Lunch in Belgrade after arriving in Serbia
Thirteen minutes from now, classes will start at Baptist Theological School in Novi Sad, Serbia. First year students will study Hermeneutics with Weymann Lee, seated to the left of the picture above. Second year students will study Old Testament Survey II with Petar Nenadov, middle right above. This afternoon, I'll have all the students together for a class on Evangelism and Discipleship.
Our team of three arrived Friday afternoon in Belgrade and were met by Dwayne Baldwin, a TLI missionary serving as the Academic Dean of the recently restarted school and seated to the right in the above picture. Dwayne, his wife Kimberly, and their sons are gracious, enthusiastic hosts and we've had a wonderful few days exploring northern Serbia and adjusting to the time change before classes start.
Friday afternoon was spent in the capital city of Belgrade before the hour drive to Novi Sad. On Saturday, we drove to Sremska Mitrovica and spent time at a museum and the ruins of an old Roman palace. That afternoon, we toured the Petrovardin Fortress in Novi Sad, a medieval fortress designed to halt the advance of the Ottoman Empire. The fort overlooked the Danube and three bridges, one of which was still being rebuilt after the NATO bombings of the 1990's. Advancing from a Roman palace to a medieval fortress overlooking the modern city gave us a wonderful, firsthand glimpse of Serbia's history.
On Sunday, we worshiped with the local Baptist church here, were given a tour of the school, and met many of the students at an open house at BTS.
And now it is time for classes to begin. During one of our dinner conversations with Dwayne, he mentioned that Serbians thought Americans smiled too much. "Smile too much?" I thought. "Why would that be considered a negative?" Dwayne explained that after decades under communism, the Serbs had become so pessimistic after their life direction had been essentially determined for them, hope was virtually gone.
There was an exception. As we joined the church in worship, smiles of hope were common. Serbia has a violent and brutal ancient and modern history, but there is a small, growing church that has realized "the joy of the Lord is [their] strength]" (Nehemiah 8:10). As we teach this week, be praying that knowledge of the word would grow, ministry skills will be shaped, but most of all, that the joy of the Lord because of the work of Christ would be our strength.
Looking down at the city of Novi Sad from the Petrovardin Fortress