Monday, June 5, 2017

Belgrade Transit

The longer we are in Belgrade, the more experienced we get in using the public transportation.  We alternate between using the bus and the tram and sometimes there are complications that occur. Recently when we got on a bus and tried to scan our cards.  Mine worked fine, but EK's card would not scan.  No matter how many times he swiped, it would not work.  By then the bus had already continued on and we sat down not knowing what to do.  Meanwhile, a young employee of the bus system who was watching us came over and scanned our cards with her device.  Their job is to check for passengers who are trying to ride without paying.  (Do you see where this is leading?)  She scanned my card which was fine, but when she got to EK's it did not register as being scanned properly.  He tried to explain what happened, but the language barrier didn't help matters.  She told him he had to get off of the bus immediately, and pay a fine.  It was frustrating at first, but when we look back at the experience, it really was funny and definitely blog worthy.

Speaking of funny, here is another experience we had.  We usually walk to church, but one time we were in a hurry so we caught a bus near our apartment.  It is a quick ride and the drivers really zoom down the road.  You have to watch carefully and strategically place yourself for a quick exit.  This particular bus was crowded and as we got close to our stop, we started for the door.  We had to maneuver ourselves around people and as I stepped off I heard the doors behind me slam shut.  I turned around and saw EK's shocked face through the glass doors as it sped away.  I was initially shocked as well, but realized he would get off at the next stop and it was no big deal.  The more I thought about it the funnier it got and the harder I laughed.  When he came walking down the street 10 minutes later, we just looked at each other and laughed until we cried.  We do that sometimes and sometimes, that's all we can do.

There was a Serbian District Youth Conference a few weeks back in Belgrade and we had seven youth attend.  It was a one day event which included lunch, games, guest speakers, and a service project.
We put on our "helping hands" vests and went to a local park where we picked up trash and litter.  There was a wedding nearby and we were able to listen to a small orchestra serenade the bride and groom outside of the church.

It's full!
We had to go to the American Embassy and begin the process of renewing our passports.  They are only two years old but traveling among the five countries (Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro) in the mission has filled them up with stamps.  They no longer add pages, so we had to order a new one. There is a choice of two books.  The regular size, and the larger one which has more pages in it. I would recommend to anyone coming to the ANM and who needs a passport,  to get the larger book.

We had a birthday celebration for Elder Valentine and Elder Snell.  Their birthdays are a day apart, so we had everyone over for dinner on Sunday.  We also asked Milenko to join us.  He is an 18 year old young man who joined the church two months ago.  He is a really sweet kid and we love him. We had chicken stroganoff,  chocolate birthday cake, and we sang our special birthday song.  Elder Valentine has been here long enough to hear it a few times, so he was prepared and listened with a big smile.

Dušan with family and
Our good friend Dušan Vašica received his mission call.  We were invited to his home to watch him open the call and find out where he is going.  There was excitement in the air, and he struggled with emotion as he started to read the letter.  Bless his heart, he will be an amazing missionary.  He comes from an amazing family.  He is going to Cleveland, Ohio.  That is only 7 hours away from Wisconsin.  I told him we will meet him and his companion for lunch some time.  We are so happy for him!

We traveled to Podgorica, Montenegro for Branch Conference.  We decided to drive this time, and tour the part of the mission we have not seen.  We were able to see Kotor, Mostar, Tivat, and other beautiful coastal towns.We went through 76 tunnels driving from Montenegro to Sarajevo which is about 150 miles. We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Sarajevo and were happy to find a copy of the Book of Mormon on the nightstand.  We got back to Belgrade and began to pack for home.  It is a strange feeling to pack our bags for the last time here in the mission.  I'm a little worried about our 50 lb. weight limit.  We have accumulated a few things while here.

It is difficult to think that at this stage of our mission,  everything we do is the last.  The last district meeting, the last zone conference, the last time we will see the people in Belgrade, and the many other units in the mission.  We knew this time would come and we tried not to think about it,  but the end is near.  We will never forget the people of this land, the experiences we have enjoyed, the beauty of this mission, and the opportunity to serve here along with the many missionaries we have met and come to love.  We have made eternal friendships.  We will cherish these memories of serving the Lord in the Adriatic North Mission forever.  And who knows, we may just do this again.

Word of the week:  вечан  which means eternal

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Snow in the Mission!

We attended a senior conference in Zlatibor, Serbia a few weeks back.  The weather was beautiful and sunny.  We ended up forgetting a bag at the hotel and had an opportunity to go back for it last week.  We were planning a trip to Čačac anyway,  and decided to do a little detour.  We were surprised to drive through a small snow storm as we neared our destination, and there was 6" of snow on the ground when we got there.  It was beautiful, with snow clinging to the tree branches.  It reminded us of Wisconsin.
We continued on to Čačac and met with the missionaries and Sister Zarić.  The Zarić family is strong and faithful and we try to get there as often as possible.  They live out of the city and have goats and a dog named Dumbo.  I love Dumbo, and he loves me.

Elder Frandsen and Dumbo
As soon as I got out of the car, he came running up to me and in his tail wagging, and wiggly way, showed his excitement at seeing me again. Part of the frenzy could be that I carry doggy biscuits in the car, but I like to think it's me!

Croatia District Conference was on April 23rd and we headed out for Zagreb on the 21st.  It was so fun to reconnect with everyone. We love going back to Croatia, and we ended up staying in Karlovac for one night before heading to Zagreb.  Our favorite place to stay is the ŠuŠu Pub.  It is a local Pub with rooms above.  We are always warmly welcomed and given what we think is the best room!  It has a king sized round bed with the main color being lime green.  It reminds me of the Karlovac apartment we used to live in.  When we checked in, our friend Jasna told us that she had emailed, telling us that we might want to cancel.  She went on to explain that there was a big party planned for the evening with a live band.  EK innocently asked her how late it would go, maybe midnight?  "Oh no, she said, probably 3:00 a.m."  We decided to stay and since our room was in a good location, and I had a set of earplugs (I never leave home without them), it wasn't bad.  The next day we drove to Zagreb.  It was a busy weekend as there was also a Singles Conference going on at the mission home.  There is always something going on at there, whether it's an activity or a zone conference.  It is the missionaries home away from home and the Grants always make us feel welcome.

One of my responsibilities is to teach Institute Class on Wednesday evenings.  Institute is a program that provides religious education for young adults (18-30).  I have one participant who is faithful in coming every week, and actively participates in our discussions.  EK is teaching a missionary preparation class on Wednesday evenings for several soon to be missionaries.  What an amazing group they are! So with teaching during the week and traveling on the weekends, we are kept busy.

We had a baptism in Belgrade on April 29th.  Elder Valentine baptized a young woman, who has been studying with them for several weeks.  We have enjoyed getting to know her and she has made many friends in the Branch.  As I spoke with her before the baptism, I saw a light in her eyes. She was excited and I told her that this was just the beginning of an amazing journey. In the Book of Mormon it tells of Lamoni receiving the light of everlasting life. In Alma 18: 6  it tells of this light which is the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness - yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul.  I saw that joy in her and was grateful to be a part of her special day.  We had a social and refreshments afterwards with about 30 people in attendance.

The "paperclip" fix
 We had a holiday weekend  in Serbia.  It was "workman's day" and it lasted through the weekend and Monday & Tuesday.  All the missionaries were invited to a BBQ at the Garvin home, along with the Moody family.  The husbands both work at the American Embassy.  We had hamburgers, hot dogs,  potato salad,  Doritos (a big deal), and S'mores for dessert.  S'mores are not common as graham crackers and marshmallows are hard to come by, so it was a real treat!  They even had Country Time lemonade.  There was a rousing game of soccer and frisbee early on, to work up appetites.

EK took his suit to the dry cleaners to get cleaned.  He noticed that the pull tab on his pants was missing, so he mentioned it to the lady and she said she could fix it.  Later in the week he picked up the suit and we had a good laugh when we looked at the pants.  She "fixed" it by slipping a paperclip
where the tab was.  He noticed it on Sunday when he was getting dressed, and of course wore them that way to church.

I had a sweet experience at church on Sunday.  As the meetings started, little Ila Moody came and sat by me.   I smiled at her and asked her why she wasn't sitting by her family.  She told me that she noticed me sitting by myself and thought I looked lonely.  Oh my, how that touched my heart. I gave her a hug and thanked her for being so considerate.  Blessings sometimes come in small packages.

As we near the end of our mission with six weeks remaining, we are amazed at how fast the time has passed.  We have met many new senior couples who have come recently, and we see their strength and much experience.  What a blessing they will be to the mission.  There are 17 senior couples serving in the ANM.  I remember when we first came, President Grant kiddingly told us that we couldn't leave until we found a replacement.  I think we are covered.

Word of the week:  krštenje (cur shten je) which means baptism.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stretan Uskrs!

Our apartment was full, as we celebrated Easter with the Belgrade missionaries.  We bought what we  thought was a ham at Metro.  It turned out to be a Slovenian ham and it was delicious!  Since we were gone most of the previous week and did not return until Saturday evening, I made assignments for the dinner.  The missionaries brought the potatoes, deviled eggs, and dessert.  The evening ended on a spiritual note, after viewing "He is Risen" which you can view here:  It is a powerful video. I am grateful for Jesus Christ and for the gift of the atonement.  John 3:16. I am grateful for this Easter season which recognizes His sacrifice and celebrates His resurrection.    This gift allows us all the opportunity to repent and change in us what is necessary, so that we may return to live with God.

We attended our last senior conference in Vlatibor, Serbia last week.  It was an opportunity to meet all of the new senior couples who have come to the mission in the last few months, and to reconnect with the others whom we don't often get a chance to see. We were also happy to welcome some local leaders from Serbia. We listened to many powerful testimonies from these faithful members who are true pioneers in this country.  It was a fun few days filled with time to socialize, couple missionaries reporting on their individual responsibilities, receiving training from President and Sister Grant, and hearing from the Mission Presidency.  This was our 4th conference and we really felt like the old ones here in the mission.  We were impressed by the enthusiasm and experience that these new seniors bring with them.  The faces may change,  but the Lord's work continues on.

We ended the week with a Young Single Adult Conference in Zagreb.  We rented a van and filled it up with some fun youth from Belgrade,  Sremska Mitrovica, and Čačac.  We met at the mission home with participants coming from Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia.  It was a well organized and fun time for everyone.  The next day we traveled to a refugee center in Zagreb, where a service project had been planned.  There were 35 of us and we worked for two hours in the basement, hauling out old mattresses, bed frames, and garbage.  Some of the asylum seekers came down to help us and we worked happily side by side.  It was an extremely rewarding experience for all, and one we will not forget.

Last week we took a walk around Belgrade and found that the tulips are in bloom.  It was a perfect sunny day, so I brought my camera with me and we walked around the Parliament Building.   Flowers were blooming everywhere, and I had my fill of photo opportunities.  When you walk in the city, you must always look up because many buildings are adorned with beautiful statues on the top.  You also have to look down because you may trip or stumble on broken cement or holes in the sidewalk.  I love the evening walks because their landscape lighting is beautiful.  The building's architecture is highlighted and everything looks amazing.

Our traveling throughout the mission continues on.  In March we went to Osijek, Belgrade, Sremska Mitrovica, and Sarajevo.  We miss being in our home unit on a weekly basis, but know it is necessary for us to be elsewhere.  It is a treat for us to be in Belgade on a Sunday.  We will travel to Zagreb next week for Croatia District Conference, and then come back to Serbia to prepare for a district youth conference.  There is also a singles conference coming up in May, and the annual Kresmir Čosić Basketball Tournament, so we will be back in Zagreb for those events.  Time flies when you are busy and the end of our mission is coming quickly.  We are feeling many emotions.  We have feelings of sadness at leaving all of the beautiful people we have met on our mission.  And we also feel excitement at seeing our family again, and of meeting our little Oliver who was born while on our mission.  This has truly been the most rewarding experience in our lives.  It has challenged us, strengthened us, and made us realize how much senior missionaries are needed throughout the world.  It has shown us that we are all brothers and sisters of a loving Heavenly Father.  We are grateful for this opportunity that we have had to serve Him, and to serve others.

Word of the week:  Stretan Uskers (ooskers) , which is Happy Easter

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spring in Serbia

Latin Bridge
Chess game in the park
Since moving to Serbia, we have had the opportunity to visit every city that has a church unit in the entire mission, which consists of five countries.  We have enjoyed these opportunities put in our path, to experience the many different cultures, and all the extraordinary people we have met.  We just got back from visiting Sarajevo, Bosnia.  Our hotel was near the Latin Bridge, the site of the assassination of  Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, which is believed to be the start of WWI.  The city is rich in culture and history and one can walk through the many markets and see numerous mosques, including one built in the 16th century.  We met the Wood family who are members of the Branch at a local restaurant. On the way, we walked through a park and came upon a game of chess being played.  It was interesting to watch them move their 3 foot chess pieces around the board.  Upon returning to our room in the evening, we heard the call to prayer through our bedroom window.  We attended church the next day with the members of the Sarajevo Branch and I found myself sitting next to the first convert of the church in all of Bosnia.  A true pioneer.

We have traveled to Sremska Mitrovica to attend three (yes, three) baptisms!  EK was privileged to baptize a young mother whose daughter was baptized by Elder Valentine.  The third person baptized was a widower of a member whose adult daughter is also a member.  What a joy it was to see that family united in the gospel and for them to look forward to going to the temple to be sealed together for eternity.

Coming back from one of our Sremska Mitrovica visits, we stopped in to see one of our favorite families.  The Moody family is in Belgrade on a three year assignment with the US Embassy.  They have five amazing children who are kind to these two senior missionaries.  EK scheduled a time for setting apart Sister Moody as the District Primary President, and we were asked stay for dinner.  After dinner we played some fun games and they might not have realized it, but they helped us feel like we were home with family.

Andrej and David
We are happy to have been a small part of helping two young men in Belgrade prepare to go on a mission.  The phrase, it takes a village applies because there are many who have mentored and taught Andrej and David these past three years since they have joined the church.  They both have been called to England to serve in two different missions and leave in July.  They are excited to share their Missionary Training Center experience in the Preston MTC.  They are exceptional young men and will be great missionaries!
Artist with extraordinary eyesight!

We have a favorite place to walk in Belgrade, and one day we came upon an artist who paints miniatures.  It was amazing to watch as he created scenic paintings on tiny shells.  We had previously bought one of his works that depicted a scene on a local bridge.  He was kind enough to visit with us and tell us about himself.

Sister McAlpin
We attended a Relief Society (women's group) birthday celebration in Novi Sad.  The theme was about women in the scriptures who have inspired us. Since EK was our "driver", he was one of the few men invited to attend... lucky guy.  There were women from Belgrade, Čačac, Sremska Mitrovica, Novi Sad, one sister came from Bosnia, and Sister Grant came from Croatia.  It was a wonderful event and it was apparent that there was much work involved in the food preparation, the classes, and the talks that were prepared.  Sister McAlpin is the senior sister in Novi Sad, and she was instrumental in pulling it off.  She did a beautiful job.  She even greeted everyone in local dress.

It is amazing to think that we have been on our mission for 18 months and only have 3 more before we leave.  April looks to be very busy, with conferences for the young single adults, and the single adults.  The senior conference is April 11th for three days and we are looking forward to seeing all the senior missionaries, and meeting the new ones that have come in recently.

Word or phrase of the week:   Želim vam ugodan dan     Желим вам угодан дан
Serbian which means:                                      Have a nice day

Monday, January 9, 2017

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve in Belgrade
 It is that time of the year when many people make resolutions and set goals.  I have a few in mind, and am wondering what I can do differently to actually achieve these goals for 2017.  Why is it so difficult for us to accomplish those things we wish to change in ourselves?  Do we choose goals that are unrealistic?  Do we not put enough action in our goals, or not give it enough thought and prayer?  In Preach My Gospel it tells us, Goals reflect the desires of our hearts and our vision of what we can accomplish.    A quote from Elder M. Russell Ballard states, "I am so throughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential."  I believe it is important to prayfully select goals that will spiritually and physically strengthen us, measure and evaluate our efforts, and do everything we can to accomplish the goals we set.  Elder M. Russell Ballard finished his quote by saying, "When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life."  So, here's to all of us who have selected goals for the new year, for there is strength in numbers and in righteous desires.

Serbia celebrates Christmas on January 7th, so we were able to enjoy two Christmas's.  We went to a few Christmas parties where Santa made an appearance.  We went to Čaćac January 4th when we were invited to their Christmas party.  The surprise of the evening was when EK was handed a Santa suit and ushered into the next room to change.  Hmm, another skinny Santa., but he was jolly and the kids loved him.  He handed out their gifts and changed back into his other clothes.  One of the children Andre recognized him right away, and followed him around for most of the evening while EK tried to convince him that he was NOT Santa.

We had a house full on January 7th when we had our Christmas dinner.  Elder King and Elder Sorensen came up from Čaćac and we had the Belgrade district come over for a turkey dinner.  It was a repeat performance of our Thanksgiving dinner, and turned out well.  Sisters Johnston and Lougee brought "dirt cake" which was a huge hit. Elder Rice brought a pumpkin roll he had made, but would not reveal where the coveted pumpkin came from.  There are some things you just can't get here and canned pumpkin is one of them.  It was delicious.  We had spirited games of dominoes and Phase 10 going on simultaneously.
Wow, this was the salad!

We traveled to Sremska Mitrovica on January 8th to attend church and to visit the Ostergaards and members of the Branch.  We were pleasantly surprised to find out that we were invited to dinner at
the Vučenović home along with the Ostergaards.  It was a dinner worth remembering.  The table was set beautifully with flowers and
A chocolate lover's delight
china and Sister Vučenović's talented touch was evident everywhere, including in her cooking.  She had a salad that looked like a work of art, lemon chicken, salmon, sarma, and an amazing chocolate cake for dessert.  Their talented daughters sang songs for us, and we found it difficult
The Vučenović family
to leave this sweet and loving family.  But we realized that we still had to drive home to Belgrade, so we said our goodbyes and headed home.  There are so many beautiful people here in the Balkans, who warmly welcome the missionaries in their homes.  We are grateful to be able to spend time with them and feel like we are with family.

Word of the week:  porodica (por od itsa) which means family