| January 19, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
As many of you know, ever since we found out that our youngest daughter, Hana, has autism, our hearts have been broken for people affected by disabilities. After being at the helm of this church we started almost ten years ago, Jelena and I really sensed the Lord leading us to turn over our positions to our coworkers and friends, Zoli and Tanya Vegel, so that we could dedicate more time to helping the disabled.
In November we had an official “changing-of-the-guard” type service with the members of our church. I quoted the words of a friend of mine that founded the first “InterVarsity” student movement in Serbia after retiring from his position – “It’s extremely important to know when to start a ministry and when to pull out of one.”
Jelena and I are both excited about what the Lord has in store for us as we enter into a new chapter of our lives. We are still very much involved in our church here, but have taken on much more secondary roles. Please pray that the Lord would give us clear direction and wisdom in this transitional stage of our lives. All options are on the table again, even possibly moving to another city!
Thanks so much for your continued prayers and support. We are so thankful to have you behind us!
Love in Christ,
Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoeboxes
Over Christmas break, we were able to distribute around 2,800 shoeboxes to the children of Sombor through pre-schools, schools, associations for disabled, orphanages, etc.
We had a special program at our church that 80 non-Christians (parents and kids) attended. The Sunday school kids had a short play, Zoli shared a few words about who we are and the meaning of Christmas, and then the worship band played Christmas songs/entertained while everyone ate cake and socialized. The atmosphere was wonderful and everything turned out great!
The whole church was involved, even a lot of the teenagers that got saved at the summer camp. We really feel like we left a great first impression on the non-believers, which is extremely important in a country where most people think Evangelicals are a dangerous cult/sect.
English Club Story
I just came back from one of the most incredible evenings of outreach. About a half hour before I left to go lead a conversational English class I’ve been having once a week for the past few months, I started praying heavily. “Lord,” I prayed, “What’s going on? Why are there so many people that are apathetic to the Gospel? I can’t and WON’T believe that no one is interested in You anymore! There must be at least a few people left that want to hear the Gospel and respond to it, otherwise You would have come back already! Don’t you care for these precious people you made? Do something great tonight if you still do care! Lord, you saved 3,000 in one day back when You started Your first church. Please open the ears of the deaf and give sight to the blind. Wake people up from their spiritual slumber! Save them oh God!!” For some reason, I felt moved in my spirit to intercede intensely for the people I was going to see tonight and sensed God had something really big in store for me.
We arranged the tables of the café and one by one people came trickling in. The room became so crowded that we had to go get extra chairs! There must have been over 20 people there – the largest turn out I’ve ever seen! There were even a few people that had never been there before! “God use me powerfully,” I prayed silently before I began.
“These past few days,” I started, “so many people have been talking about the death of the Serbian Orthodox patriarch [Serbian Orthodoxy’s pope]. I thought it would be interesting to talk about death.” Silence came over the room and suddenly all eyes were fixed on me. Slowly I started raising those difficult, annoying questions that people usually avoid at all cost – “How do you deal with the death of a loved one? How do you comfort those who have lost loved ones? What do you think happens to a person when he/she dies?” All kinds of theories and philosophies came up to the surface and a kind of debate started between us. It was incredibly invigorating! Suddenly, apathetic youth came to life; adults that would usually yawn at any kind of spiritual topics became completely engrossed in healthy, meaningful conversation. After a while I asked people to give me their full attention again for a moment and I read a passage from the Bible on the resurrection of Jesus. “What do you think?” I asked, “Is it true?” People shared their opinions mostly something to the effect of – “I know I should believe, but it just sounds too much like science fiction.” I shared the evidence we have of the resurrection, and then talked about man-made theories against the bodily resurrection and why none of them hold water. A real spiritual battle was happening at that moment for the souls of my dear English students!
I can’t express the joy and excitement I was experiencing right then. It was just amazing! I explained how they needed to respond to the message of the fact of the resurrection by repenting of their sins and putting their faith in the risen Christ. The large group began to dissipate into smaller ones, each with a Christian from our church answering individual questions and sharing testimonies. We kept talking late into the evening; way over our regular finishing time. As people finally started leaving, we gave each a copy of the famous Josh McDowell book “More than a Carpenter” in Serbian on their way out.
“Thank You God for the amazing work You did tonight!” I prayed on the way home, “Thank You for answering my prayer! May that seed that was sown go deep down into their hearts and take effect.”
Church Building Renovation Project
As many of you know, a few years ago we started a church renovation project that isn’t completely finished yet. The main work is done, but we still need to fix up the upper level and get out of a debt of 20,000 Euros (approx. $27,000) that we are paying interest on. Paying this interest from month to month is a huge challenge for us. (Tithes and offerings are usually only enough to cover utilities). If you would like to help us cover this debt and/or complete the project please:
1. Make check payable to:
Calvary Chapel of Vista
2. Send check to:
Calvary Chapel of Vista
885 E. Vista Way
Vista, CA 92084
3. Write in memo section of check:
Spring JAF Retreat
This spring we are planning on having our second annual “Joni and Friends” retreat for families affected by disabilities in Serbia. We hope to have 16 families attending (mostly non-Christian), a number of volunteers (domestic and foreign), and two guest speakers from the States. This is quite and undertaking and we need much prayer!
|Sara and Lea (Taken at last retreat)|
The Real Crisis (By Jelena)
When I accepted Christ almost 20 years ago, divorce among Christians in this country was almost unheard of! Like all married couples, they had their fair share of problems, arguments, etc., but divorce was never an option in their minds.
Today things have changed. There are more Christians, more marriages and unfortunately, more divorces. Though the percentage is still lower than among non-Christians, divorce is growing at a frightening rate. Lately I have been receiving more and more calls from Christian couples for counseling. After having hours of counseling with some of them, I’ve come to realize that our country has been hit with a huge crisis that is threatening even to destroy the very concept of a healthy family. It’s spreading like wildfire both in Christian and non-Christian families. I feel like I’m straining and struggling to put out fires that are roaring all around me; as though I’m trying to save something valuable in the midst of ruins. At times it’s overwhelming! It brings me such sadness to see two that once loved each other so much, built a home together, raised children… now not even be able to talk to each other. Many of them don’t even want to see each other, are willing to leave their kids or see them rarely, and even struggle to bring all this up to counselors like me. But what scares me the most is that they don’t want to hear about Christ and how He can help! Oh, how this must break His heart! How can I hold back this catastrophe!?
Counseling sessions with such couples can be unpleasant, painful and sad, but I choose together with them to try to confront these problems and fight for these marriages; waking them up to the reality of what they’re doing and trying hard to lead them back to Christ.
“Oh God give me wisdom! Give me the words I need to help these lost, broken people! Purify your Church in Serbia and save our families from destruction!”