False religion to personal relationship

Eric Maroney, his wife Julie, and 2 children, Nathan and Kayleigh, have served in Croatia for 18 years. Both children have spent their whole lives there. Sixteen years were spent in Split, while the last 2 have been in Zagreb. The Maroney family is involved in a church plant just outside of Zagreb that is around 2 years old. Mr. Maroney serves as the lead team strategy leader for south central Europe, which means he serves as an administrator and coach for 4 countries, including Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and parts of Bosnia. He grew up on the missions field in Africa, and felt his call to missions in his late teens. Mrs. Maroney felt the call after meeting others in seminary with a similar call.

Mr. Maroney serves through preaching, teaching, music, and other jobs in his small group of around 15 members. “In general, people in Croatia are not open to a Protestant-evangelical view of Christianity. Ninety-five percent of people in Croatia are Croatian, meaning that they have a Roman Catholic background,” shares Mr. Maroney. Mrs. Maroney’s primary responsibilities are in the home. She homeschools Nathan and Kayleigh. She serves as a Sunday School teacher in their local church, and has joined a long-distance running club in hopes to meet people who are not involved in their church. Mrs. Maroney is the language coordinator for the IMB’s central European cluster of about 7 countries.

Nathan and Kayleigh are involved in the youth group at their church. Nathan helps with music and the media service, and over the past year, began preaching in Croatian. The children “love the opportunity to travel, be bilingual, and have a cross-cultural worldview,” but find that they do not fully fit in, whether that be in Croatia or America.

When it comes to a typical day in the Maroney household, Mr. Maroney’s is always different. Work involves local ministry in Zagreb, or around Croatia, or visiting colleagues in a nearby country. Mrs. Maroney’s schedule is more consistent, as she drives the children to sports at 7:00 a.m., and then back home for school at 2:00 p.m. School is live online and lasts until around 8:30 p.m. If Mr. Maroney is in town, the 2 of them have lunch together, as it is “the main meal of the day for us,” shares Mrs. Maroney.

What Mr. Maroney loves most about his ministry is the sense of purpose felt through doing something with eternal significance. He enjoys the variety of work that comes with it. The hardest thing in his work is the lack of response, conflict in local churches, and being away from his family. “The greatest need in Croatia is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Croatians have a long history of Roman Catholicism, but for many, this is just ritual, not a relationship. All of the challenges that Croatians face stem from this false religion,” shares Mr. Maroney.

The language spoken is Croatian, or Hrvatski. It is a Slavic language that takes 3–5 years of full-time language study for an American to master. With that being said, in Croatia, “it generally takes an individual 5–7 years from the time that they hear the gospel, to the time that they convert. Serving as an evangelist and church planter in this environment requires great faith, that even though we don’t see the results today, we need to continue faithfully to trust God for the harvest,” says Mr. Maroney. Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV1) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” May we encourage one another in faith, and trust.

“Croatia is a clean country. It is a beautiful country, with an amazing coastline, 1,400 islands, and over 3,000 years of history, including Greek, Roman, and Medieval,” says Mr. Maroney. The people of Croatia live in a beautiful place, but lack the gospel. “As Croatia continues to become more Western, there is an increasing secularism and pluralism. While these undermine the traditions, it is replacing it with materialism and consumerism,” shares Mr. Maroney.

Join us in praying for the Maroney family, for wisdom as they seek new ways to share among the Croatian people. Pray for the people of Croatia, that God moves in a powerful way softening hearts and creating a spiritual hunger. Pray for the Baptist churches in Croatia, for a sense of unity and a desire to share the hope that they have in Christ. Pray for the missionaries in Croatia, for perseverance and boldness in sharing the gospel among people who are resistant. Lastly, pray for Nathan, as he begins college, and for Kayleigh, as she continues with high school. May we be reminded of Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Trust in and pursue God, for He will provide you with all that you need.

By Tessa Harville, WMU preschool intern

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1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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