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A Muslim contact is pleased to have a Bible
The standard of living in these two countries is very different. Croatia is almost wholly European in its culture and Catholic in its religious heritage (from the old Austro-Hungarian empire). Bosnia and Herzegovina is where three cultures meet. At the end of the 1992-5 war, the Dayton Accord provided for Republika Srpska – two large areas dominated by Serbian culture and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Then there is the Federation, consisting of Roman Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks. Politicians set one group against the other during the war and the scars are still felt.
It's almost as hard to get a positive response to our message in Croatia as in Hungary. Even so, we have a sister, Anita, and a brother, Ivan, who live there. We have over 40 contacts in Croatia but none at the moment that we can say look really promising. Nevertheless, 7 of us spent nearly a week in Zagreb in October, giving out 20,000 leaflets and inviting people to two talks. We had 15 visitor attendances. Anita joined us for the week and we included a visit to Ivan, who lives in Novska, about 1½ hours south of Zagreb by train. As we walked to his house, we saw the scars of war; his own home was damaged, not least when a rocket went through the roof. Despite it being freezing cold inside, we were warmly welcomed and held a breaking of bread service with him. Ivan does not speak English; he came into the Truth through the work in Esperanto. Anita was able to translate our English into Croatian.
The second leg of our trip took us to Sarajevo in Bosnia, where we have 90 contacts. There we had 20 visitor attendances to two talks and we gave out some 14,000 leaflets. Sarajevo is also scarred by war damage. 11,000 people were killed during the 2 year siege of the city by the Serbian army. But we have some very promising contacts there.
They were keen to learn what Christadelphians believe. We spent as much time as we could with them, patiently opening up the Scriptures. In November I was able to go back to Sarajevo with John Barrett of Portsmouth to build on the situation. Portsmouth ecclesia provides the tutors for our students in Bosnia. Again, we had good attendances at 2 talks and spent valuable time with individuals and small groups.
Most of our contacts are in or around Sarajevo but we do have a number elsewhere. In October we went by bus to Bugojno where we met a 30-something year-old English teacher; in November, we went to Busovaca, where we were welcomed by a 22-year-old Muslim girl and her family. She was delighted to be given a Bible. Many of our contacts are Muslim. It is instructive to find that most of them have reasonably open minds and are struck by the fact we are not like the Orthodox or Catholic churches. Muslims treat the Bible as a holy book, although they believe the church has changed it and that the Qur'an is a fuller and more final revelation. It will be interesting to see how far they come along the road with us, since breaking with their cultural heritage is not easy. It defines their existence and is the basis of their sense of security. So we have to put something in its place to give them the confidence that they can cope and be supported if they step away from their family and community.
Between visits there is the constant challenge of keeping in touch with people and responding to their needs. We have sent money out from the CBM Welfare fund to assist with a number of situations, not least providing money for heating costs through the cold winter. We regularly run newspaper adverts and these produce more enquiries for "Exploring the Bible". We now have about 12 booklets translated into Bosnian and are working on a translation of "Exploring the Bible". It all takes time and resources and we are grateful for the support that makes this possible and for the blessing of our heavenly Father.
|"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)|