|Jelena grew up in Eastern Europe during communism and with a family who were atheists. She had never read the Bible and had never heard the Gospel message. But when she was seventeen years old, she received a New Testament from the "Gideons" and began reading it. A few months later, a Christian friend invited her to an evangelistic outreach in her hometown of Novi Sad, Serbia. She thought the message was interesting but found it hard to believe. She decided to leave her name and phone number anyway. A few weeks, the pastor's wife called Jelena and invited her over for coffee. When Jelena declined the invitation, Vera left her phone number and said, "Call me anytime you're ready." Then civil unrest started to break out in various parts of Serbia. Everything Jelena and her family had lived for started to fall apart. The plans and dreams she had once placed her hope in crumbled. That's when Jelena searched for a discarded piece of paper with a phone number on it. As she sat with Vera over coffee, she heard about a God so powerful and yet a Savior so personal. Not long after that, Jelena decided to give her life to Christ. Her whole life had changed in an instant! She began attending church and sharing her newfound faith with anyone who would listen. She soon discovered that her family didn't share her excitement. Instead, they were horrified of the decision she had made and accused her of joining a cult. Then ties with her family became even more strained when she started dating one of the Christian missionaries. Jelena's grandfather called her on the phone one day and angrily said, "Don't even bother calling or visiting me anymore! I disown you as my granddaughter!" As devastating as this persecution was, it didn't stop her from following Christ. A few years later, Jelena married the young American missionary from southern California. His blonde hair, outgoing personality, and ease with which he shared his faith with everyone who would listen captured her heart.
Jelena and Greg have been married since 1994 and have three children. They continue to live and serve in northern Serbia. Through church planting, evangelism, discipleship, counseling, humanitarian aid support for refugees, drug rehab, and terminal illness ministry, God has opened doors for them to be an outpouring of His love and mercy toward the marginalized. In 2008 God opened a new door of ministry for Jelena and Greg when their youngest daughter was diagnosed with autism. Understanding from first-hand experience the lack of support and services that were available for families in Serbia affected by disability, God opened the doors for them to partner with Joni Eareckson Tada and begin hosting summer camps. In 2010 Jelena founded "Hana's Hope," the first Christian care center in Serbia to serve children and their families. Hana's Hope is a registered non-profit in Serbia and a soon-to-be 501(c)3 in the U.S.