As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
Samuil Petrovski, President of the Serbian Evangelical Alliance, and General Secretary of the IFES Serbia writes about the Nick Vujicic’s visit to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro last spring.
We were honored and blessed to host Nick Vujicic’s second Balkan speaking tour this spring. Nick first visited Serbia in 2012, speaking before thousands in Belgrade and Novi Sad, and 30,000 watched his talk at the Belgrade Law Faculty online.
In addition to thousands hearing a Gospel message of hope, another major benefit of Nick’s visit has been a means of introducing EUS, opening doors to new opportunities and partnerships.
Nick Vujicic , who was born in Australia to Serbian parents, is, along with world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic, the best-known Serb, and is a household name in Serbia. Everyone, from our relative and friends to cashiers, taxi drivers, and government officials, has heard of him and reacts positively when we mention that EUS served as the main organizer of both of his visits.
EXIT, one of the largest music festivals in Europe, held annually in Novi Sad, surveyed Serbian high school and university students about whom they admire most, and Nick was #2 on the list of global heroes for university students and #10 for high school students.
Based on the incredibly positive response we received to Nick’s first visit, we were excited to welcome him again this spring. From April 16th to 21st he visited and spoke in seven cities in three countries, speaking before over 24,000 people, and reaching tens of thousands more through appearances on most, if not all, major local TV channels and newspapers in the cities he visited.
The tour started on April 16th in Skopje, Macedonia, where Nick spoke before an audience of over 6,000. The next day, following media appearances, he flew to Belgrade. On the way, he was interviewed by the Air Serbia inflight magazine, Elevate, and the interview appeared in the magazine’s May issue. All of Nick’s flights on this Balkan tour were sponsored by Air Serbia.
Upon arriving in Belgrade, Serbia on April 17th, Nick participated in a televised book promotion and press conference at 18:00 in Usce Shopping Center, followed by an appearance on a popular evening talk show.
On April 18th Nick spoke before an audience of over 4,000 in a packed Spens hall in Novi Sad, Serbia in the afternoon. The audience for the talk was mainly composed of high school and university students. This served as the kick-off for a week of evangelistic events organized by EUS in Novi Sad, with talks each evening at a cafe on the University of Novi Sad campus. The events were well-attended, thanks in large part to the opportunity we had to promote them during Nick’s talk. You can read more about the impact of the evangelistic events, which served as a wonderful follow-up to Nick’s talk, here.
That same day Nick had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and then in the evening he spoke in Kragujevac, Serbia before an audience of over 3,000. “The packed house at ‘Hala Jezero’ sports arena laughed, cried and prayed with Nick,” shared James Scivally, the main organizer of the Kragujevac event. “The speech by the man who, in spite of enormous physical challenges, has managed to overcome every difficulty in life, did not leave any visitor unmoved.
Through humor and optimism, Nick’s presence awakened desires for everyone to explore who they are and the point of their existence, because true happiness comes only when we realize who we really are and what life is all about. The citizens of Kragujevac, for the first time, had the opportunity to be part of this kind of story, whose message was to never give up on your dreams.
The over three thousand in attendance were completely drawn in as Nick shared his life story. Nick showed that we should not deviate from our desires, even if you doubt if they will ever come true. Every failure is a new lesson that should give us the strength to try again.”
This was a humanitarian event, all the collected funds will be used to support people with special needs. Over 1000 New Testaments were given out at this event and a Nick Vujicic book club was started after this event by members of the Nick Vujicic planning team in Kragujevac. A video recording of Nick’s talk in Kragujevac is available here. Nick also spoke at the Red Cross and Iskra Sports center for people with special needs in Kragujevac on the morning of April 19.
In both Novi Sad and Kragujevac a large number of Christian and secular organizations partnered together to organize Nick’s events, including multiple student organizations. We are looking for ways to build on our partnerships with these organizations and for opportunities to organize other events with them that will allow us to share a Gospel message with more young people in these cities.
On April 19th, Nick returned to Belgrade to hold a closed talk for 400 high school students on bullying in the afternoon. Unfortunately, this is a topic that does not receive a lot of attention in Serbia, therefore this event was key in drawing attention to this increasingly important subject. The event was organized by EUS in partnership with the Ministry for Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Social Policy.
The next day, April 20th, Nick participated in a promotion of his father's, Boris Vujicic’s, book, Raising the Perfectly Imperfect Child organized by ComTrade, Vulkan Publishing House, and EUS. Telegraf, a major Serbian newspaper, covered the event here.
On the evening of April 19th, Nick spoke before an overflowing audience in Nis, in southern Serbia. About 6,000 attended this public talk. The local churches were greatly encouraged by the response and hope to organize similar evangelistic events in the future.
On April 21st Nick spoke at a closed event in Niksic, Montenegro for people with disabilities from Montenegro and Republika Srpska in partnership with SPC, Bible Christian Fellowship Niksic, and EUS Montenegro. This was significant as people with disabilities face a lot of stigma in Montenegrin society, and Nick’s talk helped give them the dignity they need and deserve.
That evening, Nick held his final public event of the Balkan tour in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. About 6,000 were in attendance, almost 1% of the entire population of Montenegro! We were grateful for and excited by the response to Nick’s visit there and hopeful that much fruit will come of it.
Everywhere Nick spoke it was clear that his words had a huge impact – large portions of the crowd in each venue cried or showed emotion as he spoke, and every time he spoke he mentioned his faith and the hope that God can offer. Because his tour took place in the weeks preceding Orthodox Easter, he took the opportunity to mention the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection and what it means for each of us.
At several events he prayed and gave clear invitations for audience members to put their faith in Jesus. Nick’s unapologetic Gospel message and widespread acceptance make him unique, and we are grateful for the opportunity we had to host him and help him spread his message in the Balkans, and look forward to many more opportunities to do so in the future. In the meanwhile we invite you to join us in prayer for those who heard the Gospel as a result of Nick’s visit this year, that the seeds that were planted would grow and bear fruit!
ABOUT SAMUIL PETROVSKI
Samuil Petrovski lives in Belgrade, Serbia, where he serves as the General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students for Serbia, and as the President of the Serbian Evangelical Alliance. He is also a member of the board of the International Christian Fellowship in Belgrade and one of the leaders of Koinonia Christian Fellowship.
He studied economics at Belgrade Business School and has a Master’s in Leadership from Singidunum University in Belgrade. Samuil is also a member of the organizational committee for the Balkan Prayer Breakfast, through which he builds relationships with politicians from the region, sharing the Gospel with them and encouraging them in their faith. He has a wife, Nada, and a daughter Lara (age 8) and a son Filip (age 2).