Escape and pray adventures
vol.1 from Joe Cook, Sam Watson, Joe Fava and Rich Goodman
Last weekend, on Saturday 10th June, Joe Cook, Sam Watson, Joe Fava and I all turned up to Manchester Airport and opened an envelope at 4am to find out where we were going to spend the next 60 hours. Wherever it was going to be we had no accommodation booked and no food to eat we just had a faithful God and a simple mission to pray for the churches and students of the city we found ourselves in. We opened the envelope and found out we were going to Zagreb, Croatia.
From this moment we had a crazy adventure. We had chance encounters with Missionaries, were provided with meals including an incredible BBQ, had a place to stay, got to worship and pray with a spirit filled catholic community and got to see what God is doing with young people in Croatia. If this sounds like a good story, then buckle in and have a read.
the story to tell
A chance Encounter
Once we arrived, we prayed, emailed and called any churches that we could find then we eventually decided to go straight to the city still not knowing where to go or what to do. We has asked about churches with young people in the city and were told about a church called SV Mati in the southwest of the city. After walking around the centre and figuring out what to do we got a tram to the southwest of the city. On the tram we prayed that God would help us meet the right people. We were meant to get off the tram at one stop but missed our chance and got off at the next stop. When we got off at this one, a woman stopped us and said was a missionary who had come from Syria and she had heard us speaking and praying (we later found out that God had prompted her to come and speak to us too at that moment) so wanted to see how she could help. Her name was Lial. For us this came just at the right moment, it was a real answer to prayer since we’d not really known what we were doing up until then. After speaking to her she invited us round for lunch the day after and also invited us to her church.
Give us today our Daily BBQ
Filled with a bit more faith after that encounter we walked up the catholic church. When we got there there was a man in one of the side doors and I went to approach him. He said he couldn’t help us because he wasn’t a priest but could give us a BBQ. We said this was great. So two hours later we were sat there enjoying Croatian meats, sausages, kebabs and chicken not having eaten since the airport that morning. It did truly feel like God’s provision.
Caught up in Community
We eventually left the BBQ and went looking for the priests to ask if we could get involved with student ministry at the church. We didn’t find a priest but did bump into Joseph who asked where we were staying that night, we said we didn’t know and he said he could help us. Following this conversation we met others including Antun who also said he could help us to find somewhere to stay. Antun spoke to his community about us and told us to wait outside the church while he went to a party. We waited still unsure if we had anywhere to stay.
Then Antun’s community came to the church and after realising we weren’t crazy (which they initially thought we were) invited us for coffee while we waited for a person who could host us. We had a great coffee with them and got to hear about the revival going on in Croatia with young people, where on Thursdays 700 students gather to pray and worship and mass on Sundays is often filled with upwards of 1000 people, mostly young people. They also had formed a Croatian worship band which had a Youtube Channel, their most popular video which is a Croatian translation of “Let it Rain” has been watched 2 million times! Considering Croatia’s population is 4 million, God is obviously doing something amazing with this community.
A place to stay
We found out after the coffee that Maroje, one of the guys from the community would be able to host all of us. Again this was a massive answer to prayer. Turning up to a city we didn’t know without any contacts or connections God had managed to connect us with a community, provided for in terms of food and given us a place to stay. This was still only the first day!
Standing Room Only
After a great sleep, we woke to a great Croatian breakfast and headed out to Mass for 12pm. When we got there there was only standing room as we’d joined in with around 1000 others to worship God. The Mass was all in Croatian but you could still see that God was at work in that place and it was incredible to worship to “How Great is Our God” and “Our God is an Awesome God” even if the words were in Croatian.
A Meal with Missionaries
After Mass we had a meal with Lial, the missionary we had met at the tram stop the day before, and her husband Emiel. They did incredible work going to a refugee camp and telling people about Jesus. One Muslim had seen Jesus in a vision and felt compelled to read the entire Bible, he came to church asked to be baptised. Once he has been baptised he renamed himself Mohammed-Paul. We had an incredible meal with them (again God was providing for us) and were able to speak to them about the work they do. We prayed for each other and shared words.
A Church of the Nations
After the meal we went with them to church. We met people there from Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Kosovo, America. It was a truly international church, the service was in English but translated into Arabic and at the end we sung a song “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” in five different languages. God was once again at work in that service and afterwards we ate together with them all.
A Night of Worship
We then went back to Maroje’s for a night of prayer and worship that we’d planned with the charismatic catholic community we’d met on the Saturday night. Sam Watson led on guitar and we all began to worship, the Holy Spirit came in a powerful way, you could feel Him in the air. We prayed over Zagreb, shared words for one another’s communities and people were falling over in the spirit. After the time of prayer and worship the community prayed over each one of us, prophesying, sharing pictures and words of knowledge. It was an incredible time of worship and an amazing display of unity.
We finished it with pizza and chats late into the night about what God’s been up to in Croatia from Dubrovnik to Split to Zagreb.
Goodbye for now
After a second night at Maroje’s we had breakfast together and said our goodbyes. We had built such a close connection with the catholic community over about 24 hrs. We had blessed one another in amazing ways that only God could have orchestrated.
Prayer walking the campus and the city
Maroje dropped us off at the Student Dorms which looked a bit like an Eastern European version of Endcliffe. We walked around and prayed for the Kingdom to come in that place through the people and churches we had met. We also prayed around the city. We spent time reflecting on God’s faithfulness and goodness.
The Lessons learnt
experience breeds understanding
We were able to understand Catholicism a lot more while we were out there. We went out there not knowing what to expect, three of us were Protestant and one of us was Catholic. I personally had never been to a Catholic Mass and although I have known a few charismatic Catholics I had never really experienced how they worship. We were then immersed in the culture going to mass, speaking to Catholics daily about all the things that unite us and finally we prayed and worshipped together. I was able to understand Joe Fava a lot more and get to know how he does things such as Mass. It has widened my perspective and has helped me understand Catholicism a lot more, meaning that I can have deeper conversations with people who are catholic, pray more intentionally for them and understand their perspective in a better way which ultimately cultures more love, kindness and grace.
Hospitality goes a long way
We were shown such incredible hospitality when we were out there, we were given incredible food, given a place to stay and welcomed into a community like friends. The hospitality of these people allowed God to use them. It challenged me to think if 4 Croatians turned up on my doorstep would I have been as hospitable as people were to us? Probably not, but I want to be someone who would be. How am I opening my home to people? How am I cooking for people to bless them? These are all questions I’ll be taking back with me.
if you step out, god is faithful
This story isn’t necessarily about us stepping out (although that is a big part of it) it’s the story of God working through the faithfulness of the christian Missionary, the hospitality of the people we came across, the willingness of Maroje to open his home. We learnt that God is with us wherever we are and that even if we step out and do crazy things for him, he provides for us and his people are around to help us too. So think how we can be a blessing to those stepping out and how we can step out for God.
Watch out for Escape and Pray Adventures Vol.2 from our very own Holly Phipps, Miriam May and Flora Jevons . . .