GIVING - FRAMES OF HOPE
It’s Ivor here, greeting you from my family’s house in Bosnia. As many of you know, I’m spending four months here trying to discern and see how I can help the people of my hometown, Doboj.
Doboj is a bigger city in Bosnia, and it’s where we fled from in 1992 when the civil war broke out. When I came back in 2005 for the first time since fleeing, I knew that one day I’d return here.
Bosnia - faith by the numbers
According to a 2013 census, 3.5 million citizens call Bosnia and Herzegovina home. Of the 3.5 million citizens, it is believed that 700, or .0002%, are born-again evangelical Christians. This makes Bosnia and Herzegovina one of the least evangelized countries in Europe. Most missionaries and Christian organizations are located in bigger cities such as Sarajevo and Mostar.
The Evangelical Church of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or EC BiH for short, is a registered group of 15 churches. Pastors meet quarterly to discuss and plan. EC BiH has a treasury and other functions within the net of churches.
Church history is being written as we speak, since most churches were planted right after the civil war ended in 1995. Some of today's pastors heard the gospel through chaplains, soldiers and missionaries that came through the country during and after the war. Many finished theology school in nearby countries where Christianity is more prevalent, and schools offer curriculum.
This is my second summer in Bosnia and I am having a great time. I love being able to learn about the city I was born in, the people that have been our neighbors for generations, and getting to spend time serving the local church.
The local church here is lead by a cousin of mine; Bane.
He’s the pastor of five churches on this side of the country and works so hard to make sure the churches he pastors stay nourished and growing. The church in Doboj is about two hours from the city he lives in, and he makes the trip every Sunday morning to preach the Good News. When he finishes up here, he heads right back to his city and preaches there in the evening.
Bane is married and has two kids. He lives in Banja Luka.
He started the church in Doboj in 1999 after finishing his degree in Theology in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Another person who visits us and preaches is Dragan, who lives in Sarajevo. He makes the two hour drive once a month so Bane can be relieved of responsibilities and rest, while this gives Dragan an opportunity to preach and change locations. He was one of the first pastors in Bosnia, and planted the first church in Sarajevo right after the siege ended. He’s been a big blessing to the church here in Doboj and we would like to have him preaching for a long time to come.
The church means so much to the attendees. They wouldn’t have anywhere else to go if the doors would close. The church in Doboj truly represents the colorful, diverse tapestry that Christianity is- we have a diverse group here that loves the Lord. I can voice my appreciation for the church here as someone who comes here once a year, but the brothers and sisters who have been here since the beginning can tell this much better.
Boro is the key-holder and makes sure the church space is clean and ready for services. He's the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. He makes sure everyone is greeted when they arrive and when they leave. He gave his life to Christ after fighting in the civil war in the 90's.
Nina's testimony touched my heart when she first shared it with me in 2016.
She grew up an orphan in Russia, but eventually found her way to Yugoslavia where she married and had two children. Her husband passed away and she became a widow, and moved to Bosnia. In Bosnia, she began volunteering at an orphanage in Doboj as a cook and nanny, where the kids she served read the Bible and prayed together every day.
One day, Bane visited the orphanage and shared a short message with the kids and she overheard them talking about God. She admitted she grew up atheist, never even knowing that a God existed, let alone a God who loves and cares about His creation. She began attending church and has given her life to Christ. She's such a blessing to the city of Doboj and the church. Whenever I get frustrated, I can hear her say "prayer and God's Word, Ivor. Keep it up."
Mujo's testimony gives me hope that the chains of culture and tradition can be broken. Mujo grew up Muslim, and decided to follow Christ despite the costs. His community rejected him at first, but now he's the link between the Roma community and the Evangelical Church in Doboj.
Because of Mujo's commitment to his relationship with God, many Roma children that live in Doboj have heard the Gospel and attend the kid's club that the church holds every other Saturday morning. The church has a great relationship with the Roma people in Doboj.
Looking back at the baptisms, evangelism events, camps and holidays together.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve seen the church struggle to keep its doors open because of finances. That has placed an unnecessary pressure on Bane and those who attend every Sunday. People tithe, but most months it’s not enough to cover the expenses of renting a space, paying for Dragan’s travel costs, and covering any other costs that the church might have. This leaves Bane with the expense and he usually covers the remainder out of his own pocket. Unfortunately, that's pretty common for the smaller churches in Bosnia.
Another challenge is the location of the church. For some time, we have looked to move locations to a bigger, cleaner, safer location. The current location sits right by the local market. The building is old and at night, local drug addicts spend their nights shooting up and drinking in the walkways. The building is dark, so they can hide from the police there. One morning, we showed up to find blood splatter and syringes right outside of the church door. Most Sunday mornings consist of cleaning up beer bottles and other trash before guests arrive.
We are thankful that we have this space to meet for prayer gatherings and Sunday service, but it can get tight when guests arrive. We often invite others from nearby towns to worship with us, so that there is a bigger number of Christians together on Sunday's. A new location would give us a safer place to hold our Sunday service, prayer gatherings, leadership classes and kid's club.
For some time I’ve prayed for guidance in what we could do to help out our brothers and sisters in Doboj. The church has to stay open, because if it were to close, many would lose a place of worship and community. I’ve seen God work in amazing ways in my time here in Doboj, and as someone who cares deeply about the mission of sharing the Gospel in Bosnia, I want to turn to you all for help with blessing the people of Doboj.
As of conversion rates in August 2017, the financial situation looks like this:
For Dragan to be able to come from Sarajevo to preach and cover his costs for a full 12 months, the church would need about $350. Travel costs would be similar with Bane, who is traveling a similar distance to Doboj from Banja Luka.
The biggest cost would be rent and utilities of the space, at $1,300.
That would leave us with a total fundraising goal of $2,000 to cover travel expenses, the full operation of the church, possible relocation to a cleaner, safer place, and make sure that tithing can go towards growing the church.
Yearly Budget Breakdown
I hope this information moves you to give generously to our brothers and sisters in Christ here in Bosnia, and that the mission of sharing the Gospel continues.
Lastly, and importantly, contributions are not tax deductible. we certainly hope to set up a non-profit organization in the future to make this an option to donors. thank you for your understanding and willingness to support the mission of advancing the gospel in bosnia.
God’s blessings to you all-