Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Layman, The White Thing, and The Wardrobe

In America we have closets built into the house - some even have 'walk-in-closets'. Not so in Europe. And even though C.S. Lewis tried to popularize the idea of a 'walk-in-wardrobe' it never really took off. Hence the fact that Europeans typically have less space for clothes than Americans.

Nevertheless, we live in Europe - our clothes will go in a wardrobe.

I'll be honest though, wardrobe building doesn't come naturally to me. So we asked some friends to help. Unfortunately we made a nearly fatal mistake.

There are these little white things that have to go in some of the pre-drilled holes. The problem is that the directions didn't indicate which holes they go in. The fact that all the holes were the same size didn't help either. To make a long story short, we put them in the wrong holes, had to take a drill to get them out and then had to look in 3 different cities to find the right white things to put back in the holes. Two weeks later our wardrobe was finished.

I found one thing interesting though. The man who found the white things and helped me finish the wardrobe kept telling me how they only cost 2 or 3 cents, yet we couldn't finish the wardrobe until we had them. They were vital to the completion of our project.

And so it is with the Church. The local churches that I've been part of have often been more fruitful when every member is involved. Here in Orahovica we have the pastor and his wife who fulfill more than their fair share of the responsibilities. But there are also some who help in various building projects as we reconstruct the building. There are those who cook, clean and maintain the building as well. We also have those who are involved in outreach outside the church and those who teach the Bible Studies in addition to those who lead musical worship and teach Sunday School. Most everyone is involved. I'm hardpressed to find an example of someone who was willing to help whose involvement didn't benefit the church or community.

And although it takes much longer than two weeks to build a local church, its the value of every member, and the collection of those members that truly reflects the beauty of the Body of Christ.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Midnight Snack

If you were like me in college you would take a study break and drive to a local fast food joint to pick up a burger every now and then. Many of the drive-throughs are open late in order to take advantage of the over-worked, sleep deprived student who wants a midnight snack. And they certainly advertise that fact well in America:
But in Croatia it's different. Many restaraunts, and all grocery stores close by 9:00. So what do you do if you want a late night snack? What if you've been busy all day and you can't wait to get your hands on burek-with-meat but it's 9:05? What do you do if you wake up in the middle of the night and the cookies in the cupboard just don't do it for you?
1. Walk to your local bakery:

2. Go to the back door:

3. When you knock and ask for burek-with-meat, they'll kindly hand it to you - fresh right out of the oven. It's the best time to go. They're preparing it for the next morning. They have to work through the night. And even though they're "closed" they don't mind having company.

Why would you settle for a smooshed burger with soggy fries when you can have a delicious burek-with-meat that satisfies until morning?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Check...and Double Check

When I was a little guy I received Highlights for Kids every month. Each issue featured a section where you would have find the differences between two pictures.

We have the privilege of having a wonderful woman take care of our son Enoh when we're away. She hails from Bosnia and likes to be called "Baka Nina". Every time she arrives Enoh looks something like this:

When we return he looks like this:

The difference?

Petra tells me that in Bosnia they tuck a baby's pants into their socks to protect them from getting a cold. We're not complaining though -Baka Nina does an excellent job!

Oh, one other cultural difference: The going rate for babysitting is between $2 and $3 an hour here in Croatia.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

To Preach or Not to Preach

“That is the question.”

Recently I witnessed a catastrophe at the pulpit because it was taken for granted that someone should preach even though they had no right to be in front of a Croatian Evangelical congregation. A recap of the events, while humorous and at times downright shocking, would do much more damage than good though. The fact is it was handled with humility and tact afterwards and can be put in the past.

But it nonetheless brings up a good point. Who should preach here in Croatia? Who shouldn't? The vast majority of churches in America have one pastor who at the very least has a bible school degree. Many have much more than that. Unfortunately we can’t use American standards here in Croatia though.

It is estimated that there are 2000 Evangelical Christians in Croatia. In a country of approximately 4 million citizens that's half of .1 percent of the entire population that claim to be born-again Evangelicals. Add to that the facts that the majority of Evangelicals in Croatia are 50 or older, the church has far less money to work with than American churches and there're two protestant seminaries in the country (which is more than Bosnia or Serbia can say) and you get the idea why it might be harder to find someone who is fully qualified to preach - not to mention pastor a church here.

(I haven’t even brought up “calling” either – a concept difficult to understand but nonetheless foundational to a person’s qualification for church leadership)

And most pastors have a day job. Our pastor in Orahovica is an agriculturalist. He’s not able to be in the church office during the day. He visits people on the evenings and weekends. He prepares his sermons sometimes in the wee hours of the night. Pastors, youth workers, worship leaders – if a church has the benefit of having such people – are not paid a cent. Every job in the church is volunteer-based.

So when a local Evangelical church here learns that an African pastor, or German evangelist, or Australian worship leader is in town, they often ask nothing of whether they are qualified to be in front of the church. They invite them, sit back and listen. Sometimes the messages are God-given words of teaching. Often they're not. Sometimes they do much more damage than good.

Such instances put churches in a difficult situation. They need solid teaching. They desire to learn and to grow and mature in Christ. But who’s going to preach? How does a pastor find out if a guest is qualified? How does a local church know if the pastor is called to the ministry? What do you do if you’re a senior pastor who feels you’ve been called to be an associate? These are the kind of difficult questions pastors here find themselves asking.

Perhaps Jesus said it best: “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few”. Unfortunately the question of who should preach often just turns to ‘who is willing?’

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shock Culture

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Croatian Hospitality 101

Yesterday, my wife Petra made some fantastic carrot cake cupcakes. I had the pleasure of eating a few with some sweet cream-cheese goodness on top. They made me dance - Enoh can verify. I say this because I don't want anyone to misunderstand the point. Petra made some really good muffins - one of which is shown here. But because of the fact that she made a few too many she decided to bring some to our pastor and his wife (20 to be exact) before the weekly Thursday night church service.

During the service we prayed that God would be present in our worship. Sure enough, the God who produced infinitely more loaves and fishes than were originally offered was at work.

After the service four people told us they had some things for us. This is the collection of what they gave us without any asking or prompting. They just gave out of the goodness of their hearts (and homes).
- 4 different kinds of meat
- 2 jars of pickles
- ajvar
- tomato sauce
- jam
- lasagna
- half a pumpkin

And you wonder why I all of a sudden I had a "heart" for Croatia.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Important Things

Sometimes we get carried away by things that aren't important. Such was the case in my last post. And even though I found the magazine I was looking for (but do not recommend it) and tried to capture a small difference between cultures, it was a waste of space and time compared to the things that really matter.

Our dear friends Milo and Erin Wilson are going through an extremely difficult situation. They have published the latest news of the condition of their yet unborn child on their own blogs.

Thankfully we believe in a God of miracles - a God who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. If you are so inclined, I'm sure they would be grateful to know that there are people in other corners of the world surrounding them in prayer.