November 1st – Today being Sunday, we went to one of the few Baptist churches in Croatia. Now, being a Baptist in Europe is different than being a Southern Baptist. Croatian Baptists trace their roots back to before the Reformation.
The church was small, so we felt right at home. Everyone was welcoming and wanted to shake our hand, and we just smiled and said, “Jutro!” or “Dobar dan!” (“Good morning” and “good day.”) We had learned how to pronounce the Croatian alphabet so we could read anything, even if we didn’t know what we were saying. That proved to be very helpful during the worship service. We sang “Change My Heart O God” in Croatian, and were able to sing all the other songs, too!
Our pastor preached, the Croatian pastor translating. We had already heard the sermon before (the first couple verses of Matthew 15) but it was interesting to try to pick out Croatian cognates and hear the people’s reactions to the traditions of the Pharisees. Ceremonial handwashing in that time used 3 half-eggshells of water. The person washing their hands had to let the water drip all the way down to the elbow, then turn their arm and let it drip off the tips of the fingers. If they skipped any of this, they would be unclean and have to start the whole process over again.
Our team sang “All I Have is Christ” in Croatian. My hands were shaking so badly I could barely play my tinwhistle. Apparently people were crying, but I wasn’t paying attention to the audience.
After church, we went to a pizza restaurant – Croatian pizza is good!
That evening, we went back to the church for a devotion and a jewelry-making party. I got to play the piano in front of everyone, and my hands were so sweaty that there were drops of moisture on the keys. Hopefully you can’t tell. 😉
When the party was over, we visited a Catholic cemetery. On All Saint’s Day, Catholics light candles at their loved one’s graves, each candle representing a prayer that is believed to get the deceased person’s soul out of Purgatory. It was very sobering to be there on that particular evening, with the hillside lit up in the cold. We were all quiet as we drove home, and I know that I thought about our visit for a long time afterward.