This summer has been completely and overwhelmingly crazy. I was able to spend my summer in Croatia even in the midst of a global pandemic. God is the only way that this was possible. Without his guidance I would be lost.
When trying to figure out how I would get to Croatia, and if God was in fact telling me to come, I experienced fear, worry, and great uncertainty because I allowed my eyes to become unfocused from the Lord. Instead of completely trusting that God would provide for me, I looked at the news, listened to other people’s opinions, and worried about all the risks associated with traveling during this time. For a week and a half, while I was planning I would worry, and even the day of my flight did not prepare to leave because I doubted God’s ability to get me to Croatia.
Despite crazy traveling and lots of document checks, I was allowed to enter Croatia because of my association with my church, Betel, in Sisak. I had documents stating why I was entering Croatia and that I would be coming to work as a missionary there.
After many hours of traveling I was ecstatic when I finally met my friend whom I would be spending the majority of the summer with. I couldn’t believe I was finally in Croatia, and nothing could have prepared me for what would happen during the summer.
A few days after I arrived in Croatia I became the center of unwanted drama that left me angry and hurt. I saw a new side of people during this time that made me upset. I was angry that Christians could quickly become consumed in drama that ultimately did not matter in the Kingdom of God. Rather than focusing on spreading the Gospel or being a good witness to people around them, I watched people give bad representations to each other about Christ’s love. It broke my heart. It hurt me. Especially because the drama was brought on by my arrival even though it wasn’t really about me. I am constantly having to surrender this situation to the Lord because my heart is prone to becoming bitter. Through this situation I learned that no matter what situation or hurt I am facing, I must keep my eyes fixed solely on the Lord because following Him and His commands is the only way I can continue to live.
While in Croatia I had the opportunity to have some much needed rest. I went to the coast to the Island of Pag for a week. There I spent time with my friends swimming and resting before busyness would begin with camps and other things in my church. I did not realize how much I needed to rest until I was resting. I had not felt that relaxed in two years.
After I was on the coast I began meeting with people in Sisak. I had many good conversations over coffee that left me feeling encouraged and strengthened to continue doing the work I was doing. During this time I also got to meet with Milos, the pastor at Betel to discuss vision and ideas for the youth group we will start. This week full of meetings provided encouragement and joy as we began preparing for the future.
Kid’s camp 2020 at Zelena Dolina is one that I will not forget. I was extremely excited headed into this week because I had been able to help prepare for camp with things like games, powerpoint presentations, and materials for hands on activities. I was prepared to do as much as possible to help in any way that was needed. Little did I know, God was going to show me a lesson about pride and patience this week.
I helped prepare games for the week at camp, and my friend and I were going to be working together to lead them (because I don’t speak enough Croatian to do it by myself). It was a test of our friendship. Leading games this way was very difficult because of miscommunication that caused issues in playing the games. One day in particular I became very frustrated with my friend I was working with. Trying to translate and play a game and control a group of young children is not an easy task, and it was not going the way we expected. After the games were over my friend and I began to talk about what had happened just before we went on a long downhill slip-n-slide. It was a conversation that got cut short because I got into an accident.
On the slip and slide there were two men waiting to catch everyone at the bottom so they could slow down and stop. I stopped, by running neck first into one of the men. I will never forget the sound my neck made. Immediately people surrounded me and began praying for my healing. A little while later the ambulance came and took me to the hospital where I had my neck and spine X-rayed. Everything came back clear and I had no fractures or breaks. God protected me in an accident that could have easily been much worse. Additionally, he used it for his glory because 10 hospital staff and ambulance members got to hear about Jesus and the reason I was in Croatia at a Christian camp. Even though I continue to be in pain, I am glad that I was in the accident because it allowed others to hear about the God who loves them.
Because of my injury, I was unable to help out as much at camp like I had been hoping. I began to have to give up my pride as people helped change my clothes, wash me, take care of my pain, and serve me, when all I wanted to do was serve them. I was humbled by the overwhelming amount of love people showed me. I was in a very vulnerable position and people cared for me; and did so in the most loving and kind way. I had never imagined that my close friends would wash my hair or change my clothes, but they did without hesitation. I learned a thing or two about humility, pride, and love that week, and it is something I won’t forget.
My time in Croatia did not end the way I was expecting, but it was certainly even better than I planned. I had been hoping to go to teen camp in Zelena Dolina this year, but because of coronavirus and my neck injury I decided it would be better to return to the USA before the camp. The week before I left Croatia, God gave me abundant unexpected blessings. My last Sunday in church before my return to the US, an American missionary couple came to me and told me they wanted to give me their furnishings and car when they move back to the US in the Fall. A few days later, God opened a door to find an apartment where I will be living when I move to Croatia. To recap: over the course of a week God gave me all the furnishings I need, a car, and a place to live when I move to Croatia- THAT’S CRAZY. God is opening doors to come to Croatia even more than I was expecting. I am still in shock by this unexpected provision, and I am humbled that God has called me to be a part of his plan. He could have chosen anyone, but he invited me to do it.
When God calls us to do something, we are completely convinced of its importance and it becomes life altering. “A call is a profound impression from God that establishes parameters for your life and can be altered only by a subsequent, superseding impression from God.” I hope you take the time to understand that sentence. God calls each of us to do something, and whatever it is you must be completely convinced of it and act on that call. Following God’s call means that when pain, uncomfortable situations, and confusion occurs you will not let it change your mind, but keep your eyes fixed on Him so that he can receive the glory. God did not call us to an easy, safe life but one where God would use all things for his good. In both the good and the bad we must respond to God’s call and follow his commands for our life. When I responded to God’s call to be a missionary in Croatia I couldn’t know the pain and challenges that would come with it, but I would never trade the joy and life that comes with following God’s call.
“The safest place to be, anywhere in the world, is in the center of God’s call.”