Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sad and Happy Times

Last time I wrote, we were so excited because Aleksander had been called on a mini mission.  How quickly things can change.  He is now not going on a mission and has asked to have his membership removed from church records. There are a combination of many things that probably contributed to this decision, one of them being a friend who didn't want to see Aleksander leave and he spread a few lies plus Aleksander, did not have much confidence in himself and the reality of it may have scared him. Testimonies, especially new testimonies, over here are very fragile and Serbian trust (both on his part and the members part) is not a common attribute. He is a great young man and we hope someday he comes back. 

Our good news is that Slagana is getting baptized Thursday, March 13th.  She is a great woman and will be a super addition to this branch.  President Rowe is on a very tight schedule, especially as he is trying to accomplish so much before he leaves July 1...but Slagana made him promise to come to her baptism and he is driving several hours to Serbia and told her that he wouldn't miss it.
Slagana & Dragon with Pres. and Sister Rowe
Alan and I were discouraged for a while, but we remembered our motto to "Go Forward in Faith" and that is what we are doing.  Our little branch has one more man scheduled for baptism in April....and our sweet Sisters work hard to find those who will listen.  This is not always easy...as I mentioned earlier, there is not a lot of trust here and a great reluctance to change.  They want something better in their lives but really don't believe that there is anything better out there.  But slowly the 'mission' membership is growing.  The five countries had 422 members out to church last Sunday and the goal (before the Pres. leaves) is to have 500 (inactive or new members) who attend church regularly.  It is perplexing to try and understand why other countries, such as Russia, Africa, and Philippines, have such an influx of people joining the church and here in the Balkans, it is such a struggle.  We hope their time is coming soon.

Last Friday we had a leadership training meeting with the other senior couples in our District.  We went to Belgrade and after our meeting we walked (2 miles each way, yes I am proud) to the Belgrade fortress.  Belgrade is an extremely busy city with many people going here and there.   Many people are on the streets walking because parking is awful and people take buses or walk.  It is probably much like the city of New York.
Sister and Elder Goodsell, Elder Seelos, Elder and Sister Preston (from Centerville)

This Fortress is huge and these few pictures do not do it justice...it overlooks where the
Danube and the Sava rivers come together.  The best placement for protection.

This part of the park surrounding the Fortress is where Elder Nelson stood when he
dedicated Serbia to the preaching of the gospel.

Another part of the Fortress...notice the line of tanks and they are from many countries.

It would take a little effort to load this cannon.

The lookout tower on the corner of the Fortress and as you look past
you can see where the two rivers come together.

History reports that this Belgrade Fortress has been taken over and occupied by more countries than any other place on earth.  Anyway, that is what they tell us.  

This is a government building coming back from the Fortress...the government buildings are
usually the most beautiful and the best taken care of.
Our only in Serbia moment is a sweet one...This rather elderly man who happens to be a missionary was caught sleeping on the job, which is something that he very seldom gets to do.
Doesn't he look weary...and yes, that is the true color of the walls in that room.
We feel so blessed to be here in Serbia and although it can be difficult at times, it can also be exciting and wonderful at times.  We have such a short time left and feel such an urgency to get more work done.  We can't wait to see our family but can't imagine leaving our Serbian family behind.

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