The Warmth of Love in a Bosnian Winter
Bosnia can be a cold and dark place, in more ways than one. In the last few decades, it has seen perennial war, economic hardship, terrorism, religious extremism, and genocide. In some of its cities, a survivor of genocide may pass a perpetrator in the street. It has also been a stopping point for tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East in the last five years alone. It is one of the few Muslim countries in Europe, and yet like much of Europe, it is also a place where New Age spirituality and humanism prevail, and leave little interest in something more. While exact figures are hard to determine, evangelical believers in Bosnia are probably number less than a thousand.
But, thanks be to God, there are workers with tenacity, grit, and enduring love who are working to plant seeds in frozen places. One of the ways Wave has done this, is by literally planting gardens -- at the home for kids with special needs, and at the senior citizens' residence, seen above.
While the fruit trees planted by Wave volunteers may be waiting for spring to see growth, the seeds of God's love are spreading and growing in the halls of this home, bringing light to darkness. In fact, they're not only growing -- they're running, hugging, laughing, and learning, in a place that was dark and neglected several years ago. I was recently able to visit this ministry, and what a joy it was!
The first people to greet us when we walked in the door were the directors and staff people, with whom the Tuzla church has built a strong relationship.
It didn't take long for word to get around, and soon we were surrounded by kids running in for hugs and special handshakes, and to tell their latest stories to Veldin and the other Wave volunteers.
"The kids here really connect with Veldin," Pastor Zeljko told us, "especially the older boys. He's a natural with young people."
As we walked around, we saw classrooms that Wave had helped to outfit with computers, lounge areas with lamps and rugs, brightly colored couches, and walls covered with paint and artwork. "When we first came here," said Pastor Zeljko, "the place was dark and depressing. The walls were totally bare -- can you imagine? And now, you can see what a happy place it is. The joy here is contagious."
And it was true. The joy shared between the church members, staff, and children was so real you could almost reach out and touch it. The place was like a greenhouse -- I felt brighter and warmer and more alive than before I walked in.
As we walked back out to the ice and snow, I talked with one of the Wave directors, a missionary from Croatia. "I can honestly tell you," she said, "that I have learned more about what it means to love like God here than in any other place."
Veldin himself is a great example of how Wave works to bear fruit. He first came as a student to one of the Wave intensives, and immediately began volunteering with the home for children with special needs. In time, he began to get more and more involved, and to start joining his fellow volunteers at the Tuzla church. Then, after nearly a year of weekly involvement, he let others know that he was following Jesus. Before long, he took charge of the Wave initiatives at the home, and soon after that began a successful youth group ministry at the Tuzla church.
Like a tiny bit of yeast in a big bowl of flour, like a small wave with many ripples, the love of God is taking root in Bosnia. And neither the cold of winter, nor the ice of humanism, nor the darkness which covers a war-torn land can stop it.