Friday, August 30, 2013

The Three Wise Sisters!

There is strength in Sisters and we have three, lucky us!  We had a sister who had been out one month have to go home because of continued respiratory illness so they moved her companion down here (from Novi Sad) to be with our sisters until the next transfer. I don't know what it is about the sisters, maybe that motherly instinct that woman have, but they just came in, organized and went to work.  They even already have a baptismal commitment for a woman (that the Elders have been working with for a year) on Sept. 28th.  We didn't see the Elders except a couple times a week, but the Sisters are more social and we see or talk with them every day.  They have been here for 9 days and we have fed them 4 times.  One Sister is from Alpine, one from Farmington, and our Sister on loan is from Oregon.  They are all great young women (anyway so far).

A couple from Twin Falls Idaho were in the MTC with us and traveled here to the North Adriatic Mission with us.  He was a Patriarch and the mission finally got permission for him to give Patriarchal Blessing here in the mission.  Alan arranged for them to come here to Serbia last week and give blessings. (They are serving in Croatia) We have five people here who have never been able to get their blessings. (Usually the only time people can get blessings here is when they go to Germany to the Temple and then there is a Church Patriarch there).  Our Branch Pres., his wife and mother plus another older couple who are in their 80's were our five people who needed blessings.  When I ask Brother Babel (the Patriarch) how difficult it must be to give a blessing to older people, he said,"It's not so bad, you just tell them what the Lord wants them to know".  The blessings had to be given in English and they won't find out the true impact of their blessing until they receive the written copy and have it translated.  We did not go in with the families but were told that three of the individuals were from the tribe of Benjamin, which the Patriarch said is not common.  Even though they couldn't understand the blessings, they came out shedding tears because of the Spirit that they felt.

Our sweet man from Sascinci also walked to church again this last Sunday. When the Branch Pres. said to him, "This is a long way to walk for church", he said, "When something is important to you, you sacrifice"  I felt ashamed when I heard this, thinking that we haven't done much in our life to sacrifice for our faith.  But then I stopped and tears came to my eyes as the Spirit whispered, "yes, you have, you are doing it right now".  And as I thought about leaving our family (that we miss so much), selling our house, and coming to a land where we don't speak the language....I guess we are sacrificing.  Our missionaries sacrifice; their family sacrifice; Mission Pres. couples, who give three years, sacrifice; serving in callings in the church is a sacrifice....I guess what I am saying is that we all sacrifice because the gospel and Lord's work is 'important to us'.

In our "Only in Serbia" moments I always share funny things or unusual things but today I want to share a couple of the things we love:

One of the numerous road side fruit stands.  You
can see how close they usually are when you
look past this fruit stand to the other canopies.
Those bags along the bottom are pickling
cucumbers (krostavac).
Beautiful evening sunset taken from our balcony!
I am sharing a picture of the walking bridge (bikes and motor cycles included) that goes across the Sava River to join Sremska Mitrovica and Macdanska Mitrovica together.  Until recently our 80+ year old couple would walk across this bridge every Sunday...Now their son picks them up to bring them to church.
About 300 years ago there was a tunnel that when under the river
(How they did that is amazing to think about)  It is still there, but flooded.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nine Miles

Would you walk nine miles for something?  Better question, would you walk nine miles to church?  Well last week as Alan arrived at the church a man was waiting outside to enter.  When the missionaries arrived, they found out that he had walked from Sascinci (another town) the nine miles to attend church.  When they talked with him further to determine why, he said that he had heard about our church donating two wheelchairs in his town and he knew our branch president's family who live there.  He said that he wanted to come and find out about our church.  After the meeting when ask what he thought, he said, "I want to be was so peaceful here".  He was told that the missionaries will be happy to teach him the lessons so that he can understand what he needs to know about our church to be baptized.  I guess when you think about receiving the true gospel it would be worth a short nine mile walk.

It was transfers this week and one of our Elders went home to Am. Fork and the other Elder was transferred to Belgrade.  Because of this, Alan and I have add the duties of scullery maids to our job description of Senior Missionaries.  When we went into their apt. it was filthy and the sad thing is that they thought that it was clean.  We had the sad task of mopping, cleaning fridge, cleaning bathrooms (yuk), and washing laundry.  (A note to our grandsons, please learn to clean before you go on a mission to save the family name.)  We are getting Sisters here for the first time ever.  I hate to think what a dungeon they could have walked into.  We are excited to have Sisters because it will bring a new dimension which might bring more interest and willingness to discuss the gospel and hopefully result in more people joining the church.

Our Elder that left for home spoke, or I should say cried in church Sunday...but we all cried with him.  Although it is so hard to send our sons and daughters on missions, we know that they will come home in 18-24 months.  But we have now seen it from this side where missionaries come and the people learn to love them just as the missionaries love the people.  But then, it's time to go home and both know that they may never see each other again.  And it happens over and over---again and again.  It is so hard!  It is hard to imagine never seeing these people again because they have become so dear to us.  They are such stalwarts in the church and have such strong convictions and testimonies.  I always wonder who is teaching who...We learn so much from them.  I know when we leave, they had better dig me a ditch right to the river because like that old song "Cry me a River"; my song will be "Cry me a Ditch".

Ta da da Da!!! Our "Only in Serbia" moments:  Here in Sremska Mitrovica they don't have much to do in the way of recreation.  There are no movie theaters, no rec. centers, no zoo, etc. etc.  However, because of the river, they do have a beach and people flock there to swim, visit, suntan, and just rest.  We ventured down to the beach to share in the experience and wanted to share some photos.
We often see men walking to the river to swim, but with a saw?
May be is just going to "sea-saw" his way across the river :o).

A look at the beach and river.  This was in the morning so by
afternoon this beach is really full.

Just two old guys visiting and enjoying each others time.  They have
 their bikes parked by them and just rode through town dressed
in their swim trunks to get to the beach.

Not a very good picture, but a common sight seen even in big
cities like Belgrade and NoviSad.  This is the usual mode of
transportation for the Roma people.  The horses are usually
skinny and sometimes swayed back.

Monday, August 12, 2013

And they came!

Last week was a sweet week of prayers answered.  Sometimes on a mission, we have found ourselves asking if we really are making any kind of difference here. To the members, we have so many times stressed the need for their help in finding people for the missionaries to teach.  But they have been afraid, just like we are at home, about offending people or loosing friends.  However, last Sunday we had five invited non-members at church and two of them came because of invites from members.  But the big surprise was just this Sunday, we had 8 non-members attend church.  We have a man, Merko, who attends our English classes.  A dear man of about 58 who takes care of his wife and grandchildren.  He has come to our Church a few times and last week at English class he invited the whole class of 7 people to come to our church.  He not only invited them but he pointed to each one and got commitments.  So Sunday, 6 of them came plus a mother and her 3 year old son (that's another story) came.  After Sacrament meeting, the missionaries and Alan took them into a class and just answered their questions. It was great!  We told Merko that we are going to make him an honorary missionary.  He ask if he could be the one to baptize them (with a grin on his face), but we told him that he had to be baptized first.  I don't know if he will ever join the church because he loves being Orthodox, but we will keep trying.

English class is interesting....a group of people came who each are from such different backgrounds....some higher class and some middle class and a couple are from the lower economic class.  They have all come together, learned together, laughed together and really bonded.  Now they are friends and kind'a watch out for each other but would have probably not associated if they had not been joined by a two day a week English class.  These people have also become very dear to us and I feel that they felt comfortable coming to church because they so like the missionaries and a trust has developed.  The church knows this is a way for people to get to know us, understand us, and hopefully eventually join us.  We are also hoping that with our little class of 7.

We have some members who live in a town about 20 miles from here who we have not been able to visit.  Recently, they have been on my mind a lot to the point that I have been plaguing Alan with requests to go and visit them.  We and the missionaries finally made it a point to go and find them.  We thought it was two brothers, but it turned out to be a wife and husband; and we found out why the Lord has been prodding us to go and visit them.  The wife was home and she said, "We haven't seen or heard from any one for over a year.  We thought they had erased our name from the records....but we knew that God hadn't, so I read my BOM every day."  It made me want to cry.  I know this must sound crazy to people at home...but people here are poor and don't have gas money (to come to church or go visit outlying members) and the branch still hasn't caught the vision of home teaching.  Our branch Pres. just said, "Well we can't afford the gas".  We reminded him that is why we need to set up home teaching because a home teacher could at least call them monthly and let them know that someone cares.  We will make sure that we visit them monthly and will try on special occasions to go and pick them up for church or district conferences.  However, we are only here for one more year (if we are lucky) and then what?  We just hope in that time we can help them get home teaching set up and that members will realize how important it is to follow the church programs as truly is a learning process.

Now for the other matter (the other story) that is occupying our time right now is a poor woman, not a member, who was brought to our attention by the mother of our 'lost sheep' young man.  She is a woman who has large (like drooping dog ears) growths on each side of her neck. It is obvious that they are cancerous.  She has gone several times to the hospital here (Socialized medicine -- baa humbug, what a joke) and they keep putting her off saying they have to wait for test results...they just change the bandages when these tumors rupture and send her home.  They won't give her pain medication and say just take Ibuprofen.  Anyway, we started calling doctors that we know whom the church has helped get medical equipment, and they put some pressure on her so-called doctor.  After spending several days getting several official stamps which allows her to see a specialist in NoviSad, we are taking her to the specialist tomorrow.  But I am afraid that this has gone on too long and there may not be any hope.  Her daughter and three year old son have been coming to church, but we are not sure this is because she feels she owes us or because she is truly interested in the church.  We know there are many cases like this here.  It is sad!

As for our "Only in Serbia" moments:  It is melon season here and that does not just include watermelons...they also have musk melons and cantaloupes.  Now when I say cantaloupes, I don't just mean run of the mill American cantaloupes, but the ones they have here are ginormous....(if that's a word)
Honestly, this is not trick photography.  They are
as big as watermelons.

We see trailers of cantaloupes and watermelons like this
everywhere...which makes them cheap to buy right now..Yum!

Friday, August 2, 2013


Since we live on the third floor of our building, we really do have a 'bird's eye view' of what goes on down below us.  Most times people don't even know that we are above them watching them kiss, argue, laugh, adjust clothing, and/or itch etc.

But also because we are so high we are about eye level with a flock of pigeons that fly in every morning and perch on the roof of an old house across the street. (It's amazing what you can find to entertain yourself when the days get long)  It has been fun to watch their pecking order and their sudden 'take flight' because they hear something that we don't.  And when they hear it, so do the other flocks of pigeons across town because we will see them all take flight.  We have also noticed that birds, not only pigeons, take such a pleasure in catching the wind, swooping and gliding just for the joy of it.  It made us stop and think about what we each do in our lives "just for the joy of it"; and when we are in the middle of it do we really appreciate that joy.  We so often get bogged down by the struggles of life that we often over look the "swooping and gliding" that occurs in our hum drum lives.  I guess that is what we all call taking each day for granted. Just like the birds we need to make a conscious effort to swoop and glide just for the joy of it.

Well again probably too much philosophizing!    We do have a little congregation of swallows that come and sit on the wire just outside our balcony.  We say, "Here they are to hear us preach the Gospel again".  Sad thing though, we don't speak their language either, but we enjoy watching each other.

Our Swallow Congregation!
 As you travel around Serbia and get close to any of the big rivers it is common to see large pelican nests atop electrical poles, on top of house chimneys, or in the tops of trees.  We recently, on a Pday with the Elders, encountered many many such nests in a small village close to the river.  The old building is an old church that has many individual nests around the top.
Mommy and Daddy? 

When we got to the river there were some snakes (yes, I said snakes) in the river that were hunting frogs to eat.  One snake even had a small fish in it's mouth.  Of course, this is as reported by the Elders (their picture) because I was high on the bank about 20 feet away.
There were frogs hopping every where.  This is one of the more colorful and a little larger than most of the frogs.  The Elders had a great time trying to catch them. It was fun just to watch them enjoy being boys.