U Student Reflects on Experiences of Mission Trip to Bosnia


Sophie Felici

A pillow inside of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship house in Salt Lake City on May 18, 2023. (Photo by Sophie Felici | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By TJ Ross, News Writer


Every year the Christian ministry on campus known as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, travels to Eastern Europe through the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. Austin Eames, communications major, and seven other University of Utah students went on this mission trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina last summer.

The mission of the U’s IV Chapter, run by Chasen and Kelly Robbins, is to prepare students to live God-centered lives.

Robbins explained how he knew Eames would lead within IV shortly after meeting him, and wanted him to come on the mission.

“I immediately knew Austin would be a leader within IV after hearing his passion behind a relationship with Jesus,” Robbins said. “So I straight up asked him if he would go to Bosnia with us and he looked at me like I was crazy.”

A few months passed, and Eames found himself in Bosnia with Robbins and the other U students. 

Robbins explained the goal of the mission trip was to share the gospel with students at the University of Banja Luka using “relational evangelism.” 

“Relational evangelism allowed us to build relationships through teaching English, teaching American culture and hanging out in the dining hall,” Robbins said.

According to Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship, relational evangelism is a method of sharing the gospel by first building friendship relationships with “unbelievers” and then using the relationship as a basis for sharing the gospel with them.

During the trip, Eames said he hit a roadblock when trying to share the gospel because of the nominal Christianity in Banja Luka, as many people in Bosnia only attend religious activities on holidays.

“Banja Luka is a place where all religious practices are very nominal and heavily tied to ethnicity,” Eames said. “It is a place where if you’re Croatian, you’re Catholic, if you’re Bosnian, you’re Muslim, and if you’re Serbian, you’re Serbian Orthodox.”

Using help from Robbins and the local church, Eames learned how to connect with students at the University of Banja Luka when he met a student named Milenko.

“I met an amazing guy named Milenko who I still talk to to this day,” Eames said. “We hit it off.”

A mutual love for sports helped create the connection between the two.

“I brought an American football with me to Bosnia,” Eames said. “Milenko had heard about Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady but had never seen an American football.”

Eames spent the rest of the afternoon with Milenko, tossing around the football and creating a friendship.

“After that day, we shared our cultures with each other and we met each other’s friends,” he said. “We would meet for coffee, food, sports or just to hang out over the rest of our time in Bosnia.”

Eames explained how the relationship grew deeper than he expected.

“For us, our goal was to build enough of a relationship to eventually pass them off to a local young adult Christian ministry in Banja Luka, but we built a beautiful friendship,” he added.

The students from the U bought Milenko a Serbian Bible and highlighted their favorite verses.

The night after Milenko got his new Bible, he met with the IV students to study Mark 4 — a parable from the New Testament about a sower.

“After the Bible study, Milenko prayed over us, blessing us and thanking us for everything,” Eames said. “Which is crazy because it was not something we thought was going to happen when our relationship started.”

In June, Eames returned to his home at the IV house on campus and reflected on his trip to Bosnia.

“The whole trip broadened my perspective on the world and taught me how to love others,” he said. “I’m honestly super jealous I can’t go back this summer too.”

Two months after returning to the U, Eames received a photo from Milenko where he was attending a Bible study at the Ichtus Cultural Center, the local Protestant church, in Banja Luka.

Milenko now serves at the church and keeps in contact with his friends from IV.


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