Faith and Ian Barton – Zagreb, Croatia
What an incredible time this has been! We only visited Vodice in July 2021 and Zagreb and Split in 2022 and we did not know if the Croatian door was going to open up or not and we were not even sure where we might move to. Yet here we are! We have now been living in Zagreb for the past 5 months!
God called us to Croatia in 1998 at Stoneleigh Bible Week and then much waiting, 2 years of research and planning and now we are here! It is really amazing!
Leaving in August 2022, was really a “counting the cost” moment for us with regard to possessions and pets! Whittling everything down to six suitcases, putting the cats into a new home and hoping to be able to collect Tilly the dog in the October half term. All our furniture was donated or sold, and we had to find a tenant for our Horsham flat. However, we arrived to ten blessings, regarding the new apartment!
The first weeks were really spent orienting ourselves to our new surroundings, learning: where the supermarkets are, how to use public transport, the routes to work, translating documents, applying for permits, visiting the police station, getting personal ID numbers (OIB) and accessing health care. And we needed to buy stuff for the apartment – cutlery, a bin, all that sort of thing! Our permit applications were finally successful after 7 weeks and are valid until Nov 2023, they can be renewed on the current basis and we have our EU Blue Card, which is a real answer to prayer!
The city of Zagreb itself is quite large with some beautiful buildings, a cathedral and a medieval upper town. There are fresh food markets, many cafe bars and eateries and lots of recreational spaces such as spas, football pitches, man-made lakes and beaches, rowing clubs and swimming pools – a real cafe culture too and so people drink a lot of coffee outdoors! The city has a vibrant feel and there are expat and international groups here.
There is a church group in Samobor, (a small town about 25 mins drive), who are following Christ outside of the dominant Catholic church & religion. This community has about 20 Croatian people in it. We had the warmest welcome there! The meetings are in a local hall that they rent and are all in Croatian; three or four people offer to translate the sermons for us. There is an independent baptist church in central Zagreb, of around the same number and it is more internationally diverse; it’s led by a couple from Texas, the worship and sermons are in both Croatian and English and they have their own building.
Also, there is an evangelical group of about 100 people – Croatians, people from the Philippines & families from Ukraine. They have just brought an awesome building for €350 000! They run kids, youth & midweek groups, an outreach to the poor and more besides. They use the live voice app to translate to English and are even thinking about a 2nd Sunday meeting for English speakers. This is definitely going to be our church family for this season!
We are blessed to be part of the Lighthouse Community (a group from various central and eastern European countries), as well as the Called to Go group for the period 2022-2023, with online and in-person meetings and weekends planned across the year. We have been very encouraged by further prophetic words in October and during two visits by Maurice and Rachel Nightingale (Relational Mission).
Faith’s job at ‘Bright Horizons’ has been brilliant! She teaches years 1-8 and plans the whole school IT, with responsibility for all the IT equipment and for implementing some high school courses, which are due to start in Sept 2024. There are only 165 students in the whole school, so that alone makes it very different from the UK. There is emphasis on extra curricular provision and so students get opportunities for skiing and horse riding! Another big part of the role is an Erasmus project for education using coding Minecraft for primary teachers, this is a great professional opportunity that will also involve me traveling to Riga and Athens. This employment is a wonderful provision for income and for residents permits for the next few years.
Ian volunteers at a “public kitchen” run by a Catholic church, check out his interview in an article on the work here – Ian is in picture no.6, pushing the pallet of boxes! He can also be involved with a well established charity shop. The Christian couple who run it really set an example in how to make a success of loving and serving their community, as the shop is a non-profit social enterprise. Ian also walks Tilly and in doing so, meets and chats with other dog walkers in the local park.
- the Zagreb advent, Christmas markets, funfairs and ice skating and many stalls with pop-up installations around the city
- some things are reasonably priced compared to the UK – eating out and dental work!
- visits from family and friends.
- wonderful neighbours who are friendly and welcoming
- the location of our apartment in the city
- Croatia getting 3rd place in the World Cup and 80,000 people coming out to celebrate!
We were sick with with two-week flu and other bugs.
- health for us and an end to the flu!
- making friendships / connections with international expats and Croatians, colleagues and neighbours.
- God’s blessing in and for our ‘new’ church – how we should serve and Gods leading in this, to be able to make friends, and for and English speakers’ meeting.
- a reliable car for our budget, to be purchased at the end of Feb – getting mobile is really going to help.
- guidance for which language course to enrol on and supernatural help with learning Croatian.
- a smooth Jan 1st transition to the Euro for the local cash-driven economy.
- Guidance for how Ian is to spend his time: which voluntary / social outreach or paid / secular work to do and whether to work in the charity shop, soup kitchen or both?
- Potential links with a pastor further south and voluntary work across the summer season.