Monday, May 30, 2016

Spring in the Mission

Spring has sprung in the Mission, and it is beautiful!  We traveled to Celje so EK could train a new Branch President.  It was our first time in this quaint little Slovenian town.  We especially loved the drive as the road wound along a beautiful river for miles.  We stopped a few times for pictures, but that in itself was tricky as the road was narrow with limited places to pull off.  When a truck came along, you held your breath for a moment in hopes you didn't lose your rearview mirror.   Every time we get on a road like this, we think of Gavin & Kate and how much fun they would have in their little yellow Miata.

After we were done with training we took a drive through the mountains with the Porters, the senior couple in Celje.  If you ever come to eastern Europe, you really need to put Slovenia on your list.  It is a beautiful country with much to see.  We took our time and got out to breathe in the fresh mountain air, and see the flowers covering the mountainside.

When we got back from senior conference in Sarajevo,  we continued to prepare for the  concert with Paul Cardall and David Archuleta which was held on May 13th at the Ljubljana Opera House.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teamed up with the Slovenian Heart Foundation to put on this amazing event.  It was the Foundation's 25th Anniversary Charity Concert with the proceeds going to the families of children who suffer from heart illnesses.  The missionaries were able to meet with Paul and David the morning of the concert at the church building where they spoke to us and performed a few songs.

 We then had a Fireside with David at the Zagreb Chapel on Sunday evening with a lovely reception afterwards.  Chefs Without Borders catered delicious and eye-pleasing  h'ordeurves to all who attended.
Chefs Without Borders Team
 They are also affiliated with the Heart Foundation and we are proud to team up with them whenever we have the opportunity.  On Tuesday, when we thought this whirlwind week was winding down, we got a call from President Grant.  The Grants had taken David and his manager Kari to Pula for some sightseeing.   David asked if there was anywhere along the way where they could stop and meet more members of the Church.  Since Karlovac was on their way back, they decided to stop in our town.  We were getting ready for our English Conversation Group, and decided he should come and talk to our class.  It was an intimate gathering of about 20 people. He spoke with each person individually, answered a few questions, and then sang a few songs for us.  He is such a down to earth, nice young man and has a amazing way of remembering people's names.  He was able to recall the names of the missionaries he had met the previous week.  

We had a baptism in Karlovac.  Rajko Aidinović was baptized on May 7th with many Branch members in attendance.  We have a portable font which was set up in the hallway.  It was a beautiful baptism with refreshments afterwards.
Snejžana made an amazing cake for Rajko and there were other goodies to enjoy.  It has been a blessing to witness Rajko's progress as he embraces the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There have been many members of the Branch who have participated in assisting the missionaries in teaching him each week.  He is a wonderful addition to our small Branch and we love him.

EK's jump shot

The 2nd Annual Krešimir Ćosić Adriatic North Mission Basketball Tournament took place on May 21st.  Krešimir played basketball for BYU in the '70's and was the first member of the Church in Croatia.  He was a remarkable man and his story is worth reading about here:  There were four teams from three different countries: Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia.  The fourth team was made up of senior missionaries and guess who made the cut?  Yep,  EK was on the  "Dream Team" and he was excited to play!  They did a great job, even winning one of the games, but I'm sure there was a lot of Advil taken that evening.

The final event of the month was a Singles Conference we attended in Beograd, Serbia.  We had a dozen people attend and being a one day conference, was a smaller version of the one we had in March in Zagreb. Many of these people did not go to the  Zagreb Conference because they need a passport to enter Croatia and it's quite expensive.  Many cannot afford the extra expense,  so the committee along with President Grant's approval,  decided to take the conference to them!  We had two workshops taught by President Lotric and Br. Mhailevic.  We participated in a service project where we went to a park to pick up trash, and also to serve food to refugees.  When we returned to the Church, we watched the movie 17 Miracles with Br. Vasica speaking to us afterwards.  We ended the conference with a dance which included President and Sister Lotric heading up fun activities including the limbo and chicken dance. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast Inn in Sremska Mitrovica which is about an hour from Beograd,  and headed home after attending church there on Sunday morning. The Branch members provided a wonderful lunch after church and we felt their love as we said our goodbyes.  What a sweet, sweet Branch.  Then off we went to Karlovac, our home away from home.

The word of the week is:  torta which means cake.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Old Town Bazaar
In the Adriatic North Mission we attend two senior conferences a year.  Our first one was last October when we went to Dubrovnik. We were new to the mission and still getting adjusted to our new home.  Senior Conferences are a time when we are instructed by our Mission President, are able to reconnect with other senior couples that we don't often see, to report on our various responsibilities, and to take a break from our busy schedules. The conference in May was planned to take place in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia.  We decided to go a little early so we would have time to do some sightseeing.

The road from Sarajevo to our hotel snaked its way up a mountain high above lush valleys until we arrived at the Hotel Pino which was nestled amid majestic pines.  The 1984 Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo, and the hotel was located at the top part of the bobsled run.

Dinner at a Bosnian restaurant
We put on our walking shoes, and headed to Old Town.  The Old Town District is made up of narrow winding streets and medieval type bazaars. There is always time for a little shopping... The weather was rainy but we were prepared with our kišobrans. The corner where Gavrilo Principe shot the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in 1914 is marked by plaques and a small museum.  It is a fascinating story and you can read about it here:
In the center of Old Town, there is a square where hundreds of pigeons gather waiting for a handout.  Sister Ostergaard and I stood amid the frenzy of our feathered friends as they competed for the corn we had.  It didn't bother me too much except when one landed on my head.  I was worried about what he was doing up there.  Luckily, we came away unscathed from the experience.

The bird lady
A group went to see the Sarajevo Tunnel, or Tunnel of Hope.  During the war in the 1990's, the people dug a secret tunnel below the airport which enabled them to bring in supplies from outside the city.  The far end of the tunnel was concealed in the house of the Kolar family.  It took six months to complete, using pick axes and shovels.  From July 1993 until the end of the siege in late February 1996, the Sarajevo Tunnel was the only connection Sarajevo had with the outside world.  I'm glad we were able to come early so we could see and learn about this resilient city's history.
At the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque

We also were able to tour the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, the largest historical mosque in Bosnia and the oldest mosque in the Balkins, originally built in 1531.  As we entered the courtyard, there was a sign that said the women should cover their heads. With a guide, we were able to go inside and see the beautiful decorative paintings and prayer rugs covering the floor.  It is an amazing experience to hear the call to prayer which is heard several times a day throughout the city. You can listen to it here: 

We all got on a bus to travel to the site where the country of Bosnia was dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  After we had climbed a few hundred steps (I may be exaggerating a bit) we came upon a beautiful view, overlooking  the city of Sarajevo. President Grant read the dedicatory
Dedication site
prayer to us and we listened to the blessings offered by a modern day Apostle, Russell M. Nelson.  

On Thursday evening, we had a guest speaker from Sarajevo share with us the history of Sarajevo, and the local customs and traditions. The hour long discussion held everyone's attention and we came away with better understanding of the country and it's culture.

We had a spiritual feast as our Mission Presidency taught us on Friday morning.   We ended our conference with a testimony meeting.  We heard the heartfelt testimonies of many of our fellow senior missionaries.  Once again we were reminded of the great priviledge it is to serve with such exceptional people. Then off we went to Karlovac, our home away from home.  We are refreshed, renewed, and ready to get back to work!

Word of the week:  zahvalan (zah val lan) which means grateful
EK and I are grateful for this opportunity to be able to visit these countries while we are on our mission, as they are rich in history and culture.