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.