and the need to care for orphaned children, HFTW established the “Villages of Hope” which cared for orphans. A missionary from Albania called Jimmy and asked HFTW to come to Albania and help the orphans. It grew remarkably from there and Hope for the World has now spread from Romania, to Albania, to India, Honduras, Ukraine, and Ethiopia caring for thousands of needy people every day while sharing the message of the Hope in Christ.
On November 9th, 1989, when the Berlin wall fell, Pastor Jimmy Franks and his wife Janice were sitting in their living room in Central Florida making plans to move to Europe to be missionaries. They were pastoring a church and had been travelling back and forth to Europe for almost 20 years doing Bible conferences there and gradually their hearts and passion shifted towards sharing Christ with Europe. When the wall fell, Jimmy said that he felt like this was a sign from the Lord, “It was like it was torn down for us to go.”
They moved to Germany in the summer of 1990 and soon after the Berlin Wall fell, the Romanian Revolution occurred. It was a violent revolution, but as a result, the door to Romania was open. “We began to immediately travel back and forth from Germany to Romania holding crusades and sharing Christ’s love in Romania where previously Romanians did not have any Christian witness or Bible churches. There were thousands of villages of all different sizes where the Romanian people had never heard the story of Christ and the crowds coming to these crusades were spectacular. The response was incredible.
Jimmy started helping Romanian young men that wanted to become pastors by conducting three Bible institutes in strategic areas of Romania. He began to bring in pastors from the United States to come and to teach them. He helped to start the Village of Hope, which was a ministry developed to work and care for orphans of Romania using Christian Romanian parents as foster parents in the orphan homes.
It was during that first year in Romania that Jimmy received a phone call from a lady named Gessina, who was a missionary in Sicily to the Albanian refugees. It was amazing that God had providentially caused their paths to cross in Florida several years back while Jimmy was still pastoring. She stayed in their home and asked them to put Albania on their prayer list. Albania was a country he didn’t know much about and not even sure where it was located other than in Europe. He began to research Albania and found that 4 million people were indoctrinated to be totally atheistic, they had adopted communism, outlawed any religion, and they had concentration camps for those who dared to practice any religion of any kind. Political dissidents were placed in these concentration camps in horrific conditions in which many were killed. When he received this call from Gessina, she told him Albania had undergone a revolution and would he consider coming to Albania and letting her introduce him to the country and consider helping her bring the message of Christ to Albania. Jimmy recalls, “With fear and trembling, I bought a ticket to Tirana, Albania. The airlines did not even know what paperwork I needed because tourism was not allowed in Albania. I flew into Tirana and was met by soldiers with AK-47’s. They asked for my paperwork and of course, I did not have what was needed and I was escorted into the miniscule plane terminal, such as it was, and assured I would be put in jail or sent back on the next plane out. Then Gessina, my guardian angel, came to my rescue with my paperwork and a visa.”
“Gessina had arranged a place for me to stay that night which was with the former Minister of Health. The next day, we had prayer with Gessina, two Campus Crusade missionaries, and one other Operation Mobilization missionary. We prayed for God to continue to open doors in Albania. From there, they took me to meet a cabinet member in the government of Albania. I will never forget that meeting, because he was very open to anything we wanted to do. I asked him to help us find a building to start a church in. I remember having to explain to him what a church even was. He was very kind, but said it would be very hard to give us a building since people were coming out of the concentration camps and coming back into the cities from the mountains from where they had fled, and there was very little room if any, in the buildings they had to use for these people. We then discussed the orphanages where the children and babies were staying and how deplorable the conditions were where they were keeping them.
We walked through the baby orphanage in Tirana. The place had no heat. It was so cold you could see the breath freezing from their little mouths and noses. The little babies were in cribs with cloth diapers that had not been changed and nothing much to feed them besides watery soup. It was a disturbing and emotional experience to know these babies would probably not live to see the time when they would leave these orphanages. They would most likely die from exposure and starvation. The government official then asked me to take their orphanages. “We will just give them to you, and you can take them over and help the children. If you do this, there is a chapel in the older kids orphanage that is located right across the street from the American Embassy. You can use that chapel to start a church.” We looked at the chapel, and it was fairly large and in pretty good condition for that time in Albania. I sought counsel from a couple of pastors in the USA and we agreed to provide for the orphanages in Tirana. We trusted God for the needed funds to support the renovation and the food needed to care for these children. Likewise, we planted our first church in Albania. Many of the kids from the school age orphanage came to this church and many of them came to know Christ. We would soon see our children from the orphanage put on their very first Christmas pageant in that chapel. Several government officials came to see this program, and since Albania was declared Atheist, none of them had even heard the story of Christ’s birth.”
As they began to care for these orphanages, Jimmy and Janice moved back to the United States in order to raise the money needed to take care of these orphans. “We really didn’t set out to take care of orphans, but when we saw the orphanages we knew that God dropped them into our laps to help them. How could we expect to share Christ with the Albanian people if we did not first care and feed and clothe these poor children?” This was where the dream and vision for Hope for the World was born, created by the need to have a ministry for these orphanages, as well as all the other ministries that would gradually become a part of Hope for the World.