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Baptist prayers for Sarajevo credited for first baptisms

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BP)–Southern Baptist missionaries Bob and Jerry Worley are savoring the first fruit of 22 months of ministry in a war-ravaged suburb of Sarajevo.
It’s a sweet, satisfying taste, they say — one they wouldn’t be experiencing if Southern Baptists hadn’t prayed for God’s work in the war’s aftermath.
In September 1996, the Worleys and three other Southern Baptist missionary couples transferred to Bosnia for six months to follow up on Baptist hunger ministries conducted during the country’s 44-month ethnic war between Serbs, Muslims and Croats. They planned to use the calm that followed the Dayton Peace Accord to lay a groundwork for International Mission Board work in Bosnia.
The Worleys went to work in Dobrinja, a neighborhood on the front line of the battle for the Sarajevo airport. It was a virtual ghost town of bombed buildings, cratered streets and burned-out cars. After 27 years as missionaries to Spain, the Worleys felt God leading them to give six months to the strategic opportunity in Sarajevo. But they stayed after their six months ended.
“We felt an overwhelming conviction that God wanted us to,” said Bob Worley. “We saw the overwhelming needs and felt the only hope for the people here is Jesus. The first conversion didn’t come until after we made the decision to ask for a permanent transfer.”
In June, the Worleys held the first baptism and conducted the first Lord’s Supper for the fledgling congregation in Dobrinja. The seven new believers reflected the power of the gospel to overcome the most deep-seated ethnic divisions.
One of those immersed in the waters of Lake Jablanicko was a 73-year-old Serb, a one-time communist partisan who fought for Marshall Tito during World War II. Two others were Serb widows who lost their husbands during the more recent civil war. Another two were Bosnian Muslims who survived the Serbian siege that devastated Sarajevo. The sixth was a Croat who fled the city during the war only to have his rural home shelled. The seventh was an American who works for a U.S. company training the Bosnian army.
The day after the baptism, the group celebrated the Lord’s Supper for the first time. Both events were filled with overwhelming joy, he said.
After the Lord’s Supper, Sanjin Jeginovic, a Muslim who accepted Christ in December and is awaiting baptism, told Worley: “I have never experienced anything like this before. When you were standing there and breaking the bread apart, I realized that bread represented the body of Christ, which was broken for me. And since I am now one with Christ, I felt that every time you broke the bread you were breaking me apart!”
The prayers of Southern Baptists played a crucial role in bringing this vibrant new congregation to life, Worley said.
“God has allowed us to experience some wonderful times in the years we have served with the IMB, but the first baptism and celebration of the Lord’s Supper would be very difficult to top,” he said. “We are so grateful for you who made it possible through lifting us up to the heavenly Father in prayer.”
The need for prayer hasn’t ended, however.
The group is having to move from their city-owned meeting place because the municipal government says it needs the facility. Another building in a different part of the neighborhood has been rented.
“Pray that no one will be lost in the transition,” Worley said. “Pray that God will take care of his people, and that they will continue to rejoice in him.”

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  • Mark Kelly