Buried on a Hill in Bosnia

Nathan Smith Christian Maturity, Thought Provoking

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I’m writing this as I fly over the Atlantic Ocean coming home from a week long mission in Sarajevo, Bosnia.  My buddy just tapped me on the shoulder to point out the Aurora Borealis glowing in the atmosphere outside our window as we soar over Iceland. It’s breath-taking. This big ball we call home is truly amazing. Even more amazing are the people who live on it. Over the past week our team has been able to spend time with believers in Jesus in a city that is 95% Muslim. We heard their stories. We laughed and cried together.  We lifted our eyes to the heavens together to glorify The One who is our hope and is the lover of our souls: Jesus the Messiah. There are so many stories to tell. But if I must pick one for now, I will share the one of the 79-year-old missionary from Indiana I met who just buried his wife on a hill in Bosnia. I will never forget his story. I don’t think you will either. (Click here to read my post “I Need More Grey Hair in My Life”)

Bob is a mid-westerner. Kind face. Firm handshake. Good sense of humor. He listens more than he talks, but when he does talk you wish you hadn’t because his wisdom is so evident. Bob gave his life to Jesus in northern Indiana when he was 42 years old. He told me that he often wonders if he would have received Christ sooner had anyone ever given him the opportunity but no one had shared the Gospel with him before then. (I’ll let that sink in for a bit without comment)  At age 62 he and his wife Eileen surrendered their lives to the mission field and moved to Sarajevo, Bosnia, on the heels of the Bosnia-Herzegovina War in the mid 90’s. While many of their friends were headed to Florida to retire, Bob and Eileen moved to a war-torn country to share the love of Jesus with a hurting people. For the last 17 years that is exactly what they have been doing. One month ago today, Eileen died after a sudden health event. As Bob told me her story and of how much he missed her, my eyes welled up as if to float away. This man loved his wife of 45 years and he loved His God and the ministry He had given them. Bob mentioned, not a few times, how much he needed assurance that the ministry would continue now that Eileen is with Jesus. His wife was gone, but the mission God had given them was not and he had a burden to ensure it would continue.

Eileen had run the Pro-Life center in Sarajevo for almost as many years as they had lived in the city. I heard several stories of the women and children that credit the very existence of their families to her ministry.  When arrangements needed to be made for Eileen’s final resting place, it wasn’t back home in Indiana.  She had made it clear that her heart and soul had been given to love on and minister to the people of Sarajevo and her body should be given to that land as well. Eileen is buried on a hill in Bosnia, planted in the land that she had given her final years on Earth to serve. I don’t know how many of her friends and family from Indiana will ever get to visit that plot of ground? What I do know is that the people of Sarajevo whom she shared the love of Jesus know where it is. The Lord knows where it is as well. And I am honored to say that I now know too.  (Click here to read my post ‘Dead and Buried or Planted and Growing’)

What causes grandparents, in the golden years of their lives to leave children, grandchildren, home and comfort to serve a nation few have heard of and even fewer have visited? Casual church attendance, or cultural Christian habits would never cause a person to take such steps. However, a genuine encounter with the life-changing power of Jesus is enough to fuel, fill and finish such a dream. Not everyone is called to move across the world.  But everyone who has had a genuine encounter with Jesus is called to be a ‘witness’.  Bob and Eileen had to wait 42 years before someone shared the Good News with them. The person that finally did share the Gospel with them didn’t fly to the other side of the world to do so; but they DID offer what they had with someone they were in relationship with. I bet they never knew the impact that one conversation would have on the nation of Bosnia thousands of miles away, years in the future.

Perhaps you feel you got a late start? Perhaps you haven’t started yet at all?!  Bob and Eileen didn’t start their walk with the Lord until they were both 42. They didn’t step into their defining ministry until they were 62.  Now is a great time to say ‘Yes’ to Jesus and take the step that may lead to great things for your life and for the Kingdom of God. You won’t know until you start. Bob and Eileen started and they didn’t let their age or season hold them back. Eileen not only started, but she has now finished the race and she finished well.  Her life serves as a pattern and a challenge for us all. And from my conversation with Bob, he has no plans of doing anything other than the same until his days are through. Stop making excuses.  Nothing starts tomorrow, it only starts today. Let us be about the King’s business no matter our age, our season or our lack. Oh to be a Bob or an Eileen. (Click here to read my post called ‘The Power of Saying Yes’)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8 NIV

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8 NLT

The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die. – Psalm 116:15 NLT

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