The Kingdom in the Margins of Urbana
(Rob is supported by SBCC and was Director of Urbana 2009)
Those of you who have been on this InterVarsity journey with us for awhile know that, since 2000, the country and people of Bosnia have developed a special place in my heart. That year, my former area, the Central-South Coast, began a ministry partnership with the newly established IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) movement in Bosnia. I am very happy to say that the relationship remains healthy and active today. It has led to nine summer teams visiting various cities in Bosnia to do ministry alongside Bosnian students. Currently, there is even an InterVarsity Link-Staff couple, who were formerly on staff at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, serving with the Bosnian staff team. Good stuff has happened on both sides of the Atlantic because of this relationship! One of the joys of this partnership for me is that it has led to a wonderful personal friendship with Enisa Dedic, the General Secretary of IFES, Bosnia, and an SBCC supported missionary.
But who would have ever thought there would be some tie between Bosnia and St. Louis, MO! At InterVarsity’s national staff conference in 2008, I took advantage of the opportunity to join a bus tour of the city of St. Louis. During this tour, we heard a bit about the multiple refugee communities there. My interest was piqued when I heard that one of the more sizeable refugee communities in the city was the Bosnian community. Established as Bosnians fled their homeland during the 1990’s Balkan war, some estimates put the size of this community as high as 50,000. Riding along the St. Louis streets, I began to dream a little, “Could there ever be a way that some of the folks we are connected with in Bosnia could serve the refugee community here in St. Louis?” The thought raised some intriguing possibilities but, over time, faded into the background with our move to Madison and engagement in planning for Urbana 09.
But God wasn’t quite done with the dream. About six months prior to Urbana, Cassie Meyer joined our operations team. I soon found out that Cassie was getting involved in a new church that had felt called by God to plant itself in the Bosnian community in St. Louis with a desire to serve that community and live out the gospel among them. The challenge – although convinced that they were called by God to be there, the church knew virtually nothing about Bosnian culture and those they had been sent to serve. Hmmm, perhaps I knew someone who could help! What if Enisa were invited to come to Urbana as our guest, take in the conference (which by itself would be a good reason to come) and then meet with the leaders of this church (BEVO) to help them understand more about those they were called to reach? The dream could be coming to life. So, I invited Enisa and she was able to come. Urbana was a great experience for her and she had a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with scores of people (students and staff) who had been on one of our nine Global Projects (summers) to Bosnia. Then on January 2nd, after Urbana, Enisa and I met for about three hours with some of the leaders of the BEVO church to help them begin to understand more about the Bosnians and their community. Enisa had discovered that many of the refugees in St. Louis had come from the Bosnian city of Srebrenica. It was a significant discovery, as Srebrenica was the site of one of the most horrific genocides during the war. Enisa spoke the following day at the church sharing some of her own story of coming to Christ from a Muslim family and up-bringing, and providing the church with some insights about connecting with the Bosnians in their community. It was a wonderful gift for the church.
…and the dream continues. In early June 2010, people from the BEVO church will be traveling to Bosnia where they will be hosted by Enisa to learn more about the country, culture, people and church of Bosnia! Their visit will include a trip to Srebrenica. Please pray for them – that this relatively brief exposure to Bosnia would enlighten and shape them in ways that will make them more effective in being the body of Christ among the Bosnians in St. Louis. And please pray that all God intends would be accomplished through these established and newly formed relationships. I often wonder what all God may intend to do to make the dream a reality!
If you would like to contact Rob, you can do so at RKnight@intervarsity.org/608-284-7261.