| Oct. 9, 2013
Dear Family and Friends,
“The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him,” - Nahum 1:7
In the last newsletter I asked you all to pray for us. We were in such a huge mess! We had: no car, no place to live in the city we had to move to (where there is a good school for autistic kids), a bureaucratic nightmare on our hands trying to get the kids enrolled in the school system again… But God, our Refuge, took care of us and provided everything we needed! Praise Him! Thank you so much for helping us through your prayers, support, and encouraging letters. Our unsettling transitional stage is officially over; at least, till the next one ;-) The Lord kept bringing to mind a song He gave me last year that really comforted me in the midst of the chaos:
In the Strength of the Lord
The lights are now fading
The curtain is falling
A chapter is ending
Of another stage of life
A door is closing before me
But I shall not fear
For I stand with my Maker
Who will not leave me here, alone
And I will be strong, in the strength of the Lord
I know I’ll carry on, even when I'm weak and worn
Though the storms may crash and threaten me
I will hope in the Lord
A cold chill befalls me
As He leads me through the dark
His gentle words console me
Then I see the clouds depart
When I reach for your hand, don’t let go
Draw me close beside You, let me know, You’re near, You’re here
(You can hear this song on our website: www.SerbianOutreach.com in the “audio” section)
Gifts from our Great Provider:
Although this country is way behind a lot of other countries in providing and caring for their citizens that have disabilities, we were so thankful to discover that there is a good school that has a class for autistic children in Jelena’s home town of Novi Sad! (located about an hour and a half away from the last town we were working in). This is the main reason why we decided to move here.
The staff is very professional, friendly and the facility is in great condition (newly renovated and well equipped). One of the staff members there used to do behavioral therapy once a week with Hana several years ago when we first discovered Hana had autism. There are only four students in Hana’s class, so she gets lots of attention from her teacher. Although her teacher doesn’t speak English, there is an assistant available that can translate for Hana. But so far, there hasn’t been a need for translation. Amazingly, Hana understands almost everything she is told in Serbian! We are so thankful to God that we can continue to work on the mission field here in Serbia and have a place for Hana to go to school.
Benny and Sara’s Schools
One of our big concerns in moving to the States two years ago was that if we ever return here, our older kids wouldn’t be able to catch up enrolled again in the extremely challenging Serbian school system. (16 different subjects, 2 foreign languages…)
Fortunately, in Novi Sad, they have a private high school Benny is now enrolled in that is almost exactly the same set-up and curriculum they have in American schools! They also have public schools where most of the classes are in English!
We managed to get Sara enrolled in one of these and though she had a rough start, she seems to be adjusting quite well.
Buying a used car in Serbia is very risky. Almost all owners set the odometers back, lie about its condition, etc. Through a friend I discovered that there is a pastor in Serbia that has a side job as a car importer. I called him up and he showed me a car that he recently imported from Germany that has only 43,000 miles on it for $3,600.
And the Lord put it on a friend of mine’s heart to buy it for us! Thanks, friend! (Not sure if he wants to remain anonymous).
As Jelena and I were praying and looking around for a house or apartment to rent, a thought came to Jelena’s mind that she should get into contact with a couple that let us use one of their apartments when we were in a different transitional stage several years ago. They are the directors of a theological seminary in Novi Sad.
The timing couldn’t have been better! Their son had just moved over to the States to continue his studies in theology and his three-bedroom, completely furnished house was available to rent! We moved in at the end of Aug.
There was a team that came over from “North Coast Church” in Vista, CA. I got to help out with some of their outreaches; one of which was an English Camp at the church in Sombor. We would help teach teenagers English with fun activities, games, etc. and then share a story from the Bible with a discussion afterwards. One of the highlights for me was during one of the discussion times, after hearing the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, when a teenage girl that barely ever talks blurted out – “How can I get that living water that Jesus was talking about? I really want that!”
It was great to be a part of sharing the Gospel with these precious teenagers, many of whom have never read the Bible before in their lives.
New Ministry Opportunities
The minute we arrived to Novi Sad, we were bombarded with offers from various pastors and other Christian leaders to get involved in all kinds of different ministries such as: discipling ex-drug addicts, leading worship, speaking, teaching, pastoring, counseling, working with youth, evangelistic outreaches, etc. Both Jelena and I were a bit overwhelmed by all the offers. Although it was tempting to just jump into it all at once, we are taking things very slowly, seeking the Lord on what He would want us to be involved in. We don’t want to run around trying to fulfill everyone’s expectations. (We’ve already been down that road in the past). Please continue to pray that He would give us clear direction and lots of wisdom.
So far we have committed to discipling ex-drug addicts and having worship times with them twice a week. We’ve also decided to get involved in helping a church that we started back in 1997 in a small town called Temerin, located on the outskirts of Novi Sad. This church doesn’t have a pastor anymore, is in pretty bad spiritual condition (mostly due to gossiping, bitterness, church politics, etc.) and has dwindled down to only 6 or so members. This really breaks our hearts because when we left the church in 2000 it had around 60 members and the atmosphere was great. I feel like Nehemiah looking at a broken down shell of a ruined city that was once filled with life and joy. After praying for years for Temerin, I feel like God is finally giving us a chance to be involved (at least partially) in a possible restoration plan of His. May His light shine brightly once again in that place!
Usually, at least once a month, we go up to visit our last church plant in Sombor. I’ll lead worship and sometimes teach when needed. The church is doing well, thank God! There are always at least 20 people that show up for the Sunday services and often a few new people. The pastor, Zoli, has asked me get together one-on-one with him periodically, to have accountability/mentoring meetings. We’ve started these a few weeks ago and it’s been so great! I’ve also been involved in helping Zoli when complicated or serious issues arise in the church, which lately, for some reason; there seem to be a lot of!
Jelena is in the process of opening a Christian counseling center and has already started counseling 5 people that are struggling with depression.
And last but not least - We are continuing to place high priority at this stage on evangelizing and counseling people affected by disabilities. It’s such a pleasure for us to help these dear people that are living in such despair. Right now we are currently working on a project that would enable us to distribute humanitarian aid to them on a regular basis. This weekend we are going to get together with all of the local volunteers that participated in the family retreat for families affected by disabilities in June. We’re going to: thank them with a nice lunch, get feedback on how the families they invited are doing, discuss ways of getting more involved, and talk about our next retreat planned for next summer.
For those of you who speak Serbian, you can listen to a sermon I had at a friend of mine’s church here in Novi Sad just a few weeks ago (visit www.SerbianOutreach.com click on “audio” and scroll down to find “Ocekivanja.”)
Our Great Father – by Jelena
Many people have come in and out of our lives the last 10 years while we were in Sombor. Some have stayed in contact with us and others I have no idea how they are doing. Ever since we’ve moved to Novi Sad, I would find myself wondering more and more about those in Sombor I wasn’t really in contact with anymore. “Oh, Lord,” I would pray, “is the role I had in their lives over, or is there something more I should do?”
One of those I would wonder about is named Sanda, a gypsy begger that would come to our door regularly asking for food and clothing for her children or anything else we would be willing to give. Whenever I would give to help her, I would also try to share Jesus with her – the greatest Treasure I have to give her. Most of the time, it seemed like she wasn’t really interested. But over the summer she came knocking on my door again, and this time the visit was different. This time she wasn’t coming to beg; she was coming to share something with me – the great news that she had given her life to Christ! I was so happy! “You know, Jelena,” she said, “nothing has really changed with my financial situation. I still have to beg.
But even though I don’t have anything, I feel like I’m the richest person in the world! I’m rich in here thanks to Christ!” she pointed to her heart. “I don’t lack anything anymore!” I pulled out the Bible and showed her a verse. It was then I discovered she couldn’t read so I read it to her myself – “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” – II Cor. 6:10 “Yes, yes!, “she exclaimed. “That’s exactly how I feel!”
Danijela was another person I wondered about. We used to work together at a high school for seven years. We shared an office and I would often talk to her about Christ during our breaks. During the summer we got together to talk about what’s been happening in our lives. I was amazed and so thankful to find out that she also had given her life to Christ! With a gleam in her eyes she described the wonderful, new relationship she was experiencing with Christ. “You know, Jelena,” she said after a while, “it’s so great to converse with Him, sharing everything that’s on my heart and listening to his voice as I read the Bible, but somehow, I feel like there’s something missing, still. I think I need to start going to your church. Where is it located at?” Wow! What can I say to that, besides – Praise the Lord! He is great!!! Last week she showed up for church for the first time and really enjoyed the service.
Once again the Lord reminded me that He is constantly working on people’s lives, sometimes with me and sometimes without.
The summer’s over and we have moved to Novi Sad. As Greg already mentioned, the Lord has provided so wonderfully for every single thing we needed; just as He always does. We are so thankful! The location has changed, but not the God who lives in us and works through us.
Just a few days after moving here I had a chance to counsel an older man who was seriously thinking about committing suicide. Depression had overshadowed every area of his life. Only a month has passed since I first started counseling and I can see that his faith and desire to live have started to slowly return. What a miracle! Observing the huge smile on his face, I felt the Lord say – “Welcome back, my daughter, into the ministry of my Kingdom in Serbia.”
I don’t have adequate words to describe the joy and delight I’m experiencing from God’s care and sovereignty. Once again He’s shown me how powerful He is and how He doesn’t need me at all to fulfill his plans; but He’s also shown me how much He desires to include me in those plans, sharing the joy of serving others. What a great Father we have!
Thanks again for helping us through this difficult transitional stage through: your prayers, financial support and words of encouragement. We are so thankful to have you behind us, actively involved in helping us continue to spread the Gospel in a country where very few have heard.
Love in Christ,
Greg and Jelena