Thursday, November 26, 2009

One Thought on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day in Croatia is nonexistent. Unfortunately the practice of giving thanks is almost just as foreign. If there's ever a time when an American misses - even longs for their tradition, today is the day.

Last evening I joined a small informal house group gathering in a nearby town. I was invited to share something from a spiritual nature so I talked about thankfulness. We wrote down at least five things we were thankful for and then openly shared our lists with one another.

Sadly, some of those lists quickly turned into stories. Stories of abusive husbands. Stories of death. Stories that turned into tears. Stories that would continue as soon as the meeting was over. An activity meant to fill our hearts with joy left me wondering if I should have picked another theme.

This is just one example. But hopelessness, loneliness and depression fill many lives in this part of the world.

And as I write I realize it's this way everywhere. Fear is just around the corner, hunger is an ever-present feeling and pain is a constant for millions around our globe - America included.

I looked forward to reading the Thanksgiving greetings on facebook as our day came to an end. It was a strange diversion I needed. I missed the Lions, la-z-boys, and laughter that have become symbols of past Thanksgiving Days. Today may have been shockingest shock of all.

Somewhere, everywhere, people are hurting. May our hearts, though overflowing with gratitude, never forget that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Do You Do?

Strangers have probably happened upon this site, read a post or two and wondered, what in the world do you actually do in Croatia. In the past I offered a few posts explaining our "job", but now we have created a new site that will explain what we do to a much greater extent.

The main purpose will be to offer our supporters a clearer glimpse of what our ministry is, what God is doing in Croatia, and how they can support our efforts.

If you're interested I invite you to go here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I (don't?) Know Where You Live!

Chances are, if you're an American, you will have moved to another house, city or country by the time you're finished reading this post.

And don't think I'm just pointing fingers. My family moved every 5 or 6 years from the time I was born until I moved out of the house. And I followed in my parent's footsteps by making my own - right out of the country. Petra and I have lived in 5 different cities, 6 different apartments or houses and on 2 continents in our 4 years of marriage.

But what made me notice the trend was our address book. We have crossed out and written in so many addresses of our American friends that we need a new address book. The gracious 2 address slots that were provided for any individual or family have been used up in many cases.

Croatians on the other hand don't move. The dependency on family, the current financial situation and traditional values that exist here in Eastern Europe keep most in the village, town or city they were born in. Even after marriage many couples move into one of the parents' houses.

Maybe you could say Croats are like the stubborn donkeys who dig their hooves into the mud all along the Dalmation Coast. Or maybe they're the smart ones who would rather not bother with all the stress that comes with changing locations.

Either way, I've found that to become Croatian means to stay put. With the beauty, hospitality and cuisine we've experienced so far, I'm planning on it - at least for a little while.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Learning the Hard Way

It is no secret - learning Croatian has been extremely difficult for me. As I mentioned earlier, being shy hasn't helped, nor has the eagerness of many Croatians to practice their English with me.

But in my struggle to learn how to learn Croatian, I've realized the best way is to act like I know Croatian. Crazy, but true.

Before I realized this concept, I often acted as if I had to humbly apologize for my bumbling tongue before beginning whatever it was I had to say. Whether I was talking to a cashier, an acquaintance or a drunk man at the cemetary, I was constantly self-conscious of my grammatical ineptitude. And everyone could tell.

But the other day, I confidently walked into the book store, asked for 60 envelopes, a poster board and several copies. I probably made 5 grammatical errors in the process. But I received everything I asked for along with a compliment "Dobro ide!" ('it's going well' - referring to my progress in language learning) and a smile.

I thanked the lady for the pleasant words and realized the whole acting thing was a good idea.

As I thought about the exchange, and my new approach to learning Croatian, I remembered that C.S. Lewis talked about this sort of concept in Mere Christianity:

"Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor, act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn you find yourself disliking him less."


Enoh's not concerned about the fact that he doesn't know how to walk like me yet. He just walks the best he can. And you know what? The process of "acting" like he can walk will naturally turn him into a professional walker. Nor does he care that he can't say "goodnight" yet, his "Ny, Ny" communicates just as well.

Whether it's learning a language or how to live like Christ, I'm finding that action has a big part to play in the process. Thankfully I have a child who's helping me learn.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Learning the Easy Way

It's been 3 months since I updated daddy's blog and though I sleep 12 hours a night (and 3 during the day) when I'm awake I'm a bustle of activity. One Croatian friend even called me a "mala vatra" (little fire). I've been using my time wisely though:

I've been learning how to eat:
And how not to:How to walk: And how to fall: How to clean:And how to make a mess:
I've also been learning how to become a real Eastern European:
How to read:
And how to pose for pictures:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I may have touched on this in an earlier post, but it is worth repeating.

If you are looking for a fine family restaraunt in the country of Croatia; if you want a place where you know the food is fresh, the kitchen is clean and the servers are sweet - then McDonalds is your place.

The first time I stepped into a McDonalds in Croatia I was shocked by the size of a "large" Coke. But after I slurped it down I noticed that families were sitting and eating together. I saw clean floors. I witnessed friendly cashiers. I saw expensive looking chairs. And apparently that wasn't good enough for them. That particular McDonalds has recently been refurbished with 2 flatscreen televisions and a brand new play area.

Why all of this?

A friend of ours, who was fired from McDonalds for using the wrong kind of cleaning sponge on the floor answered that question: "They told us this place has to be perfect in order to protect the American reputation. We have to be nicer than anyone else. We have to clean better than anyone. We even take toothbrushes to the space between the tiles!"

And what do the workers think about working there? Another acquaintance told us "It's the best working envirnonment I've been in. Everyone is so friendly, the pay is great and I feel like I have a purpose when I go to work."

If that's not culture shock for you I don't know what is.