Saturday, October 30, 2010


First, I want to thank everyone for your prayers and support. Sharing this new adventure and experience of life with Jerry, Emily, Brittany, and Hope has been a blessing to my life beyond words. The friends I’ve made since my time in this country will not easily be forgotten, as the time we’ve spent together has left an incredible imprint on my life. In the recent weeks, I've been faced with a very crucial decision; that being, whether or not I should continue on with this adventure. During my time here, it became evident to me that I was being led to follow another path. The team and I prayed extensively about it, and we decided that it would be best for me to come back home. I want to assure everyone that everything is okay, nothing bad happened to initiate this decision, I just believe that I am being led elsewhereLeaving the country of Croatia, the team, and the amazing people of this country was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I’ll never forget this experience for as long as I live. Again, I thank all of you for your prayers and support, and will now join with you as we continue our support for the Croatia team.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Learning Togetherness

First, let me apologize for the delay in this blog post. It's been almost a week and we are sorry to have not kept all of you that are involved in what's happening here in the loop of things lately. We appreciate your support, prayers and general interest in our lives and will try and be better about keeping you informed. In saying all that, I tell you that the past week or so has been a crazy one, but full of graciousness and God's presence as well. So while this post might not give the best insight into all the tasks or events we have had, it's our explanation of our hearts and minds right now after coming through what could be considered the hardest but best week here.

When we came here we knew we were in for a lot of new. New culture, new language, new friends, new just about everything. So in knowing that, we braced ourselves for some serious learning, and learning is what we've done. We've learned so much in the past 2 months, from books to conversations to simple observation. Things like: tram systems, shopping or ordering food, kunas and lipas (currency), how to conjugate two of the sixteen verb types, Croatian hospitality, a little Croatian grammar, plenty of Croatian words, cultural norms and customs, a city with streets and squares and everything in between, (overwhelmed?) and we know we have a great amount left to learn. We're excited about it, despite being a lot, it really is fascinating and we love the learning.

In the midst of all these lessons, some of which just started this past week, we also learned one of the most invaluable things to all of us: the gift of each other. Throughout all this learning we've obviously had success, failed miserably, laughed and even cried. And all of that would be really overwhelming if it wasn't for the reality of togetherness. In the midst of knowing our need for God, we didn't fully recognize our need for each other, our community. Sometimes it takes tough decisions, hard choices and a sense of loss or brokenness to learn the incredible value of your community. No matter how messy or how great things get, we see God teaching us what it really means to do this together, with the support and love that comes from being apart of the people of God. Real community or togetherness is complex and hard to really get, it's honestly just uncomfortable. But in being able to face some real challenges this week we redefined for ourselves what it means to really love one another as members of God's people in the day to day. And as we learn that we are so excited to see how that helps us be better bearers of that love to the people of Croatia.

We are encouraged by statements such as this one:

'In community we are no longer a mass of helpless individuals, but are transformed into one people of God. In community, our fears and anger are transformed by God's unconditional love, and we become gentle manifestation of God's boundless compassion. In community, our lives become compassionate lives because in the way we live and work together. God's compassion becomes present in the midst of a broken world.'  -(from Nouwen, McNeill and Morrison's book Compassion) 

We hope this is true of us as we continue to seek to really be a community of faith here. So we ask that you pray for us as we let God teach us in the midst of all our other learning. And we pray that wherever you are and whatever community you find yourself in this week, you seek the joy and peace that comes from doing life together and allow that to be the manifestation of God's love and work where you are as well.

Thanks for keeping up with us.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Plitvička Jezera

So we decided to go for an adventure and get out of the city on Saturday.  We got up early and left our apartment about 7:30 in the morning to go to the bus station and get a ticket. We forgot that the trams don't run as often on Saturday, so we got to the station just in time to try and decipher the signs of this unknown language we are surrounded by and get tickets. Not to worry, we got there with enough time to get something from "American Donut." We couldn't help but laugh. After a little over two hours on a bus riding into the countryside, we found ourselves at Plitvička Jezera National Park. We got off the bus only to be greeted by no sunshine in sight, misty rain falling, and temperatures in the 40s. Once again, we had to laugh that we chose a day like that to take our adventure. We grabbed some lunch at a nice restaurant there that had translated things on the menu like "potatoes cooked under a bell." Still not sure exactly what that means, but the food was delicious.

Despite the weather and lack of sunshine, the breathtaking beauty we discovered at this park made it all worth it.  We hiked through some mountains and took in the beautiful waterfalls and leaves changing colors that reminded us that it was autumn. We rode a boat that took us to the other side of the park and took several pictures. It was definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.How thankful we were to have this time to share together and soak in the beauty of God's creation. Saturday, God reminded me to just stop and be in awe of Him and to remember all that He provides.Sometimes in the chaos of life, we just need to take the time to step back  and rest in the fact that our Heavenly Father is in control.

Thanks for reading :)


Saturday, October 9, 2010

On a more personal note

I think for this blog I (Jerry) will take you down a more personal path.  I hope that's okay with everyone :).

This past Thursday marked the 2nd month since my dad passed away.  He was 43 when he passed away from a mixture of car accident, stroke and loss of oxygen to the brain.  Images flashed through my mind as I watched the clock turn that day remembering what was happening exactly 2 months prior--sitting next to my dad as he was slowly passing away.  I woke up that morning feeling that weight coupled along with still just feeling foreign here.  I decided to take a trip up to some mountains that are nearby.  I told Mike what I was doing, hopped on a tram and I was off.

It was a slow tram ride there.  I got to a stopping point, and I could either take another tram or a bus.  Being totally uncertain I took a tram that had a small route according to the map.  I got to the end of that short adventure, asked a guy where I was at and took the tram right back to that stopping point.  Haha another reminder I am still learning.  I got on the bus, and I ended up in the middle of a cozy community.  Since I had no idea where the other bus would take me I decided to not attempt to travel further up the mountain on this day.  I had my backpack with me, and I had all intention to read, journal and just pray.  I noticed a small Catholic church and decided to check it out.  I'm a sucker for architecture, and I love some of the images in places like Catholic churches.  I walked into the courtyard, and there was a man getting a drink of water from a fountain.  I asked him if the church was open, and if it would be possible to walk around.  He replied, "No it isn't open, but come inside."  I followed him in, and he and another man were working on a broken organ inside.  We struck up a conversation as he took a break while rolling up a cigarette.  He was a man with many opinions about our current political battles in America, and with his own views about Croatian government.  I found it a very interesting conversation.  We walked outside, so he could enjoy his freshly rolled cigarette as we continued to talk.  Here is the part where I see God in days like this one.

Before I was leaving the man said, "Go get you some fruit.  You won't find that in America!  No GMOs! (GMO is a genetically modified organism.)"  We walked to the back to find a pear and apple orchard.  We continued to talk as both the men picked apples and pears for me to put in my bag.  We laughed for a little while about some of the politics and just general life before I left the grounds.  You may be asking, "What's the point?"

There are days when death in any sense of the word whether its rememberance, sin, brokenness--you name it--are very real, but a God of life is still present.  It happens in the exchange of hospitality between strangers.  It happens as you share life and the sustaining of life--food.  Who was that man?  I don't know his history, I think his name was Davor and he had many opinions on politics and life.  I experienced the grace of God through this man.  That's why we're here.  To recognize God, to point to Him, to be His sacrament to the world and to simply share Life as we invite others into that reality.  Praise God He seeks us where we are.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Dances with Bankers

Well, we’ve been here for just over a month now, and we feel that we’re getting more accustomed to how life operates here in Croatia. Taking daily rides on the tram has made us more comfortable with the different routes (though, not completely by any means), the grocery store is looking less like a maze and more like… a grocery store (especially the dairy section; refer to my previous entry, titled “’Jogurt’ is Croatian for ‘Yogurt’”), and we’re more prepared to answer “yes” or “no” after ordering a glass of water (they’ll ask you if you want bubbles or not). Today we were reminded of our status as foreigners while doing something that was once simple back home.

I’m not sure if an everyday visit to the bank is supposed to be enjoyable; in fact, I’d put money-on it generally being a much-loathed experience. So, speaking of our banking experiences as somewhat stressful might not be a surprise to anyone; but, throw-in a language barrier and unfamiliar procedures, and you’ve got yourself a whole-nother level of enjoyment (yeah, I said “whole-nother.” I’m from Georgia. I’m allowed to). We went to the bank today to get our bank cards, which act as debit cards like in the States, making possible ATM transactions, everyday purchases, etc. In general, learning to live within a new system of life has been incredibly stretching and exhausting. Today, we were introduced to an aspect of life in Croatia, receiving a Croatian debit card, which once again left us exhausted and mentally stretched.

So, we’re here in the bank, which is overall, a somewhat stressful place. The lights are turned off in a room filled with bankers, staring at computer screens, and answering calls concerning the payment of debts and people’s life-savings. We enter the room and speak to one of the secretaries, telling her the reason for our visit. She leads us to the back room where a banker is enclosed in a glass cubicle behind a locked door (man, I’m making this sound way too dramatic, but just go with it).  This is the man that receives our pin numbers, confirms our identity and account information so as to give us our bankcards. We come to this room already somewhat exhausted from the experience, but upon our arrival, he seems to get somewhat overwhelmed with the prospect of assisting five foreigners who barely speak his language: totally understandable.

Hope and I were the last to go through the process, and I sense this guy’s need for a lunch break once we leave his office. We talk for a little while, he asks us some questions, it gets quiet… and then it happened! In the background I hear a most pleasant rhythm, and sense this inescapable urge within me to keep the beat with my shoulders. Of course, my head and arms follow suit, and soon enough, I’m dancing without shame in the chair before him. My movements caught his peripheral, and upon making eye contact with me, he began to laugh. Then, he began to join me! Sitting in his chair behind the glass cubicle of his office, located in the backroom of a bank, this man began to bob his head to the music, and we all laughed together.