| Dear Family and Friends,
Have you ever prayed hard for something that God answered positively, only to have the reverse happen in the end? This can be quite discouraging, even depressing. After experiencing great joy in seeing our little autistic daughter become fully potty trained in the autumn, just last month she had a relapse and has seemed to have totally forgotten how to let us know when she needs to go. There were times in my life when I saw people “come to Christ” that I had been praying for for years that soon after I discovered were just fake commitments. There were fatally ill children I prayed that God would heal who seemed to be getting better and then suddenly died. There were backslidden Christians that just seemed to get worse after I would pray for them to repent and come back to the Lord. And the list goes on…
Of course, situations like these cause me to struggle and cry out honestly to the Lord – “Why!!?” At times I think I discover the answer to this question and other times I don’t. I remember talking to a Christian who was a part of the name-it-and-claim-it “faith” movement who would naively say, discussing such a topic, that I just didn’t have enough faith; or as Job’s friends would say – “Surely you have some secret sin your not confessing.” Although it’s good to examine our walk with the Lord in such circumstances to see if maybe our prayers are being hindered because of sin, lack of faith, bad relationship with our spouse, etc., this clearly can’t be the reason for such “reverse answers” to prayers every single time! If this were true, cautious Christians would never ever die physically, get sick, or have any problem at all in this world. But they do, and it’s even promised that they will – John 16:33. This got me thinking about what kind of people we would be if God always gave us everything we wanted, never saying “no” or changing the immediate outcome of our requests – spoiled rotten, conceited brats! Once again I was humbly reminded of the very basic fact that – He is God and I am just a man. He never asked me to figure out the probing question of “why?” He just wants me to keep hoping, praying, seeking, trusting in HIM, leaving the results/answers up to Him; praising and thanking Him regardless of how things turn out. God is still good when Hana has a relapse, when people die prematurely, when people don’t turn to Him, when we don’t get healed, when we struggle with finances, etc. He is still good and still sovereignly in control! He will work out all the details of our lives that we don’t understand (Rom. 8:28). In the words of Jesus to John the Baptist who was stuck in prison, awaiting execution – “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” He’s deepening my trust to the point of even being able to trust Him with the “reverse answers” to my prayers. In the words of Job:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I also reminded myself, by reading over my prayer list, of all of the things He has given: miraculous healings, return of prodigals, conversions, supplying various needs, etc. May He be forever praised!
Thanks so much for your prayers and support. We really appreciate your involvement in our ministry!
Love in Christ,
It’s been almost a full year since we started renovating our church building and just a couple weeks ago we finally moved back in! Because of lack of funds, we couldn’t completely finish it, but we are thankful to have the sanctuary done, a Sunday school room for the kids, an office and a bathroom.
|Zoli and I before move working on carpet in office|
|Worshiping together in new building|
Thanks again to all of you who contributed to the renovation project, helping us move back in!
Crisis in Our Hearts (by Jelena)
We are talking about it more and more, seeing it on TV, listening to experts strategize about what we need to do to fix it. People are losing jobs all over the world, losing money… It’s even affecting us way over here in Serbia! Some people say it won’t be such a big deal, while others advise us to take precautions.
I wish that I could tell you that I am above all that, that I never get worried, that I’m a spiritual giant that can handle anything you throw my way; but I’d be lying. I don’t think we have ever entered a new year with such a huge amount of debt. We continue to work on the church renovation project. Many people think we’re crazy! Who would build, renovate, invest at a time when people are losing their jobs like wildfire, finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, etc. Is this something God really wants us to do? Why would He choose such a time as this?
In my country, people are used to living in economic crisis. Just a few years ago, there was a civil war happening that almost completely destroyed the infrastructure of our country. Hundreds of thousands of people had money stolen from their bank accounts by the government! Economic sanctions were placed on the country by the UN that completely brought importing and exporting to a standstill. One of the highest levels of hyperinflation had taken place in this area of the world. But it was all of this that helped me come to Christ.
Wasn’t the world unstable before this crisis and the others we experienced? Was the world really that much safer or better off? Why am I so much more worried now?
I realized that the World Economic Crisis is not the real threat to my life; it’s the crisis that happens in my heart. Storms must happen. It’s the storms and winds that strengthen the roots of trees. The trials and crises of life deepen our character and strengthen our roots in Him. The persecution of people around me, even by my own family, helped me become more devoted to the Lord. The World Economic Crisis is not a threat to my relationship with the Lord; it’s the one in my heart, the doubt I struggle to overcome with faith.
We are concerned; we care about those who have been hurt by this situation: about the single moms who have lost their jobs, about those in debt struggling to pay their monthly bills, about those who don’t have money for heating… But I’ve been reminded again of the fact that it was things like this that first brought me to Him. In times like these, God displays his power and might more than ever and reveals the reality of who He is like never before.
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
The first person we ever led to the Lord in Sombor back in 2001was a lady named Maca. She immediately started sharing the Gospel with her friends, family and aquaintences. Soon after she received Christ, she led her two small children to the Lord. Dunya, her daughter, is now 13 and is still walking in the Lord. Just a few months ago, Dunya started attending a course held at our church on Evangelism and Discipleship put on by a member of “Campus Crusade for Christ.“ She started using tracts to share the Gospel with her friends and a girl named Christina came to Christ! This is the first person Dunya has ever led to the Lord! Christina has been coming regularly to church and youth meetings and often has friction at home because of her new faith in Christ. She is a minor, so please pray that her parents will continue to let her come to church. (They have been known to forbid her every once in a while from attending). Christina comes from a dysfunctional family in which the mother is domineering and at times even abusive. For example, after Christina came home with bad grades from school, her mother shaved her head completely bald as punishment! This is why she is wearing a bandana in the picture.
Unfortunately, Hana has been regressing in some areas of her behavior and communication. Please continue to pray that the Lord would heal her little brain and that He would continue to give us strength and endurance so that we don’t give up.
Hana’s fourth birthday party
This was her first time to actually blow out the candles on a birthday cake! We were so excited!
Prayer and Praise
* Pray the Lord would continue to bring more souls to Himself in Sombor and throughout Serbia
* Continue to pray we would get out of debt and complete the renovation project for our church building
* Pray for Hana’s progress and potty training
* Pray for success of outreach teams coming over from “North Coast Church” in May and June
* Pray that the Lord would strengthen our faith during this difficult, challenging time of our lives
* $20,000 was raised for the renovation project in Nov. and people are continuing to give!
* A few months ago, a girl named Katarina came back to the Lord (She hasn’t been to church in four years!) Another lady named Miriana also came back to the Lord recently.
* Slowly but surely, the Lord is continuing to cause our church to grow (spiritually and in number).