Serbia is a place that has encouraged my faith and brought much joy to my life. The team and I were greeted with great hospitality and love in both Vrdnik and Jagodina. There was plenty of work to do and the blessings were abundant.
During our stay in Vrdnik, we were hosted by Pastor Rale Radovanovic and his wife Daniela. They did not speak English, and that gave us an opportunity for more growth. It was there that I learned love does not require many words in order to be expressed. With a combination of gestures, broken English, Spanish, German, Serbian, and Google Translate, we were able to truly feel and express the love of God. There were laughs, jokes, and encouragement. We immediately became family.
When it came time to work, our main focus was to serve with practical tasks at Vrdnik Camp. This camp is directed by Goran & Kerstin Radovanovic. As of now, many believers in Serbia are at a crossroads between the Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Church. This has caused a great deal of confusion between tradition and biblical principles. Goran & Kerstin, along with their team, are making an impact that is spreading the Gospel throughout Serbia. People from all over the country travel to this small town because of their eagerness to know more of who God truly is. The progress Vrdnik Camp is making has been tremendous. Sadly, because of the lack of space and resources, in the summer of 2017 several applicants were not able to join. Plenty of help is needed and the rapid growth of attendees has placed a great pressure on the church to improve and expand the campgrounds.
The team recognized our task was great. Although it was simple things we helped with, we understood that our work was an effort to expand the Kingdom of God. One of the tasks the team tackled was sorting through hundreds of boxes of donated clothes. The church where Vrdnik Camp is hosted receives clothing donations to sell at affordable prices to the community (5€ or less). These sales are their main source of funding. We also helped remodel a room, and I was blessed to be able to build shelves for their storage room. It was evident that there was a special love that came with serving alongside our brothers and sisters in Vrdnik for the benefit of the camp, community, and Kingdom.
Although there are plenty of our hard-working brothers and sisters in Christ here in Serbia, there is still an overwhelming need to spread the Gospel. For this reason, during our time in Jagodina, we served several local churches by ministering to them, leading worship and encouraging them to continue their pursuit of leading people to Christ. During these moments, our Founding Director, Brian Schlottmann, discussed one of Abante’s core teachings, the Zacchaeus Principle, with the leaders of a local church. Many realized that they are already implementing friendship-discipleship simply through the love they demonstrate to others. It is a beautiful thing to hear how invested this church is in their community without even realizing that their lives are already a testimony of what discipleship looks like.
As our time in Jagodina and Vrdnik come to an end, I realize that love has been the theme of this trip. I am inspired to be more like our brothers and sisters in Serbia. It is God’s love that brings meaning to our words. The Word of God says, “if I could speak all the languages of earth and angels, but didn’t love others, I would be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” We should walk so close to God that our love for people will minister to others in our immediate community and even to those in passing. God’s love is so powerful that words are only an accessory.