It was 1996, and our family had just moved from the safety of Italy to a somewhat still troubled and unstable post-war Croatia, settling in a large apartment on the outskirts of Rijeka.

Our neighbors—a mix of refugees, widows, and elderly relatives caring for children whose parents had died or left to find work—had all gone through traumatic experiences as a result of the tragic conflicts that had only recently ended.

Ivan lived on the floor below ours. He wore a patch over one eye, he couldn’t hear well, and he also suffered from extremely strong headaches due to a piece of shrapnel in his brain that the doctors couldn’t operate on.

Ivan had a wife and two daughters, but it was easy to see that he was finding it challenging to adjust to family life. He was no longer the strong man beaming in the photos in his living room, but a broken soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who spent most of his time caring for his kids or looking pensively at the horizon.

My youngest son, Jeff, who was five at the time, was a bit scared of our neighbor—and I wasn’t sure what to think myself. I realized that I never really spoke to Ivan, due to my limited knowledge of Croatian at the time, but also because I didn’t know how to face such obvious suffering.

One day, I explained to Jeff about what our poor neighbor was going through and the reason he wore a patch. I taught him to say, “Molim za vas,” “I’m praying for you” in Croatian, and suggested that he say that to Ivan that next time we saw him.

I won’t forget that moment the next time we met Ivan, when this fierce-looking man bent down to hear what a small five-year-old whispered in his ear. Then he straightened, and I could see tears trickling down his face as he whispered “Thank you.”

From that moment on, Ivan and Jeff became good friends, and we often visited to sing songs, read God’s Word, and simply keep him company.

Ivan passed away not long after. He had been struggling with a lot of physical illnesses and discouragement, but in his final years he found solace and comfort in Jesus.
Jeff is now a grown man and a father himself, but I still fondly remember that day my little boy made the choice to replace fear with love.


  1. February 5, 2018, 8:02 am   /  Reply

    It was a deeply moving story of your past. That reveals how a tender caring word from a child can touch the heart of an adult and lead them to find God.

  2. February 5, 2018, 10:20 am   /  Reply

    Yes that’s very moving so wonderful to see God’s Grace and Provision

  3. Avis
    February 5, 2018, 2:49 pm   /  Reply

    Thank you for this passage. Sometimes i can be like Jeff and let fear keep me from speaking to people. And it is a press for me. But thanks to the Holy Ghost that helps me to overcome fear. Fear can keep us from alot of things. Fear and Faith can’t walk together. We have to make a choice. If you wouldn’t taught Jeff what to say and encouraged him to talk to him, y’all life would have been the same. But because of walking out on faith lives was changed. Thank you Jesus

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