Summer 2019 started with a bang! As soon as the kids were out of school, we began preparing for Champs Camp, a week long event for elementary school-age children designed to introduce them to the love and teachings of Jesus. Each summer a church from America partners with us to host this VBS style day camp for approximately 100 children. Some of those who have grown up attending Champs Camp are now volunteering as teens and young adults!
After Champs Camp, we moved for the second time in a year. Moving away from our village life in Sveta Nedelja to an urban context in the city of Zagreb was a decision made after much prayer and discernment. In the end, we determined living in Zagreb would best position us for fruitful ministry. We also agreed that the move would make the most sense for our family in terms of quality of life, finances, etc. Little did we know at the time what a blessing it would be to live in such close proximity to one of the best hospitals for pediatric endocrinology in the country (and according to some, all of Europe).
Within two days of landing in our new apartment near the center of Zagreb, we headed to the U.S. for three weeks to connect with family, friends, and supporting churches. Those weeks were such a sweet time for our family and went by much too quickly. Unfortunately, there were many loved ones that we were not able to see or spend much time with as we rushed across Texas. We hope we'll have more opportunities to be together whether here in Croatia or elsewhere in the future.
Once we returned to Zagreb, it was time for Family Camp on the island of Ugljan. We spent a wonderful week with Croatian brothers and sisters in Christ and even made some new friends from America! Going to the coast during the summer is a Croatian cultural imperative and we enjoyed taking part in the annual pastime with seven days of swimming in the sea, playing games, resting, and worshipping with our church family.
This fall our boys started a new school and have adjusted well to their new learning environment. The boys continue to attend public school and are learning a lot about Croatian language and culture. A teacher strike meant that Nash and Van missed 15 days of school this fall that will have to be made up in the spring. They aren't too excited about shortened Christmas and spring breaks, an extended school year, and having to attend school on a couple of Saturdays.
We have taken a more active role in our church's Let's Start Talking ministry, primarily focussing on follow up with those who have participated in the program. LST sends teams from the U.S. and other locations around the world on short term mission trips. During these mission trips native English speakers offer free one-on-one conversational English courses using the Bible as a text and starting point for discussion. This fall more than 25 men and women met with a two person team that came to Zagreb for four weeks. Following their time here, we launched Let's Keep Talking, a group Bible study in English. We had eight participants and met for six weeks. We plan to continue with this first group and launch another group in January.
We've also had the privilege to participate in other ministry efforts this fall. John has had multiple opportunities to preach in Zagreb and in a neighboring city, Zaprešić. Susan helps lead the women's bible study at Kušlanova and was the teen group facilitator at a conference for women in ministry called Oasis. We've hosted and led small group discussions with other young married couples focussed on God's plan for marriage and parenting. We've joined our teammates in ministry and worship with teens. We continue to network and partner with other Christians, missionaries, pastors, etc in this area. We've been hosting a regular time of prayer focussed on the city. We've also continued to turn our attention to disciple making efforts with several ministry partners.
We are excited about what we see God doing in Croatia and we're thrilled that we get the opportunity to partner with Him in it! We're looking forward to even more in 2020!