Dave and Betsy Scott are missionaries serving in Zagreb, Croatia since January 2011. Their long-term goal is to relaunch the Church of the Nazarene in Croatia. Their responsibilities include being church planters, mentors and directors of a compassionate ministry. They run a charity shop in Zagreb as well as spend time learning the language.
Previously, they served as volunteer missionaries in Montpellier, France for one year, where they partnered with the first national pastor of a Nazarene church in France, helping the congregation become more known and accessible to its community.
They have two children: Emma, 2, and JJ (Jacob), 8.
Engage: How did you first recognize God’s call to be involved in missions?
Scotts: Seeds for serving were planted for us during our high school years while on short-term mission trips. Dave felt a clear call after serving in Mexico and Bermuda, and God spoke to Betsy while on inner-city missions trips. God continued to grow that initial desire and passion and sustained it through college and then in seminary when we would embark on our first mission trip as a married couple to Bulgaria. Upon returning, we knew that international mission work was the next step God was calling us to.
Engage: What is your favorite aspect of what you do in your present assignment?
Scotts: Meeting fantastic people that both inspire and challenge us has been pretty amazing! These are Christ-centered families who are dedicated to lives of hospitality, generosity and sacrificially serving those around them. Our closest friends here in Croatia have a home that is almost continually open and available to everyone. They have inspired us to open our lives more to others. Another family, who are also great friends of ours, is the most humble and generous family we have ever met. They give so much of what they have to others even though they have so little.
Engage: What are some of the challenges that you face in carrying out your work? Share any relevant stories to illustrate this.
Scotts: Waiting on God's timing, not ours, and learning to do things slower than we would’ve initially liked has been difficult. We have had to shed both the need to be productive and to get things done in the American way we have always known, and realize there is a better way. Also, there was no “manual” on church planting in this context when we arrived.
We began to learn from those around us and especially focusing on learning the language and culture. We then began to see unmet needs, and began to build relationships. While doing that we began to respond to these unmet needs according to God’s leading. We definitely felt God was calling us to partner with people, and doors began to open. Of course this requires a decent “door-discernment” which means being intentional about making space to really hear God. And then it takes faith and strength to walk through the door!
Engage: Please share a story of a significant event or moment that has happened in your current assignment.
Scotts: When we arrived, a young woman approached my volunteer and I (Betsy) to see if we could start a group for women who needed a place to grow spiritually. We were told they had many questions about the Bible, and specifically what the Bible said about things they were going through on a daily basis in school and in relationships. As each gathering came and went I wasn't sure I was even meeting their needs effectively, and often I was tired because I had a 6-week old when I started this. But I felt God wanted me to make my home available and open to these girls. So I did that for over a year.
Engage: How do you maintain a close relationship with God and your family in the midst of the demands of missionary service?
Scotts: In the midst of our missionary service we have flowed between sometimes feeling very connected to God and sometimes feeling quite alone, like a canoe winding down a river from side to side. We have learned to check-in with God often and build in times of being in the Word and just being available to hear God. Otherwise when our lives get crazy busy, and we’re heading down a windy and rocky river, pushed from all sides, we feel like we could be tipped over or thrown from the canoe. When we are more disciplined and consistent in connecting with God, it’s like a lifeline appears, almost like a branch is there to hang on to. We have learned that we feel very connected to God during corporate prayer times and in studying the Word in community (whether it is one on one or in a small group), so that has been an essential way we have maintained a close relationship with God.
Engage: What are the rewards of what you do?
Scotts: Some of the rewards are having a flexible lifestyle in that our lives are ministry – we do not “clock in” – ministry does not have a tangible beginning and end most days. While this poses some challenges like knowing when to “stop” working or sometimes not working enough, we feel blessed to have a type of lifestyle where we can creatively serve and spend time with our kids while they are young. We also feel blessed to have our ministry centered on relationships, which inspire and challenge us and are wonderful examples of Christ in our lives. We also love living in another culture, and it's quite fascinating learning other languages.
Engage: What are some aspects of the culture where you live that you have come to love or embrace?
Betsy: We have experienced this culture to be a very warm and hospitable one. We have been invited into many homes and felt instantly welcomed and loved. I distinctly remember the first time our ministry partners of our Charity Shop invited us over for lunch. It was a feast! We all sat around their huge family table and ate and laughed together for hours. It was a great gift to us. Also, several of the members of our Charity Shop community have already made us homemade Croatian delights and brought them in for our volunteers. One is always offered coffee upon entering a home. Every time we go over to pay our landlords their rent, we are always given chocolate for our children and often if there are freshly baked goods, there as well. Simply put, it's a culture of hospitality.
We also love how family-oriented Croatian culture is. Often, children live with their parents until they're married, which can be well into their thirties. And we often see how involved grandparents are in their grandchildren's lives: walking them to school, picking them up, taking them to the playground, for outings into the city. It is quite an endearing part of the culture. I still remember when we moved into our first neighborhood of Zagreb, that we were loved on by the old grandmas and grandpas in our neighborhood. We were invited to pick cherries from the trees in their yard, and our neighbor -- who was a wonderful old woman -- was the first person I told I was pregnant. She warmly embraced me; it was a very meaningful and sweet gesture during a time where I missed family and would've normally been embraced by a family member.
Engage: What do you like to do for fun?
Scotts: We're happy that Croatian movie theatres show movies in English (with Croatian subtitles), and that it's less expensive to go to the movies here than in the States. So, often, if we can squeeze in a date night, we go see a movie, especially on Wednesday $4 movie nights! Dave loves to bike everywhere and plays basketball once a week. Betsy loves to visit various cafes in the city, often to work, but also to meet friends. We also love to go on family adventures together, whether on our bikes to the nearby lake (called “Jarun”), or into the center of town. Dave also likes to take JJ on hiking trips to a nearby abandoned castle, and JJ and Betsy love to go on breakfast dates together in the city. We've discovered almost all the places that serve omelets and pancakes!
Engage: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Engage: What advice would you have for others exploring a possible call to missions, or embarking on their first missionary assignment?
Scotts: It’s important to be prayerful about God's call on your lives. We were offered several missions assignments that we really didn't feel a peace about, before coming to Croatia, and our decision to come came out of intense times of prayer. Don't be afraid to ask God to confirm that call, but then don't be afraid to go! We can often overanalyze things before following God's call – “Is it the right timing?” “Is it a smart move?” “If I go, I won't be able to go to graduate school until later or take that job offer.” If God is calling you, take a step of faith and trust God!!
For those who are embarking on your first missionary assignment, whether short-term or long-term, we would encourage you that when you arrive to put God first and seek balance. Seek God's will for your time abroad; talk to God, check-in with God a lot, pray for open doors, pray God would use you, pray for the strength to walk through the doors, etc. You will soon begin to make relationships – and you need all kinds of relationships to thrive; each is important and serves a purpose.
Engage: Other comments?
Scotts: We are looking for long-term (2+ year) partners (couples, families, individuals) who would be willing to come and serve alongside us in Croatia. If you feel a stirring, please don't hesitate to contact us!