| July 22, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
Just when we thought we knew where we were going, all of a sudden we came across an unexpected detour in our lives.
Raising a child with special needs in Serbia can be quite an adventure. Recently, they changed the laws in our country concerning disabled children. Now, by law, each child, regardless of the special need he/she has, at six years old must go to a regular elementary school. (Hana just turned six in Feb.) Each child is supposed to receive: a “personal assistant” to help him/her adjust to the school, financial aid for school supplies, vitamins, etc., adequate therapy from the medical system…. Sounds wonderful, huh?! Unfortunately, at this stage in Serbia, it is only a nice idea on paper, not in practice – personal assistants for individual children with special needs don’t exist, no money is being given from the government budget and no adequate therapy is available! To make matters worse, if we decide our child isn’t ready for school, that same government will fine us! What a crazy situation!
We were so fortunate to have had adequate therapy for Hana’s preschool years by a qualified special ed. teacher (Jennifer) from America and we thank God for providing in a miraculous way for this huge need. But Hana is getting older and Jennifer has started to feel like Hana’s getting to the point where she needs a team of experts working with her in order to get her adequately ready for school.
We felt so frustrated by all of these circumstances and cried out to God – “Lord, you gave Hana to us; we know you love her, so please continue to take care of her.”
Right around the time we had the “Joni & Friends” family retreat in the spring, we received an answer to this prayer; and in a way that we had not anticipated at all. One of the main speakers there, Dallas pastor Chip Bell, used to be a missionary in Serbia and had to leave the field after discovering his son had autism. He suggested that Hana might benefit from the special education program which had helped his son who is now in college. She would have a team of experts working with her every day for several hours that would be preparing her to go to a regular school; all provided free of charge by the government! Chip and his wife, Julie, also suggested we move in with them in their home in Dallas, Texas so we could get Hana this help without pulling up our roots in Serbia. It sounded too good to be true but Chip was completely serious. We prayed and asked God for confirmation and just couldn’t stop thanking Him for His provision. What an amazing blessing! What an amazing God!
Just a week ago we packed our bags and left our country, church, friends, house…. We plan on returning next summer to host the next annual “Joni & Friends” retreat. In fact, we’re still planning (and trusting God) for many more years of ministry in Serbia. But for now at least, it appears God has us temporarily taking a more indirect route. So, once again we’re in a season of transition; not really sure exactly about what the future holds. But I know God wants the best for us and I choose to trust Him.
“For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
Love in Christ,
Saying “Goodbye” (by Greg)
Whenever I would come back for a visit to America in the past and people would ask what to pray for I would say, “Please pray that God gives me the strength to say ‘goodbye’ to my family when it comes time to go back to Serbia.” One of the hardest sacrifices I’ve had to make in being on the mission field was leaving parents, brothers and other family members that I love dearly.
I never would have thought that one day saying “goodbye” to my spiritual family in Serbia would be just as hard. For the past month, ever since we started getting ready to leave Serbia for this temporary sojourn in the States, we have had to say “goodbye” over and over again to brothers and sisters in Christ we have grown so close to. It’s been so heartbreaking! I think saying “goodbye” to Jelena’s parents and sisters was even worse – at least we know we’ll see Christians again (if not on earth, for sure in Heaven), but with Jelena’s family, there’s no such guarantee. They still haven’t turned their lives over to Christ and we are continuing to pray for them.
About a year ago, I wasn’t sure what was going on; maybe midlife crisis or something ;-) but I began to reflect on the last 20 years I had spent in Serbia and actually became kind of depressed. Questions like – “What have I accomplished? Was it really worth all the trouble? Why are most churches you helped plant now in such a mess!?” kept going through my mind.
Although this past month of “goodbyes” has been one of the hardest I have ever experienced, on the other hand, it was also one of the most encouraging. Over and over again people thanked us for various things from: helping them grow in Christ and understanding Him better to some kind of practical act of service that many times we couldn’t even recall. Letters, messages and little gifts kept falling into our hands that would bring tears to our eyes. God reminded us through these expressions of love that our work was definitely not in vain – it never is!
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” - I Cor. 15:58
Many people have asked us what they can pray specifically for on our behalf as we are in this very unusual situation. Here are a few things that come to mind:
• For patience and strength as we adjust to the new: culture, home situation, school, church, long-distance ministry in Serbia, etc.
• For clear direction concerning questions like: What does God want us to do while we’re here in America? (further education, renewal, ministry, etc.) How long should we stay?
• For our children to make new friends easily.
• For our health and opportunity to get affordable health insurance.
• Wisdom in continuing our ministry to the disabled in Serbia and helping missionaries involved in church planting over there; all from a distance. (Raising awareness and funds, organizing activities like retreats, translating, etc.)
During our time in Dallas, while we address Hana’s needs and prepare ourselves for whatever opportunities God has prepared for our return to Serbia, we will also be continuing to minister in Serbia from a distance. You have stood with us so faithfully in our past labors. We would appreciate your continued support during this necessary time of preparation for the future.
You can still support us in the same way:
1. Make check payable to:
2. In memo section of the check write:
Greg and Jelena Sivulka
3. Send your check to:
Calvary Chapel of Vista
885 E. Vista Way
Vista, CA 92084
* All donations are tax-deductible.