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...