Love and Marriage

We often pray that God gives us discernment and guidance as we try to figure out what parts of our ministry to let go of and what possible new things He wants us to be involved in. One of our biggest prayers is that no part of our work ever exists because of tradition or because of our own desire or need for it. We aim to work in accordance to His will.

Family and marriage ministry is not something either of us really considered much when we first started working here but God has really been leading us and it is increasingly becoming a bigger part of our work. As we mentioned in previous newsletters, we began a couples small group. We are now privileged to be just one of the almost 30 small groups that meet all over Croatia in affiliation with the organization ‘Family Life’. The Croatian ‘Family Life’ team has been a huge help and blessing to our marriage and family ministries. Together we were able to organize a one-day marriage seminar in October that 17 couples attended. The response was so positive that we have decided to make the seminar an annual event.

That same team from “Family Life’ helped us this summer as we took over leadership of the family camp in Orahovica. We are so grateful that although we had never even attended that camp, God gave us an amazing support team and the camp was a blessing to all who attended! It makes perfect sense that in this season of our life, God would have us focus on marriage and family ministry - it iswonderful to know that as we lead and serve in this area, God uses this work to mold and shape our marriage and family as well.

Unexpected Challenges

It was around the time our Slovenian leader informed us that he would be handing leadership over to me that I repeated the question I asked 15 years ago in Marine Corps boot camp; "What in the world have I gotten myself into?"

Of course a Christian scout program in my home town isn't as physically demanding or life-altering as the military was. I didn't have a drill instructor constantly yelling at me. I didn't have to run miles in the South Carolina heat.

Still, the National Training Camp I experienced on May 1st weekend was a challenge.

First there was the language barrier. Although I've made a lot of progress speaking publicly, the fact is that it's still difficult for me to speak Croatian off the cuff in front of people. Adding to the challenge was the fact that I don't know a lot of scout terminology. This was the first time I was using words like "torch", "pine tree", and "outpost" in Croatian.

But there was an interesting and comforting side to the language challenge - the fact that all of a sudden Croatian was the Lingua Franca. We had leaders and participants from all of the former Yugoslavian countries - Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. And even though Croatian is quite different from Macedonian and Slovenian, we spoke Croatian throughout. In other words, there were many others for whom the language was a challenge.
Women from Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia work together to form a human knot

Another difficulty was the weather. By the time Saturday came around we were already wet. Yet from Saturday at 9 am it would rain until the end of camp on Sunday at noon. The Junior Leaders Training (JLTC)  program required the 14-17 year olds to hike and camp out in the woods. They did so in flood-like conditions. The rest of the leaders in training also slept in tents at our campsite on church ground. By the end we concluded that the conditions couldn't have been any worse - even snow would have been easier to deal with.
Leaders and participants of the JLTC ready to hike to their campsite in the rain
The final challenge for me was my lack of experience. I did not grow up in a scout program and I have relatively little experience with Royal Rangers Europe. During the weekend, I attended the various workshops on building fires, first aid and nature so I could brush up on some things I had learned a few years ago when I trained in Serbia. Still, my knowledge of all things scout related was/is limited.

But as the weekend concluded, I realized this was the whole point - to be challenged.

As the Croatian National Commander, I fully support Royal Rangers Europe because of the methods it provides for teaching, mentoring and discipling. One of the key aspects of Ranger training is throwing someone into the fire often before they feel they are ready for it. Many participants who received a diploma by the end were completely taken by surprise when they were told they would sleep outside regardless of the rain. They didn't realize they would have to cook their own food over an open fire or that they would have to build their own campsite with their teammates. The NTC provided many unexpected challenges for everyone.

And isn't that the way it should be? The New Testament frequently reminds us to "run with endurance" (Hebrews 12:1) or to "endure hardship as discipline" (Hebrews 12:11) or to "test our faith" (II Corinthians 13:5). The challenges we were presented with gave us the chance to rely on Christ and put our faith in action. I believe this training camp helped to strengthen and equip future leaders to endure and overcome the challenges they will undoubtedly face in the future.
A team of representatives from Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia work together to build their campsite on the first day
As we look to the future of this program in Croatia, the only way we can succeed is if it is a team effort. Royal Rangers will not survive without a group of dedicated servants. After all, RR doesn't exist for itself. Rather it serves the work of the local church. Our vision is to evangelize, teach and equip young boys and girls for Christian service. These goals should mesh with the vision the local church has for its community and be a tool pastors can use to strengthen their communities. But it cannot and should not be an individual effort.

Before the training camp began I sent out an email to many of our supporters asking for them to pray specifically for one of the days. Several responded indicating they would be willing to dedicate some time to pray for us. It is so encouraging to know that there is a team of supporters behind us even in America. The Lord continues to provide and we are humbled by the ways he does so.


Jeremy Bohall

Mentorship and Discipleship: A Winter Update

During each of the last four winters we've been able to spend some time at a thermal pool in Slovenia with Petra's parents for a few days. There are various slides and attractions for young kids so it's become a highlight for our children. This year it was an especially timely visit as it allowed us to relax as a family before our busy winter schedule started.

When we looked back at this picture, we realized it's an excellent illustration of the newest phase of our ministry. Over time, the focus of our ministry has begun to center around mentorship.

The word "mentor" doesn't have a Croatian translation. By many accounts, the concept is missing here. Numerous experienced pastors and leaders have no one to pass the baton to while most of the strong younger leaders have had to learn by themselves. Our observation is that a lack of mentorship is one of the biggest issues facing the Evangelical Church in Croatia today.

That's one of the reasons I (Jeremy) have decided to accept the position of National Commander of Royal Rangers in Croatia. Royal Rangers Europe is a scout program designed to equip children and teenagers for Christian service. Over the next few months I will be working with a new board to prepare, with help from a Slovenian team, a national training session right here in Orahovica on May 1st weekend.

This opportunity has been on the horizon for awhile now. Three years ago, I represented Croatia in Paris at the Royal Rangers European Leaders Meeting. Soon after, I was trained in Serbia. This week I will hold the first board meeting and next week I will travel to Poland to again represent Croatia. During this preparation phase I have been praying through Jeremiah 42:3 "...that the Lord our God may show us the way we should go and the thing we should do." Please join us in prayer for wisdom and direction as we seek to mentor and disciple future Christian leaders in Croatia. 

Here are a few other things we're looking forward to this year:
  • As we've done in the past, we are continuing to host couples get-togethers in our home. Recently a Croatian Christian organization translated and began distributing materials from FamilyLife and encouraged various churches to hold their own couples nights once a month. There are 25 other churches throughout Croatia that will also be meeting. This will give us the opportunity to continue the tradition we began a couple years ago, but now with more direction and regularity. 
  • Camps have always been a highlight of our year. This year, we will increase our involvement by joining Family Camp - a fairly obvious step for us! Petra will serve on a new board and will have a major role in developing the program, schedule and logistical parts of this camp. 
  • As we mentioned in our last update, I have begun serving as the Associate Pastor of our church. Thankfully, our pastor is sensitive to the fact that I need to grow into the role. He's one of the pastors who was never mentored. Yet, he has done an excellent job teaching me what it means to be in ministry in Croatia.
Related to this is a clip from the Gospel Coalition on advice veteran pastors would give young leaders. If you don't have 6 minutes to watch the whole clip, here are few things Dave Helm said that really stuck out to me: 

God tends to train people the way He always has. He puts you in some obscure, out of the way place and you're there 40 years. Then that person is ready to go!...What God has really done, is He plants you in one little place, keeps you out of the way and He wants you to work there for a long time. The longevity of faithful service is the way God prepares us to do the work. There's no shortcut.

The Lord has directed our steps to a place I never imagined I would be. And while Petra's leadership in camps "makes sense" given the fact that she grew up attending camps in this very town, the ways God has called me to serve are so different than I imagined. Yet, He has confirmed his calling at every step. And he has provided for us throughout.

Our faithful family, supporters and friends are a huge part of that. We are not here on our own. In fact we are so thankful for the position of dependency we have been put in. Thank you for being part of God's provision and blessing in our lives.

Your partners in Christ,

The Bohalls