Fall Croatia Trip - November 6

I will apologize ahead of time; this is going to be a long one, but I pray you will have time to read it because of the many things that happened and the blessings God gave us through it all. Days tend to run into one another when you are on a mission trip and in a different time zone and not sure if your body should be in day or night. We have had a wonderful trip so far with some times to sit back and just spend with people and other times when it feels like we are going fast like the summer. The summer mission trips are so busy with different ministries and places to go share that you don’t have time to spend the one on one time relationship building and discipleship building like you have in the fall. Spending time to share with 1 or 3 people very seldom happens in the summer, which is why I like to have this time in the fall. With less programs and places to be, there is more time to spend with people and sharing your heart and love for Christ on a more intimate level. In the future I and the team we bring must plan a longer time to spend here so that we would have more time to do that relationship building.
On Wednesday, after a wonderful time of devotions and sharing, (those have been some very blessed times to share and pray together) Zack and Julia had an opportunity to take Ezekiel down to the children’s library to play and draw with some other children his age who came there in the morning for a program. They took him and he had a great time playing with the other children. They also had a chance to take him to the park since the weather was chilly but at least the sun was shining and the rain had moved out. In the afternoon they went to Ellen and Matt’s, missionaries from the states that just moved here 6 months ago. We have known them for awhile because Ellen had been involved in our baseball/softball camps in the years past. They have two children and one of them is Ezekiel’s age so they went and had a play date and dinner with them. This gave Zack and Julia a chance to encourage them and listen to Ellen and Matt’s needs as well as give Ezekiel another trip to Disney World with all the children’s toys. God has used Zack and Julia and their love for each other as a married couple and for their son, to touch many of the young marrieds they have crossed paths with and God has blessed me in allowing me to observe many of those meetings.
Joe and I took Elvis, Mario and Marino into Zagreb to accomplish several tasks and this gave us a chance to spend time with them in the process. We were going to Zagreb to take the football pads and shoes to one of the football players for the football team in Split so that he could take it down to Split in time for the championship game on Saturday. We met him when we first got to Zagreb and although the traffic was worse than Houston, believe it or not, we made it safely to him and to witness the smile on his face when he saw the gear was priceless. I am so happy that Pearland High School had supplied the many shoes and protective pads for the SeaWolves so they would be better equipped to play the game.  The thankfulness and gratitude of the team is incredible and they express that every chance they get on Facebook and Skype.
After dropping the equipment off we heading to the town center and the Cathedral to find a place to park. We were to meet Little John around 2:30 after he finished class so that he could show us around the priest quarters he now lives. We found a pizza place across the road from the Cathedral and had some lunch. We were sitting around visiting and when it came time for the food to be delivered. Marino reached out his hands to me and Mario who he was sitting next to so that we could pray. He had been observing us at our meal times at Janko’s and every time we had been ready to eat, we had held hands around the table. This was a special moment for me for him to be willing to do this in a public restaurant and for Elvis and Mario to follow suit was neat to be a part of. We held hands around the table and said the blessing and then we had lunch.
At around 2:45 Little John showed up and sat with us while we finished eating. After lunch we walked across the street and I could feel Little John’s uneasiness with the group. When Little John had asked us over the weekend to come and visit him at the priest school, he had intended for it to be just Joe and I and we had not told him the others were with us. I walked ahead of the group with him and asked him if he would like to take just Joe and I on the tour and from his reaction, I could tell he did not want to be rude to the others but that just having the two of us would be best. So I told the guys that it would be just Joe and I going into the school and that if they could walk around and show Marino around until 4:00 that would be best. They understood and we parted ways for the next hour. Johnny took us past the guard post and introduced us as close family friends and that he wanted to take us around the grounds. When we got inside the beautiful facility he showed us a room that most visitors when they come must go to and wait for the person to come and visit with them. They couldn’t go further into where he was taking us. This made Joe and I feel welcomed and a heartfelt appreciation from Little John to have that kind of feeling and love for us.  He showed us the priest quarters, cafĂ©, prayer rooms, chapel, library and his room that only family and very close friends get the opportunity to see. Blessed beyond measure by this experience and Joe and I walked away from spending time with Little John seeing a man who has matured right before our eyes, since that very first camp in 2006 when I first met him to today, he was going where God wanted him to go. During the time together I could sense that he wanted to ask me questions about the difference between my faith and his. There will be time in the future for that to occur. I know God will provide that opportunity someday, as I have the same desire to share and ask him as well. As we finished our time together, we took pictures and stood in front of the Cathedral and just talked. He shared with me that our relationship had meant a lot to him and had influenced him from the very beginning. He gave me a book that had pictures of the Cathedral and the places we had just visited, with an inscription in the front cover that read: “To David, a BiG Relationship from the John who is Little.” And then had the scripture verse John 3:16. Incredible time and wonderful blessing of a relationship with Little John and his desire to share his life with Joe and me.
After leaving Little John we drove to another missionary’s house, Daniel and Katia, who I knew and lived in Zagreb. He was with his 3 children and could not get away to come and join us around in the town center so we got his address and fought the traffic to get to his house. By the time we got there we didn’t have much time to visit since we had to get back to Sisak for the hockey camp. The traffic was at a crawl so by the time we got to the house, we had time to come in say hello give him the stuff I had brought for him and then head back out. I got a chance to introduce him to the fellas and Joe and then it was time to head back to Sisak and prayerfully make it back home in time for the camp. We did make it but I was in terrible shape with the worst head and neck ache I had ever experienced. I prayed asking God that if he wanted me to sit back and not get involved with the camp and remove myself so that Zack and Joe would take over, then don’t remove the pain prior to us getting there. Well, the pain only got worse and be the time we got to the house, I had only enough energy to walk into the bathroom, take some pain medication and head to bed. I let go and let them have the camp and God gave me peace in knowing it was in capable hands.
After a two hour sleep I woke up in much better condition and a couple of hours later they returned from the camp with glowing results of how the camp went and their opportunity to share with the players who participated. The first group had about 14 players ages 7 to 12 - we did speed and agility stations with them which they really enjoyed. Joe shared afterward that we were there to share God’s love through Christ. After that camp about 12 older players showed up.  Joe told me that Zack was in his element and really shined with sharing his hockey skills and taking them through a series of stick handling drills. We are excited about returning tonight and the opportunity to share and pray with them. Zack came home and was full of confidence.  It was neat to witness his upbeat attitude and energy and desire to return the next day. God has brought this wonderful opportunity to share with a whole new group of people in Sisak and Zack has stepped up and out of box to meet the challenge of running the camp on his own. Please keep Zack and the rest of us in your prayers as we go back tonight for our last night of camp and the opportunity to love on these people and love them till they ask why. The asking why may not happen this year, but our desire is that they are interested enough to invite us back next year.
Have a wonderful God filled day and remember Jesus loves you and so do I!