This afternoon, my friend Tomislav and I will be going to the villages an hour south of here to arrange the purchase of wood for heating this winter. We will be meeting with Duro (JEW-row) who is a dear brother and one of the kindest men you could ever want to meet.

The area we are going to was overrun at the beginning of the “Homeland War” in 1991. It was then overrun again at the end of the war in 1995. The first experience cleansed the area of Croats. The second forced the Serbs of the area to flee. Both actions left the area devastated in every possible way.

This area has several churches. Some date back to the early years of Baptist work in the 1920s. We are sponsoring agriculture development projects in this area as well as several others. Many are not only learning about how to recover economically but about other matters which are far more important.

Later today I will post some pictures from our experiences today.

I would ask that you remember Tomislav and I in your prayers. Ask that we could be great encouragers and that we would take advantage of every God-given opportunity to speak words of truth, mercy and grace.



So what do you do all day? A fair question that I get when I am in the States and through the occasional email from one of you. I get it often from my neighbors and friends in Croatia. Let’s face it, my job is weird!

The formal answer is that, “I am the director for the Croatian Representative Office of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. We work with the Croatian Baptist Union and other Christian groups. We work through specific projects designed to help people in practical and spiritual ways.”

Most of our non-Baptist Croatian friends respond with something like, “So, you’re a foreigner who is here as a missionary.” Recently, unless a formal situation demands otherwise, I have changed my response to better communicate exactly what we do. Also, I change it according to how I think the person will best understand what I am trying to say. So, what does this have to do with bees in the chimney.

A few weeks ago my wonderful wife called the chimney sweeper. Now, I do things like prepare for winter in November but Elise, being wise, prepares early. The apprentice came to the house and checked our chimney from the gas heating system and everything was fine. Then, he and I went to the attic, I helped remove some roof tiles and he got on the roof to check the chimney from the wood burning ceramic heater. He came back moments later and said we had a big problem.

I don’t know why but it is typical for a home repair guy here to assume once he has discovered a big problem his part of the job is done. It is as if he was saying, “Wow! I am glad I don’t have that enormous hive of bees in my chimney. Good luck finding someone to clean that for you.” He was packing up to leave but I talked him into checking the chimney from the ceramic heater up but the results of that are another story.

Those moments delayed his exit long enough to ask about these bees. He told me there was a huge hive completely blocking the chimney and that it was a couple of meters below the chimney opening. I asked who I should call to have them cleaned out and, when I got no satisfactory answers, asked why a chimney sweep would not want the job.

Well, you would have thought I had asked him to travel to the moon. It would be very hard and very expensive and we have never done it before and I have not even heard of this before and….on and on and on. I told him I did not care and wanted his company to come back and clean my chimney starting with the bees.  We agreed on a price and he promised to get his boss to come back.

Monday afternoon this man, his boss and a 15 year-old student apprentice came to the house with a mission. They had long, strong cables with different types of attachments on the ends. These are typically used to scrub chimneys but today would be used to poke holes through a bee hive and then to scrub the chimney. The had a fancy extendable mirror and a minature camera designed to be dropped into chimneys to discover all sorts of interesting problems.

The job took two hours but they cleaned my chimney. The bees were not happy and the boss was stung once by a bee who took up residence in his glove. The hive was huge, about two meters in depth and the width of the chimeny.  The boss had cleaned bee hives out of chimneys before but had never seen one like this.

While they were cleaning the chimney they asked what I did. I answered, “I tell people about God’s love for them and help them discover how to have a relationship with God.” I was able to share the gospel with these three men, give them a New Testament and answer several questions about my work and my faith.

Bees in the chimney and sharing of the gospel do go together! Who would have thought it? Does my strategy and missiological approach include recruiting bees to the chimney so that I can share my faith with chimney sweepers? Not in a million years but God provides divine encounters.

So, what do I do? I strategize, travel, talk, theorize, email, call, talk some more, and then go to a seminar to help me strategize and theorize some more. I plan the work and work the plan. While all of that is true, MOSTLY I HANG ON AND SEE WHAT DIVINE ENCOUNTERS GOD HAS PLANNED AND I TRY TO ADJUST TO HIM.

By the way, one of the chimney sweeps is about to get married, has been to our church worship service before with a friend who is a member there, and he has an interest in knowing God. You could remember him today.

Sunday, I asked you to pray for my contentment with being confined (imprisoned) due to pneumonia.  I was able to go to our church's worship service but only lasted for about one hour.  For some of you that is enough to get through the whole thing.  I did not even get to the preaching.  I am content but still needing to work at home, talk as little as possible and get plenty of rest.

Last, this link is the blog of Rick Thompson, the pastor of Council Roads Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I find his blog to be spiritually encouraging and challenging. Click on it to read his most recent entry on moving from cultural Christianity to Biblical Christianity.





In Any and Every Situation


Philippians 4:11 – 13 says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned the secret of being content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

It is easy to be content when we have everything we need and we get to do what we want. I can only be content in the absence of these through the power of God who gives me strength.

My contentment is far too dependent on getting to do in ministry what I want. I love being with people. I have not been able to go out for ten days due to illness. My contentment level with this circumstance is often less than Paul’s contentment “in any and every situation”.

This passage forces me to ask some hard questions of myself.  Am I content when I am not able to be with people?  Why is contentment such a struggle?  What does it say about me that I "need" to be with others so much?

The past ten days have caused me to grapple with these.  I have grown closer to the Lord as I have done so.  I am thankful to get out for the first time and worship with my church family.  I am looking forward to being with people again.  I pray that I will be joyfully content and thankful especially when things don't go my way.

Today could you remember to pray for the following:

1. Contentment in any and every situation.

2. Our pastors, Peter and Zdenko, for whom we are incredibly thankful. They are a great blessing to our family and the church. Ask for God’s strength in their life and ministry and God’s wisdom to guide them.

3. The international youth are having their first meeting tonight at 6 PM (noon on the east coast). Remember to pray for our kids.


Last,  click on See Our Photos on the right for the newest pictures. 


Welcome To Walls and Gates

Welcome! We are really thankful for each one who supports us and prays for us. We CANNOT do our work without you. We don’t even want to think about doing it on our own. Your support, kindness, love, and sacrifice make all the good that happens possible!

We really do want to communicate better with you. Events of the past several months convinced us that blogs could be excellent tools for communication. So, here is our new blog which we hope will become an excellent tool for communicating about our life and work in Croatia.

Our purpose is not to throw out our opinion about the issues facing the International Mission Board or Southern Baptists. When and where those issues have direct bearing on our work in Croatia, we will let you know. However, our purpose is to be the best advocates possible for the people of Croatia.

The journal, or blog entries, will be the major source of information and encouragement for you. However, there are several other sources of information on the right hand side of the blog page. Check those out!

The blog will always be under development. We have accomplished getting text, links, contact information, and photos on the blog. However, we are still working on getting a much better header, audio and video. It will happen and is  delayed due to technical ignorance and really slow dial-up internet. But, we are getting there.

Thanks again for all you do. Enjoy the new blog and let us know if we can change anything to make it better. Your suggestions are welcome.

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