Sunday, March 27, 2011

Five Major Initiatives...

The church, as many of you know, has 5 major initiatives. They are:

1-Accessibility to clean water.

2- Accessibility to mobility..wheelchairs.

3- Vision care.

4. Neo-natal resuscitation .

5-Food production.

1. Clean Water, So far in our mission, we have participated in one clean water project, working with the Croatian Red Cross we have supported the ongoing project that was set up by the previous humanitarian couple. This year the church budgeted another water project as well. We have met several times with the Red Cross representative over clean water and I believe this week we will sign the contract to clean another 1,000 wells. That will keep 5 teams of workers busy for the entire year. If you could see the beautiful Croatian countryside, you would understand the need for clean wells. These little villages are so spread out and far away from a central water source so they depend on a family well system. We are working in Eastern Croatia where the wells were contaminated by evil doers during the homeland war. After raping, torturing and eventually killing those who lived in these little villages, they disposed of their bodies and the carcass of farm animals by throwing them in the wells...thus polluting the water. Fast forward 16 years. The decomposed remains are still in the wells, but those who fled their farms are coming back. And they are using the wells. They feed their livestock and themselves with this contaminated water. The Red Cross teams, funded in part by our church, comes in, pumps the water out, puts a man down the well where he brings up whatever the source of the contamination is, they let the well fill up again, test the water and repeat the process again if necessary. Spring flooding is also a problem. Some of the wells that have been cleaned, need to be cleaned again because of spring flooding. It seems like a never ending problem, but again, the area is not conducive to a central water system. We are looking at one little village however, that we hope to figure out a better way. We will go visit with the mayor of the city, the Red Cross Representative and some of the residents in the next week or two.So that is our work with water.

2. Wheelchairs. Many of my previous blogs have been about wheelchairs. We have been privileged to work with several different partners in bringing wheelchairs into both Bosnia and Croatia. The wheelchair program is changing a bit this year, however. Gone are the days when the wheelchairs will be just handed out. From now on the church is spending a lot of time, money, and effort to train our partners in how to fit and dispense the wheelchairs. We look forward to that new training, sometime in May.

3. Vision Care. We have not done anything with vision care. We would like to do something in Bosnia, so it is on our radar. One of the Doctors that we visited with in Prijador, said his wife was an eye surgeon, so we have a little bit of an in there and plan to follow up with it. We suspect that they don't have a great screening process for lazy eye. We see many children and adults that look like this might be a problem.

4. Neo-natal resuscitation. One of my most favorite projects thus far that we have been a part of. It was amazing, and if you missed my post on this project, here is where you can go.NRT

5. Food Production. This is the newest of the major initiatives. This last week we had our Agricultural Specialist come out from Salt Lake City teach and to train us about the food production initiative. We are hoping to start a gardening project in a city about two hours south of us. Karlovac is like so many Croatian towns, surrounded by farm land and rich with an agricultural culture. We have 6 L.D.S. families who want to start a garden project. The church will provide the start up monies, land lease, tools, seeds, fertilizer, and anything else that is needed for the first two years. Then all costs are turned over to the members. The project will be directed by, not us, but the local branch president. Yeah! But we will be involved as much as we are wanted and our time allows. We need to write up the project and submit it to Germany when all the numbers and plan is developed by our little branch. Hopefully that will be this week sometime. We met with the families involved and could tell they were really excited about it. We need to work fast as spring is right upon us and time to plant is not far off.

We had 10 other people, besides us, at church in Bosnia last week. Of course we had our  Agricultural specialist and his wife and our translator, Predrag (that we paid) , but this week....drum roll PLEASE !!!! We had 9 investigators and us, okay, all nine are in one family, but they all came! Yeah! We loved it! Mom, Dad, Grandma and all the kids! We taught about the Church of Christ during His lifetime and the apostasy, next week we have conference and we tied in the lesson to apostles and prophets to help them prepare for conference. It should be a good week. I can tell you, our music is pathetic, oh how I wish I could sing! Oh how I wish I could sing in Serbian, and Oh how I wish we had a piano, a piano player and a few missionaries that speak the language. Our little gathering in Bosnia is truly an infant branch. But their hearts are pure and they are like sponges. We love our Sundays in Bosnia! They have committed to baptism in June.

We miss you all, love to hear from you and appreciate all your support! It is such a blessing to us to be able to be here and serve this mission. We are forever changed.

Our meeting with the interested families that want an augricultural project for Karlovac.

Elder and Sister Cullimore in front of our church in Varazdin.
They are the short term specialists that came to visit this last week

After the meeting at the church we went to the sight where they want to lease the land.
Every one of these strips of land might belong to a different family.
Hopefully we will be able to reach a lease agreement with the owner of this land.

This is the only picture of the van that we got. It was filthy dirty, gross with cigarette smoke , 250 kelometers on it and leaking oil.  Live and learn in Croatia. Never trust the lowest price on anything. You get what you pay for.
Tina...Her first day at church.
We have a nursery manual that I try to have something for her to do while Sacrament meeting is going on.
She loves it!
We had dinner after church. I made jello, and chicken creapes.
They had never had either one before. It was a hit!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grandma gets a new wheelchair!

Red Cross wheelchair distribution in a little village (Cipen) in Eastern Croatia.
Red Cross distribution in Eastern Croatia.

Grandma gets a new wheelchair!
  We had three people come to church today! Yeah! Vickie, her mother and one of her sisters! We sang in terrible Serbian, Jim blessed and passed the Sacrament, (in Serbian), and I gave the talk, in English with Vickie translating for us.  I'm sure it doesn't seem like much to most, but to us it was amazing. We often have just Jim and I, and sometimes Vickie. So to have her mother and sister, well, we were thrilled! I taught a lesson on the "Tree of Life"  with the emphasis on AFTER they partook of the fruit, there were people in the big and spacious building that pointed and scoffed at them. Vickie's mother totally got it! She said after, "It's just like us, we worry about what our friends, family and neighbors might think of us when we join the church. But we need to hang on to the iron rod and do what we feel is right in our hearts and ignore them." YES! YES! YES! I loved it! Wow! Being a missionary is great! We hope next week to get the other family members to church with us, they have committed to come and we also have a couple from America that will be with us as well. They are the short term specialists over food production/agriculture.  The Tadic's have a little piece of property that they farm. Our specialist will look at it, talk to Drasco, Vickie's Dad, and hopefully as soon as the church is recognized in Bosnia we will be able to help them, maybe start an agricultural project with them to give them a little boost to becoming more self reliant. That's certainly not a sure thing, but we would love to see it happen if there is any way possible. 
   We had two more closings this week, the one that we had on the Roma Preschool was on Croatian national news and one of our wheelchair/soup kitchen projects in Osijek was on the National news as well as in newspapers. I still am not used to all the media attention, it scares me to death. The second closing we had was in a small village called Cipen in Eastern Croatia. We distributed 15 wheelchairs to people at their Red Cross. This had to be one of my favorite closings so far. A few local newspapers were there taking pictures, but by no means the paparazzi that we are trying to get used to. Just good wonderful , volunteers that sat us around an old wooden table in a freezing cold storage room. They gave us a drink of water, (in place of coffee) and talked to us about some of their challenges and concerns. Once a week they do a clothes exchange in the community. Never enough children's clothes. Never enough linens, towels, blankets and bedding. Times are hard, the staple of life is bread. They spread lard on the bread and salt it, but now, people don't have the money to buy the bread. Often these volunteers bring flour in from their own homes to make cakes for the people who come to the clothes exchanges.  It really broke my heart to sit around this table and hear their real concerns. Always ending, "but after the rain, comes the sunshine". They are not devoid of hope. Or are they short on gratitude. You would have thought we gave them the world, 15 wheelchairs. Goodness, we wished we had done so much more!  Needless to say we  have done a lot of traveling  this week and to tell you the truth if feels really good to be home in Croatia tonight! 
   This next week we will prepare for our specialist to arrive, meet with the agricultural school here in Varazdin, meet with the Red Cross in Zagreb about our new water project, inspect one our last assigned missionary apartment, and meet with one of the members in Zagreb who is helping us put together an amazing program of International Dancers from BYU.  They have put us on their calendar and will be coming to Croatia in June. Now we just need to find them a venue, a partner organization and a place to stay for almost 50 people. That's what we are up to here in our Beautiful, Beautiful Croatia! The snow is melted, the sun is shining, and we are looking forward to spring!
  I can't tell you how much we love you all, Your thoughtful, encouraging and supportive e-mails and comments mean the world to us. We are missing home and family, but feel so blessed to be here and do what we can to help the good people here in Croatia and Bosnia. 

To those who care: We just finished Chapter 11 in  "Jesus The Christ". 
I am far behind in marking the references however. Only done with  chapter 4 on that one. Ya gotta love Talmage, especially when he uses himself as a reference! 
This is after the ceremony in Osijek. They are still interviewing Jim.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Crayons....who doesn't remember opening a new box?


Who doesn't remember opening a new box of crayons as a child?. I remember every year, the first day of school with all it's anticipation and excitement of the new school year. Our teachers would go to their little supply closet, bring out a box and usually ask a student to help pass them out. They came in black boxes, I can't remember the name brand. It didn't really matter because they were new, not one was broken and they! they smelled just wonderful! I loved the day that we got new crayons and water color paint boxes with the little paint dips that popped out when the color was gone and you could go ask the teacher for a new one to snap into place. Ahhh my brain went back to Polk Elementary School and all those wonderful memories of being a child and growing up in a time long past. Even as my children went to school, no longer were school supplies just handed out on the first day of school, but our trips to ShopKo down on 12th Street were always an adventure, (usually a very expensive one) that always included buying Crayons for the pencil boxes.
    As a mom, I had a love-hate relationship with crayons. I loved seeing my children be creative, making pictures for me to hang on the fridge or shaving and melting crayons with an iron between waxed paper, then cutting the paper into beautiful, colorful autumn leaves. I loved getting art projects from school and seeing them beam with pride. I hated scraping melted crayons off the car seat when one would be left in the hot sun, I hated scrubbing  walls off that had been colored on, sometimes even signed with a scrawling little signature of the perpetrator, I really hated it when I forgot to check a pocket and washed a crayon, only to find out that my whole load of wash had been ruined in the dryer. And of course it was always a battle to get the crayons picked up and put away after they had been used.
   Why you ask, the sudden interest and walk down memory lane about  crayons???  Well, twice this week I realized that Croatian children do not have crayons. Yep... how can a whole nation of children grow up without crayons???  Coloring books and crayons are just a standard for our children aren't they? It's kind-of like they don't have pumpkin pie either. How UN American can you get?  Oh right...I'm not in Kansas anymore!
   We closed a project this week at our little Roma Preschool. They were so ticked with their new bathroom. By the looks of the toothpaste everywhere, they had been having a lesson on brushing teeth in their new digs.
The children greeted us with great enthusiasm, do you think they saw the bag of candy I had in my hands? The national television station was there as well to cover the occasion, a bathroom in a Roma preschool? It must have been a slow news day. Anyway, Jim and our translator did a great job. It's a little two room school house, three rooms, counting the bathroom. It was so cold, even with all the activity and numbers, the cold was chilling. I wondered how in the world those children and the teacher could stand to be in such cold? We met with the mayor and left a challenge for the town to match our funds to put in a heating system for them. We gave them three weeks to come up with an answer. So that project is still pending.
    At one point the teacher brought out little pages for the children to color. They looked like they had been printed off on a computer, then she brought out a couple of cans with colored pencils standing up in them. The children eagerly reached for a pencil and began their work. What no CRAYONS???? These kids are pre-school. They hardly have the dexterity to handle a fat crayon at that age, but a pencil?? Okay, I said to myself, I'll go find some crayons and bring them next time I come. You know, I am on a shopping mission, right? So yesterday afternoon, Jim and I were headed to the store when one of my neighbors stopped and asked us how we were doing. Her little boy, Fran, had just gotten out of the hospital from getting his tonsils out. So I decided that I should buy him a coloring book and crayons...What a joke! I went into the school supply isle, thinking ...hum, where is the wall of crayons? After looking for some time, I finally found one, one and only one mind you, package of roll up crayons. They cost 19 kuna or about $4.00. After searching long and hard we finally found a coloring book in the regular book section for about 23 kuna. No wonder they don't have crayons and coloring books...who in Croatia has money to spend on that. No demand, no supply, I guess.
   We bought them and last night I ran them down to our little Fran, bless his heart, he didn't even know what they were. His mommy had to show him what to do with them. Crayons, one of my wonderful childhood memories, not even on the radar here in Croatia. I am on the hunt though, for affordable little treasures that we can give our sweet little preschoolers.
Roma pre-school bathroom--before

                                                               After- New fixtures

                                            Our Pre-school Children...they are sooo adorable!

                                                                         The Paparazzi
My hope is that  for all of you who read this blog, that you will gather whatever little ones you have around you this week and go buy them a new box of crayons, make a memory for them and while you are doing it remind them that there our children in Croatia who don't even know what a crayon is. How blessed we are to have crayons. It's just the little things, isn't it?

My Reading Goal-Jesus the Christ:
      Chapters 5 and 6- finished
      References marked in scriptures- finished chapter 4

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Boarder Crossings...a weekly exercise in patience.

Okay so this week I think I might whine a little. All in all we think we have the best mission ever! Croatia is like living in the Garden of Eden as far as the Balkan countries go. Oh, excuse me, as far as Southeastern Europe goes. That term is much more politically correct. When we reflect on all our blessings, a great apartment, with a wonderful land lord, a car, a bakery /grocery store right across the street, a charming little town to live in, a washing machine, wonderful leadership in both our mission and in our humanitarian area, darling young elders that we love and get the picture. We are pretty blessed, so exactly what do I have to whine about? Well it's this...
                                          BOARDER CROSSINGS
Once a week we go to Banja Luka, Bosnia from Croatia, so of course we have to cross the boarder. Usually we are able to zip right through going that direction. There are times when the trucks are lined up for miles, but Jim is pretty good at navigating our little car around them and into a car only lane.  At the Croatian boarder they ask for passports, stamp us and we are off. Then we cross a hugh bridge where our church name tags come off and we become volunteers instead of missionaries by the time we  get to the Bosnian boarder, where it's something different every time. The only sure thing is that we will wait. They ask for passports, insurance papers, and car registration. We have given up on understanding their requests and just give them the blue folder with every thing in it. Then they have to find what they want. Some times we get greeted in Serbian/Bosnian and then when they find out we are Americans from Utah, they say, "Utah Jazz" Stockton to Malone, (they are little behind the times) and they wave us through. Gotta love the Utah Jazz! Next we have to stop at customs, Do we have anything to declare? Cigarettes, liquor? Nope, none of that. We see lot's of cars being stopped and searched, but have yet to have that wonderful experience.  After customs we are free and into a little town called Gradiska. Banja Luka is another 45mins-60mins away, through one little village after another.
     On the way back to Croatia, it's quite another story... When we get to Gradishka we are greeted by many street sellers. They sell, black market C.D's, pathetic little pictures of Christ with tears of blood down his face, woollen hand knitted socks, (which by the way are the warmest little things I've ever worn!)  Crochet doilies and table runners, little crocheted baskets and boxes of cigarettes. Then of course you have the Roma children darting in between cars just begging. Usually the traffic is horrendous! Trucks backed up for miles and to get around them you have to just be really brave and drive in the oncoming lane, hoping that no one decides to come through in a place where they can't get around you. So when you finally get in a car lane and start the waiting process you are an easy target for the sellers to come and try to get you to buy something. I feel so mean when I shake my head, "NO" and look away. Last week there was this little Roma boy that I watched almost get hit by a car. Nobody seemed to care or even to notice. But I thought I was going to witness a tragedy right on the spot. I can't even describe the chaos that is present.
We go to the boarder station and get passports stamped. And then cross the river again into Croatia. Going through the Croatian side is also a long process, But because we have again become missionaries, they send us on our way with out incident. Again, we have never had our car searched.
I got a few pictures for you this week as we were coming back to Croatia from Bosnia. All of them were taken from the car, so sorry about the bad quality.
Beautiful crochet doilies and baskets...

A little idea of the traffic that we just navigated.

Almost our turn! Yeah! This is getting out of Bosnia.

This River is the boarder line between the two countries. Sorry, I can't remember it's name. I will write in down when I go this week.

Wait in line again to get into Croatia. This was an easy day, sometimes traffic is clear over the bridge. The Sunday after the Serbian Christmas was really awful.

Almost through....Not bad, about 45 mins, from entering Gradishka to getting into Croatia.

We are always grateful that we aren't on a bus....the bus gets emptied, they all stand out in the cold and get passports checked and then are allowed to get back on.

Okay, this has nothing to do with boarder crossings, but I told Jim that I thought I could get this look down, and maybe people would stop dead in their tracks and give ME money! Of all the nerve, he told me I'd have to lose a little weight. No one would believe that I needed money to eat!

After being here almost six months we finally got our land lord and his family over for dinner. We had a great time!

Our Grand daughters 1st grade class sent us another Flat Stanley, We took him grocery shopping with the Elders.

Flat and our apartment building.

Flat and our Varazdin Castle,

Elder Anderson, Elder Knighton, Elder Lee
With sad hearts we say "Good-bye" to two of our Varazdin Elders.
Elder Knighton  is going to Osijek and Elder Lee in on his way to Zadar.
We get a new missionary to be Elder Anderson's companion on Weds.

Update on my reading of Jesus the Christ:
March 1, 2011- almost done with chapter 5, all references marked in my scriptures up to chaper 4.