As soon as we arrived in Osijek in Croatia, I liked the place! It was different to the other places we had visited previously in Bulgaria. Even though Osijek still had all the war wounds showing from the conflict with Serbia, there was a lot more western influence in the culture. The city had a university so there were many young people my age which was different to our previous missions where there were mainly children and older people. This mission also differed from the Bulgarian missions as we were working with a church in the city as opposed to working with churches in Roma communities and so the worship team was better equipped with instruments. With a higher level of local organization from the church, our small team of three didn’t have to do all the work!
After we put up the tent with lots of help from young people we went to the pastor’s house where we were staying. This was the first time we hadn’t been staying in a hotel so I was a bit unsure whether I would like it, but as soon as we got there we felt at home. The pastor and his wife had five young children and Stela who was a family friend who stayed and interpreted for us as the pastor didn’t speak any English. Throughout the five days we were there we all became good friends with the whole family especially baby Gaga who was always happy and full of energy.
The first evening in the tent went well. We had more problems with the generator as the replacement part didn’t arrive from England by Thursday as we had expected. We managed to get it working but half way through the generator stopped and we were left with no power. But our ever helpful Lesley managed to sort the problem out and within ten minutes we were up and running again. After the meeting I got talking to some of the youth and learnt a bit about their church. They said that their church is the only evangelical church in Osijek and most people go to the very religious churches including many of their parents. They told me of the troubles they all had with their parents when they started going to this church and they still argue and fight with them for joining what they think is a cult. I also found out that around 70% of the people in the church were between 18 and 25 which made me wonder how there managed to be so many youth in this church that gets persecuted so much?
The next evening we had the part for the generator and got it fitted so we no longer had any problems with power, praise God, which gave the team more time in the tent instead of checking and fiddling with the generator outside! After a short time of worship we watched a film that the church provided each night. One of these was particularly good which was about a man born with no arms or legs, and he shares his faith and talks about his life and struggles and how God has been with him all the time. After the meeting ended I stayed behind with some of the youth. We were all talking about God and then a couple of young people wanted to give their lives to Jesus so we all prayed for them and then a few people wanted to be baptized in the Holy Spirit so we prayed for them and they started talking in tongues and we began having this amazing time of worship in a pitch black tent. Definitely an experience I will never forget!
Each evening we started at 5pm in the tent with some worship songs and then a short film of around forty five minutes long and then a break for half an hour. This was followed by some more worship songs and a few testimonies, followed by Tim preaching. Each night we had a time of healing and lots of people came forward for prayer. We got the pastor and other Christians from the church to come and pray and lots of people got touched by God and healed with many giving testimony of their healings which was a great encouragement for us and for the church. Tim also gave people an opportunity to give their lives to Jesus and throughout the four evenings about fifteen people did so which was brilliant as most of the people there were from the church. After the services people stayed there each evening for a few hours worshipping and praying for people and a few more people gave their lives too.
On Sunday evening we took the tent down and I stayed behind with the youth again. This time we went back to one of the guy’s flats. There were about ten of us in his room just talking about God and telling each other stories which was so encouraging. And because they had all learnt English from a young age I was able to have a conversation with all of them and a couple of people were particularly fluent so they could interpret for me so I could be part of everything going on. We then all started to pray out loud and in tongues for longer than I have ever done before. We sang some songs, some in Croatian which I recognized and some English songs. After a while a few people left and those remaining continued to have a time of prayer for each other. Whilst I was there I just felt their passion for God and love for one another and soon realised the reason why there were so many young people in the church was because they were all on fire for God and everyone who spent time with them could just feel God’s presence and was attracted to it and wanted what they had. Soon I realised that I needed more of what they had. I needed to be with other Christians, spend time in God’s presence as often as they did. Before I knew it, it was 4am so I decided to get back to the house!
The next morning we said our goodbyes and got on the road to the Serbian boarder. I left Osijek so pleased I had experienced their hunger for God and that I had seen so many amazing things happen in just five short days. We had helped to build up and strengthen the local church but the church also strengthened us and our faith ready for our next mission in Serbia.
by Andy Mutter