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In Need of Heaven's Touch

Not long ago, war ravaged Bosnia and Herzegovina, now AGWM missionaries are working to help the Bosnian church overcome the ravages of the pandemic.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, a nation located in Europe’s Balkan region, was wracked by internal war from 1992-1995, and in 2018 began receiving thousands of refugees during Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis. Now shaken by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the nation once again is in need of a healing touch from Jesus.

Curt and Sara Hobbs, AGWM missionaries, say, “As soon as Bosnia’s pandemic began, the government cracked down immediately as they realized their medical system was absolutely not equipped to deal with anything like this. From the very beginning, curfews, shelter-in-place, and restrictions on the movement of the elderly and children under 18 went into effect. Every day a new preventative measure was put into place.”

Curt explains the repercussions of these necessary measures: Prior to the pandemic, Bosnia’s economy was struggling and its infrastructure was crippled from war, making it hard for the marginalized and underprivileged to succeed even during normal times. Restrictions put in place since COVID-19 have made their lives even more difficult.

“We are praying for resources to reach those who need it the most, and in a timely way,” Curt and Sara say.

They are deeply concerned for the nation and especially for those within the church with whom they work. Led by Bosnian pastor Saša, it is one of only two Evangelical Union(1) churches in all of Sarajevo, a city of about 380,000, and serves single mothers, elderly, and others facing many life challenges.

“Our purpose here is to work with the Bosnian church and help them function at their highest level,” Curt and Sara say. “We know there are a lot of vulnerable members of society in the congregation. We have been so concerned as many of them became unable to work. We recognize that the church’s support takes a double hit when many of its leading givers, who own small businesses that employ other believers, are shut down.”

Currently, all services have continued online via Facebook or Zoom.

“One of the unexpected benefits of our online services is that several people who would never come to the church are willing to watch and listen online with friends and family,” the Hobbses say. “Please pray for spiritual impact on those watching services for the first time. Pray also for those who may have heard to gospel in the past to have spiritual hunger and begin seeking God.”

With the resources they have, Curt and Sara have also purchased food and other necessary supplies to deliver to the very vulnerable members of their congregation. They continue reaching out to refugees in their area. At times, being able to purchase and deliver things can be “surprisingly difficult,” but the Lord has continued to assist and provide. Assistance has even arrived from as far away as a church in Malaysia.

The Hobbses pray that Bosnian believers will be empowered to become even more sensitive to the needs around them during this crisis, and have been overjoyed when, upon delivering food packets to congregants, they have seen recipients show concern and desire to share their packets with their neighbors.

Sara says, “In some ways, those in Sarajevo are ‘comfortable’ during the pandemic, because the strict conditions are somewhat similar to what they were during the war. We don’t see much true fear, but we do see a lot of very deep anxiety. During the war there was fear, but they knew who the enemy was. With the virus, the ‘enemy’ can’t so easily be identified. That creates anxiety.”

Curt and Sara continue to say that in Bosnia, the Evangelical Church is very young — born mostly during the war. “Before 1995 there were maybe two or three such churches in the Bosnian part of Yugoslavia. So, they were born in war, and they do not pretend to be ‘ok.’ They are allowing the Lord to help them minister and grow despite what they have suffered.”

“I think God has a very special place in His heart for Bosnia,” Sara concludes. “They have suffered so deeply yet been so faithful and accomplished so much. What they have been through and what they have accomplished despite it is just amazing. You cannot pity them. You just have to respect them.”

(1) Sister denomination to the Assemblies of God

Kristel Zelaya

Kristel Zelaya is a freelance writer and editor with global experience. She served as marketing manager for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions and as a writer and editor for Assemblies of God World Missions. These experiences have led her to numerous countries and cultures — far from beaten paths — on behalf of many who did not know how deeply their stories matter. Zelaya is also a licensed Assemblies of God minister.