It's been more than 13 years since we arrived in Croatia with our three little babies. We were sure that at least 1/4 of the citizens living near the airport were gonna be waiting for us to arrive holding welcome signs and cheering. It did kinda deflate our egos when we realized that no one had taken off work that day to welcome us. I mean come on, we were American and coming here to give them a chance at eternal life with Jesus in Heaven. No, there was only one man waiting for us and he didn't even have a welcome sign.
Over the next several years we realized that we were not in the Philippines and that there wasn't going to be a great awakening here in Croatia because of our arrival. On the contrary, we experienced solitude, rejection and even being tagged a cult. This was defiantly not what we signed up for. We spent many a night singing "So Send I You" from the hymn book we brought with us. We took solace that this was where God had called us and we were gonna stay regardless. Life was difficult and learning to live regardless of our smashed dreams was trying for sure.
We soon organized a small group of Christians into a local independent Baptist church and life began to take on some normalcy. After many ups and down, heartaches and tears the church was turned over to a wonderful national name Rajko. He has a lovely family and is doing a great work for the Lord. We love that church and it'll always have a special place in our hearts but it was a true bumpy road. We seemed to hit a wall every couple months and it seemed like we were always recovering. It was okay since we loved the church and people so much, dealing with the bumps was just a part of life.
In 2009 we decided to set out and start another church in the x-capitol of Croatia; Varazdin.Varazdin is less than a half hour from the first church plant so it's still close enough that we could be a help at the first church. We continued to go to both churches which wasn't too hard since we had midweek services one different days and we attended the Sunday morning meeting in one town and then the evening in the other. We struggled in the new church and even lost the people who originally wanted us to come and start the church. It was difficult but our patience and faithfulness is finally starting to pay off. Just recently we decided to go ahead and organize the new church plant into a local church and we began to only attend midweek services at the new church plant.
We have amazing people. We have been blessed with godly, spiritual people who are simply happy to be saved. The church is growing and at the moment we have been blessed to see several baptized and we have some lined up for this coming Sunday also. God has been so good to us. This is what we have been looking for all along.
I shutter to think what would have happened if we had given up during the valleys and hard times. I know how hard it can be. We were here in Croatia 9 solid years without any help or American fellowship so I know how it feels. It's hard and lonely but....if we hang in there and don't faint in the hard times God's gonna bring the good times. Sometimes I think he's teaching us and growing us up a bit before he gives us the big blessings.
The work in Cakovec has always been home for us. We've seen God do wonderful things there. Hundreds of souls have been saved through that work and I would confidently say that more than 100,000 Gospel tracts have been passed out all over Croatia in the last 10 years. We've also seen the KJB translated into Croatia from that church. Currently the NT is finished and it's been shipped everywhere from Germany, Canada, Bosnia and Serbia at the requests of born-again Croatian believers in those countries. The church is Cakovec also has another wonderful characteristic. It is the very first independent Baptist church in all of Croatia. It has been the sponsor for 4 different missionary families and sent us out to start the new church in Varazdin. God has used that church so much and will continue to do so.
However, for us the focus has changed. We are now working almost exclusively in the new church plant in Varazdin and we're seeing God pour out His blessings on us all. We have wonderful folks and the church is growing both numerically and spiritually. The folks are understanding the Bible and rejecting tradition. So after a long, round about way I'm finally back to baptisms. We've had man baptisms at the new church and I always mean to write about it but well...So! Without further adieu here are some photos of our recent baptisms.
Bro. Senad is one of the biggest blessings. This guys loves the Lord and is not afraid to tell others. He's a soul-winner and he's also obedient to the Lord.
Marina came to us from the Adventists and she has been nothing but a joy since we met her. She is a true lady and she loves the Lord. We're so proud of her decision to follow the Lord in baptism.
This is our little group at the river for the baptisms. We have a wonderful group of folks and we can't wait to see what God's gonna do with each of their lives.
Okay so this looks like a copy of the above photo but it's not. Look close! the whole group is trying to get little Emanuel into the photo but with no luck.
I'm so glad we stuck it out. I'm so glad we trusted the Lord when He said in Galatians 6:9, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
I know that life is hard for missionaries and even harder in different situations and it's often the most convenient thing to give up and head home. Sometimes situations seem resolvable but the Lord knows. He called you and knew way in advance what was gonna happen. He's got it under control and if you hang in there and faint not, in due season you'll reap.
I said all this to say, Hang in there, the best is yet to come!