| Oct. 4, 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
When I first moved over here from America twenty years ago there was a kind of spiritual revival happening particularly among the youth. People once oppressed and discouraged under a communistic regime to even bring up subjects about God, church, the Bible… were now coming out to the streets to hear preaching, Christian music and ask us questions they could never really openly ask before. I felt so privileged to be on a missionary team, proclaiming the Gospel on the streets almost every day to people who had never heard the Good News before in their lives! We saw many come to Christ and witnessed the birth of a new church on the streets. It was a magical time for me; one I will never forget.
Now these youth have grown up and many of them have continued to walk with the Lord over the years. It’s great to see the various ways God has used them. Unfortunately, over time, the revival died down and now the youth of today have, in general, become indifferent to spiritual things, completely given over to materialism, sexual immorality, loose living, drunkenness, drug use, etc.
But over the summer, something amazing happened that reminded us of the “glory days” of the early 90’s – several teenagers from Sombor gave their lives to the Lord! God did a miracle!! It all started at an English Camp we had in July about two hours south of here that over 30 non-Christian teenagers signed up for. Our youth director, Vicky, several volunteers from our church and “Josiah Venture,” and a team from my brother’s church in America (North Coast) all participated in this six-day event. The mornings would be spent practicing conversational English, afternoons would be filled with sports, games and other activities and then in the evenings we would have a short Bible study and a discussion in Serbian. The teenagers and their parents were told in advance about the Bible Studies in the evenings. (We didn’t want people accusing us afterwards that our church lured them into a trap!) A lot of the teenagers told us honestly after the camp that at first they weren’t really looking forward to the evenings, but figured it was worth “suffering through this” for the sake of being able to learn English with a bunch of Americans.
Although many were filled with prejudice attitudes at the beginning of the camp, after the first day or so, almost all the walls came down and hearts were really softened. It was amazing to see the transformation happening right before our eyes and the true conversions that took place at the end of the camp. Some of the worst, rebellious ones were crying like babies toward the end of our time together!
The new believers, along with about 10-15 others that were at the camp, have been coming regularly to church ever since! They come to the youth meetings, almost all church related activities and even our main services on Sundays! At a BBQ we had at the church after the camp, one of the new believers came up to tell us that he had a surprise. He had written a rap with some of his other friends that were at the camp. Here are some of the words:
Oh God, help me, you know I’m repenting
I’m asking for forgiveness from you
I want the kind of life that I’ve never had before
I want to live eternally
I’m trusting in you now.
This isn’t just a song, this is a prayer, through which I’m calling out to You. I need you now…
He and his friends rapped out this song that brought tears to all our eyes. Then we had them perform it in front of the whole church the next Sunday.
This kind of “mini-revival” has truly come at a perfect time for us. You see, for the past year our church has been really stuck in a rut. Many of our members have started playing the church game: they have their own assigned seats that they always sit in at the services, have started criticizing and complaining more and more, have lost their desire to serve and get involved, etc. The apathy has been driving us crazy! These youth that are so on-fire for Christ have brought a breath of fresh air, breaking the religious monotony that we were experiencing. Just to give you an example – we have a list hanging up on the wall where people can sign up to help clean the church building. But the only ones that would sign up 99% of the time were those of us on staff. When these youth started coming, they immediately asked, completely on their own initiative, if they could sign up to help clean! We were completely shocked and couldn’t resist mentioning it to the rest of our congregation. Maybe God will use these new believers to create a kind of healthy jealousy that will get those older in Christ serving again. We’re hoping and praying for this.
Many of the teenagers have immediately started sharing their faith with their friends and families. We see friends of theirs at the youth Bible studies and even some of their parents at the main services! Just last night at the end of our Sunday service, one of the mothers gave her life to the Lord! There are just no words to describe what is happening! My son just turned 14 and I’m so glad that he now has Christian friends his own age to hang out with as he enters the turbulent years.
Please pray for them to get firmly grounded in the Word of God and to leave more and more of their baggage from the old life behind. Change is definitely happening; we just need to be patient.
Thanks a lot for your continued prayers and support for our ministry. Please praise the Lord with us for these precious new souls!
Love in Christ,
In our last newsletter I put out an S.O.S. to help us fix up some areas of the church and prepare it for inspection. We needed around 6,000 dollars fast and I’m happy to report that many of you responded, some giving even several times over the $35 I requested. A total of exactly $7,555 was raised! Thanks so much for helping us with this need! Thanks to your gifts we were able to: pay for and turn in the documentation on time, fix up and insulate upstairs ceilings, put in new doors, put in lighting and a new circuit board for upstairs, etc. We used most of the extra money to put in some stronger outside electrical cables and to increase the capacity of our electrical system.
Everything is ready for inspection, but we are still waiting for government inspectors to come out. Thanks again for your help!
Stories from Jelena
He was 7 years old and had big blue eyes that were filled with fear and uncertainty. I first met him several years ago when I used to work part time at a social center. His parents had come to the center because of questions they had about their divorce and custody of their child. He had just lost a brother to leukemia and he was on his way to lose one of his parents; the home he had once known. I gave the little boy a few stickers out of my purse. He gave a smile and I really longed to share Christ with him. I never forgot that boy that had experienced such trauma at such an early age.
Almost 8 years later, just last year, this little boy (now a teenager) knocked on the door of my office at the local high school, where I now work part time as a counselor. Although he was taller, had a deeper voice and a serious look on his face, his heart was still filled with the same fear he had as a small boy. He wanted to talk to me about his parents, teachers, latest problems that were weighing him down… “Oh, Lord, please save him,” I prayed.
Yesterday I was in church and guess who was sitting across from me worshiping God with all his heart – YES! That same boy!! He went to the English Camp we had in July, continued coming out to church and just about a week ago he turned his life over to Christ!
“Lord, thank You for answering my prayer!”
Her name is Elvira. She’s been a Christian ever since she was a little girl and went regularly to church with her mom. She married a man who claimed to be a believer. After they got married, they had three children. Soon after they were married her husband forbid her and her children to go to church, but they continued to go anyway. Hurtful, rude words and physical abuse by her husband became daily events. Over time she completely lost hope.
When I recently met her, she was dressed in black with no make-up on and filled with fear. She had fallen deep into depression and just couldn’t find her way out of it.
Her mom heard me speak at a conference and asked me to come visit her daughter. I wasn’t really expecting much to happen after one visit, I imagine that she didn’t either. After all, there’s no one powerful enough to restore hope after a two-three hour conversation to a person who has completely lost it, right? Wrong! There is – the Almighty God!
Although I couldn’t really relate to the circumstances she was in, I shared with her about the pain, loneliness and hopelessness that I experienced after Hana was diagnosed with autism. I talked to her about Him and about His Words that I barely found strength to read, that lifted me up; about hours of wordless prayers/only groans that were answered; about Psalm 63, which I discovered in the dark hall of my depression. I talked to her about the God who quenches the thirst of our exhausted souls, mends the wounded heart and sustains it with his own right hand. Psalm 63:7-9
I talked to her about Christ and witnessed a miracle! Over those few hours her hope was restored! Oh, what joy! What a thrill! What a great Savior we have! Hallelujah!
Team from Saddleback Church
It’s always a great encouragement to our church when a team comes over. Just a few days ago we had a small team of four come over from Saddleback Church in California. Two of them are a couple that has been praying for and supporting our ministry for years. I was so happy they could get a glimpse of what we’re doing firsthand.
You should have seen the look on the faces of our congregation when I introduced them as being from a church of 40,000! That’s almost the size of our town!!
They presented a challenging message about getting out of our pews to reach and disciple the lost. Check out their blog at: http://peaceserbiamontenegro2010.blogspot.com/