Monday, February 24, 2014

Well we only have 18 weeks left on our mission...time is really flying now.  We have had a wonderful February and we feel that attitudes are changing here in Sremska Mitrovica.  Our Mission President said that he feels that a wave of baptisms are about to sweep over our mission and we feel that we are just starting to feel the ripples of that wave.  Much of the credit goes to our hard working Sister missionaries; they are so obedient and dedicated.  Our of the three cities with missionaries in Serbia, we are the only city that had recently had baptisms and we have two more scheduled in the upcoming month.  We feel it helps that Sremska is a smaller town because the other two cities are large and busy and people won't take the time to listen to the missionaries.  But it isn't always easy here either...we have been having over 20 people to church weekly and yesterday we only had 14.  I taught the Relief Society Lesson and there was 4 of us and three of us were missionaries.  Our little man who walked 9 miles to church (we have helped him move into town now) spoke and gave a beautiful talk (so we are told) that was simple and heart felt and he quoted scriptures and never used a note.  It is so great to see how some of the new members have grown.

As I shared with our ward newsletter, other good news from the month of February is that Radoslav left for Birmingham England on Feb. 20th.  Because members here are not always familiar with how the church functions, it can make things complicated.  Just as example; he wondered why he had to fly out so early and then with a lay-over.  Couldn't the church just get a later flight direct to England for him.  But he's there and his family is so proud of him.
Our newest missionary, Radoslav.

Also, Serbia had a visit from a member of the European area presidency, Elder Charles and his wife.  They had to interview our "lost sheep" young man, Aleksander, to see if he would be allowed to go on a mission.  We are so happy to report that he, as of March 15th, will start a mini mission in the Adriatic North Mission in preparation for a full time mission.  We are Thrilled!  Theses two young men will come back and help the church grow in Serbia forever.

One other thing we were able to accomplish this month was to visit some of the monasteries.  We have been wanting to do this for a long time.  There are 16 monasteries just along the Fruska Gora National Forest, which is only about 20 miles long.  We able to go to one of the oldest, Novo Hopovo, that dates back to 1555.  The old Church and monestary has had living quarters built around the structure to protect it.  Much of it was destroyed during WWII and has since been rebuilt and restored.
Outside the Monastery...the church is tucked inside the U-shaped area.

The Church

Inside the Church

This was one of the few chairs inside the church..but beautiful!

The Priest let me take his picture...he said that only 7 people live at the Monastery and take care of it.  He said they are
more modern that we would think and told us they have TV and he showed us his cell phone.

Our one day we get to wear casual clothes...

Another view of the church
 The other monastery that we went to was in Vurdnik..and more ornate inside
A lot of idol and Saint worship--They all kiss the cross where the little boy is standing.

Vrdnik Monastery 

The missionary, Elder OBrien, who lived with us for a few months last summer wrote us and talked about being in the Ukraine during the recent conflict.  He said the missionaries were confined to their apartments and were only allowed to go out in plain clothes on one day to buy food.  They had to buy food for the Sisters because they were not allowed to go out at all.  He said for a while the police where shooting at anyone who approached the government buildings.  He said that at church all anyone wanted to talk about was the "war" and so many were sad because of family and friends who had been hurt.  He will come to America soon to have knee surgery and will stay with a family in California.

Our "Only in Serbia" moment this time reflects how the culture here is truly a patriarchal society: Alan was mopping up some water in the entry court to the church and our young member Nemanja came out and said, "Elder Seelos, you shouldn't be doing that, I'll go get my mother and she can do it".  There are still a few things beside doctrine that need to be taught here. :o) 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Riviera of Europe

We were privileged this last week to have our Senior Missionary Conference on the coast of Croatia.  Traveling from Serbia to the coast takes about 6 hours and from Zagreb to the coast there are 22 tunnels and some go through some very large mountains.  The longest was about one mile long.  We were stopped at the entrance to one tunnel because of falling ice.  The tunnel was in the mountains and they had just experienced a huge ice storm that had broken the tops out of many of the trees.
We waited about 40 minutes for them to bring a snow plow to clear the road.

Not a very good picture of the inside of a tunnel, but we were moving fast.

Then as we come down out of the mountains, we discover a warmer climate and the amazing coastline.  What a beautiful country Croatia is said to be the Riviera of Europe and we can see why; the coast is spectacular.  We had our senior missionary conference in Opatija which is an old city just above Reijka.  (Now you know exactly where it is, right?)  We stayed in a hotel located on the ocean just above a boat dock.
Evening View from our balcony--I know, just beautiful!
Day time view from a different angle
We had 13 couples there, which is amazing.  The church is really investing senior couples in this mission in hopes of helping the work progress.  The new couples are smart and amazing...Alan and I just looked at each other and wondered how we ended up here.  That will always be a mystery.  The conference recharged our batteries...and we needed it.  Sometimes we get bogged down in the work and everyday life of the mission and it is nice to be reminded of the spiritual side and that there truly is a bigger picture.  Our mission presidency are very spiritual people.  The second counselor and his wife are the Ostarcevic's.  They are from Serbia and were converted by Kresimr Cosic and have lived in Kaysville, Utah until recently when they moved back to Serbia to serve in the mission presidency.  Elder Ostarcevic was a NBA Scout for 20+ years.  They were some of the first members in Serbia and it was great to hear their stories of conversion. 
(L-R) Elder and Sister Goodsell (from VA.), Pres. Rowe and Sister Rowe (from VA.) and
Elder and Sister Ostarcevic.  (Yes, our Pres. is only in his 40s.)
Opatija is a very old reminded me of a southern town because of the old estate looking homes.  It is a typical European coastal port town in that it rests on the coast but being built into the curve of the mountains, it is very hilly.  It has a very impressive park that was in walking distance that we enjoyed.

An example of the care taken and the beauty.

The park was very green and had several palm trees as well
as bamboo.

She stands off the corner of the park on a
rock outcropping.

These two statues need to go on a diet.
After leaving Opatija we traveled down the coast to Riejka and stayed the night in the Jadran hotel (we had stayed there when Daniel and Anna were here and it is one of our favorites.)
Another amazing view...our balcony hung over the ocean.

A loading boat pier was just down from the hotel and we watched them load and then watched it sail away.
You can see the size of the ship was noticing the size of the man on the dock.
We had a relaxing, refreshing, and spiritual uplifting time.  We are so blessed to have this opportunity and are thankful for the friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

Monday, February 3, 2014

One year!

Well we have officially been in Serbia for one full year.  When we first got here and looked ahead, it seemed like it would be forever...but looking back makes us realize just how fast time has passed and how many people we have come to love.

Alan is still working hard to get a Visa for Radoslav so he can leave on his designated date of Feb. 20th.  It looks like it will happen after much hard work by Alan.  Also, Elder OBrien that lived with us and went to the Ukraine on his mission is being moved to the USA to have knee surgery and maybe shoulder surgery again to repair the surgery he had here.  He will be released from his mission and get a refuge Visa.  The family of a past missionary who came to Serbia from California will be providing him a home in America.
Lately our branch has reminded us of a very small town where members are resistant to incoming new members.  They are wonderful people, but some of them seem threatened and some even have more of a superior attitude.  Whatever it is, they are hindering the missionary work because of their failure to fellowship. We hope as time goes on they will relax and become more excepting...we pray about this all the time.  I'm a little too old to be saying this (I knew, but not completely) how important it is to make the new people attending church feel welcomed and cared about (not just for one week, but on an ongoing basis).

A friend recently shared a post with me that I found interesting...I hope you will too.
"Just a note about winters in Serbia  -  as far north as we are latitudinal and as close as we are to the eastern edge of our time zone we spend a lot of time in the dark!  We are as far north as Bangor, Maine, and only about 40 miles from the eastern edge of the time zone.  On December 21st it was dark by 4:30pm.  Therefore what?     When it’s cold and dark outside people sometimes tend to behave like the weather and that can take a toll on missionary morale."  

This is our young Mission Pres. and his wife with Nemanja
our new young man that joined the church in Nov.
This is a short blog...we are leaving for Croatia coast on Wed. and I hope to have some great pictures for the next blog.

Our "Only in Serbia" this time is a picture of a super man who can only be found in Serbia...but only for the next 5 months.
Working hard and having a great time...