War separates people — often for years, even when the conflict is over and peace is restored. Distrust, hurt, and pain need to be overcome. Adventist youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) see themselves as part of that bridge-building process.
Joining together from across the country, Adventist volunteers spent five days in Jajce, a town divided along strict ethnic lines since the Balkan conflict. While civil authorities have worked at reconciliation projects, more is needed. For this reason, a church plant in the town is building a grassroots initiative with the help of the youth.
Entitled “Invasion of love,” the project is based on a contact hypothesis, a theory which states that people are more inclined to bridge their differences if they are working toward a common goal.
For the second year running, the first week of August 2019 saw 25 volunteers offer free car washes, paint park benches, clean up areas of the town, and give away free ice cream and flowers. On the health front, the Adventist young people offered local residents free blood pressure and blood sugar level testing. In addition, they visited with the police, with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with special needs groups and, on the final day, organized a peace walk.
“We made a great impact in the city and an even greater impact on the participating volunteers,” said Božidar Mihajlović, president of the BiH Conference church region.
Partial funding for the project came from the Trans-European Division (TED) Mission Board.
“I am so excited to see young people working together to make a real difference in their community,” said Daniel Duda, who oversees the work of the board.
Part of the rationale for TED support is in seeing the value of Adventist and other youth working together toward a positive community goal, as well as to encourage citizens of Jajce to be proud of their town and community, to build self-esteem, and to assist in the process of reconciliation.
Jajce is located in central BiH, with a population of around 30,000 inhabitants. Leaders said they look forward to a return visit from the youth volunteers in 2020 and to a continued process of growing together.