So our first week in Zagreb is nearly over. It’s Thursday morning here; the Presidential debate is running in the background. It’s kind of surreal, I’ve been able to go entire days here without thinking about Trump VS Clinton.
There are all kinds of “missionary” commonplace expressions. One of them is to open each communique with the traditional in-country greeting, so “Dobar dan.” (That’s Croatian for “good day.” Anytime between 10 am and 6 pm, that’s the normal greeting. I don’t know the morning or evening (or night) greetings; the nouns are different genders, so it’s not “dobar,” it’s some variation.
Croatian is a HIGHLY inflected language, so that will wait for language school.
Anyway. I’m busy trying to meet and build relationships with people from the various protestant church groups here. The largest are Baptist, Pentecostal, and Church of Christ, but there are also Brethren and Seventh Day Adventist; they are less connected to BIZ, but they ARE important because the Croatian government lumps all the protestant groups together, and tends to treat us as one.
A brief rundown of week 1:
- Arrived Saturday
- Worshipped with the Kushlanova church Sunday, then spent time with Steve Taliaferro, BIZ’s Chief Operations Officer. Steve is from Houston, and spent years in DFW as a public school guidance counselor before going to Russia and now Croatia. He is the local history buff.
- Monday, we traveled to Istria, along the Adriatic coast; cities of Rijeka, Pula, Rovinj. The country in Istria is absolutely beautiful; like our favorite parts of Kentucky blending into the northern California coast.
- Pula is the location of a 20,000 seat arena built by Caesar Augustus at about the time of the birth of Christ, prior to building the arena in Rome. He also built a temple for emperor worship.
- Rijeka is the home of the largest evangelical church in Croatia, a Baptist church with average weekly attendance of more than 150. The pastor is an alumnus of BIZ.
- Tuesday, we rode the train to Ljubljana, Slovenia. There, we met with Randy and Joan Bell, Baptist church planters that we knew back at Eastern New Mexico University. The Bells have coworkers who are alumni of BIZ. Slovenia’s need for ministry education is even more pressing than Zagreb’s. It’s a more secular country, and more competitive, harder-edged.
- Wednesday, I was part of an official meeting with the staff and faculty of BIZ.
- The people are brilliant and highly educated. Practically everyone around the table had at least a Master’s degree, and most either hold or are working on doctorates.
- One of the men who works in the office, Nino, is an archivist working on a project where he digitizes old, hand-copied Croatian manuscripts of the Psalms. He and his group have found more than half a dozen different Croatian translations of the Psalms from the 16th century. Some of the variations are fascinating, especially the interpretive Christological glosses that the scribes included in the Messianic psalms (e.g., Psalm 2.8-9: “I have made the nations your inheritance. … You will rule them from the tree with a rod of iron.”
- Croatia has high unemployment, and it highly values education. The result is that people work toward advanced education, but–when they graduate–end up taking whatever jobs they can find, and staying there. There are blue collar workers here with Master’s degrees, etc.
- We had a long worship time (“Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “We Thank You” in Croatian; “Draw Me Close” and “Still Amazing” in English), then I gave a short devotion on Psalm 1.