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!