Bosnia and Herzegovina sounds like a fair destination for tourism. It is in fact a location marked with great historical significance including, the Ottoman empire, the assignation of Franz Ferdinand that sparked World War I, and an interesting Civil War that happened there in the 90’s. There are sights to see, trails to walk, information boards to read, but, no, it doesn’t carry the same ring as destinations of other short-term mission trips. It isn’t South America or Africa. It’s Europe, Eastern Europe to be exact. Wasn’t Europe the epicenter of Christianity for hundreds of years? So, why would an American church send missionaries there?
It is worth noting that the Evangelical presence in Bosnia is so minuscule that it places it in the Unreached category. Therefore, any short-term trips to this country should uphold two objectives: 1) Evangelism and 2) Encouragement of the local church. Therefore, all aspects of Mars Hill’s trip centered somehow around one or both of these.
A specific instance of the latter protrudes beyond the rest in my mind. In a town that will remain unnamed, there is a house church with fewer than ten believers. This small body of believers is the only evangelical witness for the approximate 35,000 residents of the town. In addition to this, the family that composes this house church belongs to a class of people that the locals marginalize. Needless to say, many times this group of believers feels isolated.
So, what might a small team of American Christians do for Bosnian brothers and sisters who feel alone? The answer is much more straightforward than you might think. We partook in a series of simple, yet profoundly essential activities with them.
1) We broke bread together. To simply share a meal with fellow believers heightened their spirits as well as our own. One begins to understand Paul’s sentiment of mutual encouragement with the Roman believers (Romans 1:12).
2) We studied the Scriptures together. It never ceases to amaze me that people from various sectors of the globe can gather to study the divinely-inspired Word of God unto the conviction, challenging, encouragement, and edification of those studying it.
3) We genuinely shared in one another’s lives. Paul’s commendation to the Thessalonians is that he not only desired to share the gospel with them but his entire self (1 Thessalonians 2:8). This shared experience took the form of team members kicking a football around and unrushed conversation. For these believers, as well as us, a light broke through the darkness present in this spiritually desolate land as we gloried in Christ Jesus together.
Instances like these are of such great importance because Americans aren’t the heroes of world missions. God’s glory is the ultimate aim in all missions, so the edification of His Church abroad without tangible results is an endeavor worthy of prayer, financial sacrifice, and expedition for the purpose of seeing God’s glory manifest among the nations.
So once again, why go to Bosnia? For the sake of God’s glory. Americans won’t be the heroes. There will probably be little to show regarding conversions. There won’t be a report for shelters or wells built, though those are worthy endeavors in their own place. God’s glory in the proclamation of the gospel and the edification of His Church is the motivation for short-term or long-term mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.