Report – ‘The Search’ mission week in Subotica, Serbia

This was the sixth university mission week in Serbia but the first in the city of Subotica. It has been so encouraging to see the growth of mission weeks across the country and the growth of the IFES work there (EUS). It would have been hard to imagine, during my first visit in 2008, just after the inaugural FEUER gathering, that things would develop to where they are today.

 

Subotica is city of around 100,000 people in the North of Serbia on the border with Hungary. At one time the area was under Hungarian rule, and there is still a large Hungarian speaking population – this made for an interesting challenge as I had to be translated into both Serbian and Hungarian (one from the front and the other from the back!). It also means that the population has many Catholics as well as Orthodox Christians – this means that people are slightly less suspicious of Christian groups that are different from their own (Evangelicals can be perceived as a cult in Serbia).

 

As it was the first ever mission in the city we held just three days of events. After prayer each day we set up a stall in the centre of the city, from which different members headed out to the various faculties spread across the area. We were glad of dry and sunny weather, which meant that people were often up for stopping to chat. Being in the centre of town we also attracted a wide range of other people, including high school students, older people and refugees, all of who came over to engage with the question board or were ready to have a discussion.

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Following the flyering, we saw around 40-50 unbelievers come to the evening events with some coming back more than once. The events were held in a café in the centre of town which was a great location. Good quality music from two local groups and amazing cakes and coffee made for a great environment! The downside was that, as the cafe was still open to the public, there was often a lot of background noise that made speaking quite a challenge.  However, it was amazing how a hush could descend at crucial points, and several people who hadn’t come specifically for the events got drawn over to listen, and were deeply impacted by what they heard.

There was a really mixed reaction to the talks. Some got up and left while I was still speaking. Others voiced their complete disagreement with what they heard, with one man jumping to his feet at the end of one talk to tell me what he thought of it! We certainly encountered a broad range of beliefs and ideas. However, there were others who were really moved by what they heard – several signed up for the Alpha course, and at least one prayed with one of the team to trust Christ.

14611076_10157599034275010_6344169825190094627_nBut perhaps the most remarkable thing about the whole mission was that it happened at all! Whereas Novi Sad and Belgrade have active student groups, for the last few years Subotica hasn’t had anything! In fact, the whole mission came about because of the initial vision and tenacity of just one student! Local Christian student, Danny (pictured at the front), had heard about EUS, and travelled to visit our mission week in Novi Sad for the day back in April. Impacted by what he saw, he urged us to come back and help him run a mission week, with the aim of pioneering a student group off the back of it. Impressed by his commitment and courage we agreed to bring the team to help, along with a handful of students from Novi Sad and Belgrade and a few Christians from the local churches. I was reminded afresh how our limited resources are no limit to God.  One with God is always a majority – He can do more than we ask or imagine…

I was also deeply challenged. If this is what just one student can achieve, how much more could many of us be doing in our churches and CUs where we have far greater resources available to us? How often do we excuse our inactivity because we think we lack resources? I praise God for the Dannys of the student world, driven by a heart for distinctive Jesus-witness wherever they find themselves; the Dannys that inspire small, committed teams to come and join in the work, as seen in our friends from Belgrade and Novi Sad. Pray that God would raise up many more leaders like him across our continent’s Christian student groups!

 

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