The Road to Zagreb

So how did I end up at the Biblijski institut?  Some people’s lives stretch out before them in a clear, well-planned pattern.  Then there’s my life, which has been more like the path of a three-year-old returning a toy from the living room to his toy box–it wanders all over the place.

To bring us to Zagreb, God moved us through at least two dozen different decisions / events.  Some of them were pivotal; if we’d gone a different way, it would be much more difficult, or even impossible, for us to join the work in Croatia.  And it all started when we decided to leave Kentucky Christian University …

1. In the spring of 2012, I was the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kentucky Christian University.  Beth was running the student success center in the library.  We were happy, we were making a living and paying our bills.  Life was good.

2. Mid-April 2012, I learned that the Vice President for Academic Affairs, at Dallas Christian College, my alma mater, had resigned .  Since 1993, we had thought of Dallas as home.  I’d always dreamed of being at DCC.  I knew and deeply respected the president, Dusty Rubeck.  Dallas was closer to family, etc., etc.  So we decided to uproot and move to Dallas.  I interviewed with DCC and accepted the position.

3. I moved to Dallas in summer 2012.  Beth stayed in Kentucky, so that our son could finish high school there.

4. The three of us moved to Dallas in May 2013, after our son graduated.  We thought we were returning home “to stay.”  I told people I intended to die in my office at DCC someday.

5. A few months after we moved to Dallas, we began shopping for a house, but we could never settle on an area.

6. In early 2016, finally decided that we wanted to live in Corinth / Denton. We tried to buy a house in that area and were outbid, even though our bid was 5% over the listing price.

7. Shortly after that, we tried to buy another house in Corinth / Denton, and were outbid again.

8. Also in early 2016, Beth had a long-term sub job that should have turned into a permanent job.  She is well-qualified, with a Master’s and experience as a teacher and as an administrator, but she was not even a finalist for this job.

9. Beth applied for permanent teaching jobs at other Christian schools and charter schools.  Again, she gets only a couple of interviews, and never progresses.

10. On June 23, 2016, I lose my job at Dallas Christian College, the job that I had thought would be the last job I ever had.

11. I apply for over 100 jobs in education, churches, and business, with only an occasional nibble.

12. I interview for a job with a community college that I’m well-qualified for.  I am not a finalist for this job.

13. The former minister at our church, Eddy Ketchersid, nominates me for the Executive Directorship of CECEF, the Central European Christian Education Foundation, which raises money in support of the Biblijski institut in Zagreb, Croatia.

At the time, I am unable to locate Croatia on a map.  I know that it’s one of the former Yugoslav republics, and that it’s the home of Dražen Petrović, that’s about it.

14. I don’t hear back from any of the 100 other jobs I apply for.

15. I DO hear back from a church and from CECEF.  I make it through the first round of interviews with CECEF, even though I have no experience as a fundraiser.

16. The church flies me in to interview for an executive minister position.  There are things about the position that excite me and things that don’t.  On the whole, I’m relieved when I don’t get the position.

17. While in the airport flying home from the church interview, I have the second interview with CECEF. THIS IS THE ONLY PROGRESS on any of my job search efforts.

Actually, I do part of this interview in one airport and part of it in another, because the conversation is taking much longer than I expected and I have a short flight from one midwestern airport to another in the middle.

18. During that second interview, the interviewer says, “You don’t look like a fundraiser. You look like a college president. Are you interested in moving to Croatia?”  He tells me that the president of Biblijski institut, Dr. Tom Sibley, wants to transition into another role.

19. Neal Joseph, the headhunter I interviewed with in the first CECEF interview, tells me that CECEF will be good people to work for, and suggests that we should get our passports in order.  Keep in mind, we’re living on our savings at the time.  The $250 it costs to get our passports taken care of is hard money for us to spend at the time.

20. In the mean time, Beth interviews for two emergency openings in public schools, and makes no progress on either job, even though she’s well-qualified.

21. I have a third interview with CECEF , via conference call.  I tell the group that I’m incredibly interested in the position.  The conversation is very positive, but we don’t hear much for a week or so.

22. The CECEF Board Chairman travels to Dallas and meets with Beth and me.  Again, the conversation is very positive, but (again) we don’t hear much for a week or so.

23. The CECEF Board decides to send me to Zagreb for 60 days, as a working interview and getting-to-know-you period, as soon as we can get tickets.  (Good thing we had gotten our passports together a month earlier.)

24. Beth and I fly to Zagreb, and everything is amazing.  The city is beautiful.  The people are beautiful.  Dr. Sibley and his wife, Sandra, are gracious and welcoming.  The school is doing EXACTLY the kind of work I want to be doing–training ministers and church leaders.

Beth stays in Zagreb with me for a week.  She then returns to DFW, but I stay in Zagreb until mid-December, working with BI personnel to put together accreditation documents, and preparing for an accreditation visit this spring.

During this time, I also meet many church leaders from Zagreb and the surrounding area, and spend time with the members of Biblijski institut‘s (Croatian) management board.

25. As I’m flying back from Zagreb to DFW, the CECEF Board is on a conference call.  I land at DFW airport and find an email offering me the position of president and director of Biblijski institut, which I quickly accept.

26. Two family events at the turn of the new year–the death of my wife’s father, Vic Flowers; our son taking a job in Lexington, close to one of his sisters–take place in ways that not only fit our schedule for getting to Zagreb, they also allow for me to wrap family events and needs into traveling on behalf of Biblijski institut.

The month of February is going to be filled with MORE traveling on behalf of BI.  We’ll spend 10 of the next 22 days on the road, representing the school in New Mexico, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

And then we’re on a plane to Zagreb, ready to get to work there.


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