Dec. 12, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

We want thank you all for your prayers concerning the difficult situation we are in with Hana. After months of praying, thinking, and trying to gather as much information and advice that we can, we finally made the decision to just stay in Serbia. This was one of the hardest family decisions we have ever had to make, but we really sense that it was the right one, at least for the time being.
We are continuing to do drills with Hana consistently each day and are taking her to a behavioral therapist twice a week in Novi Sad. She is also going to a preschool for a few hours in the morning where she interacts with other children her age. (This was the suggestion of one of the child psychiatrists that examined her). I’m happy to report that she is definitely showing noticeable signs of improvement in her behavior and communication! For example, before she would repeat words like a parrot, not really understanding what they mean. But now she connects more and more words to their meanings and uses them in correct contexts. She, of course, is still way behind most kids her age, but it is so encouraging to see at least a little progress. Please keep praying!
At the end of Oct. we received a really encouraging email:

Hi Greg,
My name is Ali, and I attend North Coast Church in Vista. Vicky [a friend of ours who was in Serbia over the summer helping in ministry to teenagers] has been forwarding some emails from you, so I am somewhat familiar with the situation with your daughter and family.
I have been praying about it, and I would love to talk to you about the possibility of coming out to Serbia.
I am a special education teacher, and have worked specifically with children who have autism for the past 2 1/2 years. Although I am under a teaching contract for this school year, I would love to talk to you about some options for coming to Serbia to help. I have also talked to Vicky about the possibility of training her in ABA for when she comes out in March.
I am sure you and your family are going through a very hard time right now. Autism is very complex, and there is so much information to learn. I have been blessed with a lot of great training for working with children who have autism, and I would love to do all I can to help your family as well as your community in Serbia.
I hope to talk to you soon,
Ali Wood

This just might be an answer to our many prayers for direction; a way for us to stay on the mission field, keep the older kids in school here and give Hana the necessary help she needs! Please pray that everything would work out with Ali moving out here for a while, if that would be the Lord’s will of course.
Although we have been so confused these past few months and have even struggled with depression off and on, we are so thankful to the Lord for His faithfulness and His incredible comfort as we walk through this valley. He is really deepening our relationship with Him and helping us learn to trust Him more than ever. He remains good and so worthy of our praise!
My family and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have a great time celebrating the glorious arrival of our Savior to the earth!

Love in Christ,

Greg
















Christmas Shoeboxes

Once again we have the privilege of distributing thousands of “Samaritan’s Purse” Christmas Shoeboxes to the local children of Sombor. In such a poor country, so many children and parents are truly touched by this act of kindness. I have heard several parents’ comment – “I just can’t believe that there are people way over on the other side of the world that actually care about us!” Kids are thrilled by these gifts that, for many, will be the only ones they’ll receive this holiday season.

Unloading Christmas Shoeboxes at Church


















Please pray that the Lord would use these gifts to help progress the Gospel. Churches throughout the country, including our own, will be organizing various children’s Christmas programs with their distributions that will help children and parents understand the true meaning of Christmas.

















“Jesus Film” Evangelistic Outreach

On Oct. 14 we had Campus Crusade’s “Jesus Film” shown in our church. Members of the church invited friends to come out and there were around 10 new people. One guy who was adamantly against us when his wife, Lydia, first started coming to our church and who even physically abused her at times, actually showed up to watch the film! He was crying at the end! Although he hasn’t started following Christ yet, his heart has softened and he doesn’t bother Lydia as much for her commitment.



No one new has started coming to the church that was at the showing of the film, but seeds were definitely sown and are continuing to be sown. Everyone that attended received a DVD copy of the film that they are sharing with friends and family. The event really turned out great!



Temerin

…“Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Acts 15:36

The pastor of the last church we helped plant in Temerin invited us to come participate in a 5-year anniversary celebration since the opening of their new building. There was a slide presentation showing the beginning of the church in the worship leader’s house way back in ’95! We also had a special time of worship together, I gave a short message and then we had a potluck. A lot of people showed up to the event; some of which have fallen away from the Lord. It was such a joy to see so many old friends; just like going back in time!

Pista on the guitar, me on the keys, and Zeljko (the pastor) behind the pulpit

I try to get down to Temerin every month or so to encourage the pastor. He and his wife have been through so many difficult trials and need all the encouragement they can get. They have: had their support cut off and have lived in poverty, seen attendance go way down in the church, been discouraged by various people so much to the point of wanting to leave the ministry, experienced burn-out, health problems, etc.



A Few Words from Jelena

After a close friend of mine and relative received her first child she apologized to us. She apologized for not helping us (who already have children) more, understanding us more, etc. There is something that films and books just cannot give us that we desperately need and that is – experience. Experiencing things yourself is the best and hardest school that this life can offer us.
When we realized that Hana was having developmental problems a new door opened in life for Greg and me that we didn’t even know existed. Concepts like despair, helplessness, sadness, pain, hope and joy all took on whole new meanings. They were always present in the past, but now it’s as though I suddenly see them in more colors. Children with similar problems suddenly came out of their homes and I became aware of the fact of how much I didn’t even notice them until now. In Serbia, the number of children that fall into the spectrum of autism is nothing less than the number of such in America, but they are almost never mentioned over here. People are uninformed, many doctors are not familiar with these kinds of problems, many parents live in denial and are ashamed to admit their kids have special needs and the society here just turns a blind eye to these poor children, whispering about them. I was one of them. I remember in the past when friends would talk to me about developmental problems they were having with their children how I would listen, sometimes give advice, pray with them and then thank God for my children. Today I wish to apologize to all those moms. I wanted to help them the best I could, but I didn’t understand them at all. Now I can see, understand, sympathize, cry and rejoice with all of those kids. I’m proud of them when they manage to learn to say a new word. I can see all those little miracles in their lives that happen each day.
I don’t know where God will lead us in the future, I don’t know what ministries He will use us for next, but one thing is sure – He has opened a new door and showed us a new world and a completely new mission field.
Thanks for trusting us and for faithfully supporting us, praying for us… If it weren’t for your help, I know we would have given up a long time ago.

Your Sister in Christ,



Jelena



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