| Feb. 20, 08
Dear Family and Friends,
Imagine a state in America suddenly declaring independence from the rest of the country and most major countries in the world agreeing with the move. That is exactly what happened just a few days ago here in Serbia. The southern province of Kosovo declared independence from the rest of the country! 15% of the country’s territory has been completely taken over by ethnic Albanians. The UN and most major countries, including America, totally support this illegal act. The situation at the moment is extremely intense over here. There are huge protests taking place on the streets throughout the country, even in our little town of Sombor! Diplomatic relations with the U.S. and every country that supports Kosovo’s independence have been suspended, Serbian Ambassadors have been sent home, and the President of Serbia is trying frantically to persuade the UN to annul their declaration.
|A street protest in a large city in Serbia|
Unfortunately, some of the protestors have resorted to violence and vandalism as a way of venting their anger. The American embassy in Belgrade, among others, has been demolished, “McDonald’s” throughout the country have had their windows smashed in and been graffitied, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of bakeries (which are mostly owned by Albanians) have been vandalized, and several Albanians living in Serbia have been attacked. The government is totally against these acts of violence and is constantly addressing the nation asking them to calm down but it doesn’t seem to do much good.
|A local bakery in our home town|
Many of the Serbs living in Kosovo have fled north as refugees. Two UN stations on the border between Kosovo and Serbia have been lit on fire and destroyed by Serb protestors.
We are all hoping and praying that the situation won’t get out of control and plunge the country into another civil war. (We had enough of those in the 90’s with Milosevic!) Fortunately the president has promised not to send the army down to Kosovo to try to bring it back by force, and the Serb police are working frantically to arrest hooligan protestors and keep the riots under control. What a mess! Never a dull moment in Serbia!
Thanks so much for your continual prayers for us and your generous giving. We really appreciate your involvement in our ministry.
Love in Christ,
Some of the Highlights of the Last Few Months
Over the holidays we gave out thousands of Christmas Shoeboxes sent to us from “Samaritan’s Purse” to preschools, handicapped children, the local orphanage, other children’s institutions, etc. It’s always fun playing Santa Claus to so many needy kids.
On the 28th of Dec. we had a special Christmas program event in the center of town. We rented a hall and members of our church and I invited friends to come out with their children. There were about 150 children + parents, relatives, etc. a total of around 300! We asked a church in a nearby town called Topola if they would put on a puppet show that some of their members had being performing in the local schools. The puppet show very clearly explains the Christmas message and encourages people to receive the same Jesus that was born in a manger 2,000 years ago. Each child received a Christmas Shoebox after the program. Everything really turned out great!
Once a month a few of us from church go individually to deliver humanitarian aid to around 70 poor families in the area. The recipients always invite us in for coffee, (people here are extremely hospitable), and we get to develop friendships with them and share the Gospel. This has been such a great method of reaching people for Christ. The aid helps break down so many walls. Several people at our church got saved through this ministry.
One of the people who receives this aid is a man named Tibor. He lives in the most horrible conditions I have ever seen (no bathroom, no refrigerator, mildew on the walls, very little heating, etc.)
He got saved through a friend of mine in a prison in Subotica, a nearby city. He was there for two years serving a sentence for drug dealing. He’s divorced, had two strokes and is unable to work, lost custody of his 6-year-old son, receives the equivalent of around 70 dollars a month from welfare, has been robbed several times…. From a human standpoint, his life is totally meaningless, but from a spiritual standpoint he has every reason to live! This is the beauty of the Gospel – even though you may have nothing, you gain everything if you accept it! Tibor and I get together once a week to talk about things in the Word and pray together. He spends hours and hours on his own reading the Word and praying. He is so thankful that he came to know the Lord and is experiencing more and more the riches he has in Him. Of course he still struggles with depression, despair, but now he has hope and the Lord is teaching him to be content in every circumstance.
“Campus Crusade” Training
A team of people at our church has started several months ago to go through a “Campus Crusade” training course that helps in the areas of Evangelism and discipleship. One of “Campus Crusade’s” representatives comes to Sombor from Subotica once a week to organize the training at our church. I was really thrilled to recently hear some of the results of the course:
• Hundreds of tracts were dropped in mailboxes throughout Sombor
• They shared the Gospel one-on-one a total of 35 times with various people
• 40 people heard their testimonies
• The “Jesus Film” DVD was shown in 16 different homes
• A total of 160 people saw the film
• 20 people who had never heard the Gospel before prayed to receive Christ!
Praise the Lord! Please pray for these new souls to get plugged into fellowship and start growing. Please pray also for the team as they seek to share the Gospel throughout Sombor.
On Sunday we sang the song – “We Were Created for Victory!” and even though there were only a few of us, we sang it loud and joyfully. To be honest, sometimes I don’t really feel like our church is living very victoriously in Christ when I focus on all the negative things that are going on in people’s lives: marriages on the brink of disaster, arguments, insults, gossip, unforgiveness, sadness, poverty, sickness, hunger…. What can we say? What can we do? Sometimes it seems overwhelming.
But when I look at my own life, I can understand, at least a little. The problems and pain I have gone through, with Hana being in the bad condition she’s in, really does make sense, has a purpose, and is definitely not an accident. God has made me softer and more sensitive to the needs of others. I know that God loves me and would never throw me into a sea of despair and let the waves of that sea totally break me. It’s His plan and promise that we will leave this life as true winners. Don’t get me wrong; I know that nothing will go exactly how we want it to, that we won’t be successful according to the standards of this world; it will hurt, we will suffer, but we can’t let this get us down. Sometimes I wander down that road of despair. Fear grips me when I wonder what the future of a country like this will be like, for me, my children, etc. But I don’t ever want to forget that very simple fact – that we Christians were created to win. Lift up your heads, we know what kind of war we’re in, we know the end result and we’re on the winning team! Thank God! We were created for victory!
When we first moved into our church building we had a huge debt that we prayed for years to get out of. In 2006 the Lord answered our prayers and we completely paid it off! Then we started praying that the Lord would provide funds needed to renovate the church that is still not in very good condition, and just a few weeks ago the director of Eurovangelism (the organization that sends us humanitarian aid and has helped us in so many different ways), let us know that he received a donation of 20,000 Euros (almost 30,000 dollars) for our renovation project! Praise the Lord! Finally we’ll be able to fix up the church and get some proper offices, Sunday School rooms, roof, electrical system, kitchen area, etc. We are so thankful to God for His provision! Please continue to pray that the Lord would put it on people’s hearts to give to this project so we can complete everything we have in mind.
|A drawing of what the building will look like when completely renovated|