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. 

The Whites of their eyes!!!

Last Wednesday was a milestone in Bosnia. WE GOT MISSIONARIES!!!!  Wow it feels good to say that! We have waited, prayed and looked forward to them for our whole mission and it finally happened!  We have not been disappointed.  They are amazing young men and they will do a wonderful work in Banja Luka. Already they are out hitting the streets, learning the language, teaching investigators, interacting with our little branch members and loving their new assignment! And we LOVE them! Think about it. Banja Luka has never seen missionaries, never seen young men with name tags, dressed in white shirts and ties, never had the opportunity to accept or reject the message that they bring, never been amazed that someone would come so far, work so hard or learn their language and love the country like missionaries do. We are sooo excited for the country. Not only did we get missionaries but Sarajevo, (in Southern Bosnia) got two sets of missionaries as well. They got a set of sisters as well as elders. These missionaries are ground breakers and we invite you all to join us in praying for their success in opening up a new country to missionary work!

Elders Radosavljevic and Hansen
Elder Rad (the name I call him because my tongue just cannot wrap around his name and spit it out) is of Serbian decent, thus the name, and is from Tasmania, Australia. His Grandfather migrated there 50 years ago, so he doesn't know the language of his ancestors but is excited to learn and really for just coming out of the MTC he is already doing very well.  Elder Hansen is from Kaysville, Utah and has been serving in Serbia, so his language is great and he is an amazing young man with great leadership skills.

This is a terrible picture, I hope it doesn't hurt your eyes, I should have looked at it and got a better one but I was hungry! We were in the middle of wheelchair training and had our Utah short term specialists with us so we invited the elders to come eat with us on their first night here. It was a great evening and a good chance to get to know them.

This was their dinner, have I told you that  meat is a big deal here. Our friends in Bosnia love their meat!

This was Jim’s dinner, another really bad picture, my camera was on some strange setting....good excuse for bad pics. Have I told you that I think I'm a partial vegetarian? I didn't order a meal at this restaurant, I know better. I ordered my favorite side salad and just played Helen Keller from other peoples plates. I left stuffed!

We had a great night out with our new Elders and our short term specialists. It seemed a little surreal for us to be sitting across the table from missionaries, after waiting so long for them, to have the blessing of seeing them actually be allowed into the country was something we had almost given up on. Our time is short here and we feel it a great blessing to see the whites of their eyes before we go home.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Watch us Grow....

See our little branch GROW!

Meet our newest member in Bosnia…. His name is Goran, and Jim baptized and confirmed him this last Friday night. It was a wonderful occasion, one that left us once again marveling at how The Lords work continues to go on. Some months ago we had a conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia and we were reminded that the dedicatory prayer in Bosnia had said, “Those individuals that have the blood of Israel are here in this country, waiting to be taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ."  Goran is one of these people. He found us. We did not seek him out or find him. He was looking for truth, and when he found it he grabbed hold of it with all his strength and Friday was just the beginning of a new chapter in his life. We were so excited for him! He just couldn’t stop grinning all night and even the next day when Jim ordained him a Priest. I won’t soon forget when he went up to the front of our little meeting room and sat down in the chair that Jim had pulled forward for him. As he settled into the chair he had a smile as big as all outdoors just covering his whole face! What a sight it was!

We are so privileged to have had this amazing experience. We have been told that it is rare for Senior Missionaries to be a part of the process from start to finish like we have been with Goran. He came to us as an internet referral, requesting a personal visit from representatives of the church and a Book of Mormon. Since we are the only missionaries in Banja Luka we were asked to respond. We brought Vicky, our translator with us when we went to his home, but soon realized that he spoke pretty good English so language was not a barrier as it so often is for us.

Every week for several months, he would walk the 7kilometers (4 ½ miles) from his house to ours for missionary lessons and for church. He never missed a Sunday. We always do dinner after church and he stays for that and then Jim takes him home. We challenged him to baptism several weeks ago, but he felt he needed a little more time to finish reading the Book of Mormon. Then a the week before last, Jim was taking him home and he said, “So when can I get baptized?” We didn’t let grass grow under our feet and the very next Friday we had everything planned, guests invited, font borrowed from Croatia (we held our breath when we went through the border) and the baptismal program planned. Here are a few pictures of our evening.

This is a portable font, all I can say is that it's a good thing Jim's a mechanical engineer. We needed it to figure out how it went together. No furniture yet in the missionary apartment downstairs so the living room area was perfect to set it up.
Goran and Jim
Goran giving Jim a big hug after the confirmation.

This was the whole group minus our translator Maja who was taking the picture.
We had two sets of missionaries there for the evening, the AP's from Croatia and a set from Serbia.
This was the first time we have seen real missionaries in Bosnia so it was a pretty significant milestone for us and the country.
President Rowe was there with his family, our friend Damjan, (in the back with the striped sweater) the Tadic family and Jamie, the Rowes niece/nanny.

This is what Miss Tina was up to while we were in the meeting. I had a stack of plates, cups and forks on the table, thinking everyone could just get a plate and and go find some where to sit. But Tina, knowing that we sit at the table every Sunday decided to help set the table. She was so PROUD of herself! Everyone told her how beautiful it was and she just beamed! What a cutie!
The other day one of her sisters called her "Miss Tina" and she said, "You aren't DEBBY!" 
I guess I'm the only one that gets to call her that!
 Once again I end by saying how grateful we are to be here and to be a part of this great work!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Super Saturday in Zagreb

Monster Cookies made, drinks bought, permission slip signed by parents, van rented and picked up, kids ready to rock and roll and we were on our way to another great Seminary Super Saturday event. This time it was in Zagreb, Croatia. All of our youth came and also our translator, Maja. It’s only a 2 hour trip from Banja Luka to Zagreb but we were prepared with treats and music to make the time go fast. Our last Super Saturday was in Belgrade, Serbia and the kids remembered how fantastic that trip was so they had been looking forward to it ever since they had gotten the invitation to come.

We always worry a little about crossing the border with a van full of minor children, so we make sure we have a legal document saying that we have their parents’ permission to take them into another country. This time we got a border guard who was exceptionally nice, laughed a little and asked if we were a sports team! As we left we gave him a little packet of 4 monster cookies wrapped up in plastic wrap and tied with some of my left over yarn. He was soooo impressed! What is this? Cookies and a thank-you! And off we went, leaving a little sweetness behind!

I had gotten the wild hair to make monster cookies about 8:30 on Friday night. Our kids had sent us peanut butter, m&m's, and assorted chocolate chips for Christmas and I had been saving them for a special occacion. I ended up staying up pretty late to get them all baked, but I was so glad that I went to that extra effort. I put 4 cookies stacked on top of each other and wrapped them in some glad wrap that one of our American neighbors brought with him as a gift from his wife to us, (Thanks Kate) and tied them with yarn. I made enough for the kids to give to all the Croatian leaders and teachers who were doing the Super Saturday event. It was entirely planned and executed by local leadership. I also printed little note papers from a web site and gave each kids three empty note papers and asked them if they would during the day when they enjoyed something, or if something especially touched their hearts would they please write a quick thank-you to that person that was in charge of the activity or lesson. Anyway, it was my effort to teach the principle of gratitude, we talked a little about what a privileged it was for them to be invited to come join the Croatian youth and if they were EXTRA grateful that for sure they would be invited back. As we watched our youth during the day I was so impressed to see them hunting in their stuff every once in awhile to find their papers and writing their notes. At the end of the day, they delivered their little thank-you notes with a stack of monster cookies. It was pretty cool that absolutely every one of the people that helped got at least one thank-you note, they even remembered the lady that played the piano. I think they left with a great spirit of gratitude and love for those who had gone to all the effort to provide such a wonderful conference for them.

These activities are no little thing to these kids. They are the only members in their whole country so to get together with other LDS Youth is just really a big deal! Where our youth have weekly opportunities to see their friends at church, seminary or YM/YW activities our youth here have no such advantage. They are IT. It is such a joy to us as missionaries to see the love, acceptance and learning experiences that these opportunities provide for our kids. We asked two of our youth to report in Sacrament meeting the next day on our Super Saturday. Vanja reported that it was, “the best day of her life!” and our sweet Victorija bore her testimony about how she knew the gospel was true and how she couldn’t wait to go to the temple to be baptized for the dead.

As for us, well, we love our mission. We go to bed each night with such grateful hearts. Sometimes we are so tired that we just fall into bed exhausted. But it’s a good tired. We are worried about when we come home. What will we do that could ever compare to what we are doing here?  How will growing vegetables in our garden ever compare to seeing these wonderful people growing in the gospel? I can’t think about it now, all I know is that a little piece of my heart will be in Bosnia/Croatia and I will come home not quite whole.
These are all the Youth from Croatia and Bosnia. Elder and Sister Taylor are CES Missionaries that are over Seminaries in our mission. They go home the 1st of May and will be sorely missed!

They divided up into small groups for one of the lessons.
Maja on the left, Vicky on the right....they were playing a game where they divided up into teams, each team sent a player up to the front and then they were given a scripture story to mold with their clay while the others guessed what it was. Vicky's team won this round. It was Noah's Ark.
I think our Vedran (on the left) had a real advantage over this young man from Croatia. We had just had the lesson in Seminary the Saturday before about Ammon. It was easy for his team mates to guess when he made a man with no arms. The young man on the right is going to be baptized this week.

They had a lesson about family history and how important it was. They also had a wonderful presentation on the temple with encouragement for them to prepare themselves to take a bus trip in August to the Frankfort Temple to do baptisms for the dead.
They got to go into the family history library and learn from Sister Lydija about how to use the computers for family history and  other resources that were available to help do geneology.

Jim and I with Vicky

Time to load up and go home. Who rents a perfectly ugly yellow van? Car rentals in Bosnia are always an experience! I felt like I needed to be playing "Yellow Submarine" on the radio!  We had a great day, wonderful lessons and fellowshipping with deeper meaning than we can comprehend!