Fun Fact: Did you know that in Croatian culture, you give to others on your birthday? For example if you find yourself celebrating in a restaurant or a cafe with friends, you will be fully expected to pay for everyone. Or if someone happens to spontaneously stop by your house on your special day to wish you good tidings, there better be some cake in your fridge to serve them. Of course, you’ll end up receiving a few gifts yourself, such as chocolate, a book, homemade cookies or perhaps even a miniature vintage car, etc. These are just a few of the gifts we’ve accumulated from the two birthdays we’ve celebrated in Čakovec. Notice the amazing cultural emphasis on giving, rather than receiving. But, the purpose of this rather odd introduction is to portray the beauty of the culture in which we live. We dove headlong into studying this way of life, mindset, complex set of unspoken social rules which must be learned and must become a part of us if we desire to be used of the Lord in Croatia, and it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll ever emerge.
Language and culture go hand in hand, and the deeper we go with one, the deeper we go with the other. We continue to meet with our language tutor twice a week, which is extremely helpful, but recently, we’ve found that being with people, practicing speaking, and listening to topics of conversation, have provided even greater lessons. Being with people as much as we possibly can and building wonderful, lifelong friendships is the current goal, and not a bad one in the least!
Now that our language skills are improving, so is our ability to share the gospel in Croatia. Ben and our friend from church, Sven, recently developed an evangelism program at the church. The plan extends until next summer, highlighting goals for outreach throughout the coming year. A few weeks ago, they ventured into the city center of Čakovec to street-evangelize for the first time. Many students walked past them on their way to school, and several stopped to hear what Ben and Sven had to share. They had a few really good conversations, and are praying for more opportunities to reach the young people in Čakovec.
A few weeks ago, we were in Millstatt, Austria for Calvary Chapel Cakovec’s annual church conference. Our guest speakers Jeff Jackson (Shepherd’s Staff Missions Facilitators), and Carlos Kalczuk (CC Philly) arrived a few days prior, to spend some time visiting us. Our time with them was abundantly blessed. They arrived Thursday evening, about an hour before Carlos had to teach the Thursday night bible study. Friday was spent touring Čakovec and the surrounding areas, including Prelog, a nearby town which has been on Damir’s heart. On Saturday, we made a trip to Zagreb, and it just happened to be the day of the annual Zagreb Gay Parade. It was heartbreaking to see what was said to be 15,000 people (mostly youth) marching through the streets in celebration, completely lost, and without Jesus.
After a delicious, Croatian lunch on Sunday with the Srnec family, we headed to Austria Monday morning. Jeff taught the morning sessions, taking us through parts of the Old Testament and revealing God’s heart for the nations and His plan to use the church to bring the gospel to others. Jeff also led the second morning session, which turned out to be more of a question and answer time. He was able to answer many tough questions that were raised, and it was very inspiring. For the evening sessions Carlos taught an overview of Philippians, which, of course, led by the Spirit, completely complimented the points that Jeff made throughout the week. Ben also led worship while we were there, as the main worship leader was unable to attend. Overall, it was a very sweet time.
Please continue to pray for the youth in our church, and the Friday night bible study that Ben is teaching. On July 19, we will be having a youth BBQ with fellowship, worship, and the Word. Pray that the youth would be inspired to bring their unsaved friends, and that the Lord would speak through Ben as he teaches in Croatian.
Lastly, we would like to ask you to pray for wisdom and direction for our lives here, for encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and just openness to the leading of His Spirit. We so long for the Lord to continue that process of sanctification in our hearts, emptying us of ourselves and filling us with Him, that we might be vessels fit for His work. Thank you so much for your prayers and support and for being a part of what God is doing in Croatia!
P.S. Sorry we didn’t get too many pictures this time around!