Monday, June 24, 2013


This is one activity that makes me realize that the weeks do pass by quickly.  It seems we just finish a blog and it is time to do it again.

We did have one of those busy weeks and it was the hottest week we have had here so far.  It ranged in the high 90's with humidity between 70-98% depending on the time of day.  We have a little huff and puff air conditioner like you see in church rooms.  Notice I said rooms and we have one of the same for our whole apt.  What I am trying to say is that it was uncomfortably HOT.

Sunday we had a nice dinner with the Elders and our Serbian (live in) Elder for Father's Day.  Then on Monday we had the missionaries again and a branch family to dinner...yes, the ones who are extremely health conscious and at the same time a very good cook.  (I mean people all over the mission talk about her cooking--yes, no pressure) But they all were very gracious and kind.  Their girls and the missionaries played UNO and we adults just talked and he does not speak English but his wife interpreted and all was very enjoyable.

Oh yes, also on Monday while I cooked dinner, Alan took our Serbian Elder to Belgrade to get an MRI on his shoulder to determine if surgery can correct his injury.  Tues. we  had to take the Serbian Elder to Croatia and Wed. we had a breather day, thank goodness.

On Wed. night we got a call that our zone leader had gone to Croatia on splits but left his passport in the car that came back to Belgrade and he wouldn't be  allowed to cross the boarder back into Serbia.  So  the Senior couple from Belgrade brought his passport to us at 11:00 pm and then Tues. morning we got up early and drove to the boarder to give him his passport so he could follow us to Belgrade for Zone Conference with the Pres. and also Sister Ann Madsen.  (Yes, senior couples are sometime surrogate parents)  Zone Conference is always faith promoting and a spiritual high. But in the middle of Zone Conf. we and our Serbian Elder have to get up and run to a doctor's visit with a surgeon regarding his Shoulder.  He is now scheduled for surgery on July 1. (Another big surrogate parent adventure)

On Friday, we had a Zone retreat at a ethnic village in Bosnia.  It was 98 degrees with 80% humidity, so you can imagine how much fun it was.  Luckily Ann Madsen, wife of Truman Madsen was there and she had had hip replacement in Jan. so she could not tolerate walking around as much.  She wanted to sit, so we went into a patio area in the shade and bought drinks and stayed with her and visited while the rest of the Zone took a tour (in the sun), walked around and played Frisbee   It was great listening to her as she told us about how she and Truman met, their life together and then how he died (bone cancer from prostate cancer).  She is 80 and here in Serbia...quit a woman.  She runs in big circles of church people...she throws out names like Russel M. Nelson, Pres. Kimball, and and Pres. Eyring as if they are her neighbors and Pres. Kimball was her neighbor.  

We had to rush back from the activity to set up for a branch activity...the branch had requested a movie "The other side of Heaven", so our Elders worked really hard to download and get it set up with subtitles. A lot of work went into getting ready for this activity and in a typical Serbian way, 6 people showed up 25 minutes late.  Sometimes it is discouraging,  but we just keep moving forward.

This is our "Only in Serbia" happening this week...Last Sunday, it was time for church to start and our branch Pres. hasn't arrived and he is in charge of conducting and has arranged for the program.  Alan calls and he has run out of gas and can't remember who he ask to speak.  Alan comes back in and asks if anyone is scheduled to talk and no one says they are.  So Alan points to two missionaries and asks that they prepare to give their testimonies, which they do and then Alan gives a talk.  It turned out to be a great meeting even though it was on the fly...."Only in Serbia"

Thank goodness, this week is scheduled to be a little more calm, but that could change at any time.  We took the Elders out today and taught them to drive stick shift.  That was scary but fun and funny as well.  They are super young men and although we think of ourselves as surrogate parents, they think of us a surrogate grandparents.  They also have to take care of us now and then, especially when it comes to techno projects.

So much for this blog.  I've added a few pictures of "As the Mission Turns" moments!

Hugh wood pile just dropped off next door.  There are
piles like this in front of homes all over the city.

Ethnic Village in Bijeljina, Bosnia

"Only in Serbia"... taking plastic bottles to get money
There are five sacks on top of this car,
Alan and Ann Madsen

Friday, June 14, 2013


About June 1st Sister Ann Madsen a Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU and the wife of Truman Madsen came to Serbia. She is here as part of her calling on the General Sunday School Board and also because of  her great connection to the Balkins. She has come here for the last three or four years and is dearly loved by the church members here. On Tuesday  June 4th, she visited us in Novi Sad for our district meeting  and spent about four hours with us and then on Friday the 7th she came to Sremska Mitrovica and spent the day with us. She met with the young adults at 4:00 and talked with them about missionary work, Patriarchal Blessings, and inviting people to came to church. Dee and I were not able to attend this as she was busy cooking for a branch dinner that was at 5:00 and I was out so I could bring those members that were unable to come unless I picked them up so they could attend. Then at 6:00 we had a fireside. All in all it was a very special time.

Our little lost sheep was in the meeting at 4:00 and especially enjoyed it. I can't tell you how special his experience has been here for me. He was one of the reasons that we came to Serbia. Unfortunately he is having to move back to Montenegro to find employment because there in  no work here and his father said that he had to move out by the end of May. I suspect that it is because he has been attending church and his father hates the church. He was ordained a Priest two weeks ago and he just realized that he had the authority to baptize. Last week he came up to me and said that he was teaching some of his friends and he was going to bring them to me so I could baptize them. I said No I had a better idea. He could get his friends and bring them to the Elders that could help to teach them and then bring them to me for an interview and then he could baptize them himself and I would confirm them. He looked at me and then got a big smile on his face and said "could I do that". When I said he could, he said "That's a deal". I had to go further to explain that he could only baptize when he was given permission by one in authority. He has gotten his mother to come out to church two times now and he has also been teaching his nephew about the church. When he left on Monday he said he was going to Beograd to find his brother. He said none of the family knew his address but he said he thought he knew where his brother works and he wanted to make contact so I could meet with him. He said that he knew that his brother knew the church was true but had listened to his father and let him influence him and he fell away. On Sunday it was my turn to conduct so I had asked him to take a few minutes as a speaker in Sacrament Meeting. He spoke for about 15 minutes and every one that speaks Serbian said that it was a very spiritual talk and they all enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately I know a little about what he said but could not understand him because it was in Serbian. I do know that he has the potential to be one of the great leaders of the church here in Serbia because he is so confident and such a spiritual thinker. I feel blessed to have made contact with him.

Our Serbian  Elder has been living with us now for about two weeks now and it has taken some getting use to. He is really very good but you just don't have any real privacy in this small apartment. At the same time it has been special as we now have a full time interpreter which allows us to have more contact with some of the people. He spends a lot of time on his phone, on Facebook and as we are face book  friends we get all of his posts on our computer (and they are many). It makes for interesting reading. The other day he placed a picture on his Facebook account of him an another Elder in shirts that they designed. Across the front of the shirt is says "ONLY IN SERBIA". This has become almost a motto for us because only in Serbia will some things happen.

Today we had to take him to the Specialist in Beograd to see about his shoulder which was injured when he was a professional soccer player. It has been giving him a lot of pain and we told him it probably needed to have surgery before he could go on his mission. The Dr. confirmed what we thought and we will need to go next Monday to have a MRI and then again meet with the Dr. and the Surgeon. This was the first time that I had to truly venture into the heart of Beograd and its traffic. We survived but not without making an adventure out of it. On the way home we were driving down the Autoput (freeway) and I was in the inside lane with a auto next to me in the outside lane, when up in front of us a car stops in the outside lane. Then he put the car in reverse and started backing up down the middle of the Autoput. He had gone past the turnoff he wanted and he was backing up to it. Not on the shoulder of the road but down the middle of the road. The other car hit his brakes and I thought he would hit him but he managed to pass him by going out on the shoulder and kept control of his car. We all looked at each other and said in unison "ONLY IN SERBIA".

I think we have mentioned that we teach some advanced English Classes. These consist of meeting with some students one on one.  It is mostly just sitting and talking about anything that they desire which enables them to practice conversational English. I believe Dee has mentioned a male nurse that we teach English to. He is really a great person and has a wife and two small girls. We meet twice a week for an hour and the hour has turned into sometimes an hour and a half or even sometimes two hours. Well, he has been on vacation for the last the last week and has one week left. We asked him what he was doing for vacation. Where he was going which makes good conversation. He indicated that they really didn't have money to go anywhere special. A week ago he wanted to ask me questions about the farm because he did not understand many of the words. I mentioned the farm out at Zacabica (Zasavica) the animal refuge that I sometimes go to when we volunteer. He said he knew of it but had never been there so I suggested that he and his wife and girls goout to see it with us. We have wanted to meet his wife for a long time and this gave us an opportunity to do so. The first clear day we picked them up and we went out. They got to see the animals and there was a large blow up bounce house slide that was about three stories high that the kids could go down. His daughter, who is about four years old, would climb up there and slide down and would bounce around on her head on the way down. I thought that would scare her, but she went time and time again. It turned out to be a great time for all as you can see from the pictures. Thursday night he again came to our English class and had questions and then he told us a joke. " there were two men that died and went to heaven. When they got to heavens gate there was a big sign that said Drobrodosli (welcome) to heaven. Here you don't have to work, there is no jobs. Here you do not have to worry about money, because there is no money. One man turned to the other and said,  "oh no we have ended up in Serbia."  Well the heaven story started him asking about what we believed about heaven and he has asked us to tell him more about the church. He is such a good man and his family would make such an addition to the branch here in Sremska Mitrovica.  We feel blessed to be here at this time but these experiences could happen ONLY IN SERBIA.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Art Festival of Sausage!!!

Well, what can I say...we are the lucky ones and you all missed out!  (Now, hold your hand over your face and flap it with a envious intake of breath while I tell you this)  We were privileged to attend the Sausage Festival.  It was in the town of  Erdevik about 1 hour away.  Our landlord Dragon (pronounced Dragon) took us.  And when you got there it truly was like the Arts Festival...a very long row of booths and almost every booth had prideful men standing behind displaying their sausage specialties.  And several booths displayed silver trophy cups for winning certain awards.  Alan was especially brave and tried many samples and even I gathered my courage and tried some. (I so hope Dragon didn't see me throw the inside of my sausage sandwich away and just eat the bread).  Most of the sausage is rather spicy and hot but OK.  However, the last straw was when Dragon offered me some sausage and as I went to take it he said, "It's sausage".  I was done....I mean you never know.  The sausage is very dry as is most of the meat over here.  Apparently there are many ways to dry the meat and it affects the taste.  There were also a few booths with Wine (but it probably has it's own festival another time) and very few handcraft booths.  It was a nice change of pace and our landlord was very nice to take us.  He is very non-Mormon....he likes to drink wine too much, but he is good to look out for us.

There is a woman in our English class that we really like named Gordana.   She is a single woman who speaks some English so after English class she stays for a while and we visit with her privately to help her English improve.  She invited us to her home a week ago to see her garden and her paintings.  She is a beautiful painter and has a lovey big yard that she shares with her brother and parents.  (Remember the yards are often courtyards with several houses around them).  When we went to her house we had a wonderful visit with her, her father, and brother.  It's a good thing that they spoke more English because our Serbian is very meager.  We invited her to church and she came a week ago but did not return this week.  I was able to give her a BOM but people here are polite and she would never say that she wasn't interested.  We took her a thank you plant yesterday, so we hope to just keep growing the friendship.

It has been extremely rainy here...unnatural for this time of year in Serbia.  Of course you have maybe heard about the flooding in Germany on the Danube River and the Sava River that runs by our city has been extremely high.  They (And Chach, you know who "they" are) say the flooding may be moving this way.  For once, we are happy to be 54 steps up. :o)

Out Serbian Missionary is doing great...we've adjusted to his living here and he almost seems like one of the family.  We should hear in about 3 weeks where he will go on his mission.  Stay tuned!

Dragon and Alan

Table after table looked like this

Expert Sausage making equipment

Yeh! Not a sausage in site.