Throughout the 1980s, ministers and Christians from the West sought to start works in the countries of the Eastern Bloc. It was a different world then, and Eastern Europe was an enigma to westerners, cold and closed to foreigners. There were “undercover” teams that lived and worked in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia during the height of the Cold War, and slowly they began to enter the other countries as well. But it took until the end of the 20th century before anyone was able to set up a permanent foothold in the former nations of Yugoslavia, the sprawling, once-prosperous country just to the south of Russia’s Warsaw Pact region.
This post will share briefly the story of our work in the former Yugoslavian republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Summer teams were first able to come to Croatia, and then to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the mid-1990s. But a year-round presence was not established in Bosnia until the summer of 2001. Even then, our work team only existed in Sarajevo, and was staffed with people serving a 1- or 2-year commitment. Turnover was high, and Bosnia was a remote destination. If we were ever to succeed in reaching the entire country, long-term staff would be necessary.
The need for long-term staff
All of our staff came from the Southeastern US, and the region talked about establishing a permanent team in Sarajevo for several years before being able to do so in the summer of 2009. By 2010, we had 3 families permanently stationed in Sarajevo, but were always conscious of our need for more people.
Fortunately, by 2012, we had new people arriving, and more people waiting to come. We had the staff team we needed in order to begin planning for growth.
Movements everywhere, reaching people everywhere
The stated vision of our organization is to build spiritual movements everywhere, so that everyone can know someone who truly follows Jesus. In order to do this, it has always been imperative that we expand to more locations, to reach people at each university in our country.
The move to Mostar in 2015
My wife and I decided to take on the pioneer spirit and move from Sarajevo, our home of 5 years, in 2015. We would be part of a new, small, expansion team in Mostar, 2 hours to the south. This would be our first experience of living in a smaller town, away from the captial city.
Reaching out and up
As we look at the rest of the country, we see other university campuses in Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Bihac, that have thousands of students who have never heard the story of the gospel. These are our next destinations, and we are working to make headway in this quest by 2020.
But as we look at the greater picture, we know that we work in a part of the world where the gospel once had a stronger influence. And as we work to touch more people, we are confident that our work is an important part of the gospel re-advancing here.