May 6, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

Last week we were in Bosnia visiting friends that helped start a church there. While we were there I took our three-year-old daughter, Hana, to a nearby playground. I had to run after her the whole time in order to keep her from hurting herself. She would do things like go right in front of the swings while other kids were swinging on them, climb up the slide and want to jump down instead of sliding, etc. Every once in a while a child would walk up and ask Hana what her name was to which she would, at best, respond with a silent smile. After about a half an hour I became totally frustrated and decided to take Hana back. Saddened once again by the painful fact that our daughter is suffering from autism, I sat down, bowed my head and started to cry. I poured out my heart in a desperate prayer to the Lord and as I opened my eyes I noticed a verse in a frame on our friends' dresser:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 28:11

Suddenly the despair was lifted, the sadness disappeared, and that familiar peace that "surpasses all understanding" came gushing into my heart like a powerful river. Once again I was ready to face my fears, take another step and put my trust in Him.

Thank you for your continued prayers for Hana and for us. A few months ago a special education teacher named Ali (that I mentioned a few newsletters ago) who works in America on a daily basis with autistic children came to spend her spring break with us. After a few days of observation and tests, Ali made an assessment of Hana's strengths and weaknesses and gave us some excellent advice on how to help improve her speech and behavior. She also went to visit Hana's preschool to give the teachers some helpful advice. We are so thankful to God for sending us Ali just at the right time. She really encouraged us and helped clear up a lot of confusion we had.
Ali and Hana



















Please continue to pray that the Lord would give us strength, wisdom, hope and strong faith as we deal with one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced. Please keep praying for God to heal Hana completely. All the books say it is incurable, but nothing is too difficult for the Lord! We've seen Him do amazing miracles during our ministry here in Serbia: instant healing of a broken foot, giving life without any operation to a man whose intestines were filled with cancerous tumors that the doctors said would die for sure, stopping internal bleeding, etc. Who knows? Maybe God will choose to miraculously heal Hana. We must "keep praying and never give up!"

Love in Christ,

Greg

Important Events of the Last Few Months

Political Situation

Thanks so much for your prayers concerning the tense situation caused by Kosovo breaking off from Serbia. Fortunately, things have calmed down considerably, even though many things have been left unresolved. We have a parliamentary election coming up on the 11th of May that I would like to ask you to pray for. Unfortunately, the Kosovo situation has helped the ultra-nationalist parties win the hearts of even more voters. These parties are totally discriminate toward any other ethnic group that is not Serbian, are anti-European Union and anti-American, they long for Serbia to become a part of Russia, they incite economic instability (which the mafia loves) and their politics are very similar, if not identical, to the horrible Milosevic era of the 90's! They really have a good chance of winning the majority of the seats in parliament! Please pray that this doesn't happen. There are only a few days left until the election and things are heating up. The president (that I asked you to pray would win a few months ago and did) has even received serious death threats from anonymous ultra-nationalists and has been publicly called a traitor by many politicians because of his efforts to help Serbia enter the European Union. A few years ago, this president's predecessor was actually assassinated! So please pray for President Boris Tadich's safety and that his party and other democratic parties would win the majority vote. What a crazy country this is! If it weren't for the clear calling from the Lord that brought me here to share the Gospel, I would have left this place a long time ago!

Renovation Project

Current Picture of Church
 

On the 21st of April we officially began renovating our church building! Right now at this phase, it looks like a bomb fell on it! We had to rent a place in town for several months, until the project is completed, so that we could continue to be able to meet together. Since I last wrote to you we received another large donation of 18,000 Euros (approx. - $28,000) from "Eurovangelism" that will help cover a lot more of our expenses. However, even after such generous grants, we still lack a great deal to totally complete the project. My sister-in-law, Dianne, is organizing a large fundraiser at "North Coast Church of Vista" at the end of July. Please pray that through this event she, and others involved, would be able to raise the total amount needed. If you would like to know more about this event please contact Dianne at - Dianne@sivulka.com or by phone number 760-613-4540.

Team from Ireland

At the end of March we had a team of Irish people who are from a church that supports one lady on our staff. They have sent teams in the past and have helped us and encouraged us in so many ways. Their outreach was a great success. They ministered to every single age group of our church and one guy even got saved through them who is still coming to our church and growing strong! Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of them, but I hope to get some from them soon and post them on our website.

Special Guests

Jeff and Jonena Relth
 

A couple with a big heart for missionaries came to visit us from "North Coast Church." They were such a blessing to us and our church.
























Humanitarian Aid Concert

















Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sing some Elvis tunes at a humanitarian aid concert in England! The event was organized by a friend of mine from Eurovangelism at a public theatre and I was just one of several acts. A fifty's band called "The Delltones" from England accompanied me and then they sang and played several old classics on their own. They've been doing concerts like this for years and have raised lots of money for the poor. We had a blast and raised over $2,000 that night for poor children in Serbia! My son came with me to England and helped put flyers together before the concert.

Well, I think that about covers everything! As you can see, we've been extremely busy these past few months. Thanks so much for all of your prayers and financial support. We are so thankful to have you behind us in our ministry.

Jelena and I with coworkers Tanya and Zoli
 






















P.S. From Jelena

Exactly eight and a half months have passed since we found out that Hana has a disability in the autistic spectrum. We've had so many sad days that we felt like we barely got through. I consider myself a fighter in life; an optimistic person who takes every new trial as a challenge; a person who doesn't give up easily; someone who leans on the promises of God, ones like - "He won't allow more than we can handle," etc. But after I found out that day that there was something wrong with my daughter, I reached the end of my rope; a great sadness overcame me and I told God something that had been hiding in my heart for some time - I told Him that I can't, I just don't have the strength to be Hana's mom; that I'm completely out of strength, hope and faith. This didn't shock Him at all and He knew all about my inability to cope even before I expressed it. He picked me up again, comforted me and encouraged me with the words - "I will be with you till the end of the world." I'm not alone in this battle, even though I sometimes feel like I am. Thanks a lot for everything.

Love in Christ,

Jelena


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