Sunday, April 17, 2011

NGO and Growth

Hello to all!

I hope all of you have been having a good week.

As you know we've been continuing to try and figure out what it means to be the Body of Christ here.  Part of this is beginning to concretely try to answer questions of "Who are we, and what will we be about?"  Out of our meetings, help from others and prayer we are trying to begin something tangible, recognized by the government and something we can continue to let grow.  What we would call an NGO (non-governmental organization), or what Croatians would call an Udruga (oo droo gaw).  We have been continuing to discuss what this will look like and why.  One of the larger picture things that will define us from the very beginning is the difference between an international NGO or a domestic NGO.  The international NGO is easier to create with less work to begin it.  For the domestic NGO it takes more work and you have to have a native Croatian on the initial constructing board.  We are prayerfully entering into the domestic.  What do we hope this will communicate?  We are here to stay.  We want this to be something Croatian people have been a part of from the very beginning.  We want Croatian people to take pride in what they have invested into, hoping in the end that it will be something that is completely passed onto Croatian leadership and sustaining.  Not even passed onto, but grown into.    This is something extremely exciting because the church and what this NGO will be about go hand in hand.  One will not exist without the other.  In fact, they will be one and the same.

Within this process we need the Lord in every single step.  Nothing is worth it if he isn't with us.  We ask that you would pray for us to have wisdom and discernment, that God would raise up a Croatian leader/partner for this and in the midst of it all we can love as God as loved us.  Thank you all for supporting us over the past almost 9 months.  I thank God for you, and I pray you live in the blessing of life continually.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Inviting & Our Neighborhood

Over the past several months and weeks, our team has been praying, dreaming, and collaborating together about how the church could begin to grow here, and begin to be a part of the life of the community here, being a part of meeting the needs here.

As we have been doing this we have been discussing what it would mean to create a place where people could go, feel that they belong and that they are a part of something, a place where people would learn and grow in Christ together. This week we are beginning a time of Bible study and worship as a team and that we can invite people and friends too. While discussing some of the logistical things such as when and where, times and dates, of planning when the best time of the week is for people to come together, one of our teammates expressed that a part of people becoming a part of the church, a part of the people of God, means first just inviting them to be a part of the regular patterns of life of the church. Moments of worship, prayer, praise, service, and of growth, are all a part of the life of faith. And for people to see that, we simply have to invite them in to share life with us, to be a part of these patterns of the life of faith that are already happening in and among us.

I think I sometimes easily slip into the perspective of thinking of serving, living faithfully, and expressing Christ's love to others as always being us going and doing specific acts of service, or always looking for new ways that we can be meeting the needs around us. And often times this is a huge part of the life of faith. However, these words were a reminder to me that in many ways expressing Christ's love to others means simply living the life of faith and inviting people to be a part of that life with us.

Henri Nouwen speaks into this same idea in one of his writings. In the passage he is feeling overwhelmed by being busy and the stress of finding time to prepare to lead all of the things that are being asked of him. When discussing his stress with a friend this is the response he received, "The question you see is not to prepare but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness. One time you call is preaching, the next time teaching, then counseling, or later administration. But let them be a part of your life in God- that is ministering."

And I hope that this could be a reminder to you as well, to be inviting people in to your life, and into your space, letting them be a part of your moments of worship, praise, growth, and even struggle, so that others can see how God is moving and working.

Also, and on a different note, we realized that we have not put up pictures of the area where we live for you guys to see it. So here are a few new pictures of our neighborhood. Enjoy!

Our neighborhood is called Vrbani.

Our apartment building.

The park/playgnoud in front of our building

The market and snack stand (Tisak) beside our building.
The walkway to the large park and lake across the street from where we live.
The lake near our apartment
This is where we (and half of Zagreb) love to be on warm, sunny days!

The local produce market where we shop.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Trusting and Growing.

Well blogging world, it's been awhile...I feel it's only right to share a little about where I've been in the past few months but if it goes long I apologize.

After a really long period of questions, difficulties and discoveries I feel like I've been being led on a journey of learning what it means to be emptied. I think I prayed a lot in the past about being emptied, but this a new kind of being emptied. In the past it was always because I felt like there was something blocking me from God. Or maybe there was something I knew that I shouldn't be doing or should work on. But this time, I didn't ask for it, which always makes it harder right? :) I also watched parts of me seem to disappear that I didn't want to lose and didn't understand why I should. Parts of my personality, passions and past interests. It was hard.

But to say God has been faithful here would be the understatement of the year. God has been beyond faithful(I'm not really sure what that would be called, maybe just take what I've normally thought about God's faithfulness and multiply by 47 and that's how obvious and huge his faithful presence has been here) So in that you'd think it would be much easier to trust God in all things. But, as humans we fail sometimes, and sometimes I fail at trusting, even when I really want to.

I recently have been given a lot of opportunities to practice trusting and I think slowly but surely I am getting better. With a lot of help from others I am finally being able to not just want to trust God but really trust him. Even in the crazy circumstances or hard times. I don't feel a big sense of loss as I see myself change or be emptied.

So, maybe sometimes God empties us completely to get us out of the way of ourselves. Sometimes we might be functioning well as an individual. We might be good at things and excelling all by ourselves, and feeling pretty good in that.  But the more I'm here, living life with an amazing group of people, and trying to learn what the church does here in Croatia, I'm learning that I'm not just an individual. Maybe I lose parts of me to better become apart of a community and in turn a better member of the kingdom of God. Someone recently said the kingdom of God is found in community. It's about community. So, I'm being molded to be a part of the this community here and in the bigger picture a part of the people of God. And if that means I'm infinitely aware of more things that I'm not as good at or successful in, so long as I'm going through it with my community and growing together...okay. In that I'm trusting God knows what I will be, who I will be and where I'll end up.

 Four words: Growing up is crazy!

So, in addition to letting you know where I am, know that there is a lot going on here. We are still continuing with our school work, trying new things and spending time helping other ministries, establishing some of our own and just learning. I put up a few pictures for you. Notice the 3rd picture..just to let you know we are now proud owners of library card. (this is mostly for me who can't seem to do my homework in my apartment) And Hope and I took an art class here in Croatia. I definitely don't claim to be artistic but I will say this is probably the height of my talents. So enjoy :)

Oh, and Happy April! I always think of April as the first real month of Spring. March is a little indecisive, always back and forth between winter and spring, but April always seems to come through. So, hopefully in whatever part of the world you are in, April comes through with Spring for you too. :)


Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Brings Sunshine and New Opportunities

After the long winter, we have been anxiously awaiting spring’s arrival along with it’s warm rays of sunshine, new life, and blossoming flowers and plants. As I type this blog, I am sitting by our window in 64 degree weather with the sun streaming in on my face, catching a little Vitamin D- it feels great! It felt like the sun had been hiding for the majority of the time since about November, so we are hoping it sticks around for a while! J

The past couple weeks have also brought a few different opportunities our way. Hope and I were able to go to Samobor with an American missionary friend and two Croatians as a part of the work of Love in Action (the nonprofit organization we received our visas under). Samobor is a village not far from Zagreb. We started out the trip by going to the store to buy groceries and evenly distributing the goods in about 8 huge bags. Then we took the food and other goods to several impoverished families throughout Samobor. I was glad to get a different view of Croatia from the village instead of in the city. I enjoyed seeing how the people that we went with who had been involved with the ministry for a while had established relationships with the people whose houses we visited. It was nice to be able to have a small part in those interactions.

Also, this past week on Wednesday, Betsy, Hope, and I went to a high school in a village about an hour away to teach a workshop in English. There were different workshops offered throughout the week and the administrators of the school like to find native English speakers to teach some of the workshops since all of the students are learning English at the school. We were told to pick a topic and that we could integrate God/the gospel into the lesson. We chose to speak on respect. We taught a different aspect of respect, having each different topic correspond with each letter of respect. Some of the themes included the golden rule, living by example, self-respect, choosing to be a positive influence, and respecting and caring for others. We encouraged the students to get involved by asking them what respect meant to them and how we can show respect. Then we split them into groups and had them present what they came up with. Some wrote short stories, poems, and we even had some perform songs with guitars. I really enjoyed interacting with the two different classes of students we had and seeing them engage in the workshop. Our friend, Vlado, who is involved with Exchanged Life Ministries and is the connection we had with the school also invited us to be involved with some other opportunities with students. We were thankful to meet another brother in Christ serving here faithfully. He was incredibly hospitable and offered to be a helping hand in any way possible.

There are other things we have been working on as a team with our life and ministry here and we will keep you updated as they continue to take shape. We appreciate your involvement and for keeping up with us! We are thankful for what God is doing and are excited to see what He continues to do. I feel blessed to be a part of this team here in Croatia and am thankful for God’s continued faithfulness.

Love and blessings,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Life in Croatia

Hello to all!

This past month has held for us a continued process of shaping.  Each one of us are continuing to learn what it means to be faithful in so many aspects of life.  For me personally, I can't really even begin to put down how God has been transforming me.  I've really been learning more and more to allow everyday, every situation be a means of God's transforming love and grace.  Just this morning I had to remember the great love of God, and that no matter the chaos or peace my life is--God loves me.  That love led God to change his identity forever--the Son became flesh.  Through the resurrected Christ we (humanity) can truly find a home in the life of God because God has truly embraced humanity.  Amazing.

On a different note, it has been a good transition with the Scotts being here, and we are excited about the possibilities.  We are building community together and from that we are dreaming of what the roots of the church is going to be about.  I remember a Croatian telling us that as the Nazarene church we will be known for something.  What is it that we'll be known for?  How will we contribute to God moving here in Croatia?  We are praying through what that could mean.  We invited you to pray with us about that as well.  It is great because we are also doing these things on more of a ground level.  Each of us are investing ourselves into different things and people.

I also recently moved in with two Croatian guys--Marko and Darko.  It will be interesting as we continue to learn more about each other, our respective languages and the differences of our culture.  I truly believe we can move forward in grace, patience and love with each other to learn.  I'll tell one story that is already precious to me.  Warning...this story may make zero sense to some of you, but I ask you to suffer through it ha :).  Marko recently acquired a bread baking machine.  When the machine is on it makes a continued noise for a period as it is stirring the ingredients--like a ruh ruh ruh ruh.  (I know that makes a lot of sense ha).  I decided it sounded like a cool beat, so I decided to begin dancing in my chair as we were already eating bread together late at night.  Marko and Darko joined.  I stood up and began dancing as if I was a puppet on strings.  They lost it!!!  I think we were laughing for a solid 20 minutes as we deemed the new bread baking machine "D.J. Baker."  Yes, he takes requests.

I hope this has been enjoyable for you to read, and we really need to get better about this blogging thing ;).  Sorry for the long pause.  Hope you have a good day, and as people here say "Vidimo se (pronounced veedeemo say)".  Literally "we see ourselves"...but "see you later."


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dobro Došli (Welcome) Scotts!

Hey everyone! A new update for you:

The Scott's are here! Dave, Betsy, and JJ Scott arrived in Zagreb on Monday! After months of preparation and anticipation, the Scott's have finally been able to join us here in Zagreb. The Scott's were previously living and serving in France for nearly a year. Now they have committed to living and serving in Croatia for the next several years. Dave, Betsy, and JJ, their five year old son, are awesome and we are so glad to have them here with us.

Remember the Scott's in your prayers as they are getting settled here in Zagreb, entering into language school and kindergarten (for JJ of course), and transitioning into life and culture here in Croatia. Pray for us as a team as we begin to figure out what it looks like for the seven of us to serve together and to support one another here as a team.

That's all for now.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I often write prayers out in a journal that I keep. I enjoy going back and reading over journal entries/prayers that I wrote in the past. It's interesting to see what was going on in my life on a certain day or during a particular time period and to see how God has moved/is still moving. I love reading over prayers that have now been answered or situations that have now been worked out. Of course there are some prayers that continued to be lifted up, but God is ever-present even in those and still teaching me as He walks beside me. 

Sometimes I read over prayers in which I see that my mindset has shifted because of the place to which God has now brought me. Sometimes I find myself struggling with the same things or asking the same questions I was a year ago, but I have found God revealing himself in new ways and helping me view things from different and refreshed perspectives. I am so thankful for the way in which God reveals himself to me, whether it's through His Word, silent reassurance, another brother or sister in Christ, or any of the other creative ways God steps into our lives and makes himself known.

I was thinking about learning Croatian and trying to make myself use it as much as possible. It seems as though we have to teach ourselves to think differently as we learn a new language, to try and get to the point where we think of things in the new language instead of our first language. Maybe as we learn how to be God's people in each changing season, he molds us to think differently, to the way that He would view life instead of the way that we would view life before we were transformed by His love and mercy. 

I thank God for His patience with me and for the way that He can take any situation, whether big or small, difficult or pleasant, and use it to reveal Himself to me and shape me for His purpose. May we see the things/situations God places in our lives as learning experiences in which God teaches us more about Himself and transforms us. Let us passionately seek Him even when we may not realize for what purpose we are in each season of our lives. 


p.s. Speaking of prayers, we just want to thank all of you for each and every prayer that you have lifted up for us and let you know how much we appreciate them! It is evident that we have people around the world praying and that God is present and working. So thanks again and keep 'em coming! :) God bless.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jezik!!! (Language)

I wonder if there is an expression for trying to pack your brain full of a new language.  Maybe it is something along the lines of "Wow!  Calm down language!"  or even "Smiri se jezik!"

As Hope mentioned, we have started a three week intensive course to help us in the process of learning Croatian.  We have such a deep drive to learn how to communicate with the people here in their native tongue.  We hope that in our continual process of learning it (and speaking it), it will communicate love to the people around us.  I thought it would be good for you to have some pictures of us in language class since that is taking up a lot of our time which you can see below.

Other than that, we are preparing for the Scott's to be here.  The official green light for their new home should happen on Monday!!!!  Isn't that crazy?  Thank you so much for all the prayers.  We ask that you would continue to pray for their arrival here, the process to get registered, figuring out life here for them and just being a part of what's happening here in Croatia.

I would also like to say I had the honor of preaching at one of the church communities we are a part of here.  It was special for me because I had the opportunity to share about my dad.  It was special because God is able to use that story, and the continued process of it, to reach into the hearts and minds of people.  I'm thankful God redeems all things.  Please if God has moved in your life, share your story, rather God's story, with others.

May you live into the life God gives to us through Jesus in a new way this week.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Break Is Over

During the holidays and as the new year begins, Croatia takes a kind of hiatus. Many things, places and businesses slow down, if they do not come to a complete stop all together. People take a break and slow down from their usual routine. They take a break and take time to rest so that they are refreshed and ready for what the new year will bring. Our team decided to follow suit over the past few weeks and took time to rest, to enjoy the holiday time, to be together and with friends around us, and to study language in the free time we had.

This week is the first week of everything beginning again and daily routines being back in full swing. Students are back in school, businesses are open, and the city is busy. So this week has meant the same for us. This week is the beginning of a busy time for us of school, language classes, volunteering, research, and visitors. This week began with us beginning a three week intensive Croatian language course at a Language Academy. And already, only two days out, we are realizing that the class is allowing us to learn a ton but is pushing us to think and to take in as much of the Croatian language as possible during each class. Also, in the next few weeks, each of us will begin to again plug into the different places that we are serving and volunteering in the community here. And next week, the Scotts, will finally be arriving to be here with us, and we cannot wait to be able to help them get settled in! 

As I was thinking through the time of break and rest that just ended and got ready for and entered into the normal busy routine of daily life, I have been thinking about how awesome it is to be here in Croatia, and to be able to be a part of life here in the different seasons, times, and rhythms of life. To be able to more fully learn about the culture and life here in Zagreb, by having the opportunity to be a part of life here and to share life during the different times of life. We get to be a part of the busy times of life, the restful and refreshing times, the holidays and celebratory times, and the day to day normal routine times of life. We get to be a part of and understand what life is like here in its many different times and phases. We are experiencing some of the different times of life for the people here and get to live in those times with them. And I am thankful to be able to be a part of life here, in all its different seasons.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The New Year

Well, there seems to be a lot to make up for. We hope that everyone had a Merry Christmas, or Sretan Božić and Happy New Year! (Sretna Nova Godina). We apologize for our long absence on the blog and promise that it is not going to become a habit. The Christmas season was just as busy here as it is for all of you in your part of the world. However, through all the running around, we also had some good time to relax as most of the city and families have "holiday time" for about 2 weeks. 

So, things have been busy. We've all started to find things to plug into here. Some of us are volunteering with a few different organizations. Brittany and Jerry are both involved in sports clubs, frisbee and soccer, and have been able to really begin establishing great relationships through doing things they love. We are thankful for all the doors that God opens here. We're also still becoming more involved with the existing missionary community and amazed everyday but the way in which they interact and treat each other as a community of God's people. We are incredibly blessed with great supporters and mentors here within the missionary community. 

We finally got our visa situation all worked out and have official visas in our passports! This was a huge answer to lots of prayer and a lot of time and paperwork. It's kinda the last step to starting to feel settled. We also begin an intensive language course tomorrow for the next few weeks and are excited to see how that goes and hoping for the best. Also, the Scotts (see there website here ) will be arriving in the next couple weeks as they transition from being in France to Croatia and we are so excited to work with them and have them here with us. 

So all in all things are going really well. We've still had our days of frustration and craziness, mixed in with a little sickness over the past few weeks for a few of us, but we are still amazed everyday at how God is so faithful and provides for us. We appreciate all the prayers and ask you to continue praying with us as God leads us and shows us what he has in store for us for the next 7 months or so. We've spent this past week talking as a group and spending time one-on-one just talking and praying about being here and how to best be apart of what God is doing. The phrase we said a lot was 'God is doing something in Croatia and we want to be apart of it ' before we came. And I think we'd all be in agreement that God is doing something great here and while somedays we aren't positive about our role in it we are still seeking and learning everyday what it means to be used by God and surrendered to his roles for us here. He is doing something here and we feel privileged to be apart of it. So please continue to pray with us and thank you so much for all of your support. We can't wait to see what 2011 looks like here in Croatia. 

'The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.' Isaiah 55: 10-11