We aren't in Kansas anymore. As soon as you step off the airplane, Sarajevo is different in so many ways: language, clothing, transportation, food, culture, pace of life, values, government, worldview. Life is different, not necessarily bad, just different in Bosnia.
There's a contrast when you go to a place where very few seem to be in a love relationship with Christ, but rather it seems the connections to Him are through traditions of men, which may be 1000's of years old, and this makes us wonder: what are our own traditions? Have our "good practices" become traditions that may or may not have anything to do with the Word of God or deepening our relationship with our Savior? Are we off-track, as when Jesus rebuked those around him for missing the message? As Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics, we all have the same Word of God, but what does it actually say? What is the message Jesus has for us? What does He want for us? How far have we strayed from the heart of God?
According to the scripture, these are the attributes Jesus wants for us: abundant life, freedom from fear and worry, to be filled with peace, love, and joy. How can we "leave our worries on the doorstep" and relax in Him? "For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Rom 14:17.
How can we connect to the "vine" to produce more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness...the fruit of the Spirit, which is the deep desire of everyone's heart? We are being reminded that Christianity is not a religion, but an interactive moment-by-moment relationship of freedom with the marvelous Creator of the Universe. What in our lives is restricting the flow of Christ's life in us that produces fruit? Is it selfishness, anger, deceit, unforgiveness? Upon our arrival, we were reminded of the heavy spirit of disunity, which has a stronghold on this society. This is noticeable in miscommunication, anger, promiscuity, male-dominance, among other things. The need for agape love, which covers a multitude of sin, is so apparent.
There are differences in every nation, good and bad qualities compared to our own. I love that there are no screens on the windows, there are very few bugs, and the nights are cool, which is great as there is no air conditioning. Gasoline is more expensive, but the distances are very short around town, so it goes a long way. Vegetables are fresh and tasty, but only seasonal, and we don't have the variety the US has. Avocados and broccoli are rare, spinach is seasonal, as is most fruit, but there are always tomatoes, cucumbers, and cabbage available. Pita, the filled pastry, which is everyday fare of the Bosnian household, is readily available and inexpensive.
We have been in Sarajevo a couple weeks, and it is amazing how many friends we have here! In the US, it is very hard to get to know your neighbors, but here your neithhbors invite you in and when they meet you on the street they complain that they haven't seen you for a hundred years, when it was just last week. Life is slower, and it always revolves around coffee. People take time with each other, and family is extremely important. We are so blessed with friends and acquaintances, church family, and neighbors from before. We are trusting God to put the schedule together as we meet with as many as possible every week, learning about their current lives, encouraging them and sharing truth, as God leads.
Everyone is thrilled to hear about our family, see pictures of Lydia's wedding and nursing position, Hannah's online business and graphic arts/media position, and Luke's recent adventures. Our kids grew up here and it is strange to be here without them. Jenny can go with Merle now instead of serving children at home with all their homeschool or family needs.
The local foods are delightful, and Sutka keeps us well-fed as well! Below is tikvica (pita made from squash) made by Rafika, rostilj of cevapi and sausages by Zejnil and salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, ustipci (like donuts) with cheese and kajmak, and always Bosnian coffee with sugar.
Last week was the Sarajevo Film Festival and we were privileged to go to the opening ceremony with Sutka and Zejnil, even being privileged to sit in the VIP section! Bono of U2 sat right in from of us, as the opening documentary film was "Into the Future" about U2's influence during the horrible days of the seige of Sarajevo 1992-95. The "Red Carpet" was changed to the turkish style weave of cilim, carpet, of Sarajevo in a modern adaption. We also saw three full length films, and 6 shorts produced by Sarajevo students. The themes are often dark and dreary, with delapitated buildings and lives, showing all different types of wrongdoing, consequences, frustration, depression, and hopelessness. They are quite hard to watch, but give quick insight into people's hearts and minds, which is why we were interested to see them. Occasionally, they end on a possibly positive note, depending on the subsequent choices of the actor or actress in the story. One film, shown below, "Belonging," held a question-and-answer session with several of the main actors, director, and producer. It was interesting to hear their perspectives, their experiences, and why they used the subject they chose. I did love the Coke commercial with artwork in a gallery coming to life to pass around a coke for a tired art student to be refreshed!
I spend time in the Word, with the Lord, every day and sometimes see different perspectives as a result of what I observe here in Sarajevo. For instance, I was reading Matthew 9:36, thinking about those films. The people represented are weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus's admonition to his disciples is to pray to the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest. So, will you pray, along with us for more harvesters to go into the harvest field of the nations, sacrificing their lives for others, to offer hope in Jesus? It will take a bigger army than the few who are still here serving the Lord Jesus, as well as so many other places in the world.
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are not words; their voice is not heard. Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the inhabited world. " Psalm 19:1-4 HCSB