Arriving in Nis…

Tonight we have arrived in Nis, south Serbia.

Greeted first by passing 90 year old “Grandad Milutin” as we clambered out of our Oak Hall coach, and then by many curious about their new “neighbours” we have been made to feel very welcome.

Later, having set up our makeshift campsite in the grounds of a city school, around thirty local teenagers joined us for our evening meeting.  Reading on through Mark we saw that if a person longs to be cleaned, it is Jesus Christ who can meet that need…  We have talked long into the night over Oak Hall hot chocolates…

Now for bed.

Leaving the Bible School and heading to a hidden Romany Village

After warm farewells, this Saturday morning, we left Belgrade and “comfort” of the Bible School to travel into the centre of Belgrade.  Rather than visiting the “standard” tourist sights, we met Dragan – a Rom from the central city of Arandjelovac.

As we drove together, he told us how in 1999, aware of a personal need for forgiveness and aware of his own vulunerability magnified by the bombing, he found refuge in a friend’s house.  These friends walk with Jesus and through what they shared, Dragan and his wife committed their lives into the hands of Lord Jesus Christ.

Since then, Dragan and Danijela have been joyfully sharing about what God has done in their lives with others from Romany communities across Serbia.

Romany people are viewed as outcasts in this society.  They often live in makeshift homes made out of nothing more than reclaimed junk.  A living made by recycling rubbish they pull out of containers, ignored and often despised by the rest of the population – this is not an easy existence.  The Romany people have their own language and trace their ancestory back to North India – both their colouring and their language carry hints of the Indian culture.

This morning, Dragan brought us to a makeshift settlement where he and Danijela have been working for a number of years.  The welcome we received was immense with drinks, smiles and laughter.

Those in the settlement were very keen to sing to us new songs that they have written about their new found faith in Jesus Christ – “the One whom their hearts longed” as one song explained.

I think for some of us, this has been one of the most moving visits so far.  It has put on many of our hearts a keenness to find ways we can help the Romany community in Serbia and across this region, it has deepened our respect for this people group.  It has also given us an insight into the amazing work that Dragan and Danijela are doing.  Most of all it has shown us the dignity, vibrancy and life that comes to a person, a family, a community as they trust their lives into the hands of Jesus Christ.

We drive on now towards Nis…

25/08/10 – The Story Continues…

It’s two months since our coach left the Romany settlement here in the centre of Belgrade…

Wonderful things continued to happen the day that we visited…  One of the men who is a “patriarch” of this community that day realised his own need for a saviour and trusted his life into the hands of Jesus Christ – the One who has died personally for him…  This will have a great impact on this community.

Dragan, Danijela and Nesa delightedly shared this news with us by text as we drove south…  We praise God with them.

A “Chance” Meeting on the Motorway – a Family Takes a Massive Step of Faith.

Driving down the main highway between Belgrade and Nis, we suddenly see a figure standing in the hard shoulder.  He’s waving his arms as though trying to land a helicopter.  As the bus flies pass, we catch a glimpse of the face of Jovica – graduate of the Bible School.

Moments later, his car is beside us and he signals through the window.  We agree to pull over at the next service station…

Standing on the verge beside the coach, all of us listen as he is translated through the coach microphone.  Kaca – his wife – stands beside him along with their children.  We are amazed to hear that this is the day his family, after a lifetime of living in the relative comfort of the North, are taking the massive step of moving to the spiritually barren South to help to plant a church.

Jovica and Kaca – several years earlier – studied for a year at the Bible College.  The course takes students through the whole of the Bible in a year and is very practical – our prayer is that through it, men and women will grow in their knowledge of God and be prepared by Him to reach their communities.  (Read more about it at www.OakHall.org.uk on the links at the top of the pages…)

With deep emotion, Jovica and his family listen to our prayers for them all.  Jovica, Kaca and the children seem deeply encouraged that God should arrange for this meeting.  It is the one day that an Oak Hall coach is travelling down this road – it coincides with the one most momentous day that this family ventures to take this massive step of faith…

“God arranged this!” 

As we drive on, we acknowledge God’s hand on this meeting – and our responsibility to pray for them…