Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Past and Christmas Future

Traditional Christmas is past but here in Serbia we are now looking forward to Christmas future on Jan. 7th.  But as we drive around, you don't see decorated houses with lights or 20 blow up toys in the yard.  You don't see Christmas trees lite up in windows or people carrying wrapped packages.  It's very sedate.  The Traditional Christmas here was very different because people were doing their usual bustling around and all the stores were business as usual. It does make you reflect more on the true meaning of Christmas and the Spirit of Christ, but the secret ingredient to a wonderful Christmas is truly family.

We had a quiet reflective time in the morning and visited with several of our family.  Then in the afternoon the Sisters came over to call their families after which we had dinner and just visited and enjoyed the evening.  A very different that makes us so appreciate the hustle and bustle of home.  We were invited to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve but Alan and I both knew that we were too tired to stay awake for that.  We did have a lot of Serbian friends text us Christmas Greetings which was so appreciated.

The Sunday before Christmas we had a Seminary Dinner here for the youth. I had made some homemade Ranch Dressing and they had never tasted Ranch dressing before.  They loved it and besides using it on their salad they were even spreading on bread.  I thought I might have to provide glasses for them to drink it.  They had also never ever played the 'right/left' gift exchange game.  We all laughed a lot and enjoyed just visiting.  We were surprised they stayed all afternoon and finally left around 6:00 pm.
The two on the left side are the sister missionaries and Aleksander isn't in this picture.

Right and Left Game  (Elder and Sister Goodsell also came
for dinner...He is first counselor to the mission Pres.)

It was a busy week because we also traveled to Zargreb for the mission Christmas party.  The Zone leaders had the big van and came from Belgrade to pick us up on the way.  We had traveled 45 min. from Sremska when one of the zone leaders realized he didn't have his passport so we had to turn around and travel clear back to Belgrade which was 1 1/2 hours back to get his passport and then return.  We were about 2 1/2 hrs. late for the party.  The Elder driving was driving so fast that another Elder leaned over to me and said "Thank goodness the Church is true or we would have wrecked by now".  It made for a long day.

Missionaries from five countries makes for a transportation nightmare to get everyone there. .. but fun was had by all.
On Christmas Eve Alan, I, and the Sisters went caroling with a plate of treats for families and investigators in our little branch..10 homes in all.  We sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in English (it doesn't translate into Serbian)
 but people understood.

We hoped it was the thought that counted.
We are leaving for Slovenia tomorrow for four days of youth conference ..."never a dull moment".

We may be in Serbia but we did have all the comforts of home on Christmas ...even if it was "Only in Serbia".  We not only had warm hearts, but warm hands as well. :o)

Our own Fireplace...It just made the place feel warmer.
Happy New to Everyone...May the year 2014 be one of the best, rich with blessings and love.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas lights of Sremska Mitrovica

The Christmas Season has finally arrived in our little town of Sremska Mitrovica.  I guess it is close enough to January 7th for people to start getting in the Christmas spirit.  We are surprised at how many decorations have been put up and we have enjoyed the beauty.
Looking back down through Center
Light hanging over main street
Lights in the park...our own mini Temple Square.

                                            Other Beautiful lights of Sremska Mitrovica

We had transfers this week and we are loosing our sweet Sister Christensen.  We will miss her, but she is just moving to Novi Sad which is still in our district.  She has been a ball of energy and she has a beautiful singing voice.

Sister Christensen (dark hair)  and Sister Palmer
We are getting a Sister from Germany which is interesting because Sister Christensen will also have have a Sister companion from Germany.  We only have four sisters in all of Serbia and two of them will be from Germany. Change is good, right? We love these girls and are so proud of the good work they have accomplished as companions.

We are planning for our branch Christmas party which is Dec. 27th---after our Christmas and before theirs.  Many Orthodox people have a month fast before their Christmas where they don't eat meat products...but we have found out that none of our branch observe this belief so it won't affect our Christmas party food.  It sounds as if we will have a musical talent show followed by the Birth of Christ video from the church.  One of our missionaries recently put Serbian sub-titles on the video for us.  We, Alan, I, and our two sisters have decided to go Christmas caroling to each member on Christmas Eve and give a plate of treats.  It sounds like a lot but will only be about 10 places.  We are also having a Seminary Christmas Dinner at our apartment for the seminary students.  When we started seminary we had 3 girls...we now have 6-7 who attend the class.  So just as at home, this is a very busy time.  And as I said in past blogs, right after Christmas we will travel with the youth to Slovenia for a youth conference and News Years dance.  

As we have told you in the past, "Only In Serbia" there are many stray dogs that must fend for themselves kind'a like 'Lady and the Tramp'...well we found one of those dogs hiding in our back closet and decided to draft it into duty. Rover is now our offical 'under door air keeper out' guard dog. Great dog, doesn't eat much and never barks.  We're becoming very attached.
Rover to the rescue!

With Christmas quickly approaching, we wish each of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year..(Srecan Bozic i Novu Godinu).  I have always loved Pres. Monson's statement when he said, "At this Christmas Season, it is time to  love the Lord our God with all our heart--and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all."  And may God's spirit guide you in the year ahead.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thanksgiving gift

Just as if the Lord gave us a special Thanksgiving gift, our Sunday fast and testimony meeting was wonderful.  Usually Alan and I have to get up to help fill the time, but Sunday one member after another stood to share their testimony.  Even though I can't understand the language, the spirit was very strong. I have realized that not being able to speak the language is like loosing one of our senses, like vision, and another sense becomes stronger.  And that, I feel, is what has happened; by not being able to speak the language the ability to feel the spirit has increased.  Maybe I just have learned how to listen better without the distraction of language. Anyway the meeting was so full of the spirit that even some of our investigators cried.  We had 23 people there (anything over 20 is great) and 4 of them were investigators

Monday morning Alan had to get up at 2 am to take our two newest members, Dragon and Nemanja, to the town of NIS.  It is three hours from here.  (They needed to be first in line to ensure that they would be served and get what they needed) They are refugees from Kosovo and records for refugees are kept in NIS.  We are trying to get them ID cards; first so Dragon can get financial help and second so Nemanja can leave the country at the end of Dec. to go to a youth New Years Eve dance in Slovenia.  (our youth would grumble if they had to travel that far to have a dance with other LDS youth)

Well, the Christmas music (app from internet) is playing 24/7 and our tree is decorated.  Not really a tree but a rather large house plant who doesn't understand what has happened to it.  But at night (and even in the day) looks quite pretty.
Sorta Christmas Tree like...

Daniel loaned me this sweet nativity to bring on our mission and
it's a good thing because we don't see nativities in the stores.

Desperate people do desperate things.
Christmas house plant all aglow!
And now for our last item our 'Only in Serbia' moment.  We took this picture Saturday... Cabbages are as plentiful this time of year as watermelons were in the summer.  They are a huge part of their diets.  We saw them planting cabbages in late Sept and early Oct.  There is a dish here that is called Sarva that is stuffed cabbage and everyone loves it.

And you know what cabbage does to some people, so you can imagine  what it smells like around here sometimes..enough said!


Well, we survived Thanksgiving.  It actually was fun to see our district missionaries relaxed and enjoying each others company.  We wish they had been allowed to stay longer but the mission president had only allowed them 5 hours to celebrate.  Some of them had to travel one hour each way by bus or car to get here so they really only had 3 hours.  As I said in a previous blog, we had a fairly traditional dinner and I even baked rolls that turned out better than expected.  (I will type another attachment to this blog...because as you know, me and this blog sometimes fight with each other)  continued....
The missionary table plus Aleksander.

Alan sitting with the couple from Spain.

Our two great Sisters...they are the best!

Our district leader and a young return missionary who is from Spain
who lives in Novi Sad.

This Sister goes home at next transfer...Dec. 17th

Aleksander loved Christmas Ribbon jello Salad and ate
about 5 way to make the cook
feel good :o)