Good News in the Wounded City
Vukovar is a city in the easternmost region of Croatia, located on the Danube River across from Serbia.
During the Croatian War of Independence, Vukovar was heavily damaged by shelling from the Serb-led Yugoslavian People’s Army. The shelling went on for almost 90 days. At its height, more than 1,000 shells per hour struck the city. After the city surrendered, hundreds of the men who were defending Vukovar were executed in a field outside the city.
The shell-scarred water tower of Vukovar stands unrepaired, today much as it was after the siege in 1992. The tower is a common and potent symbol of Croatian independence and the divide between Croats and Serbs, a divide between the ethnic groups that began hundreds of years ago.
Vukovar remains a deeply wounded city. About 30% of the residents of Vukovar are from a Serbian background. The Croats who live in Vukovar are the sons & daughters and brothers & sisters of those who were killed, and the city is filled with constant reminders of the violence that was done to them.
Is there hope for healing in Vukovar? We know from the New Testament God plans for the gospel to bring healing to ethnic divisions. The traditional churches in the city, Catholic (for Croats) and Orthodox (for Serbs) seem to exacerbate the conflict. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached to all through the Church of Christ “Valley of Blessings” in Vukovar.
Speaking of the division between Jews and Gentiles, Paul writes,
[Jesus] is our peace, the one who made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.
The minister, Vlado Psenko, is a 2007 graduate of the Biblical Institute. In addition to leading the church, Vlado is active in local ministries distributing food to the needy. One of the few times that Serbs and Croats interact in Vukovar is when the Church of Christ has English language lessons there.
Please pray this week for Vukovar, and for Vlado and his wife Renata. Please pray for their health as they serve in this stressful, wounded situation. And please pray that God will raise up a missionary couple who can come to Vukovar long-term and work alongside them.