An Unprecedented Response: Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia 2017
“Are we ready yet?”
“Ahh, not quite yet…”. I shook my head, not looking up to see who was asking, “We just need to… we’re gonna need just a few more minutes…
I was hunched over an old soundboard and a tangle of cords in a dusty dirt courtyard in Serbia surrounded by a loose throng of children and young people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. My efforts to coax sound out of the system were proving unsuccessful – our team had rented the equipment a few days ago in Romania, and now I was kicking myself for not familiarizing myself with it it earlier.
We had just descended on a local grocery store and stuffed our van to bursting – one of the store employees had crammed the food that we couldn’t fit into his tiny European car and together we had limped a few blocks to this camp, where we had unloaded enough food to feed the roughly 600 refugees currently housed in the compound.
And now a sizable crowd had gathered around us, watching the sound system come together and obviously expecting some kind of entertainment.
Which was awesome, except for the one tiny fact that I couldn’t seem to get the system to work…
“I just don’t see the… where the heck did they put the cord for…” I was talking animately to myself under my breath in sentence fragments, which is never a good sign.
“Will this help?”. Our driver, Daniel – who was also serving as our manager and all around miracle-worker for the trip – was holding out a large, thick cable.
The one that I had been looking for.
“Awesome! Where did you find this? Never mind, who cares? Let’s just hurry up and connect it…”
And within seconds, we had sound.
Which, I have learned from experience, is a minor miracle.
“Great – you should hurry up and play – they are ready…” Daniel raised his eyebrows and motioned me forward with a sense of urgency.
“Do we have a translator?”
“Let’s see…”. Daniel scanned the crowd, “Does anyone speak English well enough to translate?”
“I do…” A young Muslim woman timidly raised her hand, “But I’ve never translated before…”
“Good, good. This will work.” Daniel motioned her forward, “Let’s give her a microphone.”
I slung my guitar over my shoulder, plugged it in, and stepped forward to face the crowd. More than a hundred people had now gathered in front of us – skeptical teenagers, excited children, young women and mothers wearing traditional Muslim “Hijab” head coverings, and older men with weary eyes.
“Hello everyone! We’re so happy to be here today!
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In the van on the way to the event, we had specifically asked God for grace for the refugees to be receptive to us and our message.
And as we began to play, we realized that God was answering our prayer.
It was beyond our expectation – the children were dancing and singing along loudly, the people were smiling, and even the young adults were smiling, clapping, and singing.
In minutes, the dusty courtyard of the refugee camp had been transformed into a place of celebration, and as it continued, we watched a small group of women gather on the balcony of the main camp building to watch.
I could hardly believe the reaction.
And then, after a few songs, we introduced our friend, evangelist Reid Saunders, to the crowd.
He stepped up and spoke with compassion and kindness, sharing about the forgiveness and freedom available through relationship with Jesus Christ.
And when he offered an invitation to say “Yes” to Jesus, more than 50 people responded.
We were stunned.
None of us had seen anything like it in this kind of environment.
We prayed with the people, and then spent a good amount of time hearing their stories – sometimes laughing with them, and sometimes moved almost to tears. The local pastor who had invited us to the camp and invested countless hours into loving the refugees circulated throughout the crowd with us, connecting with the people and laying the groundwork for future conversation and discipleship.
Afterwards, as we were driving away in the van, the entire team was almost giddy with excitement.
“This has got to be one of my top-ten experiences doing this.”
“Praise God – that just doesn’t happen!”
We had done our best to communicate clearly with the people, but we also understood that translation errors were possible, despite our best efforts. Even so, the receptiveness of the mostly Muslim camp to the person of Jesus was unprecedented.
God had shown His great love to these beautiful people, and He had answered our prayers in an incredible way.
In our eleven-day tour of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia, our team shared the love of Jesus at 30 events. We performed at a few churches, refugee camps, and gypsy groups, but the bulk of our time was spent playing at restaurants and night clubs – the local church members would invite hundreds of their friends to dinner parties, where we would perform and then one of our evangelists would share a short Gospel message.
The schedule was often exhausting, with two or three shows per day, but we were stunned by the effectiveness of the ministry. By the end of the trip, more than 930 people had made documented decisions to say “yes” to Jesus.
And this is why we do what we do.
Over the next few months, we’re scheduled to share the love of Jesus in Kenya, Belize, and across the United States – we’re serious about reaching as many people as possible in every country with the message of Jesus, and we’re so thankful for your love, prayer and support.