Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Everyday Life Of Missionary Work

After being here a year, we have gotten into a routine of missionary work.  It is almost like we have lived here much longer and this is our life.  I am sure that return missionaries can identify with this.  We now know where to buy groceries and we even have our favorite grocery store because we know where everything is located. We have our favorite butcher shop and the butcher (who doesn't speak English) knows what we like and takes good care of us.  Our office supply shop girls automatically speak English to us now when we walk in the door.  At church, everyone stays after to visit and you can hear both conversations in Serbian and English. And many of our neighbors in surrounding shops and apartments greet us easily.  This is becoming comfortable, but that doesn't mean we don't miss home (all the time).

Being in the trenches of a mission can be so rewarding and yet exhausting! Take yesterday for example (Monday our Pday)...we drove to Belgrade needing to go to the UK embassy to check on Visa applications for Radoslav for his upcoming mission. The embassy could not give us a hard copy for Radoslav to complete but then we get a call from Germany that he may not be able to leave by Feb. 20th because the Visa process will take longer. So now we are waiting to see if he can start his mission here in the Adriatic North mission and when the Visa comes, go to England.  But that would mean starting without attending an MTC (is that allowed).  There are always little details that have to be worked out to accomplish the bigger goal.  (Such if life, right).

We also had to go to the American Embassy to see what can be done to facilitate getting our medications from America over here.  The missionary dept. states that it is illegal to ship medication internationally.  We do have a church member who works at the Embassy and we will now ship it to him which will come in a pouch to the Embassy and we will pick it up.  (That's a tender mercy)

We came home and had scheduled FHE with our newest family in the branch (Dragon, Nemanja, Slagenja). We also had Aleksander and the Sisters.  I made stew and rolls, but they didn't eat too much.  If figure that they feel about American food like I feel about Serbian food (it's not our favorite :o), and that's OK)  We taught them about the Articles of Faith.  We find that we often use Primary lessons found on LDS.com to  teach new concepts (line up line, precept upon precept).

Slagenja, Nemanja, and Dragon
We found at the Christmas Party that Dragon plays the
drums like an expert.

Nemanja also is learning the drums but also has a black belt in karate.
After FHE Aleksander and the Sister stayed for the activity of playing UNO. Aleksander is now our branch mission leader and he is doing amazing work. We are anxious to find out if he will be allowed to go on a mission soon.  He will make an amazing missionary.
Aleksander...He and Alan have a special bond.
Last Sunday, Alan and I were invited to our landlord's for a special party they were having because it was St. John's Day.  (Everyone over here that is Orthodox has a family saint and they celebrate elaborately on their saint's day)  Our landlord has a family restaurant and they invited friends and family to come, eat dinner,  and I might add drink and dance.  Because we have turned them down for other invites, we felt obligated to go.  (we really do like them).  Well, it was quit a contrast, especially after just attending church.  A lot of smoking, drinking, and loud music.  But the other side of the coin is that the people were very nice to us and we only stayed for dinner and made excuses and left.  Our landlord made sure that a man, wife, and two daughters sat by us.  The man spoke very good English.  They were kind and I think they found out that we weren't so bad.  Never the less, I am sure that everyone probably said as we walked out the door, "the missionaries are finally gone, now let the party begin".  I commented to Alan that it helped me remember what they tell us about heaven...we will want to be in the degree of glory with people we feel the most comfortable with.  We felt out of place and they felt uncomfortable with us.  We are so thankful for the gospel and the attending Spirit.  There is nothing that can compare with the 'light' that it brings to our lives.

Our 'Only in Serbia' this time: 
Alan was getting a haircut and watched a man park his wagon and horse
on the sidewalk to come in for a haircut.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Merry 2nd Christmas!

Yes, yesterday was Serbian Christmas.  Much like America, people stay home to be with family.  The Serbian missionaries were told not to go tracking or contacting so we planned a Zone Day at the Novi Sad church.  The Senior Missionaries provided a lunch of soups and breads and the Elders and Sister brought desserts.  The missionaries love being together and they played games, talked, and laughed a lot.  Our Sisters even chose to stay longer and ride the bus home.  It was a scary trip home because the fog was like a wall and we had to travel (crawl) over the FruskaGora mountains.

Our many missionaries

A full table
This has truly been the longest Christmas Season we have ever been a part of.  On Jan. 4th (Sat) we had a District program and party.  I have included a picture of their Santa and just like home, the kids were excited and some nervous.
Their Santa's costume was a little different in that it was more like
a hooded bathrobe.  But we have seen Santa's here who wear the
traditional Santa Suit.
Just to remind you how beautiful Slovenia is...This was taken on our trip in Sept. with 
Daniel & Anna.
Prior to all these activities we had gone to Slovenia for a youth conference from Dec. 28th to Jan 1.  Slovenia is a beautiful country.  The missionaries refer to it as the land of "Unicorns and Rainbows" and almost rightly so.  It is very clean and green, plus the air quality there seems much better.  We had about 32 young people there and they all seemed to enjoy themselves.  However, we Senior missionaries worked like slaves to make sure they did enjoy it.  The young have endless energy and the days of fun were 14-15 hours long and on New Years Eve we spend a 19 hour day with the youth.  I think they could have kept going but we were dead on our feet. :o) The joys of being OLD.  But we saw the rewards of this hard work because when they had their testimony meeting they expressed their appreciation and love for each other for being strong in this church.  They know that each of them understand how hard it is to be a member of this church here in the Balkans. They shared their love of the gospel and their desires to stay strong and many expressed the desire to go on missions.  Sometimes hard work pays off with the sweetest rewards.
Our group (minus one) from Sremska...They rode the train for 11 hours.
The boy on the left is not a member and the first day (Sunday) he was over-whelmed
with all the church events but warmed up as the week progressed with funner activities.
Some of the group at mid-night New Years Eve.  There were fireworks every where
which was like a massive 4th of July. (all fireworks are legal over here)
The youth conference was in Ljubljana which is known for great Christmas decorations...They celebrate on Dec. 25th.  We took a tour down town and it was crowded just like Temple Square...Not as spectacular as Temple Square but very nice.
Alan and Elder Goodsell (1st counselor to the Mission Pres.)
Just a few of the lights of Ljubljana
This 'Only in Serbia' moment this time is a very happy one...our young man going on a mission received his call (via electronics) on Serbian Christmas Day (yesterday).  
He will be the first missionary ever in their family.  They are so happy.
He is going to Burningham, England!