Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas in Croatia...

I can hardly believe that Christmas has come and gone! Christmas here is so much more layed back than it is in the United States. But maybe I just think that because I did absolutely no shopping so I wasn't out in the thick of things like I usually am...They start their season two weeks before Christmas with St. Nicholas Day. The children clean their shoes and St.Nicholas puts treats in them. Kind-of like a Christmas stocking. No one takes off work or school, no huge big deal. We did see St.Nicholas down at the center of town, but he was with the devil or what it seemed to be, but later we found out that it was some one called "Black Pete" who is his helper. They sell branches with glitter on them, supposedly to spank bad children with. I looked up on line some history and here is a little of what I found.
 Strictly speaking, the tradition of St. Nicholas is not synonymous with the role of Santa Claus in the U.S.. As practiced in many European countries, the celebration of St. Nicholas is separate from the Christmas holidays, and occurs during the 2 weeks prior to December 6th, which is St. Nicholas day. Sometimes St. Nicholas Day is the main holiday for gift giving, and not Christmas. In anticipation of St. Nicholas nightly visits, children in several European countries put their shoes in front of the fire place. They sing traditional songs and provide a carrot or hay for the horse. At night Black Pete puts gifts and candy in the shoes.

 (December 6th). At one point during the evening, a loud knock will herald the arrival of St.Nicholas and at the same time candy may be thrown from upstairs; when the door is opened, a bag of gifts will be on the doorstep.
For families with older children and adults, different twists are added to the gift giving and may include gag gifts or the drawing of gift ideas or names, and most times are accompanied by poems with a "personal touch" that poke fun at the recipient in a gentle way (or not, depending on the families ;) ). Wrapping the presents up in odd packages and planting a trail of clues is also part of the general fun, and can sometimes be pretty tricky to get to, depending on the squeamishness of the recipients.

   So then on Christmas Eve they put up their Christmas tree...finally! You should have seen the flurry of activity two days before. All the sudden tree lots sprang up everywhere! Beautiful trees! Not huge ones like we have, (their homes are way too small to accommodate big, huge ones for the most part) but about 4  foot trees that were more like little bushes they were so full. No Charlie Brown trees here! They decorate them as a family and then they are left up until Feb. 2nd.
   Christmas Day is a family day where they gather with dinner and treats. I think Santa Clause is thrown in here at some point with gifts for the children, but certainly not indulged. The little girl in our ward got a Simba stuffed animal and I think that is about all. But no one gets stuff, so it's all good.
   As for Jim and I , we had the Elders over for a nice Christmas Eve dinner, they came a little early and helped cook. It was pretty fun. We had a member that doesn't have a family of his own here in Varazdin come over as well.
   Christmas Morning after they opened gifts from their families in their apartment, the Elders came over again and we pretty much spent the day playing games, eating leftovers and candy from our amazing boxes from home, (That's another blog) and of course Skyping. The Elders each got a turn talking to their parents and it was fun to see how excited they were. The time waiting for their arranged schedules were just so full of anticipation that by the time they actually visited with their families I think they were just exhausted!
   I found out earlier this week that the Croatian Christmas that the Zagreb Elders and Sisters were going to go to fell through at the last minute so they all went to Chinese Restaurant for Christmas dinner. I felt sooo bad! Zagreb is only an hours bus ride for them, they could have come to our house as well, had I known. I promise I will keep better tabs on what is going on in Zagreb next year!
   NOW! Here is the best part! We got packages from home!!! Boy did we get packages! The  23rd of December we had a wonderful Zone Conference/Christmas Party in Zagreb with all the Elders and Sisters in Croatia, all the Serbian Elders and the Humanitarian Couple from there as well, also the office couple, Elder and Sister Robinson and President and Sister Hill that came from Slovenia. It was an awesome conference. I will post pictures so you can see how much fun we had. And at the very end of the conference......da! da! We got PACKAGES!!!!  We could hardly wait to get home.. We almost had a mix up, but Jim saved the day. One of our packages was from our children and my sisters, our daughter, Charity posted it. It so happens that her last name is Jones, so one of the Elders who name is ELDER JONES started walking out the door with it. But Jim figured it out and retrieved the package for us. But after we saw the disappointed look on his face, we really felt bad for him..It was a really big package and he thought he'd hit the jackpot!
    We also got a package from our dear friends in Las Vegas and a package from Jim's brother and his wife from Mountain Green. Every one must have just been inspired, because we absolutely loved everything we got! I think I've gained another 5 lbs with all the delicious junk food! And my cupboards are still full! I've been eating pickles, yes, real pickles, like they were See's candy!  But I must admit the See's candy was the first to go! All our favorites...Yummmm
    We can't even begin to express how much the packages meant to us. They represented so much! Home, family, support, love and sacrifice of not only means but of time to put them together and get them sent over here at the busiest time of year. Each one of them, as we opened them made us feel like a couple of little kids on Christmas morning! How grateful we are to all of you who thought of us and made our first Christmas in the mission field so wonderful!
   Okay, I know this is bordering on being a book here, but we got one special thing in one of our packages that I just have to share with you. It was a new companion! His name is Elder Stanley. Our grand daughter Emma sent him over to us. And he has made our Christmas sooo fun!  Thank-you Emma, we are taking good care of him and will send him on his way soon. Many of our Christmas pictures have flat/ Elder Stanley in them so if you see a little paper Elder in a few pictures, that's why. Also, if you would like Flat Stanley to come visit you for a week or two, leave me a comment and I will get him to you.
   So Christmas has come and gone and we are anxious to get things back to normal. We are in Bosnia today and will see our little Bosnian family and will check on our Red Cross wheelchair shipment. Also we are going to a invalid hospital tomorrow as well.  We are still in the throws of the holiday season here in Bosnia, as their Christmas isn't until the 7th of January. Driving around town today was a joke! It's just a free for all is all I can say and I'm sure glad that when Jim prayed this morning he prayed for safety. I'm quite sure we had angels hovering over us protecting us from the crazy drivers and their lack of civility, good sense and ability to obey traffic signs!
   Next week we will be in Croatia and we are going to put in a project request for a children's hospital. It's a hospital that has about 100 children living in it that are disabled. When parents found out that their children had problems they just surrender them to this hospital.For many different reasons. I suspect the biggest one is money. Children with special needs require so much more money to raise and that is in short supply for most of the people here.  They need toys..Yeah! I hope I get to be on a toy buying mission soon! We will go visit the hospital next week I hope. I'll keep ya posted.
  Okay, this really is not a book.. I will quit now. Love to you all!  I gave up posting more pictures..Blogger decided to rebel. I will post more next time.

We put together and decorated gingerbread houses.
President Hill and his wife have the missionaries sing and play the "Hills Bells"  They really are pretty good at it!
You see who didn't participate very well. If you have ever heard me sing, you know why. Besides, I am on a picture taking mission, right?
Who wouldn't love these faces?  We have the best Elders ever!

Don't know why this picture ended up here, but I don't even try to understand the mysteries of blogger!
Clean up is Jim's expertise!
Mail room!  Those three on the orange couch were ours!
Christmas Eve Dinner with Elder Stanley.
Introducing Elder Stanley!
This was really about the best part of zone conference. Each missionary received at lest one, maybe multiple letters from home. They sat quietly and read these letters, many of them with unashamed tears rolling down their faces. I hesitated to disturb the spirit here, but my desire to always remember this time overcame.

We had wonderful Croatian food made by a chef whose wife is a member.

Yes, at over 7 feet tall, he does play basketball as does his brother who is 7'4" . He is from Canada , I want to say his name is Bachinski, but not sure of the spelling. Sis. Robinson?

Some of the Elders got very creative with their gingerbread houses?

All that gingerbread, frosting and all those beautiful much loved letters from home didn't just magically appear. Sister Robinson and Sister Hill are the worker bees that made it all happen. I bet they went to bed pretty tired that night!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dixon Christmas Party

Dixon Christmas Party- 2010
These are some of my brothers and sisters.
Linda Staker, Pat Welsh, Dick Dixon, Mary Kaye Dixon, Dave Dixon, and Kim Dixon
   As tradition has it,  every year my family, the Dixon's, have a huge Christmas party. Usually it is held in someones church, because we have way too many people to fit into a home. Over the years it has been played with, tweaked, down right changed, and some times openly grumbled about.  I came from a family of ten so there were always plenty of opinions about how, when and where the party would be held. One of the first changes that we made in the party was years ago when we finally quit giving gifts to each other, then there was the year that we finally talked my mother into giving up what she absolutely loved to do...give her grandchildren gifts. Mind you, she had 40 grandchildren by the time we talked some sense into her. It took her all year long and a good deal of their modest income to keep up that tradition.
   We have had years with Santa attending,  We have had some years with a talent show, for many years we all brought gifts for a sub for Santa family. A few years we tried to do an open house format, but that was fleeting, it's been in many different ward churches all along the Wasatch front, but a few things have remained  constant. We gather, we remember our roots, we know Christmas is a time for family, and a time to share with others.  This year at the Dixon Christmas party each family brought a wrapped gift. It was then auctioned off with the proceeds going to help Santa deliver Christmas to three little families in the Dixon fold who are struggling with the current economy. We try to take care of our own. I wish I could tell you more about all the wonderful things that went on this Christmas season, but I don't want to ruin the magic.
   When Mom and Dad both passed away, we thought, "well, the party really was for them, maybe we don't need it so much anymore", How wrong we were. Mom and Dad knew something we didn't . The Dixon Christmas party and all family parties everywhere, bring us that little bit of heaven, a little sneak preview of what it will be like, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, children, grandchildren. We do need the Dixon Christmas party! It's a time to rejoice and renew our belief  that Families are Forever.
    This year I didn't think I would be able to attend my families Christmas Party. WRONG ! I was there! From the dining room table in our house in Bosnia, Jim and I attended the party! How cool is that? We were seated at one end of the cultural hall and one at a time I got to visit with most of my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren and all those precious people we cherish and love. Just to hear their voices, see them and to be able to see all the people getting their food, wishing each other Merry Christmas, giving each other hugs. What better gift could I have? I love Skype, I love Jim for asking Russ to set it up in the church for me, and I love Russ for going to the effort to do it. And I love all the people who came and spent a few minutes of their evening talking to us. The only thing I missed was the boiled custard, pumpkin rolls and ham!

Boiled custard and pumkin rolls! Yummm....Anyone needs a lesson on how to make the boiled custard?
James is the go to man. Give him a call!

Good Food....good company

A big thanks to Sandy Dixon for taking the time to send me pictures! I would have posted a few more, but it was taking way to long to put each one on the blog. 
   We had a wonderful Christmas and I will try to blog again about our first Christmas in the mission field!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

T'was the week before Christmas....

These are the things that are happening the week before Christmas:

 Our Elders are moved Monday into a new apartment. Yeah! They deserve a place that is not called for good reason, "The Cave".  We are excited for them and hope we can help them a little tomorrow.

Our little branch in Varazdin is having a Christmas program Monday night. We plan on attending with bells on our toes!

Tuesday is apartment checks, gotta love those missionaries! Hope no one comes in to check mine! Helped our missionaries move into and clean their nasty dirty kitchen. Great apartment, really, dirty kitchen..

Weds. Finish up our Elders kitchen cleaning. I sprayed the oven and need to go back to finish the job. Then do some last minute grocery shopping, (it would be nice if I could figure out what I am going to cook for our first Christmas dinner in the mission field). Does my companion really NEED a present? He says no, but my guess is yes. Maybe I can ditch him for a few minutes.

Thursday is Zone Conference, the Serbian Elders, and Senior Couple, all the Croatia Missionaries and The mission president and office couple and A.P's for Slovenia will be there. Mail call is the most important event of the day! Yeah!!!!  I understand that we have not one, but two boxes waiting for us. One from Las Vegas and one from our kids in Utah. Every parent should go on a mission before they send a kid out, so they know how wonderful and how loved you feel when you get a box! Sorry kids, if I didn't get you good boxes sent!

Friday is Christmas Eve and we will be having the Elders over for dinner.

Saturday we will be waiting for Skype to be up and running so we can be a part of as much of Christmas with our children as possible.

So we want you all to know how much we love and appreciate you. May you all have a Very Merry Christmas....Our card says it all! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gratitude and More....

We started the week by being in the newspaper for our Red Cross Wheelchair closing. Not really celebrities, but made a tiny little corner on the back page. The missionaries translated it for us. It had about one sentence in it about the church.
Tuesday we went to lunch with the President of Caritas and his wife. Such good people, we are blessed to have been able to get to know them. As we entered the restaurant, there were two priests eating at a nearby table. Our friend had a few words with them and then sat down at our table. Being totally in the dark about what they spoke about, I didn't even give it a thought, until the priests got up to leave. And then as they left, they hesitated for a minute at our table, looked at me and in halting English, "God Bless You, God be with You". I was so touched by his small, sincere gesture. And then I remembered our friend, he must have told him what we were doing here in Croatia. Once more I was touched by their gratitude.

Then there was Grandma and Grandpa, You know Marcos grand parents. She called us on Monday night and asked if we would come to their house for dinner. We agreed and set the time. At 5:00 we arrived at their home and they invited us into their kitchen, Small, wood burning stove and a little table set with two plates! They had fixed a traditional meal with mixed meat and sour cabbage. Home made apple juice, (just about ready to turn hard) and cookies. No they would just sit and visit with us while we ate. REALLY ???
We had fun helping to decorate the tree..I guess bows are an American thing.
The members really liked them!
How could we refuse, they had worked so hard, most likely spent their whole weeks grocery money on this one meal. Oh My....such cute little people. So humble, so grateful that we got Marco a wheelchair. What a pay day for us!

Last Saturday, for our preparation day, we helped decorate the tree at the church. We had a great time. The missionaries hatched this great plan to distribute 500 copies each of  a Christmas letter that they had written, The Living Christ Statement and the Proclamation of the Family. They were so excited about the project, we rolled the papers up and tied them with a ribbon, for what seemed like hours, really it wasn't that long, but we ran out of ribbon and didn't get them all done. Last night we went with the missionaries and our little street singer. Since we neither sing, or speak Croatian, we were delegated to handing out the "gifts". It was a little slice of what the missionaries go through every day for us. They work so hard, with out seeing any results. Besides, it was really, really COLD out there.
Jim and I were passing out fliers ..any of you who have had the not so wonderful privilege of sitting next to me in Relief Society know why I was chosen to do that job! Besides my Croatian is terrible! They just had to teach me one phrase," Iz Volite"  "With Love"  I forgot it half way through...but don't tell the Elders! I just smiled and acted like a little old lady and they took them.  Jim was not as successful at passing them out. He didn't smile enough I think. We still handed out about 100 little rolled up gifts.

When we finished with our first street proselyting, we went to Grandma and Grandpa's again. We had seen them earlier in the grocery store and they invited us over to try their new batch of freshly pressed apple juice."No spray, just as God gave them to us"! We enjoyed the evening with them and gave them a pamphlet of the plan of salvation, their son has been dead for 5 years, and they are moved to tears of grief every time they talk about him. What a great blessing we have in "The Great Plan of Happiness"! We also left a Croatian Book of Mormon with them and taught them how to look up the answers to the questions  in the pamphlet They were so cute, they said that their son is a "Starjesina"....she pointed to Jim's name tag. "Really? where does he live?"  He lives in The Netherlands with his wife. And do you know what they have there? They have "The Fullness of The Gospel in the Netherlands"  Okay now, I leave it to you my dear blog readers, could it be that her son's family are members of the church?  We will see.  What ever it is, We wanted to say, "Hold on to your hat's's here in Croatia too!" Oh what comfort the gospel could bring to this sweet couple. We will see them again next week.

Jim presenting the President of Caritas a picture of Christ.
Today we had a wonderful closing ceremony for the Caritas Soup kitchen. Oh my, what a whirlwind! T.V. , Newspapers, radio, local and national. All for a stove. They were so grateful! Such good humble people. We felt bad being the center of all that when the kitchen volunteers were standing by and they are the true hero's. Working 6 hours a day to provide food for the hungry!

You might ask, why all the fuss? It's so against what we are always taught. Do our deeds quietly..not expecting the praise of men. But we have a two fold mission.1. Administer to the poor and the hungry and 2. Help bring the church out of obscurity.  I had a discussion with a member today that got me thinking. It seems he said, that the churches humanitarian department has become it's P.R. people. I guess it made me think, but really, if we can truly do good, accomplish both objectives with balance. What is going to be the most lasting benefit? A new stove or the hope and peace that the gospel brings into the lives of people? Those elect who are out there looking, may see a newspaper article tomorrow, and think, hummm, maybe I should check into these people. It's a balance. One that I believe is a good one even if our works are not done so much is secret.
I've never been in front of T.V cameras before so you can imagine how terrified I was when Jim told them I would be the spokesman. They asked how it was that we chose Caritas to work with?  Did we give the money for the stove or was it the churches funds?  How long will we be here in Croatia?  How did you choose Croatia to come to?
Things like that.............

The Star of the day! Four high powered burners, installed and ready to roll!

We had taken a picture of the chef on our first visit to the soup kitchen, printed it out and gave it as a gift to him. Jim said he thought he was more excited about the picture than the new stove! Sorry it's a little blurry,
I just couldn't delete it!

English Class tonight and Banja Luka tomorrow for the week-end. Maybe it will be warmer there. It got down to -11 C here last night, I just checked the conversion table. Okay so it's only 12.2 Fahrenheit . It still is plenty cold!

We got to talk to Rusty on his how we love our children! Happy Birthday again , son! Hope you had a great birthday. His birthday was always the day we put the Christmas tree up. And it always takes me back to those wonderful times, of sugar cookies, messy house, jingle bells on the piano over and over again, snowmen , hot chocolate, gloves and boots on every register in the house, excited children wanting me to come inspect some treasure they had made. I loved being a mother at Christmas time even if I went to bed exhausted every night for a month, it was worth it to me. My babies were everything to me and Christmas was a time that I could spoil them unabashedly!

Until next week...We love you from Croatia!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hey Baby...I'ts cold outside!!!

We woke up to a Winter Wonderland last Friday. I was very happy to have a warm coat, boots and gloves.

We have winter here in Croatia! It finally arrived just in time for our wheelchair closing last Friday. We woke up to 10-12 inches of the white stuff! Now really, what disabled person is going to show up to get a free wheelchair in that kind of weather?  I'll tell you. NO ONE!!! How disappointing! But we were warned that there would be disappointing days on a mission, so we shouldn't have been too surprised. We worked really hard all week to get things organized, so it would be a perfect closing. Not once did we even think about the weather being a spoiler. Really we did work around it. We had Red Cross Representatives from Zagreb, (the capital city of Croatia), Varazdin, (our little town), and three other surrounding towns. We had the missionaries from here and the District Leaders from Zagreb, our translator, one of our members, and about 5 press people from various different media outlets, newspapers, and radio. T.V. was invited, but the weather was more interesting news for the day. Can ya blame them????  We did have Marco's grandma and grandpa come, but they didn't bring Marco because of the weather. They were not happy because they felt like it was all about them and didn't want their picture in the newspaper. What a mess!! We had to get them to understand that it was  about 250 wheelchairs coming into the country for the disabled and that their personal story was not going to be on the news. Yi! Yi! Yi! What a circus! but when it all was said and done, it really turned out pretty well. The best was Jim's little project of the week. He worked so hard to make beautiful  "Thank-You " gifts for the two main Red Cross people. The director from Zagreb and our Varazdin Red Cross director. We presented a framed picture to them and told them how much we appreciated being partners with them. We had made little plaques for the pictures that quoted King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, " When you are in the service of your fellow man, you are in the service of  your God. " In Croatia, however, that translates, "when you are in the service of your neighbor, you are in the service of your God" So when we gave it to them, we told them that, we felt like what the Red Cross does best is to serve  their neighbors and that we appreciated all their hard work. They were visibly touched by the gifts and we hope someday that they might ask us where that quote came from. We would love to tell them about King Benjamin.
I just let Jim do all the work, while I'm taking pictures! I'm on a Picture taking mission!

King Benjamin   -  Mosiah 2:17
Marinko (Red Cross -Zagreb)  He was thrilled with his picture!
Elder Andersen, (Cardston, Canada) Elder Pashe,(New Jersey) Elder Lee, (Cedar City, Utah) Elder Nita, (Las Vegas,Nev)
If you are a mother of one of these missionaries, know that they are well, wonderful and full of life! They had just come in  from a rousing snow ball fight with each other.
Boxed Wheelchairs. The Red Cross delivered these to individuals who were planning on coming to the closing, but couldn't because of the weather. Jim and I are planning on going to visit some of them later this month.

Jim, Marinko and Marko's Grandmother, They were showing her how the wheelchair has bicycle tires so it can go outside and it will also be easier to repair.

All the Red Cross people took us to lunch at a nice restaurant and then we took off for Bosnia. We didn't get there 'till after dark and then I spent the most cold miserable night I think I can ever remember. Where is my electric blanket when I need it?  We are in this huge, three story house.and we have no idea how to turn the heat on. Turns out there is a boiler that heats water, then the water goes into the radiators. And house is supposed to be warm. The boiler needs to be turned on, the pipes opened for the water and I don't know what else, but I do know that we need a lesson on how to make the place warm before we spend another night there.

I'm not sure if I made it clear in one of my other blogs, but we have been asked to spend a little more time in Bosnia. They, ( the powers that be in Germany) want us to start holding Sunday meetings in Banja Luka and we have agreed to do that. We are to set up an apt. for a new set of missionaries to come in July. Now, we are not sure if we will be that new couple, and a new couple will come into Croatia. Or if the new couple will come into Bosnia and we will go back to Croatia. But until that time, we will do whatever is asked and right now it is to be in this house, which really is a good location and size for Sunday meetings. But did I tell you, IT'S COLD???? If only being cold could make me loose weight! Apparently my answer to cold is hot chocolate.....hummm, something wrong there.

Saturday we went to our friends house in Banja Luka and Jim split wood. (Sunday, he wasn't moving very fast) don't tell him I said that. We had a great time with our sweet friends and I got a few pictures for you.

Working Hard! Did I tell you I was on a picture taking mission? I really did help a little bit. My job was to put the chopped wood in a wheelbarrow and Vickie's little sister and I stacked it in a shed in the back yard.

How nice to know that they will be warm this winter! Nine year-old
Vanessa (my wood stacker) and Tina, not sure about these strange people at her house.

Our Sweet friend Vickie, her real name is Violetta, but she likes "Vickie"
I'm not sure, but she maybe split more logs than Jim!

By the time we were done, that small second row was all the way over to the end and up about half way up. I learned that there is an art to stacking wood. It's like a puzzle, you don't want to waste any space.

Sunday our 20th grandchild was blessed and we missed it, but with the help of Skype we visited with most of our children and enjoyed the festivities from afar. We even got to see our little Eden in her blessing dress. We are so grateful for our children and grandchildren and for all their support. All those cute little faces that reach out to us over the miles just warms our hearts and souls. We have been reading in Alma and I think how hard the missionary work was for them, and marvel at our blessings. Skype, phones, post, e-mail, and blogs. Technology is just amazing to me. Forgive me for whining about the cold. My heart is warm and my testimony is red hot and burning. I love the gospel and am so grateful for having the opportunity to serve as a missionary . We love being a part of this great work .

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Closing ceremony in Banja Luka...

We got home from Germany on Sunday night, the 21st, of November. We worried all the time that we were in Germany about our car. We parked it in the parking lot at the airport, but Jim had a feeling that he should check with the information desk before we checked in to make sure that it would be all right. But when we got into the airport, it was busy with long lines so we hurried on and got checked in. Then he worried all week, even calling the mission office to get the plate number just in case it had been towed. But all was well with the car. It cost us a fortune to get it out of hawk from the SHORT TERM parking lot, but it hadn't been towed and with a short lecture about reading the signs, really, if you are speaking to someone in English, because he doesn't speak Croatian, does it make sense to tell him to pay attention to and read the signs....THAT ARE IN CROATIAN!!!!  We couldn't have done much about reading the signs, but listening to the promptings of the Spirit we surely know better than to ignore. Lesson learned. Again!

We came home to a VERY cold apartment, but in no time at all we had it warmed up and it felt good to be in our own bed. Monday we spent doing laundry and getting ready to go to Banja Luka again. Tues. found us on the road.That night we had an awesome opportunity to visit with our little investigator family and teach them about Mosiah 18:8-10. It was a tender lesson about bearing one another burdens and being true brother and sisters. The father in the family has injured his leg and can't work, no work, no pay. Also, Grandma who is Jim's age has been really sick and just been diagnosed with Diabetes. Life is just hard for them, they have six children that are so darling! We have been praying for them to have the means to buy firewood for the winter, with the help of our children, we were able to give them enough money to buy firewood. This week Jim is going to go split it for them . It might take him awhile, but we both need more exercise so it will be good. We have been asked to set up an apartment in Banja Luka so that we can start having Sunday meetings at our home with this family. We hope they will be a pioneer family in Bosnia. I believe that the Lord is preparing them for that amazing position, so they can reap the blessings of the gospel.

Weds. morning we had our first closing ceremony. It was at the Red Cross Soup Kitchen. We had not really planned on a closing ceremony, but the Red Cross Director had the press there waiting for us when we came. We had purchased two new stoves for the kitchen, hopefully it will increase their capacity to feed the hungry by about 200  people a day. I felt very unprepared to talk to the press, so it was somewhat unnerving, but we got through it and it feels good to get our first project completed and under our belt.

We ate a hurried lunch and then headed back to Varazdin for Thanksgiving. We have been hunting for a pumpkin for weeks before Thanksgiving. Leaving it to the Elders to keep up the hunt while we were in Germany. No luck. The Elders reported that apparently Croatians don't eat pumpkin. They grow it, but only for hog feed. No Libby's this year and not a pumpkin to be had. But Wait! Zipping by the little fruit stands on our way out of Bosnia, I see out of the corner of my eye ...A PUMPKIN!   Jim quickly makes a U-turn and we buy the prize. We make it home in time to cook it up and get it ready to be put into a pie on Thurs. morning. Next obstacle was where to get a pie pan. Apparently, they don't make pies at all here in Croatia. Just imagine, a whole country, with not a pumpkin, chocolate cream, apple, cherry, banana cream or whopper sad! Putting that sad thought aside, the Elders came up with two HUGE pans from the kitchen at the church. They would have to do. One apple, one pumpkin, works for me.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. One of our members came with the Elders and we had Grilled chicken, (Turkey was $16.00 a pound and I refused to pay that ) mashed potatoes and gravy, hot rolls, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and of course PIE!!! We took all leftover pie to the English class that night and gave them their first taste of pie. They ate it. I'm not sure if they liked it or if they were just being polite. But at least I didn't have to bring it home. I really don't need it!

Our very large pumpkin pie! It really tasted pretty good, but I don't think I will be making another for awhile!
Jim, Elder Lee, Bozidar, and Elder Anderson from Cardston, Canada

Elder Lee from Cedar City, Utah ..he was the potato masher!

We also enjoyed talking to most of our children on Thanksgiving. We miss them and are so grateful for Skype and the technology that we have to keep us in touch.  I did miss being with everyone for Thanksgiving, but I did not miss getting up at o-dark hundred and freezing to death while standing in lines in front of stores to spend money that I shouldn't be spending. What I did really miss was our Friday morning pancake breakfast with just my darling daughters and daughter-in-laws. We only let one male come with us, that was Jim, so he could pay. Did you go this year, my darlings?
Jim and I with the kitchen staff and the Red Cross director. She is the one in red. They were so happy to get the stoves. The director told us that the day they came and were installed they were all very emotional, crying for the kindness of our people who donated the money to buy the stoves. Such good kind people. We are blessed to know them.

This is our little friend in the Banja Luka soup kitchen. She has worked there for 30 years and is getting ready to retire. We took this picture to frame and give it to her for her retirement.
 We got our first snow yesterday, and it started snowing about noon today and hasn't quit. We are going to Bosnia again tomorrow. Hope the roads will be clear. We have a closing ceremony for the Red Cross Wheelchair project here in Varazdin on Friday. We are excited for that one because our little Marco will get his wheelchair in that first distribution. It is also our first project in Varazdin. We hope people will now understand a little better, why we are here.

Humanitarian Conference in Germany...

What an experience! We had a wonderful conference in Germany. We learned so much from the other couples that are also humanitarian missionaries here in Europe. Most of them had really good experience and wisdom to offer us newbies. We soaked it all up like sponges!

We stayed in the church housing, right next to the Temple in Frieburg. There is a church meeting house right next the temple as well, and that is where we had our conference. We got the opportunity to go to the temple one night after we were done at the conference. It was so wonderful to be there. I have missed the temple.

We had Saturday, 20th of November to go into the town of Frankfurt and do a little sight seeing. We thoroughly enjoyed that beautiful, busy city that has so much history! And guess what?? We found an English speaking movie theatre and slipped in to see "Harry Potter" ! How fun it that?  The high light of the day I think was that we had a party in our room. Jim always said that I bring the party with me! We felt like we were being naughty, staying up until 10:30, just visiting and enjoying the association of the other couples.

The next day we attended the English speaking, International Ward . Before we knew it the week was over and we were on our way back to Croatia. Before we went to the airport we made an amazing stop however, KFC in Germany! What a kick! They even had a soft drink machine with ICE! Yeah! A perfect ending to a perfect week!
Humanitarian Missionaries for European Area
This is a wall that goes around a Jewish Cemetery. Each one of these little blocks have a name on them of someone from Frankfurt that was killed by the Nazis. Their loved ones put little rocks on the block as an outward sign of their memory. Some didn't have rocks. So I put rocks on their blocks. I remembered and was humbled by the thought of what they went through. We found Ann Franks block. She didn't need a rock.
A statue of David and Goliath. My picture taking ability is pretty bad, but cutting off David's head in this photo is nothing compared to what he did to Goliath!
Gutenberg Memorial....How grateful we should all be to the religious reformation that began here in Frankfurt Germany. Home of the Gutenberg press and the mass publishing of the Bible.
Okay.... I know this is silly, but really, isn't it so cute to have a street car dressed up like a gingerbread house for Christmas!

We did come home with a little version of this big guy. When we came into our temple housing room on the first day at the conference there was a nutcracker and a bag of goodies on the desk waiting for us. The Coltons had thought of everything to make our stay one that we will never forget!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Neo-Natal Resuscitation in Bosnia...

"According to the World Health Organization, nearly one million babies die each year due to birth difficulties. As many as 10 percent of all newborns have breathing difficulties at birth and require some assistance. With proper training and minimal equipment, many of the deaths of newborns due to breathing problems can be avoided. The Church works with national health organizations and ministries of health from countries around the world to identify areas where training in neonatal resuscitation is most desperately needed. The Church then sends volunteer physicians and nurses to instruct birth attendants in these areas. These local attendants are then able to train others. More than 80,000 birth attendants have been trained so far."
   This quote from the official church web site explains a little about Neo-natal resuscitation and the goal that we have to save babies. This week it was our privilege to participate in a small way with this training. WOW! What an awesome experience it was!
    We started for Bosnia as soon as our Sacrament Meeting was over, stopping in Zagreb on the way to pick up Tihana's, (our translator)  passport. She had forgotten it and fortunately remembered before we got to the boarder. We brought her mother as well. A two-fold reason for this. Number 1, Tihana  is a beautiful young lady, and it is important that if we are going to travel with her that her mother feels comfortable with us. We will start doing more travel when our budget rolls over in January and will need Tihana to go with us, how would you feel if two strange, old, people not of your faith wanted to  take your daughter all over Croatia?  Do you see the need for her to get to know us? Reason number two: We also wanted her to see what kind of work her daughter was doing, what kind of humanitarian things the church was doing and hopefully realize that we going about the Lord's work. I think we accomplished our goals by the time the trip was over.
    We arrived in Bosnia just in time to check in to our hotel and then get up to the hospital to meet the other humanitarian couple from Serbia, the Doctors from Utah and 5 local Doctors from the Banya Luka Hospital. Immediately Dr. George Bennett and Doctor Eric Gerday took the 5 local Doctors and started training them to be the teachers for the next two days.
     The Red Cross had brought in all the equipment, (they can get stuff through customs) and they had loaned us a van with the driver to come up from Sarajevo. The training lasted a couple of hours that night.
    The next morning we started early for the hospital, all together there was 62 students to be trained. From all over Bosnia.. The Utah Doctors were going down for another training in Sarajevo which was much closer for some of the students, however, because of ethnic intolerance, they would rather travel a far distance than sit side by side in a class room that has people that are different than them.  Makes me so grateful for the diversity that we enjoy in the United States, however imperfect, it's still amazing to me. Thank-You America! To be fair, however, in the United States we have not been involved in a recent civil conflict that has left deep scars on the population. We have had over 150 years since that has happen in our history. Give them time.
    Doctor Bennett and Doctor Gerday taught the training for the next two days with the help of the Local Doctors. Marcia Bennett, Dr. Bennett's wife, is really the backbone to the whole operation. She makes all the arrangements, working with all the local people, the humanitarian couple in charge and all the travel arrangements. I just thought she was awesome, what a woman! She and her husband have been traveling all over the world for the last 6 years doing this. Those of you who have done international travel know how hard this is on a body. but all the doctors who work in this program are dedicated to saving lives and know that it is the work of Our Heavenly Father.
     When the training was finished, we had a closing ceremony where each student was given a certificate of completion, each clinic or hospital that was involved received a training mannequin and equipment to train others at their facilities, they also receive equipment for their clinical maternity rooms.  We heard from Dr. Bennett, the hospital general manager or principle, the minister of health for Bosnia, Jim and then Marcia Bennett presented each of the training Doctors with a pin from the American Pediatric Association . She also presented a beautiful picture of a new baby to the main Pediatric Doctor in Banya Luka Hospital. It was beautiful and the Doctor was very touched by the gift. Did I tell you Marcia was amazing? Of course Jim cried as he told them how grateful he was for each on of our eight children and twenty grandchildren and what a tragedy it would have been in our lives to have lost even one of them. One is too many if it is YOUR child. One more little thought before I close, Dr. Bennett made me understand one important thing about this program. ...Death is not the real tragedy, mental and physical disabilities due to lack of oxygen at birth are the real tragedies. A whole lifetime of tragedy, for the child, for parents, siblings, and grandparents.
    I had this thought drilled home this week-end, Jim and I were at the grocery store across the street and saw a little grandma and grandpa struggling to get a disabled teenager up a flight of stairs, He weighed about 80 lbs, Jim asked if he could help. And a minute later he had the boy swooped up in his arms and carried him up two flights of stairs. In broken English we learned from the grandmother that the boys name was Marco, he was 15. Father died 5 years ago of cancer and left him in the care of his aging grandparents, No mother was ever mentioned so we aren't sure about her. We told her that  the Red Cross was receiving 250 wheelchairs in the next couple of weeks, we could see that they got one for her grandson. As she repeated what we said to her 85 year old husband, she and grandfather both with tears of relief said Thank-you, thank-you , thank-you! We have had no money for a chair. Could these doctors who spend their time training neo-natal resuscitation be doing anything more important with their retirement time? I hope you see my point. They know what Pure Religion is. If just one family like this one can benefit from this life saving procedure their time is well spent.

Our teaching patients. We had eight tables for the students to each get hands-on training.
Dr. Bennett teaching at one of the tables. He is the one with white hair. From Farmington, Utah.
Now it's the students turn. They break the training up into different portions, The babies first 30 seconds, babies next 30 seconds and so forth..... each student gets a chance to practice and learn with the mannequin. One of the last times at the table they have to teach their peers how to do it.
The lady on my left is a doctor from one of the small clinics in Bosnia. The other two are nurses at the same clinic. They deliver an average of 1600 babies a year!  They have an anesthesiologist on staff, but other than that, they do it all!
Banja Luka looking over the valley from the hospital.

Our 62 students eager to learn!

Marcia Bennett giving the Local Doctors their pins from the American Pediatric Society.