Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia

South-East European Union Conference

 

 south east european union

Organised in 1925, reorganised in 1992
Territory: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia
Subfields: Bosnia & Herzegovina Conference, Macedonian Mission, North Conference, and South Conference
Churches: 210
Address: Radoslava Grujica 4, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Website: www.adventisti.net
Email: [email protected]

Bosnia and Herzegovina Conference

(Formerly known as West Conference)
Organised in 1965, reorganised in 1995 and 2015
Churches: 23
Address: Milana Rakića11, 51 000 Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Website: adventisti-bih.info
Email: [email protected]

 

North Conference

Organised in 1925
Territory: Vojvodina Province of Serbia
Churches: 88
Address: Papa Pavla 12, 21 000 Novi Sad, Serbia

South Conference

Organised in 1931
Territory: Montenegro and the central and southern portions of Serbia
Churches: 84
Address: 7 Juli 19, 18 000 Niš, Serbia

 

The history of churh in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia

J F Huemergardt, the pioneer of the Advent message in Hungary, also pioneered in Banat and Bačka (Northern part of today’s Serbia). In 1901 he visited the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, for the first time. In 1904 he visited the Serbian village of Mokrin (Banat), where there was a small group of people who had accepted the Sabbath as the day of rest through the witness of a young watchmaker who travelled from village to village plying his trade. They were soon baptised and became the first members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Banat.

In 1905, in Kumane, another Serbian village, 75 miles north of Belgrade, a Serbian peasant, Sava Eremić, read in his newspaper that a baker in Germany had found a peculiar religion that prohibited his baking bread on Saturdays. After reading this, the man said to himself: “This man from Germany is right. According to the Bible, the seventh day is the Sabbath and not the first day of the week.”

He wrote a letter to the British and Foreign Bible Society asking for the address of the Sabbath-keeping people. He was informed that such people were living in Hamburg. So, he addressed a letter: “To the Sabbath-keeping people in Hamburg,” and it safely reached its destination.

This letter was sent to J F Huenergardt with a request that he visit Kumane. He was soon on his way to meet Eremić and other who had become interested in learning more about the Sabbath. Not being able to speak to them in their own language, he was obliged to find an interpreter. The village barber, Lazar Sijačić, was the only one in the community who was able to speak both Serbian and Hungarian. In the course of the studies the interpreter became so interested that he closed his shop on the busiest day of the week for him and joined in the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath.

That same year Huenergardt baptised eight in this village and organised the first Serbian Seventh-day Adventist church. This small group was entrusted to the care of a Romanian preacher, Peter Todor, who knew the Serbian language. A few years later Todor died of tuberculosis, but other young preachers, Robert Schillinger and his two younger assistants, Albin Mocnik and Max Ludewig, dedicated their lives to the proclamation of the Adventist message among the South Slavs.

In 1893 L.R. Conradi together with Joszef Szalay, pastor of the Reformed Church in Veliki Bečkerek (now Zrenjanin, Serbia) formed the Adventist Reformed Evangelical Society, which contributed greatly to spreading Adventist literature in Serbian and Hungarian. John F. Huenergardt (1875-1955), a young minister at the time, was sent from Cluj in 1898 to follow up the many interests aroused by this literature. He was soon assisted by Peter Todor, first Serbian missionary. As a result, four churches were founded in 1906.

Following a decision in July 1908 during the European Conference in Friedensau, four men, all German speaking, were sent to work among the South Slavs. Soon Adventist communities were formed in Belgrade and Ribare (Serbia); and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina); and Maribor (Slovania).

However, apart from the Vojvodina (now northern Serbia), where different religious and national communities had grown accustomed to centuries of co-existence, the planting of Adventism was extremely difficult. In addition to language barriers and cultural and national differences, the socio-political instability in the region made all the political powers very nervous and change in the status quo. The desire of the established religious communities – Catholic in Croatia, Orthodox in Serbia and Macedonia, and Muslim in Bosnia and Herzegovina – to maintain their monopoly made it extremely hard for Adventists to evangelise. Nevertheless, despite the opposition, Adventism gradually took root in the region.

Some of the first pioneers in Bosnia were Pastor H F Schuberth from Germany and Albin Mocnik from Slovenia who came in the year 1910 to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and had several evangelistic campaigns.

As a result of this evangelistic effort two persons were baptised into the Seventh-day Adventist Church with further three following shortly afterwards. These five first Adventists in Bosnia and Herzegovina were Germans but out of this core group, the Adventist Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina grew rapidly.

In later years, another pioneer by the name of Milan Šarcanski was visiting towns and villages around the country selling books. He recruited a few individuals to help him with this and led this colporteur group. As a result of literature evangelism, several churches were established in the country.

In autumn of 1931 the first theological school was opened in Belgrade under the patronage of the charity organisation ‘Preprod’ (Renewal). In 1932 the ‘Seminary for General Education’ moved to Zagreb, under the patronage of the ‘Samarićanin’ (Smartian). The school closed in 1942 because of the Second World War.

Publishing and literature-evangelism also flourished, especially in the 1930s. The first publishing house opened in 1919 in Novi Sad. In 1921, A.G. Daniells, GC president, visited and helped to enlarge and modernise the facility which moved to Belgrade as ‘Izdavačka Knjižara Preporod’ (The Revival Publishing House). Another publishing house, Život I Zdravlje (Life and Health), was opened in Zagreb in 1938 to supply Adventist literature in the Croat-speaking areas (Croatia, Bosnia and Dalmatia). The faithful literature evangelists, under their long-serving leader, Živa Krdžalić, encountered much opposition, especially from religious leaders. They were often imprisoned, tortured, and their literature confiscated. Nevertheless, while charity work largely improved the Church’s reputation, the literature-evangelist work undoubtedly contributed to the church’s numerical growth – the membership increased from 245 in 1921 to 4,024 in 1940.

One of the greatest drawbacks to the work in this period was the lack of meeting halls. Barns, cellars, and kitchens, the usual places of worship, were not large enough, neither were they particularly attractive for visitors. Renting halls in order to conduct religious meetings was illegal.

Generally speaking, Adventists did not enjoy widespread sympathy. Even after 1930, when the Church was granted legal recognition, they were still oppressed and harassed. They were tolerated only in places where the local authorities viewed them as good citizens.

The Church was forced to go underground. In many towns the places of worship were confiscated and turned into convalescent homes for the supports of the new government. Therefore, meetings were usually held in homes of Sabbath school teachers or church elders. The publishing houses were closed, and literature-evangelist activities suspended.

The immediate post-war years were marked by unrelenting Communist hostility toward all churches, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Communist repression took several principal forms: harassment and imprisonment of church leaders, nationalisation and expropriation of the Church’s already diminished property, infiltration of churches and monitoring of services by the secret police, and high taxes. Adventists were also expected to work and keep their shops and business open on Sabbath. Parents paid heavy fines for not allowing their children to attend school on Sabbath. Some children repeatedly failed classes because the final examinations were set on Saturdays. Adventist young men endured special hardships whole doing military service. In addition to this, the building of new churches and restoration of old ones was nearly impossible. Nevertheless, thanks to the forceful influence of Radoš Dedić, the Adventist secretary for Religious Liberty and Public Relations, the Church was able to gain greater freedom for its members.

The Church opened the first theological school in post-war Yugoslavia in late 1955 in Belgrade. And in 1956 the Church begun to publish the official Church paper Glasnik (Herald) and other religious literature.

In 1970 a secondary school was opened in Maruševec, Croatia. Four years later the theological school was moved from Belgrade to Maruševec, thus making the Adventist Seminary there and educational centre for Adventist youth from all over former Yugoslavia.

Since 1970 an Adventist Bible Correspondence School has provided two courses, the ‘The Voice of Hope’ religious radio programmes, which were broadcast in six languages from the Adventist radio station in Portugal.

In 1989 Adventist established a branch of ADRA, officially registered as a Seventh-day Adventist Church legal entity. Within a short time ADRA became the second largest and most efficient religious charity organisation next to CARITAS, the major Roman Catholic charity. The work of ADRA proved to invaluable during the Balkan war in the 1990s.

The hostilities between Serbs and Croats which erupted in 1991, and later spread to Bosnia, tremendously affected Church activities in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not only were many church members made refugees, but much church property in those conferences were destroyed or damaged. With Slovenia taking independence and other republics following suit, it was apparent that drastic organisational changes within the Adventist Church were also needed to accommodate the new developments. In 1992 the Adventist seminary in Maruševec, for many years the centre of the Adventist educational work for all Yugoslavia, became a Croatian school. Union leadership then opened a seminary in Belgrade. The first Serbian students graduated in 1996 in the presence of Robert S. Folkenberg, the General Conference president at the time.

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Macedonian Mission

Established in 1993
Territory: North Macedonia
Churches: 15
Address: Hristijanska Adventisticka Crkva, ul. Vlae 42, 1000 Skopje, Macedonia
Website: www.adventisti.org.mk

The history of church in North Macedonia

In 1880 the first Adventist pioneer, Andreas Seefried from Germany, arrived in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia to distribute Bibles. At that time Macedonia was under the occupation of Turks as part of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. Seefried was extremely successful in this colporteur work, which received the attention of the officials and the resistance of the Islamic clergy. At that time, Islam was the official and only religion in the region, so Seefried was accused of blasphemy and put into prison in the Skopje Fort known as Kale. As an educated and responsible person, Seefried was allowed to move from cell to cell and deliver food to the prisoners from time to time. This gave him the chance to meet people – to talk with them and share the good news of salvation. Carrying his Bible constantly with him, he was known as “the man with the black book”, and also as a man of comfort among the prisoners. These were the first evangelistic efforts in Macedonia.

The first immediate result was that one prisoner of an Albanian nationality at the age of 82 years was baptised. After two months into his prison sentence, Seefried was released and he went back to his old job selling Bibles. Very soon he got in contact with the Turkish Pasha – the highest ranking Turkish official and the commander of the district of Skopje. The Pasha purchased a Bible and the two became good friends. Pasha asked Seefried for Bible studies and soon Pasha accepted Jesus as his Saviour and became a Christian. This stirred much attention and caused great tensions in the region among the Muslims, and he was called to return to Istanbul to give an official report to the Sultan regarding his new religion.

Meanwhile, Seefried was again falsely accused, put into prison and sentenced to death. The execution was to take place at noon on the very day when the Pasha of the district of Skopje was supposed to return to Istanbul. Learning about Seefried’s destiny, he hurried to prison and managed to save his life.

During the same year of 1880 another light was lit in other parts of Macedonia – in the town of Strumica and Radoviš. A young American physician, Dr Garabet Jeram, came to Strumica to work as a Turkish Army doctor and officer. Several years later he left the army service to become a civilian doctor and moved to Radoviš – 25 kilometres away from Strumica. Later on, he reported to the editor of the Review and Herald that by his evangelistic effort, twelve families accepted the Adventist message and the first Adventist Church was established in Radoviš.

The selling of religious literature in Macedonia was the main tool in evangelism. Zilva Krdzalic and some other colporteurs were among the first engaged in this type of ministry with great results.

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