Many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina say the country has no hope. Surveys of college students reveal that 80% want to leave the country and go to the West for a better life. Corruption is high. Struggles among the country’s three major ethnic groups still bring tension. Muslim Bosniacs, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats jostle for control, even though more than 20 years have passed since the war that tore the country apart.
But a Bosnian pastor named Slavko Hadzic believes that the greatest gift he can give everyone in his country is hope — hope in Jesus Christ.
Caught in the middle
Slavko grew up in communist Yugoslavia. In his youth he became involved in the Mafia and organized crime. In 1990 ethnic tensions led to the breakup of Yugoslavia into seven countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Slavko’s family lived.
His parents were from two different warring ethnicities. He did not want to fight against either his mother’s people or his father’s people, so he desperately cried out to God for the first time in his life: “God, if you exist, please help me now and show me what to do.”
The Lord led him to leave the country, and Slavko lived away from Bosnia and Herzegovina for several years. During this time, he encountered Jesus face-to-face, accepted Him as Savior, and gave his life into God’s hands. Hope flooded into his heart, and a hunger for God’s Word kept him awake at night.
A burden to deliver hope
Soon after, the Lord led Slavko to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina with a burden to deliver this hope to his fellow citizens. He and his wife resigned from their jobs, packed their bags, and traveled home to tell people about Jesus. They started a new church in the capital city, Sarajevo.
Realizing he needed further training, and desiring to teach others, Slavko attended a Langham Preaching seminar. Then he began forming preaching groups, first in Bosnia, then in other countries in the region. Pastors gather to practice and discuss preaching so they can get a better grasp of the Word of God and learn how to deliver messages more effectively. These groups are transforming churches and sparking a movement.
On October 26 and 27 of this year, Slavko was instrumental in organizing three of the largest evangelistic events ever held in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nick Vuijicic, a famous Christian speaker born without arms and legs, spoke at all three, sharing about hope in the God of the impossible.
Noting that one event happened in Muslim Sarajevo, Nick Vuijicic said, “I am thankful that I, as a man of Serbian descent, was welcome to share how Jesus changed my life. Thank you for not shying away from understanding [that] we are all different and we can disagree on things — but one thing we all know is that with love and faith we can hold onto hope.”
Slavko commented, “I am amazed at what God did at these three events. Over 6,000 people heard Nick live, 5,000 people watched on live streaming, and the last event was broadcast over national television. Nick shared his story and preached the gospel clearly. He prayed at each event. Those who came were given one of Nick’s books and the Gospel of John with a Bible study in their own language.”
That is hope! Another organizer said, “We believe that in Vujicic’s speech, all who heard him found a glimmer of hope.”
At the end of the event in Sarajevo, the nation’s capital, Nick said, “If you believe there is hope for you, your family, and your country, hold up the light on your cell phone.” Thousands of tiny lights lit up the stadium.
Hope is contagious
Ray Johnston, author of The Hope Quotient, says, “We can live about 40 days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air — but not a second without hope.”
Hope is contagious and has a ripple effect. Those who have hope will spread hope. It is like oxygen — a life force that keeps us going and gives us something to live for.
At the beginning of the war in 1992, there were fewer than 100 born-again Christians in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country of 3.5 million people. On October 25, 2019, that number was approaching 1,000, and it is continuing to increase — thanks in part to Slavko’s desire to bring more hope to his native land.