How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the People...
Rafika and Alija - We celebrated Rafika's Birthday together and loved seeing the old stuffed animals of our kids that she keeps to remember them. They were unable to have children of their own, and Rafika was a wonderful babysitter and friend who was very close to our kids growing up here. She even traveled with us to Austria to take care of the kids while we attended marriage counseling. Life in Bosnia can bring greater stress to marriage, which represents Christ and His Church.
Hamo and Halima were our Bosnian "parents" who would give us health advice when we had a crisis, like when Lydia's temperature soared: thinly sliced potatoes with mustard in her socks while legs were rubbed down with plum brandy.... We are truly "not in Kansas anymore, Toto." They loved hearing about the kids, and especially Luke. Hamo was laughing as he remembered when Luke was playing with his grandchildren years ago and calling to grandpa to watch them jump into a swimming pool. Luke would join right in, "Vidi, Dedo!" He was like one of their own.
Sutka is a wonderful cook - here is fish, and burek and zeljanica from scratch! Yum! She spoke a little English which enabled us to communicate in the early days. They have been dear friends for many years. Sutka said I smiled and said hi out the kitchen window and that is how we met. They came to Merle's 40th Birthday celebration with their two boys 20 years ago to the snowy mountains with our team for the weekend. Their boys are all grown up now. We are staying in their lower flat. Zejnil has been very generous to lend us the use of his car during the day, while he was at work, and to take to Montenegro for a week. Thank you, Zejnil, for your generosity!
Mladen and Violeta's Luster Kafic is a happening place. Merle helped him on his property in the mountains building a shed. We saw Bob and Helen, again, at the coffee house, visiting from Arizona. Merle says Mladen is "his hero." Mladen has endured much in his life as pastor of the Breza church, and all the people he has been "Jesus" to. Pastors here have often be a target for Satan's attacks in this country full of disunity.
Dejan and his mother, Ljilja, provided dinner for us. We also celebrated the Lord's Supper together, as Ljilja has become a Christian! She was partly paralyzed and almost blind, and had an operation on her brain. She is praising God for doing so well. Coming so close to death causes you to think more about eternity.
Zlatan and Lejla, Alan and Frida, invited us to a lovely mountain retreat area built by the Saudis, Mgallery Forest Resort. We also visited some of their other friends at their home in the countryside. The people are warm and inviting here.
Irina met us for coffee and provided a rostilj for us with her family. Her husband, Rade, passed away suddenly two years ago. He was loved by many people and we miss him.
Mark and Kathy Eikost, who have served in Bosnia since 1999, the same year we came, made dinner for us, and Kathy made her fabulous strawberry rhubarb pie, with a view from their 13th floor apartment in Zenica.
Adnan and Ada met us in town for cevapi. Such a sweet and happy couple! Love it! Missed seeing their daughter Asja.
We had lunch with Gordana, who we have know since 2000 through her daughter, Violeta, and Husein who came as refugees to Atlanta during the Bosnian War. He worked with Merle for a few months before we moved to Sarajevo. He was a great worker, though language was a barrier.
Svjetlana was in the early Breza church with her parents and siblings, who all grew up to serve the church well. She teaches English online, and Neo her son, speaks English well, of course.
Merima-police woman extraordinaire, and almost top Soccer judge for the European Women's League for FIFA, is a friend from the days of Merle's Adventure sports outreach with college students.
Azra cut my hair and took time to have coffee with us. Such a sweetie! She invited the Americans to their country house a number of times for Thanksgiving, as they lived in Texas for 15 years or so, but moved back to Sarajevo.
Katie and Chris Sasser led worship in their new International Church called City Church, and showed us their Skate Shop, coordinating with the newly renovated skate park in town.
Aldijana and her daughter, Anela. Her husband died tragically in the mine last year. Aldijana lived with us for 11 months back in the early 2000's, before they were married.
We visited Samir, whose wife, Aida, sadly passed away from cancer suddenly last year. Aida, spoke a little English, and enabled us to carry on a conversation back when our Bosnian was so new. We have been friends a long time and even took their family to the coast for vacation in 2000. We flew off the mountain with our hang gliders and landed in a tiny soccer field, while Aida and their two girls cried because they thought we would crash and die.
Little Aida, on the right, Hannah's childhood friend, and our Bosnian "daughter" has grown up and is married with a child. She said she missed the days of childhood at our home. She learned English with our family.
Sandrina and Robert led a fellowship at Svjetionik, the Lighthouse, with a visiting worship family. Merle had the opportunity to translate for the guest Australian worship leader as Robert had car trouble and was running late (the spiritual opposition is always strong, it seems).
The last picture is Vanessa and Sasa, previous teammates, and their two younger children, Eden and Jack. She's older, but he's taller, like Luke and Lydia growing up. Their eldest daughter, Goielle, is living in north Atlanta.
Vanessa and Sasa, Mladen and Violeta, her parents, Bob and Helen, Malena and Nijaz, Dragon and Sandra, Sasha and his wife gathered for a cookout. It was a wonderful afternoon being gathered together, hanging out for Bob's big Birthday celebration.
Long time friends Joel and Nikola, who now serve in Montenegro, introduced us to Bato and Lidija who serve in Serbia and eastern Bosnia. It was wonderful to hear the stories of their lives and the lives they have touched.
Coming back from Montenegro, it was supposed to rain, but the sun burst out and it was a lovely day in beautiful Mostar, Herzegovina. We also were able to see the amazing carved Steci in Stolac, 7 or 8 century-old tombstones. Life in Christ is truly wonderful, but there is life after death that will be much longer than this short life.
All these people, and many more, are friends in Bosnia & Herzegovina, plus so many in other parts of the world, who have changed our lives and perhaps have been influenced by us a bit, and we are grateful to be a part of their lives. Some are Christians, and some not, and only the Lord knows if they will come to a saving knowledge of Christ. May the Lord draw them to Himself, teach them the Truth, and shower them with his blessings."For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven't stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1:9-10