Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Croatia Week #3

Grace and I (along with Brenda), were snow bound for two days, in Rijeka (the most Northwestern coastal city in Croatia).  We couldn't get through the mountains, so we enjoyed a nice day of rest, but spent most of the time at McDonalds, one of the few places where you can get Internet! The roads cleared the next day, (although it was still snowing), so we made our way slowly down the coast.  We finally arrived in the seacoast city of Zadar, a city of 75,000 people.  Zadar is over 2,700 years old and has amazing architectural structures dating back to the Roman Empire. 

Zadar was one of the rare opportunities to minister to both Baptist and Pentecostal churches in the same city. However, the two Senior Pastors are close friends and actually rotate preaching in each other’s churches!  We had a combined seminar that included both churches and they are all close friends…what remarkable fellowship! In fact, the day before we came the worship leader from the Baptist church and her team had just won First Place in the national songwriting contest for Christian/Catholic songs and both churches gathered together to celebrate with us at our seminar!  The worship teams were excited to see us and thrilled at the opportunity to learn more about worship…it was an exhilarating experience!

Sibenik (pronounced SHIB-eh-nick), is like a picture out of a magazine, with all of the old homes built on the mountain down into the Adriatic Sea. And although there is an outward beauty, there is an internal darkness as many people are lost inside...the spiritual need here is so great.  Everyone is Catholic in Croatia (except for .05% who are Evangelicals), but the Catholics are not even practicing their religion...only in name. They don't attend mass or even have a personal relationship with Jesus or read the Bible, nor do the priests even discuss it! To many people their religion is “being a good person. Croatia only escaped Communism less than 20 years ago, so the concept of "knowing Jesus" is foreign to most of them, but God is starting to move here in amazing ways. Three churches to which we have been are now so large that they have to construct new buildings! We ministered at two churches, both of which were Pentecostal, and they were elated that we would travel all the way from the U.S. to come to minister to them.  We taught one worship team how to sing harmony and a “new song” to the Lord; the Pastor’s wife was there and heard the difference and was so excited that she could hardly contain herself!  She begged us to spend more time with them, and we were honored to be the ones to help them move to new levels of worship!

We attended a worship service at a house church on the Island of Hvar (uh-VAR), where I spoke on worship after they all sang to the Lord and worshipped freely.  They laughed and applauded when I attempted some Croatian words and they were extremely gracious and friendly. The stone house was a century old building overlooking the sea, but it took us up nearly 250 steps on a “rocky” road that was pitched at nearly 65 degrees!  But, it was worth the effort as the group really reached out and ministered to us!

The next day, we ministered to a Catholic Priest (don Milli) and his youth group; they were captivated by the things we shared and we had the rare opportunity to see the inner workings of the Catholic Church.  It was definitely worth the two-hour ferry ride to get to the Island!

There is a huge void in the spiritual and natural worship of the Lord, yet the Spirit has moved so graciously and powerfully among the people that it has been amazing! They have been so receptive to receiving our ministry and the Lord’s anointing has been so powerful…we know we are at the center of God’s will! In fact, everywhere we go, the pastors and worship leaders have told us that we have come at just the right time!

Though there has been quite a variance in the size and location of churches that we have been to in Croatia, the love for God and passion for worship has remained the same!

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