Randy and Katy Smelser

Americans living in Germany but citizens of heaven

FAT COW in Croatia and Bosnia

End of July and the beginning of August found us traveling to Croatia and Bosnia. Because of contacts through Katy’s Masters in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) we were involved with a program in 2015 led by Scripture Union. This a Christian organization around the world that encourages people to read the Bible. Our German missionaries in Africa worked with Scripture Union there and through them I was originally introduced to the organization.
The Scripture Union in Croatia sponsors “LLI – Leadership Lab International” and they asked us to come and help with a part of the program as teachers as to how to use English for ministry and as mentors.

Croatia – the first week we prepped the seven young people (19-27 years old from Albania, England, USA, and Estonia) of LLI for the English as outreach program for the following two weeks. Five stayed at the camp and did a week of International Camp (12-15 yr.olds) and then a week of English Camp (9-12 yr.olds). I preached one Sunday and one Sunday had a communion meditation. The second Sunday we went down to the river for a baptism. A girl who had come several years to camp wanted to baptized there at the camp. There is no church in her town.

This first week was filled with Katy teaching theory and then both of us helping practically how to combine a Christian Camp with an English Camp. The goal was that the quality for both would remain high. Non-Christians were attending both camps to work on English and so it was important to offer a proper English program. On the other hand kids from Christian homes and belief were coming to be strengthened in their faith. We also worked with two of the students who we would be traveling with to Zagreb and Bosnia to prepare for these two weeks of unknown.

For our second week we took two of the young people and added a university student from Zagreb and the COW team leader and went to Zagreb to work at a refugee center. We were called the FAT COW team. COW is a program Croatians had started, Camp On Wheels; basically VBS/camp program that goes to churches. And because we were not really sure what we were doing and where we were going until the last minute we added Flexible Adventure Team to COW.


The refugee center was an old hotel where 600-700 people live, 50-60 of those children. We were joined by 3 Iranian Christian refugees who translated into Farsi for kids from Iran and Afghanistan. Officially, we there to teach English and hygiene to the kids but we were allowed to use Old Testament stories. So we taught one day, for example, on not using bad words and cursing others. The story was Balaam and his talking donkey with our own cute talking donkey – Katy, ending with the example of once tooth paste is out of the tube it is impossible to get it back in, leading us to brushing our teeth. Two girls had a sketch every day about two tourists, which also fit the Bible story, and then there was a simple English lesson, games and crafts. We spoke in English and it was translated into Farsi and Croatian.

Fortunately we moved the program to the evenings when it was shady in the field where we did this behind the hotel. It was only a little over 100°F in the evenings in the shade!

Not only did we reach out to about 25 kids but also we had several adults who came by to see what we were doing and talk. One couple were there several times because they had started reading the Bible and were well on the way to believing in Jesus as the Son of God. We could encourage them every day. Another man started talking with Katy and told her that he was from N. Africa. Every American he had ever met would ignore him because of his race but we were different. And as it happened a group from Biola University (the Christian university where Katy got her MA) was there teaching English to adults in the mornings. He said those Americans were also real nice too, how’s come? Katy was able to explain that our God wants us to love all people and so because of our belief we are open to all people. He came back several times.

The second week of FAT COW we were in Bosnia with the Caseys. They got a group of MKs together and we did a four day VBS in a long hot (also over 100°F) afternoon and following morning. Everyone stayed over night at the Caseys – almost 30 people. The mothers enjoyed a time to talk all together. The kids enjoyed the program and something just for them. Quite often the kids do not have other believers to play with or go to church with. We also did a prayer walk and visited two Mosques and prayed in and over them.
One evening we had an English social for students of one of the workers. Quite a contrast in the group with one ex-Muslim teenager witnessing, one university student dressed in a mini skirt and low cut V neck and one very conservative Muslim woman showing only her hands and face. The conservative Muslim woman said she felt a peace there.

After the three weeks Katy and I took a day off in the Austrian Alps to decompress, relax and ready ourselves for the busy 10 days to follow.
Austrian Alps