International Ministries

From Cuba to Croatia?

October 19, 2016 Journal
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This month, as in every October, many Puerto Rican and American Baptist Churches are collecting the World Mission Offering. This year’s focus is on Cuba and our partnership there. I am privileged to be a part of the IM Cuba team, serving with other IM colleagues and our partners in the vital ministries they have there. You can check out the videos of our work at

 In July of this year, Charles Jones, Area Director for Europe, the Middle East and Liberia for International Ministries wrote to tell me that he had received an invitation from our partners in Croatia to deepen/broaden our relationship! One of the areas of priority they mentioned has to do with helping the helpers: in their words, “teaching people in ministry, efficient self-care practices and giving them tools to work with people sustainably through their problems without endangering their own sanity.” They have identified a growing need for counseling – “for pastors themselves, as many have worked through the trauma of war in addition to a challenging job, but also for church members and even more so such people that are not church members but who are ready to seek advice and help in the church. Croatia with its war past and also political transitions has been a fertile soil to grow all kinds of hardship for its people.” He thought this sounded like a ministry that I would be interested in. So in early October, I traveled to Zagreb to join Charles, Peter Kaulkman, IM’s volunteer coordinator working throughout Europe, and Tom and Terry Meyers, colleagues working in Bulgaria to experience first-hand their ministry context and for face-to-face discussions with the leaders of the Croatian Baptist Union about what greater cooperation in ministry might look like.

Our hosts, Toma, Zeljko and Svjetlana treated us with radical hospitality, welcoming us and showing us the face of God in their actions. Together we drove through stunning landscapes, walked amidst ancient buildings and cobblestoned streets, and ate delicious food like: fresh-from-the-sea fish, warm baked bread dipped in thick homemade garlic olive oil and amazing dark chocolate gelato. We felt the warm embrace of kindred love and kindness through their smiles and hugs. While visiting a camp by the sea, a Union sponsored medical training high school, various churches and an UNHCR asylum seekers holding facility, we heard poignant stories of sacrifice, loss, and struggle as well as hope infused, inclusive, and innovative ministry among youth, minority and refugee populations. From a first glance at some of my pictures and hearing descriptions of the food, some might think that doing ministry in Croatia is like taking a vacation. Though there is much beauty, and the food and folks are amazing, there are also physical, psychological, spiritual and relational wounds of war, a refugee crisis, economic challenges, brain drain, and pastoral burn out to attend to with Christ’s love and grace. Life is a mixed bag of sacred struggle. Our partners do amazing work and they are inviting us to be a part of what God is doing in their neighborhoods, schools, churches and world. 

Humbled and inspired, I left Croatia with an invitation to return after my US assignment in order to accompany their pastors and humanitarian aid workers through art-based, trauma informed, resiliency focused, sustainable ministry seminars and retreats. I feel so honored that they would invite me back to deepen and broaden our relationship even more. God has indeed opened wide the gates and allowed me to see the kingdom on earth as in heaven, thanks be to God and to you for the privilege of serving our global family.

Starting in January of 2017 through December 2017 I’ll be on US/Puerto Rico assignment, which means I am available to visit, preach or do hands-on art-based workshops in your church or regional gatherings. I’d love to inform and inspire global mission engagement and partnership with International Ministries. Please let me know soon if you’d like me to come so I can schedule you in!

Thanks so much!