Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dan Zahvalnosti (A Day of Thanksgiving)

 I am writing this to you guys on a train, as our team makes its way back to Zagreb tonight. We took a train earlier this week across Eastern Europe to Sofia, Bulgaria. We were able to spend the holiday week there with the Sunbergs, their family, and the rest of their team there in Sofia. It was a great time of rest and recuperation, new cultural experiences (mostly from the train ride, of course), of friendship and good company. We enjoyed lots of food, played games, rested, shared a meal with the church there, got to see and learn about some of the city and history of Sofia, were able to see and hear about what the church is doing there, and really just got to enjoy being together.

Before arriving in Sofia, there had been moments where the four of us and the Sunbergs had said how good it would be to be able to be in the same place at the same time and really get to spend time together and get to know one another better.  And this week was a great time to be able to do that. During our time there I found myself being incredibly thankful for community, and for getting to be a part of the faith community that I am surrounded by. It is awesome to feel the love and support of those who are serving the church in other parts of the world, and to be able to love and support them in return. There is a mutual bond that brings us together because we are serving together. And even though there are countries and many miles between us it is affirming to know that although we serve in different places, we serve together as the body of Christ.

Last time we blogged, Emily wrote to you about being thankful to be a part of the many things that God is doing.  I think our visit to Sofia was an awesome way for us to see what God is doing in other parts of Europe and how, even just in our love and support of those serving in these other areas, we also get to be a part of how God is moving and working in these different places.

And this of course leads me to once again thank each of you for your love, prayers, and support. For being a part of this with us, as we serve the church together in different parts of the world. So thanks. Your prayers, love, and support are vital to what we doing here and to how God is moving and working here.

And now we headed back to Zagreb. And we are all looking forward to going back and to seeing how God is going to continue to work and move among us, and to see how he uses us, as just a small part of the many things he is doing among His church and His people.

That is all for now. I hope each of you, likewise, enjoyed your holiday, finding yourself cared for in community.


Monday, November 22, 2010


Thanksgiving time already? Crazy. I'm sure those of you back in the States feel similar to us. We can hardly believe that we've been here for almost 3 months already. We've even gotten a little nostalgic this past week. Sometimes we look around and remind each other of the first time we saw the city, the main square, all the times we got lost or went the wrong way and how we swore we'd never learn to get around. But here we are, having to remind ourselves of those moments we were in awe and for the most part we've stopped getting lost. 

We have a lot to be thankful for this year. This past week we started the process to officially have our visa for the next year. We were connected with an American missionary family who had an organization that would be able to invite us as volunteers and so we are pursuing that and should have our visas sometime next month. Thank you to all of you that have been praying with us for this to work out. It's a huge step and things are looking really positive. This visa procedure has also allowed us to become better connected with the missionary community here in Zagreb and for that we are most thankful. They have truly shown us God's community here as they have taken us in and gone above and beyond to be helpful. 

We also got the opportunity to spend time with some of our Croatian friends this past week too. Jerry's spent a lot of time with his frisbee team and gotten to build relationships there. We spent Friday evening at Jadranka and Vito's for my birthday and it was a great birthday. She made me some Spanish inspired food and it was a great night of awesome food, time with friends and our Croatian parents that we love so much for taking care of us those first few weeks. We also had our first big gathering at our apartment so we could get some help with the 2 cakes I got for my birthday. We also made salsa and queso for them and it was a hit. Overall, we have just really begun to feel a little more at home, like this is where we are and live. And that is something we are beyond thankful for. 

In talking with Vito and Jandranka this past weekend Vito mentioned something that has stuck with me. We were having our nostalgic moment( I told you we were having them a lot), remembering our first night in Zagreb when Vito took us for chevapi and ice cream in the Centar and just telling them for the thousandth time how much we appreciated them taking care of us and he shared with us again the story of how we came to stay with them. For those of you who don't know it was pretty last minute and their son had just left for London to study hours before. Yeah, they are completely amazing for taking us in.  They said how they liked having us because the house could be full again even though they were missing their son. Then Vito said "I think God does that. He often does not just one thing but more than one that work together good: like our son leaving and you coming. We both needed that." 

So this Thanksgiving I'm thankful to be apart of the many things God is doing. Grateful to be serving a God that weaves many things together for good and humbled to be learning from the amazing people he has given us as friends here in Croatia. Happy Thanksgiving Week! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Learning Process

I have found that moving to a new culture where so much is unknown sometimes feels like starting from square one. Obviously the language barrier is a challenge. Those 16 verb types and 7 different cases in which different words must be formed depending on what part of the sentence they are can be pretty intimidating. However, when successful communication is made in Croatian, you better believe we are pumped! I mean, where's the challenge unless you are learning a language that some say is harder than Mandarin Chinese? :) We've decided it's even more of a victory when we get phrases down. 

Sometimes it's easy to catch a distant vibe from Croatians, even feeling discouraged when your smile or friendly greeting is met with a blank stare. We've discovered that though Croatians may appear standoffish from a first impression, once you get past the initial meeting, a whole new world is opened up. Our experience has been that generally Croatians are very open once you start to get to know them. We've found that our Croatian friends are more than willing to help in whatever way possible and would do anything for us. We couldn't have made it without those who have welcomed us in since we've been here. 

We've also learned things like the fact that Croatians don't believe in street signs. Well, not like those we have in the States. How do we get around? you may be asking…Very carefully…also by looking at buildings located on corners for the names of streets posted on them. It just makes finding things more of an adventure, one could say. Also, while learning the ropes of public transportation, we've learned essential things like you better get out of the way of the tram doors if they are closing, because there are no motion sensors keeping those guys from closing right in on ya. 

These are just glimpses of the learning process of which we are now a part. On a more serious note, through this journey of learning day to day things, I find myself asking so many questions and wanting to know the answers now. I desire to know what that next step looks like or what direction in which to go. During a time where there is much unknown and many circumstances out of my control, God is teaching me to wait and to learn to relinquish control. He is teaching me to be patient and to trust in His timing. 

As I found myself asking the tough questions, I am challenged by the words of Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest: "God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you cannot understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands. God is bringing you into places and among people and into conditions in order that the intercession of the Spirit in you may take a particular line. Never put your hand in front of the circumstances and say - I am going to be my own providence here, I must watch this, and guard that. All your circumstances are in the hand of God, therefore never think it strange concerning the circumstances you are in."

May our Heavenly Father continue to guide us here each day. May we be patient as we learn our role here and be faithful to join Him in what He is already doing. We pray that when we feel as if we have no idea what we are doing, He would lead us even still in the unknown circumstances and that we would trust that His hand is in it all. We pray that His greatness would somehow be displayed through our inadequacy as He continues to teach us what it means to be His people. 


Friday, November 12, 2010


It has been such a blessing having chances to get to know people.  I went to dinner Monday night with a friend I had met at the beginning of our time here for the first time.  Marko is 32 years old, is married and has a baby girl.  We met nearby the church he goes to and went for pizza at a local restaurant.  There wasn't much time spent on formalities.  We were both truly interested in the other person.  He asked me things like, "How are you really doing here in Croatia?" and "What do you want to do with your life?"  I asked how life had been for him.  We also got into a discussion about historical and current nationalism, the current political scene in Croatia (more specifically the Prime Minister and President--they have a Parlimentary style government), and what He thinks God is doing right now (confessing to not have the whole picture).  All this happening as we took turns not eating our pizza to speak. 

Afterwards, he invited me over his house for tea.  We picked up his little girl from her grandparent's house, and went to his home.  It was there I got to share with him more about things close to my heart.  He did the same thing, and it was beautiful to see.  It was at some point he mentioned he had been wanting to spend time with me for a while.  He said there was just something about me that he liked.  It made me turn to a point of thankfulness. 

Why would God love me in this way?  How is that God is so present in the simplest of things?  It makes me sometimes tread in "fear and trembling" as Paul puts it because God--holy and awesome--chooses to inhabit and work through such fragile things as human beings.  Its such a freeing thing when I realize I don't have to force anything.  God is working in, through and around a cup of tea/coffee with a friend, throwing a frisbee around, quiet prayer alone, corporate worship, the sound of the trees dancing to the wind, a soft tear of joy or sorrow, laughter--pretty much anything.  It hits me at a different level of freedom when I recognize God isn't asking for what I can do for Him, but who I can be for Him.  All of life becomes an opportunity to experience and share the beauty of God.  I think a scary word "secular" comes to mind.  It actually just means "ordinary."  The secular, or ordinary, things become a means for the grace of God.  Praise be to God.

Now on a totally different note--a couple funny things I have taken note of.  1) A lady walking with their version of crutches slowly cutting me off on the sidewalk while staring over her shoulder at me.  2) An older man covering his head with his hand while its raining as if saying to the world, "Yes, I think this protects me from the rain."  3)  Since the trams are a great place of awkwardness I decided to "model" all the way down it.  I hope you can enjoy just a little of what I did experiencing these awesome things.  :)


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hello, November

This last week has been a very full and very busy week, but it has also been a very good week. The week began as Monday was All Saints Day, a national holiday here in Croatia. On this day not only does the entire city of Zagreb shut down, but many Croatians take time that day to remember and reverence the lives of loved ones, leaders, saints, and martyrs who have passed on. Several of us were able to observe this tradition as we visited the major cemetery in the city. The number of people present, candles lit, and flowers put out on the graves of loved ones, throughout the cemetery was astounding. The candles that had been set up around the crucifix in the middle of the cemetery, making a cross shape, feeling the space where the shadow of the cross would usually fall was overwhelming to see. It was interesting to be able to observe first hand this tradition that has played a role in Croatian culture for centuries and to see how the memory of the lives of those who have passed on is valued, remembered, and held sacred by the people here.

Crucifix surrounded by candles.

President's grave

The week continued, being filled with spending time connecting to new friends that we have and are making here. We did this through coffee dates, lunches, playing soccer, Frisbee, bowling, and dinners. It is exciting and encouraging to be building friendships and to be learning about how we can get connected and best be a part of the community.

As the week came to a close, Hillsong London, an internationally known praise band, was leading a worship service here in Zagreb. We were excited about it and really looking forward to it. We have all been missing our home churches and missing singing worship songs in English, just missing what is familiar to us. And we knew going to Hillsong would be an awesome dose of that for us. And it was all of those things and it was refreshing for all of us. But the coolest and unexpected part of the night was that since we went with some of our friends from Zagreb it ended up being a really cool time of getting to worship with them in a setting that is very familiar to us. Along with this, as the worship band led us in the song “How Great is Our God”, at the close of the song the congregation kind of took over the song, singing it in Croatian. It was a cool moment of seeing a room full of Croatians, our age, taking on worship, praise, and their faith for themselves. And it was ironic that as much as we had been excited about being there for the familiar, in the end we were left realizing that this is why we are here and being aware of the blessing it was to worship with them and to be a part of that moment with them.

Here is a link to the part of the service described above: