Monday, November 11, 2013

Last Blog Post...Nov. 11, 2013

Banja Luka Branch with Ivins Family Visitors

Brian, Candy, Gary, Ann, Kay & Jim--Babbel Missionary Reunion!

Babbel Missionaries at the Sea

Osijek Branch Members with Ivins Family Visitors

Banja Luka, Bosnia  November 11, 2013

This is a day of many final events.  Last week we had our final District meeting; and yesterday was our final Sunday with a nice meeting honoring the first missionary to leave from Bosnia.  It was a good day and much better than good.  In Serbian they score their grades for 1 to 5 with 3 being dobro (good);  4 is vrtle dobro and top/perfect is odlishno. Sunday was a 5+.  Almost all of the members came along with many from the English classes.  President and Sister Rowe came with 4 children and two friends (the Madsens) from Alpine along with his law partner and their go-to guy.  Colton Rowe is a new deacon and passed the sacramant for the first time in Banja Luka where they used to live. It was great to have to refill the sacrament tray that only holds 36.  We ended up with 43 double our usual attendance.  Everybody was saying we could have been at 60 if everyone came who in some way said they might come.  So we still have some work today.

Sister Rowe led a wonderful discussion on missionary work and told of the conversion of her great grandmother from Norway.  There is still much work to be done.  At the meeting we sustained Presidents of the Relief Society, Sunday School and Primary plus three others were called to serve as Branch Music Leader, Branch Historian and as an Employment Specialist.  We were busy all afternoon.  We showed President and Sister Rowe the new church (proposed) and came back for lunch and then set apart all who had been called.  It almost seemed like April 15 trying to get everything done before the post office closed at midnight.

We have served with such great and good missionaries, hard-working, obedient and very positive.  They work well together and have taught us so much.  We love each of them and have felt so blessed to have been able to serve with such good young members of the Church.  We feel very close to each of them and will miss them!  We have also served with many senior couple missionaries.  Each is such a great contribution to the mission, the members and the investigators. There are some big transfers in the wind.  Elder Fausnaught has been blow away to Rijeka to serve with Gary and Ann.  Elder Graham will get a new "Trainee" this week and the sisters are in limbo until Friday.

We also had our final zone conference with Pres. Rowe in Sarajevo.  Our zone conferences are always filled with such a powerful spirit and leave all of us with a desire and energy to go back to work.  It was a double blessing to be there with Candy and Brian.  They are really doing great.  Brian has started some home-made games including "church bowling".  We were able to do some MLS training in Serbia (Sremska Mitrovica) and back in Osijek.  We saw our landlords Sylvia and Ivan, along with many friends and members.  We stayed around a little while for the weekly Friday night Aktivnost.  It was a great visit.  We also just told Zoran goodbye in Zagreb before we fly away.  

We have witnessed so many miracles here in the mission and especially here in Banja Luka.  Nine of our members were able to receive their patriarchal blessings from Gary, who was set apart to be a patriarch to the mission.   Two of our brothers have the Aaronic Priesthood and five have the Melchizedek Priesthood.   We have seen all of the members’ testimonies become stronger as they share in discussions during Sunday School and Relief Society and Priesthood meetings.  We are hopeful to have a new church site approved this week.  Church will then be close to the center of town which we feel will bring a new awareness and interest in the church in Banja Luka.

It has been a wonderful opportunity to serve with Gary and Ann and now Candy and Brian. While we were together for a couple of days Gary reminded us what Dad said often about our interview when we get to the other side and Heavenly Father will ask us about this beautiful earth that was created for us to enjoy: “Did you love it and appreciate it, enjoy the beautiful water, the mountains and hills and grasses and clouds, the beautiful fields and valleys?”  It has been so fun to see and enjoy this part of this beautiful earth with them.  We have been living in a beautiful part of the world and feel so blessed to have seen so much of it.

We have made so many new friends throughout the mission and love each of them.  Knowing the people here and experiencing their lives have added to the beauty of these countries.  They have so many trials and hard things to overcome but we have seen as they live the gospel of Jesus Christ they are happy and they will and are able to work through the hard things.  Our experiences with them are forever implanted in our hearts…we will miss them and hope will watch from Utah to see how they grow and help the church grow.

We love you all and are so excited to see you on Tuesday!!

Love, mom and dad

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 9, 2013

New friends in Čelinać
Palačinka for Aktivnost
June 9, 2013, Banja Luka, Bosnia

We have officially been in Banja Luka, BiH, since the 15th of May.  We have begun the process of getting registered in a new country.  It takes sometimes several weeks before the process is complete.  We have had 2 fun activities with our Branch members and four Sundays.  The members are all quite new in the Church but are very faithful and are coming to Church, taking part and learning.  They are great and we really love them.

On Monday, May 20 we had a really great missionary experience while walking 20 minutes to a member family’s home for FHE.  A man was riding his bike by us going the same direction and noticed our nametags.  We always try to greet everyone while we are walking; they all stare at our name tags, some smile and return the greeting, but most look away and keep on walking.  Some are reluctant to look us in the eye, let alone stop and come back to talk to us as Zlatko did.  He told us later that he never stops to talk to strangers.  He returned our “dobar dan” and asked about our nametags and the church.  We talked in broken English and a little German and got his card .  We got his name and phone number and invited him to the church (we live above it) to learn more.  He said he would love to come.  He came the next day and we helped teach him with the sisters.  I offered a prayer and afterward he said, “That was for me.  Thank you.”  Then he said “I guess I should tell you how I came to believe in God. “  He was raised by an atheist/communist father and was never baptized.  He said he believed there was more to life and has been reading the scriptures every day.  He is someone who is one of the elect, someone who has already been prepared by our Heavenly Father, one who Heavenly Father placed in our path.  He hasn’t always been a believer, but he is now.   He was very open to reading the Book of Mormon and was thrilled when he was given one to take home and read.  I told him that things happen, sometimes good and sometimes bad and we may not know why until much later.  But God knows why because He sees the big picture.  Later when we can see in hind sight then we too understand why some things happen.  He was very humble and understood things as they were told to him.  Sister Crump asked him to be baptized and follow the example of Jesus Christ after he knows the gospel is true.  He said, “You don’t know me.  I don’t know you.  I may be a bad guy.”  We then knelt and Zlatko offered a prayer.  It was a wonderful strong spirit present in the room

 Zlatko came the next night and brought his friend, Darko with him.  They had both read the Joseph Smith pamphlet and said they wanted to know which church is true, just like Joseph Smith.  Dad told them about the Book of Mormon being translated by Joseph and that it is a history of three different groups of people who came to America from Jerusalem before Christ’s birth, that it is a record of them and God’s word to them.   That morning I had been studying Moroni 10:3-5 and felt impressed to read it to them in English while they followed along in Croatian.  They both said they would read the book to find out if it is true.  We all knelt down and again Zlatko offered a prayer.  What a great experience we have been having.  Zlatko came to church on Sunday and is coming tomorrow morning for a lesson on the restoration taught by the sisters.  We are excited to help him learn more.  

We met with Zlatko again and had another great lesson with him.  He has read quite a bit of the Book of Mormon already and as we talked about it with him he said while holding the Book of Mormon, “This is good fruit!”  He had been reading about the tree of life.  He said he has investigated other churches and something has always made him stop.  He said if nothing stops him while he is studying he will get baptized.  The name Zlatko means golden.  We feel he is a golden contact!  He has left for Austria for work so we haven’t met with him since then.  We continue to pray for him and hope he will return ready to be taught some more.

Aktivnost fun
Zorana and Kača

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Missionary work in Maribor, Slovenia

Leaving Osijek and Pres. Korajac and his nephew

The Vrbas river in Banja Luka

cooking hotdogs with Miroslav in Banja Luka

water balloon volleyball 

race for the most fit

Eating with Mirko from English Class

Sunday May 19, 2013
We are now serving in Banja Luka, Republic of Srbska, which is a part of Bosnia i Herzegovina.  We shared many tears with our dear friends in Osijek when we left after serving there for almost 12 months.  We plan to visit our friends there before we return home in November.  We felt like the young missionaries who expect to be transferred.  We fully expected to accomplish a few more things during the last 6 months of our mission.  We still feel very connected to Osijek and continue to pray for the growth of the branch there, especially our Branch President there, Zoran. 

Banja Luka became a branch just this spring and one of our goals is to get MLS (the Church membership and finance system) implemented.   We have more children and youth here than in Osijek among our 17 members.  We live on the third floor of the Church.  It is an amazing home with lots of windows, outside doors and decks.  The owners of the home recently built an even larger home just behind us which gives us some afternoon shade.   They have a beautiful yard with fruit and shade trees as well as lots of flowers and grass.  They don’t speak English but began spewing out (what they said was perfect) German when we spoke “ein bisschen Deutsch” to them.  We also picked up a sister for Church this morning who joined the Church in Germany.  She talked non-stop on the way home switching seamlessly (for her between Serbian and German).  We can talk much better German than we can understand it—especially when it is laced with Serbian.  Our landlord and his wife both love to garden and they have planted purple petunias all over the railing on our decks, to which we added two tomato plants and a pot of basil.  Our home has two extra bedrooms with extra mattresses and lots and lots of room.  This is an invitation to visit. 

We are getting acquainted with the members and also the students in the English classes.  The husband of one couple who has been coming to English class for the several months told us that his mother is the wisest person he knows and she told him to learn about the church because she feels that it is good for him.  He is an engineer and works with his partners in their private company.    This was a very positive thing for him and very unusual here.  Most people here are very leery about the Church and don’t accept very well their neighbors and friends who join the Church.    We are busy getting ready to prepare our families to go to the Frankfurt Temple trip in August. We love serving here with the young Sisters and Elders, one of whom is from Slovenia but his parents are Serbian. The sisters have been here less than 2 months.  They are a great asset to the Branch.  On Friday we played water balloon volleyball for Aktivnost and had hotdogs and chocolate chip cookies.  We had 3 members, 8 visitors, (which included 3 children age five and under), and 6 missionaries.  Having so many children is a big change from Osijek.  Another big change is we don’t need any mosquito repellant here.  This party was a trial run for our big American party on July 4th.  We will see if we can host 50 or 100 locals.  This should be very easy to accomplish because we are going to try and invite every person we see to come to church with us on one of the 5 Sundays in June.  The Europe Area Presidency has challenged all of the European members to invite someone to Church each Sunday in June. 

Monday and Tuesday we met in Beograd with all the missionaries from Serbia, Bosnia and Osijek with Elder and Sister Kearon (of the Europe Area Presidency) and President and Sister Rowe at a fireside for members and missionaries on Monday evening and again at our Zone conference on Tuesday.  Elder Kearon joined the church when he was about 26.  He said it took everyone to get him on the path…the Elders, the Sisters, the senior couples and most of all the members.  We have seen this pattern with many new members and some investigators who have been sitting on the edge for years.  Each missionary adds something different and each is needed to help strengthen others as they progress in the Gospel.  We love working with the young missionaries and we also love and learn so much from the Senior Missionaries.  The meetings in Beograd were wonderful.  The Kearons and the Rowes brought a wonderful spirit, which combined with the faith and testimonies of the missionaries, young and old, strengthened our faith and our desire to become better Disciples of Christ.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

March 30, 2013

Veronika's baptism
President Korajac and Veronika in front of portable font

We had our 8th baptism since we have been here in Osijek Saturday, March 30.  Veronika, who is less than 5 feet tall and 54 years old, was born on the coast, moved here to Osijek when she married Nenad, was baptized.  She, Nenad and all of us are very happy!  Our branch president, Zoran (6’ 5”) baptized her in our portable font.  He and Petar helped Dad assemble and fill the font around 9:00 am to let the water warm up a bit before the baptism at 5:00 pm.  It was really a nice baptism; 16 members, a few investigators and the missionaries were all there for it.  She was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and received the gift of the Holy Ghost Sunday during Sacrament meeting.  Veronika and I went with the sisters to visit a couple of our members and she was a great support for us and for our members.  She has been coming to church for several months and is so happy to be a member now.  We made chocolate chip cookies for the baptism and a couple of the members also brought treats.

1st family History Class
Our Family History class began last Wednesday night and we will have our second one tonight.  We had 3 members plus our friend Božo come to our first class.  The Higbees, senior missionaries serving in Karlovac, have prepared a power point to teach the class.  There are 7 lessons, pedigree charts and family group records and information on writing your personal history.  It is in both Croatian and English.  It is pretty easy to teach the class with all the preparation done by the Higbees.  Tonight each of the class members is bringing a story to share about one of their ancestors and then we will do more on filling out their ancestor records.  Dad and I will each share a story about one of our ancestors and listen to theirs.  We are excited to hear their stories and learn more about them. 

For Aktivnost Friday night we learned the traditional way Croatians dye eggs.  We boiled some purple onions in water with some vinegar and the eggs.  Before placing the eggs into the water, each had a fresh leaf placed on the egg and then wrapped in part of a nylon stocking to hold it in place.  Only one of them turned out clearly showing the shape of the leaf.  Part of the problem in our egg dying was that the eggs were all quite brown to begin with, and we didn’t stretch the nylon stocking tight enough to hold the leaf firmly against the egg shell.  Besides using purple onions to color the eggs they also use red or yellow curry powder and other vegetables.  We’ll have to give this a try next year with you when we come home. 

We had a great sacrament meeting Sunday.  Sister Mortensen, newly arrived from the MTC last Wednesday, and Sister Jolley the trainer each bore their testimonies.  Sister Mortensen is our first 19 year old to arrive in the Adriatic North Mission and we get to have her here in Osijek. She went to school one year at Southern Virginia University.  Pres. Rowe called her Stake President and asked if she would go to the MTC nine weeks early.  She got the invitation while she was in Ecuador working at an orphanage like Megan and Chelsea did.  She was only home for 5 days before entering the MTC.  She  already speaks Croatian quite well.  Also, Elder Bell gave his farewell address.  He goes back home to Utah this next Tuesday.  They all did a great job of teaching the gospel and bearing testimony about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  We had 12 investigators, 11 members and 5 missionaries!   It was a great meeting.  I keep wondering what will happen when our missionaries get transferred or finish their mission, but we are happy to report that our branch continues to grow.  Despite our imperfections and the culture differences the members seem to be growing in their testimonies and are being strengthened by coming to church each week.  

april 14, 2013

Week-end house on the Drava

Spring comes to Osijek

General Conference on TV

It has been a great week.  We so enjoyed watching (but mostly listening in English) to Conference.  We were able to see most of the sessions.  We began watching the Sunday afternoon session after getting into  bed but when we both began to fall asleep we decided to listen to the session later.  Hopefully we will be able to do that later this week.  Elder Holland’s talk about faith was so powerful.  Grandpa Babbel used to say about giving a talk: stand up, speak up and shut up. Elder Holland did just that as he talked about having enough faith to believe. We had a great turnout Saturday evening and even more on Sunday morning…25 of us watching and listening together.  We had cooked some pork on Thursday and made pulled pork sandwiches to eat between sessions on Sunday.  Several helped cut up oranges and apples to go with it and we had chocolate chip cookies and popcorn throughout the day.  There were so many good messages.  I think whatever our role (mother, grandmother, daughter, child) at the time of Conference and whatever our calling is at the time, we each receive different inspiration as we listen.  So much of this Conference seemed to apply to missionary work and to families.  Dad and I left the Church to drive a couple of members home in between sessions and then drove across the bridge to the other side of the river.  We sat in the car and talked for a while.  Before conference began on Saturday, we had talked about some concerns we have for members and others and what we could learn from Conference to do to help each of them.  As we listened and then were able to talk together there overlooking the Drava River, we came up with a few ideas that we felt were answers we received during Conference.

[The following is a small insert by Dad.]  Before conference started, the Sister Missionaries asked President Korajac (our Branch President) to ask all of us who were there to watch conference, to come up with a question we wanted some help or direction with.  I wrote:  “What is my vision for Osijek, Croatia?”  How long will it be before we come back?  What are the milestones that will bring us back?”  During the conference I made a note of several things we could do.  I wrote “We will come back to share some major milestones (baptism, temple sealings, creation of a ward, a stake, construction of a temple, births of the next generation) only if we develop deep abiding friendships with the people we already know. That is the kind of friendship we have with our family, the dinner group and a few of our neighbors.  I wrote down a few of the things we needed to do to develop these kinds of friendships and I wrote down a few names of where to start.

Sitting by the river watching the water flow swiftly down-stream was a reminder that we had to get moving because our time is far spent.  The time has come for us to be a little more bold as missionaries and see what we could still do before it is time for us to come home.  As we were driving up our road to cross the bridge we saw our Landlady and her husband and family walking on the “Ceste”.  
Family Home Evening with the Peric family and Kristina and Luca

After talking (actually discussing a little intensely about who we should arrange the meeting with first and who second) and pondering and silently praying, we left the river and came back to our home and asked our landlady if she and her husband and their two boys would like to come upstairs on Monday evening for Family Home Evening (today).  We decided the lesson would be one sentence from the Proclamation on the Family.  She said they would like to do that.  We invited a single member mom and her two kids to join us.  Her son is the same age as the oldest of our landlords’ boys and we thought she could help translate.  We had such a great experience.  We welcomed them into our home one by one by their names, Ivan, Silvija, Markus, Petar, and Kristina, Luca (Anna was still at school), Kay and Jim.  Does that sound a little familiar?  We then explained to them what home evening is and a short outline of what we would do.  I told them sometimes it ends up being a fight between two prayers.  Their youngest son (Petar who is 6) had a bit of a challenge to try to listen so it was nice for them to know that that was perfectly normal.  We first sang I am a Child of God in Croatian with them and then Dad asked me to pray in Croatian.  It was quite a short prayer but they said they understood it.  Then our landlord (Ivan) read (he only speaks Croatian) from the Proclamation to the World about the family: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  We talked about families, traditions and loving one another.  We watched a 2 min. video, The Coat, based on a true story from the life of Heber J. Grant.  Then we also watched The Good Samaritan, 5 min. video and talked about loving your neighbor. They were very interested and wondered if our Bible was the same as their Bible.  We have not found many Croatians who even have a Bible in their homes.  Our landlady, Silvija, knew the story of the Good Samaritan and our member, Kristina, explained in Croatian as we watched the video.  Both of the videos have only a few words at the beginning or end.  Silvija recognized the scripture at the end of the video.  We were going to play Uno but Silvija said she would rather talk.  We showed them our Book of Mormon and said this was another witness of Jesus Christ.  Ivan took the Croatian Book of Mormon and was very interested in it.  We took it back from him and said we would like to write (our testimony) in it and then give it to them.  Silvija said they would read it.  We had hot chocolate chip cookies and then ended.  It was such a wonderful experience.  It was very natural with them asking many questions trying to understand us better.  We have wanted to share more about why we are here as missionaries but the timing was finally right.  We have talked a lot with her over the past 10 months and feel a great friendship with them, and felt that this was the time to help them understand a little more about us and the Church.  After all went home Dad and I were on a bit of a high, feeling like we had just taught some good friends what we believe and why it is important to us.  Dad has memorized the Proclamation on Families and we both feel it is modern day scripture and should be shared with leaders across the world.  What wonderful things could happen if leaders everywhere helped strengthen the family.  We love you all and hope you enjoyed conference as much as we did.  Thanks for getting together with Peter while he was home and Peter, thanks for coming home to be with the family. 

We just wanted to add that we followed up today (Tuesday) with Bozo and Zoran and had a very nice discussion about the messages from conference.  We also talked about the milestones in the lives of our friends that would bring us back to Croatia.  We told them about the chart that we have in an old journal that lists all of the kids and the milestones in your lives.  We told bozo and Zoran that there are some things that will bring us back if we develop the kind of mutual friendships that bind us together forever. We’ll talk more about that later.  Thanks for looking out for each other.  We love you so much.  Mom and Dad/Mutti and Bumpa

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013