Headlines from First Thoughts

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Team in Split

Cliff Shirley, Bill Shiell, and Scott Moore with our Croatian hosts

After 1700 years, New Life Begins

(Here I am teaching with the help of a translator in the sanctuary of the Baptist Church)

(above: Matthew Evans and Scott Moore visit in the fellowship room of the Baptist Church in Split)

Churches in Split have been around longer than most European nations. In the early 300's the
earliest Christians established a foothold amidst (or possibly because of) the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution. When Diocletian died, the church took over his masoleum and turned the facility into a cathedral. Those early days of Christianity have long since been subsumed under the restrictions of religion, but now new life springs forth like the water from an Artesian well.

Fifteen years ago, the church-- and most of the country of Croatia-- had died. The prospect of war and the oppression of religiosity squelched the spirit. Out of the ravages of war, new believers emerged. Now some 400 believers populate a small number of churches you could count on two hands. All this in a region with a population of 400,000.

Two of these churches are Baptist, and I spoke in a church that will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Christmas Day. Fifteen believers gathered tonight to discuss the topic "Reaching the Unreached in Split." Using the basic principles of building relationships for Jesus Christ, I described what we have learned about how a relationship with Jesus affects relationships with non-believers. Most of those in attendance were men in their 20s and 30s. Can you imagine a church in America having 10-15 young adult men talking about evangelism on a Thursday night? They stayed for 2 hours, asked great questions, and return tomorrow night.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Showing off New Shoes

Showing off a new pair of Shoes

The Ignac children show off their new shoes

Shoes with a Name

They are known by so many names...the Romani people, the Gypsies, an unreached people group. But for the Pastoral Center in Cakovec, a ministry of the Croatian Baptist Union and First Baptist Knoxville, these are real people with names and needs. For the past four years, First Baptist has partnered with the Pastoral Center in Cakovec, Croatia, to provide resources for ministry in the North Central region of Croatia. We have sent 7 mission teams of youth and college students and adults. Our partnership includes construction for the Pastoral Center, multi-use human needs and worship center on the northern edge of Croatia across the border from Hungary. The center provides a location for a new church start, a training site for current and future Baptists leaders, and home for community ministry to youth in the surrounding area.

In 2007, the Center expanded its ministry to Romani people in the village outside of Cakovec. Karmen Horvac, a Baptist layperson, teaches a Bible club each week to Romani children. In June 2007, Michael McEntyre led a team of First Baptist students and sponsors in a Backyard Bible Club-style mission trip to the Gypsy village. During their visit, the church approached Buckner International to help them provide shoes for these Romani children.

Buckner provided a mechanism through which we could send 500 shoes through the Shoes for Orphan Souls emphasis. In August, the church held a Shoes for Orphan Souls drive in collaboration with Buckner and a local Christian radio station, WYLV. The church collected 800 shoes, 500 which were for Croatia. The community donated 1500 shoes through the efforts of the radio station.

This week, Bill Shiell, Matthew Evans, Cliff Shirley, and Scott Moore delivered the first batch of shoes to the Romani children. Philip, Monica, and Sabina Ignac were the first recipients. The Ignac family hosts the Bible club, and Karmen Horvac will be distributing the rest of the shoes.

Through the collaboration with Buckner, First Baptist has enabled Croatian Baptists to cross another barrier in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. This good news comes to souls who need shoes and are known by so many labels. This week in Croatia, the Ignac family are the first to be a part of Buckner's expansion into Croatia and a new avenue for the Pastoral Center's ministry. Most importantly, Philip, Monica, and Sabina are God's children.

Greetings from Croatia

Matthew Evans, Cliff Shirley, Scott Moore, and I are in Cakovec today. We are meeting with the international and local leadership of the Pastoral Center and visiting the Romani people (gypsy) village nearby.

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