May 30, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Imagine having a child with a disability that you felt embarrassed to take out into public because of strange looks you receive from those passing by. Imagine living in a country without adequate care and resources to help improve your child’s quality of life. Imagine receiving conflicting information, discouraging words, and very little, if any, helpful, practical advice from the medical system you take your child to. Imagine having family members or relatives who are completely unwilling to babysit your child so that you can have a break every once in a while from the daily challenges you face.
 
Unfortunately, what I just described to you is not something that most families affected by disabilities living in Serbia have to imagine – IT’S A REALITY!

Although such families have been marginalized by their society and they feel completely rejected and hopeless, God hasn’t forgotten them! He cares about them and loves them more than many of them realize!

Just about a month ago we had the opportunity to display His love to 20 such families from all over Serbia at our second annual Family Retreat sponsored by “Joni & Friends.” I know that many of you have been eagerly awaiting a report from us describing what happened. In short – lives were touched and changed! Just look what one of the 40 volunteers wrote to us:

„Thanks for Kovacica [the place right outside of Belgrade where we had the retreat]. I had a great time! I experienced amazing encounters with Christ through the little boy I was taking care of. I now look at the world in a completely different light. The people are the same, but my heart is different and only Christ could have done that. My life will never be the same again. It was such a pleasure to be able to serve Him together with you.” Emil
Emil and Milan

Activities included: lots of fun (clown, magic show, karaoke parties, arts and crafts, swimming, talent show, sports/, movies, etc.), Biblical teaching times for parents by speakers from America, devotionals for volunteers, group and one-on-one discussions (with therapists, counselors, pastors, etc.), seminars for Serbian pastors on how to create a disabled-friendly atmosphere in their churches and minister to the disabled, a fancy dinner for the parents of kids with special needs, etc.




We even had a meeting with several evangelical leaders in preparation for Nick Vujicic’s arrival to Serbia next year (see www.lifewithoutlimbs.org if you don’t know who he is). There were a few representatives present from his organization.

Almost all of the 20 families present were non-Christian and many of them got to hear the Gospel for the first time! So many of them were overwhelmed by the love they experienced. Look at this comment from one of the mothers:

“This was our first time to be at such a retreat. The team of experts from America really helped us a lot. I got to meet a lot of people that have the same exact problems I have. The exchange of experiences and advice really meant a lot to me. But the thing that meant the most to me was the happiness my children experienced. The smiles on their faces are true treasures. I don’t have any complaints. Thanks so much!”

Just like last year, many of the volunteers came with a bit of fear; not really knowing what to expect. By the second day, most of the fear had completely vanished and they began to enjoy and bond with the children they were attending to. Although we were all exausted by the end of our time, and were looking forward to rest; at the same time we had such a hard time saying “goodbye” to each other and many tears were shed.


Jennifer, the young lady that does behavioral therapy with our daughter, has started having therapy also with a few of the children from Sombor that were at the retreat.

Thanks so much for your prayers concerning this event. God truly did an amazing work! Glorify and thank Him together with us!

Love in Christ,

Greg




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