1991-1993: The Samaritan’s Purse Home for Women provided a safe place in Croatia for refugees with nowhere to go.
The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee from their homes. It was an especially terrifying ordeal for pregnant women who crossed the border into Croatia, completely empty-handed and alone. Hearing their stories, Franklin Graham was moved with compassion and wanted to meet the needs of these women who were without any kind of medical care or a place to delivers their babies. So, he started the Samaritan’s Purse Home for Women, which served 66 individuals and saw 68 babies born during the two and a half years it was open in Croatia.
Graham needed help in this new endeavor and he believed that Esther and John Fitzstevens, who had retired from decades of mission work in Vietnam, were just the right people to come and serve in Croatia. The Fitzstevens met Graham not long after he became president of Samaritan’s Purse in 1979, and God worked through this extraordinary couple to open doors for the ministry in Vietnam.
Although their work in Croatia would be very different from their evangelistic efforts in Vietnam, the Fitzstevens wanted to do all they could to serve these women in desperate need during wartime. “I never thought that I would be on the mission field in my retirement doing diapers for babies day to day, but the Lord showed me that it’s being faithful in where He puts you—and to do what He gives you to do with a heart of compassion and love,” Esther said. “We knew in our hearts from the peace God gave us that’s where we were to go.”
Every few years, Esther and John returned to Europe to encourage the women they cared for long ago in the Home for Women. “Some of these women are absolute powerhouses for the Lord,” Esther said.
John went to be with the Lord in 2018, at the age of 91, after almost 68 years of marriage. Esther continues to serve wherever the Lord calls and recently ministered to four Samaritan’s Purse interns from Hoa Sua’s culinary program in Hanoi, Vietnam. You can learn more about Hoa Sua.