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Serbs, Croats, Muslims find God’s peace in Sarajevo

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BP)–The sun is but a memory. Jerry Worley pauses for prayer with her translator, Vedrana Peka, then drives the steep, winding roads leading into the hills that cradle Sarajevo below. From here, the lights of the city wink like a faceted jewel.
Houses and shops crowd the narrow lanes. Buses and cars squeeze past on curves. Side roads, like rabbit trails, lead off in all directions. It is a chaos demanding attention. It is a place where the good news of God’s love is not much known.
“Is this the turn?” Worley asks.
“Yes,” answers Peka. “See the little store?”
The car drops off the side, slips across ice and snow between a cluster of houses and slides to a stop before the home of Cuhra Husic.
Worley and Peka are late. They should have arrived earlier in the day when there was light. But there have been delays.
“It is important that we come here no matter what time,” says Peka. “Cuhra is very special and we promised we would come for Bible study today.”
Husic attends worship services that Worley’s husband, Bob, leads in the city below. She often walks. The war in Bosnia created a nation of refugees, Husic and her family among them. Jobs are scarce. Sometimes there isn’t money for Husic to ride the bus.
“You see how far it is,” says Peka, “yet she comes every time. Others live just a few doors away and they don’t bother.”
Inside is a narrow room, framed in cement, brick and tile, and lit with a 40-watt bulb. The window is covered with plastic. A small, wood burning stove warms the far end. The three women huddle over a wooden table near the stove. First they pray, then the Bible study begins.
Husic is ready. She pulls out a study book written by Worley’s husband. Husic has worked through it, read the Bible passages and answered questions at the end of the lesson. She also has questions of her own.
As she reads, Peka translates. Worley offers insights and explanations. The lesson is on the Kingdom of God. In a nation driven by war, divided by ethnic hatred, it is a difficult concept.
Worley talks about God bringing people together through the love of His son, Jesus Christ. Finally, she says, “God rules in the heart. It is not political.”
Husic nods. She is satisfied.
The Worleys were among the first Southern Baptist missionaries to begin work in Bosnia following the war. Volunteers who agreed to come for six months, they later decided to transfer permanently after 27 years of missionary service in Spain and the Canary Islands.
“We had people who had a hard time understanding why in the world we would move to Bosnia,” says Bob Worley. There were times even he questioned their decision.
“When we came, the truth is, I didn’t have a clue how to begin,” he says. So he and Jerry turned to the one constant that has been at the heart of their ministry through the years: prayer.
“I have not found anything that frees us from the absolute necessity of dependence on God,” says Worley. “I have never found anything so absolute that we do not have to pray about it.”
They prayed and identified the realities of their situation. They did not speak the language. They needed to work quickly. They needed ministry partners to translate, to help them with language study, to understand the culture and introduce them to people.
They had brief partnerships with three translators, two of whom made professions of faith in Christ. Then God led the Worleys to Rada Peka, the aunt of their third translator.
Worley and Peka formed a close bond. For two hours each day, Peka helps Jerry Worley hone her conversational skills. Then they memorize Scripture together in Bosnian. Peka has become a Christian. She is beginning to lead Bible studies with Worley’s help. Through her, Worley is multiplying her ministry.
This weaving of lives brought together through prayer is the framework of a great tapestry. Something of the whole can be seen when they gather together for worship.
They meet in Dobrinja, a neighborhood that was part of the front line during the war. Minefields are still being cleared from the surrounding area. Its houses still bear the scars. Some are shattered beyond repair. No one was untouched. Hundreds died here. Some say death still stalks the streets.
Inside, the music is lively. There are more praises than petitions. There is celebration for the bright moments in life. Of the 20 people gathered, all but two were baptized this past year. They are Serb, Croat and Muslim, people whose knives were at each others’ throats a few short months before.
When Bob Worley rises to speak, he asks: “What is your first priority?” And answers: “Your relationship with God.
“When Bosnia is won to Christ, it is going to be won by you.”

    About the Author

  • Bill Bangham