It just so happened: Miracles of mercy in Croatia 1992-2012

From left to right: John Thomas, Stevo Doreta, Rob James, Srecko Ilionisovic at the book launch

The Jews, wrote Jonathon Sacks, had a history longer and more remarkable than most. They were the first to find God in history and understand it as a coherent narrative rather than just a random sequence of events. In fact no people had ever insisted more firmly that history has a purpose and humanity has a destiny. But for all that, classical Hebrew had no word for history. Judaism it seems organised itself around the concept of memory rather than history; what happened to their ancestors had formed part of their experience and was their life-story too. They understood their past as part of their 'family history'.

Their experience of God taught them much and continues to inspire today. Christians can go one step further though, because they know that the God who revealed Himself to Moses and the Prophets revealed himself as fully as possible by becoming an ordinary human being who died a terrible death. But the story of Jesus did not end with His death, for God raised Him to life again and He is able to pour out His Spirit, the same Spirit who anointed His own earthly ministry.

Jesus once told His disciples: "As the Father sent me so do I send you". The Croatia Mercy Mission sought to take this challenge seriously and in the process generated so many memories that it would take more than one book to describe them ALL. "It just so happened" seeks to tell just a little of what followed when a former British Steel manager from Swansea "felt compelled to do something" to help victims of the brutal civil war that erupted following the break up of the former Yugoslavia.

"My book tries to describe how John Thomas became the catalyst for a mission that attracted the enthusiastic support of people throughout the whole of Wales," said author Rob James.

"Every day is special, although with hindsight some prove more significant than others. A few can even prove life changing. John discovered this one Sunday afternoon in December 1991 when he took his usual seat in his small adult Sunday School class.

"He could never have guessed that he would come out a changed man and that what took place in that tiny room would have an impact on thousands of people who were separated by hundreds of miles as well as language and culture.

"John is the archetypal human dynamo. Now in his early seventies, he had led a very active Christian life since the day he was converted in his late teens. But his most exhilarating experiences date from his mid fifties. John would have agreed that 'things don't just happen'. He had preached sermons about God's sovereignty for decades.

"He had lived a busy life as a husband, father, Telecommunications Manager and Church Elder in the firm conviction that there is such a thing as providence but John was about to discover that God can speak to us at the most unexpected of times as well as challenge us to get involved in the most unexpected activities. And when we do so we may experience things way beyond anything we thought possible".

Endorsing Rob James' book, Baron Anderson of Swansea writes: "He has captured both the spirit and the magnificence of all John Thomas achieved by suggesting that 'What begins as one man's literal obedience to promptings from God developed into a movement that embraced local people and churches, the BBC and even Manchester United. John Thomas, who is a great persuader, graciously steps into the background and brings centre stage all those who gave their services free, together with companies and donated materials."

Croatian Baptist Pastor Stevo Doreta, who was present at the launch of the book at the beginning of May added, "This is a story that must be passed on to the next generation. This mission has taught me to appreciate what the prophet Joel meant when he said 'Tell it to your children and let your children tell it to you children and their children to the next generation.' It has to be told because it is not the story of great and powerful people but about people with great hearts and powerful faith."

For copies of the book contact Pastor Rob James: pastor@wecpembroke.org

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