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Ministry in Bosnia was rewarding, husband-and-wife leaders reflect

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BP)–Norman and Diane Crisp have seen many changes in Sarajevo and all of Bosnia-Herzegovina during the past two years.

They have seen a city being rebuilt. In some instances they helped in the effort as they hosted and worked alongside volunteer construction teams from Kentucky. The Southern Baptist efforts have been well received by the nationals, with one Bosnian man telling Norman, “Moslems build mosques and Baptists put roofs on our houses.”

They have seen a mission family come together as Southern Baptist personnel in the country grew from less than 10 to more than 40. They have seen the work move from humanitarian aid-based to church planting-based. Southern Baptist work in the country is only four years old.

Most importantly, they have seen Bosnians become believers in Jesus Christ. (Christian is not a term used in Bosnia because of political connotations.) Norman, a retired pastor of 40 years, baptized two young men last summer. Both have become strong leaders in the work. One of them recently baptized another new believer.

The Crisps, of Longview, Texas, have served as on-site volunteer coordinators for the two-year Woman’s Missionary Union-International Mission Board partnership in Bosnia. The retired couple finished their assignment and returned to the States July 17. The WMU-IMB partnership officially ends Sept. 30.

“I thank the Lord that he gave us this opportunity,” said Norman a few days before finishing his assignment in Sarajevo. “He equipped us for the assignment so all the glory goes to him.

“We’ve enjoyed it,” he continued. “It has been hectic at times, but anything worthwhile has it stress points. We have met people from all over the world through the volunteers and the United Nations personnel who have attended our Sunday morning worship services. I would do it over again.”

Diane agreed. “It is amazing how the Lord validates our gifts by showing us that he has called us to a place for an appointed time. We didn’t have any idea what would be required of us when we arrived two years ago, but God has used Norman’s pastoral background and my counseling career to meet many needs here.

“The people have been wonderful — the nationals, IMB personnel and volunteers,” she added. “We have had wonderful, enriching relationships with them. They have been just like family.”

Norman highlighted the changes that the couple has seen, concluding, “We leave here on a high note and feel like we have contributed our part.”

The Crisps are especially pleased that new volunteer coordinators have been assigned to Bosnia. Bob and Pat Barnes of Nashville, Tenn., are scheduled to arrive in September.

“It is great to know that we are not leaving the mission family in a lurch,” said Diane. “It is also an affirmation that our time is complete here.”

The couple strongly encourages others to consider long-term missions volunteer opportunities.

“I would encourage anyone who is retirement age and in good health to consider being a long-term missions volunteer,” Diane said. “It will be an experience of a lifetime, one that is very stretching and enriching.”

The couple identified three things that are needed to be a successful missions volunteer: flexibility, no preconceived ideas and people skills.

“You have to be able to work with different kinds of people,” Norman said, noting that the goal is to have a good experience with all of them.

“There is life after retirement,” Norman concluded. “You can find purpose, meaning and satisfaction in the here and now. Too many people retire and let go of life. You have to plan to be useful.”

For volunteer missions opportunities, contact the Delane Tew at WMU, (205) 991-4097 or the IMB volunteer office at 1-800-999-3113.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR and DIANE AND NORMAN CRISP.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Tanya Dawson*