It’s amazing how quickly time can fly, and, how many events can occur in such a short amount of it. It seems that the longer we are here, the more we see the Lord answering our prayers and stirring our hearts. We remember back just a few months ago when we were finally feeling settled in to life in Čakovec, and asking the Lord for more to do; more opportunities to get involved in the community and it the life of the believers in the church here. He has abundantly answered this prayer and given us even more than we feel we have strength for. It seems daily new things and opportunities come up, and likewise the Lord is faithful to meet us with with fresh measures of His Spirit to accomplish the tasks before us as we are learning to rely on His strength.
About a month ago, amidst the busyness, the Lord blessed us with a weekend getaway. There is a young couple here who we serve with, who have become very dear to our hearts. Their names are Miro and Andrijana. They just happened to win a completely free trip to the mountains in Western Croatia, online. The package was for two couples, so they invited us to come along. And what a refreshing weekend it was. We weren’t really sure what to expect, because pictures can sometimes be misleading, but when we arrived at the large, modern, beautiful weekend house, that was situated on top of a hill with a spectacular view, we knew the Lord had truly blessed us and this other couple. The house was located literally in the middle of nowhere, so with nothing else to do besides rest, we took advantage of the peace and quiet. We had a sweet time in fellowship, prayer, rest, and plenty of good food.
While we were there, we did end up taking a drive to a nearby town, Čabar (Cha – bar), about 20 minutes away. Everything there was just as still and quiet as it was up on the hill, and the countless stares we received from the town’s residents, indicated that they probably don’t have visitors very often. While in town, we noticed a little hill with a small Catholic church and graveyard, and climbed up to get a better view of our surroundings. Up there, we found the town’s own “Via Dolorosa”. This catholic tradition is also called “Way of the Cross”, and consists of 14 stations with pictures depicting the sufferings of Jesus in Jerusalem up to his death on the cross and burial in the tomb. While going around to each station, there are also certain prayers to say for each one and so on. We walked through the “Way of the Cross”, examining the murals each portraying parts of Jesus’s suffering surrounding his crucifixion. Although the paintings were interesting to look at, there was one picture that was especially disturbing. The fourth station was a painting of Jesus, carrying his cross, while meeting his mother, Mary, on the road (I included a picture below). The disturbing part was there was another woman, bowing down and worshipping Mary, not Jesus. We stared, shocked, at what the image portrayed. We continued on toward the graveyard, and were again met with disappointment as the murals ended with Jesus’s death, instead of His resurrection. Our experience was eye-opening in new ways, and it is hard knowing how many have been so lead astray by the false teaching in the Roman Catholic Church.
A few weeks ago we celebrated Thanksgiving and invited a few friends from church. It was, again, a sweet time of fellowship and food. Emily cooked a true feast of all the usual dishes eaten on this day, and our guests really enjoyed the “strange flavors that somehow all taste good together”!
Last weekend was the first advent which has all sorts of festivities attached to it in Croatia. The people here really celebrate these times, and Christmas booths are set up all over the city center. I (Ben), and a few other guys from church went out and set up a table as an opportunity to share the Gospel and invite people to church. We gave out free new testaments and pamphlets regarding the church and salvation. One woman, who my friend Miro talked with, ended up coming to church the next morning. We will continue to set up this table each weekend before Christmas. Please pray for these times, open doors to share, open hearts to receive, and for God to be glorified.
Language is going well, and as usual we are still learning. We are getting to the point of really understanding the essentials of the grammar, but now its a matter of applying it, over and over again, and increasing our vocabulary. Please continue to pray for the Lord’s wisdom and strength in our continued learning.
The church is doing well, there are new people coming, and the body is growing. Pastor Damir just finished Luke, will be doing some topical things for the holidays, and is then headed into Genesis. On Fridays we finished the book of Philippians and this past Friday we had our last meeting before Emily and I leave for the States. Please continue to pray for us and the people in the church. We long to see a greater moving of God’s Spirit in the church and among the unbelievers here in Čakovec, and all of Croatia.
We also ask that you would pray for our travels and time in the States. It has been over a year since we’ve visited, and we have a lot of traveling before us. We are excited to see you all, fellowship, and share more in detail, in person, what we have seen the Lord do this past year, in us and in Croatia. Again, we will be in WA from DEC 13 – DEC 26 and PA from DEC 27 – JAN 9.
Thank you for your prayers, your support, your partnership.
-Ben and Emily