A Very Sweet Day in Serbia Mission 2.0 (07/24)
Most of the HOPE Serbia Team being rejuvenated in Montenegro, and one of our members (Amauche) having already returned back home, Taekyung and I stayed back in Belgrade for various reasons for couple of days. Today (Friday) couple of the boys were supposed to come by around 10:30 AM to take us to the Blok 70 (Chinese Shopping Mall) to purchase few items for next week’s Camp for Serbian youth. By 9:30 AM, some of the kids begun to come to the church and by 10:30 we had 15 of them waiting for us.
The plan for the day apparently was quite lofty. We will go cross the town to the only Korean restaurant in Belgrade, then we will go to Blok 70 for some shopping, then to Delta City (giant indoor shopping mall) to hang out and then see a movie (Inside out). Afterwards we were planning to go to ‘Viva restaurant’ for the amazing burgers that we had yesterday.
Sixteen of us got on to a bus then transferred 5 times to tram/bus to get to the Korejska Kuca (Korea House) for the lunch. It took us about 1.5 hours and it was over 100 degrees. But we were all in good spirit and enjoying the company. It was a nice restaurant and the food were quite authentic with a decent price. I was surprised to find a Serbian blond lady speaking almost fluent Korean and she was the owner of the restaurant. The food was good and the service was great. I saw number of Korean tourists filling up all the seats on the first floor. Kids knew what to order. Many ordered Lamyun (noodle soup) and Dol-Sot Bi-bim-bap (hot stone rice bowl) along with Kim-bap (Korean sushi with eggs, vegetables & beef). Each dish was around 500 dinars ($5) which is about the price of a movie in Serbia. Then, Taekyung and I realized that they have planned that today they will treat us, and that they would not let us get anywhere near the cashier. And they would not be denied.
The lunch took us little long, so we have decided to go to the Delta City. While on the way to the Delta City, one of the girls who picked up her text books from her International School lost her books on the way. With her panicking and tracing her way back to find the books, some of us took time to pray for her to find her books. She did find her books. Praise the Lord!
Anyhow, the interesting (?) thing happened while we were transferring to other bus that a bus transportation officers were randomly checking the bus passes of the passengers. The girl who went looking for her books had one of the group bus pass and we got into trouble. They told us to get off the bus and began to threatened to call the police to put five of the us to jail unless we pay 10,000 dinars ($100) as the fine for five people not having bus passes. There were much confusion, language & communication issues (since most of the students were recently immigrated kids), heated words, and blatant racism by the officers (white officers), and conflicting information. The officer told me in her broken English that in her country anyone above 7 years old should have a bus pass. The students contended that her teachers at the international school told them that students do not need to have a pass. Some of the kids were upset and with tears. Others were angry at the unjust treatment. They told me that they were always treated like that. Some of them were born and raised in Serbia but still outsiders. I ran across the street to get money exchanged to Serbian dinars and I did pay the fine for the five of us. I rather pay $100 than loose time on spending with the kids. The kids felt so terrible that I paid the fine. In the end, everyone chipped in to pay the fine.
We did get to the Delta City just in time for the movie. It was so good to get out of 100 plus degree heat into the shopping mall. They insisted on paying for our tickets. I was looking forward seeing “Inside Out” having heard wonderful reviews from everyone I know. The movie was in Serbian with no subtitles. The story line was clear and the movie was quite understandable, and I have to admit that I still cried watching the movie. I told myself that I should definitely see it again when I get back home.
It was already getting late, buy they wanted to feed us. They did find the amazing hamburger place, and it was even more amazing! The hamburger was double meat in a tasty bread with tomatoes, lettuce, and olives (I thought they were jalapeno peppers). It was huge bigger than a double whopper, and the meat was so fresh and tasty. Of course, they would not let us get near the cashier again. They would treat us. These were kids 11 to 18 year old. We felt both terrible and thankful. We felt so loved and honored.
One of the girls (Shinan) kept asking us whether we are coming back next year. She was the girl who has never met a Christian until the camp and who boldly said that she was an atheist. But, she was touched by God, moved by God and now believes that there is God who loves. She told me that she will come to camp next year if I come back. Couple of the kids were the ones who thought of not staying for the evening worship service because we preached about Jesus on Monday night. I saw so much joy in their eyes and I am so thankful at what God has started to do in them. I saw a group of youth quickly becoming a community because of the gospel of Christ.
Taekyung and I spent 10 hours with the students today. It was probably the sweetest day I ever had with teenagers. We didn’t speak same language. The communication was difficult. But, I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent with these beautiful ones. I have come to love these kids and that they came to love us as well. All because of the gospel of Christ shared. Brothers and sisters in Christ.