Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Race to the end....

June just seemed to have slipped by us at an uncontrollable speed. We started the month with a wonderful celebration at the Adriatic coast city of Zadar. It was the 40th anniversary of the first baptism in the former Yugoslavia. We had an absolutely amazing time in Zadar, hearing about the history of the church here in this area and associating with many of the saints from all the missions countries….Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia were all represented by wonderful faithful saints. One of my favorite memories of the time we spent in Zadar was of course, being the social little person that I am, was after one of the day’s events we happened into the kitchen area and sat around the table eating left over melted ice-cream and visiting with the young elders and sister who were apparently exhausted from their clean up duties; another senior couple that we love, The Tanners, were there as well and we just relaxed for a little while and it ended up being a time of laughing and being silly, but after all was said and done I will always think fondly of that sweet few minutes when we were just able to enjoy each other’s company. It really is the little things that make me the most happy!

Jim, Vanja, Viktorija, and Vicky on the ferry to the island just off the coast.

A fireside with members remembering the history of the church here in the Balkans.

The first baptism was in the Adriatic, so the missionaries had several baptisms planned in commemeration of that event. It was an early morning service and a beautiful sight to see!

I'm not sure how many attended the service, but it was pretty impressive!

The missionaries were not allowed to attend the celebration unless they had a baptism scheduled.

Our kitchen slaves. Elder Marks and Elder Mattson. Two of our favorites!

One of our cute missionaries, Sister Clegg, she is the niece of our mission president.
Sunday morning after the Zadar event we loaded the Tadic teenagers in our car and travelled to Zagreb where the celebration continued with a meeting of about 250 Saints. It was attended by all sorts of government and religious leaders from Croatia and also the Area President from Germany. It was a wonderful meeting, but my favorite part was when the members belted out “The Spirit of God” with all their might! It was beautiful! The spirit was so strong and if nothing else the important people representing the government of Croatia now know that the Mormons can really sing! It was a wonderful experience and made me so happy to think that we were able to attend. It was a great way to begin the RACE TO THE END…..

This is Kresmir Cosic's wife. She lives in Zagreb.
Viktorija Tadic received a grant to go to school from the Kresmir Cosic foundation. She has chosen to go to a hair stylist academy in Belgrade, Serbia next year. Good-luck with your education, Viktorija!! You go girl!

And that has been exactly what it has seemed like, a race. We moved out of our apartment in Croatia and into the Banja Luka, Bosnia house. Our humanitarian replacements arrived and we spent all last week introducing them to our partners in Croatia. On Saturday morning we brought them down here to Bosnia and this week has been introducing them to our Bosnian partners. They don’t really need much training because Elder Winters has worked for the church’s humanitarian/welfare department for most of his career. We did find out on Saturday however, that they will not be living in Varazdin, instead they will be opening up a new city in Bosnia, Tuzla. So they will be leaving our little apartment as well and be moving permanently to work more effectively in Bosnia. We are excited for that move, Bosnia will benefit by having humanitarian missionaries assigned to the whole country instead of dividing it up between the Croatian and Serbian senior couples. We aren’t quite sure what will happen to Croatia, but for the time being they will also monitor our major projects that we have going there, most likely cutting back on the smaller area projects.

Our land lord here in Bosnia had a wonderful bar-b-que on Saturday night. They went to so much effort and we loved just sitting around and visiting with our friends and neighbors. It was a great evening.
Saying good-bye to our partners has been a ton harder than we had expected. We have made good friends with most of them and will miss their association. I will post a few pictures of our good-bye tour with the Winters in a later post,

Our daughter called me this morning and said that the Bishop of our ward has set July 8th as the day he wants us to speak in Sacrament meeting. It will begin at 1:00 and anyone who would like to come to it the address is: 2333 S 2700 W WEST HAVEN, UT 84401.

We would love to see you there if you can come. Although, I have to admit, if you have followed this blog there isn’t much more I can add…. Two years is a long time, it will be wonderful to be home!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to my friend Jan...

   Today is my friend's birthday. I've thought of her off and on all day and wondered if she was having a good day. Jan is one of those friends that even as far away as I am from her today, I know that if I called her up we could talk for an hour and still not cover every thing we needed to talk about. Every time I see this quote, I think of Jan. "True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for a while. Even after years apart, you pick up with them right where you left off."
I met my friend Jan years ago, when Jim and I moved to Illinois. She lived down the street from me and offered her friendship to my lonely, homesick, and out of place self. She had two little girls that my kids played with; hours of playing strawberry shortcakes, running through sprinklers, tea parties and super hero's. Those wonderful Illinois summer days gave my children great friends, but they gave their mother a gift beyond measure. A big person to talk to!!!!  Over the years and over the miles we continued our friendship. Often not talking for months at a time, and then one or the other would call out of the blue and would spend an hour or so catching up. She would always ask what was the latest thing Isaac had done and then laugh uproariously when I would report that he was jumping off the roof onto the trampoline or that he had filled BOTH the neighbors window wells with water. She would always let me brag a little about how smart this kid or that kid was, or which kid had broken what bone or who was recuperating from the chicken pox. I got to hear how fast Missy and Sarah were growing up , or hear about the neighbors that we both knew. I always loved to hear how her mother and her sisters were doing and how her husband was doing at work.

     I moved from Illinois, back to Utah and really the six years that we spent in the same neighborhood pales in time compared to how many years we have spent NOT living in the same place. But she's still my friend.
     We eventually both ended up in Las Vegas living not too far from each other. Her two daughters had decided to call Las Vegas home. Jan and Ken followed them to the desert and so once again her family filled a void in my life when I was away from my own family. They just gathered Jim and I into their family gatherings like we were really apart of the Stottler clan.
       As I think of this friendship that has spanned about 30 years, hundred of miles and has endured sickness, (she is a breast cancer survivor), raising children, changing jobs, marriages of our children, divorce and just life in general...I realize how blessed I have been to know this extraordinary woman. Her sense of humor and the love that she so freely gives to everyone she comes in contact with makes her a unique and wonderful friend.
       I remember when I was about 16 years old, as is a norm for our religion, I was given a patriarchal blessing by our Stake Patriarch. In this blessing, he told be that I would always have good friends. I don't think I really appreciated that blessing, or even understood what a great gift friends would be in my life. But today, when I remember my friend, Jan, I know that I have been blessed by our Heavenly Father. I have always been surrounded by good friends. Everywhere I go, when life takes me down this road or that road, The Lord has always put good friends on my path to help, to uplift, to laugh with me, or to cry with me. I am so grateful for this wonderful gift in my life.
     As I prepare to leave this amazing part of the world, with all it's beautiful wooded forests and red tiled roofs, the one thing I will miss the most is the friends that I have made along the way. I will miss the sometimes less than perfect English. I will miss the great hugs and smiles on the street as I pass. I will miss all those who have given this old, worn out, American lady who can't wrap her head around the language a chance.  Even if the only way we communicate is by sign language and a strange game of charades, I will miss the warmth and love of my Croatian/Bosnian friends.
      I am truly grateful for all my friends and I'm looking forward to "Catching Up" when we get home. But for today, I'd like to say, "Happy Birthay, Jan, I love you" Debby

Sunday, May 20, 2012

We caught a weasel.....

Continuing the attic saga from my last post, I believe the squirrels have been killed by Jim's rat poison. It really kind of saddens me, but at the same time, I wasn't really thrilled to be sharing my living quarters with a bunch of squirrels! Jim also bought a large trap, just to see if he could really identify what kind of squirrel was in the attic. To our surprise we caught a weasel! What other kind of species we might eventually identify living with us, I'm afraid to speculate! The trap is baited and set, the elders have taken over the quest and we were delighted to let them be the defenders of the home! Now if we can only get the land lord to take us seriously when we tell him it's a land lord problem, not ours. This might go on for a while, it took 3 months for us to get a new refrigerator when ours went out. Fortunately it was winter and we used the back balcony to keep things cold. Hopefully the roof will be fixed and holes plugged up before we leave so the new couple taking over our house will not have to deal with unwanted guests!

Our furry friend. Our translator said she thought it was a ferret, but Jim thought it looked more like a weasel or a Croatian Kuna, (mink) . The Tadic girls and Maja, our translator,  took it far, far, away and let it go.

    We have been busy the last couple of weeks, getting projects closed and starting to pack up a few things. June will be a full month with our Humanitarian replacements going into the MTC next week and arriving in country on the 9th of June. Then we start a whirlwind of training and travelling to introduce them to all our ongoing projects and partners. We are sooooooo excited for them! I remember how excited and nervous we were, then exhaustion set in as we finished two weeks at the MTC and the long flight over here, The Winters come in on a Saturday, and of course we are in Bosnia for the week-end,  so we are making arrangements for the assistants to take them to our apartment in Varazdin and let them sleep for a couple of days until we return on the 11th. By then, it won't really be OUR apartment, it will be theirs, we will be staying in a hotel in Croatia until we train them in Bosnia and then they will be in a hotel and we of course will be here at our house, along with our creatures.

They met us at the cars jumping up and down, so excited to see us! The beds had already been delivered and set up, but they pitched right in helping us unload the cars!

Each house got a computer, monitor, new keyboard and mouse. The computers were donated to us from church head quarters in Frankfort. They changed out all of their desk top computers and sent them to the various country humanitarian missionaries to give out. I guarantee they will be put to good use here! Predrag, one of our translators will help them with the set up if they need it. The computers also have real, true live, LEGAL, software. Something pretty rare over here.

All the children got a new pillow and a new pillow case. Pretty cute, isn't she?

Each house got four new bunk beds with new mattresses. These cuties demonstrated how much they LOVE their new beds. This donation will increase the capacity of the orphanage, while also replacing 10year old, broken down beds and mattresses. This will be one of the last area project we do in Bosnia, so it was especially meaningful to us to have it be one that involved children. They just melted our hearts!

We are in the process of setting up another Neo Natal Resuscitation training here in Bosnia for November. This involved having Dr. Bennett and his wife Marcia come over from Utah to talk to the various doctors that will be hosting the NRT training. We met our Serbian counterparts half way between here and Sarajevo so we could have a hand off the good doctor and his wife that had spent time in that area of Bosnia as well. We saw some spectacular scenery on the way. This is just one of the little villages with a fortress on top of the hill, probably hundreds of years old.
We had to stop and get a picture of this beautiful river, This horse shoe bend reminds me of the Mississippi turn in Nauvoo.  Dr. and Marcia Bennett were so fun to be with for a few days, we enjoyed every minute of their stay!

This is out side on a balcony with Banja Luka in the back ground. The gentleman on the left is a doctor but also an administrator for the hospital, Dr. Bennett, The head neo-natologist for the hospital, Sister Bennett, Jim and I.

This week we went to a zone conference in Slovenia, it was a great day and we realized how much we will miss being able to associate with this great army of young men and women. What an honor it is to be a missionary! It was a long day and stretching was in order!
 The Member, Leadership, Support couple that are taking our place in Bosnia will not be in country until the middle of July so we will not have any over lap with them. They will do fine with out our input, all we do here is love our members and our missionaries, that's a pretty easy gig. They will do an awesome job, I'm sure. We are a tad attached to these people here, and at this point I can't even think of leaving them. No one will ever love them the way we do, Jim was asked to bear his testimony at our zone conference this last week about how our mission had changed us, among other things he said, "when we came here we were grandparents to 20 grandchildren, we leave with 26 grandchildren.......those being the children here in our little branch" They have changed us, made us better, enlarged our hearts and enriched our lives.  Grandma and Grandpa Erickson will always remember with great love the very first family to be baptized in Bosnia!

About three weeks ago we were just hanging out in our apartment in Croatia and the door bell rang. Surprised us because no one but the Jehovah Witnesses ever come to our door. Guess What??? It was a package from home! We could have cried! It just symbolizes how much love and support we have gotten from our friends and family our whole mission! Right up until the bitter end we are still being thought of and loved! Thanks Isaac and Sara, you made our day! We sent the Tadic girls off to girls camp in Serbia this Friday with three bags full of Monster Cookies to enjoy with the girls at camp. (The first EVER girls camp in these Balkan countries) They are making history!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thanksgiving Squirrel...


 The fall of 1999 found us in the middle of building a new house. It had been a hugh project and we were tired and a little discouraged with the progress. Although we had great aspirations of being in the house by soon became apparent that our goal was not to be met. We were in a rental home, squished and not excited about the prospects of having Thanksgiving dinner there at that house. So it comes down to plan B. I sometimes don't know where I come up with these things, but I decided it would be great to rent a cabin up in the Unitas and have a little get away far from the issues that plagued us with building a house. You know one of those "Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmothers house we go" experiences.
   On the Weds. before Thanksgiving we packed up all the kids, grand kids, and  food and drove up to the mountains. The weather was cold, a little snowy and absolutely perfect for our Thanksgiving weekend.
   The cabin had a steep staircase up to a loft room where we determined to put the younger kids. One of our grandchildren, was it Mason or Chase? I think it was Mason fell down the stairs and ended up in not so near by Evanston getting stitches. That should have been our first clue. Then we found out that the oven didn't work. Really? It was Thanksgiving after all, but we adapted and decided rolls could be done in dutch ovens and the turkey in the electric roaster oven that we brought up. I'm sure Thanksgiving that year was wonderful, I really can't remember how the food turned out, this week my old brain has tried as hard a I could to dredge up memories of that weekend. But only one memory really stands out.
    Crystal is our youngest daughter. She was in the sixth grade, so that would make her what? About eleven? She was relegated to the loft bedroom with the kids. Every morning we were there she said to me, "Mommy, I don't like that bed, it stinks and I can't sleep good". Several times I went up, looked around and pronounced no good reason for her not to sleep and shrugged it off. We stayed four nights in the cabin. On the last day there we had been asked to strip the beds and leave the bedding for someone to come take care of it. We loaded everything up, cleaned the kitchen, bathrooms and I went upstairs with Crystal to address the beds. Systematically we went from one bed to the other, taking off sheets, blankets and pillow cases. Again while we were doing our tasks, she complained about not sleeping well because of the stink. I couldn't smell a thing. She even said that she tried to get away from the smell by taking her pillow and going to the other end of the bed to sleep, but it did no good. She could still smell the smell. We were finally at the last bed, Crystal took one pillow and took off the case, I took the one she had been sleeping on and started to peel the case off the pillow, filling something hard, I thought she had put a hairbrush or a book, something in the case to keep it safe. But noooooo, out onto the bed it came, A VERY DEAD, FLAT AS A BOARD, DRIED UP, STINKY SQUIRREL! We both started screaming and I don't think I can ever remember Jim moving that fast before or since that fateful Thanksgiving holiday to save his hysterical women!
    Now why might you ask, do I dredge up this wonderful tale of dead squirrel, thanksgiving and husband heroics this many years after the fact?
    This week we have added another squirrel episode to our book, I think I hate the things! Can't they just stay where they belong? Out in the forests or better yet, up in a tree, out in the forest where I don't have to see them? Certainly not living in our attic, certainly not pooping in my bathtub and most certainly not interrupting my peace and security during the middle of the night!
   The week started with us seeing droppings, we thought at first that it might be bats, but no, Jim determined that it wasn't bat droppings. So we got on the Internet, what did we ever do with out it, and matched up the scat with the pictures, (I will spare you the link) and that coupled with Vanja telling us she had seen those furry little things that eat nuts, (she couldn't quite find the vocabulary word in English) on our third story balcony. We have decided we have an infestation of what is called Attic Squirrels. Yesterday my hero, bought about a dozen little packets of rat poison and distributed them on the balcony, rain gutters, and in the attic. This morning they were all gone. Not nibbled at like a rodent would do, but GONE!  I just hope they don't die in one of my pillow cases!  Life in Bosnia....gotta love it!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

We have a release date!!!

  We finally got travel plans and a release date! July 2nd we will be headed home!  We have a few mixed emotions going on here, as the time is coming closer we realize how hard it's going to be to say good-bye, but then's been almost two years and I have grandchildren to hug, mothering to do and quilting to be done! Probably I will be lost, not knowing what to do with my time, but just sleeping in our own bed sounds pretty good right now!
    The last two weeks we have been busy closing projects and doing a lot of paper work. Actually, Jim is doing the paper work. I am starting to clean out closets, drawers and cupboards. We need to get all our stuff moved to Bosnia by the first week of June in order for our humanitarian replacements to move in to our apartment. So we decided to take a little bit each week as we go back and forth. Good plan right? You would think so, but this business of living between two countries is just confusing. Last week I forgot my walking shoes. I didn't want to buy a new pair so George and I just didn't walk all week! George??? You're right, my husbands name is Jim, but I'm listening to a biography of George Washington on audio and so George and I have a date most every day when I don't forget my shoes!
     We had wonderful Sunday meetings today, I'm actually starting to understand the hymns a little better in Serbian. Just when we are getting ready to come home the light goes on a little. I think that is one thing I'm really looking forward to when we go home. Hearing the hymns being sung in English. That will be nice.

This is the closing for a five rack commercial oven for the Muslim Soup Kitchen here in Banja Luka.
They were so happy to get it,  things will be so much better for the volunteers. Up to this point they have depended on a wood burning stove. The kitchen wasn't wired for the electricity they needed to run the oven so that had to be brought in.

On our way back and forth between countries we see storks, I love to see them nesting and by the middle or end of June we will see the babies poking their little heads up! The residents are very protective of these endangered birds and rightly so, they are beautiful and a sight to see!  Our translator, Predrag, has started and environmental group that received grant money to help build "lifters" to get the nests away from power lines.

The "lifter" brings the nest up off of the power pole, the move can only be done while the birds have migrated to Africa, it's very heavy as you can imagine and has to be done with great care. I think that only one or two a year can be done. This one was done this winter and everyone is rejoicing that the birds didn't seem to care that their nest had been moved.  Isn't it just amazing to see something that big on a power pole?

This is another storks nest down the road a bit. This is in Bosnia, but the storks come to Croatia as well. They tell us that in Croatia the government actually pays the home owner a yearly stipend to not destroy or move the nest. Can you imagine having something that big living on your roof??

This is just a little closer look.
The guy by the green boat lives in the above mentioned nest. I waited for him to fly up to it, but he was NOT cooperative and it started to rain. For some reason Jim thought my bird watching should be over.
This was my last picture before I was led back to the car  to get out of the rain....what did he think? I was going to melt? Really I think he was more worried about the camera getting wet than me melting.
I wanted to count them before I quit, but didn't have time. George and I saw 62 swans the other day on our walk by the river in Croatia,  I could easily become a bird watcher, they just fascinate me.
Our missionaries with our land lord doing yard work. Elder Hansen and Rad
Elder Rad digging up dandelions. His last name really isn't Rad, I just call him that because I can't say his name. I'm a mess, so he graciously told me to call him Rad.

Viktorija giving Elder Hansen a haircut in my kitchen.
Elder Rad cleaning up after his haircut. Okay his real name is,  Radosavljevic.....I'm going to practice and say it right one of these days... Seeing in typed in Latin instead of Cyrillic makes it seem a little easier.

Our water project closing this week. Jim did an interview on T.V. and as soon as we get it translated I will see if one of my kids can post it on face book.

    I think I might turn into a pumpkin soon, so I'd best quit. I just want you to know how much we love the work we do here in Bosnia and Croatia. It's been such an amazing expierence, what a blessing it has been to us to be able to be here. Guess what? I just figured out that after all most two years blogger has finally fixed the spell checker! Yeah! It makes life so much easier!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A fast trip to Zadar....

   Zadar hates us... that's all I can say, it just hates us! Twice now we have visited this supposedly beautiful, idealic, costal town in Croatia only to be met with clouds, wind and rain. Is it our timing or just that the town hates us? I'm trying not to take it personally, but really I'm a little concerned. Zadar is the birthplace of the gospel here in this part of the world and this June the mission is planning a big celebration down there to commemorate the 40th anniversary of that event. We told the President that we really didn't think he wanted us to go, Zadar hates us, if they want good weather they need to leave us up north. I don't believe he bought it, but time will tell come June 1,2, and 3. We will be there and really are looking forward to taking our youth from Banja Luka to the youth activities and celebrations that are being planned. But I still maintain it's risky to allow the Erickson’s to attend!

    Zadar may hate us, but our hearts were warmed by the gratitude that the rest home there felt for us when we gave them a 46 inch flat screen T.V. to go on the wall in their lunch/gathering room. They had one on a desk in the room but it had a mind of its own and would at intermittent times just start screeching. No funds for a new one were in their budget so they were especially appreciative of our efforts to help them get a new one! It will be a source of great pleasure for these old people who depend on it for entertainment, news and a link to the outside world. Needless to say, they do not have T.V's in their individual rooms so this is their only source of media. We have the best job in the world, don't we???

One of the cute little residents and a staff member. I think I will start the trend of wearing scarfs over my head.
I think it's a great idea for a bad hair day. What do you think?

    We took time while we were there to go to lunch with our missionaries. There are a set of Sisters as well as a set of Elders down there. Soon, our friends, Elder and Sister Tanner from Brigham City will be assigned there as well and will be an amazing addition to the branch and missionary effort in the city that hates us! The Tanners have been working in the office temporarily until the permanent office couple arrived a week ago. As soon as they are done training the new couple, they will move to Zadar. We will miss them when we stop into the office, but will look forward to seeing them again in June.

Elder Mattson and Elder Marks

Sister Clegg, Tihana (our translator) and Sister Craiger

   Zadar is a three and a half hour drive each way, so it was a long day on Tuesday. On Weds. we headed to Zagreb to visit the Red Cross and have a closing with a group called "Hope". It is the only organization in the Balkans that has been established to help those who suffer from Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. They wanted to set up a small counseling/ support group center so girls could come and just hang out with others that understood their difficulties and didn't judge them. We helped them buy some chairs, office furniture and a small refrigerator to get them started up. They have worked hard to paint and clean the space that they had donated to them by the city and it was really looking great when we arrived. We wish them well, they are good people trying to help a group of young people who are struggling with diseases that are still not fully recognized and understood by health, mental health and government officials here in these countries.

We gave the director a picture to hang on the wall, he was so pleased and invited us to come back and visit when we could.

Anxiously we booted up the computer Thurs. night the first thing when we got home and realized that our orphanage project that we had written up and submitted had been approved! Yeah! So this week we are staying in Banja Luka all week to start working on that project and also to hopefully close a couple of others. We were nervous because there are not really enough recipients to fit into the parameters of most of our projects, but our people in Germany must have felt like it fell into the category of, "just the right thing to do". Indeed it is. We will be shopping for 4 sets of bunk beds, pillows, sheets and mattress covers this week. I am on a shopping mission, you know!

Our good friends, Elder and Sister Taylor came to Banja Luka for the last time this weekend. They are going home in two weeks. And so this was their last visit to see the Tadic youth. They have done an amazing work with the youth here in Bosnia, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia. They have not just run the institute and seminary programs but have orchestrated E.F.Y. attendance for the youth, temple trips and Young Single Adult conferences. Their travel has been extensive throughout these countries as they have spread their faith, testimonies but most of all their love to all the youth. They have touched many, young and old and we will feel a great loss at their departure.

One last picture of the Taylors with our Tadic family. Our cute Elders are also in this one. Wow! Do we love having missionaries in Banja Luka! We are getting new people every week to church and it's just awsome!!!

This is Victoija. She is graduating this spring and we are just finishing up her application for a grant from the Cosic foundation to help her get into an academy in Serbia. This is the picture we took to put with the application. She's just beautiful, isn't she?

It was Orthodox Easter this week end in Bosnia so we are in holiday mode today and tomorrow. It is an official time off work and school for everyone, but I think the stores are open so I'm going to go buy paint and start working on the stairways again. On Weds, we have a scheduled closing for a project with our "New Generation" project and later in the week we hope to have one for our Islamic soup kitchen.

You can tell that we are trying to wrap things up and starting to think about everything that needs to be done before we leave. Essentially, everything needs to be wrapped up by the end of May because June's calendar is looking pretty full at this point. The Zadar celebration is June 1, 2, 3. We need to clean and move out of our apartment in Varazdin from the 4-11th in anticipation of our humanitarian replacements coming in on the 9th and moving into the apartment. (We will be in a hotel in Croatia and in our Banja Luka house) We will train our replacements in Croatia the 11th through the 16th, take the Tadic family to Germany the week of the 17th, come home and train our humanitarian replacements in Bosnia the week of the 24th. That pretty much takes care of June, doesn't it? It all seems to be coming up on us soooo fast. Plane reservations are being made for us this week and then we will have an official release date. Wow! I just started getting all teary eyed! What a jumble of emotions I am, so excited to see my family's been so long, I'm not even sure my grandchildren will remember me! But then again so sad to leave this wonderful place behind with all the amazing new friends and relationships we have forged. Time is ticking away and before you know it we will be back in Utah.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Live as the doctrine demands....

We had the amazing opportunity to visit an orphanage this week, and before my poor memory fades, I wanted to tell you about our encounter with our joyful new friends! We had heard from our translator for quite awhile that there was an orphanage close by, but with our travel to Germany and wheelchair training it just kind of got put off until this week. We met with the city officials that are in charge of the orphanage and heard a little about it before we went to visit it. It is a bit of a new twist from the traditional orphanage that we all think about in the U.S. It was built to give the children a feeling of "home" and "family". The city, understanding the importance of both security and love to the proper development of a child decided to attempt a new, more progressive approach. A humanitarian group from Switzerland came in ten years ago and built the buildings...there are two of them. Each house has a mother and father and up to 10 children that those parents are responsible for. We were so impressed with how loving and happy these children were. I wish every one of you could have been with us to see them run out to our car, greet us and give these strange old Americans their hearts! I can tell you they melted ours! Because they are on a rotating school schedule we didn't get to meet all of them, so next time we want to go out on a Saturday.

Our new friends, aren't they a happy bunch?

The city supplies them with food and expenses for everyday living, but any extras are just not in the already strained city budget. That means that the beds, sheets, pillows and blankets are ten years old now and in need of being replaced. The homes were not made for that many children and especially not any handicapped children, but they have both, too many children and some mentally disabled children as well. This has occurred because they accommodate sibling groups that the city feels like it's in the children’s best interest to keep together for obvious reasons. The parents in both homes are dedicated wonderful, care givers that really look at these children as "their own". You could tell by the interaction between them that the children were loved and cared different from some of the other facilities that we have been in.

We came away with a desire to do a project for them, so we are now in the mists of developing something. To relieve the overcrowding a little bit, we would like to buy some bunks beds, and then perhaps see that each child, whether or not they are the lucky ones to get a new bed at least will get a new pillow and blanket. We are crunching numbers and seeing if we can get it into our budget parameters.

Okay, so here is the rest of the story....... the next morning after we visited this orphanage the missionaries, (they live here now, remember?) Asked us if we would like to sit in on a lesson they were teaching to a young man. We said, "of course" and so at the appointed time we met with them and their investigator. In my efforts to get to know him, I asked him if he was from Banja Luka, he said yes, that he lived with his brother and his grandmother. His mother, he said, had died eight years ago of brain cancer and his father had hung himself 4 years ago. He said he had 5 other siblings that were in an orphanage near here......yep! You guessed it! I pulled out my camera, and he was so cute! "THAT'S MY BROTHER! THAT'S MY SISTER!" Do you think that it was just a coincidence?? I think not, The Lord is in control and sometimes it  takes a little experience like this to really bring that into focus for us.

We are so grateful for all these little bits of learning we are gathering on this mission. What a great blessing it has been to us.

On a totally different subject, I read this statement the other day by Thomas Jefferson, "What does it matter how strictly you proclaim your belief in various doctrines if you do not live as these doctrines demand?"

 Gotta love it!

When I saw this quote I immediately thought of the above picture,  but upon a more thoughtful introspection it came to me, how quick we are to judge. I loved conference and the timely message to "Stop it" and I now have a new motto:  "live as the doctrine demands" 

I can’t wait for Easter Sunday; the Tadic kids have been learning “Hosanna” to sing in church for sacrament meeting. They sound amazing; I will try to get it on video if I can figure out how to do that on my camera. That’s the goal for my next post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Humanitarian Conference in Germany..

We spent this last week in Germany at an area Humanitarian Conference. It was a wonderful conference, and we were so grateful to have the opportunity to go to one more conference before we go home. We especially enjoyed being with our counterparts from Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Albania, Cape Verde and The Czech Republic. We felt so privileged to be in their mists and learn from them. Topics for the conference included: New wheelchair protocol, facing challenges of working in a new country and working with government officials, major initiatives, solving problems-not symptoms, working with public affairs and media, keeping good records, and doing humanitarian service the Lords way. We also got to meet the newer members of our humanitarian missionaries group. In between all of this we ate and ate and ate! I still haven't dared to get on the scales! That might be a week or two of eating properly and exercising before I go near them! Our humanitarian supervisors in Germany, Elder and Sister Leonard put together an amazing conference for all of us, they worked so hard to make everything just perfect and we are so grateful to them for all the service, good council and love that they so willingly share with us in the different countries.

I think that we just really got our batteries charged and it gave us a much needed lift to keep us going strong until we leave in a few months. Everything seems so bitter sweet to us at this point. WE WILL BE COMING HOME SOON.......but, we will be leaving so much behind. We'll never see most of our new friends again, we will be leaving this work that we love so much and who knows if we will ever get back to see the beautiful red roofs and old castles of Europe. It's just a jumble of emotions right now and as the time grows closer I know that we will add in so many more individual people that I don't have the energy to even go there right now. So every time I start thinking about it, I quickly replace that thought with something that I need to do before I leave. The list is never ending and I'm sure that as we are walking out the door I will still be thinking of stuff to do! You can tell by my writing that my mind is a jumble and I'm in a pretty ridiculous state of emotional turmoil. Does every missionary feel this way, or am I just an old lady that thinks too hard???

This last Sunday was the first week in almost 20 months that we haven't been in Banja Luka for church. We left the missionaries in charge and I'm sure they did a great job. It was like leaving a new born baby with a baby sitter for the first time. It was a little hard for us. We are excited to get back and see how things went. Here are a few pictures of Germany.....

Saturday we went sightseeing a little and saw this wonderful, well preserved castle. There are people actually still living in a part of it, We took a tour, saw amazing art work and artifacts, but mostly realized how cold and drafty castles were. I was freezing by the time the tour was over and grateful to see the sun peeking through the trees and over the walls. We all immediately bee lined it for the sunny spots in the court yard!

More of the same castle.

I want to be Juliet and have my Romeo come visit me here!

The little town below the castle was beautiful! When I am old I shall wear PURPLE! What do you think?
This was a drive by photo op....Anne Franks childhood home.

I loved this picture of Sister Leonard, she was working the projector while Elder Leonard was talking. They both did an amazing job putting the conference together.

Jim and I with our friends from Macedonia, The Junkers, They came out with us and were in the MTC at the same time as us. They will be going home to Minnesota the same time as we will be coming home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wheelchair Training...

Wheelchair training in Banja Luka

To come into compliance with the guidelines set out by the world health organization the church is now requiring our partnering organizations to be trained in how to fit and distribute wheelchairs properly. We have been planning a preparing for this training for some time now. We hosted our wheelchair specialists from Utah who were being sent here to do the training for both our partnering organizations, The Red Cross and the Banja Luka Rehabilitation Hospital in Bosnia and the Red Cross in Croatia. Here is a little back ground that I found on the World Health Organization web site.

"The wheelchair is one of the most commonly used assistive devices for enhancing personal
mobility, which is a precondition for enjoying human rights and living in dignity and assists people with disabilities to become more productive members of their communities. For many people, an appropriate, well-designed and well-fitted wheelchair can be the first step towards inclusion and participation in society.
  The United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and World Health Assembly resolution WHA58.23 all point to the importance of wheelchairs and other assistive devices for the developing world, where few of those who need wheelchairs have them, insufficient production facilities exist, and all too often wheelchairs are donated without the necessary related services.
   When the need is not met, people with disabilities are isolated and do not have access to the same opportunities as others within their own communities. Providing wheelchairs that are fit for the purpose not only enhances mobility but begins a process of opening up a world of education, work and social life. The development of national policies and increased training opportunities in the design, production and supply of wheelchairs are essential next steps."

Our Specialists were Elder and Sister Schnebley from Bountiful, Utah and Misti Timpson from Salt Lake City. Elder Schnebley and Misti are physical therapists and Sister Schnebley is a nurse so they are well qualified to teach these training seminars.

    At first thought you might ask, “So how hard is it to give a wheelchair to someone, you sit them down, maybe adjust the feet rests and send them away”. Well, we learned that there is A LOT more to it than that. We learned things like, pressure sores, balance, diagnosis, core strength, and other health problems are a big part of determining a proper fit for a wheelchair.
We spent a delightful week with our students and our specialists. Here are a few pictures that I thought you might enjoy seeing.

Our students in Banja Luka were for the most part professionals that worked at the hospital.

Some of the newer wheelchairs that are now available from the church require some mechanical know how to put them together, but they can be adjusted better to fit the individual.  This was all covered in the class and they got hands on experience at putting the chairs together.

The last day of the class the students had an opportunity to fit patients who needed wheelchairs. I found this man just standing out in the hall. I asked a translator to come help me and asked him if he was waiting for one of the patients and would he like to come in and sit down, he said, "No I am here for a wheelchair". Okaaaaay, I must have looked surprised because he at that point lifted up his pant leg and I realized that he had a prosthetic leg. Alrighty then, come on in. He was fitted for a new active wheelchair so that he could get to his dialysis center without getting so tired. He looked so good that I wondered if he really needed one, but with his declining health a chair will be a blessing.

This is Stephon, not the first time Jim and I have met him. He lives at the hospital and goes to school there so we have seen him in the play room, (usually on the computer). His aides thought he needed a larger chair that he had grown out of his so they brought him to the class. As it turned out, he was in a chair that was too large for his skinny little behind. The hospital staff makes inserts to put in the chairs to make them appropriate for kids with CP.  His old chair must have been one of the first ones brought into the country; it was looking pretty well used.

I stick this one in just so my children still know they have a mother. I have two new granddaughters however. The young lady on the right was from the Red Cross. Vicky Tadic and I told her that I was Vicky's Grandma, We almost had her convinced, but the other translator started to giggle and I think she gave way to her supensions that we were pulling her leg. Later she told Vicky, "I understand that you and Maja were teasing me, but her????  She's an old lady!! I guess old people are not allowed to have a since of humor in Bosnia.

Sister Schnebley and I escaped one afternoon and visited the play room at the hospital. We encountered these two precious faces. Yep! She's in a church wheelchair.

I think this is my favorite picture of all the ones I took this last week. It just shows all the love and emotion that these people feel when they get a wheelchair. I wasn't the one who fitted her or spent time with her to make sure she got the right chair, but I told her she was beautiful and asked her if I could take her picture. Somehow, I think because of my badge she connected me to the chair and I got this heartfelt kiss. Ohhhh... how I will cherish that memory.

This man came in with his one leg almost up to his chest. His wheelchair was just not fitted for his long lanky leg. He went out with a much better fit and a happy camper!

This man had to give his wheelchair back....his diagnosis was that he need to get out and walk more!

On to Croatia and our training with The Red Cross. Misti taught me that my camera had a timer on it! Yeah! Who would have thought I had a such an amazing camera.

They practiced on each other. Have you ever seen such a cute smile!

Elder Schnebley with our traslator, Ana.

We found a great Chineese place to eat in Zagreb.
 Sister Tanner from the office came to enjoy dinner with us, Elder and Sister Schnebley, Me, Jim.
In front is Vicky Tadic, Tihana Rendic, (our translators) and Misti Timpson

Before I quit blogging for the day, I wanted to just remind you that without your donations, there would be no wheelchair projects. Our humanitarian funds come from YOU! Everytime you put something in that little gray envelope and mark that the funds inside go to humanitarian, that is where we get our money. Our budgets do not come from other church funds. We love you all and wish that everyone of you who have ever donated to the Church Humanitarian Fund could see the lives you touch.