Barbara A., Entrust Hungary
Almost three years ago, Zrinka Dekanic from Croatia entered the doors of Danube International Church in Budapest where I am the communication director and my husband, Jeff, is an elder and coordinates small groups. Zrinka arrived that morning in a bit of a daze. She had spent 10 years in a legalistic cult and had finally decided to leave. Tired of the judgment, exclusiveness and manipulation that overwhelmed her, she knew God was leading her to something new — more of him!
On one of her first Sundays at Danube Church, she heard this prayer: “God, please bless all the other churches meeting today, in your name.” Shocked, Zrinka thought, “How open, natural and free that prayer seemed. Not putting down other churches…”
I recently interviewed Zrinka about her spiritual growth. Here is what she said.
“Barb and others met me where I was. No condemnation. I thought control was necessary to help someone else. But I found it truly is not a ‘must’ in God’s family. No one questioned my convictions. We simply studied the word of God and God took over. I learned about his goodness, faithfulness, sovereignty; heard testimonies that made me sense his presence, and saw God change others’ lives. This caused true friendships to form that were effortless because God brought us together.
“Before, I had been proud of how well I performed and pleased other people. I didn’t need God when I felt I could do it in my own strength. I craved and received more responsibility, but that brought fear that I had to be strong, not weak or struggling — certainly not transparent. I stopped drinking by my own self-control. We talked about grace, but there was no model for what ‘living in his grace’ meant.
“Now I know how vital his grace is. Not only do I have the assurance of heaven, but my confidence is in him and his grace and mercy. When I sin, I don’t despise myself. I confess it all to Jesus and he shows me what to do about it. I’ve been processing this in my head, but now this is in my heart. My ‘standard’ failed so God could rescue me out of it.
“Barb and the others in our Bible study helped me see the focus is on God, not doing the right (or avoiding the wrong) thing. Barb asked questions and let the Holy Spirit convict me. I started to sense the thoughts God revealed to me in prayer and scripture that only could have come from him. Instead of the ‘demand’ that I’d felt about spending time with God, I now feel joy in being with him and in his word.
“People pleasing will probably always be an area God works on in my life, but I am doing less and less of what people think and more of what God wants. I used to be afraid that ‘freedom in Christ’ would make me sin more, but now I see that was bondage. Freedom is joy and peace with a God who accepts me just as I am. As I move away from Budapest next month, I am thankful for all he is and what he will do in and through me.”
The Bible study Zrinka joined helps women become grounded in their faith by studying the Bible inductively, and equips them to do the same thing with others. After three years with Zrinka, I know she is someone who will multiply wherever she goes.