Who Knows?

Central & Eastern Europe I have been wanting to write this particular story for quite some time. This is an amazing story, to which I cannot do full justice because it began a lustrum, at least, before I met this amazing man and will probably carry on long after I have the ability to write intelligently. (Yes, I know some argue that even now my faculties are slipping just a bit! I appreciate the reminder!) I have my first book due to be published by year’s end and in it I quote, Brad Collins. I list him as a Canadian Hockey Coach but that is just the tip of the ice (hockey ice that is). The quote I use in the book is very short and I have used it here as the title of this piece. Whenever confronted by one of life’s major questions, Brad would turn to look at me, usually as he was driving the van…  because while in Bosnia we seldom slowed down for more than a chance for coffee and then it was ‘on the road again’ and Brad would simply shrug his shoulders and say, “Who knows?”

Brad was not being flippant  as if the question was not worth pondering; but more that he had become resigned to the fact that for most of the major issues in the world, he had not been consulted by God as to how he, Brad, might handle them. Therefore,  Brad was more than content to allow God to take care of whatever it was.  Also, it was less of a question than it was a reminder as to Who it was that really KNOWS!

Brad first entered Bosnia during the war between the Serbians and the Bosniacs in the 1990’s. The plight of the refugees, particularly the children, touched him deeply and he knew then that God would return him to Bosnia to work with these children. And work he did! Beginning with a few used hockey sticks and even less money; he began putting up flyers around Ilizda and soon some boys began to watch this odd game that involved knocking a puck around with a stick and slamming it hard into the net to score a goal. That was something they had never seen and a sport they had not yet mastered. The growth was slow but over the years the Lord blessed the ministry and the Bosnia Herzegovina Sports Foundation sent young men to play in the International Floor Hockey Championships and Brad and his senior players were hosted on Hockey Night in Canada The teams were visited by John Vanbiesbruck in Sarajevo, and the NHL Players Association provided them with equipment and training the likes of which they had never seen. Tough love was what welded the hearts of these mostly Muslim, but some Serbian, boys to Brad’s and over the years through tough times and good; the boys became men and they taught a new generation of young players and not just in one city but in three. I would guess that easily a thousand kids have been touched by ‘Coach’ and he was touched by every one of them.

Not very long ago, God provided an amazing help-mate for Brad. Bethany, his wife came alongside and has been an inspiration and  breath of fresh air to the musty old locker rooms normally the site of much of Brad’s life lessons! Bethany  can now work with the girls and those who like music, love to sing and play musical instruments. It took a host who just kept inviting and a blizzard that kept her from fleeing; but it truly was God that brought she and Brad together.

Some tough days are ahead for Coach as he is back in Canada now, waiting in a hospital in St. John’s New Brunswick for a triple by-pass involving the major vessels of his heart. He has another serious blockage in his carotid artery as well. I expect to be with Brad and Bethany in a few days and I know, without a doubt, if I would look at Brad and ask him what he thinks the outcome will be, he would say, “Who knows?” He really is saying that he knows Who knows and that is quite alright with him. As long as God has charge of every detail, there will not be a single detail missed.

I’m going to challenge Brad with a video I saw just recently. It is a hockey goal I want Brad to master while he is recovering from his cardiac surgery. A young boy standing on the far side of a pond with a hockey stick and a puck… the pond is not frozen, in fact it is the middle of summer. He slaps that puck and it goes skimming across the pond, up the bank on the far side and striaght into the net that he has set up! I know Brad will have to practice it quite a bit so, just to make it tougher, I’m only going to give him one puck. If it sinks while he’s practicing, he’ll just have to go get it!

There are few men on this earth that I consider very dear friends and brothers. Brad is one of those I cherish the most. Join me in saying some prayers for Coach and for his bride, Bethany as they go through this week together. How quickly will Brad be able to send that puck across the pond and into the net after this tough surgery… Who knows?

Brad and Bethany

Brad & Bethany

Bosnia Bound

In 2003 an entire set of coincidences (those are miracles in which God chooses to remain anonymous), I found myself for the first time in Sarajevo Bosnia. I fell in love with the ministry there, with our M on the field and the boys with whom he works. God has at a minimum tripled the number of individuals (now including females) with whom our ministry team (that is Brad and his dog Bela for now) are serving.

I have continued to return regularly, now fulfilling a role with ABWE as the ‘team leader’ of team Bosnia which also includes the New Hope Baptist Church in Tuzla that is in part supported by some folks through ABWE and through other sources as well; and now with the church in Zenica, pastored by a Brazilian ‘M’ with TEAM International. In both Zenica and Tuzla there are orphanages with which the ministries are doing outreach.

We have a family on pre-field trying to raise support to go to Bosnia. They  are the Wilson’s, Rob, Sally and Brent. Also, visiting Bosnia for the first time this January was Bethny Kent of Omaha Nebraska.

You may have heard recently of the record snow fall in Bosnia and across the Balkans. I am providing a link here to Brad’s January/February Prayer Letter. In it are several photos, notice the one of Brad shoveling snow. See the tire behind him? There is a full size van (orange) attached to that tire. Can you find the van?

Please pray for Brad and the work there. Pray fr Pastors Zeljko to God will direct his every path; for Pastor Walter that God will protect him from the evil one. Pray, too, for the Wilson’s to receive the help and direction they need; for Bethany as she contemplates coming to Bosnia to join the team there.  PLEASE pray for all the boys, those mentioned expressly and for those whose names were not mentioned, there are over 150 of them. Now, too, pray specifically for the girls being touched by the outreach and for women all across Bosnia to hear and respond to the gospel.

To reach Brad’s prayer letter and see the amazing pictures, go to: www.riggs.abwe.org/Bosnia

Bible Study at Brad's during power outage