Translators of Methodism into Croatian
When Peter and Heidi Zunic followed God’s call to preach the gospel in Croatia, provide people with counseling and so play a part in building the kingdom of God, they could not possibly have envisaged that they would also be working on the production of Christian literature. But they very quickly recognized that there was a tremendous need for books: “In 1995 there were a few Christian books and brochures only, but no materials to help people read the Bible on a daily basis, like the Brethren [Moravian] churches’ ‘Watchwords.’ There were also virtually no tracts with brief messages and definitely not any specific Methodist literature.”
Overcoming this deficit became an important part of Peter and Heidi Zunic’s ministry. And if on average they spent six to ten hours a week on producing Christian literature, they were not doing it to see their own name on as many book covers as possible, but to lead people to Jesus Christ. They did not select books for translation in a random fashion: “The ‘Watchwords’ book was created out of a need to share with other people what daily Bible reading and closeness to the Lord means for us. The evangelistic tracts were created to reach people, who do not enjoy reading or who have little time to do so. Brief messages tend to stick in people’s memories and stir them to think. And the individual sections of John Wesley’s book on the Sermon on the Mount were initially translated for a Bible study series and were then compiled in book form.”
But Peter Zunic did not just translate literature, but also Christian songs. Partly out of a sense of homesickness for the hymns was a deep message, which he got to know in Germany. And also because he believed that it is important for others to learn these texts, too – and that meant having them in Croatian. And that opened up a completely new field.
The literature ministry was directed towards people, whom they may only meet for a brief time in the pedestrian zone in Split. Or people, whom they do not know or have not even seen, because they live in a different part of the country or even abroad. This means sowing seed into unknown territory. How did they cope with this in the long term? This work would have been inconceivable for Peter and Heidi Zunic without a deep trust in God: “It is our hope and our belief that the Word of God will not return void. We are trying to saw it like good seed and we pray for every book, which we send out, that the recipient would be blessed by God’s Word and would be drawn to God.”
Peter and Heidi Zunic did not really show a deep longing in their own hearts of at least being able to glimpse behind the veil of the hearts of those people who read the Christian literature they produced. Naturally, positive feedback would have encouraged them in their task: “Of course, we are thrilled when we get some feedback and can see that something has grown.” But for them the most important thing is to ensure that seed falls on good soil, grows and bears fruit one hundredfold — and not discover this and “enter it into their own account.” Deep trust is better than false pride in the long run…
Taken with modifications from With the Five of your First Love and the Deep, Still Waters of Faith that has Stood the Test: 50th Anniversary of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe of The United Methodist Church. (Zurich: The United Methodist Church, 2005).
Editor’s note: United Methodist work in Croatia has been put on hiatus since the end of the Zunics’ ministry.