I am back in the States after being in Bosnia for what my friend Diana calls, 2 weeks of superlatives. It’s true. Even as I look at my pictures and see the faces and the landscape, the words Beautiful Bosnia keep running through my mind. It is truly a beautiful country, though the evidence of the war between the three coexisting cultures (Serbians, Croatians, and Muslims) remains, with several buildings still bombed-out shells, while others tell the story by the bullet and grenade holes that still pock their sides. More so, extensive drug addiction and widespread emotional abuse among family members are compelling evidence that the country has not healed.
In the movie, In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina Jolie describes the current relational conditions in Bosnia by saying, Since 1995, an uneasy peace has prevailed in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Still deep divisions remain, and the struggle for reconciliation continues. I believe this, mostly because the people I spoke with confirmed that there is still tension among the three cultures.
But I would not have perceived cultural tension if I had only drawn conclusions by observing the women and men of the church I worked with, the Dolac Malta Evangelical Church. These Christians from Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim backgrounds love each other, serve each other, and work together to bring the Gospel to bear on their neighbors’ and family members’ lives in Sarajevo. One of the many ways this is manifested is through a thriving drug addiction recovery program led by one of the men in the church. Remarkably, about one-fourth of the church is made up of recovering addicts who lead and/or attend that program.
Thus, the words Beautiful Bosnia. The ways the body of Christ in Dolac Malta interact with each other and their city personify Franciscan John Duns Scotus’ definition of beauty, which he says is the harmony between unity, truth, and goodness. He says, When you can see all three, or even one, you will always be delighted. I saw all three among this community and was truly delighted. Richard Rohr expounds on Scotus’ thoughts by saying, Beauty is experienced precisely in our ability to hold together the oneness, the truthfulness, and the goodness of things – despite all the seeming contrary evidence (which is always there!). Division, bombed buildings, a 48% unemployment rate, drug addiction, emotional abuse, and relatively few people truly walking with God are the seeming contrary evidence of the beauty I saw and experienced for two wonderful weeks.
I hope that my time there and the words I’ve written compel you to pray for the people of Beautiful Bosnia. Our brothers and sisters in Christ need the constant reinforcement that prayer brings. Pray for the Bosnians who do not know Christ. Pray for the women who shared their stories with me. Pray for Diana, Sasa (the pastor), and the church leadership as they seek to lead and serve both the women I counseled and the church as a whole. What a simple yet powerful way to be a part of bringing the Gospel to a beautiful but dark country.
And thank you again for praying for me. God answered our prayers and allowed me to do what I had hoped to do – counsel women and support the leadership. The church has graciously invited me to come again to teach and do more counseling. I’m already looking forward to it!