[Thursday 12 September] A few days ago I was given a paperback book that I had not seen before. I did not recognize the title: Vera Korak Za: Kako najti Boga in Sebe. After a somewhat close inspection I discovered the book was a translation in the Slovenian language of my book: Faith—Step by Step: Finding God and Yourself that appeared a few years ago simultaneously in Dutch and in English. In the meantime it has been published in about ten languages—to which Slovenian has now been added. I learned that the book came off the press about a year ago, but the church in Slovenia had not thought about telling the author (let alone asking for his permission), and had not yet sent him some free copies. Well, this is not the end of the world and to be honest: the cover of this Slovenian edition looks a lot more attractive than that of the Dutch and the English versions.
Speaking about publishing: since last Sunday evening I am immersed for a few days in Adventist publishing. On behalf of the Dutch Adventist Church I am attending the bi-annual meeting of the people in the countries that belong to the three European regions of the Adventist Church who are involved in the production and distribution of Adventist books and periodicals. The meetings are held in the facilities of the theological seminary of the church in Belgrade (Serbia). The students will return next week from their summer break, and thus most of the eighty or so participants can stay in the student dormitories. However, since there is no space for all in the dormitories, and since in the past I stayed here several times (and since I do prefer a bit more luxury), I gladly volunteered for a room in the nearby Best Western Hotel.
It is certainly interesting to be back in Belgrade. I visited this city quite regularly in the period that I worked in the regional office of the church in Britain. This was in the time of the Balkan wars and during the difficult years that followed. It is clear that much has changed in Belgrade, even though some of the ruins caused by the 1999 NATO bombardments remain. Serbia is in the midst of the process of becoming a truly European country. The poorly dressed older women in their somber dresses and their dark headscarves have well-nigh disappeared from the Belgrade streets.
Wednesday morning someone came to my hotel at 7.15. I was to give a talk at the morning devotions in the Serbian Adventist church headquarters elsewhere in Belgrade. It was a great pleasure to meet pastor Djorge Trajkovski, who was recently elected as the president of the church in Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro. When I first met him in 1995 he was the leader of the small church (500 members) in the Republic of Macedonia. Together we had to face a schism in the church that caused a great deal of havoc.
Most of the problems of the nineties are now distant memories. The Serbian Adventist Church with its roughly 10.000 members is a dynamic organization. Our visit on Tuesday afternoon to Euro Dream—the new publishing/printing house and media center of the church, some 30 kilometers outside Belgrade—may be the best example of this dynamism. In a new factory with office building some twenty (and sometimes more) employees work in shifts to produce Adventist publications (and soon also visual and audio products). It should be added that the firm also accepts commercial work from outside and also prints for other Adventist publishing houses elsewhere in Europe. The fact that no less than some 25 new titles appear each year in the Serbian language is truly amazing.
Tomorrow morning I intend to fly back to Amsterdam. After a few days at home, I will drive (together with my wife) to the Adventist educational center in Florence (Italy), where I am to teach an intensive course on the ‘doctrine of the church.’ I look forward to it. Florence is not a bad place to be.