The UMC’s work in the Vojvodina region (the northern part of what is now Serbia) was begun by German missionaries. German emigrants who had left their homeland and settled in this fertile region between the Danube and Theiss rivers to start new lives noticed them and invited them to come. Thus the first Methodist worship service was held in this region in 1898. Soon, the entire region was affected by a great awakening, and thriving new congregations were born (until 1904 exclusively among the German-speaking population, later among Hungarian speakers as well). But beginning in 1944, as a result of developments in the Second World War, the “Donauschwaben” or “Danube Swabians” were forced to leave the country or died in concentration camps. Since most pastors and members of the Methodist Church were members of this ethnic group, many churches were closed. It was a painful juncture in the Church’s history. One of the few positive aspects of this period is that the men and women who fled from Vojvodina took their faith with them to new countries, and thus founded new congregations.
However, the work of the Methodists in Serbia continued, albeit under more difficult conditions. The charitable and educational work was no longer allowed. Yet new congregations were founded among the Slovak, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croat speaking minorities. Just as in Macedonia, the “Bible women” played an important role in the growth of these congregations, and it is no coincidence that the second woman to be ordained a Deacon in the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe (Paula Mojzes, 1957) lived in what was then Yugoslavia. Under the pressure of the political situation at the time, several congregations of the “Blue Cross” also joined the Methodist Church in the 1950s.
Waves of emigration later led to the loss of significant numbers of members. Even today, following the political unrest, wars, and waves of refugees of the past years, many people, especially the young, see no hope for the future in their own country. The economy is weak, unemployment is high, and many people subsist far below the poverty level. Even groceries, electricity, and medicines are beyond the means of many people.
So spreading the Gospel must also mean living the Gospel and offering the people practical help (firewood, medicine, food). The congregations of the UMC do both. In a country that is searching for its identity, they overcome boundaries by caring for ethnic minorities, as in the evangelizing and social services for Rom which have been initiated in several places.
Today, Macedonia and Serbia are two politically independent countries, but the UMC congregations still form one organizational unit (Annual Conference) with two districts. However, due to the unfavorable economic situation, they are able to cover only about 10% of their own budget, and the lack of pastors is also a heavy burden, although this aspect is improving. With great dedication and faith in God, the members of the UMC accept these challenges.
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