Nela Williams

Reminders of war surrounded her even after the main fighting ended. But Nela never questioned her commitment to the people in her home country or her commitment to God.

Yugoslavian by birth, Nela Williams and her husband, Jim, were appointed as missionaries in 1976 — the same year she became an American citizen. Their calling was to her homeland, which declared its independence from Yugoslavia and became known as Croatia in 1991.

Jim died in a car accident in 1980, but Nela chose to stay in Yugoslavia and continue their ministry. When civil war erupted and the country divided, Nela still remained, though she made the painful decision to send her children — ages 20, 18 and 13 — to live with family in the United States. It was during this time, with the signs of war on every street, that Nela opened her home to refugees and sought every possible opportunity to minister to others. When other foreigners were forced to leave, Nela’s Yugoslavian heritage allowed her to stay.

In The Commission article from 1992, Mike Creswell writes: “Beyond whatever her ‘official’ duties are at the moment, a normal week includes visiting refugees in their homes, handing out Christian literature, taking a blind woman for a walk, playing piano for Thursday night services at Zagreb Baptist Church, dropping by to accompany a woman to church, teaching a Sunday School class for a flock of high-spirited adolescents.”

After she wrote a Greek textbook and produced Christian radio programs, Nela was also given the task of strengthening Sunday school programs across the country. Through many personal hardships and the trials of the war, Nela found strength in God’s hands and her calling to His service.

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