Dearest Faithful Financial Supporters and Faithful Prayer Warriors,
We are so grateful for you and your long-term giving to invest in us and the Lord's work in Bosnia and St. Croix, as well as all the other places God has allowed us to set our feet. We did not go to be served but to serve, to pound nails, mix and pour concrete, chip away packed earth, and encourage believers, as well as non-believers. We also proclaimed the gospel with words, the incomprehensible grace of our Lord. This is why we leave our family and the comforts of home, to sleep on the floor, to get our hands dirty, to share about Christ to a Muslim family, to bring a heavenly force, the LIGHT of Christ and Him crucified, that we might ALL have peace with God. You provided that we might go to cultures that are not necessarily friendly to the gospel, and God will achieve the purpose for which He sent us, for His glory."As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out of my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11
In Bosnia, we had many long discussions with old friends, catching up on their lives and ours. They are often very open to tell us their failures, which we consider a privilege, and we try to encourage them. Jenny made two photo books for specific close friends of past pictures of our lives together, who were thrilled to receive them. She could have made so many more. It was hard to see all the people we knew, as there were so many friends and acquaintances, but we felt we did connect well with everyone we saw. They seemed thrilled to see us again, as were we.
Giving Samaritan Purse Christmas packages in the early years (2000-2003, and more) was a gift to our ministry, as it truly impacted the lives we were able to touch. One of the young men, Irfan, 36, who received a Christmas package back in 2000 or 2001 in Bosnia, still has some of the items from his box! He hasn't forgotten us living in his neighborhood and our children going to the same school he attended. He was very excited to let Merle know that he and his wife just had their first child. Working in a Muslim neighborhood and culture is a long-term investment. Their worldview is so very different from birth and being an influence in the culture takes time. I remember when Hannah shared with her fourth grade class stories about Jesus, and some of them sat with their mouths hanging open, never before having heard them. We had a lengthy conversation in October with one of our former neighbors contrasting Islam and Christianity. Another of our neighbors told us that when we moved away, the light went out of our neighborhood.
One of those greatly influenced for Christ was Sutka, my dear friend, with whom we stayed this summer and fall, while visiting so many old friends in Sarajevo (see the last three newsletters: Sarajevo - Back to Oz; How Do I Love Thee, Let me Count the People; and Thanks to God - too many people for one newsletter!). Sutka is a Christian and loves Jesus, and is on her own private journey in faith, but lacks the large supportive church body in which to grow and develop, a common problem.
We ran into another young man checking our groceries who remembered Hannah attending the all-Muslim school (except for her, a Christian and later, Luke and Lydia). I also ran into a dear friend of Lydia's, Nada, who came over to play with the Playschool Nativity set years ago, Dec., 2010 and more recently, still the same darling girl! Only God knows what might be in her heart about the coming of baby Jesus to a manger in busy Bethlehem.
We visited with a dear Roma couple and their 5 children. They have traveled to Germany a number of times, trying to improve their lives, but ended up disrupting the children's schooling. They are very delayed and feel a great deal of prejudice, which I expected them to explain by saying they are Roma, but one of the girls said they are the only Christians in their school! I was so surprised. I found it very touching that this dear family served us a full meal. Perhaps they were overwhelmed with thanks for our home group so many years ago, where Samir, their dad, came to faith in Jesus, and subsequently, their family.
Our observation of some of the Evangelical Church in Sarajevo, Bosnia this summer and fall seems to be that parts of it are shrinking and divided. The Christians are often weary and perhaps offended by others in the church. They don't want to gossip about others, which is good, but would rather worship at home and spare the cost and time, as it is very expensive to travel, even across town. The budgets of Bosnians are so small, and groceries and utilities only going up, just like in the States, but their margin is so much smaller than most of us. They may be embarassed by their situation, or have a grievance about something specific, or are just generally worn out. It is like the early church when Paul expressed grace and peace at the beginning and end of his letters. They need more encouragement.
Please pray for the Believers in Bosnia, that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that they may walk worthy of the Lord, forgiving and walking in the Spirit with their brothers in Christ.
Our children were all together for the day after Thanksgiving, which was so special to us! It's been a year, and may be another year until we are together again in 2024. I miss the days when they were little and always at home. We brought treats back from Bosnia to give them: Bosnian snacks, magnets, argeta (canned pate), chocolate, Bosnian cups and saucers, seasoning, and cooking tepsija (pans) for making pita. Lydia teared up and said she missed Bosnia, where they all grew up.
Thank you all for PRAYERS AND YOUR CONTINUING GENEROSITY in enabling us to spend so many years in the past and in the years to come serving Sarajevo, Bosnia and other places, like Belize, Saint Lucia, the Abacos, and Saint Croix, which is where we head in JANUARY 2024, encouraging others to commit their lives to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and shining His light into the world!
Please remember us this December, as many of the gifts we receive in this final month of the year help to carry us all through the following year. THANKS AGAIN!
May God bless you as you follow Him. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Love, Merle and Jenny
"This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a tesitmony to all nations. And then the end will come." Jesus stated in Matthew 24:14