Many of our church planters in Serbia and members of their congregations were once refugees. They have lived in fear of what the future will hold. They know what it means to be alone, without security, and hopeless.
These church planters explain that the Lord is now helping them to utilize their difficult experiences in ministering to others. As Syrian and Iranian refugees enter Serbia, these congregations have found ways to serve and to demonstrate God’s love.
“Refugees are coming here with the same feelings we had: unsure of what the next day may bring or when the next meal will be, not knowing how they are going to feed their children, or if they will ever be free,” one church planter tells.
Through the efforts of our church planters and their gracious congregations, many of these refugees have had their needs met and, in turn, have become more open to the Gospel. Recently, 13 new followers of Jesus were baptized!
“Jesus has indeed become my true refuge, a source of hope and peace in the midst of continuously unpredictable and difficult circumstances,” says one of the new believers.
The freedom they had been looking for by leaving their countries, they found in the One who alone can give real freedom. No matter where they end up, these 13 believers are free because they have Christ in their hearts.
Anna is a young woman from North Macedonia. Her friends would describe her as a person filled with enthusiasm, joy and a love for her Savior, Jesus Christ.
She was surrounded by friends and had even met and married the man of her dreams. Her life was full. Everything was going well. She seemed set on a course for a sweet life of contentment.
Then, in a moment, everything turned upside down. Anna was hit by a reckless driver. The accident changed the course of her life in ways she never imagined.
She sustained serious injuries that left her needing numerous surgeries. Her recovery was a very long and painful process. Feeling overwhelmed by both the pain and the abrupt change in her life, Anna began to feel hopeless. Peace and joy seemed to vanish from her life. She questioned the God she had once loved so much.
At that time, Anna’s friend Lena invited her to a Bible study. The booklet they were studying was about being delivered from fear.
As Lena and Anna worked through the booklet together, they were able to understand that God’s promise to care for His children extends to both the happy and tragic times of life. Fear can take away our dreams, but God’s gift of peace will allow us to move forward! These friends discovered that God’s peace can melt away fear.
Anna’s heart slowly filled with hope once again. Her life is different now, but she has cast fear aside and rests in the peace that surpasses understanding.
Evgeny is 35 years old and was born in the country of Georgia, but now lives near Kiev, Ukraine. Upon arriving in Ukraine, Evgeny discovered that his documents were either stolen or lost during his trip. He managed to enter the country and learned how to live without official documents, finding a job and an apartment to rent.
Evgeny was successful in earning money, and when he wasn't working, he partied and drank often. Then, one day, he met someone on the street who invited him to come to a Bible study that was being held in a few days. Evgeny agreed to join them.
The next day, the police came to arrest him, intending to deport Evgeny back to Georgia. But then a strange thing happened – he was released! The authorities gave him no reason why. They simply let him go free, and Evgeny was allowed to return to his apartment.
When the day of the Bible study arrived, Evgeny was able to attend just as he had planned. During that first meeting, they studied the Ten Commandments, and Evgeny began to see how his life measured up in the light of the Holy Scriptures. “I saw my sinful life. I saw despair,” he admits. Evgeny continued to attend the meetings and heard God calling to him, but he did not know how to respond and draw near.
Through the Bible studies, Evgeny learned about God and believed that He is omnipotent and could change his life for the better. He learned that, through prayer, he could repent and be reconciled with God. So, that is exactly what he did! Evgeny praises God for the changes He has brought to his life and for those that are yet to come.
“I was a staunch atheist. Reading the Bible was out of the question,” comments 67-year-old Vernon from Kiev, Ukraine. It hadn’t always been that way, though. In his youth, Vernon had prided himself on being able to read the Bible and share his wisdom and insight.
Then, school and a military career left him skeptical about Christians, the church and the Bible. Skepticism gave way to disgust, and as a commander of a garrison, Vernon picked on the soldiers who followed Christ, giving them the most dirty and hard work.
“I was surprised by these guys who were always smiling. Their faces shone a light in spite of all their difficulties,” Vernon shares. And, the more he watched these men, the more his heart was changed.
When Vernon got out of the military, his neighbors invited him to a Bible study at an evangelical church. Though his heart had surely softened toward Christianity, he was not ready to set foot back inside a church.
For weeks, Vernon declined their invitations to attend the Bible study. Then one night he was walking around town simply killing time. Before he knew it, Vernon found himself in front of a familiar church – and just in time for Bible study.
Vernon began to attend the Bible study regularly. The more he read the Bible and participated in the conversations, the more he realized there was about the Bible that he did not know. He was given a New Testament and found a greater joy than he had ever experienced in reading God’s Word.
“I prayed a prayer of repentance,” Vernon tells. “For the first time ever, I stod before God and realized I could not justify my deeds or anyone else’s. I needed God’s salvation.”
Today, Vernon still attends the Bible study, and so does his wife. “Praise God, who has transformed our family!” he declares.