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Authentic narratives fan a flame of hope for Balkan women

From small beginnings in Serbia and Croatia, TWR’s Women of Hope programs are helping listeners confront difficult issues and build confidence in Christ.

RADIO, MEDIA & MISSIONS AUTOR 350/Jade_Alger 21 DE NOVIEMBRE DE 2023 12:16 h
A dedicated group of women in Serbia and Croatia are seeing God move in their communities. From left to right: Biljana Dolić, Tatjana Dražilović, Hana Melinscek. / Photos: Ikonos Serbia.

While en route to visit Ikonos, TWR’s local partner organization in Serbia, I had very little idea of what to expect. What I did know is that God was at work through a small group of women, and my job was to capture their story.

After just a few hours with Biljana Dolić, who oversees TWR’s ministries for several of the Balkan countries, I already had a sense of God’s powerful hand on the ministry.

Biljana records TWR Women of Hope episodes in the Serbian language at her home studio in Pančevo, a city located just outside of Belgrade, Serbia.

Two other local Serbian women also serve as voices for the recorded audio programs, each passionately committed to seeing listeners freed by God’s love and grace. In Croatia, a similar story is unfolding.

From these small beginnings, women are finding their true identities in Christ and it’s a hope that is contagious.

[destacate] TWR’s Women of Hope programs give Biljana and her team a launching point for genuinely sharing Jesus’ message in their communities [/destacate] Many of the Balkan countries have a history of patriarchal traditions that often pressure women to conform to certain stereotypes and biases.

What I saw within this cultural context is a group of women who are voices of hope among the marginalized; women who aren’t afraid to speak authentically about difficult issues.

TWR’s Women of Hope programs give Biljana and her team a launching point for genuinely sharing Jesus’ message in their communities.

[photo_footer]Younger generations of Balkan women are excited to share Jesus through media. Left: Sara Dolić, right: Tijana Miloradović. / Photo: Ikonos Serbia.[/photo_footer] 

A young lady named Tijana Miloradovi serves alongside Biljana as one of the voices for Women of Hope in Serbia. Tijana shared a part of her story:

“My family is Orthodox. In Serbia, being Orthodox means that we always knew that God exists, but our understanding of spiritual things was limited to that. We celebrate saints – each family has their own saint who is seen as a protector of the family. Orthodox tradition is everything. But when I met Biljana’s son, Nikola, he introduced me to church and to God. I met God through him.

“Biljana introduced me to the Women of Hope podcast, which taught me things about God that I am now passing on to others since I am involved in the podcast now. I love it that every podcast has its own theme such as health, family or faith.

“In Serbia, it’s not very common to go to church, participate in small groups, or to even talk about faith in everyday life. People don’t typically talk about having a personal relationship with God.”

Tatjana Dražilović, another of the voices for the Serbian Women of Hope podcast, was named Woman of the Year 2020 in Serbia for having a significant impact through her strength and actions.

She’s the founder of the House of Opportunity, a non-profit home for young adults who don’t have parental care. At this temporary home, these young people learn to make beautiful handicrafts such as decorative candles, baskets and bookmarks.

“We also work with young women on the level of prevention, so they don’t become trapped in sexual exploitation,addictions and similar challenges. The young people living in orphanages or foster care situations are vulnerable targets for criminal groups,” Tatjana said.

Along the same lines, Tatjana wants to address tough topics such as infertility, both in future episodes of Women of Hope and by creating safe spaces where women can share openly.

“Ladies are hiding behind their professions and their hard work, ashamed to say anything about their struggle, especially in church,” she explained.

Hana Melinscek, coordinator for Women of Hope in Croatia, is yet another passionate member of the Balkan team. Over 23 years ago, Hana was liberated from drug addiction.

[destacate] In southern Serbia, Biljana and her team have a Roma recording studio where they’re sharing hope with disadvantaged Roma people, especially women [/destacate] After this life transformation, she spent 15 years serving God in a therapeutic rehab center for drug addicts. In Croatia, she’s opened a drop-in center where drug addicts receive psychosocial support.

She also spent five years in Serbia where she established a rehab center. “Every day, I’m in touch with needy women,” Hana said. “These women don’t have an identity, but I think they can build their identities through these Women of Hope programs. Each episode has a topic they can easily relate to.”

TWR was established in Croatia in 1969, yet Hana sees a potential to spread the word about TWR’s programs in local churches, and she’s looking for more women to join the ministry.

She knows that in Croatia, there are strong Christian women with amazing stories that others would benefit from hearing.

In both Serbia and Croatia, many Roma people are discriminated against, and if you’re a poor Roma woman, it can be difficult to find meaningful employment.

Because Roma communities tend to devalue academic pursuits, many Roma people don’t receive a higher education.

In southern Serbia, Biljana and her team have a Roma recording studio where they’re sharing hope with disadvantaged Roma people, especially women.

As I listened to Biljana Dolić and her team speak from their hearts, one thing was clear; spiritual seeds are being planted and God is watering those seeds.

These women are authentic, patient and determined. Biljana’s daughter, Sara, is even involved in the social media for Women of Hope.

“We have a lot of fans and I’m glad to see that we have a lot of women following us. It’s a good feeling,” Sara said. Now that the team is heavily involved in social media promotion, they are quickly gaining a lot of recognition.

[photo_footer] At the Ikonos office in Serbia, Biljana talks about her vision for the future. / Photo: TWR. [/photo_footer] 

Biljana has a dream to build a professional recording studio in Serbia where she can record testimonies for podcasts and videos, develop partnerships with other Christian media houses, and inspire young team members to connect with the Serbian youth.

When I asked Biljana about the future of TWR Women of Hope in the Balkans, she replied, “I can’t say that we’re a big ministry, but if you put a seed in the ground, you can’t expect to see a lot of fruit the next day. However, I can see that we’re on the right path because of the way these women have been called by God into this ministry. We have a lot of potential that we can build on.”

Jade Alger, writer and communication specialist for TWR Europe and CAMENA.




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