The legacy of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) can still be felt. One of the bloodiest wars in European history, it left 100,000 dead, 2 million displaced, and a deeply divided society. However, Adventist youth in BiH are working to change the legacy by taking part in a bridge-building initiative that focuses on serving the community.
Entitled “Invasion of love,” the project is based on a “contact hypothesis,” a theory that states people are more inclined to bridge their differences if they are working towards a common goal. Putting this into practice, the group of 27 volunteers included a Muslim and an Orthodox female who worked alongside the Adventist volunteers to serve the people of Derventa, a city in the north of BiH.
For the sixth year running, on 4-10 July 2022, young volunteers could be seen around the town cleaning the streets, giving away flowers and baskets with essential items, offering free blood-pressure- and blood-sugar-level tests, working with a special needs group, and ensuring they included a visit to the police and fire brigade to express gratitude for their work in keeping everyone safe.
“This is the first time that we held the project in an area where [the] majority are Orthodox¹ Serbs,” said Božidar Mihajlović, president of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Conference. “We were a little bit afraid of the prejudice, but it turned out to be the warmest reception so far.” Derventa has a population of over 11,000 people, but only four Seventh-day Adventists, yet “after two days, everyone in the city knew about us. The citizens showed us so much appreciation, waved at us on the streets, and wanted to take pictures with us,”
Partial funding for the project came from the Trans-European Division (TED) Mission Board.
“I really admire these young people. For six summers in a row, they had given up some of their holiday to invest in other people and the community. They come away from this experience stronger, more sensitive to the needs of others, and they appreciate better what they have,”
said Dr. Daniel Duda, TED president.
Part of the rationale for TED support is in seeing the value of Adventist and other youth working together toward a positive community goal and to assist in the process of reconciliation. “The Invasion of Love mission project is not only an excellent way to demonstrate compassion and break down barriers but also one of several initiatives across the Bosnia and Herzegovina Conference that involves young people in the larger process of evangelism and disciple-making,” said Anthony WagenerSmith, TED Evangelism and Mission coordinator. “It is really impressive what this small conference does in their environment.”
Leaders recognise the work in Derventa has only begun and look forward to the challenge ahead.
“We made many friends and opened doors to continue our evangelistic efforts, following Jesus’ method,”
“We have a great vision of turning our old church into a centre of influence.”
¹The dominant confession in Serbia is Eastern Orthodox (84.6%)