Unplugged in Zagreb

"If someone in walked in here off the street, they wouldn't believe what's going on."

My wife and I were standing in a former casino hall in Zagreb surrounded by 300 other Croats, Slovenes, Serbs and Bosnians enjoying a Slovakian band singing in Serbian. Some were dancing, others talking among themselves or simply listening; but everyone was having a good time. My wife was right; this scene was rare. The event that brought these different cultures and languages together was called "Srcokret" - a word that's not even a word.
Photo courtesy of Sara Delić

Suncokret is Croatian for "sunflower". It literally means "turn towards the sun". The wordplay was designed around a desire to see hearts (srce) in the former Yugoslavia turned toward Christ. This was the third Srcokret since 2008 and the second one my wife and I have attended. All three of them have been examples of how true Christian unity is stronger than the tradition, borders and history that divide these nations.

Yet the main point wasn't simply about reconciliation. Although everyone is aware of it, many of the young people in attendance were born after the conflicts in the early to mid-90's. No, this conference was about what it means to unplug from the system. The example of a matrix was used - the movie explicitly referred to. When someone honestly makes a decision to follow Christ, they're unplugged from the influence of the world. As the Apostle Paul said, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind". (Romans 12:1, NIV)

The whole conference was structured around six different workshops - all of which focused on unplugging from a specific cultural grid. But this condition of being unplugged doesn't just mean that Christians are supposed to stay in their little corner and wait for heaven. This was one of Srcokret's biggest strengths. Rather than being exhorted to withdraw, we were encouraged to be the best in our fields and engage in the culture around us. One of the workshops I attended was led by a successful law professor whose desire is to use the gift God has given him to its full potential.

Unity was also a major theme. The lead organizer, a pastor from Karlovac, concluded the conference with a passionate call for Christians to be plugged into the church. "We shouldn't have to pray for unity", he said. "Do I have to pray for my foot to walk? When we're truly part of the Body of Christ, unity comes naturally."

Maybe that's what would have seemed so strange to someone walking in off the street. Different nations, languages and traditions all having a good time together. The concert, which featured rockrappunk and worship musicians, represented a certain freedom everyone felt. Freedom from religiosity. Freedom from tradition. Freedom from the matrix.

Yeah, it was strange. Especially in this part of the world where events for young Christians are relatively small and where cultural divisions seem large. Maybe it was rare for those reasons. Or, maybe it's because this scene was as much like heaven as any other I've been a part of before.

Copyright Evanđeoska pentekostna crkva u Hrvatskoj 2013

Chestnuts and Discipleship: A Fall Update

In small town Croatia, picking chestnuts is an autumn staple. Yesterday, I (Jeremy) had the opportunity to take a group of 5th through 7th graders from our church out chestnut picking. We've been meeting weekly ever since the school year started. When I asked what sort of activities they would like to do as a group, chestnut picking was one of the suggestions. 
Chestnuts grow inside a very well protected pouch which usually requires a knife to open. Most times there are three chestnuts inside each pouch. Early risers often find a bunch of chestnuts on the ground in the morning, but when we arrived in the afternoon most of them were already opened. 

Undeterred, one of us would shake the trees while the rest protected their heads. Once the chestnuts fell the kids raced to open the pouches as quickly as they safely could. 
I asked one of my friends at the church to go with us. Božidar (literally "God's gift") led us to a place where there were a lot of chestnut trees. I thought the two of us would lead the kids, but when it came to finding the chestnuts the kids ended up leading us.  They showed me how to recognize a chestnut tree by the leaves, told me what each of the other trees were called and even warned me not to go near a pile of corn because it was an animal trap. Klarisa told me that she goes out into the woods every day! She found a few mushrooms for me, told me exactly what kind they were and instructed me how to cook them. By the end, I had learned a lot about the woods I hadn't known before. 
These pre-teens have become a very important part of our ministry. They represent the largest group of children who have grown up together in our church since we arrived. Teenagers are leaving the Evangelical Church all over Croatia - in many cases because they are not being discipled. Although we are continuing English classes in the fall and remaining active in other parts of church leadership, our first goal is to disciple these young people. Please pray that each one of them would become mature and passionate disciples of Jesus Christ. 

As we look ahead to the fall, we are excited about many opportunities the Lord has given us to serve:
·       Petra continues to organize events in our newly renovated church building. For example, she just finished co-organizing the first gathering for Christian mothers in Croatia.
·       Our local church has decided to begin several small discipleship groups this fall. Jeremy will have the privilege of overseeing this ministry. 
·       We are also excited to once again join with the English department at the local high school by offering students a chance to practice their conversational English during school hours. These classes give us the opportunity to meet the majority of the high school students in Orahovica.  
·       As the Associate Pastor, Jeremy will continue leading worship on Sundays and preaching monthly.
·       Petra will be teaching Christian education in our church while beginning a Sunday-School program for pre-school aged children. 

We are convinced that making disciples of Jesus Christ is the product of being disciples of Jesus Christ. We strongly believe that the Lord has called us to Orahovica to invest our lives into being his disciples in this specific context. As we continue to grow into the ministry the Lord has for us, we believe we are making an investment in Croatia. We, in turn, extend that opportunity to you. Prayer is by far the most important way you can support us. Please look to the right hand side of this site to see how you can pray specifically for our ministry. There you can also find instructions for how to support our ministry financially. 

We couldn't be doing what we are doing without the support of family and friends. The Lord has continually used the generosity of others to advance his kingdom in Croatia. 

In Christ, 

The Bohall Family: Jeremy, Petra, Enoh, Ian, Emily and David. 

July Update

Every year since Petra was a child, July has meant camp season in Orahovica. This summer is no different. As we turn the calendar, normal activities are exchanged for registration forms, building preparation and lots of phone calls.

This year Jeremy has a more direct role in camps. During Teen Camp he will be speaking with the teenagers every morning about what it means for young people in Croatia to live in light Christ's victory. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, especially chapter two, will be the basis of his messages.

Jeremy will also be a leader at Young Adult Camp while Petra will continue working on the logistical side of Children's Camps. Please pray not only for wisdom and direction for us, but also that that Lord would draw each camper closer to Himself.

Sunday, June 30th was a special day for our family as we dedicated David to the Lord. His deda (Peter) and our pastor prayed over him while many other Kuzmič's joined the celebration. We are thankful for our local church who pray and partner with us in our endeavor to raise godly children. Our prayer for each of our children is that they would walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

July also brings change to the country we live in. On the first of July, Croatia joined the European Union. While there are many implications, most of the changes won't come overnight. Go here to read more about what this will mean for Croatia and the EU.

Though in many ways this change means "progress" for the country, we are reminded that true progress comes only through the profound grace of God. Indeed, the environment that we are working in is changing but our mission of introducing our friends to Jesus Christ and teaching them to be his disciples remains the same.

We are thankful for your partnership in what the Lord is doing in Croatia. If you would like more information, please send an email to jeremy.bohall@gmail.com.

In Christ,

Jeremy, Petra, Enoh, Ian, Emily and David Bohall

The Bohalls June 30, 2013

About Us

We are the Bohalls - Jeremy, Petra and Enoh, Ian, Emily and David. We've been living and serving in Orahovica, Croatia since 2007.

Our aim, put simply, is to glorify the Lord by endeavoring to make disciples of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we have experienced His grace in our lives and are passionate about sharing His love with others.

From a practical standpoint we see ourselves as a bridge between the church and community. This is where we've witnessed the Lord's sovereignty in our lives and ministry. He has directed our paths to Orahovica and provided us with tools that we are able to use practically to benefit the local community and worship the Lord.

Rather than list the various ways we've been able to do so, we invite you to stay updated on what God is doing through our ministry. If there are any ways we can better communicate with you, please let us know. Feedback is always welcome.

Your partners in ministry,

The Bohall Family

The Bohalls June 30th, 2013

Birth Announcement!

We are proud to announce the arrival of David Peter Bohall! He was born at 9:57 pm on Mother's Day. Both he and Petra are doing well.
After each of our children's birth we've been overwhelmed with thankfulness. David is an example of the Lord's incredible mercy - a gift graciously given. We are aware that many have kept us in prayer and we are so thankful for those who support us in such an important way. 

The kids were excited to meet their baby brother. Their faces in this picture say it best. Enoh as the oldest brother was certainly the most proud. Emily wasn't sure what to think. And like he is so often, Ian was just plain excited. 

We plan to return to Orahovica (about an hour from Osijek) when Petra and David are released from the hospital on Wednesday or Thursday. Thankfully, Petra's mother will be with us to help us adjust to life as a family of six. 

We consider raising a Christian family the most important part of our ministry. Thank you for your part in supporting our family as we serve the Lord in Croatia.

Spring Update

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. John 15:4 (ESV)

It's impossible to obey the Great Commission without living John 15:4.  Remaining, residing and abiding in Jesus is not only essential to being fruitful, but it is the true mark of a disciple. We've been reminded of this truth in several ways this spring and have been exhorted to live it out in the midst of a busy and challenging time of our life.

Here's a quick update on what's going on:

The doctors in America gave Petra a different due-date than the doctor in Croatia did. Regardless of which one the baby listens to, we're within a couple weeks of meeting our fourth child. For whatever reason, this has been the most difficult pregnancy for Petra. Pray that the Lord would give her strength, and periodic moments of rest and relief as she gets closer to giving birth.

During the latest annual meeting, Jeremy was elected the associate pastor and worship leader of our church. In accepting these responsibilities, his focus has turned more towards church leadership. He is currently involved in laying a foundation for discipleship groups our church hopes to launch in the fall.

As you remember our family in prayer we ask that you pray that we would remain in Christ. He is the hope around which our ministry revolves.

Thank you for your prayer and support!

Jeremy, Petra, Enoh, Ian, Emily and ______ Bohall

Traveling Mercies

The hours of peace during a smooth day of travel is the latest example of God's mercy in our lives. Thank you to those of you who prayed. Lam. 3:22-23

Why Seminary and Why Now?

In 2007, just a few months after we moved to Orahovica, our pastor asked Jeremy to "share something" on Sunday morning. In preparation, Jeremy wrote a short testimony and a few thoughts revolving around Paul's benediction in Ephesians 3:20. As the Sunday service progressed, Jeremy realized that he wasn't called up during the normal testimony time. We looked at each other and joked that "maybe Jeremy's the preacher today...haha!". It turns out Jeremy was the preacher that day.

Since then, Jeremy's been asked to preach or lead a Bible study at least twice a month. Our pastor Slobodan and members in the church have been extremely supportive of Jeremy's role as teacher and assistant to the pastor over the last few years. Additionally, Jeremy's been serving on the board of elders since 2008. All of this has given Jeremy an increasing desire to be involved in leadership in the church.

Jeremy preaching at a church retreat in 2009
When we write Proverbs 16:9 at the top of each newsletter we are reaffirming the fact that God has put so many things in our lives together to make our calling to Orahovica obvious. One of those things is the tremendous emphasis on Scripture and bible memorization Jeremy grew up with. It's one thing to be called to a foreign culture and adapt to new surroundings. It's another to be in a position of leadership in a completely new church context. Scripture has been the primary source of wisdom during the numerous difficult times in our lives and ministry.

From a personal standpoint, Jeremy feels a tremendous call to full-time ministry. The encouragement of the church and the enjoyment Jeremy finds in teaching have been two major factors . On one hand going to seminary was the natural 'next step'. On the other, Jeremy has never had so much fun reading, studying and learning.

Additionally, there's a tremendous need for theologically trained leaders in Croatia. Many evangelical pastors have full-time jobs outside the church and most are not paid by the local church they work for. For various reasons, there is very little emphasis put on Biblical or theological training in local evangelical churches. This has been another motivating factor in Jeremy's decision to go to seminary.

Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia
With our fourth child on the way, it's an extremely busy time in our lives. From the outside it may seem like a strange time to go back to school. But with the turnover in youth groups, and a pause in teaching English, we're experiencing a natural transition in focus from outreach in the community to leadership in the church. As Jeremy's familiarity with the language and culture has strengthened, there is simply more he can do in the church than he could before. All of these factors combined convinced us that last fall was the right time to get started. A year into his studies, while in the States, he's had the opportunity to study at Gordon-Conwell for a semester. He'll begin his thesis in the fall with a goal of finishing sometime in 2014.
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Here are three goals Jeremy has within the context of the evangelical church in Croatia:

1. To continue discipling, teaching, and encouraging biblical literacy in the local church.
2. To support biblical and theological training in Croatia.
3. To begin writing in Croatian within the next 5 years.

When we first began working with the local church we found that there is a major need for leaders who are committed to Croatia. Most who are dedicated to serving in Croatia (Croats) lack theological education and most missionaries don't stay long-term. We believe the investment we have made has only begun to bear fruit.

From the beginning we've had prayer partners and financial supporters join our efforts. A couple years ago we connected with Christian Educators Outreach who further strengthened our ministry. Throughout the first six years the Lord's hand of provision has been so obvious. He has always been faithful. We rest in the promise that he will continue to be.