Four seasoned veterans of Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board work have arrived in Bosnia and are seeking out hearts open to the gospel.
The missionary couples — with a combined 90 years' experience in cross-cultural evangelism and church planting — each volunteered to serve six months in Bosnia, where 44 months of intense ethnic warfare left people wondering what hope they have of finding peace.
"We were surprised when the war started," said Misko Horvatek, a pastor in Krapina, Croatia, and secretary of the Croatia Baptist Union. "We never thought that would happen. It shocked people and made them think.
"Now people are ripe to be harvested. We need workers to shake the tree."
More than 2 million of Bosnia's 3.6 million people were driven from their homes by the fighting, according to the United Nations. Through their "My Neighbor" humanitarian aid organization, Croatian Baptists distributed more than $2 million of Southern Baptist relief funds throughout Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia.
Along the way, Croatian Baptists shared the good news of God's love, and many people — Muslim, Serb, and Croat — responded to Christ. Mission leaders needed experienced evangelists and church planters to step in and build on the foundation laid by wartime ministries.
Two couples — Wayne and Florence Frederick and Jim and Jean Leeper — are serving in Tuzla, a key multiethnic city in eastern Bosnia. The other two couples — Robert and Jerry Worley and Charles and Bobbie Miller - are serving in Sarajevo, the capital city.
"We know God uses disasters like this war to open people's hearts to the gospel," said Robert Worley. "We prayed when we were asked about going to Bosnia. We felt like God said 'go.'"
Two other couples are being recruited for six-month terms, perhaps to serve in Banja Luka, a key northern city, said Larry Cox, who directs Foreign Mission Board work in central Europe. The greatest need, however, is for career missionaries who can give long-term direction to the new ministries.
"We have many opportunities now that the war is over," said Croatian Baptist President Branko Lovrec. "This is a most crucial point in our history. We must not miss this opportunity."