By John Thompson
Bosnia-Herzegovina is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia-Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for 16 miles of Adriatic Sea coastline. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s most distinctive feature is the numerous mountains and hills that make up its rough terrain.
At times, even with the rugged beauty of its landscape, the country can make its residents feel isolated, hemmed in on all sides. In a country where only five percent of the population are members of a Protestant church (40% Muslim, 35% Orthodox, 15% Catholic), members of Bosnia’s five Baptist churches feel this overwhelming isolation more than most. Yet, the small Baptist churches of Bosnia and Herzegovina are making a great impact in their country.
Most people think of a few things when they think of Bosnia-Herzegovina or its capital of city of Sarajevo—World War I, Yugoslavia, the 1984 Winter Olympics, and, of course, the Bosnian War. They envision Bosnia-Herzegovina as a bleak and dangerous place.
In fact, today the country is a warm place with rising tourism. Sarajevo, the largest city which 700,000 of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 4 million citizens call home, is one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. Nicknamed “the Jerusalem of Europe,” its many mosques, synagogues, and churches are spread throughout the city and can often be seen right next door to each other. Recently, Pope Francis visited Sarajevo recognizing its potential as a leading light in religious diversity and tolerance. It is in this climate that the Sarajevo Baptist Church—the largest Baptist church in Bosnia—practices its ministry.
Baptist missionaries from Croatia first established the Sarajevo Baptist Church, a member of the European Baptist Federation, in 1836. Since its inception, the church has been committed to evangelism and social outreach, two commitments that remain the church’s focus to this day. The church is led by Tomislav Dobutovic, a missionary from Croatia who has remained as the pastor of the church for the past thirteen years. Tomislav also serves as the Coordinator of the Baptist Union in Bosnia.
He oversees the development and growth of the five Baptist churches in Bosnia, the training of pastors through the Bible Institute located in Sarajevo, the street evangelism ministry, and the English language classes and Business leadership skills outreach programs, as well as his day-to-day ministry as pastor to the Sarajevo Baptist Church. His goals of demonstrating the love of Jesus with both words and actions to the people of Bosnia, growing the faith of the members of his church, developing future ministry leaders for Bosnia, and helping the people of Sarajevo transform their lives economically encourage all Bosnian Baptists church members to do the same. With Tomislav as their spiritual leader, the small yet potent Baptist Church of Bosnia is making a tremendous different for Christ in the small country of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Baptist Church in Bosnia is not without its struggles. Due to its small membership, the churches often find themselves in financial straights. Yet, they have never allowed finances to distract them from their work for Christ’s kingdom. If you would like to learn more about the ministries of the Baptist Church in Bosnia, contact Tomislav Dobutovic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please consider adding the Baptist Church of Bosnia to your prayers. Below is a list of things to pray for from the church’s European Baptist Federation webpage:
- Please pray for a fresh vision of our Union, for pastors and leaders that they can see and understand the importance of the Union and mutual support and fellowship
- Please pray for a good and inspiring annual gathering this year and that it would be a blessing and encouragement to all the leaders, that we can get Lord direction for the future and have a unity of vision
- Please pray for the leadership of our Union, that God will raise other leaders who will continue with this important mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especial for the national – Bosnian people
- Please pray for ongoing social and Evangelistic outreaches such as Flood relief, Winterhelp and Sawing course, kids club, street evangelism, and seminars, so that more people would get to know Christ as their personal Savior, and that we continue to be faithful in proclaiming the Gospel
- Please pray for Lord’s protection over all the believers that despite the persecution we stand firm in Christ, the protection of buildings, property and leaders, as we often face challenges, together with this pray for the economical crises that we are passing through every day
- Please continue to pray for guidance and spiritual workers / pastors in Zenica and Tuzla
- Please pray for building situation for Tuzla, Zenica and Novi Travnik, Konjic (sale, equipping, purchasing…)
- We praise God for Albanian missionary who came to serve as pastor in Konjic
- We praise God for the Bible School (BIKBCBH) and we rejoice in potential new emerging leaders – please pray for finances for this ministry and the staff of this institute, especially for the dean and secretary.
John Bryan Thompson was a CBF Leadership scholar at Duke Divinity School. He pastored churches in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Ohio for eight years before beginning missions work overseas. He and his wife Jenny have worked with Baptist churches in Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina. They currently live in Sarajevo where John works with Roma people group, local Baptist churches and at international schools. Additionally, John is a CBF-endorsed chaplain and leads a CBF Peer Learning Group comprised of other Baptist ministers and mission workers in Sarajevo.