I get to tell a Seelos story. My wife thinks I tell to much detail but it is the only way that I can tell a story. When we first got to Sremska Mitrovicia the first thing we heard from the members is that there are a lot of inactive members here that were never really converted but just joined the church so they could survive the war with a little help from the church. Then the next thing is that there is one family that does not want to be associated with the church any longer and will often stop the branch President and say please take our names off the rolls. One of our main responsibilities is to contact all of the inactive and try to get them to come back to church. Dee already posted our experience when we visited with an inactive in Ruma and ended up in the Old Folks Home. (I'm surprised they didn't think we were checking in and keep us)
Last week we decided that it was time that we took the bull by the horns and go to see this inactive family. We made an appointment with the missionaries and went to their address. Here in Serbia just because you have an address it does not mean that you will find the right people. The homes will usually come right out to the street and there will be a gate usually large enough to drive a small car through and then the next house. We will send pictures because often the gates are very individualized. Once you enter the gate you go into a small, or sometimes a large courtyard. Then around the courtyard there may be one home or several homes and often it is hard to tell which are homes or are they just a shed or closet.
When we went to the address Dee (so as not to overwhelm them) stayed in the car and I and the Elders went to the gate and then into the courtyard and knocked on the door. A woman came to the door and when she saw that we were missionaries she said no they were not interested and did not want to have anything to do with the church. I explained that we were trying to visit with all members of the branch and that they were listed on our records and we wanted to get to know them. She spoke for a long time and the Elders just listened and kept saying da, da (yes, yes). Finally I held up my hand and everyone stopped and I asked what she had been saying. The Elders tend to forget that I don't understand Serbian. They said that she was talking about how her husband has become more worldly and their children were going out drinking and she was worried that her family won't be able to be with her because they are so worldly. Then I got a real shock. She is the Ex-wife of the man who wants his name off the records. Her husband and her six children were all baptized into the church but she never was.
About this time an older gentleman came out of the other house and started hollering and saying for us to leave that he did not want us there. Again I explained that we're there because their name was on our records and we wanted to meet all of them. He said he had a paper that said he was no longer a member of the church and he did not want us to bother them. He had also been drinking a little bit. All this took place with one Elder translating for me while the other Elder was talking to the lady. When we finally got the man settled down, we talked for a little while and I assumed that he was all alone in his house but I wanted to find out where his children were living so we could find them. According to my records there were six children in the family,with the youngest being 23 years old.All had asked to have their name removed except one daughter living in Croatia. I could not remember any of their names except for the youngest (I will call him) Alexander. I asked the Missionary if he would ask where Alexander was living. Before the missionary could translate my question the father said Da and went back to his home and got Alexander. Alexander spoke very good English and we visited for quite a while and he confirmed that his dad and five of the siblings asked that their names be removed. I told them I would follow up on the matter and would get back to them and we left.
When we got back to the car the Elders informed me the mother who had never been baptized wanted to be baptized and would be to church on Sunday. Sunday morning was Easter and we tried to have a special meeting. This is not easy when there are so few members because the same people are always speaking. The President and I had discussed having everyone choose their favorite song and saying why. We then planned on having fast meeting on the 14th of April after conference. I got a call late Saturday night from the Counselor in the Mission Presidency saying he and his wife would be in Sremska Mitrovica on the 14th and would be speaking. So we decided to combine the music program and Testimony meeting for our Easter Program. It was a very spiritual meeting. Also know that there is a very limited selection of songs that are translated into Serbian.
So I was standing at the Front door of the Chapel to greet people and watch for our little investigators When all of a sudden this fellow steps in the door and it was Alexander. He said that he was very touched that we would come to find him. He said that it reminded him of the story "the Lord looking for the lost sheep" and he felt that he should come and find out for himself. He said that he did not necessarily agree with his father and he had not been to church since he was 10 years old. About 15 minutes later his mother arrived and also our other investigators came. We have changed their baptism date to the 20th of April as she has been in the hospital for a week. Easter Sunday is when the time change happens here and so almost at the last of our meeting meeting another investigator came in the door. We had four investigators and 1 inactive out to church and they stayed for the both meetings. As I said it was a very spiritual meeting and the branch is very excited. By the way Alexander attended our English class tonight so we feel very blessed and will see what is to come. What a journey this is!