Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New car smell....yummm!

After months of anticipation, we did it; we finally got a new car! It's beautiful! It was a little hard to part with our old faithful, but oh boy, do we love the new car smell!!! It was painful to take it to Bosnia this last week and see it get all bugged! We paid a little neighbor boy to wash it for us and as soon as he finished, it rained. Just enough to get it all spotted, but at least the bugs were off, until we drove back to Croatia. We can't win, can we?? Our little friend in Bosnia might really like us by the end of this summer. Getting it registered and insured was two whole days of red tape and frustration, especially for our friends the Robinsons, who are the office couple. What a nightmare! But we finally accomplished the deed and drove off with a whole new appreciation for the new car dealers in America that just take care of that stuff for you and then you go pick up the new plates at the dealer!

Ater two days! Yeah! Our car was registered...Now to go show the insurance people and get the Licence Plates and the papers to get us across the Bosnian Boarder.

Can you tell that Jim just puts up with me and the camera? Elder Robinson was a trooper. He came from Slovenia two days in a row to get this done. He was pretty happy to get it finished!

While Jim was putting the plates on a guy from the insurance agency came running out. Evidently, THEY are the ones who are suppose to do that. NOW someone wants to help us!

We had our visiting authority come to Banja Luka to visit. Elder Wondra and his wife came and visited with us, Ed Rowe and our little Tadic family. We had a wonderful visit with the Tadic's and they moved up their baptism date to the 5th of June. Ed Rowe, the current group leader, is expected in Provo on the 19th which was their previous date, so they moved it up a bit to accommodate his schedule. He really wanted to be there for the occasion so we were so happy to see that happen!

This is our little family that is getting baptized on June 5th. Every one except little Tina, she isn't old enough, but she will get a childs blessing on the same day.

 Our teenage kids who will be attending EFY in Germany the last part of July. Jim and I will be driving a van up there with our group and a few from Croatia. We love our GPS. Couldn't live without it!

Jim checking out the map and drawings of the water project in Liskovac, Bosnia.  We might need a short term water specialist on board for this one.

Just an example of one of the houses that would benefit from the water project in Liskovac.

A Mosque in the villiage of Liskovac.

This last week we visited a little village in Bosnia by the boarder of Croatia. We met with the city government and hope to put together a water project for them. They are a little village of about 1,000 people, mostly Muslim, who left, or fled for their lives, when the war started. They are starting to return, but there is no infrastructure for water. They have wells in their front yards and septic in the back yards. This evidently is not a good thing. The city of Gradiska, has water for them, but they can't afford the pipes to bring it into their little town. We feel like it's a pretty straight forward project and hope to get the ball running on it soon. The city people were so kind; of course we told them that we couldn't make any promises, but that we would try. One of the men said, "It doesn't matter, we appreciate you coming out here and visiting us. Even if it doesn't work, to know that you care is wonderful". They we so grateful, just for our visit. We so hope we can make it work for them. Jim is on his computer right now working on it, do you see who does all the work around here?

We also went and visited our first agricultural project this week. We were so pleased. Here is a copy of the short e-mail that I sent to our short term specialist in Salt Lake:
Dear Elder and Sister Cullimore,
We just got back from Karlovac and thought I'd give you a little up date. We met with the Branch President and the sister that owns the land. She signed the contract and was pleased to get the money. We felt a little bad about it however, because she immediately put it into two envelopes. One for her tithing. And one for the government. The tax on the land was 1,000 Kuna a year! She had about 1,200 kuna left over. Divide that by 5, that's a little over $200.00. She was happy though and felt good about it. Her daughter is getting married next month and she will be able to help her a little.
The branch president had decided, because of the lateness of the year to go ahead a start the garden with people putting in what they could afford. I think he footed the loan for the land to be plowed and tilled. After fuel costs the man who did the plowing only made about 20 Kuna. They will give him vegetables, I'm sure. They have worked hard and when we went to the land we saw, corn about 5 inches tall, tomatoes, peppers, radishes, squash, watermelon, beans ...you name it, they had planted it, even little plants to keep the moles away. We were so exceptionally proud of them! They had just taken the ball and run with it!!! They have been taking water out to the site in buckets to water, so they were excited to be able to get water to it this weekend.
They were so thank-full. Our sweet little sister told us that on the first day after the ground had been plowed they all met at the land. It was decided that they should kneel and pray to thank Heavenly Father for this blessing that had come into their lives. They knelt there in the dirt as a little branch, prayed, and when it was over the Elderly Sister that you met at the meeting, picked up a handful of dirt. Kissed it and cried. We were so touched by their gratitude. If ever you feel this is not a worthwhile program, please visualize this little branch kneeling in prayer.

Thank-you for taking the time to come and help us. We never could have done it without you. Hope all is well.
Love ya, Elder and Sister Erickson

I love cut and paste, it's so much easier than retelling the story all over again! Forgive my laziness.

We also had a closing at our children’s home. We had sheets and duvet covers made for them. We also bought a ton of wood toys and puzzles and a basketball standard. Our son Rusty had sent a couple of ball hats over with our wheelchair short term specialists. And we got to give them to my adopted "Brothers". They were thrilled. One of them was sick, so he was especially happy to see me and receive his gift. Thank-you Russ! They were a hit! I'm sorry that this project is over, we don't have an excuse to go visit any more. Hummm. I'm sure I can think of something!

My adopted brothers and I at the Childrens home. They loved the hats, can you tell??

We stayed and watched them play basketball for quite a while, they loved it! They have a time that they can come to the basketball room to play, so everyone who is able and wants to can have a turn. I had wished when we saw how much fun they had that we would have bought two standards. I'm sure they could have used one outside as well.

Today we have spent most of the day in Zagreb helping one of our member families get their little girl to the hospital there. Driving in Zagreb is a night mare! It's like driving in downtown Manhattan (very narrow streets) only with tram-bys thrown in the mix and pedestrians wondering out in the middle of traffic. I was amused but not surprised today to see the dichotomy that is present in all of Croatia. A busy, metropolitan, European city. Traffic everywhere, business people, shoppers and anything else you would see in a big city. And then you see the maintenance guys, picking up garbage and sweeping with brooms that look like witches brooms, something out of the Wizard of Oz, a string tied around a bundle of sticks. I wish I would have had a camera with me. It's hard for me to describe. Maybe it's the janitor in me, but I can't help but think how inefficient they are! But I suppose they get the job done, and who am I???

Well, it's almost time for us to go to English classes, so I better get some pictures posted and get on the move on. I made cookies for them this afternoon and asked the Elders if we could learn some vocabulary words that included ingredients for cookies. Thought that might jazz things up a bit.

As always, we are grateful for all those sweet e-mails we get and keep 'em coming! We are in the habit of getting on the computer in the mornings and Jim always says, "Well, who loves you today?" It's always fun to tell him something besides, Circut City, R.C. Willeys, and Screaming Penny!

Have a great week...I know we will. Did I tell you that we Love it Here!!!!
I just read this post....sorry it's so long. Didn't mean to make it a book this week!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wheelchairs, wheelchairs and more wheelchairs....

This week has been all about wheelchairs. We had been looking forward to our short term specialist coming from Salt Lake City for several months now. Elder and Sister Schnebly have a medical backgrounds, he is a physical therapist and she is a long time nurse. They came with Eric Wunderlich who is, "Da Man" over wheelchairs for the church. He directs the short term specialists and came with the Schneblys so he could train them. He is also the person who meets with the manufacturers all over the world and works out costs and agreements with them for production and shipping.
We met with each of our partners or cooperating organizations and talked with them about future wheelchair projects. Each one of them wants more wheelchairs from the church. We learned about the training program that the church is implementing with all future wheelchair projects. Who would have thought there was so much that went into fitting someone in a wheelchair? But really there is. The name of the game is to make sure the wheelchair is a correct fit for the patient and something they really need instead of a walker, crutch or cane. The church also provides those products. An ill fitting wheelchair could do more damage than good. We will have a training session for each of our partners before they get a new shipment in. It will be similar to the Neo-natal training done by our short term specialist. We are excited to get them back here!
We love hearing some of the stories that our partners told us about why the wheelchairs are so important to the people here in Croatia and Bosnia. Apparently, the health care system that is socialized medicine, allows for patients to get a prescription for a wheelchair for certain disabilities. But there are others that they just say, sorry, you are not eligible. For instance, someone who has lost a leg due to diabetes is not eligible because they can use the other leg and a crutch. They don't take into account the general health of the person with advanced diabetes often does not have the strength to use a crutch. Another instance is in stroke victims. They are not eligible for a wheelchair, because they "might" get better some day. So you see it is going to be the elderly in both these two cases that are helped by the churches wheelchair program. Often, even when a wheelchair is approved, unless the person has money, (can you read between the lines here) it could be months before a patient actually gets their wheelchair.

One of our partnering organizations told us this story: "We often go to the homes of the people to give them their wheelchairs because they do not have the income, cars or health to come to us. On one occasion I was out in a rural area getting a lady fit for a wheelchair. We made sure it was the right size and when we were done she asked if we would push her out the door to the terrace. We did so. She was very emotional and started crying. We asked what the matter was, her response was, "I haven't been out on this terrace for 6 years, now I can.Thank-you,  Thank-you!” He said he was reminded how important it was, the work that he did. And we we're humbled to be reminded in such a wonderful way of how important the wheelchair and humanitarian program of the church is.

Eric Wunderlich told us that the average donation for the Church of Jesus Christ Humanitarian Program is about $10.00 per month/per family. Let's think about this, that's a trip to McDonalds, a couple of boxes of breakfast cereal, a couple of movie tickets. Wow! That was mind boggling to me to think that $10.00 per family/ per month could do so much good!!!! He reminded us that not one penny of the donations go to overhead, the church pays that cost out of other funds. I read a story the other day about a little boy selling lemonade to cover the churches cost of one wheelchair, it's another good story about how life changing a wheelchair can be,  HERE 

Erick told us that it's not uncommon for donations to come in from widows or others families that are struggling financially. Sometimes the donation is only $2.50, or $3.00  per month. Not all that donate are wealthy. We have wonderful, loving, giving people among us and I am so proud to be a missionary and be able to be a part of this great humanitarian work.

Last Saturday we went to our friends Slava Celebration. For those of you who don't know about Slava let me tell you.....Mostly it's about really, really good food! Slava is a celebration of the families’ patron saint. The Saint is of paternal origin, so it goes back centuries. So it is the father’s family’s patron saint. If you are female, you celebrate your husband’s Slava. You still go to the celebration of your childhood if you want, but it is no longer YOUR SLAVA, We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon and ate wayyyyy too much amazing food!

Sunday was Mother's Day and I think I had my first real bout of home sickness. It was just a little hard to be away from all my darling children on that day. But being around our little Bosnian family snapped me out of it and I have mostly recovered. Our Elders got to Skype their mothers from our little apartment in Varazdin. after we hurried home from Bosnia.  We loved seeing them so excited and nervous to talk to their families. I wondered if my boys were ever that excited to talk to me when they were on their mission?

Our host family.

This is the Slava table, It was so elegant and beautiful. The twins mother had just worked overtime to make everything wonderful. The Slava is three days. This was the second day. First day is family, Second day is friends and neighbors, Third day is for anyone who couldn't come to the first two days. Predrag is our translator in Bosnia and this is his girlfriends family/our friends :)

Border Crossing on Mother's Day afternoon. It was the last day of Slava and every one was going back to work in Germany and Austria. We got diverted off the main road and ended up in a line that someone told us was a three hour wait. We stayed about 15 mins. and then Jim just left the line, made a u-turn and wound around some unknown streets, ending up in a line that got us through in about an hour. I had been praying, so worried about getting home in time for the Elders to Skype. Prayers are answered! Even in traffic jams!
Our meeting with the Red Cross director in Banja Luka. Her deputy director is a physical therapist and between them they will decide what chairs they need and when/where the training will take place. We told them we would build into the project a wheelchair ramp up the stairs to the Red Cross building so reciepients didn't have to be fitted in the parking lot.
She was pretty happy when we left!
Zagreb was decorated with Red Cross Flags in honor of their anniversary this last week. I think is was like the 133rd.
Our meeting with the Red Cross in Zagreb.

Our meeting with the Ante Schola, the manager of Caritus (Catholic Relief Organization) in Varazdin. We are bringing a shipment of 250 wheelchairs into their organization arriving sometime in June. The Zagreb area will help with distribution.

Our new friends,  the Schnebly's, short term wheelchair specialists. Erick is teaching them how to enter a project into CHas. The humanitarian project computer program. We were so tired by that time that I think we were pretty much toast.
Our Salt Lake City guests at our church in Varazdin. It was a great week!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


We have a wonderful apartment here in Croatia, it's cozy, warm, and comfortable and apparently I think I know my way around it in the dark. WRONG!!! Last night I'm not sure I was awake, I headed down the hallway to the bathroom and WACK! I was rudely awakened by my nose cracking into a cement wall! I hate to be a baby, but it really hurt! I found my way to the bathroom a little dazed, checked to see if there was blood. Nope, I was fine, except for feeling a little foolish, so I carefully found my way back to bed. Only to wake up a few hours later with a terrible headache!! Wonder Why? The nose is a little "out of joint" tender, but otherwise fine and I now have a better understanding when someone says that they have, "hit the wall" or it's like "hitting a cement wall". We use those idioms, (here we go with idioms again) all the time, but until last night I have never really had personal experience with a cement wall and my nose slamming into it!

We signed a contract today with the Croatian Red Cross to help clean another 1,000 wells. The project will start in June and will go until June of 2012. Right before we come home. So it will be an ongoing well project for the rest of our mission. We are excited to get it going and look forward to being in the field and seeing the process first hand.

Yesterday we went toy shopping! It was such a fun thing to do! We bought wood toys, puzzles, educational things, blocks and just all sorts of developmental toys for our children’s home. On the 19th of May we will go visit them one last time and close our project with them. We purchased 90 sets of bedding for one of the children’s wards. We purchased them from our local high school.
We are not going to Bosnia this week until the weekend because we are supposed to be in Zagreb to pick up our new car on Friday! Yeah for us! We have so appreciated having a car...we haven't really minded that it's old and looks kind-of terrible. When you turn the key..It starts and that's all that matters. But the powers that be thought we needed a new one. So Friday is the day. At least for this car. Our leaders in Germany also feel like they would like us to have ANOTHER new car in about 3 months. Long story short, this one we are getting on Friday was ordered and purchased in Zagreb, Croatia. Germany wants us to have one that is purchased in Slovenia so that it will have Slovenia license plates on it. They feel it would be better/safer for us to not drive with Croatian license plates in Bosnia. It takes about 3 months for a new car to be ordered. So how spoiled is that? Two new cars in one mission? We are grateful for good people who watch out for our safety and care about what we drive.

We will go to Banja Luka for Church this week-end, but will hurry home so that our elders can call their mothers for Mother's Day. We have been trying to get a few dry runs going so that there won't be any problems with Skype. The Elders are really excited for their calls!

We visited another hospital last week in Bosnia and on the way home found this beautiful little spot. It was like something off a post card. But then all of this area is just stunningly beautiful! It is especially gorgeous in the spring when the country side has all turned to green.

He was milling corn.

These little buildings all have mills in them that are powered by the little waterfalls.

As we were walking down the path, we were talking about how great it would be if we could buy some of the milled flour. Then we came upon this guy, selling corn, wheat, and flax flour.

Well, except for a tender nose and wounded pride, our week has been pretty uneventful. We have visitors coming from Salt Lake to talk to and train our partners that bring in wheelchairs. So next week will be a busy one.

How could I forget!!!! We got a package! And WOW! What fun we had opening it! Just like Christmas! But it was Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day and let's spoil our parent's day! It was so heavy; Jim could hardly get it up the stairs to the elevator! I really was pampered with all sorts of new clothes for summer and Jim got matching ties. Everything fits perfect and it's so fun to go to my closet and pick out something new. What a pick me up! Thanks Kids for everything! We have the most wonderful children ever!

Some of the Country side in Bosnia, there is a fortress on the right side of this picture. Just Beautiful!
 Another beautiful view along the way... We take forever getting somewhere because we feel compelled to get out and take pictures.

The Tadic Family brought us these beautiful works of art. They are brown eggs to begin with, boiled with onion skins, So pretty.

This little piggie went to market...This is the same grocery store that usually has a horses head in the case. I just never have my camera with me, but one of these days I'll get lucky!
Do you love the tail?

This little piggie stayed home....for Easter Dinner. We saw these guys taking turns turning the spit and  stoking the fire. It's traditionally the mens job to do this.

Easter Sunday with the Tadic Family and our friends, Elder and Sister Robinson, who are the office couple that serve in Slovenia.

The Robinsons came and stayed the weekend of Easter with us in Banja Luka. The Tadic family loved them, especially Elder Robinson's "high 4 1/2  instead of high 5's"  he cut half of one of his fingers off right before they left on their mission. The Tadic family thought it was halarious! We had a wonderful week end with them in Banja Luka.