| Dear Family and Friends,
A few months ago my dad and a friend named Paul Savona, who pray together regularly, sensed the Lord wanted them to start praying for something "special" to happen to the city of Sombor that would open more doors for the Gospel. Boy, did God answer that prayer!!!
Children's Summer in Sombor (Somborsko Decije Leto)
A few weeks ago we had a special team come over from "North Coast Church" in Vista. This group of 15 people, most of whom are in their twenties, organized various activities for the children of Sombor right on the main square in the middle of town! The whole event lasted 5 days. For three hours each day kids from the ages of 4-13 would have fun playing games, making arts and crafts, jumping and dancing around, singing, etc. The first day their were a little over a hundred children participating and by the end of the event there were over 300!
Several weeks before this event, my wife and one other lady from the church, began calling and meeting with owners and managers of local companies to see if they would like to contribute a donation. We were shocked at the positive response! A local ice cream factory called "Somboled" gave several hundred bottles of fruit yogurt, a bakery gave rolls, pretzels, etc., a cooking oil factory donated juice, toys stores gave away toys for prizes, the army let us use a large tent, even the local government made a contribution! It was amazing to see the whole town get involved. Amazingly, nobody seemed to mind that it would be carried out by Evangelical Christians, who most people consider a "dangerous sect/cult" in this country.
Even though we didn't get to preach the message of the Gospel directly to the children or pass out literature, Christian principles were mentioned to them and we also got to talk to many of the children's parents individually about the Lord, and our church, who were interested in finding out more about who was putting on the event and why.
One day, the mayor of the city walked up to me and made a positive comment - "My wife and I were sitting having coffee at a cafe, outside, right on the square. We were observing everything that you all were doing and were absolutely delighted! We need more events like this for our city!" I then walked over with the mayor and his wife, whom my wife and I had met before, to introduce them to the team leader, Jeff. The mayor then switched to English to express his joy once again. Then he invited Jeff and me to come to his office for coffee! We went to visit him a couple days later and had a pleasant half-hour chat. He thanked us for coming and told us if there is any way they can help us to just let him know.
|Jeff (left) with Mayor of Sombor (center) and his assistant (right)
This event was even covered by local and regional media (television, radio and newspaper):
|One of Team Members (nicknamed "Science") Being Interviewed for TV|
In the evenings right after the children's event, we had conversational English at the church for teenagers and adults. Before starting this, the team went out on the streets to pass out flyers inviting people randomly. They gave out close to a thousand of those invitations and we had a great turn-out of about 30 new people. We would break up into groups of about 6 and chat about all kinds of topics. Even though the official ending would be at 10:30, most people enjoyed hanging out with the Americans so much that they would stay till 1 in the morning! We also had Serbian and English Karaoke which was a blast!
Many friendships were made during these times and there were opportunities for people to share their faith during group chats and individually. On the last day, Friday, we invited people to come out for the church service on Sunday to hear testimonies of the team members and an Evangelistic message. The church was totally packed!! We almost ran out of chairs!! I guess we're going to have to break another wall down soon! We had a sign up sheet go around for people that want to continue to practice conversational English with me once a week starting this fall at an English school in the center of town. (Right now we're on Summer break). 15 people signed up for that!!
Donation to Hospital
The team and other's from "North Coast Church's Twenty-Something" ministry raised and gave money that enabled them to purchase 5 new computers and printers for a local hospital that is still mainly using old manual typewriters for their paperwork. A few team members and we presented the computers, the day before they left to go back to America, to the pulmonary department of the hospital.
For years many of us Christians have been praying that the Lord would change the mentality of the non-believing community here in Sombor and throughout Serbia. The prejudice attitudes that people have are hindering the Gospel from being spread and also from being correctly understood. Through events, like the ones I described in this newsletter, God is definitely changing that mentality. It's hard to remain indifferent toward good works such as setting aside money and vacation time to serve and entertain children in a foreign country; or giving computers to a hospital with no strings attached. This kind of love breaks down prejudice barriers, improves our reputation and opens doors to share the Gospel like nothing else can.
Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.
I Pet. 2:12
I asked you to pray for this team in my last newsletter. For those of you who did, I thank you! The Lord accomplished a victory through them that was over and above anything we could even imagine!
In many previous newsletters I have mentioned our great need to pay off our debt for the church building and finances needed for renovation. Just the other day I received an email from a friend that is working with "Eurovangelism" the organization based in England that has supplied us with humanitarian aid to distribute to poor families, has helped us with numerous needs (spiritual and material), has promoted our ministry through the thick and thin, etc.
Anyway, he asked how much we still owe on the church building; that a donor is interested in knowing. I told him the amount, 4,680 Euros (around 5,900 dollars) and he wrote back to tell me the fantastic news that this donor has decided to pay it all off! So we are finally out of debt for the church building!!! God finally answered our prayer!!! Thanks for praying with us for this important need!!!
Thanks a lot for your involvement in our ministry. We are so glad to have you behind us!
Love in Christ,
Comment from Jelena
Ever since we moved here back in 2001, I’ve been dreaming of doing something for this city that would light it up and let people know that there are Christians living here.
When we started preparing for the team from America to come over and organize something for our kids at church, a thought came to my mind – “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this in the very center of town on the main square.” I started thinking about it, then dreaming, and then slowly the puzzle pieces started to fit into place. We needed to get a permit from the city to do such a thing. There was a list of people that I had to go meet from various institutions, local government, police, and other important people. With the help of a woman from church named Spomenka, who has many connections, I began this huge task. I wouldn’t have ever imagined all the difficulties that lie ahead. There were times when I couldn’t fall asleep, for fear that I would forget something significant. Several times I would come to the Lord exlaiming – “I’m at the end of my rope! I can’t handle anymore!” I didn’t know how the rest of the team would react to this idea; what they would think of entertaining hundreds of kids each day.
It was so great to see other people in our church and the team from America immediately catch the same vision. The Lord really took care of everything and the dream came true!
I really believe that this city is becoming nicer, more cheerful and better because of the fact that there are people who have Christ in their lives that are living in it.
Thanks for praying for us and dreaming with us!