Blogger’s Note: The worst thing about making a trip to Serbia is that you spend almost the equivalent of one working day (8 hours) waiting at the Serbian-Hungarian Border! I am writing this report to you while I am at the border. (I have already spent 3 hours writing emails, reports and composing messages.) Let’s see if I can get this blog done before Jeannie gets to the front of the line!
Our one-week Serbia trip was super as well as long overdue. We have been through Serbia many times since May but we have not been able to stop in the country because of Covid restrictions. So we were looking forward to being with our Serbian CHE Teams face-to-face.
We started by catching up with Emil and Klara Kisgeci who direct the REZ Serbia team and are in the first stage of a project in the village of Nadalj, north of Novi Sad. Covid was hard on Klara and Emil, who both came down with it, Klara very severely, and on Zoran and Ivana, the village champion couple they are working with in Nadalj. They have still been able to do Bible studies and practical trainings online and in-person when Covid permitted. All of our CHE Teams have been willing to take health risks working in their communities during the pandemic. Keep them in your prayers.
We were unable to visit the ZZ Serbia project village of Donji Petrovci because of covid cases there, but Marijana Čizmanski, the ZZ Director, and Tamara Beres, leader of children’s ministries, both gave encouraging reports. Children’s programs are well-attended and they are now working on their Christmas program presentations. The youth have also helped clean and paint the community center.
The ZZ Serbia team needs to add a man or men! Serbia is a male-dominant country. CHE work with women and children is progressing but men and older male teens do not come to meetings or participate in home visits unless there are men on the team. Marijana has solved this at times by using interns or male students from the Belgrade Bible School. But what they need is a full-time man on the team. If you or someone you know is looking for a meaningful internship or sense a calling from God to Serbia, please contact Marijana Čizmanski (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It was the height of fall color-season as we headed to the picturesque southeast part of Serbia. We were traveling with Marijana and Tamara to visit Stefan and Jasmina, a young couple who had done volunteer work with ZZ in Donji Petrovci and had recently begun pastoring in the city of Zajecar. They wanted to learn how to use CHE in their city and how their church could partner with ZZ!
The best way to explain CHE is to see CHE in action, so they joined us on an inspection trip to the village of Lebane-Mahala in south Serbia.
Four and a half years ago, we recruited Snezana Randjelovic from Lebane, trained her in CHE, together selected her first Roma community and helped her begin a partnership with Global Hope Network International (GHNI). Four years ago, when I walked the streets of Lebane-Mahala they stank of human feces and urine because the community had only 4 outdoor privies, houses were ramshackle, Christians numbered around 2, hope for the future was non-existent.
Snezana went to work. When we walked the same streets this week they were swept clean by the villagers, houses had indoor toilets, roofs were repaired, new believers are in every household, people smiled and laughed with us, one showed us his micro-enterprise tomato garden, the community leadership team wants to spread Jesus and CHE to the surrounding Roma communities! God has done great work through this quiet, loving, devoted woman, Snezana Randjelovic. If you want to know more about Snezana and her expanding ministry, write me and I will put you in touch. (She understands English and is learning to read and write it as well.)
Snezana hopped into our now-full van and we headed off to our last village populated mostly by Roma who are professional musicians. We went there to meet with the village’s champion, an enthusiastic, passionate believer named Kruna. Kruna wants to start community development in her community and also plant a church.
God-things happen in Kruna’s house. Marijana and Snezana have witnessed 5 or 6 people receive Christ when they led Bible studies there. On this visit three Roma prayed and asked Jesus into their lives. In addition we prayed and anointed two who had serious medical needs. Plans are now on the drawing board to begin follow-up, have a seminar on starting a church and training in how to do CHE.
What a great trip.
Would you believe that I finished this blog as we exited border control? 4 hours plus!