| World Autism Awareness Day
Jelena had the opportunity to be on a local TV station to talk about what autism is. The station decided to do a special show on the subject because of “World Autism Awareness Day.” For those of you that speak Serbian, here’s the link:
Global Access Conference
Greg and I had the privilege of attending the first “Joni & Friends” international conference for people involved in ministry to the disabled in California. There were representatives of 37 different countries present. It was such a joy to meet people from all over the world that have the same burden for reaching the disability community.
There were many times we were completely shocked after hearing certain stories; like a father from New Zealand whose wife decided to divorce him and relatives to disown him because he wanted to keep his child that was born with Down’s Syndrome.
We heard stories of kids born with disabilities in Africa sacrificed to tribal gods or cast out of their tribes simply because they were different.
It was hard to listen to stories about children in India born with disabilities buried alive.
And to hear about Western European countries enacting new laws that give parents the right to euthanize such children.
Here in Serbia, such children are not killed, but many are sent off to orphanages and institutions to be completely forgotten by their parents. Or if the parents do end up keeping their children, many fathers leave their marriages forcing the mothers to take the full burden of raising and supporting them. In such a poor nation as this one, government aid for such children is very low (around $250 a month, which is not even enough for food).
Eli Wiesel, when she was talking about her time in concentration camp, says that one who was not there can never truly understand it and one who was there can never communicate it. Raising a child with autism has given us a glimpse into the world of pain, disappointment, suffering, that so many parents are experiencing on a daily basis.
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.b
"For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'"
- Acts 13:47
What a calling, honor and joy!
Thank God there are more and more people in this region getting involved in ministries for the disabled. We wanted to somehow get these people together to: encourage each other, share experiences and resources, pray, etc. so we organized a conference called “Hope Connect.” It’s the first of its kind in Serbia! There were pastors, special ed. teachers, students… from Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, even a friend from America that has come to some of our retreats that’s been involved in disability ministry for over 30 years.
Just recently we had a fundraising event for the retreat we are planning on having from June 28-2 July for families affected by disabilities. About 50 people attended (including Jelena’s mom and dad!) and we raised around $1,000!
We were promised $5,000 from “Joni & Friends” and have managed to save some money for the event on our own, but we are still short around $7,000. Unless the funds come in, we may have to lower the number of families we were planning on originally having - 16.
Each family’s expenses are $305 (room and board/travel) + $100 (volunteer to take care of child). If you would like to help a family attend, here is the info you’ll need:
1. Make check payable to:
Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho
7815 Arapaho Road
Dallas, TX 75248
2. Place in memo section of check:
J&F Retreat – Sivulka
• (All donations given are tax-deductible)
Thanks so much for your prayers and support! We thank God for you all the time.
Love in Christ,
Greg and Jelena