Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Cold, but no snow for this Christmas

Since we have moved in our apartment in Belgrade, we noticed some feathered friends on the patio waiting for a handout.  Pigeons are plentiful here and when all the others gave up, there was one lone bird who waited patiently.  And when crumbs did not come, he came to the door and stared at us until one of us gave in.  I couldn't help it, so I gave him some stale bread crumbs and off he flew. See you tomorrow, little guy.

We had a Christmas party at the Belgrade church on Friday night.  After a sweet program, singing Christmas carols, enjoying some good food,  the children made gingerbread houses.  Santa Claus made an appearance and handed out goodies to all of the children.  I personally think he needs a bit more padding, but he was one jolly old St. Nick!

We had the missionaries over for dinner to celebrate EK's birthday.
Birthday dinner
He requested a pineapple upside cake, so I gave it a try.  Elder Taylor's eyes lit up when he saw it, and  it turned out quite good.  The only thing missing were the maraschino cherries, but I don't think anyone missed them.  The Čačak elders, Elder King and Elder Sorensen were in Belgrade to register their car and since they were in town, we invited them over. This is Elder Sorensen's first week in the mission. We were glad to welcome him to Serbia.

Čačak group
We travelled to Čačak on Sunday to attend church. It is a relatively new unit that was opened a few months ago and is a little over two hours away. There were six members and four missionaries in attendance.  It is always good to see the Zarič family and we also met the Lazovič family.  They are always happy to have visitors and we wish we could attend more often.  We checked out the missionary apartment while we were there, as there are some issues that need to be taken care of.  The landlord was prompt in coming over to look at an electrical problem and promised to send an electrician over soon.  Elder King and Elder Sorenson are real troopers and while the living conditions could be better,  they are always able to take it in stride with a smile on their face.

Tunnel in Zagreb
We had our Serbian Christmas Zone Conference on Dec. 22nd -23rd in Zagreb. It started out at the mission office and then we had a great time touring Zagreb amid the Christmas decorations.  We walked in a WWII tunnel under the city.  It was decorated beautifully with white lights and snowflakes. We ended up at the mission home for a talent show, games, and good food.  It was the 3rd zone conference  at the mission home for December.  Slovenia, Bosnia, and Croatia preceded ours.  The mission home is always hopping with activity and we are amazed at all the Grants do for their missionaries.  They really make it feel like our home away from home.

We attended church on Christmas in Belgrade. I gave the missionaries their stockings with goodies and slippers tucked inside.  Later, the missionaries split up for their calls home.  Missionaries are able to Skype home on Christmas and you can bet we had some anxious missionaries and families back home,
waiting to hear from their sons and daughters. We had Sister Lougee, Sister Johnston, Elder King, and Elder Sorensen here and our Skype worked perfectly. The other missionaries went to church and to another families' home to use their computer to Skype. The missionaries get 24 hours "off" to celebrate, but since Serbia, celebrates Christmas on January 7th,  they decided to do their calls home on Dec. 25th, and use the rest of the time off on January 7th.  We were able to Skype/Face time with our family and watch the grandkids open their gifts on Christmas eve.  It was so good to see everyone and we are looking forward to next Christmas when we are all together.

I decided to use a picture for the word of the week.  This was in the shower at our hotel in Zagreb.  Can you guess what it says?  It is pronounced poe-moch.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Thanksgiving Turkey and Football

Our Thanksgiving was a success!  Having a year under our belts, we were a little more experienced with our turkey hunting.  We found turkey breasts at Metro, so I bought two at 4 lbs. each.  After
making an herbal rub for them, adding some chicken broth in the pan and roasting them, they turned out moist and delicious.  We had the normal mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole, stuffing and I even made a green bean casserole with french fried onion rings I found at Ikea.  They also had Lingonberry jam which was very similar to cranberries.  I ended up making "pumpkin" pie made from sweet potatoes.  EK's mom used to make sweet potato pie and I thought I would give it a try.  This experience has been good for me as it has forced me to cook from scratch.  There are no cake mixes or condensed soups here.  But I find that my chocolate cake from scratch is much better than any cake mix, and thanks to Mel, I don't need canned cream of mushroom soup.  This gravy is my go to for many dishes and this recipe is fabulous. Goodbye to Campbells, for now, or maybe forever...

We had eight missionaries over for dinner including Elder King and Elder Frandsen from Čačak. They were all excited to dig in to the feast and there was plenty of food for everyone. Before we ate, the missionaries decided to play some football and they let EK be the quarterback.  They were not allowed to tackle or touch the quarterback (those were the orders I gave them before they left)  They followed orders and everyone came back in good shape. They are such a great bunch of young men and women who are hardworking and love the Lord.  They have put their lives on hold for 18 months - 2 years to serve.  There are 60,000 of them throughout the world.  We are in awe of their dedication and are proud to be among them. We are grateful to be in Serbia, as it offers us the chance to see more countries in the mission.  It also gives us opportunities to get to know more of the members along with the local people.  The language is similar, with a few different words.  The biggest challenge is that they use the cyrillic alphabet.

We have gone to the MUP for a second time for our interview to receive a visa.  It is about a twenty minute walk from our apartment.  We are getting to know our neighborhood and have found an open fruit and vegetable market up our street,  grocery stores, and many pekaras (bakeries) along the way. We are trying out the many difference restaurants close by and have found one that offers many local dishes like sarma and stuffed peppers. We have done some exploring and have seen many beautiful buildings and  we have enjoyed seeing the many Christmas decorations throughout the city.  Every street has  different decorations, and it is fun to view them at night when the lights are on.

We flew to Podgorica on Saturday for a mission presidency visit.  We attended church on Sunday and were impressed with a display of copies of the Book of Mormon. They were in many different languages including Chinese, Armenian, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Russian.  (If only we could get Serbian & Croatian figured out)  We enjoyed meeting all of the members and were welcomed warmly.  We were also able to visit with a young man, Nenad who had served a mini mission in Karlovac several months ago.  Nenad is a fun loving person who joined the church fifteen months ago. We love his enthusiasm and he has what you could say, a big personality.  It was so good to see him.  After church, President and Sister Olson had us, the missionaries, and Nenad over for lunch.  Then the Olson's took us to the airport for our 5:00 flight which was on time, smooth, and uneventful.  We were home by 7:30 p.m.  That's what I call a perfect flight.

As I think of all the things we are grateful for, my mind is flooded with the realization of blessings that have come our way.  What stands utmost in my mind is our family at home, that loves us and supports our decision to be away from them for 21 months.  We are grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission, and will continue to tell all who will listen that senior missionaries are essential.  We have never felt more needed than we do now and have been blessed to be associated with great servants of the Lord both in the missionary ranks and in the local Church members.  We have been further blessed with our day-to-day encounters with people everywhere we go.  They are patient and kind in helping us find our way (literally) and answering our many questions.  They have shared their lives with us and their many stories testify of the love Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven has for all of His children.  I love listening to the song, One by One, the lyrics written by David A. Bednar, and the music written by Paul Cardall.  You can see the video here:
It is a sweet reminder of that love.
Which brings me to the word of the week for our unuci.
The word is ljubav (lee oo bov) which means love.  Serbian is: лјубав