Fall 2019 Blog 9

Fall 2019 Blog 9:  


Hello Folks, Fair warning: this is going to be a long one!

It has been a whirlwind of a mission up to this point. Got in country on Wednesday and hit the ground running in meeting with people and investigating new opportunities God has created through old and new relationships! This is not our typical MLO (Mission Learning Opportunity) where we normally have 20+ team members heading off in 5 different directions every day, to share Christ’s love across this city and across this region. There is only Me, Travis Aaron and Hunter Bernal on this Fall MLO, and the three of us have spent the time meeting people, listening to their hearts and sharing His love in any way we can and the best way has been to sit and listen.  Or to walk and learn! That is what we had the awesome pleasure of doing with Coach Daniel on Sunday, but more about that later.

The Friday flurry of activity was followed up with more of the same on Saturday, except with different people; mostly with our Croatian Family! We spent the morning with our Serbian Football Friends who traveled over from Serbia to visit with us for about 24 hours. They always say that coming to HiS HOUSE is like a holiday, they love the house and us so much it’s like family! Vukasin has become a dear dear friend and he is the reason for our expansion of football camps throughout The Balkans. He came to our first camp in Slovenia several years ago and enjoyed it so much, he went back home and shared his experience with the Serbian American Football Association. He kept telling them that they needed to invite us to Serbia and after some hard talks and several refusals later, Vukasin wore them down and they agreed to inviting us. Well the rest is history. We have been doing camps in Serbia for the past 4 years and recently have done two of them in different locations in the country. That is how our newest family member, Johnny came into the family. And most recently, we have been invited into Bosnia to conduct camps there as well. What a blessing to spend those 20+ hours with them and share, eat and have fellowship. Plus, I kept the whole group busy with projects around HiS HOUSE and preparing HiS Café for our evening Pot Luck Dinner.
me, Stefan, Johnny (back), Vuk, Hunter and Travis
On Saturday morning I had the chance to meet with Ruben, who is with YFC in Rijeka, Croatia which is on the coast. We have been talking for the past several months after being introduced by Jonathan Frost, a dear brother of mine in Pearland who also works for YFC, Here are some more Godcidences for you:  Ruben is married and his wife is from Petrinja, which is a sister city to Sisak. They were going to be in town while we were here in Sisak visiting her parents, so he would plan to come to HiS HOUSE and visit with me. What a blessed time together we had. He and I sat and visited for a couple of hours, listening to one another’s heart and desire to tear down walls. By the time we finished we had plans in the making to share in the sports ministry they are starting in Rijeka. They are starting a basketball club and need basketball goals and balls and I told him we would begin praying for God’s provision for that! 
Ruben from Rijecka
Our first Croatian “Pot Luck Dinner” held at HiS Café was a huge success. Hunter smoked a brisket and everyone who came provided a side dish to share. We had our Croatian family join us and although invited many more, it was a late invitation and most already had plans. This is the first of many, many more in the future.  We already have plans for a couple next summer! Everyone had a blessed time and the food was fantastic. HiS Café is in for a lot of entertaining in the future and the fellowship that will happen will touch more and more lives. 
Croatian Family Pot-Luck
During the evening Marko and I had a chance to visit and talk about the upcoming Spring and Summer MLO’s and how he can support. He was so helpful, as always and is ready to provide what ever we need, but what he talked about after that was such a blessing that it is hard to explain without getting emotional.  Marko and his wife are expecting in April and he is preparing to be a father and wants to do it the right way, especially and most importantly spiritually! He asked some spiritually based questions and desired to ask Stefan more when the time was right. He mentioned that asking me was good, but since his English was not so good, he could speak with Stefan and spend time with him to discuss issues and questions he had about the Christian faith. What a blessing to hear that from him and his desire to follow Jesus outwardly, not only for his family, but also publicly to those around him.  
Marko and me
Sunday was another day filled with a flurry of activity; meeting new brothers and sisters as well as spending time with old ones. We got up early and headed up into the mountains to go to church with the people of a small secluded village, not far from where the original protestant church was founded back in 1919. We took Coach Daniel, the President of the Sisak Storks Baseball Club and dear friend of mine with us, because it was his grandfather who in 1919 returned from Detroit to share the gospel with his family and the people of his country, Yugoslavia.  
Outside the mountain village church
I was blessed but must admit unprepared when I was asked by the pastor of the church to bring the message. I am always prepared to bring greetings from Houston and share what we are doing or going to do, but they wanted me to bring what God has laid on my heart. So, after a short time in prayer (lasting only through the song they sang before the message) God clearly gave me the passages He desired for me to tie into together, to bring the message to love people where they are, to receive their smell, and to love them even if they don’t ask why! God showed up and Stefan, my translator, and I both got choked up and I, as my wife would say “Got my Baptist Preacher on!” and raised my voice a time or two. Coach told us afterward that it was the perfect loudness, since most of the congregation were hard of hearing. 
Inside the mountain church
After church we went to the pastor and his wife’s home and had a full 5 course dinner that we could hardly stand up and walk afterward. I told the pastor I couldn’t eat anymore and asked him how he could eat so much. He responded with a straight face, “This is Sunday and we don’t eat again till Tuesday."  I had to laugh at that one and could understand where he was coming from. Excellent food and even better company and after gaining 5 pounds we headed out to the countryside so Coach could share the history of his grandfather and the start of the protestant church. 
Outside the pastor's house.
What a blessing to spend time with Coach Daniel in the afternoon to walk out history where his grandfather did back in the early 1900’s. It was a blessing to walk off what we have been eating for sure, but the real blessing came from hearing the passion in his voice and love he had for his grandfather as well as our Heavenly Father. To write down all that happened to his grandfather and to share all the historical events would take me a long time and I know you don’t have the time, so I will just hit some highlights and hopefully that will intrigue you enough to ask me to go for a coffee so I can share the deeper story and meaning of what he meant to this part of the world for spreading God’s love and expanding the Kingdom. Here is just a snapshot or two of that history. 
This is a picture of the railway station where Daniel's father arrived in 1919, after spending 5 years in Detroit. While in USA he accepted Jesus and felt the calling to come back to his family and share. At the train station he was met by one of his sisters-in-law who took him to his cousin’s house, because his family did not want to see him. 
Train station
In this field is a memorial to many civilians who were gathered up and shot during World War II. Coach Daniel’s grandfather was among those gathered, but was spared by two soldiers who knew of him and told their platoon leader that he was a good man. They removed him from the group at night, brought them to their house and asked him to pray for them.
Memorial to civilians killed during WWII
This is the first protestant Baptist church in Croatia, established in 1919. They celebrated the 100-Year Anniversary the week before we arrived. We will be coming back in the summer to share with the people of this congregation. They were so appreciative of us coming this time, and bringing young people from our team this summer would be a huge blessing to them. 
Front of the first Protestant Church
Side of the church
We finished the evening up with a precious meal with Coach Daniel and his wife Marina in their home in Sisak. We always have a blessed time and of course enjoyed the 9 course meal that she made for us. Coach is a dear friend and we have developed a deep love for one another over these past 14 years.
Dinner at Coach Daniel's house.
Blessings to each of you and thank you so very much for keeping us with us and for your prayer and financial support. We could not do what we do with your provision of both. Remember Jesus loves you and so do I!