Welcome to the Bosnia International Servant Trip
Srebrenica (& our) Prayer
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A Ministry of Healing † Hope † Peace for Bosnia-Herzegovina and the whole World
This is a ministry of the New Jersey Synod, ELCA, striving to build peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina through the wonderful children of this beautiful country.
Each year in June the New Jersey Synod sends a Travel Team to Bosnia-Herzegovina, loaded up with supplies and prayers from our Home Team. Together with our Bosnian friends and partners we hold Camp New Hope and Friendship Camps in schools and communities around the country. Along the way we build relationships, explore peace and reconciliation, and serve shoulder-to-shoulder with friends from all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
• Learn more about our Travel Team here.
• The 2017 Travel Team online application is here.
• Learn more about our Home Team here.
Follow the Bosnia IST on our Facebook page. There we will post updates and reminders through out the year as well as photos, stories and videos from the most recent trips! You don't have to belong to Facebook to see the page!
The dates for the 2017 Bosnia IST are June 22 - July 3, 2017.
Especially this year… we're eager to be a part of this ministry that brings together Muslim and Christian children in a country recently at war, where the divisions were often along ethnic and religious lines. We intentionally work with children and adults from all the ethnic and religious groups; with some we even visit each others places of worship!
We are still in need of financial support for our 2016 Bosnia. You can find out how to sponsor one of our camps on our Friendship Camps page or click the "Donate" button below to make a donation using PayPal.
Financial support is always a good way to help this important ministry happen! You can mail a donation using this form, or you can donate online using PayPal or a credit/debit card by clicking the "Donate" button! All donations are tax-deductible, and either method will generate an email you can use for tax purposes.
Here is a video of our Bosnia IST Ministry shown at the 2013 New Jersey Synod Assembly
Here are the basics of the Bosnia IST. For more info, look throughout this site, especially under The Story tab.
A little about Bosnia, the war and its aftermath:
The country's full name is Bosnia-Hercegovina, but we usually shorten it to Bosnia. Bosnia is a small country, about the size of West Virginia, with a population of about 3.5 million people. An absolutely gorgeous country with beautiful mountains and rivers and forests. It’s in south-eastern Europe - if you’re looking at a map its just to the right of Italy. It is a country with a rich history dating back thousands of years. Many different cultures, ethnic groups and religious traditions coexist in Bosnia with the three largest being the Bosniaks (who are traditionally Muslim), the Bosnian Serbs (who are traditionally Orthodox Christian) and the Bosnian Croats (who are traditionally Roman Catholic).
It’s next to impossible to summarize a war in just a couple of sentences, but here we go: Bosnia was a part of a much larger country, Yugoslavia. In the 1990s Yugoslavia began to break up along regional/ethnic/historical lines. Bosnia was the third section of Yugoslavia to declared its independence, which sparked a civil war that lasted a little over 4 years, from 1992 to 1996. This war was never a war between the peoples, it was planned and perpetrated some nationalistic leaders. It was a brutal, terrible war that saw years-long sieges, massacres, concentration camps, rape camps, and more. In the midst of this horror there were countless acts of bravery, self-sacrifice, loving resistance and more. The war ended with a peace accord signed at an Air Force base outside of Dayton, Ohio.
The Dayton Peace Accord ended the fighting, but it established a very unjust “peace”. While in some places things are moving forward, many people and many communities still can’t recover from the war. Many war criminals are still at large (some even serving as police or in the government). Many refugees are still unable to return to their homes (16 years after the war!). Mass graves are still being found. In many places the ethnic groups are unable to live together. So many of the people in Bosnia want peace and reconciliation, but it is so hard…
Our Bosnia Ministry:
In 1998 (two years after the war ended) an ELCA congregation in Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod took a team of youth and adults to Bosnia to hold Friendship Camps (described below) for the children who survived the war. In 2000 this ministry moved to the New Jersey Synod where they began bringing multigenerational teams to Bosnia holding Friendship Camps throughout the country. These annual International Servant Trips (ISTs) are about 12 days in length. Since 2000 they have hosted 2 Camp New Hopes and over 160 Friendship Camps in about 35 different schools and orphanages with over 24,000 children participants!
NEW JERSEY SYNOD BOSNIA IST
Our Bosnia IST ministry is a ministry of healing, hope and peace. We work for those in two ways: 1. We hold Camps - New Hope and Friendship (occasionally with concerts); and 2. We live and make friends with Bosnian young people and adults and explore their beautiful, wounded country.
1. Friendship Camps. Our Friendship Camps gather children from the different ethnic groups for a half-day program that teaches peace-making and reconciliation skills, offers diversity training, and provides music and play therapy. We accomplish these through drama, cooperative challenges/games, music and servant projects, and lots and lots of fun, all the while having them do these things with children from different ethnic groups. And of course we spend as much time as possible simply being with them. Our Travel Team members usually return home with many new facebook friends!
Camp New Hope. Camp New Hope began in 2013 with a desire to bring together children and teacher from schools in different regions of the country. Our conviction was that incredible things will happen when we bring together people who want a shared future with their neighbors from different ethnic groups/religious faiths to live together for three days, all the while explore aspects of peace, reconciliation and hope through games, conversation, and visits to a church and a mosque. When we have this special mix of young teens and adults, not only the program time but the play time, meals, swimming and just hanging out becomes transformative. Camp New Hope has met and exceeded our expectations! Here is an excellent article in the July 13 Philadelphia Inquirer about our Camp New Hope by CNH Team member/leader Cindy Henry.
"This has been the best day of my life!" - Friendship Camp participant from Sarajevo
2. Living with them. With our Bosnia partners, young people serving as interpreters and adults serving as coordinators, we travel around the country by bus staying hotels and host homes. We visit sites important in the war (former concentration camps, massacre and mass grave sites, etc.) where we talk with survivors and local peace-builders (our heros and friends!). We visit mosques and churches and beautiful town centers. We tour and stay with local peace-focussed organizations. We also find time to relax, swim (sometimes), talk, dance, sing, worship and eat their wonderful food and lots of their even-more-wonderful ice cream! This aspect of the IST is critically important to us and our Bosnian partners and friends.
It's hard work. It's loads of fun and sometimes heart-breaking. It's life changing.
Things you can do:
JOINING THE NJ SYNOD BOSNIA IST
Our Bosnia IST is divided into to segments: the Travel Team and the Home Team. The Travel Team or those who prepare and travel to Bosnia serving as this ministry's hands and feet in Bosnia. The Home Team provides financial and prayer support for the trip, they make the sewing project gifts and decorated tote bags for the children, and donate other necessary supplies. Both teams are vitally needed!
Travel Team members are people ages 16 to 86 who are physically and emotionally healthy, have a passion for helping children and love peace. We are currently accepting applications for our 2017 Travel Team here. If you have any questions, please contact the Bosnia Ministry Coordinator Jason Reed.
The Home Team is made up of individuals, families, congregations, youth groups, school classrooms, Sunday schools, confirmation classes, choirs, camps and more! For the full list of Home Team opportunities, click here! If you have questions or want to help, please contact our Home Team Captain Cliff Konnerth.
Though the 2016 Bosnia IST is now completed, we are still short several thousand dollars, primarily due to the unforeseen increase in Camp New Hope numbers! To donate you can either contribute directly using PayPal through our "donate" link above, or you can send a check to:
New Jersey Synod
1930 Highway 33
Hamilton Square, NJ 08690
If you have any questions about this ministry, please contact the Bosnia Ministry Coordinator Jason Reed.