As early as 1975, Bosnians living abroad began joining the Church. Some of these converts went on to serve in missions and in their congregations, but none of them were able to bring the gospel back to Bosnia. The first members to live in Bosnia came from outside the country. Some moved there on temporary work assignments. In the 1990s, during the Bosnian War, many Latter-day Saints met regularly in servicemen’s groups. After the war, small groups of foreign families and individuals living in the country met together, but it was not until Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Sarajevo in 2010 and dedicated the country for missionary work that members living in the city were formally organized into a branch. The small branch always started their weekly meetings with a branch council to discuss reaching out to the community and introducing their friends to the gospel. It was through this kind of outreach that the first local families in Bosnia joined the Church.
In Banja Luka, 16-year-old Vicky Tadić was among the first Bosnians to attend Church. When Vicky was six years old, her grandfather had encouraged her to learn English, promising that it would be useful to her someday. In 2008 the Rowe family moved into their neighborhood from the United States. Vicky often translated for her younger siblings as they began playing with Brooke and Ed Rowe’s children. Vicky became close with Brooke and mentioned to her that something was different about David, the son closest to her age. Brooke responded with an invitation to attend church with them on Sunday. Vicky was surprised that they held church in their living room, but she enjoyed the service—especially four-year-old Jessie’s talk on the Holy Ghost. Later that day, as Vicky walked into town to buy bread, she pondered on her experience at church. As she approached some garbage cans to throw away some paper, she heard a voice tell her to stay away. Moments later, a car crashed in that very spot. When Vicky shared this experience with Brooke, Brooke explained that the Holy Ghost can warn us of danger. Vicky resolved to do whatever was required to receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Hoping that her family would also receive the gospel, Vicky decided to share the Book of Mormon with her mother and eventually invited the whole family to come with her to church. In the absence of missionaries, Vicky translated for Ed Rowe, Johann and Ursula Wondra, and missionaries serving in Croatia as they taught her family the gospel. Finally, in June 2011, the whole family—including Vicky’s grandmother—traveled to the nearest meetinghouse, in Beograd, Serbia, to be baptized.
That same month, the first missionaries assigned to Bosnia, Phil and Gloria Smartt, arrived in Sarajevo. They worked with branch members to help the Church receive official recognition from the government. In February 2012 that recognition was granted, paving the way for young missionaries to begin proselytizing in the country. The next month, Bosnia was incorporated into the newly named Adriatic North Mission, and missionaries were assigned to Sarajevo and Banja Luka. Missionaries were also sent to Tuzla to determine if they could begin serving there as well.
Valentino Sećić, who earned money washing car windows at intersections, was surprised when he saw missionaries in Tuzla. Years before, Valentino had gone to the United States with his family as refugees. His parents and brother had joined the Church, but Valentino had not been old enough. After his parents were killed in a car accident, Valentino returned with his brother to their hometown in Bosnia. After finding the missionaries, Valentino became the first person to join the Church in Tuzla. He received the priesthood and was able to share the sacrament with the missionaries each Sunday and later baptize the second convert in Tuzla.
For Haris Rožajac of Sarajevo, joining the Church was not an easy decision. Coming from a devout religious background, he searched the Book of Mormon for answers to his questions. “After I had found answers to the questions that had bothered me the most, I realized that being baptized would bring me closer to God,” Haris recalled. He still worried that his relationships with family and friends would suffer, but after being baptized he noticed blessings. “I felt peace and some kind of bliss,” he said, “because I knew that I had just begun a new life.” He noticed his family was blessed as well in their spiritual and everyday lives, and he soon decided to do more to share the gospel: in June 2015 Haris Rožajac became the first person living in Bosnia to go on a full-time mission.