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. :)