| May 30, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
Several months ago when we returned to the States I had the strangest experience - I had a strong feeling as
though I was a foreigner in my own country! For the first few months it was as though I was looking at this
culture from the outside; like I didn't fit in or belong. Everything seemed different than what I was used to. I
longed to go back to the place I had lived in for over 20 years; a place where I felt more at home. But if I were to
force myself for a moment to look back objectively, I would have to honestly admit that there were so many
times I didn't feel at home in Serbia either! Have you ever had that same type of experience? The Bible
describes us Christians as being "foreigners and temporary residents" of this world. No matter where we go, we
will never be truly at home until we are home with our Savior. We'll long for this the rest of our lives, just as
Abraham and so many other great men of faith did - "...they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one."
This is one of the great lessons the Lord has been reminding me of this past year. Although I long to go back to
Serbia, my greatest longing should always be for Him and the place where He dwells. The minute I start getting
settled, He shakes up my world and renews this healthy longing again and again. Jesus told us to not let our
hearts be troubled; to trust in Him for He's preparing a place for us. In Colossians we're told to set our minds on
"things above, not on earthly things." It doesn't really matter where you live on this great big Earth; the main
thing is that you live and abide in Him. The other day, God inspired me to write a song about this:
In the Strength of the Lord
Thanks so much for your continued prayers and support on our behalf. We are so thankful to have
you on our team!
Love in Christ,
Return to Serbia
Last week Jelena returned to Serbia to have a meeting with some of the volunteers that will be participating
in the "Joni & Friends" retreat for families affected by disabilities and also make preparations with the manager
of the hotel where the retreat will take place. In just a few more days, the kids will be out of school and we'll be
flying over to join her. We plan on spending the whole summer over there and are so excited! We have a lot of
different activities planned and would really like for you to be lifting us up in prayer. Here are some specific
things you could pray for:
Joni and Friends Retreat
* That the Lord would soften the hearts and open the eyes of the non-believers that will be attending so that
they would come to Christ - their only Hope! Most of the families are not Christians.
* For strength and wisdom for the volunteers. It is quite a challenge to take care of a child with special needs
for several days; especially when you've never done this before! Several people from the church in Dallas will be
volunteering along, with a few from Serbia and California. Pastor Chip Bell will be our main speaker just like last
* Expenses for volunteers. Some of them are still not covered.
* Sensitivity to the Spirit. We want to be involved in all that God is going to do at this retreat.
Right after the retreat, I'll be participating in an English
Camp for non-believing teenagers of Sombor. The camp is
hosted by "Josiah Venture" ministries and a whole team of
Americans will be attending from "North Coast Church" in
A few years ago we had our very first camp of this kind
and saw several teenagers come to Christ. (Unfortunately
English Camp 2010
most of them have fallen away and are not attending church anymore).
Please pray that the Lord would do great things in the lives of the teenagers that need Him so much!
SOZO Music Festival
The pastor of the church in Sombor has invited me to play and sing with his band at a Christian music festival
in Novi Sad! This will be an open air event with several local Christian bands attending. Please pray that the
Lord would reach many through us and that the church would be encouraged. You can check out the website of
the event for more information if you're interested:
We really want to encourage the churches while we're over there and lead many non-believers to the Lord.
We're going to have lots of opportunities to do this through: sharing and teaching, counseling, leading worship,
evangelizing, serving in practical ways (humanitarian aid distribution/caring for the poor), visitation...
We’ve already received numerous invitations to share at different churches and conferences. Please pray
that God would give us the right words to share by his Spirit. Jelena just let me know today that she will be
speaking at a Pastors’ conference, sponsored by “Joni & Friends,” this Sat. Please pray that the Lord would use
Jelena to stir the hearts of the pastors attending to: make their churches more “disability friendly” and
recognize the need of supporting and possibly starting ministries geared toward helping the disabled. These are
HUGE needs in the Serbian churches that are really important!
Please also pray that we would be wise with how we spend each day of our summer, making sure we get
enough rest and time alone with Him (another lesson we have been reminded of here in the States!) As you can
imagine, with so many opportunities to minister, the possibility of getting too involved can be very tempting.
Many of our friends and family, knowing that we will only be there temporarily, will want to see us as much as
possible which could add to this problem of filling up our time too much.
Please pray that the Lord would give us strength to say “goodbye” to our friends and relatives all over again.
It’s going to be hard.
“How is Hana doing?” (by Jelena)
Dear Friends, Prayer Partners, Family…
Well, almost a whole year has passed since Greg, the kids and I set out on this adventure. One of
the most frequent questions I hear from you all is – “How is Hana doing?” After all, she’s the one God
used to bring us over here, to refine our character, lives, calling, future…
In Aug. it will be exactly 5 years since the realization of autism entered our lives. Many of you have
cried, rejoiced, prayed and thanked God together with us. It’s been a very hard chapter in our lives,
but at the same time, a good one. Thanks for sharing the burdens of our lives with us and caring. It
means a lot to us.
So here’s the latest:
Hana turned 7 in Feb. During the winter, Hana
actually started reading! However after just a few
months, she very stubbornly refused to cooperate
with her teachers and they had to postpone the
reading program she was in. She’s learned how to
swim and loves it! She can communicate much more,
but still doesn’t understand very basic questions such
as – “How are you? What did you do today?” Many
times she still prefers crying rather than telling us
what’s wrong with words. We have to repeatedly try
to prompt her to get her to tell us what she needs.
Just as she was becoming accustomed to her teachers,
one of them decided to retire and the other to take a
leave of absence to have much-needed knee surgery done. This didn’t seem to bother Hana at all.
Every day is different with Hana. Sometimes she’ll come home from school tired, happy, sad,
nervous… She becomes obsessed with certain things: watching the same cartoon over and over,
wanting to put her favorite clothes on, wanting to hear us read the same books to her over and over
again that she already knows by heart, etc. She most often prefers isolating herself in her own little
world rather than interacting with others. Her desire to keep us excluded from her world sometimes
really breaks my heart.
Hana is mentioned frequently in my conversations with God. Thinking about her and what her
future might look like: always dependent on
us for everything, never maturing, always
like a baby, unable to cope with the world on
her own… makes me so sad. Wallowing in
that sadness, I have often told God things
like – “You just don’t understand! You never
had to raise a child with autism!” Yes, I know
that He is strong, that He sees all,
understands…but if only He had been the
parent of such an unusual child like I am!
Then He would really be able to help me and
relate. One time, as I was repeating such
statements to Him, He decided to answer
“My dear child, I’m not just the Father of one
child with autism, I am the Father of a whole nation of people with special needs! You’re sad
that that Hana often doesn’t have the desire to talk to you, even though she able to at times.
I’ve done everything to provide people with access into my throne room, so that they may
come to Me, talk to Me, but how often do you avoid my presence? How often do you really
want to hear my Word? It hurts when you try to comfort Hana and she distances herself from
you. How often have I wanted to comfort you and you repeatedly chose to turn your back on
Me and wallow in your misery? And no, my child, your future is not one of independence from
Me, not one of separation from Me, your Father. It’s one where you become more and more
dependent on Me with each passing day.”
I Corinthians 1:26-27
Love in Christ,
Hana playing with classmates at school