In a carpark in Bor, Eastern Serbia, Slobodan* suddenly cried “Yessss!!!” and abruptly rushed over to his colleague’s vehicle. “I thought he was excited about chocolate or cake someone had brought,” said an OM EAST worker during a visit. This wasn’t what caught his attention. OM EAST partner Slobodan had spotted his colleague unloading copies of the freshly printed Roma Family Picture Bible, which he had translated into his regional Serbian dialect.
“I worked on translating the Roma Family Picture Bible with great enthusiasm because I know people in the Bor area,” expressed Slobodan, who grew up outside the mining town in Eastern Serbia where his parents still live today. “Illustrations and simple language sometimes have more impact because, sadly, people think not everyone can read the Bible.” The Bible storybook was produced to make God’s Word accessible to Roma families and it was designed by OM EAST to fit their culture.
“I want to give this to my parents; I hope it will speak to them,” Slobodan said, holding the publication shortly after its release in 2017. “My parents don’t know Jesus, but they have seen the change in me—a huge testimony of God’s grace and His power to make everything new!”
The old has gone
Slobodan had been addicted to heroin and other substances for many years. “I was dying before, just going from one shot to the next,” Slobodan stated. At a Christian rehabilitation center, Slobodan heard about God. “I think God was just waiting on me to ask Him: ‘Please help me’,” he reflected.
“I was like the walking dead,” Slobodan emphasised. “But God is able to give life to dead bones—He is Almighty!” Slobodan compares the transformation he has experienced with the vision in Ezekiel chapter 37: “I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley…So I prophesied as [the LORD] commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone…and breath entered them; they came to life.” – Ezekiel 37:2b,7,10b (NIV)
“My life was like these dry bones,” Slobodan said. “Then I heard God’s Word, and something started to make a noise in my heart. When God revealed Himself to me, my dry bones came together, and I received the Holy Spirit.” Slobodan believed in Jesus Christ whom God sent to earth to save people from their sins; he gave his life to the Saviour who heals, cleanses and restores.
“Through my testimony, I want people to see how deep the hole may be from where God can save us,” Slobodan shared. Recovery proved to be an intense process, involving over a month of sleeplessness, as well as hallucinations. “I never thought I could be free, but when Jesus frees you, He takes it all away. I no longer desire drugs,” said Slobodan, who has now been clean for 12 years. “Since then, with ups and downs, I am trying to serve Him.”
The new has come
“I want to tell others who don’t know, that there is a better way,” said Slobodan. He desires to share the hope of Jesus in whom there is unfailing love, full redemption, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.
Slobodan lives in Croatia where he and his wife work with Roma Bible Union, making Jesus known among Roma in her home country. During a visit to Bor in September 2017, Slobodan presented the Roma Family Picture Bible to a small congregation that meets in the pastor’s basement. The couple and their colleagues trained local church members to lead children’s clubs in surrounding Roma villages, also distributing Bible storybooks on outreaches. “I see those living in Bor and hear what they tell me—I used to be the same,” said OM EAST’s partner.
The vision in Ezekiel continues to inspire Slobodan; his Creator is still able to breathe spiritual life into individuals and He can bring renewal along believers’ journeys of faith. “We need believers to speak God’s words to us personally and as a church today so we can be renewed,” he expressed. “Let the Lord renew us as He used to do in those days. When God is working, it is heard and seen. Let people see this in our lives!”
“It is the greatest and most remarkable of all changes that a man can undergo—to be brought out of the grave of spiritual death and made to rejoice in the light and liberty of spiritual life. None could work this but the living God, the Lord and giver of life.” – C.H.Spurgeon (‘Faith’s Checkbook – Daily Readings’, 2013 Watchmaker Publishing, p.167)
Praise God for His power to make everything new! Give thanks for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross; praise Him for His resurrection and victory over sin and death. Give thanks for God’s grace in Slobodan’s life. Please pray Roma would trust in Jesus who sets free. Please pray believers would be strengthened and renewed for His name’s sake.
Subheadings based on 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (NIV)
*Full name not included for security
Roma Family Picture Bible
OM EAST’s literature and media ministry produces high quality print and digital media in over 25 languages. Working with partners, they seek to share the gospel, strengthen churches and bring hope to people groups throughout Eurasia.
Author: Inger R., Photos: Simon S., Julia Haupt