Sunday, July 24, 2011

International EFY Europe: Believe. Hope. Endure.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. 13th Article of Faith

What a great week we had! We traveled to Blaubeuren, Germany with our Tadic family teenagers for EFY. We left Sunday night and went as far as Zagreb where we stayed in the mission home over night, picking up two darling Croatian girls that rode a bus from their home town in Zadar, it's on the Croatian coast, and then the office couple brought them to the mission home to meet up with us. President and Sister Rowe hosted us, fed us a wonderful meal and had a fireside for the kids. It was a wonderful way to start our trip. The next morning we got up at o dark hundred, which would be 3:30 in the morning, we herded the cats, no, did I say that? We herded the kids to the van and only an hour late met up with Elder and Sister Taylor in Ljubljana, Slovenia. They had a van full of Croatian and Slovenian teenagers. We ate a little breakfast and away we went.

Dinner with President and Sister Rowe in the mission home.

The Tadic teenagers have a cousin, Victor, he's from Serbia and they wanted him to go to EFY with them. Even though he isn't a member, we made arrangements for him to come providing he cut his hair to be in accordance with church standards. He showed up with his long hair. Our cute Mission Mom made short work of it and he absolutly LOVED his new look! He was always surrounded by cute girls, I think that helped a lot!

Arriving in Germany we couldn't help but love the coolness that the soaking rain had brought. We had been so sweltering in the Bosnia/Croatian heat that the cool felt like a great gift. But really? Rain for the whole week??? Be careful what you ask for is my new slogan to live by. It did rain all week; we drove up there in a driving rain and drove home in a driving rain.

But for all the rain, it didn't dampen the spirits of our cute little teenagers. They had a great week and we felt it a privilege to be able to be there with them. The best part of it was they got to see about 300 other kids from 27 different countries and I think they really understand that they are part of a worldwide church and that they are not alone. They made great friends, exchanged addresses, e-mail addresses, face book and Skype information. They felt the spirit in abundance and strengthened their testimonies. It meant that we took a week off from our humanitarian work but it was worth every minute to see them so excited and enthusiastic about what they had experienced this last week! We've sent a few of our own children to EFY, We've stood in the hot sun for what seemed like hours in the BYU parking lot to get our dear Philly youth registered and into their rooms, we've seen our oldest grandchild, Chase go to EFY and heard many a testimony from our different ward youth coming home from EFY, but I think that after this week I have a whole new appreciation for all the effort that goes into one of these events. All I can say is, WOW! Hat's off to those wonderful people who love our youth and orchestrate such an amazing program to help strengthen them. In the world we live in today, they need all the help they can get, don't they?

We drove straight through yesterday, arriving back in Bosnia about 10:30 P.M. It was good to sleep in our own bed, wish I could say that we got to sleep in a little, but we had to get the van back to the rental place early. Tomorrow we go back to Croatia and try to get some things done there. We will be back in Bosnia on Thursday.

Before I start posting pictures, I just want to tell you one little experience that we had while in Germany. We had been having such hot weather here in Banja Luka, that even though we knew it was going to be a little cool in Germany, I didn’t pack warm enough clothes. I found myself freezing to death. We had our wonderful rain slickers that my niece VaLinda had sent us with our humanitarian logo embroidered on them, but they are not much for warmth. I was not the only one that was freezing, I went into the food tent one morning and Vanja, our 15 year old, was just about blue with cold. She was shivering just as much as I was, I asked her why she didn't have a jacket on, she dipped her head down and said, "I forget it". After our duties were finished that morning Elder and Sister Taylor and Jim and I went in to a little village close by the EFY facility and we found a clothes store. I bought myself a sweatshirt and found a cute little one for Vanja. Hers only cost me about $7.50. When we got back, I pulled her aside and said, "Vanja, I have something for you" "For me????" I pulled the sweatshirt out of the bag and gave it to her, it took me a minute but I realized that she could hardly talk; she just stood there hugging her newly acquired sweatshirt and sobbed! "Oh thank-you, mama, oh thank-you!" She had me in tears at that point and I realized how small a thing I had done, but how huge it was to her. She wore that sweatshirt every day we were there and this morning she had it on at church! As we said good night to them that night, she again hugged me tight and said, "thank-you mama, and then she went to Jim and did the same, “thank-you, daddy”

Our mission is made up of one after another of these small moments....we will be forever changed by those small little moments in time. How grateful we are for this opportunity of a lifetime to serve and be a part of this great work.
Our kids from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia

Meals were served in the "food tent".  They were very much European meals. Sandwiches for breakfast, hard boiled eggs, Sandwiches for lunch, and sandwiches for dinner. It's all in the eye of the beholder, the kids thought the food was one of the best things at EFY!!!

This is the Tues, night dance. I chose to show you this picture because it's the only one I took that has the flags in it. 27 countries were represented at this International EFY and all their flags hung around the gym . It was really pretty cool. Jim and I helped with the translation devices.  We of course took care of the Serbian devices and also the Polish an Ceck translations. I was surprised at how many American kids there were. Embassy workers and Service personal from all over Europe were able to send their children to this EFY.

Jim with Vanja and her friend. She has her sweat shirt on.

Time to leave....many group hugs,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Heating up, wheelchairs and garden project....

Something woke me up, in the haze of half sleep/half awake state it startled me a little. Slowly as I got my wits about me I realized that it was cool air streaming in through the open terrace door in our bedroom. When had it cooled down so we could breathe? I'm not sure, but sometime during my sleeping hours the insufferable heat of the day had turned to an amazing coolness that I quickly realized would be fleeting. I had better get up and out walking or I would be sorry. So I drug myself out of that wonderful cool place, tied on the shoes and out I went.
I have two or three routes I take. The one hour walk, the half an hour walk, the 2 hour walk or the 1 1/2 hour walk; It took the 1 hour walk today and enjoyed every minute of it. A cool breeze was blowing. The city was just starting to wake up, so shop owners were spraying off their porches or terraces getting ready for the day. Someone had thrown a match into the dumpster down the street and a fire was lustily burning, the smoke being caught by the breeze and dissipating quickly. Busses packed with workers stopped at the different bus stops as I walked around. And I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. It can't be pleasant in those busses, no air conditioning, overcrowded and stinky. How fortunate was I that I was walking! I got home and Jim was already starting to close up the house. Our day begins.

Yesterday it got up to 39.5 which is about 103 degrees, that was on the freeway coming to Bosnia. Our cars air-conditioning was having a hard time keeping up with it. By the time we got to our house it was 38 which is about 100. The humidity is the killer, and with no air conditioning we are spending a lot of time complaining. Our bedroom is on the third level, remember me complaining last winter about how cold the house is? Well, it's not cold any more. Sleep comes hard.

We had a container or wheelchairs come into port last week and on Tuesday they arrived in Varazdin. Ever wonder what a container looks like? It's a huge semi-truck, they don't load and unload the container from the ship; they just use big cranes to move it from the ship onto the truck. Very smart, I think who ever invented that plan wins a prize! The president of Caritas in Varazdin called us about 8:30 in the morning and said that the truck had arrived. He asked us to be there in 30 minutes to help unload. We got our cute missionaries and started helping the 5 or 6 guys that were all ready there. They had gotten a head start on us and already had the back of the truck unloaded. We were working away and all the sudden a ripple of excitement went through the work men and those around watching. The Bishop was coming! Now if you remember correctly we had been trying to get an appointment with him since we first came to Croatia. Today it happened, work clothes and sweat we met the Bishop of the Varazdin Diocese.

Elder Chandler, from Meridian, Idaho.

Elder Bridge, Eagle Mountain, Utah

Elder Kirkam, South Jordan, Utah. The chairs are being stored in the basement of the Bishops living quarters.

Water appeared from somewhere, poor Elder Kirkam couldn't keep his glasses on. I think it was so hot that the persperation just made them keep slipping off. He finally gave up.

Sister and Elder Erickson, Ante Shola, (the head of Caritas) The Bishop and the priest who translated for us, he also helped haul wheelchairs.

It was a great opportunity for him to see the church in action. We spent some time with him explaining the humanitarian program of the church and expressing our thanks for allowing us to partner with Caritas in Varazdin. It really was an honor to meet him and realize that although our doctrine might be very different, our desire to serve our fellow man and to follow Our Savior's example is the same.

Yesterday we dropped down to Karlovac, Croatia before coming to Bosnia. We wanted to see how our little farm project was going. I got a few pictures that I will post. We are excited to see it looking so wonderful!

Today we are just trying to get all our ducks in a row to leave for E.F.Y. on Sunday. It’s supposed to be in the mid 70's in Germany. Yeah! Here we come! Really, no more posts for a week. I just didn't want to have our wonderful wheelchair experience be over shadowed by or trip. Love to you all!
I'm about 5'4" so you can see how tall the corn is and it's just loaded with ears. They dry the corn, grind it and use it for breakfast cereal and also for corn meal. I suppose they eat some of it fresh, but I never see it in the grocery stores so I'm not sure.

I think it's interesting that in the U.S. we use fancy tomato cages for our tomatoes. These sticks seem to work just fine!

They dug a well and now have a water source. This large container fills up and then they dip buckets  to water the garden.  This is a three year project, so next year we hope to help them get some kind of irrigation system in place now that the well has been dug.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Love America....

My thoughts have been on America ever since the fourth of July. I remember getting dressed on the morning of the 4th and thought, "Humm, maybe I will wear red, white and blue, just to make today seem more like a holiday". So that was about all that we did. Jim wore a blue tie. So it came and went without celebration or really much notice other than what we wore. We did have an interesting meeting as we walked the downtown area in Banja Luka. We were walking to the park with a couple of the Tadic children and one of them said, "Hey, those people are speaking English". A little surprised, I stopped and said " You're speaking English, where are you from?" They were from TEXAS! We chatted for a few minutes and wished each other a happy 4th and then went on our way!

No fireworks, no wonderful family dinner, no homemade ice-cream or root beer made with dry ice. It was pretty much like any other day for us. It wasn't until a couple of days later that I happened to get on face book to do a little lurking and saw this video. It's a flash mob dance at Weber High School in North Ogden, Utah. They did it while people were waiting for the fireworks to start. My daughter in-law Tiffany, grandson Regan, and granddaughter Emma were in it. I had to make it go full screen before I could make out the kids. It was really pretty fun to watch, but I wasn't prepared for the emotions that left me in a complete puddle at the end. We were on our way to an important meeting, and there I sat sobbing and messing up all my make-up! Jim had to wonder what happened to his otherwise semi-sane wife!

It was all good though because the experience left me really thinking a lot about America and what I miss most about our country while serving a mission so far away from home. These are just a few of my thoughts.

I love America for its religious freedom. What an amazing blessing it is to have that in our lives. Yes, it's not perfect, prejudice rears its ugly head at times, but without that freedom we wouldn't have had the gospel restored. We are not under religious bondage.

I love America for its political system, however imperfect it is. We have a voice. We can vote.

I love America for freedom of the press. I love to watch the news here on the internet and have a whole new appreciation for those who bring us the news.

I love America that has created a culture that opens the world to us, our world is so diverse. We walk down the streets and see a diverse people. We move, from one part of our huge country to another. We make friends and love people in our large world.

I love those Americans who sacrifice their time, their lives, and their loved ones so we can sit on a lawn at a high school and watch fireworks and feel safe and secure knowing that we are a free people. A few years ago I had the priveledge of seeing one of my sons graduate from Basic training for the Air Force Reserves. I remember going to that base and seeing all that went into the making of an Airman and thinking. This is bigger than I ever could have imagined! It is in so many differerent ways!

I love America for its educational structure that gives our children and grandchildren infinite choices.

I love America for so many small, silly reasons, too numerous to list.
But mostly I love American because it's home. It's were my heart is. Its where my family is and it's more dear to me I think than it was a year ago when I left its shores. I will never take for granted what a great nation it is, for all its imperfections, flaws and all, It is after all, "the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
I will forever be grateful for this great country that I have the privilege to call "HOME".

I have added a blog link to the right of this blog. It's about a young man, Seth Pack who is from Ogden, fighting for his life at Walter Reed Hospital, a life that will forever be altered by war and injuries. This young man who exemplifies so many others that have sacrificed so much for our freedoms. I invite you to join us in remembering  him in our prayers. Thank-you Seth and your family for your service, your sacrifice and for believing in and loving America. Someday I hope to meet you and give you my personal thanks.

No blog next week. We will be in Germany taking our Tadic teenagers to E.F.Y. Europe.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Home Depot Voice and Transitions....

July 5th--We just got back home last night; in case you don't know which country we call home....that would be Croatia. Not sure why we feel like it’s home. Maybe it's because our Visa is here in Croatia. Maybe it's because we aren't rattling around in a huge house that's too big for us, maybe it's because we came here first. But whatever the reason, it felt really wonderful to snuggle into our most comfortable bed and sleep in our cozy little apartment. It has been too long since we were here. We had been in Bosnia for about 10 days in a row and tomorrow we head back there so we can hold Young Women/Young Men’s activities tomorrow night, on Friday we have a closing ceremony with our  hospital that we got an EKG machine for. Then if we can get a translator we will hold church on Sunday. Our Vickie, the oldest of the Tadic girls, who usually translates for us is in Slovenia with her cousins. I don't believe she will be back by Sunday. So we will scramble for a translator. Our friend, Predrag who usually translates for us is in a little village about an hour away from Banja Luka and he understandable wants to spend his Sundays with his family. So we need to work on getting a second translator who will be agreeable to coming on Sundays. We will come back to Croatia on Monday morning. I haven't got any great ideas of what we are going to do for YW , so after I finish this long overdue blog, I will address that dilemma. Any good ideas for me would be welcome! I haven't taught Young Women for years. How about telling me what your favorite lessons were, or your favorite activities. We are trying to wade ourselves through the personal progress thing and communication is a big deal. I read my English version, they read their Serbian version and then we try to set some goals that we can all live with. They are so new to this goal setting thing that it has been a challenge. Sometimes we just give up and I teach them to make cinnamon rolls like the last time we met! Now THAT'S familiar ground for me!

I took this out the window as we were passing by, miles and miles of beautiful Sunflowers!  We aren't sure, but we see an awful lot of Sunflower oil in the stores so suspect that is what they are grown for.

July 10--I never got this blog posted last week, but I thought I'd go ahead and include what I did get written. Mostly I would really appreciate any good ideas for Y.W. that I could adapt for here in Bosnia.

We had our closing ceremony up in Prijador this Friday. They had invited the press and again we felt like we were famous or something! The press decided it wasn't good enough to just see the machine sitting on a table; they wanted to photo and video it being used on a real patient. So before we knew it, we were trooping up to the pediatric department and a young 13 year old boy was pinpointed  to be the victim. He was so cute! You could tell he was absolutely scared to death with all the camera's and attention being thrown his way. But the doctor calmly hooked him up to the machine, demonstrating all the way, how it worked and how wonderful it was. It was a computerized machine, aren't all the new one's?, and because they really aren't that computer literate, the company we bought it from had to do a training for them. It was included in the cost and I believe they really liked it. Now on the EKG print out it has the victims, ohhh, I mean patients name, age, weight and Doctors name. Not sure how they kept all that data straight before, but now it should simplify things for them.

Our cute doctor and the poor little 13 year old they talked into getting an EKG in front of cameras.

He was really scared, after ward he told our translator that he'd rather have a shot needle!

Closing Ceremony for EKG machine in Bosnia.

We love this work, its days like Friday that make it all worthwhile. We do have our up's and down's however. These last two weeks have been ones of transition. Our Mission President changed the 1st of July. We loved President Hill and his wife, although because we are humanitarian missionaries we really report to our supervisors in Germany instead of the mission president, President Hill was always supportive and I guess what I will remember the most about him was that whenever we were around him it seemed that he just brought the Spirit with him. It was amazing; we always left his presence feeling uplifted. Our new Mission President is President Ed Rowe. He and his family lived here in our house in Banja Luka for two years, then moved to Brussels and now to Zagreb. They have moved the mission home from Slovenia to Croatia, so that President Rowe’s children can go to the American International School there in Zagreb. We have known President Rowe since we came here last Sept. and have know that he was going to be in this position since November. He and his wife and their two youngest daughters came to visit us for a couple of day’s right before they went to Zagreb. Well, really, I think they came to see the Tadic family, but they stayed here at the house. We had a great time with them and hated to see them leave.

Sister Rowe and the twins, Anna and Jesica.

President and Sister Rowe with Vedran, we hosted a dinner the night before they left with the Tadic family and us. It was fun to see how loved they are by our little family.

Tuesday the 5th of July we spent the day at a mission wide zone conference and got to spend time with all the missionaries from Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. We also have had a proselyting couple that has come into Southern Bosnia, the Sarajevo area. To break up their drive from Sarajevo we had them come spend the night here and then follow us to Zagreb. So we got to meet them and really enjoyed getting to know them.

Just a few of the Elders.

Some of our cute new Elders that came in just a few days befor the President. Sister Matson this one is for you! He looks GREAT!

After the Conference the Senior Couples were invited to go see the new mission home and then go out to eat with the President and Sister Rowe. It was a busy day by the time we got back to Varazdin, but we were spiritually fed and felt so excited to go out and do the Lords work!

Also that first week in July our Humanitarian Senior Couple that have been our file leaders over us went home. Wow, we shed more than a few tears saying good-bye to them! We have so learned to love and appreciate their wisdom, their kind hearts and their interest in seeing that everything gets done the way the Lord would have it done. The amount of paperwork, financial record keeping and trying to keep track of all these rouge senior couples over here must have been exhausting! But they did it well and we will miss them tremendously. We have not met their replacements yet. Their names are Elder and Sister Leonard. I talked to Sister Leonard on the phone one afternoon; it was the day they told us that there would be no more money for area projects in Bosnia. It wasn't a good phone call! I'm ashamed to say that I think they are afraid to contact us again! I hang my head and admit that I used my, "Home Depot" voice with her. WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE DON'T HAVE ANY MORE MONEY TO SPEND IN BOSNIA!!!!!!! We are still reeling from that announcement. I guess that until some hearts are changed in Germany, until some of bureaucracy is cut through or until I repent, we have no more money for area projects. We can still continue with our major initiatives, wheelchairs and water projects are what we are currently working on, but the little ones like the EKG machine, the stove for the soup kitchen, library books for a devastated village or toys for the rehabilitation hospital. Those kind of projects won't happen till we get a new budget. We will continue with the ones that we have already submitted and that have been approved. See what I mean about up's and down's?

Okay, maybe some of you don't know this, but there are times when Home Depot just doesn’t have very good customer service, especially the ones in Las Vegas. So I have been known to lose my loving tone of voice on occasion and so "my home depot voice" is legendary among some of my dear friends in Vegas! My lesson for that one is to either  not go into Home Depot, or learn to control myself. Hummmm..I thought I was safe; there are no Home Depot stores in Bosnia or Croatia.

Well, again this is turning into a reading project. True confessions are over, I will call Sister Leonard, beg her forgiveness, it really isn't her fault, and try to keep myself together. With no money for Bosnia we will be spending a lot more time in Croatia. It's Home anyway.