Youth and children’s ministry activities the last two weekends were a great way to start out the new year. First, On January 11 and 12 we had a Friday overnight retreat with our teen volunteers from Champs Camp, and on Saturday we held a one day Champs Camp at our building.
This Christmas season, 15 different evangelical churches in Zagreb are joining together for joint worship and evangelistic efforts. There are concerts, worship services, children’s ministry event, and a praise concert on the main square downtown. In a country where less than 1/2 of 1% percent of the population are evangelical believers, this is very significant. I am singing in the choir for these events. Here are some small samples from last night’s choir and worship team rehearsal. It was like a little slice of eternity. Can’t wait for this weekend.
July 17-21 found us in Tuk Vojni, in the mountains of Croatia, for our annual youth camp. This is a camp I started four years ago. Now I have the help of several other Croats each summer. This summer was the best camp yet, and the best attended, with 27 youth. We spent five days learning around the topic of “Reign Forever.” The youth also enjoyed times of worship, games, crafts, sports, etc. We had one evening with American style S’mores around a campfire. We also had several teens that have been contacted through other outreach efforts of our church and the Church of Christ in Varaždin. Several youth came from our Champs Camp.
My summers are usually mostly spent in organizing, leading, and/or participating in various camp ministries. There is also always at least one group of Americans who come to help with one or more of the camps. The first camp this summer was our Champs Camp, which was held in two different locations in Zagreb on July 18-21. This was the 8th year we have organized these two Champs Camps. Each summer around 100 neighborhood school-age children enjoy a lot of fun through Bible lessons, crafts, games, skits, and lots of singing. This year we had a fantastic group of 12 teens and 8 adults come to help from the Southside Church of Christ, in Lexington, Kentucky. We also had a group of almost 20 Croatian teenagers who helped with the camp. This year we added something new to the week of activities. For the weekend before camp, we had all the American and Croatian teenagers together in the little nearby town of Samobor, for training, fellowship, and getting to know each other. Then we worked camp all together. Then, after camp, we took all the American and Croatian teens for an overnight and beach day together on the island of Krk. It was a great week. Please continue to pray for these young lives.
Wow! I can’t believe my last post here was in February. I guess that is a testament to how busy I have been through the spring and summer. There have been a number of events that have required my involvement and leadership in planning, communication, and logistics.
In May we had the board of the Central European Christian Education Foundation (CECEF) in Zagreb for a week of meetings, and learning about the spiritual realities in the region and how the Bible Institute is positioned to meet them. CECEF is the US-based support organization for the Institute.
In late May and Early June, we hosted a series of three special seminars, taught by Justin and Jennifer Gerhardt from the Round Rock Church of Christ in Round Rock, Texas. The seminars were on the topics of Partnership in Marriage, Peacemaking Among Christians, and Visionary Church Leadership.
Then in June we hosted 20 people from the Southside Church of Christ in Lexington, Kentucky. They were here to help us conduct our annual Champs Camp, which is for elementary school aged children from neighborhoods around Zagreb. Thanks Southside. You were a great team! More on Champs Camp later.
Next week I am headed into my third camp of the summer. This will be our annual Bible camp for teenagers.
In the midst of all this (a side note here), the last few weeks have been exciting in Croatia, as the Croatian national soccer team has made it into the final match of the World Cup!
Last week I was excited to have a visit from one of the elders (Keith) and the associate minister (David) of my sponsoring church, the Pond Springs Church in Austin, Texas. They spent a few days in Zagreb, along with Keith’s friend Chris. The four of us had a great time. The guys attended a Bible Institute staff meeting with me; toured the facilities of the Institute and downtown Zagreb; had coffee with the Croatian minister of our church and his wife; met co-workers of mine; had coffee with our church elders; saw my house building site; and shopped for building supplies (David plans to come help me later in the year with some finishing details inside the house). Then we all drove together from Zagreb to Arad, Romania, where we spent a long weekend visiting leaders of churches who are supported jointly by Legacy Church, where Chris works in Florida, and Pond Springs Church. While in Arad, we visited with church leaders; visited families from the churches; attended youth and children’s ministry events; visited the site where they have camp in the summer; and we preached three different times in different places on Sunday. I dropped off the guys at the Budapest airport very early this morning for their flight home, and then drove through the snow back to Zagreb. It was a packed week, but it was great to have them visit me here in Croatia, and also a blessing to meet the fantastic people in and around Arad and see what God is doing through them in this western corner of Romania.
Yesterday we had a children’s ministry event at our building. This is the beginning of a monthly follow-up with children who have been attending our Champs Camp in the summer. We have a new partner in these monthly events. The organization we are partnering with is called Društvo Prijatelja Biblije (Association of Friends of the Bible). We have worked with them before, and they have a program called Pokretni Camp (Camp on Wheels). With this program, they bring the team and the program to conduct a VBS-type event, and the participating church gets the children there and provides some volunteers. We are hoping this will be a fairly easy way to do these outreaches every month, and keep closer relationships with these children and their families throughout the year. It was a great beginning and we look forward to next month.
I started Christmas Day with a drive into neighboring Slovenia. I spent the day with friends, Vanja and Sergej Kleindienst. Vanja is a graduate of the Bible Institute in Zagreb. They live with their three children in Razbor, a fairytale kind of place. It is a village right on the top of a mountain. There is only one street in the village, right down the middle of the ridgetop, with all of the houses hugging the mountaintop, with fantastic 360 degree views all around. We spent the morning milking their goats, and with another round of cookie baking with their children. Then there was picking lettuce fresh from their winter garden for a great early afternoon Christmas Day lunch of salad, pork roast (from one of their pigs), potatoes, and carrots. I then headed back to Zagreb for the Christmas day fellowship at our church, where the tradition is to sing carols and light candles, while speaking of Jesus and telling of God’s blessings to us throughout the year. It was a bright and warm time together, and a great way to end a fine Christmas celebration.
Today started with worship at our church in Zagreb, with me preaching. I preached on, “Home for Christmas: Awaiting the Second Advent.” After church was Christmas Eve lunch with friends from church, who are also neighbors of mine, Boris and Ana Medved. Joining us for lunch were new friends visiting from Australia, Victor and Emma. Then this afternoon was the first round of Christmas cookie baking with the Karadža (friends from church and co-workers at the Bible Institute) family’s kids. When in the USA for Christmas, I usually bake cookies with my nieces and nephews, so the Karadža kids were good substitutes this year. We had a good time together.
I thought I would share a series of three posts about my Christmas in Croatia this year. Tonight it started with a Christmas concert at the Baptist Church on Radićeva street, in the historic center of downtown Zagreb. Then after the concert, a walk around the center, along with half of the country it seemed. It was a great beginning to a weekend of worship and celebration of Jesus.