A Girl Named Irma
Today, a few of us had the opportunity to have coffee with Irma, a Bosnian whom we met on our last trip to Sarajevo. It was good to see her again! As we sat, she shared her story, which I do not remember hearing before...at least not like this.
Irma was 6 years old when the war began. She talks about sitting in their basement and hearing bombs fall outside. The family got to where they could tell how far away a particular bombing might be. When they would hear sirens, they could tel if it was an air raid, or just mortar fire. They would play all day in this basement, and pretend they were eating chocolate. Each day, they would wait for their dad to come home from the front line, hoping he had picked some wild strawberries for them.
About 6 months into the war, Irma's mom gave birth to twins, two months early. By this time, the hospitals had all been badly damaged by bombing, and what maternity care they had was make-shift and limited. When the twins were born, the doctors told her Mom, "Pick one. We are only able to care for one." The mom couldn't do it and said, "You choose." One baby was cared for, and one died the next day. When she took the baby home over a month later, he still weighed just over two pounds.
Irma's family would survive the war, and in 1994, she, her mom, and her little brother walked through the Tunnel of Life (see yesterday's post) into the mountains where they escaped to Croatia until the war was over. Their dad remained to fight and avoid being prosecuted as a deserter. When the family arrived in Croatia, Irma got to go to school without fear of death. She said she couldn't believe it when she walked into her classroom and saw books, a chalkboard and desks. These were luxuries she had only heard about in Sarajevo.
Irma returned to Bosnia after the war. Life since then has not been easy. Three years ago, her brother was killed in a car accident. She has struggled to find work until just recently. Her fiance has been looking for a job for years. (But he just got one! He starts on Monday!) Yet amongst all this, Irma found faith. She and her fiance George attend the church in Krsevsko Brdo, where they hope to be baptized next month. Jesus has become for them hope which they have found no where else. What you and I view as an unimaginable childhood, Irma sees as "just life", and she is grateful to be where she is today. Irma's story is typical of each person we have met here in Sarajevo. Please pray for she and George- they and others like them are the church, both present and future, of Sarajevo.
The open house tonight was a blast. Maybe soon I will post a video of Caleb singing some helium-induced choruses that brought the house down. Overall, the attendance was less than expected, but those who came were joyful and grateful. Many of the believers attended, which the Alliance team took as a positive sign that they are embracing Izvor as a good, neutral space to invite their friends. We had a great time serving food, pouring drinks, and just chatting with our new friends. Pray for continued connections between Izvor and the community.
Pray for Caleb as he preaches at Ilidza tomorrow! May his message on faith be God's word for them in that place.