Monday, August 22, 2016

Croatia District Youth Conference

Swimming in the Dobra River
Take twelve youth, and add water.  Give them plenty of food,  provide a service project, play lots of games, talk about The Strength of Youth, and end it with a spiritual testimony meeting at sunset on the west balcony of a 14th century castle.  The castle once belonged to the Croatian noble family Frankopan.  It was a spectacular sight.  The conference took place on the Dobra River near Karlovac on riverfront property that Goran owns and generously offered to us to use.  He was happy to share it with us and stopped by to watch the kids play in the water and paddle around in the rubber rafts. After assigning four teams, the kids embarked on a selfie scavenger hunt. One group was lucky enough to
Dobra River and castle
have President Grant join their team. All six Croatian church units  were represented and everyone had a great time.  The senior couples were instrumental in the success of the event because they were needed for transportation of the youth. We had burek for lunch, which is a local dish made with meat or cheese. and is wrapped in a very flaky pastry dough.  We had a BBQ with shish kabobs, hot dogs, salad, cookies, and brownies.  The conference ended with a beautiful sunset and everyone said their goodbyes.  It was very clear that they cherished this opportunity to be together. They are a great group of young people!

Elder & Sister Grahovac

On Sunday, we visited Rijeka for their Church meetings.  It was good to see President and Sister Grahovac again.  They drove Ivan to Karlovac for the conference on Saturday.  President and Sister Grahovac come from Germany but were born in Croatia and are fluent in the language.  It is a blessing to the members that all of their meetings are in Hrvatski.  There were about twenty people in attendance and there were five of us in Relief Society.  Sister Koller was kind enough to translate the lesson for me.  As we headed out of town, we took a drive down by the water and ate the lunch that I had packed in a cooler.  It was a sweet view, but any water view is sweet, don't you think?

A quick hug with Sister Rusick
Last week was transfer week and EK and I helped transport missionaries to their new area.  We drove to Beograd to drop off some elders and I was able to meet Sister Rusick for a quick hug. We treated them to a King bar (scrumptious local ice cream), said our goodbyes and drove off into the sunset. I also got a group shot of the elders.  Aren't they an impressive group of young men?  We love spending time with them and helping them in whatever way we can.  They are always willing to help us with our attempt to learn the language and are patient when we ask them the same question... more than once.

Lunch with Snjezana and Štefica
I was happy to hear that Snježana was back in Karlovac, after spending time on vacation with her daughter and son-in-law.  She called and we went over to visit Štefica.  We all went to lunch at a restaurant close to Štefica's apartment.  For a mere 30 kuna ($4.30), I ordered a three course meal with soup, salad, and main dish.  I will have to tell EK about this new restaurant find.

Word of the week:  tjedan (tee ay dan) which means week.
Have a dobro tjedan!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Life in Zadar

Sphinx in Split
We are spending some time in Zadar until the new senior couple arrive on Thursday.  We will  drive to Zagreb on Friday to meet them for lunch at the mission home, and escort them partway to their new home in Zadar.  We know Elder and Sister Rothey will be amazing missionaries.  They had a cruise planned, but decided they were needed here in Croatia, so they canceled it and came out earlier than scheduled.   They, along with the members in Croatia will be blessed for their decision.  After being on our mission for 10 months  EK said that if we would have known what a senior mission was like, he would have retired 5 years earlier and put in our papers.  I don't think we ever realized how needed seniors are in the mission field.  We are rewarded with the love we feel from the young missionaries that we support, the members of branches throughout the mission,  our tireless mission president and his wife, and the people that are recipients of the humanitarian work and service done here.  We have much to be thankful for when the day ends and we kneel together in prayer.  It is an experience that we will always treasure.  I tell the young missionaries that when they go home and start dating, they should have one question to ask if things start to get serious.  They need to ask them if they are willing to go on a senior mission with them someday.   If it's an affirmative, then it's a go.

We have enjoyed spending time with the missionaries in Zadar and getting to know the members better.  We visited Jadranka and her grandson Nicola.  Nicola is learning English and loves to practice on us.  We had some exciting news while in Zadar.  A young man has decided to go on a mission and EK is working with him to get his papers submitted.  President Rothey will continue to help him when he arrives.  His faithful mother is excited to see him serve. This is her second son to serve a mission.

We were able to meet Mišo Ostarčević and his wife Ankica at church last Sunday.  Mišo is a Olympic Gold Medalist who played for the former Yugoslavia basketball team and was also a NBA scout for the Boston Celtics. He was a close friend of Krešimir Čosič who was the first member of the LDS church in Croatia. The Ostarčević's were baptized by Krešimir in 1974.  They live in St. George, Utah, but also have a home in Zadar where they come back to stay every summer.  They have a grandson in Utah who is preparing to serve a mission.  Ankica told me that he would love to serve in his grandparent's homeland of Croatia.  With Krešimir's influence and example, church members of the ANM (Adriatic North Mission) will grow to multiple generations who will serve the Lord by going on missions.  This ripple effect will continue because of one man's decision to become  a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Remarkable, isn't it?  We think so.

Beware of wild boars
We spent p-day (preparation day) with the missionaries and decided to go to Split.  Current missionaries in Zadar are Elders Bowles, Bolan, Winfield, and Palmer.  We met Božo (pronounced Bosho) who lives nearby and he showed us the sights. There is a palace in Split with a sphinx from 3500 years ago that came from Egypt.  I can't forget Froggyland (no, we didn't go in) but I had to take a picture of the advertisement.  It was hilarious.  We also hiked up to the highest point where we were able to view the entire city and the beautiful sea.  We had lunch and drove home, where we viewed an interesting sign.  I have seen them numerous times and decided it was "blog worthy".  For those of you who know EK, you know that he has two fears.  One is alligators, and the other is wild boars.  When we were thinking of buying a place in Florida, he realized that both were there, thus putting the kibosh on that option.  Here we are in Croatia and he was quite surprised to come across this sign.  No hiking in the bush for this missionary...

Word of the Week:  ljubav (lee oo bov) which means love, the noun, not the verb.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Attending Joey's Baptism

We are experiencing a hot summer in the mission.  We have had temperatures as high as 35 degrees celsius which is about 95 degrees fahrenheit. Our klima (air conditioner) in our apartment in Karlovac has not been working well.  We turn it on and after a short time, it will shut itself off.  We are on schedule to have it looked at.  We will be gone for two weeks and it should be fixed when we get back.  I'm keeping my fingers  crossed...

EK with his crop
 EK has tried his hand at gardening on the balcony.  He planted onions and tomatoes.  He waited and waited and ended up with two of the sorriest looking tomatoes I have ever seen.  He didn't have much success with his vegetables. I also planted flowers for the patio and they are looking beautiful. They are pink trailing geraniums and all the neighbors are enjoying them as they drive into the parking lot.  We have a temporary assignment away from Karlovac for two weeks and we didn't know what to do with the flowers so we asked the people below us if they would like them.  We found out that they do not have a balcony, but they said her mother would love to have them at her apartment.  They picked them up, thanked us, and we made plans to get together with them when we get back.

We went to Maribor, Slovenia with the Varaždin Elders on Monday for p-day.  We saw the beautiful Maribor Cathedral,  walked around the town's main square which dates from 1515, had some  pizza at a local restaurant, and walked down to the Drava River to see the swans. We also came upon Sister VanWagoner and her companion who are currently serving there.  She served in Karlovac with us and it was a treat to see her.  We all had ice cream together, said our goodbyes, and headed for Varaždin to drop off the elders.

When Kate & Gavin came to visit, I had them bring back a princess dress for Natalie. She is a huge fan of Frozen and Elsa.  We went over to their house and surprised her with it.  The look on her face was
Princess Natalie
priceless.  She immediately put it on and had her mom braid her hair like Elsa.  She kept going in the house and would come out twirling.  Finally, her mother explained that she was going in to look at herself in the mirror.  She would come out and smile and say, "I am beautiful".  Little girls are the same everywhere.

Zadar Branch
We went to Branch Conference in Zadar. on Sunday.  It was the Devers last Sunday on their mission and  headed for home on Tuesday. We moved into their apartment until the new senior couple arrive on August 10th.

There are four missionaries in Zadar.  We are enjoying attending district meetings with them and helping with English class. They are quite a mix and come from Australia, Canada, Alaska, and the USA. The missionaries serving in the Adriatic North Mission never fail to impress us.  They are young men and women who have put their lives on hold to serve the Lord.  Many times we are in awe of them.  Which reminds me that we miss our Karlovac missionaries.  We called them yesterday to tell them we are still around and will be back.

An interesting change serving here in Zadar is that it is a tourist area.  Every Sunday we have new visitors attend from all over the world.  This last Sunday we had 50 in attendance.  Most people are just passing through to their next adventure, but there is one family who have been here for an extended period of time.

The Butler family
Daniel and Deborah Butler have four children and are here to do family history work for Daniel’s side of the family.  His ancestors are Serbians who lived in Croatia and left in the early 1900’s. He is a professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis and is on sabbatical.  Deborah’s parents served a mission in Croatia from 2013 - 2015
Zadar District
(we actually replaced them in Karlovac).  She  decided to visit them and while here, found some records regarding his family.  When she returned home with valuable information, they decided to make a trip back as a family for more searching.  We went over to their apartment on Saturday so I could interview them for an article I’m writing to put on the Croatia country page (much like a Facebook page).  President Grant assigned me to be a member of the Public Affairs team so I’m always looking for stories and this turned out to be a fascinating one. They are leaving for home on Tuesday, after having much success and invaluable experiences for their children. They are the sweetest family and Mark, Lizzy, Rose, and Josh made us miss our grandkids (unici) very much!  When we were leaving, Lizzy and Rose sang us I am a Child of God in Hrvatski.  They were excited to perform for us and we loved it.

We had a BIG day on Saturday! We were able to FaceTime with Adam and attend our grandson Joey's baptism.  We ended up going to the church because the internet was spotty at the apartment. We were able to visit with him beforehand.  He looked so grownup and happy.  We had front row seats so we could see everything including Lily and Joey on the piano, with Layla singing a solo.  It felt like we were there with everyone.  We love that young man and are proud of him.  It is a major step in his spiritual journey.  Unfortunately, we did miss out on the root beer floats at the end.

Word of the week: klima (klee-ma) which means air conditioner.  Much needed this time of year...