“You Americans are so funny,” our new friend texted Gabe. We found it amusing.
Our friend had just invited us to travel with him to Bosnia. To show that we were grateful for the adventure he was taking us on, Gabe had offered to help with gas (a 30-45 minute drive) and buy our friend dinner in Bosnia, triggering our friend’s response as if our friendship and traveling with him was payment enough. This cultural thinking is not typical back in the States. Yes, with our close friends of many years, this might happen, but with someone we just met a month or so ago—and this will be the first time we hang out—we were not expecting to be treated with such kindness.
Some other friends called us up one morning, telling us to get ready and that they would pick us up in one hour. They wanted to show us a beautiful 15th-century garden about 30 minutes from where we live. The views were amazing, and the trip was one for the books. They have two beautiful little girls that get along great with our children and a big enough car to fit us all. When we arrived at the garden, they proceeded to pay our entrance fee. We were in shock. Our friends had already used their car and gas, and now they were also paying for us to enter.
Another fun cultural norm is that no one ever arrives at your house empty-handed. They usually ask, “What can I bring?” To which I respond with, “Nothing.” That never works. They always show up with cookies, chocolate or chips in their hands. For Abby’s birthday, friends would also get Levi a gift. And when Levi had a birthday, they showed up with a present for Abby. It is such a kind gesture and always puts a smile on our faces to know that we are now part of a community that looks out for one another so much.
These cultural facets are all so new to us, and we usually only discover a difference when we stumble upon it by trying to do things the way we did back home in America. We are blessed to have found friends who graciously correct us in love.
These interactions sum up most of our experience in Croatia over the last four months. The people are beyond kind, welcoming and friendly, and we almost feel we owe them something for their generosity. We are learning to accept the gifts of friendship and all that comes with it. In return, we pray that we may be a blessing as we express the love of Christ through our lives.
If you have followed us in the magazine, you know that we left a strong, close-knit community back home and that our journey to Croatia has been quite emotional. We strongly believe that Christ knows what our family needs and is eager to replace the connections we left behind. Deuteronomy 30:3 says, “God, your God, will restore everything you lost.” He knows our family thrives in community, and He has placed us in the perfect place where we can connect and grow spiritually alongside others as our friendships deepen and develop. The Lord has not only replenished what we have lost but has given it back to us with interest. We have made friends much quicker than we expected, and they are so genuine and kind. We are excited about the journey ahead!