Fighting the Ghosts of Bosnia with Love, Hope

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia -- In the 1990s, ethnic and religious hatred led Muslims, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians to slaughter each other on the streets of Bosnia.

Nearly two decades after the conflict, the ghosts of that war still linger.

Now one woman is on a mission to help heal the wounds of the past.

The Siege of Sarajevo

The siege of Sarajevo began April 5, 1992 and ended on February 29, 1996. For 1425 days they fought on the streets of Sarajevo. Neighbor against neighbor. Loved one against loved one.

What Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Muslims did to each other in the name of ethnicity, in the name of religion, was simply awful. Rape. Ethnic cleansing. Genocide. Cold-blooded murder. You name it. It happened.

The fighting spread from the capital and soon engulfed the country.

Ghosts of War

When the guns fell silent three years later, the horrors of what had happened shocked the world.

It has been estimated that some 250,000 Bosnians slaughtered each other on the streets of Sarajevo, Mostar, Srebrenica, Banja Luka.

We remember these cities and the horrific images that we saw on television.

Now 16 years later, with thousands still missing, Bosnia remains haunted by memories of war. The ethnic and religious divisions still linger.

"Now after the war, it is maintained and fed and it could be a field. It could be fertile soil for another war," Vanya Bule said.

Bule, 35, doesn't want to see war happen in her country again.

"We would like to see something different in the future and leave something different as a heritage to our children," she said.

Valley of Blessing

For the past several years, Bule has helped turn a piece of land tucked in a valley and surrounded by mountains outside the capital city of Sarajevo into a place of reconciliation.

For four weeks in the summer, she invites Croats, Serbs, and Muslims to a camp event like none other.

"So many kids, teenagers, young people, even older people who come, they are so amazed at what they see because they don't see it outside this place," Bule explained.

What they see and experience is a message of hope and love.

"They are drawn to the unity. They are drawn to this place where there's no pressure of ethnicity," she said. "But they can live a life in community, in fellowship, in love and experience one another."

Bosnia for Christ

You see, Bule is an evangelical Christian. She believes Christ is the answer for Bosnia.

"Because Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God in this country, as we pray, "May Your Kingdom come, may Your Will be done' in this place, is our only hope not just for eternity, but to live this earthly life," Bule explained. "Because we may have another war, so we need Jesus to change our reality."

Bule is from Croatia. She moved to Bosnia several years ago to be a missionary. She earned a Master of Divinity from Regent University located in Virginia Beach, Va.

"When I came to Regent, I came with a deep conviction and calling to come back to my country to get training, to get everything I needed to do and then to come back," she told CBN News.

Building a Spiritual Army

Now Bule runs Emek Beraka, a ministry that helps organize the summer outreach programs. Emek Beraka is Hebrew meaning, "Valley of Blessing."

"To have these people come, you touch them, you impart into them. And then they go home, then they go home to the north, to the east, to the west, to the south, and they bring what they've received here," she said. "And in building them, we build a nation."

"When I leave here I can tell others in my school that it is possible to live together," Vanya Nikolinovic, a young camp participant, said.

"I attended this camp for the first time nine years ago and it changed my life," Albin Hadzic, a camp leader, said. "I saw how Jesus Christ can transform your heart and attitude toward others."

Praying for Revival

The camp is also a strategic time for Bosnia's evangelical community.

Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in Bosnia is not easy. This is, after all, a land dominated by the Catholics, Orthodox Croats, and Muslims. Members of the evangelical church number less than 700 in the entire country.

"It's an opportunity for all the leaders to come together, fellowship, and encourage one another," said Karmelo Kresonja, who runs the Evangelical Church of Mostar.

"We pray for revival, we pray for each other," Kresonja said. "It really is a time to recharge and be refreshed by God."

Organizing the camp is not without its share of challenges. There's no hot water. No proper toilet facilities. Campers have to sleep in tents.

There are no buildings on the property, except for a bombed-out shell of a structure that serves as the kitchen and feeds hundreds.

"Every year again, we try to fix that bombed out kitchen, trying to fix it so that it is somewhat usable," Bule said.

Bosnia's Future Generations

Bule has a dream to one day build a real kitchen and new dormitories so they can hold additional camps throughout the year.

For now, she continues to pray that this valley can be a blessing to the nation.

"When I see the children that I see divided in the cities of Bosnia and not talking to each other. When I come to this place and I see them playing the same games. When I see them sitting next to each other, when I see them worshipping the same God, when I see them and I don't see ethnic groups, I see people of Bosnia," she said. "I see a future generation who might, just might, have a different future."

WEB EXTRA: Bule sat down with CBN News for a candid look at the challenges and opportunities confronting the evangelical church in Bosnia.

To help support the spiritual work of reconciliation and healing in Bosnia please contact Emek Beraka directly through the link below.

"Like" George Thomas on Facebook.

Original broadcast September 9, 2011.

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