Last December & January we hosted a DTS Outreach team from Salem, Oregon in Kragujevac, Serbia. This was a historic moment; the first time that we have hosted a DTS Outreach team here since we moved almost 3 years ago. Against all odds, during this time with strict COVID-19 regulations and restrictions, God made a way. The team was preparing to come, we were making plans for outreach, and we were so excited! Right before the team was due to arrive in Serbia, the government tightened up the rules. We had planned to host Art events and English classes, but these could not now go ahead. That was so tough.
We had to get creative with the outreach, be very flexible and trust God day by day, week by week to lead us and the team. This was a real challenge, but then again God used this time for us to grow and step out of our comfort zones. Thankfully, it was still possible to meet up with young people in cafes, and in doing that the team met and shared the gospel with at least 5 new people. They had the opportunity to share their story and a testimony of who Jesus is for them. Their creative muscles were flexed as they handed out nicely painted greetings cards containing a blessing and scripture, and gave people Bibles and flowers.
One challenge was when we received a complaint from the landlord of their apartment and surrounding neighbors about the noise during the teams’ worship times. Once again God turned this challenge into an opportunity, and they took their worship times outside to the local park; these were significant and powerful times.
Since it was Christmas, we decided to sing carols in the center of the city. This was a bold move since the rule at the time was that only 5 people could gather outside. People gathered around to listen, and we were well received – praise God!
We believe now especially it is important to be salt and light in Serbia, and we were really blessed by this team coming and taking risks to be with us here. This is a time when people need to hear the message of hope that we carry in our hearts. As well as being a great encouragement to us, they also encouraged our local team of missionaries and the local church.
The team was due to travel from Serbia to Antioch, Turkey for the remainder of their outreach. In order to travel, they were required to test negative for COVID-19. 3 of the team, including the 2 leaders tested positive, and this was stressful for all involved! This meant they stayed a little longer in our city, praying and seeking God about what was next now that Turkey was no longer an option. There was no more money left in the budget for 10 more COVID-19 tests, which is what they would have needed to go to Turkey. As we processed and prayed together, we found out that the door to North Macedonia was open. We contacted Steve & Natasha Rudd who live in Tetovo and they responded very warmly and welcomed them to come on short notice. The team travelled by bus and made it to Tetovo, where they continued their outreach among Muslim Albanians. They engaged in friendship evangelism and were able to meet young people in small groups in cafes.
I am often reminded of the need to pray for workers to come, and to keep praying! The harvest is ripe, but the workers are few. We are so thankful when God leads outreach teams to come to Serbia and the Balkan nations. He has prepared works for these teams in advance. We are required to step into what God has prepared, even during these COVID-19 times. For such a time as this.