A and S serve in Serbia, where they have been planting a church for several years. What is life like in a small but growing church plant? And how does that affect family life with three young children? A describes her typical week.
We are out at 8.30am on Sunday to set up for the early morning discipleship class. For the last few months we have been meeting twice a month before our main service, with a dozen or so adults who are part of the church. The focus of the class this week is on how we can be active in encouraging each other to grow deeper spiritually. After a good time of looking at the Bible on this topic and lively discussion, we quickly shift the chairs around and are ready to start our service at 10 o’clock. Most Sundays we have around twenty to twenty-five adults. My husband is preaching this week, finishing our series in Habakkuk. I’m not on Sunday school so I enjoy listening to the sermon. Every other month we have a meal together after the service. Today there is a tasty selection of salads to go with the roasted meat, and an impressive looking selection of desserts. People chat around tables and the kids race around a bit before we all help clear up and head home.
We usually try to have a quieter day on Monday. Our eldest two children go to the local primary school which has two shifts of children and teachers. This means that one week they have classes in the afternoon, and the next week they have classes in the morning. Our youngest son is out at nursery every morning. If it’s a ‘morning school’ week then we try to get out together for a coffee while the kids are all out. This week is ‘afternoon school’ though, so we do a Lidl run after lunch with our son instead, having dropped the other two off at school.
Tuesday starts promptly with our youngest son’s speech therapist coming at 8am. At home we speak mainly English together and my husband speaks to the kids in Ruthenian, his mother tongue (a minority language spoken in the north of Serbia). Church, school and everything else is in Serbian. Our son is having help to get his tongue around all the different sounds he needs to know and is proud to have just cracked rolling his r’s!
After his session I drop him to nursery which is just behind our flat. His class are already singing and he eagerly joins in. In addition to primary school the older two kids also go to a state music school which provides a free system of music classes. Today our son has flute and theory in the morning, and later our daughter goes straight from school to her preparatory class where she enjoys singing and learning how to read music.
S is working today on preparations for a pastoral training course. This is organised by Leadership Resources International and the first cohort of pastors in the north of Serbia are due to finish this spring. The course focuses on understanding and teaching the Bible. The next intake is planned for the south of Serbia, where most of the pastors have predominantly Romani congregations. S will be part of the teaching team for this twice-yearly course and is preparing a session on the structure of Jonah.
The focus of Wednesday is the evening prayer meeting at our flat. S prepares for the Bible study. Our son helps me hoover in the afternoon and make some muffins for later. At 7:00pm about a dozen church members arrive, some straight from work, others from home. First of all we have a short Bible study. Then we have two times of prayer. First we pray for the church and what we have just been reading in the Bible. Then individuals share prayer requests for family, friends, work colleagues and themselves. A few people stay on longer to talk about some current issues. The kids are tired and I try to get them quickly to bed afterwards.
Our eldest son is nine years old and has a good amount of homework each day which generally needs supervising. This Thursday he needs to learn a poem off by heart and revise for a test on the geography of Serbia. Our daughter who is seven has maths which needs finishing and checking. Today is a longer day for our son at nursery – he stays later and goes to a sports club. I use the time in between the school drop off (2pm) and nursery pick-up (4.15) to plan my Sunday school lesson. I’m one of the teachers for the lively younger class – all boys! They enjoy acting so I plan how to act out the story of Peter’s escape from jail.
When I pick our son up from nursery we stay outside a bit in the park behind our flats. A few of his nursery friends are there and I chat to the other mums. On the way into our building I see another neighbour who I’ve not seen for a few weeks. We agree to have coffee together soon.
It is Friday and S has several meetings today, usually in a coffee shop at the nearby shopping centre. Today he meets first with one of the men who were recently baptised. We had our first baptismal service in September 2019 when two men took the plunge in the Danube river! Now S meets regularly with one of the men and our assistant pastor meets with the other. Today they continue their study together in Ephesians. Later S meets with our assistant pastor and they talk about church, his upcoming sermon and the next module he is taking at the Novi Sad Theological college.
While waiting in the school playground I have an interesting chat with a mum who is moving to Germany. Hundreds of Serbians leave the country each year in pursuit of better economic conditions elsewhere. Germany, Austria and Canada are top destinations.
On Saturday morning it’s Dad’s turn to help our son prepare for a maths test on Monday. The other two play ‘dens’ in their bedroom and then we have a good tidy-up. Most weekends at least one of the children has a birthday invite. Birthdays are big occasions, usually with the whole class invited to an indoor play area, MacDonald’s or the cinema. This weekend is our daughter’s turn and I drop her off for a few hours. Sometimes I stay and chat with the other parents but today I head to the park with our youngest who enjoys playing basketball and then football with some other boys. Back at home S is making final preparations for the Sunday service and our eldest son is making a new computer programme with Scratch (coding for kids). I print off a craft for Sunday school and bake a cake for after the service. We’ll have some church folk over for lunch tomorrow so I chop vegetables and meat ready to go into the slow-cooker on Sunday morning. Then it’s early to bed before another busy Sunday…