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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All Saints Day

This is only a tiny section of the huge Varazdin Cemetery.
In the center of the cemetery there is a statue of Christ on the Cross.
The whole area surrounding the statue was lighted up and people were on the sidelines praying.
This is an example of how large the graves are. The monument might have 5, 6, or 7 names with dates on it.

All Saints Day was November 1st.  It's a huge holiday here, everything was closed except the bars. I guess they are open all year round. We walked over to the Elders apartment and then walked on to the cemetery that night. We were just amazed at how beautiful it was! We walked for about an hour up and down the rows of lighted graves. We asked lots of questions and I share some of our new found information with you:
The grave sites are HUGE, they are just these enormous monuments, with beautiful granite platforms. How do poor Croatians afford such opulence in their graveyards? They sacrifice everything they have to afford to bury their dead, going into great debt at times. Also the grave sites bury multiple people.
How many people?  Sometimes up to six, or more. depending on how big the family site is.
Are they cremated?  Oh no. They are just buried soon after they die.
We have seen no Mortuaries. What is a mortuary?
Where do they take the bodies after death.  Oh they go to the church where the funeral is held.
 Does the hospital embalm the dead, then? That is not a word in Croatian. Okay, how do I explain this   one?
Do they drain the fluid from the body, and put in chemicals to preserve it a little longer? Until the funeral? That sounds terrible, why would anyone do that? Obviously, they don't embalm.
So every Croatian funeral is held at the Catholic Church with the priest doing the mass?  Yes, he gets paid to do it. But recently, people give money to the family instead of the priest to help out with the costs. Then the family pays the priest. If people give money straight to the priest, sometimes he just keeps it, even if it is over what the cost of the funeral is, so people have started giving it to the family.
Does the city pay for the upkeep of the cemetery? No, the family pays (the equivalent of $80.00 U.S.) a year for the upkeep.
Every Year?  Yes.
 That's a ton of money, what happens if the family can not afford that?  It is their duty to the dead. They sacrifice and borrow money if they have to.
So what happens if the children die and no one pays? Nothing. The cemetery still gets maintained. But if they are alive. They pay.
What is the significance to the candles?  They light the way for the dead to go to Christ. The more candles, the easier it is for them to find their way.
How long do the candles last? Several days, sometimes a week.
Other than going to the cemetery, how do people celebrate All Saints Day?  We have family dinners, drink and enjoy the time off work.

It was an interesting evening...left me thinking....
About This  or   About This
I'm so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Great Plan of Happiness. What comfort it gives to us and  how blessed we are to have it for a foundation in our lives.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The night before last Jim and I went with the Elders to visit some inactive members in one of the little villages close to our city. Both husband and wife greeted us with warmth and we had a lovely visit with them in their little living room heated by a wood stove. When it was time to leave, we stepped out into the crisp fall air, the wood smoke is lingering around the house, I  wanted to linger as well. Our new friends asked us if we wanted some apples.....Now in Croatia, you have to know, they are REALLY proud of their apples. Everywhere you go, out in the country, people want to give you some of their apples. We have been given many apples. And the giver always says, "these apples are pure, no spray, given to you just the way  God gave them to us."
   So this morning, Jim was working hard at his language study, I decided I would make some apple crisp for the Elders for dinner tonight. I started into what I thought would be a wormy sack of apples. "No spray, just as God gave them to us", kept ringing in my ears. As I began to cut and peel the apples, I realized that they really were pretty good. On the outside, they looked terrible, the skin was pitted, blotchy, and sometimes so discolored that I would have thought the apple inside would have been rotten, but not so much. The fruit inside was good, it was firm, sweet, and  tasty! These apple intrigued me. They were not at all like the apples in my favorite grocery store at home. (Kent's Grocery Store in Roy, Utah is the VERY BEST! in the whole world.)  They weren't like the primary song that I sang as a child. "Apples red  and apples yellow, round and juicy, sweet and mellow."  The skin was not pretty, they had problems, the whole sack of about 10 lbs. there were only three apples that were infested with worms. For some strange reason, that really surprised me.
   As I sat and peeled I thought of how we are like those apples. Some of us are just the way God made us, we are far from perfect, but our insides are pure, our actions show that we care for our fellow men, and our hearts have a love for the Savior as we endeavor to follow Him.  There were three apples that had worms in them.. I saw where the insect had tunneled into the core of the apple, eating away at the good fruit and spoiling it. I couldn't help but think of how sin, sometime gets into the core of us. Just a little at first, then tunnels deep into our souls. As I cut away the infested part of the apple, I didn't throw away the whole apple, just the bad part.  Our Savior has provided for us the Atonement. To cut away the sin, to make us clean, and to redeem us. I guess while I was sitting at my kitchen table cutting up apples today, I just had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude come over me and I thought I would share it with you. How grateful I am for The Savior, for His atoning sacrifice, and for His love.
    The apple crisp was wonderful, but the time I spent pondering this great miracle was priceless....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Our First Package!!!!

We got our first mail from home! How Fun! How Fun! Our Mission President came over here from Ljubjana, Slovenia, (where the mission home is located). He met us at the church and the first thing he said was that he had a package for us! I couldn't wait to get home to open it! How mean that I had to sit through two hours of church! It was worth the wait though!   Yummmm! Candy corns on Halloween Day! How great was THAT timing?  American gum, sugar free everything! Splenda, hot cocoa, Crystal light, mapleline, measuring cups, measuring spoons! PICKLES! I almost cried, I was so happy! Oh and we can't forget notes and  pictures from the grandchildren! Now I will have something to put on my fridge! Also our daughter, Crystal, sent DVD's for her entertainment starved parents! ALOT of them! Should keep us busy for date night for the next few months!

My kitchen art...

Yeah! Isn't it just perfect!

    Okay, this is the funny part about the box.... About a month into this mission I started doing the stupid hot flash thing...Long story short. I realized I had forgotten to bring my estrogen with me. It took me about six or seven weeks to start feeling the effects and realize what was going on. So I asked Crystal to send it to me. I also have been going nuts with nothing to do with my hands while we are in the car. I'm so used to doing Raggedy Anne hair that I felt like I was just wasting time. So I asked her to send the Raggedy Anne patterns to me as well. Soooooo, on the this HUGE box, she wrote on the customs receipt:  ESTROGEN and RAGGEDY ANN PATTERNS.  It got through! Didn't even get opened at customs! This is a new and wonderful way to get thing through customs. They must have thought "Wow that's a LOT of estrogen! Moral of the story?
Don't mess with a doll maker that needs her estrogen! I bet they are still laughing at the mission home!

Oh Thank-you all who helped put the box together.. It was wonderful! And Crystal thanks for going to all the effort.that you did to make it so amazing! And also making us laugh so hard we cried!

Today is a holiday here in Croatia, so we aren't working. It's all Saints Day. Tonight we will go to the Cemetery and try to get some pictures. The town has been a flurry of activity all last week. Selling flowers and candles for the graves. Beautiful flowers! The graveyard is pretty spectacular as it is, one of the most beautiful in all of Europe, I've been told., so we will be excited to see it all lit up tonight.

I stand corrected, I'm not working today. Jim is submitting a major initiative, wheelchair project to our Area Specialist in Frankfurt. I'm the only slug in this companionship, I blog, he works. Sounds good to me, what do ya think?  I am so grateful for our laptop, it is wonderful! Jim works on the church computer and so the laptop is essentially MINE! Thanks, Rusty, for getting it for us, I'm not sure what we would do without it. Our companionship might be seriously jeopardized if we were fighting over computer time!

This week we are meeting with our local Red Cross to set up a closing ceremony with them for the wheelchairs that just came into Zagreb. We are doing the first distribution of them here in Varazdin.
We are also working on a few other projects this week and then next Sunday we leave right after church to go to Banja Luka, Bosnia. We will be there for three days, helping with a neo-natal resuscitation training.

I made a grand purchase this last week. I bought a new apron. I found a little store in the centar that sold what Jim calls "Moo" aprons. It's his Finnish coming out. It cost me about $16.00. It's the traditional clothing of all the little old ladies here. Anytime they are doing work, inside or out, they wear these aprons. Many times when I see them out in the country on the street they have a scarf over their head tied under their chin as well. I got it just in time, because we had some Church Education Missionaries from Albania come visit us for the weekend and I broke it in, using it  to cook dinner on Sunday for them and the Mission President and his wife. The Missionaries from Albania are the parents of Jodie Kapp, a dear friend of ours that lives in our ward back home. Our grand-children, Chase and Mason, go to school with their grand-children! It was fun to meet them and spend some time with them.

It doesn't do much for making me look skinny, but it does keep me clean!
We love you all so much.  This morning, As I started into the living room, I saw Jim at our coffee table, staring down at all the pictures we have under the glass. I said to him,"do you miss them?", He quickly turn away, and muffled a "Ya, I do", before we both teared up a bit. We do miss you but we love our work and couldn't be more happy as we serve the Lord here in Croatia.
Our coffee table.  All the walls in the apartment are made of cement, so we hesitated to drill holes in them to put pictures up. Putting them under the glass on the table was our solution and we love it! Our family photos are just right where we need them!