You might remember my "George in the Park" blog post from our time in France? Well, yesterday in the park, I met Denis. He is from Zagreb but has been living in the UK for the last 13 years. He comes back to visit every year. He was standing next to me while I was watching JJ play on the playground, and he asked me something in Croatian, to which I responded my very favorite Croatian phrase, "ne razumijem hrvatski", which means I don't understand Croatian. He then said, "Oh o.k., then do you speak English? I was just asking if your son would like to ride on the see-saw."
So we introduced ourselves and began a conversation. Soon, the question came up of what we are doing here and especially why we are Americans living in Croatia? So, I told him that we are planting a church, and also mentoring a group of American graduate students here. Immediately he asked me what type of church, to which I responded Protestant.
He then proceeded to tell me that he at one point in time studied Theology in the UK, but is now an agnostic. I told him that both my husband and I studied Theology and that I was interested in why he made that decision. He told me that it was as a result of his studies that he became one. I asked him what that was like for him, if it was sad or....immediately he said, no, that it was freeing. We talked more in length about his decision and the difference, as he saw it, between agnostics and atheists. We had been talking for a while, and as we were beginning to talk more about his decision, his daughter began to get fussy, and he needed to leave. He was extremely kind and asked if there was anything we needed and that he hoped we were happy here. Then he walked away.
If I had had more time with him, I would've wanted to ask him if he could remember what it was like to be a new believer, when God first called him, when he first answered that call and the new life he entered. He had shared he became a believer at 17 and was pretty much alone in the process. This made me think about just how important discipleship is. I would've asked him if he felt he had studied Theology with both his heart and his mind. I wanted to ask him if he can ever hear God calling him back, because I know that God does.
Mostly I thought how amazing it was that this was my first conversation with a Croatian person. Unexpected for sure, but I love how God works in ways we could never imagine.