Belgrade – Part 2: Encouraging is encouraging…
We’re at the end of the Belgrade and Serbia part of our trip now. We had a brilliant time hanging out with my friends who are involved in local churches and student ministry and mission in Belgrade and other towns in Serbia.
My aim initially in coming back to Serbia (after at least four years) was to continue investing in the good friendship I have with the guys here. I have been coming to Belgrade since 2000 (just after the NATO bombing of Belgrade during the Milosevič regime) and have always felt that it is good to keep coming – to be friends with the guys here, particularly when Serbia was quite isolated in Europe and viewed negatively by the rest of the world. Sometimes I brought teams from the UK, sometimes I would come alone or with just one or two others.
Our Serbian brothers and sisters always told us that they loved connecting with Christians from the west, and that it was a real encouragement that we would come and spend time with them and pray and share our lives with them and that it really helped them and spurred them on in their faith.
This trip however, while my friends here assured me again that it is a real encouragement for them that I came, I am coming away feeling really encouraged and refreshed myself.
I am encouraged to see my friends here continuing to devote themselves faithfully to mission and ministry. I am encouraged after meeting young guys who I have met before, who are now passionately pursuing discipleship and leadership and seeking to live their lives fully for Jesus and do whatever he asks of them, rather than seeking to fit him in to their own ideas and priorities for their lives.
I am encouraged after meeting young men and women who have become Christians in the last few months, and who are full of joy and passion and hunger for Jesus and the message of the Kingdom of God. I am encouraged meeting young people who are not Christians yet, but who are really enjoying spending time with Christians and are really keen to hear more about Jesus.
I am encouraged after meeting members of the new International Christian Fellowship Church in Belgrade, something we prayed for with our friends here some years ago, and which has now come into being. I have been encouraged hearing stories of them ministering to internationals and local people, and of people becoming Christians – through relationships and also through Alpha courses and small groups.
And above all, I am encouraged to continue in my own life and ministry in Tasmania, with Barney’s, with students and in my own family, to follow hard after Jesus, to keep surrendering all my own dreams and desires to him, and to keep on praying for and sharing my life with others, in the hope that those who don’t know Jesus will get to know him, and that those who already call themselves Christians will discover the difference between knowing about Jesus and really and truly following him however and wherever he leads.