Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The White Stocking..

I saw this on a blog today and loved the idea, A white stocking to hang with the others to remind us what is really important during the holiday season.


For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat;

I was thirsty and ye gave me drink:

I was a stranger and; ye took me in:

naked and; ye clothed me:

I was sick and ye visited me:

I was in prison and; ye came to me.


Then shall the righteous answer him,

saying, Lord, when saw we thee

an hungered, and fed thee?

Or thirsty and; gave thee drink?

Or when saw we thee sick,

or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the king shall answer and say unto them,

Verily I say unto you,

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren,

Ye have done it unto me.”

{Matthew 25:35-40}

I was alone, and you sat by me.

I was discouraged, and you cheered me up.

I was feeling lost, and you showed me the way.

I was sad, and you cried with me.

I was overwhelmed, and you helped me.

I was grieving and you stayed with me.

I didn't understand, and you tutored me.

I was different and you didn't judge me.

just think...what gifts can I give the Savior this year?

Thanks to Angie Dunn for her great blog....I always need inspiration and this just really helped me get into the Christmas Spirit.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Youth Activities in Banja Luka, Bosnia

     One of our most enjoyable activites here in Bosnia is working with our darling youth...Any thing from service projects, parties, seminary or just hanging out. We love every minute that we are able to spend with them.  Here are just a few pictures of some of our random activities over the last few months.

Palachenka Party- I'm pretty sure I spelled that wrong, but they are thin creaps or pancakes that they put jam, chocolate or cream in.

Vicky was the palachenka queen!

Victorija and Vedran

Vanja and Tina

My friend Jan Stottler sent us all the ingredients to make "Monster Cookies" quite awhile ago. I've been hording them for a special occation and a trip to Serbia with our youth just seemed like the timing was right! Not particularly a glamorous shot of me, but boy did everyone love those cookies! Peanut butter is just not something these kids are used to and they just LOVED the taste of it in the cookies. We ate them all the way to Serbia and all the way home. What a fun way to spend time in a van, eating cookies and singing "Follow the Prophet" and  "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". IN ENGLISH!!!!!

If you have read some of my older blogs, you read about us leaving Vedrana (our only primary child) at home when we went to Germany for EFY. I steadfastly refused to do this again when it came to a Super Saturday in Serbia. I asked and was graciously grated permission to bring her. What a happy girl! I was so glad that the CES couple in charge of the activity agreed with me so it wasn't a problem.

It was a great activity, this is a game they were playing with their scriptures. Not sure who won, but I think it was the team with alot of the U.S. Embasy kids on it. Everyone ended up with a candy bar though, so that's all that counts, right?
Jim and I were in charge of a craft, we made magic wallets out of duct tape and cardboard. Our missionaries in Varazdin gave us a lesson how to make them and the kids loved them, even some of the Serbian missionaries that wandered in, made one.  Sorry we didn't get any pictures of them, I guess I was a little busy cutting sticky duct tape and didn't think to get someone to take my camera over.
This was another Saturday activity. For several weeks in Sept. we noticed that the grape harbor going over the Tadic family driveway was litterally dripping with ripe grapes. Each week we asked, "what are you going to do with the grapes?" Every week we got the same answer, "oh, we will pick them". Finally, they started falling off the vines, I grabed Vicky, the oldest daughter and said, "really, Vicky, what are you going to do with the grapes?" It was just killing me to see them falling on the ground. She explained, that usually they would make wine out of the grapes, but now they are members of the church. They didn't want to make wine, so they were just going to let them go to waste, not knowing what else to do with them. Sooooo, long story short, I taught the girls how to make grape juice. We had to buy a juicer for them, but if you teach a man to fish....well, they have to have a fishing pole, don't they? We had a great day, started with picking grapes with the whole family and ending with a great and mighty clean up of my kitchen. This was the end result. Next year they won't have so many grapes go to waste, and will get much more use out of their new juicer. They have loved having the juice, I think it's almost all gone! I was so humbled by their faithfullness and their desire to be obedient to the word of wisdom.

Yet another activity in the kitchen..I taught them how to make monkey pods and bread bowls. We had soup the next day for Sunday dinner and monkey pods for a treat at seminary.

This is one of our seminary meetings, our friends Elder and Sister Taylor were there that night and took our picture with the kids.  The cute girl sitting next to Vicky, who is next to Jim, is our translator. Her name is Mija and we really love having her at seminary. She's a great asset, has great questions. She has read the BofM to Third Nephi. She thought Alma was her favorite, but now has changed her mind!

This was just this week. Our kids recieved a special gift from our friends in Las Vegas. The Elsworth family sent them scripture stickers!!! They were sooo excited to get them in their scriptures. I just loved how serious they were about getting them in just so! We can't thank you enough, Amy, they were a hit!!

This is Vedran putting his stickers in his Book of Mormon. Could he be any happier??  These kids are just so serious about learning every thing they can about the church. It is such an amazing opportunity to be with them in seminary once a week.
Vicky has English scriptures that were given to her by our mission president and his wife. She loves them! This last week we fasted for her to be able to pass the TOFEL test. She took it on Friday, Jim gave her a blessing Thrursday night to try to help her calm her nerves a little bit. The TOFEL is an English competency test that has to be passed if you want to be a student at any U.S.  University. Her hearts desire is to go to BYU Idaho with possibly transfering to BYU later in her studies. Many obsticles will have to be hurdled for her to be able to do this, most having to do with financial aide, but the TOFEL is her first baby step. She won't know for two weeks if she passed.
We love and appreciate all of you who think of us, remember us in your prayers and write. We love those e-mails! Some have asked for an updated address for snail mail. The mail going into the mission office in Zagreb has been a little difficult since the mission home/office has moved from Slovenia to Croatia. So we think any mail would be better just coming to our apartment in Varazdin, Croatia. Even if we are in Bosnia  a notice will be waiting for us in the mail box and we just take it to the post office and collect it. Just like Up-town! Our Varazdin address is:

Jim and Debby Erickson

Stan 43, Kat 7

Ruđera Boškoviča 18

Varaždin 42000, Croatia

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where did November go?

Where did November go? It seems like it just flew by, I looked at my blog this morning and saw that it had been a month since I had updated it. Wow! How did that happen?

This morning we woke up early and actually got out of the house and on the road by 8:11. Bed made, check. Garbage taken out, check. Heat turned off, check. Bags packed, nothing forgotten we hope, check. Refrigerator contents that won’t keep until we get back either put into the freezer or our little cooler check. Hot water turned down, check. Prayers said, check. Drag everything out to the car, check. On the road, only 11 minutes late! We had a 9:00 appointment with our friend and translator  Predrag, in Gradiska, the little border town on the way to Croatia. After we talked with him for awhile we got through both borders with little or no waiting and zipped on through to Zagreb. Stopping at the mission office to get reimbursements and mail for the elders then we are back on the road to Varazdin. Yep, that’s pretty much the routine. And then we do it all over again on Wed. or Thursday of each week. Before we came we bought these nice little roller take on luggage pieces. Never in a million years did we realize how important they would be to us, and I dare say they will be toast by the time we get home! Have any of you seen the pictures of two missionaries kneeling for prayers and their shoes are all worn through…..well, I think that’s how our carry on’s will look when we arrive home.

I have to admit, it’s a little hectic. But Sunday night when we went to bed, we both just looked at each other and said, “Wow, what an awesome week! How could it get any better?” For starters, we visited the Red Cross and just thrilled the director by giving her funds for supplemental food during the holiday season. We also made arrangements with the Banja Luka Caritas to do the same. We already had given the Varazdin Caritas organization supplemental funds along with a commercial potato peeler. Santa looks like two old people with name tags on here in Croatia. They were sooo happy, news media, hugs and handshakes all around! It was a good day! Usually the humanitarian department frowns on doing projects that are not sustainable, so giving money for food was just a onetime donation to help them get through the holiday season. For some that come to these soup kitchens, it is the only meal for the day.

We also spent time painting and repairing the apartment that is on the main floor of our house in Banja Luka. We got the kitchen all clean and the front entryway painted. I wanted to do it in a color, of course, but Jim insisted that it isn’t my house so it should be boring white. As mundane as that is, it does look vastly improved. We haven’t heard anything on getting the church registered and legal yet, but are going by the motto, “If you build it, they will come”! We are so looking forward to having the young missionaries opening up the country, with their language skills they will be such an asset to our little group/branch there. Our worry is that leadership will call one day and say, “Oh, by the way, we are sending missionaries down at the end of the week”. And then it will be a mad scramble to get the apartment ready for them. So we are trying to get ahead of the game a little bit.

We had visitors this week-end. Elder and Sister Taylor came to attend our seminary class on Saturday night and stayed for meetings on Sunday. It was so fun to have them! The Tadic’s love seeing other people beside us, they are senior missionaries that have a Church Education assignment over seminary and institutes. They are perfect for the job. More patient, kind and genuinely loving people you will never know! We can’t wait to get them to come back again!

We have a new investigator in Banja Luka. He is a 33 year old single guy that  got on the internet and asked to be contacted. We went to his home and gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to our meetings. His car is down and he is waiting for parts for it, so he walks to church, about 5 miles every week. He comes an hour early for church so he can get the missionary lessons. This week, Jim challenged him to baptism and he accepted. He needs to get a firm testimony but says that when he does that defiantly would be baptized. He would be a great asset to the church here in Bosnia. I can see him as a branch president. “The dawning of a new day”; that is what is going on over here. The dreams and visions we have for the church here in Bosnia are nothing compared what The Lord’s vision is, but it’s a start.

We are blessed beyond measure to be here and be a part of this great work. Our gratitude to those who love and support us in this endeavor is overflowing. November, as busy as it was, left us humbled by all the blessings that constantly come our way. We feel your prayers and sincerely appreciate every one of them!

We often have visitors at church, This is the Tadic Family with Elder and Sister Wondra. The gentleman on the far left is a native Banja Luka man who left Bosnia during the war and went to Canada with his family. His mother still lives here and he was visiting her. His desire is to come back someday and help the church grow here. He talked in our sacrament meeting and they all just loved hearing a native speaker talk to them about the church and his conversion story.
(We had no idea what he said until a day or two later when Vicky told us his story)

We closed a project for a soup kitchen in Eastern Croatia, an area hit extreamly hard by the war and struggling to recover. We replaced a 35 year old fridge with this new beauty! They were so thrilled! This is the head cook and you just couldn't wipe the smile off her face! It took 5 men about an hour to get this into place. It was a pretty tight squeeze in this basment kitchen with overhead heat ducts and corners to turn. Hope they don't ever have to move!

We also replaced the burners on the soup kettle on the right. They had not been able to use it for quite awhile because of lack of funds to get the repairs done. This kitchen feeds about 250 people a day with 50 meals being delivered to shut-in's. If you do the math and calculate that this equipment will last for a minimum of 5 years. Well....that's a lot of meals for the people in Croatia! I so wish you all could be here to see where your humanitarian dollars are going!

We bought the Caritas Organization a new potato peeler for their soup kitchen. One of the cooks gave us a demonstration. The potatoes go in....and about three minutes later. ....

Here they come...all peeled and ready for soup!  Potatoes are a big crop here and the soup kitchen gets a lot of donations from the local population to use in the kitchen. You can imagin how long  it took the cooks to peel them, even with the ancient potato peeler that this replaced  they where coming in at the wee hours of the morning to get the job done. Now they will have things a little easier.

You didn't know that peeled potatoes were that exciting, did you?

We also bought meat for the soup kitchen to give them a little something extra for holiday meals. The butcher gave us a good deal. I always love deals!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our new meeting room...

   I can't believe that's it been a year since we attended a humanitarian conference in Frankfurt, Germany. WOW! Where did that year go? While attending the conference we were asked if we would agree to travel once a week to Banja Luka, Bosnia and hold church with an investigating family every Sunday. Since the northern half of Bosnia is part of our humanitarian area it was an easy jump for us to arrange for our travel to accommodate this new assignment. We were asked to help teach the Tadic family and help get them to baptism and after they were baptized our goal has been to nurture them and prepare them for the temple.

We have our apartment in Varazdin, Croatia and the church provides us with a house here in Banja Luka. Our visa's are in Croatia where we declare our stable place of living. The church has not been officially recognized in Bosnia so getting a visa here would not be possible. So every Monday morning we pack up and go across the border to Croatia. Then on Thursday we do it all over again, but going the opposite direction toward Bosnia. We do our humanitarian work around travel days, fitting it in and juggling schedules as best we can to keep all our balls in the air at the same time.

  It has been a great year; we have loved our ecclesiastic responsibilities here in Banja Luka. We look forward each week to meeting with the youth on Saturday nights for seminary. And church on Sunday with the whole family. Jim is the Group Leader, (we aren't a branch yet) and he teaches seminary and Gospel Essentials lessons. I teach the youth class in Sunday school. We are using the Primary manual lessons on the New Testament. I love the class; no discipline problems to speak of, just four little sponges that absolutely love the stories of Jesus and really actively think, ask great questions and participate in each lesson.

  We have two translators so that we can separate into an adult and a youth classes. It's pretty amazing how well our kids are doing at English though. It won't be too long before they won't need a translator. Getting the country opened and young missionaries in here that speak the language will be a great blessing to our little seed family here in Bosnia.

  We have been holding church in our living room, I don't know when, or why, but a few months ago I got a bee in my bonnet to have a real meeting room. You know, one that looked like the church was really something that was a little bit official. So I petitioned the land lord for permission to paint. I drove Jim crazy until he agreed that it was a great idea, and then we went to town! Here are a few pictures of our new room!

Our members love it! And we can really feel a wonderful spirit when we meet every Sunday. Last week we had Elder and Sister Wondra come from Austria to visit and we also had a native Bosnian who left the country during the war and moved to Canada. His mother still lives here and he was here visiting her. We asked him to speak in our meeting. It was so fun to have our room finished for our guests! We felt so official! And it was wonderful to have a guest speaker that spoke their language actually be able to participate in a Sunday meeting that was not in our living room! It was just a little fore shadowing of what the church will be like here in Bosnia in the future! Here are a few pictures of our new meeting room! We love visitors, so feel free to come visit anytime! Church starts at 3:30 P.M. and we usually do dinner when we are finished!
This was where we used to hold Sacrament Meeting. Jim still teaches the Gospel Essentials Class here.

It took us three Preparation days to get it finished. Ceiling coat 1 the first week. Ummmm terrible paint. Ceiling coat 2 the next Saturday (better paint), Tape off ceiling and paint walls the third prep day.

The internet wires were just laying along the walls, taped down with old yucky plasic tape. We bought some plastic, paintable casings to run the wire through. One BIG problem, the walls are cement, so installing them was no easy task. It took Jim forever on his hands and knees to drill through the cement to get it done, but it really looks wonderful! Well worth the effort!

Pretty cute don't you agree??

We begged the Mission President for some art work, I think he was afraid I would cry if he said "No" so were given permission to pick what ever two pieces of art we wanted from the Varazdin Branch building. I would have felt guilty about doing that but this one in particular was always hidden behind a white board and it looks so wonderful in our new room that I can't really muster any guilt about it at all!

This is the humanitarian signature piece of art. The church owns this and it is on display at the art museum on the B.Y.U campus. We give a framed copy of it to all our partners when we do a closing for a humanitarian project. It has a special place in my heart so I guess that's why I chose this one.

Not only is he cute and VERY handy to have around, but he cleans up after himself too!

So this is the finished room! We had an old glass case sitting in the corner of the living room. I made a cover for it and it makes a perfect podium. Actually the mission storage room has a podium in it and at some point we will probably bring it down here, but this does nicely for the time being. On the right hand side of the room we have a litte sacrament table that you can't see in this picture. The area paid for us to get new chairs, so we were most grateful for that help. Pretty official, what do ya think??  I'm now a happy camper!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vedrana's Book...

A Special Gift for the only Primary Girl in Bosnia...

  July 2011 found us in high expectations for a trip to Germany with our newly baptized youth from the Tadic family! What a wonderful experience we were going to have at the first ever English speaking E.F.Y. in Europe! Many preparations had gone into this trip. First of all, it was out of our mission area and not necessarily humanitarian focus, so special permission was acquired by the mission president and our file leaders in Germany. A van was rented, teen-agers were taken to the market to pick out their treats, permission papers were signed and notarized by the proper authorities so we could get them across borders without being charged with human trafficking and finally the kids were in the van, luggage stowed in the back, kisses administered to family staying behind and the doors were being shut......but wait, I caught out of the corner of my eye one of the most pitiful sights I think I have ever seen. Even this many months after the event, it was a sight so sad, so utterly desolate that I think it will forever be seared in my mind as a memory of my mission never to be forgotten.

There was Vedrana, our 10 year old little primary girl, standing against the corner of the Tadic family small brick home. She was sobbing, holding her head in her hands as if her little heart was breaking! It was. Never had all her siblings left her alone with just her little 2year old sister for company. Never before had her siblings had such an amazing opportunity to go on a road trip to Germany! Never before had she been so utterly and totally left out of an adventure of a lifetime!

I stopped all progress of going forward, hopped out of the van and as I did she fell into my arms. Crying a new, as if somehow her tears would soon run dry and she would feel better. I asked her big sister to come translate for me and as I tried my best to comfort her, but my promises that her time would come and she too would have amazing opportunities seemed to be falling on deaf ears. She perked up however when I promised her a present from Germany. Ahhh, I had figured it out, I would bring her a present, she seemed to cheer up a bit and off we went!

Now, I had a new problem! What to bring her that wouldn't cost a fortune would mean something to her and would last a little longer than a 15 minute toy? I decided to go on the hunt for a charm bracelet and a couple of charms from Germany. I remembered our youngest daughter had one when she was about that age and Jim brought her charms from where ever he traveled. So I found a bracelet and brought it back to her. She loved it, wears it often. I wrote a blog about Vedrana and her bracelet...this is the rest of the story.

Our office missionaries, Elder and Sister Robinson, have a daughter that lives in Logan, Utah. After hearing the story of our little Vedrana, Ashlee decided to turn her compassion for Bosnia's only little primary girl into action. A few weeks ago we went into the office and a package had arrived there for us. Of course Elder and Sister Robinson knew what it was, but only after a little discussion did we decide to open it and peek inside. OH MY!!!!! What a treasure we found inside! Ashlee has a daughter that is Primary Activity Age. She asked and received permission to do a project with the girls. They all wrote absolutely adorable letters to our little Vedrana, as we read through them there in the mission office I have to admit that I turned into a puddle of emotion right then and there. They were little letters of introduction, encouragement and love. So tender and so delightful that I could hardly wait to get to Banja Luka and give the package, (we taped it all up again) to Vedrana.

We kind-of made a big deal about it, taking the opportunity in Sacrament Meeting to talk to the Tadic family about how our church is world-wide church. How each one of them are part of something bigger than church in our little living room. They have brothers and sisters that love them, pray for them and are concerned about each and every one of them. We have Relief Society for the sisters, Priesthood brethren for the men, Young Men and Young Women’s for the teenagers and Primary for the younger ones. Then we gave the package to Vedrana and let her open it in front of us all! She felt so special!! All the letters were in a beautiful book with pictures of the girls and also she was given CHARMS!!! Beautiful, wonderful charms for her bracelet! She got two pieces of Utah truffle chocolate, (which I noticed was being passed around and shared during the rest of Sacrament Meeting) and another darling little bracelet. Even though language is a problem and she had to wait until her older sister translated the letters for her, Vedrana felt their love and felt like she really mattered to someone other than just those that she sees all the time.

How could I ever adequately thank those little girls for their wonderful gift? The activity day leaders and the Robinsons daughter that went to so much effort and expense will never know the wonderful spirit of love and appreciation that was present as Vedrana opened her book! I saw her mother and grandma watch with tears of gratitude in their eyes and my own heart was again turned to the Savior..."Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me". Thank-you achievement day girls from Logan, Utah! We love you!
Vedrana opening her package, with the help of her little sister.

She was soooo excited to read all the letters!

These are the darling achievement day girls from Logan, Utah.

Letters from the adults....

Just an example of the cute letters...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Books, Toys, Refrigerators, Potato Peeler and Gardens...

It’s been awhile since I posted a blog…so today it’s been a priority. However it is 5:30 P.M. and between getting snow tires on the car, grocery shopping, laundry, and taking the missionaries to lunch and then to a teaching appointment…..hummm here I am toward the end of our preparation day and just starting to think about a blog. We have been pretty busy the last couple of weeks, having closed several projects and opened up about 4 new ones.

I will start with our closing projects.

1. Our little library project in Donji Zabaru in Bosnia. This little village is squeezed in between the Croatian and Serbian borders. So you can imagine how hard they were hit by the homeland war. The little school there was bombed and had to be rebuilt. Which it has, but books have been in short supply and not on a priority list. We were contacted by one of the teachers who invited us to go up to the school; it’s a four hour drive from Banja Luka, and visit. We accepted her invitation and were touched by their need. The students have been sharing curriculum books for their Serbian/Literature classes. We wrote up the project and submitted it to our supervisors in Germany who approved it. We purchased the book s from a vendor in Banja Luka who delivered them to the school. Our closing ceremony was just wonderful! We arrived late because they were clearing land mines along one of the roads we were on and we had to wait for about an hour until the crews were finished or went to take a break. Understandably we were a little rattled. Especially me, I HATE TO BE LATE!!! But the school took it all in stride and what a treat it was for us! They called all the children down from their class rooms to thank us. The teachers, pricnciple and children just made our day! They were all so gratefull! What more could we ask for?  Maybe not driving home in a terrible rain storm, but oh well that comes with the territory. Here are a few of the pictures.

These are the darling students that are going to enjoy the new books!

Each box has about 6 books in them and each color is a different grade. 

I love the smiles on these kids!

 2. The rehabilitation hospital in Banja Luka is a huge facility that does a great and wonderful work. We have just put in another order for the hospital and Banja Luka Red Cross to share a container of wheelchairs. They have both partnered with us before to bring in wheelchairs so this is not a new partnership. As we were arranging for the wheelchair shipment one day they proudly showed us a beautiful space they had created for a waiting/play/occupational therapy room for children. They had received a grant to build the room from a local business, but money had run out and they had not enough funds to fill it with furniture and toys. We wrote up a project to help them complete the room. Waiting rooms for therapy, doctors’ visits, and even emergency trips are just about non-existent in some of the facilities like this one. People just wait in the overcrowded halls until their children are called in. I remember the cozy little rooms with books, toys and even fish tanks that we always waited in when I had children. What a stark difference! It’s to the hospitals credit that they worked so long and hard to turn that standard around! Here are a few pictures of this project.

We gave them this rug and some cars from the "Happy Factory" in Cedar City, Utah. They were a hit!

A play kitchen.
They have a full time person to over see the play area, even though parents are present. She plays with the kids and helps keep order. These chairs are soft and no sharp corners that  prevents any accidents.
Closing ceremony. Jim and I with two of the doctors at the hospital.

3. We have had an end of the year evaluation for our Karlovac Garden project. It was a project that involved members in a little branch just south of our capital city, Zagreb, here in Croatia. It was designed to be ran and implemented by local leadership. So other than going regularly to provide the necessary funds and see the progress, we stood back and let it happen. Here are a few notes of the evaluation meeting that the branch had.

A. 2 families got about 150 kilos of potato

B. Planted and has grown: beans, cucumbers, tomato, onion, hot peppers, watermelon, strawberries, French beans, beets, melon, and carrots

C. Not successful: broccoli, cauliflower, carrot (some), lettuce, corn /lettuce, parsley

Problems: red potato and worms, yellow potato had some black dots; assessed as a potato they eat but would not give to someone

D. Different for the next year: to plant a little earlier than this year (or in the season of planting certain plants), to fill the whole parcel, to save ash gathered during this winter for the spring and planting, to do a little reorganizing of individual garden places - elderly people (2 members) would be right next to the water, first to divide the land among the members and then ask non-members to participate, to do something with the water and pumping so there would always be water there

E. Nothing was stolen or missing (besides few rabbits ;) )

F. Some think of starting their own starting plants, while some plan to buy those

G. Sometime at the end of October 2011 they plan to plow the garden

This is a first of its kind of project in Croatia. We got started pretty late with it this year because the approval process took such a long time. It is a major initiative of the churches humanitarian department, similar to wheelchairs and water projects, so they often take some time to get going. But it’s a three year project and we are excited to see it happen next year. They learned a ton this year and might do a few things differently, but all in all we felt it went pretty well. A few pictures of our last visit to the garden.


4. We have a closing ceremony in Osijek, Croatia tomorrow for a commercial refrigerator that we purchased for them to replace their 30 year old worn out model that gobbles electricity. We bought a beautiful, energy efficient model that will not only give them years of service, but hopefully will save operating costs so that more of their budget can go towards buying the necessary food to distribute to their ever increasing numbers.

5. Here in Varazdin, where we live, we bought a commercial potato peeler for the Caritas (Catholic Relief) Organization. They run a soup kitchen that serves about 350 people a day. We haven’t had a closing ceremony for this one yet, but I think we might wait and do it after we buy the supplemental food that we got approval for today. The church doesn’t usually buy disposable items for our partners, but the need is so great that we asked for a one time allotment of monies to do this for the Red Cross soup kitchen in Banja Luka, Caritas in Banja Luka and the Varazdin Caritas. Shhhhhh..we haven’t told them yet that we got approval.  They will be so excited. Telling our partners that a project has been approved is one of the best parts of our Mission. We hope this will help supplement them over the winter months.
We are glad to see the hot weather ease up a bit, but it seems that we went right from hot summer to the cold of winter! We've broken out the coats, boots, gloves and windshield scraper. They are forcasting a VERY cold winter,,,but our hearts are warm and spirits are up! Love to you all....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Questions and Answers...

  Today I was answering an e-mail from one of my friends, thanks Michele for giving me inspiration, and as I was writing her back, I thought perhaps other people might be interested in some of the same kind of questions. So due to the magic of cut and paste... here are a few questions and my answers. I would love to have a little more interactive blog going here, so if any of you can think of questions, leave them on the comment section or e-mail me. I would love to try to answer them.

I was wondering what you have there for sewing? I know you're a genius with that sort of thing, but I can't imagine sewing machines are readily available? Do families there sew?

We have an ancient dinosaur of a sewing machine that belongs to the humanitarian department. We inherited it from the previous missionaries. So far I've only used it to mend and last Christmas our children sent us a down comforter so I made a duvet cover for it. It's so heavy,(the sewing machine)  that Jim has to carry it to the kitchen table for me, seriously, I think it was made 50 years ago! I keep telling Jim that before we leave we need to get the humanitarian department to flip for a new machine. We have found a shop or two that sell sewing machines, so I know they have them, but most families can't afford them. And fabric availability is another subject all together. They have shops for fabric, but nothing like JoAnns. They're just tiny little shops with VERY expensive fabric, mostly it's curtain or drape fabric, I think that's what most people make. It's interesting to me that they don't sew more, but I think it's not cost effective when you consider the price of fabric and electricity for them. I remember buying sheets to get cheap yardage at a time, but not here, it cost me almost $80.00 to make a duvet cover. I had to look high and low to find two flat sheets big enough for a king size comforter to sew together and when I did, they were $40.00 each! The situation is the same in Bosnia, but I have noticed that the shops there don't carry any notions at all, at least here in Croatia they carry a few. In Bosnia you have to go to an entirely different store that sells notions. Pretty nuts if you ask me. A bright spot in the sewing department, I have found a lady in Bosnia that will do whatever I need done for really pretty cheap. She made button holes and sewed buttons on my duvet cover, did I tell you my machine was old? , for about $5.00.

And what about yarn? Do they knit or crochet?

Wow! that has been one of my hardest hunts! Because we do so much traveling I have decided to knit. It's something I can do in the car. Now at one time I knew how to knit, but pretty much I've had to teach myself again. I found good quality yarn last winter in a little grocery store here in Croatia and made several scarf's for gifts. But when spring came the yarn supply at that store dried up. It's a German owned chain store and I think that's why they had it. There is a shop here in our little town of Varazdin that has yarn, but it's very expensive so I haven't bought yarn there at all. I'm too cheap, I've heard there are good sources in Zagreb but I haven't taken the time to go look. I'm not sure how much the women knit here in Croatia, but in Bosnia they make THE BEST wool slippers you ever want to wear! Our Bosnian translator took us to the market place in the center of Banja Luka and helped us buy some for us and for the missionaries for Christmas presents last year. They really are the warmest, best slippers I have ever worn! You have to wear socks with them because the wool is so scratchy, but wow! on these tile, no carpet floors over here they really have been a life saver. A couple of months ago I was walking and I kept seeing people come out from behind a hedge carrying all sorts of bags with produce in them, so I, being the inquisitve person that I am, proceeded to investigate! What an amazing thing I found! It was the wholesale produce market!!!! So now that I found where to buy cheap produce, I also found a yarn shop for the Bosnian wool. Because we are always trying to find things that will help our Tadic family become more self sufficient, I bought about $15.00 worth of yarn, it was a ton of yarn, and asked the grandma in our family, Nada, if she would start making me slippers to take home for all the kids and grandkids. I am going to pay her as she completes each pair and it will give her a little bit of income. I gave her a list of 37.... that should keep her busy for a while! If you are one of my children or grandchildren reading this, please act surprised when we get home with your gift!
   As far as crocheting, here in Croatia they are famous for their lace making, it's soooo beautiful, but it really isn't crocheting, they make it with very thin thread that they have on little wooden bobbins. The piece of lace is fastened with pins onto a ball like thing that they put in a basket. It really is fascinating...a dying art. Not very many people still do it, but our translator in Croatia is the grand daughter of one of Croatia's most famous lace makers. She has learned how to do it from her grandma. Last Christmas she gave us a small piece and I can't wait to come home and have it framed. This is a 10 minute piece about lace making in Croatia. Our translator, Tihana, is from the secound geographic area called Lepoglava. Her grand mother still lives there.

This piece of lace was made by Tihana. It is worth around $1,000.  I don't even want to think about how many hours went in to the making of it!  This piece is not mine. She was trying to sell it, not sure if she has yet. Any one interested? E-mail me and I will get you in touch with her.

 In Bosnia, the Roma crochet doily's and table runners, they stand at the border where cars are stopped and sell their pieces. They are really pretty nice and I have bought a table runner to bring home.

I loved the part of your blog about the catsup. Do they can peaches? Do they grow apples? Make zucchini bread?

I'm glad that you enjoyed the blog about catsup, we really had a great day making it and sure are enjoying the eating of it! Locally grown produce includes apples, potatoes, cabbage, lot's of peppers, onions, tomatoes, and berries in season. They do grow watermelons and almost anything that we would grow in our climate in Utah. I have not seen too many peaches, but our catsup making friends gave us some wonderful peach jam, so they must have them. We have seen some zucchini, but not a lot which makes me wonder if they ship them in from Greece. They sell cabbage, peppers, potatoes and onions at the markets in huge net bags. I wondered what any one would do with that much cabbage, but found out that they put it in huge containers and make sour cabbage, we would use it cut up to make sour crout, but they make sour cabbage leaves to make their traditional Sarma dish. It's like a cabbage roll made with rice, pork, beef or in the southern part of Bosnia where most the population is Muslim they make it out of lamb. Sarma recipe
   Bread is varied and amazingly wonderful here. I can't tell you that I've seen much sweet breads like banana or zucchini bread. They don't eat a ton of sweet things like we do. Even the beautiful pastries that we see in the bakery windows aren't really very sweet. They are a little disappointing to my taste buds, so it's easy to look the other way. But ohhhh the bread! Really my down fall!
I love the story of the pig project. Do they have chickens too?

The pig project is moving along. A little slow, but the pig barn is being built and we hope it will improve the life of the Tadic family. No they don't have chickens. They used to have a pretty going concern, having chickens in their yard by their house, selling eggs and doing pretty well at it, but one of their neighbors complained and the city made them stop. Their piece of property is about 3 miles away from their house which makes it hard to take care of chickens clear up there and I think they got a little burned by it all. When Yugoslavia broke up and communism was no more, every thing that was state owned at the time became privatized. The little piece of property that they farm was given to Grandpa by the government. They grow tomatoes, potatoes, onions, apples, cabbage and pigs! They can tomatoes, mostly sauce, and juice. Also they bottle grape and apple juice. Their canning jars are much different than ours. Where we have a two part lid and ring system, they have only a lid. I don't see them doing anything that needs processing, perhaps that's why. None of the stores have jars or lids like we have at home.
Two of my girls are taking classes in American Sign Language (ASL). Do you know anything about how the deaf people communicate there? I know there are a couple different sign languages, but I don't know what is used where.

That's a really good question. We have not seen anything in either country as far as as the deaf. That would be a good project....we'll look into it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banja Luka Youth in Bosnia and their day of service...


In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Church welfare plan, the First Presidency invites members worldwide to render service to the poor and needy. The length of this service may be flexible depending on the service rendered and may be undertaken at any time during 2011.
September 24, was chosen by the youth of the Banja Luka, BiH Group and their missionary leaders, Elder and Sister Erickson, to remember and celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Churches Welfare plan. We began with a short lesson on how important it was to learn to serve. How serving others and our communities strengthen us as well as our neighborhoods. We discussed how The Lords welfare plans benefits those in need as it develops self-reliance for the recipients and it benefits those who serve by giving them an opportunity to look beyond themselves and think of others.

Our service project was to go into our neighborhood and pick up garbage along the road side. It was a beautiful morning for the project. Wearing gloves, and each carrying a garbage bag we started down the road. “I never thought that there was this much trash along this street” said one of our participants. As we progressed, several people stopped us and asked what we were doing. “oh, thank-you for cleaning our neighborhood” one lady told us. Another man, a soldier who was guarding a nearby army facility said something to our youth, but it was only after we completed our project that they translated what he said to the missionaries. He asked them what they had done wrong to be sentenced to picking up garbage. They told him they had done nothing wrong, that they were doing it as an act of service. He didn’t believe them and still insisted that they had done something wrong. It was at that point that the youth told us that in their country picking up garbage was only done by the really bad teenagers. As missionaries we just wanted to hug them for their willingness to serve and do what they had been asked to do, even though as it turned out, culturally, we had subjected them to be viewed as the worst of the worst instead of the best of the best! Never complaining and only telling us after the project was completed. Our youth are bright shining stars in our eyes, obedient and willing to serve as they strive to live and learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Vedrana, Victoria, Vanja and Valentina Tadic