| March 4, 2014
Dear Family and Friends,
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
As we interact on a daily basis with: the poor, the disabled, those struggling with addictions and people dying from cancer, we feel closeness of God described in this verse. He cares deeply about people that are helpless, lost, desperate… and desires to save them, and does save all who cry out to Him. This is the great God we love and serve! This is the God who heals our broken hearts and lifts our spirits over and over again and we approach Him daily to enjoy his presence. What a privilege it is to introduce people here in Serbia to such a great Savior! May his Name be praised!!!
Thank you so much for your prayers and the financial support.
The Lord has given us such a great opportunity to live in this country and interact with people who have never heard the Gospel before. Please pray about and consider, if you haven’t yet, supporting our ministry financially. Thanks!
Love in Christ,
Greg and Jelena
Hold Tightly (by Jelena)
|Visiting families with special needs in southern Serbia (Vranje)|
One of my dear friends from Dallas developed the habit, after spending time alone with God, to write something on the palm of her hand that would remind her of the things God told her in the morning throughout the whole day. This morning I wrote on my hand the words “hold tightly” taken from the verse in Joshua 23:8 – “Just hold tightly to the Eternal One - your True God, as you always have.”
Hana, our daughter with autism, woke up that day on the “wrong side of the bed.” She sat next to me and started crying. After unsuccessful attempts to calm her down, I just decided to start carrying out my daily duties while trying not to be distracted by the crying. She kept following me around the house as I was cleaning and continued to cry and pout for no apparent reason. Hours went by in which every second was filled with her screams. I kept looking at the words – “hold tightly” written on my hand and over and over again I would cling to the Lord and cry out to Him.
This morning was the perfect picture of the way it’s been the past few months in Serbia. I’ve been surrounded by so many things that have threatened to distract me and trouble me: autism, friends with marriage problems, depressed parents of kids with special needs… desperate people screaming all around me while God reminds me over and over again to just “hold tightly” to Him and let Him fight the battles I am unable to.
After moving to Novi Sad, I went to go visit an old friend that told me she just discovered her 2 year old son has autism. An old acquaintance of Greg’s that he hasn’t seen in 20 years came to visit us that just recently discovered his younger son has been diagnosed with autism. I went to go counsel the daughter of a good friend of mine that recently after giving birth had a terrible case of postpartum depression. In October my dad had a heart attack which got him to actually start thinking and asking questions about spiritual things. A married couple from church asked us to help counsel them. They are going through a terribly depressing time and the husband attempted to commit suicide.
What do you say to them? What do you say to people that are tired, desperate, lost, overburdened…? – “Just hold tightly to the Eternal One – your True God.”
Ministry to terminally ill
A few months ago the Lord opened a door for me to start visiting people that are dying of cancer and also those who have gone through chemotherapy and are recovering.
Some of these people have become disabled from the cancer. We take them packages of food, diapers and share the Gospel with them. So many of them are desperate, afraid, broken…perfect people to share the Gospel with! A few weeks ago we started an “Alpha Course” at the church. This interactive course is designed to help people who know nothing about Christianity get a crash course in the basics and introduce them to Christ. Several of the people we’ve been visiting are attending this course and some of them have prayed to receive Christ! We are so excited! There are about 60 people total attending that are from all different backgrounds (from drug addicts to terminally ill).
Here is a story I wrote about one man we’ve been visiting that the Lord evidently healed from cancer:
In Nov. last year this man had a stroke and had to be taken to the hospital. After several tests, they discovered that Ismet has a brain tumor. The doctors sent him home saying that there is nothing they can do and gave him 40 days to live. When we first met him, he was unable to speak and move. We started bringing him diapers. (Because of the extreme poverty in the country, such a basic necessity as diapers for a man that is bedridden has become a heavy expense for many families and they’re not covered by the social medical system). His wife was so thankful and became curious about what kind of organization we were with. She said that since the stroke most of their friends and family have started avoiding them. She mentioned that we are the only people that actually show and interest in helping and caring for them. We prayed that the Lord would heal Ismet and to comfort them both. Amazing things have been happening. It’s March and Ismet is still alive! His condition has improved greatly since the prayer. He is talking again normally and is even able to get up! Praise the Lord! After discovering that this man is the founder of an association of street musicians I decided to bring a guitar to cheer him up a bit. When his wife came to the door to let us in, I surprised her by singing an old Serbian song about a town where she is from. Ismet heard the commotion and sat up to try to get a glimpse of what was going on.
They were both so delighted by the unexpected music they heard and Ismet joined in singing with me! We spent about 20 min. or so singing old Serbian Folk songs. It was a wonderful time. Tears came to the woman’s eyes as she watched her husband, who was just a few months ago unable to speak, now singing with all his heart. I asked if it would be alright if I pray and they said, “Of course!” I prayed and thanked the Lord for this healing and Ismet’s progress and asked for continued healing. Last week after opening up a conversation about the Lord, Ismet declared openly – “Somehow I know deep in my heart that if it weren’t for God’s power and help, I wouldn’t be in the good condition I am right now. Thank you for praying for me.” We shared stories with him about other people we knew that God miraculously healed of cancer and then started talking about his more serious illness – sin; and how Jesus came to die so that he would be healed of his sin. We kept using his struggle with cancer and experience of healing as an illustration of what God wants to do with his soul. It was such an incredible time!
Ministry to ex-drug addicts
One of Serbia’s growing problems in the aftermath of the civil war is drug addiction. There is currently an estimate of 170,000 people that are addicted to drugs in Serbia and that number is constantly rising.
I’m continuing to evangelize, disciple and lead worship with ex-drug addicts twice a week at a Christian rehabilitation center. Before entering the program, most of these guys never heard the Gospel before, never read the Bible, and had never ever met a Christian before! It’s been such a joy to serve them. The Lord is doing great things in their lives!
Christmas event for kids with special needs
Over the Christmas holidays we had a special gathering for kids with special needs at our church in Novi Sad. It was like a mini-Joni & Friends family retreat! A lot of the families that had attended the retreat were there. We had crafts, music, presents, a puppet show and even Santa Claus showed up at the end to give out “Christmas Shoeboxes” donated by Franklin Graham’s organization. Many people from church volunteered to help babysit and facilitate in various ways.