Wednesday, May 29, 2013

And now we are three!

Well, just as we were getting used to life over here, things changed.  Isn't it change that is supposed to keep us young.  Then how come I feel older?  Our Serbian Elder was released from his mini mission but has no where to go while he waits for his full-time mission call.  So, he is now living with us until....well, we're not quit sure.  It certainly has changed the whole dynamics of this little apartment.  No privacy, regular meals, no bickering, act religious all the time, and a higher noise and energy level. But he is a good young man and we will all grow from this situation,wont we?  And most of all, he needs a break before he starts another mission.

Our "lost sheep" young man is doing great.  Remember, I had mentioned that he comes to church in Levis with holes.  Well we found some suits that previous missionaries had left and one fit him perfectly.  He looked so handsome on Sunday.  He was made a priest on Sunday and was smiling from ear to ear.  I think that he likes who he is now.

There is a native animal refuge a few miles from town.  They house animals that were native to Serbia in the olden days.  Plus they have a 42 spot camp ground which is the biggest camp ground in Serbia.  We have been there a couple of times and I think I mentioned that Alan made friends with the asst. director (are you surprised).  Anyway, yesterday he and the two missionaries went out to do service work.  And wouldn't you know it, Alan knew more about the plants that they did. They kept asking his advice and he taught them how to trim the scrubs they have.  He also helped them identify certain herbs that they are planting in a handicap garden.  They are excited to have a handicap garden and the first lady of Serbia is coming to dedicate it.  They were so appreciative and ask that he and the missionaries please come back. I don't think that they will have to twist Alan's arm too much.  The missionaries also loved it because it has been hard to find anyone here who will let you volunteer.  It gives the missionaries a nice break to be able to do something different.  I expect that them and Alan will be out there one day a week from now on....maybe I'll even go sometimes.

Sister Ann Madsen (wife of Truman G. Madsen) is coming to spend two months in the Adriatic North mission as a representative of the Sunday School Board.  She is coming to Sremska Mitrovica on June 7th to meet with the youth and hold a fireside.  This woman is 80 years old and still teaches religion at BYU.  Everyone is excited to hear her speak.

No pictures this time....more next time.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Just Tid Bits

Typing this blog makes me realize that time is going fast.  It seems like I just get it done and then it is time to do it again...and I am late this week.  We have been busy so far this week and we hope that things are slowing down for a few days.

On Tues. we went to Osijek, Croatia to get our Serbian Elder's immunizations from his doctor.  They have to see you face to face with your passport in order to pick up any medical records.  As we drove over, we went right through his home town.  We ask if he wanted to stop to see his parents and he, at first, said no.  Then about 1/2 mile down the road he changed his mind so we turned around and went back.  He and his companion got out and as they went up to the door, his father came from behind.  His father was upset and told him basically to leave.  His mother called something that he did not hear and the father said something  back to her, so the Elder did not see her.  His father ask him not to write any more and they left.  The visit lasted about 5 minutes.  We could tell that he was hurt, but he put on a brave face.  Later, he said, "Do you know that they bought burial plots for all the children in the family, but not for me."  His father spent time in prison as a war criminal against Serbia.  I guess if you can do human rights crimes against people, you can disown your own son.

We went to a funeral on Wed. for a man who was 92 years old and has been a member of the church and a Branch Pres. for many years.  They had his funeral at the cemetery.  The caskets here are much more narrow than ours and they do not use vaults to hold the caskets.  They bury the casket directly in the ground.  The color of your headstone, either white or black, is determined by whether you are Orthodox Christen or Muslim.  The white headstones are usually Muslim and the black headstones are usually Orthodox Christian. And most of the headstones are very large and mostly made out of marble or granite. Not just the headstone but the whole grave site looks like a king size bed of granite. Serbian people very much honor their dead.  It is very common to see people having picnics at the cemetery or there decorating the graves.

I thought that I would share some different tid bits about how things are done here:

  • When you go to the store and buy produce, each item has a number by it and you go to the scale and punch in that number and a slip will come out with the weight and price.  Not a bad idea.
  • The city is very conscientious about keeping the city clean looking.  They have a crews of men that go around and cut huge areas of weeds and they cut it all with weed eaters.  Then a man rakes it into piles and another crew comes with a truck and picks up the weeds.  Many people also use the weed eaters to cut their lawns.  They also have people who their only job is to walk around and pick up litter.
  • In the fields farmers will plant about 50 yards of corn and then the same of wheat and then corn and then wheat.  We haven't figured our the why of this yet.
  • It is common courtesy to take your shoes off when you go into a home.  Most people wear house slippers around their homes.
  •  Another interesting item that we found out from one of our English students who is a nurse.  He drives to Novi Sad every day which is about 45-60 minutes from here depending on the traffic. He is full time 40 hours but within the month, he is allowed by law to work and get paid for another 40 hours.  This would work out to be 50 hours/week.  He does not get over time for these extra hours.  But what is interesting is that he works about another 40-50 hours per month and they consider that volunteer time with no pay.  When ask what would happen if he did not do it.  He said that there are plenty of nurses wanting work and they would let him go and hire someone else.  So sometimes he works 12 hours a day for 7 days....and we complain.
  • Because the government is in control of certain things like the post office, police, hospitals, schools, and government offices, a person's job security is determined by the political party they belong to and who is in charge.
Well this is a windy long blog...we are going to district meeting.  The missionaries are finding out about transfers today and they are all on pins and needles.  I am pretty sure that our Serbian Elder will be transferred.  We'll know soon!
Men cleaning the lot across the street.

Our Elders and Alan in Osijek on the river inlet...we ate in
a restaurant on the river..Best food we've eaten since coming
here...but it was in Croatia. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Crazy week continued!!!

Honestly, me and this blog have a secret dislike for each other.  The fact that I am typing a blog at all is a miracle, but does it have to be so obstinate about putting in pictures.  Enough complaining, right!

Sunday I taught seminary to our three girls and we shared some really spiritual moments.  It is good to feel the trust and the connection start to come.

Monday morning we met the humanitarian missionaries in Ruma at the Senior Care Center and discussed helping to get them wheelchairs for about 25 people.  We may also help them get equipment for a portable lad to have on site.  People have no idea just how much the church does around the world to help.  Our humanitarian missionaries are continually busy with projects, such as water pumps, boots for Roma children, dental chairs, and eye surgery equipment etc. etc.

Monday evening in Belgrade, this area had a very special fireside given by Elder Kearon who is in the first quorum of the seventy.  He is the first counselor in the European area presidency.  Alan and I took over our two new members.  When Sevetta got into the car she didn't seem to feel well, but ofcourse, there is a language barrier.  So I called the missionaries and had them ask her if she was sure she felt good enough to go.  "Oh yes, it will pass and she will be fine".  By the time we got to Belgrade, she got out of the car throwing up and really sick.  We got the missionaries to take Jelico with them and promise to bring him home on the bus and we turned around and brought Sevetta home.

We had a Zone Conference with Elder Kearon Tues. in Belgrade all day and it was great.  He is not only a spiritual man, but has a very good sense of humor.  It was a full day but a good day.  When we got home on Tues. we found out that Sevetta is in the hospital.  She must be a very valiant spirit because Satan is after her all the time.

The missionaries from Bosnia and Serbia who attended
the Zone Conference.  Pres. Rowe, mission pres.
 is the young man on the right side, front row.
A very spiritual man.

Crazy but good week!

Being a Senior missionary is an interesting calling.  It seems that one day or week we are swamped with busyness and a day later things are calm...but we are finding out that the calm comes before each storm of activity.  I think the Lord lets you just catch you breath so that you can go at it again.

We traveled to Novi Sad for a district meeting (which is 1 hour away) on Wed. and then on Thurs.we drove the Elders to Vukovar to get our Serbian Elder's birth certificate for his mission papers.  Alan finally sent them in to the mission Pres. so we will expect his call within the next month.  I think he is scared and mother's day was hard on him because the other elder called his parents and it reminded him that his family has disowned him.

Saturday was finally the day of our baptisms.  They have been called off two other times because Satan has interfered   You will see in the pictures the portable set up for a baptismal font.  It's a good thing Alan is here, I don't think our two missionaries could have figured it out.  It has been wonderful to see the joy and light it has brought into their countenance.  Sevetta just kept saying, "I am so happy".  That's how being filled with the spirit makes her feel.  After the baptism and refreshments, the two new members, our missionaries and then four of the missionaries from Novi Sad plus the mission Pres. came to our apt. for dinner.  What's eleven people for dinner and five of them at the last minute, plus one of them the mission Pres., no pressure, but we all survived.

Rain had been forecast for the day but after a prayer, the day turned out beautiful until after the baptism and then it clouded up and rained hard.  We were thankful for the nice day, the baptisms, and the blessing these two new members are to this small branch.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cinco de Mayo or is it Easter?

May 5th was the official Orthodox Easter and although our LDS church celebrated it in April, tradition is deeply seeped into the members here and we celebrated it as a branch yesterday.  On Good Friday (night) we had a branch Easter party but what we could eat was restricted again to tradition.  (Now get ready to envy our menu)  We could not have animal products such as meat,  eggs, mayo, etc. and no sugar, so we had fish, which we had cooked at the open air market (head and tail included); potato salad without eggs or mayo (not too bad); bread; squash stuffed phillo rolls; fruit kabobs (I made) and water.  It sounds "not great" but it really wasn't too bad.  We had a scripture Easter Egg hunt, a film about Christ, and a few testimonies.  It turned out very spiritual.  We had invited our English class and were presently surprised when three woman from our class came.  They seemed to enjoy it and stayed for about 30 minutes after to visit.  Of course, Alan and I miss out on a lot because of the language barrier, but we get the jest of things and do better than you would expect.

On Sat. night right at the stroke of midnight, the Orthodox Church bells start to ring and ring for atleast 5-10 minutes and the neighborhoods dogs join in and howl right along with each cling.  It's a true eye opener if you are sound asleep.  Also, because we live close to the city center, every weekend there is music in the square until about 2 am.  They say that things don't start happening here until about 11:00 at night.  Our members say that it is common for them to go out walking until 12:30 or so at night.  Boy, Alan and I are OLD!

On Sunday, Easter, they have only Sacrament meeting.  The kids here get up early and go from house to house and get "real" colored eggs.  They say it is not uncommon for them to come home with 100-200 eggs...but the other side of that picture is that you then have to color tons of eggs.  They also get candy and treats hidden around their own home and yards.  The stores were crazy the few days before Easter.

Sunday the missionaries came to dinner and we had fixed them each a little Easter Basket.  See picture below.
Now, don't they look thrilled?

Last week, we also had a senior couple from the mission, come here to interview some of the pioneers in the mission.  Our two families are some of the first members here in Serbia.  The branch President's  sister, and  mother joined the church in 1989 as refugees from the war as they lived in Austria.  The branch Pres. joined a few years later.  Both the branch Pres. and sister were the translators of the BOM here in Serbia plus the D&C.  Their story will now be preserved for posterity and they will be known as the Serbian pioneers of the church here.  Maybe not like the pioneers that we know, but pioneers still the same.

In attempts to find a new church building Alan, the branch Pres., one of the counselors to the mission Pres., and a prominent business man were out to dinner on a Natural Nature Reserve out in the country.  And of course, Alan and the second director of the Reserve got to talking (he spoke English) and before you know it Alan was invited to come and work with him on the reserve.  So now we may have a source for volunteer work.  This man was once a regional police commander and one of the top men in the Serbian army.  A tough old bird, but he and Alan hit it off.

Our little "lost sheep" inactive boy is still coming to church and meeting with the Elders.  It has truly been amazing to watch his countenance change.  Time will tell if he stays active, but we pray he will.

As we traveled today, the roadsides are covered with red poppies and yellow mustard.  In some places, it is really pretty.  It made the journey much more enjoyable.