Friday, March 22, 2013

What a Week!

Well, this has been a busy week.  Alan had to speak (again) in church with a days notice.  He did a great job.  It is hard to talk by just giving a few sentences and then waiting for it to be interpreted.  You tend to lose your train of thought, so we have learned to type it out with spaces in-between so you can keep track of where you are.  I am talking (again) this week.  And Alan will be teaching the Sunday School class.  If we didn't know how to do this before, we are learning now.  We find that the manuals used here are years behind because newer ones have not yet been translated.  Two of our branch members, the branch Pres. and his sister (R.S. Pres.) do alot of translation for the church.  They are already translating April Conf. talks and have been sworn to secrecy.  They say that it is a stressful time because some talks they receive months in advance but many the last week or just days and even hours before conference airs.  When we ask the elders about listening to conference over here, they said it's not the same because you only hear the translators voice and miss the actual apostle's and Prophet's voice speaking with their emotion.

As for the actual week...we had dinner Monday night with the Pres. family.  Their home is very small but welcoming.  We know that they are not wealthy but we had a many course meal, starting with soup and ending with two desserts and another one to take home.  Oh my goodness, what am I going to do when I feed them.  Honestly, that is one of my biggest worries over here is feeding people using ingredients that I don't usually use.  Banana choc. chip cookies have become my signature treat that I take to members when we visit and they seem to like them....but a whole meal :o[....we'll soon see!

Tuesday we (the missionaries and us) went to Ruma, a town 10 miles away, to find an inactive member of the church.  An older woman who has been through the temple, wears garments, but she attends the Pentecostal church and feels a church is a church.  She said that we could home teach her monthly and we will see if we can bring her back to our church.  The hard thing for people in outlying areas is transportation into the church.  Well, after our visit, unbeknownst to us, she had made an appt. with a rest home so they could partition us for wheelchairs.  So as not to offend her, we went to the appt.  We couldn't believe it, they had prepared food, drink, and coffee for us.  We had to politely tell them that we don't drink coffee.  They took us on a tour...285 residents and a very nice place.  They gave us gifts, me a scarf and Alan a picture and all this in hopes of getting wheelchairs.  We promised them that we would refer their case to our humanitarian missionaries, which we did.  Tues night we also went with the missionaries to teach our investigating couple.
The tiny church and some of the workers at
the rest home.

Wed. we fed the missionaries and had an appt. canceled.  Thursday we picked up the missionaries from Novi Sad and drove them north to Subotica just on the Hungarian boarder to visit with some old members and meet with a young man that found the church on the internet and called wanting to be taught.  Subotica is a charming European town, the type of European town that you would imagine in your mind.  And one of the best things was that they have a McDonalds there.  Yes, I said McDonalds.  It's funny how things you don't like at home, all of a sudden, look wonderful here.  We ate lunch there with the missionaries and their fries never tasted so good.
The only arches that you see!

I hope you can read this menu...I couldn't!

The kids play area...

The building is just as beautiful as the doors

This McDonalds has two floors and this is taken from up stairs.

We visited with the members and much as the sister in Ruma, they have been going to another church and feel that as long as you are going to church that is good enough.  So many of the people here have not really developed a testimony, but then it is hard when there is not church and no weekly member support.  How many of us would stay faithful, I wonder?  The missionaries are going to try and visit them two times monthly in hopes of rebuilding their testimonies.

After lunch we met with the young investigator and he was so nice...we met at a German Hotel that is beautiful with a inner glass covered courtyard.  The courtyard is surrounded by shops including a groc. store.  They plan to meet with him 2x monthly as well as talk with him on the computer.
This is a beautiful building in Subotica that is all lit up at night

A street view from Subotica

After we returned the missionaries to Novi Sad, we went to a place called Mercutor that turned out to be a huge mall....a mall, who knew!  And of course this mall had a huge groc. store that was modern and up to date.  But, sadly they still don't carry most of the same items we haven't found in Sremska, i.e. sweet pickles, lettuce, etc.  It was a long day, but a good day.  (We found out today that one of those elders has been transferred to Slovenia--and we just had gotten to know him)

We are headed to Belgrade (not our favorite city, way to large) tomorrow for a combine RS birthday celebration.  We are taking two woman from here.  It has been a full week, but a good week.  Just another segment of our journey   :o}

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Our trip west of the boarder into Croatia

Tuesday we had to drive to Croatia with the missionaries to pick up our Serbian/Croatian Elder's new passport.  Because of his father and his high ranking in the government he was able to request that his son no be listed as a Croatian citizen.   The price that some people have to pay to be members or our church...As I have said before, we take so much for granted.  While we were there we drove around some in the city of Vukovar.  It is the first city that Serbia attack in the beginning of the war.  Our Elder grew up in Serbia but his father defected to Croatia during the war.   There are bullet holes in a lot of the homes and many buildings are still in rubble. We have heard that when Serbia attack Croatia, the Croatian people did not have an army and no weapons and were literally fighting with clubs and a few shot guns until they could capture weapons.  It is common to see shot up buildings and rubble from the war in both Croatia and Serbia.  Because America bombed Belgrade to stop the war, many have feelings toward the Americans.  It is also amazing how they have left the big bombed buildings as a reminder of what America did to them.   There are still a lot of feelings here about the war, but many of the young people don't remember it and like most wars, the horror of it will soon be forgotten. 

Notice the bullet holes in the side of the house...this is common
The lower green house has been redone

The town's water tank that was hit...alot of buildings have this size holes or bigger..

Our Serbian/Croatian  Elder...He may go on a full time mission soon.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My first Sunday to conduct

Well I think I have learned how to operate the MLS.  There are still a lot of things that give me trouble. Mainly trying to tell what it say on the screen in Cyrillic, but I am getting better as guessing when you figure out a few of the letters.Yesterday was the first time that I conducted.  The Branch President and I have several meetings on how to help the branch.  He is excited to have me as I get to do the callings because most of the members are family to him and they will tell him no where he feels they will not say no to me.  When I looked at the the branch directory the only member listed as having a calling was the Branch President.  We know other people have callings but they are not recorded and they don't ever remember being set apart.  So today me called a new Elders Quorum President, a new Relief Society President, a new Young Women's President, a new Primary President, a new Organist, a new Choir ester, and a new Branch Missionary.  All in all it was a very good day.  We had three investigators out to church yesterday and had a total of 17 people there and had four people who would normally be there but were out sick.  That is a very good number for our branch.  They all stayed for both meetings so we are happy.  Our little investigators were excited and asked a lot of questions in Sunday School and are still excited to be baptized.
My dear sweet wife has been doing her ES Duties (Emma Smith).  This week she fed the missionaries on Monday, Entertained and fed a Senior Couple and four Lady missionaries on Wednesday and then on Thursday we took the Counselor in the Mission Presidency and his wife out to dinner.  That was interesting because that was Woman's day and the place we were going to go to was packed with a long waiting line.  Our landlord had earlier had been telling us about a place he wanted us to go to which was out town a ways and thought it would be too hard to find.  Well we found it but the menus were in Cyrillic and nobody spoke English.   We found a young couple at one of the tables that told us what was on the menu. It was very good and a pleasant time.
This week we have to go across the border to Croatia so our Croatian Elder can get a new passport that shows his Serbian address.  We have to do this because  he is now only a temporary missionary and will be finished the end of March,  We plan on submitting his mission papers for a full time mission from Sremska Mitrovica as soon as he will have been in the church a year at the end of July. We need to get his new passport because you can only be called from the country where you reside and he can no longer do that from Croatia.
Then on Thursday we have to go to Beograd for a Zone Conference so it will be another busy week and Emma Smith is a jewel and still smiling and I love her.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

They said "YES"

It is amazing to me how the Spirit seems to speak first to the heart and then the mind catches up.  On Friday night we went with the missionaries to teach the little couple that came to church Sunday and they have been reading the BOM.  They had felt the spirit so strongly, both at church and then as they read.  The elders invited them to be baptized and they have committed to be baptized March 30th.    Our first baptisms...this hasn't happened in the branch for a long time so we hope that now the members will catch the fire for missionary work.  This is a man and woman that live together as roommates (nothing more) to help pay expenses.   He is much younger than she is.  She said that she has been praying and asking God to lead her to something more in life.  She lived in another town and felt she should move here and she did and found the missionaries.  The town she had in does not have missionaries.  It just shows that God truly is aware of everyone.  Thank goodness that she listened to the promptings. We just hope that this is the beginning of great things to come.

Friday, March 8, 2013

"Woman's Day" in Serbia

Today, March 8th, is woman'a day in Serbia.  It is like our Mother's Day.  We got up this morning and everywhere we went we saw people selling or carrying flowers and balloons.  We finally stopped at the library to see if they have any books in english and ask the girl who spoke some english what today was.  She told us that it is the day to honor woman.  It was sweet to see everyone with flowers or balloons.  This is a country that seems very family oriented.  It's very common to see fathers hugging and kissing their children.  We went to a restaurant today with a couple, the Westergard's from AZ,  that came here to help us get a seminary program started.  And just like our Mother's Day, people were there with wives and mothers celebrating the day.  A band came in to play and a husband and wife got up to dance and he sang to her; it was so sweet.  They are good people...and a very pretty people.  There was a group of teen boys and girls laughing and teasing just below our balcony last evening and as I watched them for a while I thought, teens are the same everywhere.  

Yesterday, we had another couple, the Ivins from Bountiful come here.  They brought two sister missionaries from Osejak up to meet two sisters from Beograd for an exchange.  So everyone came to lunch.  We didn't have enough chairs or bowls but we managed.  Flexibility is the word...because we never know from one day to another what might happen or change.

I ask Sister Ivins if she ever has times when she wonders what her part in this mission is....I ask her this because there are times when Alan is busy with records or church work and I am not sure where I fit into all that.  She said that's a common feeling and someone once gave her good advice and said, "When you feel that way, think of Emma Smith, we are their support".  Knowing she and other woman feel this way and that we are to be like Emma Smith, I have calmed down and felt less pressure.  There are busy times and there are quiet times and now I feel it's OK to enjoy the quiet times.  As this journey continues, we learn something new each day.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fast Sunday

Yesterday we cleaned the church and cleaned the courtyard at the church. You come in from the street into a wide corridor which takes you back into a courtyard and just before the courtyard is a door that that goes into the lobby of the church. The courtyard is covered in cement and had a single tall apricot tree growing in it. It had quite a bit of trash and old leaves which were rotting so we cleaned all of this up and planted two flower pots with pansies and a row of pansies around the tree base. It was surprising what a couple of hours can make. We also put up a poster on the outside street glass door that had a picture of Christ with meeting times and visitors welcome. Before they only had a small sign that said Church of Jesus Christ in one of the curtained windows. While I was working in the courtyard I noticed several people stopping outside to read the sign and they they would peer inside to see what I was doing so I think that it is a good sign that maybe people are actually realizing there is a Church there.
Today I had to be at church early to meet with the 1st Counselor in the District Presidency to be put in as 1st   Counselor in the Branch. I am also the Branch Clerk.   The President is the 26 year old Elder from Serbia that server his mission in Utah He is a very impressive young man. Elder O'Brien, one of the missionaries is sick with the flu and so they were not in attendance today. Today was Fast Sunday and a chance to bear testimonies. It was a very special as just before the meeting started A woman and a man came in that had met the missionaries on the street about a week ago and wanted to attend our meeting. Dee immediately met them and made them comfortable as well as you can when you can't speak the language. When we got someone that could speak the language we found out this woman was walking down the street and saw the Elders and felt this warm feeling about them and went to meet them. They gave her a Book of Mormon and she has been reading it. The Elders did not have her address but had left her a card with the church address and phone number.
Several members bore their testimony and let me tell you there are no better members or stronger people than them. It was very spiritual. Last week one of the members had the flu and had been sick for several days but needed to go back to work. When I was talking with I asked him if he would like a blessing and he almost seemed surprised as if it was not something he had thought of. I gave his a blessing in English and he only speaks Serbian but seemed to feel  good about it. This week his parents were there his dad is a very young looking 83 and his mother 80. He indicated after Sacrament meeting that his mother would like me to give her a blessing. I think he must of mentioned his blessing to her. He anointed and I gave her a blessing in English and blessed her that her back and knees would not bother her and she would be able to get around better. I did not know what her needs were but when the blessing was explained to her she said that that was what she needed as she had bad arthritis in her back and legs.
Our little investigators were there and asked if she could get a blessing also. I felt it better that the locals give  her and him the blessings so she could understand what was said in the blessings. After the blessings she just sat and sobbed and sobbed. She said that she felt the spirit so strong.  She has asked if we would come and visit her . She says that they are very poor and have just a little home but would like us to come. Needless to say we will.
We have expressed some of our frustrations with Serbia but this is the best of Serbia. This is why we are here. This is now our home for 18 months.
Our little pansy pots 

Alan doing what he's good for his soul!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Another day in the life of....

Well, we have found out that senior missionaries have to be very flexible in this calling.  We transport missionaries, we feed missionaries, we clean the church (did that today), we plan a Sunday School lesson last minute because a missionary is sick, we plant flowers at the church (did that too today), we teach with the missionaries, I cook, cook, cook, and Alan does MLS and missionary records.  But next week we start to visit inactive members and hopefully the following week we start teaching English and probably seminary.

We thought that you might like to see our apartment so I am including pictures....hold your breath! We have two more bedrooms and another small bathroom.  There is glass windows and a door at this end of the living room that goes out on a balcony.  I'm not great at including pictures, but I will attach more later.
Our dishwasher
Bedroom..took TV out

One of the bathrooms...the washer that
takes two hours.  I looks like two toilets but
 one is a  bidet???

Living room with new couch