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Integrated church: powerful testimony

by Jim Blase, Entrust, Serbia

On a pleasant September afternoon, my wife Lynn and I waited in an empty, worn-out train station in a small village. God was about to answer another prayer. Since arriving in Serbia, we had been praying for God to lead us to the people and churches he wanted us to serve. He had been answering those prayers since our arrival 12 months earlier. Now it was time for us to meet Sasha and begin one of our more challenging and satisfying ministry relationships.

Sasha and his wife Daniela have earned community-wide respect for the way they pastor their evangelical church and care for the elderly and marginalized, most of whom are Roma (commonly called “gypsy” in the West). A Roma couple pastoring an integrated church is a powerful testimony. They deliver food and provide care to people in several villages. In some of those villages they have started home groups which they hope will someday be churches. In one village they run a large children’s program. Church members work side-by-side with them, but they were overwhelmed by the amount of work and leadership responsibilities. This is why we found ourselves eagerly waiting for him outside a village train station. We believed God was going to show Sasha and us how to equip his people for service and train leaders. And that is exactly what God is doing.

Once a month, Lynn and I teach during their Sunday evening worship service. The first three months we based our teaching on 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” God’s timing was perfect. After teaching the joy of servanthood for three months, COVID hit. We waited to see if the church members and home group leaders would use their gifts to serve others who were experiencing financial hardships due to COVID restrictions. And they did … and continue to do so. They are taking initiative and caring for those God has placed within their reach. Their hearts are absorbing God's word and they are putting it into practice in their lives.

It has been almost a year since we met Sasha, Daniela and the people of their church. We are blessed every time we join them for worship. Their God stories are touching. His love shines through them. His word is powerful and accomplishing his purposes.

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