Report from the Balkans
I have just returned from a trip through the Balkans, having enjoyed a week with no computer, e-mail, or news. So, instead of reporting the news in my Saturday post, here’s an update on the trip. The five members of our team visited Christian leaders in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia. What an eye-opening experience! I had no idea there were so few believers in that part of the world. Of Croatia’s 5 million people, 70% are Catholic and only .07% are evangelical believers. In all of Bosnia (4 million people) there are only 300 believers. In the city of Tuzla (170,000 people), where we spent considerable time, there are only three churches. In Macedonia, the mix is 60% Greek Orthodox, 35% Albanian Muslims, and only .08% evangelical believers. I think you get the picture. It is a region of basically unreached people groups with a strong Greek Orthodox and Muslim influence. Of the 8 million Muslims in the entire region, some are moderates, but many are fundamentalists.

God did a mighty work in my life on this trip. The message He had been teaching me for the past month turned out to be just what the churches, pastors, and other “workers” needed to hear. The way it happened is as amazing as the message. Because of a gut-wrenching trial one of my nephews recently went through, a book as given to my brother-in-law to help him accept what had happened to Tom. My sister was so impacted by the book that she gave a copy to me as we recently vacationed together. The message was exactly what I needed to learn. It was so powerful that it completely changed the way I looked at the trial I was going through. It ended up changing my prayer life, my ministry focus, my Bible reading, and the way I relate to Jesus Christ. It took me from the pit to the pinnacle despite the fact that my situation had not changed. The transformation I enjoyed soon spread to several church leaders in the Balkans as I encouraged them during our travels.

It serves as a perfect example of the message of Ecclesiastes. It dares the reader to make sense out of life. From our limited perspective, it seems like stuff just happens. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. All our efforts to live right don’t guarantee that we’ll receive the blessings we seek. All seems random and nothing but vanity. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. What looks like meaningless chaos to us is fails to reflect what God is doing behind the scenes. It’s like God is a chess master who is planning ten steps ahead while playing 10,000 games simultaneously. What happened to Tom was actually God’s way of not only changing my life, but influencing the lives of God’s children nearly half way around the world.

It puts our trials in a different perspective, doesn’t it? God is at work, but will we cooperate with Him or fight Him by seeking the removal of the trial at the expense of what He wants to accomplish? One thing I have learned-God offers us a relationship through suffering so we can learn to value intimacy with Him over His blessings. I’ll have more to say about this in future articles.


When the cannibal showed up late to the luncheon, they gave him the cold shoulder.