Danny - November 22
Rachel - June 14
Anniversary - September 3, 2010
Katelyn - July 6, 2011
Brianna - August 4, 2012
Rebekah - September 14, 2013
David - March 23, 2015
Monday morning May 13th, I was minding my own business, doing my Bible reading, getting ready to later finish up a lesson for Sunday school the next two Sundays, and I get a couple phone calls that threw us in a tizzy for a while. Let me explain about them.
A man named Marko Radojinić called, identifying himself as a journalist with a news outlet here named Blic. It is a big company (they claim they are the most read website in Serbia). He wanted to ask some questions about tracts we are putting out with the title, “This Could Be the Last 5 Minutes of Your Life”, which is a reprint and adaptation of a Fellowship Tract League tract. We started using these again last October, and by this point had gotten out many thousands of them, and we hadn’t had any major trouble with people except ruffling some feathers with some that received them who were mad about them. But, this journalist alleged it was causing trouble in a part of Belgrade that I had been in recently putting a lot of them out. He asked what religious organization we were with, and I said we don’t have one yet, not even having a group yet, it being just us with one guy that comes. He kept circling back to that question of us having an organization since he said he already checked to see if we are registered and did not find us. This was annoying that he kept going back to that, showing he wasn’t listening, but he demanded how do we have the right to put them out. I said we have freedom of speech, and as a citizen (I have dual-citizenship) I have the right to say what I want to say. I eventually got to cover the Gospel with him (surprisingly), though he said he read it and had looked at our website too. That was the end of the call…but I didn’t think it was over. On a hunch, I checked several times on their news site to see if the fellow would go and put out an article though he didn’t ask my permission to quote me and use it to put in print. He deceived me, because it only seemed to have been a cursory investigation about it, “just checking things”, not to actually publish anything (however, as can be seen from the article, there were many who called or contacted them about it though he never mentioned that to me). Well, he went and did it, publishing a detracting article at 8:25 PM Serbia time (where he actually misquoted and lied about several details too; please see the disclaimer). I figured out he published it when I noticed on our website an increased amount of traffic, which quickly passed more than we’d ever had on one day (the max before was 52 views, the total at the end of the day was 324! The next day it was 314!). I was stressed then, not knowing what was going on, or what would happen from it. Please see the screenshot of their main page (at the end) which was not long after they published the article. It was one of the most read articles for a little while. And then attached after that is the screenshot of the article in Serbian. The article picture is a composite because of their weird formatting as well as I cut off their sidebars that were terrible (they are an immoral news outlet, which is why I’ve never used them to read news!). I have also in this document below this put the translation of the article. I found out later that his article was repeated on a few mirror news sites affiliated with Blic.
That same day (Monday), a woman named Nataša Ristić from a TV station called me, asking that I would come the next day so that they could interview me about the tract. They actually had called about 20 minutes earlier than the fellow from Blic. The TV station startled me since I hadn’t understood what was going on, thinking it was a saleswoman, but it took me a little bit to figure out who it was and what they wanted from me. I agreed to come (Prov. 28:1), but I asked my cousin who has worked for the same TV station for 30 years to look into it. He did and assured me that it was nothing to worry about but that they wanted to look into it. I still did not know what it was all about. I came for the interview, they set up a camera and microphone, and asked me to tell a little about myself, why we were putting these tracts out, etc. I tried to put some Bible in it, quoting Mk. 16:15 as our authority for ministry, and did get Rom. 6:23 in there (but they cut out all that...). They aired that Thursday evening at 6PM (prime time!! and nationally!!). And this is RTS, the government TV station, which has a wide viewership! So, I was still stressed after the interview, not about what I said, but if I said it properly and that people weren’t going to come after us for it. The link for it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLPr1xmgelU. It was only a part of their program, but it actually was positive for us (Amen!), because it was a public acknowledgment, even by the government TV station, that we have the right to try to contact people in this way so we can try to have groups to teach and preach to. So, overall from the TV station it was helpful, and something I can refer people to in case they want to fuss about us. If you want to specifically see the segment it is (for the intro to it) from 2:50 to 3:05 (the meeting place is not ours), and the actual segment from 20:30 to 21:32. I have included the transcript below (my translation of it). The segment continues after that to show a Pentecostal guy from Nigeria’s church, and then a representative of the Ministry of Justice after that actually defending our right to try to meet and talk to people in this way, coming down on the side of freedom of religion (which is a part of the transcript as well).
Well, a policeman called me that Wednesday (the 15th), rooting around for information, apparently not knowing my name or anything though I thought he might have already been aware of the public news article. No, he was calling about that a woman had come in claiming I had threatened her (!). I explained what the tract was about, said I am a Christian and we get our message out like this. He said I am not to put these out anymore (which he didn’t have a right to say that since there is freedom of speech here, and freedom of religion). The next day, the police here where we live contacted me and asked me to come in about it. I brought tracts, knowing that’s what the issue was, and they had me sit down, explain a little about myself, about the tracts, which showed the woman was wrong in her claim. I found out that she claimed the tract said, “This IS the Last 5 Minutes of Your Life”, instead of “This COULD BE...” Ugh! I half-suspect all this about the tract was because of this one woman going crazy, calling the news outlet, the TV station, and then eventually the police. She either needs to learn how to read more properly, or she potentially was maliciously trying to lash back and cause trouble because she was offended (just throw it away then if that’s the case!!). There was actually two women that called us and threatened to call the police, one on that Monday (the 13th), and then another the next day because they were upset about the tracts. The second woman was the most serious than I had ever heard before (many others have threatened us with similar things because of putting out Gospel tracts) claiming she was on the way to the police to try to get me arrested and thrown in jail!! I’m not sure if the police report was from either one of these, but it could have been. Anyway, I think the policemen easily saw through her false report, and were only taking a statement from me about it, not saying there were any charges about it. Hopefully I’ve made good enough of an impression with them in case more people want to react the same that they will dismiss it!
I thought things had calmed down, but the next Tuesday (May 21st), I noticed we started getting a lot of traffic on the website all of a sudden. I find out through a friend that a different TV station (Prva TV) ran a segment on their morning programming about people receiving our tracts. This one unfortunately was negative. I was deceived by them though, because a woman emailed through our website the evening before, saying she saw the tract and was interested in how to get in contact with us, but that, more specifically, she wanted to know what kind of organization we are and if we are like JW’s. I say deceived because she did not identify herself other than her first name, not saying therefore she was a reporter for a TV program investigating about people receiving the tracts. She then without my permission reported the next day what she could find out on us, calling a sect/cult “expert” to interview about it, and was acting all agitated about it. The anchors too were feigning agitation, and of course this sect “expert” lied about it, claiming this was classic sect activity (surprising though he pegged us as fundamental Baptists! I’ll plead guilty to that!!), but no, no legal action could be taken about it since we were not doing any criminal act in putting out these fliers. He kind of begrudgingly admitted it, saying he would like it if there could be legal action against it. Such deception really is terrible to see—no investigative journalism in that, just gossip and rumors. They are like professional gossips!
Other than all this public kerfuffle (isn’t that a great word?), there hasn’t really been anything else as a result of it. My main thought through all this was, is there really no bigger news going on that they have to gang up on me, a little guy, and bully us around? Don’t they have bigger fish to fry? I can’t help but feel like how I imagine Mordecai felt like in Esther 6 when Haman had to do the celebration for Mordecai that he had haughtily expected for himself, and afterward Mordecai sat back down at the king’s gate, and probably said, perplexed, “What was that all about?!?” So, I can’t say anything is absolutely done with it, but I rejoice in that in a way the Gospel has gone out to a lot of people I may never meet or be in their area (several from foreign countries), that is, if they saw the article and our website address and came on it. Also, it has helped me realize the extent of our freedom (and knowing that we were not doing anything illegal), especially amazing that the government came in and said we weren’t doing anything wrong, and that we have that right. I hope that is as thorough of a look about it all (sorry if it’s too wordy), and I realize afterward that it actually wasn’t really all that big of a deal (though it was public slander in the Blic article and Prva TV program), although it seemed so in the moment. Thank you for your prayers for us. God bless you!
Blic article, published May 13, 2019, 8:25PM (English translation) (since I tried to keep to what was written some of my translation is not correct English [same with the transcripts]; the things in parenthesis are added for clarity; see screenshots below) “THIS COULD BE YOUR LAST 5 MINUTES” Residents troubled (by) BIZARRE FLIERS in (mail) boxes, and here who is hiding behind them Belgradians from many parts of the capital city did not hide (their) anxiety after in the last days in their (mail) boxes they came across fliers on which was written “This could be the last five minutes of your life”. After a series of calls and emails which arrived at the editorial staff of “Blic”, we decided to discover what it is about and ascertained that the fliers are shared (by) one unregistered religious association with, as they themselves say, “headquarters in the neighborhood of Belgrade”.
- It really does bother me when I see these fliers in the mailbox. Especially because young people can find them – said fellow-citizen Ivana V. Besides the offers of “free gift of eternal life which God offers that people would be prepared for death”, on the fliers is also found the address of the (web) site at which people can find out all of they preach (sic) of faith, as also the number of the telephone inasmuch as someone is interested “to accept Jesus Christ as saviour”.
On the Minister of Justice (web)site there is a list of all registered churches and religious associations in Serbia, but “Biblical Salvation”, which is the name of this association, is not found on it.
On their public site, in the part “Who We Are”, is that they are “true Christians, Biblical, born again Christians which live in Serbia, in the vicinity of Belgrade, and that they want to find others which are interested to learn more about God and the Gospel”. As they themselves state, that which they speak is from the Bible, Holy Scripture, that is, from God. This is, for them, old, ancient, Biblical Christianity, and not some sect/cult.
“They which assert to the contrary are presumptuous out of ignorance. If something does not derive directly from the Bible it is therefore not a sect (cult). It is a sect if it does originate from the Bible, which means, as for example, that so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect because they do not believe the Bible (we are not so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses)”, is on their site with an apology that they identify themselves.
The journalist of “Blic” called the telephone number from the flier and their site. - We don’t have an association and are not registered. We are only a family, I am a Christian and I share these fliers that we (may) find others and to help them to be ready for death when they come to it. That is the most important thing which we don’t know will happen, but we must be prepared – said for “Blic” a man which represents himself as Danijel Fos.
According to their words, “every resident has a right to spread the freedom of speech, and these fliers are a speech which is normal and which is from the Gospel”.
Disclaimer: There are several misrepresentations here, misquotes and wrong allegations. Much of what he said was true, but other things as that we have an organization/association and its headquarters is around Belgrade is a blatant lie even though I kept denying that statement from him on the phone call, and he even reported that I denied it (strange!). Saying the name of it is “Biblical Salvation” is a misrepresentation (an association that doesn’t exist)—that’s only the name of the website. Another thing is that he alleges I said every resident has a right to spread freedom of speech. I actually said that every citizen has a right to put out things like this because we have the freedom of speech. I did not allege this is a normal flier, but that fliers being spread are a normal part of the freedom of speech. Some of these disclaimers apply to the TV spots too.
Transcript from RTS Program, Beogradska Hronika, May 16, 2019 (in English)
(please contact us if you want to see the Serbian transcript)
Introduction (from 2:50-3:05)
Natasha: Fliers of religious associations with which they propagate their teaching most often end up in (mail) boxes. To the law they are the same as also the advertising for plumbers or fast food delivery. Is it important also for unregistered religious associations?
Segment (from 20:30-23:55)
Natasha: Now, fliers of religious associations with which they propagate their teaching most often end up in (mail) boxes. To the law they are the same as also the advertising of plumbers or food delivery. The law also orders that the right to make up your own mind on religion must be respected, and that the disturbance of public order and peace is not permitted. But, not also the manner in which religious associations will propagate their teaching.
Jelena: Daniel was born in America, but he has family in Serbia. With (his) wife and five children he came to Belgrade that he would preach, as he says, “Biblical Christianity”. He tosses fliers of his teaching into mail boxes that he would not trouble people.
Daniel: In essence I am alone...one person. We don’t have a group, etc. Well, if we get a group of
people, then we will follow that which is according to the law. And, because we are people who are obedient. And, I am a peace-loving man. Also, I want that which is best for others.
Jelena: The House of Peace has existed in Serbia already for ten years. They have their own building, they pay taxes and customs. The pastor earned a degree in political science and a doctorate of theology in Nigeria, where the headquarters is also of Redeemed Christian Churches of God. As he says, his church is represented in more than 190 countries in the world. In Serbia they are registered as a humanitarian organization.
The Nigerian: We are registered as an NGO, a charitable humanitarian organization, the House of Peace. That is a Christian humanitarian organization. We have a website, we have a page on social networks. People see us there, and in that way we promote our programs, or by interpersonal contacts.
Jelena: For a church or religious association to be registered, it is necessary that one hundred signatures be collected and (that) their documentation be in accordance with our Constitution and laws.
Minister of Justice rep.: (For) them to have more adherents they must find a way, as is said, to represent themselves to the people in a positive sense, to those whom they would desire to talk them into being members of their religious association, that is only by doing (something about it). Will they go with persuasion; people ordinarily do that with neighbors. We have one place where there are several churches and religious associations already registered. It is difficult that there doesn’t at all exist some uniform rules how they can operate.
Jelena: The law orders that the right to make up one’s mind (according to) religion must be respected, and that the disturbance of the public order and peace is not permitted. But, not also the manner in which they will propagate their teaching.
Minister of Justice rep.: The law has not resolved that question, but that is also as it is (with) every other advertising. You know, everyone who wants to offer something at the marketplace he (will) find a way, will he give you information through mail boxes, who(ever) can enter in a building, or will he rent a space, throw fliers in some of the daily pages about their activities, that is one of the ways.
Jelena: In Serbia in 1856 the first decree was issued about the activity of religious associations. Beside Serbian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, Jewish and Muslim associations, Evangelical and Reformed churches belong to traditional. In Serbia at the moment there are 32 registered churches and religious associations.
Transcript of PRVA TV Jutarnji program May 21st, 8AM (English)
(please contact us if you want to see the Serbian transcript)
The video is found at:
Jovana: “This Could Be the Last Five Minutes of Your Life”: sounds creepy, but that is written on fliers which people from different parts of Belgrade have received.
Srđan: Is it considered as a sect/cult, or as they say about a new religious organization, our Jelena is
checking that this morning.
Jovana: So, go ahead and show us that flier, how…how it looks, and…uh…what you found out.
Srđan: Is it a registered religious community, or not?
Jelena Nikolić: Good morning, Jovana, good morning, Srđan. Once again, good morning to all our viewers. We do not have the original flier, but these are photographs which arrived to numerous media offices in Serbia. It looks like this, therefore, “This Could Be the Last Five Minutes of Your Life”, and then there is a message which they send to all people which receive this flier. So now, (as to) exactly what is this about, we contacted a sect expert Dimitry Pastuović, and he is with us this morning and he saw the flier. He investigated the story. Good morning, Mr. Pastuović.
Dimitry: Good morning, good morning. Well, what do I know. I did not research (it), but it is approximately clear to me what this is about. A typical example, meaning, pseudo-Christian teaching, invitations, in…in…invitations…according to me it resembles mostly, let’s say, some fundamental…uh…fundamental Baptist organization.
Jelena: What does that mean? People are notifying us (about it), frightened. It was not agreeable to them when they received this kind of flier on which is written, “This Could Be the Last Five Minutes of Your Life”, and then they say that they are preparing them for death, that they would be ready when death comes.
Dimitry: More or less, it means, the same old story. But, what (shall) I tell you about it. It is not essential what…eh…what is said, but…oh…but who’s talking, and how that idea is represented. It really resembles to me…meaning…to me it is classical…classical…classical sect/cult activity.
Jelena: Ah, they say that they are not a sect/cult, that they are not like Jehovah’s Wit-…that they are neither like Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, we now checked if they are a religious organization which is registered; however, such a religious community does not exist. And then I sent them an email. Well, they answered that they do not have enough members, that they are now working on that to gather members…
Dimitry: Of course, of course they are working. That I may say this to you, which sect/cult ever identifies themselves a sect/cult. Certainly they will call…call…call themselves a church. They will call themselves some religious association. They will call themselves…a playhouse, or what do I know, but this definitely is a sect/cult. This is sect/cultic activity. I think, I browsed (through) this, what it is, a typical sect/cultic story, but typical.
Jelena: How (should) a citizen react when they receive this flier? When I sent them an email, here, now I will read it to you, “You are free to contact us here or by telephone…We are not those falsely so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are Christians who follow only that which is in the Bible. Then it is the reason for the title of the website that it is Biblical Salvation.” They even have a telephone number, name of a (web)site…
Dimitry: If I may ask you something, well, really also…the same Jehovah’s Witnesses, call themselves Christians. It means, all these, all these follow…some quasi-Christian teaching; however…uh…our people need to be circumspect when such…such organizations are in question, for, uh…they are very…uh…uh…very base urges at least I think are, are behind it.
Jelena: How (should) people react?
Dimitry: Well, not to…
Jelena: They say that they are also on the street and they received fliers, likewise in mailboxes in
their buildings. It means that people have entered into buildings and have tossed (them) into (mail) boxes.
Dimitry: Certainly…certainly, they entered, meaning, they probably also sent emails, probably also have missionary work, missionary work on the streets, and they probably lack a membership…well… Unfortunately, it is very easy to come to filling up their…their number of membership. You know, for our people are naïve.
Jelena: Now can this be reported to appropriate authorities…is this…?
Dimitry: On the basis of what…uh,uh…we don’t have an adequate law which would sanction it. They are not doing any kind of criminal act. I think that I would love that they could (be reported), but I think that they can’t.
Jelena: Just to watch out for own selves…
Dimitry: Just watch out…and that (you) watch out really well. These are very shallow ideas through which many, many, many things can creep up.
Jelena: Thank you very much. Jovana and Srđan, you have also seen these fliers which have appeared in Belgrade. Concerned residents have notified (about them). “This Could Be the Last Five Minutes of Your Life.” They say that they are not a sect/cult, religious community, are not registered neither as a religious organization, but that which they acknowledge is that they are gathering members and that they are located somewhere in the vicinity of Belgrade. As you have heard Mr. Pastuović, this can be a very dangerous story…and…it needs to continue…we need to continue to really work on this story. And these are the fliers. Here once again that I may show you.
Srđan: Yes, good. Thank you, Jelena. Thank you.