By Craig Mathison on October 17, 2018
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, local Christians know what it is to experience scarcity. Conditions were dire during a vicious civil war from 1991-1995. Though the fighting stopped long ago, Bosnians since then have lived meagerly, compared to the nations that surround them.
A recent surge of migrants and refugees from outside Europe is creating new challenges. With the harsh winter approaching, Bosnian believers are generously working together with their fellow citizens and with outsiders of many different beliefs to help the migrants in their midst. AGWM personnel are joining in the effort to bring not just love and kindness, but tangible help to migrants and those who are generously serving them.
“This whole situation is hard,” says AGWM missionary Katie Sasser. “There are so many people coming in every day. Bosnians remember the war and how it felt to flee, and the people here are genuinely big-hearted. Many are doing as much as they can with what little they have.”
Her husband, Chris, adds, “Recently, I walked up the steps of the building across the street from the train station. I was shocked to see 20-30 people sleeping on the steps and under every doorway of this building. With little more than a blanket or a sleeping bag, many individuals and families were sleeping anywhere they could find shelter from the elements.”
With colder weather coming soon, and more immigrants arriving daily, shelter and cold weather supplies are quickly becoming urgent needs. The government is hard pressed on every side and has had great difficulty responding to this crisis.
Ministry team members in Bosnia and Herzegovina have requested help from AGWM and Convoy of Hope. Convoy of Hope sent a two-person team to do an assessment and help prepare a coordinated response. Bosnian believers and AGWM personnel are already working with other Bosnians to meet immediate needs.
“At a local center for migrant families, House of All, we have helped cook a meal for the occupants, helped do maintenance on the house, donated food, and done whatever we can to help,” says missionary Curt Hobbs.
Katie Sasser adds, “Helping at House of All has also allowed me to get to know several migrant families and love on them in this hard time. But it’s a tough time for them. We’ve seen grateful smiles and lost looks.”
Europe’s migrant crisis began in earnest in 2015. AGWM Europe Region leadership is committed to supporting frontline personnel who are directly assisting refugees. To better prepare AGWM personnel and their caregiving colleagues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, AGWM specialists Nathan and Beth Davis have been invited to come and do training on how caregivers can remain resilient amid difficult circumstances and exhausting challenges. This kind of training helps ensure that caregivers don’t become additional casualties of a crisis.
The apostle Paul commended early Christians in Macedonia who gave toward the needs of others in spite of their own limited resources: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2, NIV). This biblical example is being repeated right now in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We’ve seen believers go way beyond their capacity to help however they can,” says Sara Hobbs, “and others give who have nothing to give. We’ve seen big hearts and heard heart-rending stories.”
Chris Sasser adds, “I have been encouraged to see local churches and parachurch organizations coming together to work in partnership to best serve this growing crisis. We are working alongside the evangelical churches here and trying to organize our efforts and find the gap that needs to be filled. Please be praying for us here in this situation.”