In the Land of Foreign Languages
When you fly into Europe you immediately begin hearing many languages as you meet other travelers en route to other places in the world. We are always excited to look for the Bosnian speakers, and of course, hear more of them the closer we get to our destination. We'd forgotten how bright orange the egg yolks are here - like carrots! And you have to google translate some words from German if you want to use your washing machine, and the detergent has multiple languages, but alas! No English! Good thing there are pictures! And without a dryer, clothes and towels are crunchy - sigh. If you haven't had the privilege of being here, here are a few things you would see when you come to visit us! Sarajevo Sights:
Sarajevo has a mixture of faiths, though Islam is the predominant religion after the war of 1992-95. We arrived the first time in the summer of 1997, just a year and a half after the Dayton Peace Accord. There was so much destruction in those days, with tanks on the ground and SFOR troops on the streets. We are surprised that one of the children we took a picture of in 1997 has now grown up and is the son of one of our friends, Rade and Irina! Unfortunately, that picture is in storage in the States, but pictured below is Irina. Rade helped move our things out of storage.
Some of our observations of new things in Sarajevo:
* There are so many more babies and carriages/strollers in town!
* The buildings are greatly improved and new businesses have opened
* When some Bosnians go out, they eat dinner, not just drink coffee as before
* Dresses are in fashion!
* There are many more covered women in town, but multi-colored, not just in black
* Young college-age women are still being paid to cover
* Ice cream has doubled in price
* Traffic continues to clog the streets to a higher degree and there are lots of new cars
* The neighbors don't want to rent anymore to some from Arab countries because there is just too much of a culture clash, they are too demanding, and they don't take care of things the way Bosnians do. We hear this from many different people. This is a big change as they are the ones that come with money. Sutka said no one was covered when she grew up here in Sarajevo. Their worldview is so different which creates such a contrast. These groups are tending to go other places, like Kazakhstan, so tourism is down! Wow! That is a big difference from a few years ago, but we're relieved, as we were concerned that Bosnia, like much of Europe, could be forever changed by the rise in stricter Islamic influence.
Professor Elvir created a wonderful Kids Adventure Camp with a climbing wall and lots of other opportunities for kids to grow and stretch themselves. We remember not letting our kids go to weekend trips with the school class because there was no plan and the teachers would just smoke and drink coffee, and kids were not overseen. Melika, Merle's vice-president of Nova Zora (New Dawn) a few years back, went with us out to Pazaric, a small town 30 min from Sarajevo, to check out the camp development. Elvir has a ropes course, great climbing and balance equipment, and is adding a zipline, too. Merle was overseeing climbers that day and helping Elvir. Esme and Melika climbed and then Jenny got the opportunity to climb again. "It was easy, but coming down the stairs in the morning shows my age!" Merle is planning to donate a hang glider to make a glider zip line!
When the German family visited, Erik shared with the Dolac Malta Church some of life's challenges of having grown up in Sarajevo, and now in High School in the States. Perhaps our kids feel this way. There's a comfort in hanging out with international friends, who understand what we all are experiencing. The big Mercator grocery store in town has really been upgraded as you can see from the pictures. Claudia is leaving Bosnia after 14 years and lots of friends came to encourage her as she returns to Brazil to oversee a missions sending initiative. In the last row of pictures above, on the left is Irina (Bosnian), Reinhold (German), and Sandrina (Dutch). We love Internationals!
We are visiting with lots of different people, which is how this culture is built. Cef ("chafe") is enjoying each other's company and spending hours visiting and having coffee and a cigarette (for those who smoke), which go together like a mosque and minaret, it is said. Merima, police woman, has worked with Merle for many years, meeting her through the sports college outreach he did years ago. He taught her how to snowboard, as well as how to teach others. She sent him this text last winter. "Thank you to learning me snowboarding, so now I can teach other and get money." Blessed to be a blessing. Dado is an old friend who was on our original church planting team 20 years ago. Vanessa with her three (tall!) kids! Mufid was in our home group a long time ago and now he has two sons and is one of the pastors in a Texas church! We met Jackie to have the last piece of cheese cake at Torte i To, as it was closing. Merle gave Melika the six pair of snow shoes he had, as well as an 8-person tent, along with a cool cowboy hat, so that she can use them to earn money taking tourists snowshoeing on the mountains in the winter or camping in the summer for money.
When Merle drove down the street we used to live on, he encountered a number of neighbors who were excited to see him again. One fellow said, "It's just not the same without you here." It is nice to know we have had influence in their lives, which is the point of being here. How else would they ever be exposed to a Christian world view and the Lord? Our new neighbors who live in the same building with us now, invited us to try mushrooms they had picked in the woods - delicious! Tubs upon tubs - We are packing, sorting, giving some things away, and identifying and numbering contents for customs clearance. We are trying to arrange a shipment that won't cost an arm and a leg! Thank you for your financial help! We really do need YOU! We expect it will cost about $6,000
Here is the mosque closest to us, which is how we hear the call-to-prayer 5 times a day, but especially at 4:30 am and 10:45 pm. Carolyn, who teaches Turkish students at the American University, was on our team from the beginning. We took two new Church goers, Daniel and Collie, to Deriva to walk to the goat bridge, where we did baptisms so many years ago! Sutka and Zejnil came to our balcony to watch the sun set, and also made chicken pita for us when their son, Emir, a big-name soccer player, arrived from Sweden. Lydia went to see Luke one weekend, and Hannah another weekend.
Please keep Jenny in your prayers as she is experiencing a great deal of coughing and mucus in her throat, perhaps from some new medicines she started.
To God be the glory, great things He is doing! Love ya'll!