Monday, July 29, 2013

Tired Empty Nesters

We are once again in our life classed as 'Empty Nesters'.  I think we thought that we had graduated from that time of our life, but doesn't life have a way of changing it's course.   We were not sure that our live-in Serbian Elder would even make it to the MTC for his appointed time.  Everything was in place except a 'Letter of Invitation' from the Ukraian government.  Who knew!  But the area presidency was able to arrange for him to go to the MTC while they still work on getting his invitation.  Alan has now visited the US Embassy and the Urkrainan Embassy and becoming quit the diplomat.  We drove our Serbian Elder to Zagreb on Wed. (7 hours round trip) to had him set apart by the mission President. Then Thurs. morning we got up at 2am and had him at the Belgrade airport to fly out for his 20 hour trip to SLC.  Who said that missions are restful?  So, now our Serbian Missionary is in Utah and from what we hear sooo happy to be in America.  We have received reports that he is in awe of American police cars, lite up semi-trucks, being able to see four temples from Ensign peak; and that there is a store called the distribution center that just has LDS stuff.  He enters the MTC at noon on Tues.  This mission will change this young man's destiny for not only him but all his posterity.

The very same afternoon we made a return trip to Belgrade to get our Elder's toenail stitches removed.  And in the afternoon on Sat. we made a quick trip to Belgrade to take baptismal clothes to the Belgrade Elders for a baptism they had scheduled Sat. night.  (sometimes Elders don't plan too far ahead).  Are you counting, that makes one trip to Zagreb, and three trips to Belgrade this week.  It must have said, "Additional missionary duties include bus-driver, delivery person, bed and breakfast proprietor, and Medical assistant" in the fine print of the missionary papers, but we were too excited to notice. :o)

Getting our Serbian Elder off was not our last all night vigil this week.  On Sat. night our EFY youth came back from Germany.  All of Europe, except England and Scandinavia, attended EFY in Germany.  There were about 20 countries and 350 youth there.  We had arranged for a couple from our Sremska branch to drive the Serbian and Croatian youth there.  This was a great opportunity for them because the church pays for everything but food and after they drop the youth off in Germany they go on the Frankfurt and spend the week going to the temple and relaxing.  They were thrilled.  Anyway, when they picked up the youth to come back on Sat. they encountered major traffic and did not arrive home until 4 am.  We had been expecting them at midnight and sat up with a mom from Novi Sad who had come  down to wait with us.  When they finally arrived, we took two of the girls to stay over with us that night and return to Belgrade on Sunday.  Needless to say, after two late nights this week, we know you can get jet-lag without really flying.
Radamir and Duska, our drivers.

Serbian youth, the two front girls stayed with us
over night.  Very nice young woman.
Then in the middle of all of this, we had a surprise birthday party for our branch president.  A good time was had by all.
Branch President

We gave him this as a birthday gift.

Branch president, wife, and children
I know this must all sound hectic, but it keeps it interesting and exciting if nothing else.  We were pleased Sunday because we had 5 non-members attend church, so we hope that our missionaries realize that they are having some success.  We know that many of you pray for us and so appreciate and thank you for thinking of us.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Just another week in Serbia!

This has been a full week...We so want to visit more inactives but presently we seem to be a medical bus shuttle service and surrogate parents.  Besides having O'Brien's shoulder recuperating, one of our Elders needed to have in-grown toenail surgery, so off to Belgrade we went again to Belmedic for an appt. and then another day for surgery.  They did a good job and he is home today with his foot up.  Because the Elders and Sister's walk so much, it really beats up their feet and toe nails.

We have also been working to get O'Brien's American Visa and by Thurs. we will have been to  Belgrade 4x to get it finalized.  We also have to work at getting his Ukrainian Visa, maybe before he leaves.  We are worried that he may not leave next week.  That will be hard on him (and on us) ;o)......!

Our mission recently had the country of Montenegro from the South Adriatic Mission added to our mission.  Mostly because the people there basically speak Serbian and they had to keep borrowing our missionaries to work there.  We now have five countries in our mission and that makes for a big mission.  We would not be surprised to see them divide it next June when it is time for our mission Pres. to leave.  We, however, are happy that they added Montenegro because that is where our "lost sheep" member had to go to work and now we can go visit him. He has finally contacted us on Facebook so hopefully we can keep him close to the gospel.

 There are so many people here who have come near and dear to us....people we would have never known if we hadn't have come here.  There is a young girl here who is 15 year old.  She is so brave.  She stood up on a chair in class one day and told her whole class about the church and invited them to come.  You can only understand how brave this is when you realize how many friends she and her sister have lost because  they are members of our church...or cult as the so called friends call it.  Today she is marking some scriptures in the BOM and praying to know whose doorstep to leave it on.  She is such an inspiration....

Alan and I find that we have to go to the grocery store about every other day.  Honestly, our food bill is crazy.  Besides the food over here being more expensive, we are always feeding the missionaries and we had forgotten that boys have that hollow-leg syndrom.  They can really tank away the food.  O'Brien LOVES  bread and can put at least one loaf away a day.  He can't understand why we don't eat that much bread.  If there is not bread on the table, he says, "Don't we have any bread".... so we better have bread.  Also, this is kind'a funny but Alan and I have missed Sweet Pickles because I use them a lot in recipes.  So, Alan and I canned Sweet Pickles. Yes, we did and they taste great.  Thank you Aunt Carrie for your recipe and guiding hands.
Yes we did!  You can reuse jars here and their
original lids will seal.

"Only in Serbia".....We see roads made from rock.

And they go on sometimes forever!

Old stacked communist apartments...

That sometimes go on forever!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

If it was easy..I guess it wouldn't be Hard!!!

And it does seem hard!  It makes us realize how hard it is to change the hearts of the people here in Serbia when we remember that there have been missionaries here for 40 years.  If you think about Russia and other countries that have had the missionaries much less time and they have wards and stakes and yet this mission does not  have any wards.  We only have small branches.  Satan works hard here to keep a solid foothold.  When you talk with the people it is like you are asking them to change their nationality.  They were born Orthodox Christians and although they don't go to church they feel that they have a religion and are religious.  It's discouraging because we know the truth and yet they can't grasp that there is so much more for them, both here and for the eternities.  It seems that every time the church starts to grow here, Satan throws in another war to distract the people and then they just let it fad away.  So now the hope is to help the few young people who are members go on missions so they can learn how the church runs and develop deep and everlasting testimonies.  Those young missionaries are coming back as the leaders in this church.  One young man who recently served a mission in Utah is now in the District Presidency (Stake Presidency).  We feel that is the hope for these countries, build a strong foundation with the young people and then hopefully the church will flourish.

Enough philosophizing--As we move on to a more happier note.  As we have said, the growing season here is at least one month ahead of home.  There are fields and fields full of corn, but most striking are the fields of sunflowers.  
This field went on forever

There were bees everywhere

Still a baby sunflower

I know this is over-kill but it was so beautiful!

We are still working to get O'Brien on his mission.  He has to have an American Visa for his two months at the MTC plus a Ukrainian Visa.  We will make a second trip to the American Embassy in Belgrade tomorrow for him to get a Visa interview.  His shoulder is mending and he is pacing the floor so excited to be going to America.
"I want it off"
Our "ONLY IN SERBIA" moment was seeing a young teenage Roma (gypsy) boy riding a bike pulling a cart full of recyclable trash that he has collected from dumpsters.   The Roma people have nothing here and generally make money by sorting through the trash.   We feel bad for the Roma people...they are very poor.  We are hoping to get the Roma children hygiene kits that we can hand out to them when school starts again.
 I am sorry about the pole in the middle, but he was moving fast.
One more picture of my cute husband collecting poppy seeds to smuggle home to America when the time comes.  
You can take the garden away from the man,
but you can't take the gardener out of the man!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Hope They Call Him On a Mission!

And they did!  O'Brien, our Serbian young man got his mission call.   It is quit a process to send someone on a mission call from over here.  The Salt Lake City office doesn't recognize the mission papers because the  phone numbers from here and some of the spellings don't fit.  So we had to call Salt Lake directly to get that worked out (several times).  Then after it goes to the mission president, it has to go to Germany headquarters and then  on to SLC.  And the mission call  takes the same route back to O'Brien.  Many of us met at the church Sat. night to open his call and have cake and ice cream.  He was hoping so much that he would go to America.  But... he has been called to the Ukraine, Kyev mission to speak Russian.  The saving grace for him is that he will get to go to the Provo Training Center and must arrive on July 30th.  He wants to leave next week so he can spend several un-missionary days there but I don't think the church will go for that.

He has had to have shoulder surgery before he after a series of doctor visits to Belgrade, he had surgery on Monday to repair the cartilage around his shoulder socket.  He had to stay in the hospital overnight and then we picked him up on Tues.  the doctor said that he can go to America in a month and keep up his exercises there.  Alan and I have decided that he may be "our mission".  If we can help get him on a mission and trained..when he comes back, he may become a church leader here in Serbia and do great things to forward the gospel here.  He is a super young man who has given up much (a family and a professional soccer career) for the church.  But he doesn't hesitate a minute telling you that he is the blessed one.....and he is.

Happy July 4th to everyone....There is nothing to remind us of the holiday here and the missionaries told us not to celebrate it too openly because so many people harbor dislike for the Americans.  We don't get treated badly, probably because we are old, but the missionaries encounter resentment almost every day.  It really puts into perspective the blessings we have in America, especially when you are away from them.  The countries over here have so much animosity toward one Serbian people even get upset if someone is speaking with a Croatian accent.  Just being able to cross state boarders in America without a passport is a blessing.  We just wish the gospel could spread more rapidly so there could be more love and kindness among the people.  If you have an extra prayer left over, say one that these people's hearts will soften and except the gospel.

Our "Only in Serbia" moment this week was when (on the same day) we saw a woman here in Sremska crossing the street with her bathrobe flowing in the breeze, slightly covering a wispy night gown...she has just been to the market.  And later in Belgrade, we saw a man in his stripped PJs and slippers just coming out of a market after coming down to buy his paper.  Never a dull moment.