Small milestones

20 years ago, the Church in Serbia was in survival mode. A decade of war and trade sanctions had brought the economy to its knees. Many pastors and believers left Serbia to find work elsewhere and most of those who remained struggled financially.

We arrived in Serbia in August 2001, keen to help in any way that we could. We got to know another missionary couple, Rob and Trish MacCurrach, and together we started Project Timothy. Our aim was to provide training and resources to help churches with their discipleship and evangelism. 

In the early days the ministry looked exceedingly small. At our first workshop the only person who came was the lady who was serving the coffee. But the needs were so great that it never crossed our minds to give up, even when events were cancelled. We knew that we needed to be patient and look at the long-term picture. 

We quickly began to see a need for expository preaching. We ran some preaching workshops and many of the pastors who came responded with interest. Unfortunately the feedback was always the same, ‘This style of preaching will never work in Serbia. Maybe it works elsewhere but not here.’ 

And yet, we kept going. Several years later, we shared the need with our Irish friends Eddie Coulter and Bryan Kerr and they offered to lead a Crosslinks School of Biblical Training (SBT) with us. With their help, a plan started to formalise. Rather than working with existing pastors as our previous workshops had, we decided to focus on the younger generation and future leaders. We asked a local bible school if we could run the SBT for their students and were delighted when they put the SBT into the curriculum. 

Not all of the students liked what they heard. Many gave Eddie and Bryan a hard time with difficult questions. But, halfway through the week, something extraordinary happened: the whole class suddenly grasped the concept of expository teaching and loved what they were hearing! They were thrilled by the word of God. For many, it was an eye opening moment. For us, we knew it was answered prayers. All of our partner churches had been praying for the SBT that week.

One of the students in that first year was Riste Micev. At that time nobody knew the plans God had for this young man and for Project Timothy.

It was a great joy when the SBT became an annual event – something we all looked forward to each year. For each year that passed, more and more young people were taught and trained in expository preaching. Throughout the years, hundreds of students have taken part, many of whom are now pastors and preaching elders and are transforming the Serbian evangelical church through biblical preaching. 

After 13 years in Serbia we decided to leave the mission field there and move back to Sweden. Our big concern and prayer was for Project Timothy. What would happen to it? Who would take over? 
By that time we had got to know Riste and Tea Micev really well. Passing the baton on to Riste was the most obvious thing to do. 

12 years on from that first SBT, we are so excited and proud of our Serbian brothers who are now running the SBT on their own. Who could have imagined that the small seeds planted 20 years ago would bring such great and blessed fruit? God is good and all the honour and glory belong to him. 

This story first appeared in the Crosslinks magazine

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Chris and Lotta Strajnic

Chris and Lotta have been serving at Emmaus Church in Åkersberga, Stockholm since 2014. Before this they served in Serbia for 13 years, writing and running training courses for churches and preachers.