Croatia, one of the republics of the former Yugoslavia, lies in south central Europe. In 1991, Croatia proclaimed independence by holding its first democratic elections. The land extends from the Alps in the northwest to the banks of the Danube in the east; its central region is mountainous and its southern part extends to the coast of the Adriatic. Croatia has more than 1000 islands. Population is over four million. The majority are Croats; minorities include Serbs, Slovenes, Hungarians, Bosnians, Italians, and Czechs. The capital is Zagreb (about 800 thousand), which is the economic, cultural and academic centre of the nation.
Our church was planted in 1996, just a year after the end of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-1995). Croats from London, Munich, Amsterdam and New York City returned to their country to help spread the good news! Today the church in Zagreb has 73 members. There are also 5 disciples living in Zadar, on the Adriatic coast.Five years after his last visit, it was great to have our brother Douglas Jacoby return to our country. On the day of his arrival he taught on the topic Genesis – Myth or Reality?, for which the Church had been preparing all week. The two-hour presentation included PowerPoint and Q&As, and many visitors joined us. Douglas also brought lots of books and audio!
On Sunday Douglas preached the word. The topic was Staying faithful in hard times, and came from 1 Peter. Douglas reminded us how pain and suffering are integral components of the Christian life. On Sunday afternoon we had a workshop on leadership, singles/campus, and marriage/parenting. There were many questions and all three sections were interactive and encouraging. Some of the insights and teaching that we received through preaching and lessons include:
- Daily reading and prayer – we all know about these imperatives for the Christian walk, but really putting them into practice makes a tremendous difference in our life and personal convictions.
- We also need to study for ourselves what the Bible says about certain issues – not just accepting doctrines because we heard it from teachers or leaders We must know the truth for ourselves by personally from reading and knowing our Bibles.
- We also got perspective from lesson on suffering. Namely, suffering is a relative thing, when we heard about life-threatening situations facing our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world, our 'troubles' did not seem significant any longer. We live in a country where we can openly and freely talk about God – and that is so encouraging!
- Another great point is that suffering is an integral part of Christianity and character growth. Further, things may get worse before they get better. (Will we hang in there?) Besides, suffering purifies our faith and changes us.
- We also received many practical insights on leadership, singles ministry, married life, and parenting. For example, concerning leadership: We should lead by moral authority and by being an example. Even if we aren't in a leadership position, everyone 'leads' by example. Concerning singles: This a period of life which is crucial for building character, learning how to be disciplined with money, learning as much Bible as possible, and using this 'free' time to grow in Spirit. Some thoughts concerning parenting included: Love toward your spouse is the key factor in raising children; the great importance for building healthy families and healthy characters in children is for family to sit together for meals every day (especially during the formative years); teenage children will sometimes be better led by asking indirect questions; discipline of children must be carried out in love.
- This time of teaching was very practical for all of us. We learned much during these two days.
- If there was a one thought which would summarize the whole weekend, it would be Study your Bible – hard!
After a very encouraging and exciting weekend, our dear brother left Zagreb for the International Leadership Conference in Kiev, Ukraine. 16 of our own members also made the 24-hour drive to Kiev for yet another upbuilding time of teaching and fellowship. —Vedran Pintek (Zagreb, Croatia)