You'll find this article from the Salt Lake Tribune Interesting--Published on 6/22/12:
Mormon Serbs: Tiny Group Faces Big Opposition
Friday, June 29, 2012
We are here in our apartment after spending the morning at the church. We were taught so many things while in
Germany and we need to implement them in our
branch here in Osijek as well as go visit the 5 other branches
in Croatia and the 3 in Serbia and train them in what we just
learned. The Osijek Branch President
office is very small. After Dad and I
had spent a couple hours going through many things and disposing of things no
longer needed, he decided to re-arrange the furniture to make more room in the
tiny office. The elders had come to do
email, play ping pong and the piano because today is P-day. Dad enlisted their help and together they
made the office much larger just by moving a few things around [Jim’s edit:
namely the computer and the printer and
a massive 3-400 pound safe with two doors, one of which is super heavy
with two big locks controlling 3 big pins that keep it locked—the Elders
thought I was crazy.] Who knows, Dad may
go into interior decorating or at least spatial geography when we return. It turned out really nice and we also cleaned
a bunch of things out of a closet that gives us more room to store the things
that are needed. You do have to remember
that we don’t speak much Croatian so we hope we didn’t get rid of things that are
We came home and had some lunch, left over pasta salad made with pine nuts (given to us by Sister Stephenson while at training in
Germany), lots of fresh basil and some
veggies. Today is a holiday so most
stores are closed, but we managed to find two lone zemels (hard rolls) to go
with the salad. We topped it off with
some cold sok od jabuke (apfel saft auf Deutch) and are now very happy. We have had some really warm weather (close
to 100) and we just had a great little storm blow in to cool things down;
lightening and a strong breeze so we are doing great here.
We had a great time in
We received training from about 5 different people as we were taught
more about the MLS program the church uses to keep track of
all the membership and the finances for the branches, districts and wards and
stakes. We also were trained somewhat in
the auditing of finances and membership records. They taught us lots about keeping everything
straight and the importance of doing things correctly. Now that we have the branch office organized
we will go in and try to get everything in good order in our branch here before
we go to help the other branches.
We had two nice dinners with the Stephensons and then Thursday evening Brad Barlow and his wife Kathy took us to a nice restaurant for dinner. Brad’s dad is Steve Barlow, who was in the Stake Presidency with President Staheli and Lee Groberg when Dad was the Stake Clerk. Steve was the one who was involved the most in getting us motivated to set a date to leave on a mission. Brad is the Europe Area controller for the church and has a major responsibility for all of
He and Kathy met in the singles ward in the East Stake. They have been abroad for 9 years and were
looking forward to moving home this summer.
They recently bought a home in Kaysville. Brad has even been shopping on
the internet for a boat. Not long ago
they received a call from his bosses and were asked if they would extend for
one more year. The Presiding Bishopric was
newly called in April and is over them.
The Europe Area Presidency is being changed in August so Brad and Kathy
will be staying for one more year. Their
family will keep tabs on their home in Kaysville and they will move back next
summer. We had a great visit with
them. They left Saturday morning for a
holiday in Utah and Idaho.
Friday, the Stephensons took us sight-seeing. We visited a local woodcarver’s shop and enjoyed seeing all the carvings. It is a family business that began with his grandfather. The grandson and his wife were so very nice and we took some pictures of things we liked, but we decided that we need to find some momentos from
Croatia rather than Germany. Then we traveled to a cute little town,
I think it was called Slingen, and walked around a wonderful garden. All of the flowers were labeled (in German
and Latin) and it reminded me of my goal to label all of the plants in our
yard. A few years ago I bought some copper
plates to label things but haven’t done it yet.
It is great to have a project all ready for me when we return! Friday evening we went to the temple with the
senior missionaries who are serving there and with other seniors like us who
were there on that day. We had a nice
visit with Elder and Sister Goeckergitz, from Holladay.
He is very small and very German.
He reminds me of Great Grandpa Babbel, who I never met. They were in the MTC with us. They are on a family history mission in Frankfurt. We also visited with Bro. Knabe, the father of
Tanya and Matt’s friends, Camille and Bjorn who had Thanksgiving dinner with us
last November. While at dinner after the
temple we visited with the Moores who are from our stake in Bountiful.
Their son, Dave was the president of the seminary council and served
with Tanya. They said Tanya was a
household name in their home.
Germany we had rain on and off every day and
temps in the 70’s. It was really
pleasant. We flew back to Croatia Saturday morning. (After the plane tickets were purchased we
felt like we would much rather have driven
to see all the beautiful country in between Croatia and Germany).
The temp in Frankfurt at was about 10 Celsius (50 F. if you
divide by 5 multiply by 9 and add 32).
We returned to Zagreb about on Saturday with the temps in the
90’s. We spent some time wandering
around Zagreb before returning to Osijek.
We took a few back roads (for Brian) on our way back to Osijek so we could be in the mountains and
trees. We purchased a hair clipper set
so I could cut Dad’s hair. And did he
get a haircut! I should have had a few
lessons from you Jonny, or Keith, before coming here. He really does look handsome though, and the
great thing is that his hair will grow in a couple of weeks. It is trimmed well above his ears so Dad is
It was really nice to be back in our Branch Sunday morning. We really do love all of our members, visitors and investigators already. We had 7 members, 2 investigators, 1 visitor (Bozo is no longer considered an investigator but still not a member, so is a visitor); and 6 missionaries. 16 of us all together. Petar, who Dad ordained last week to the Aaronic Priesthood, blessed the water for the Sacrament. He said it quite loud but did a great job. He sat down beside me after the Sacrament. He said, “That was quite loud but I wanted Heavenly Father to hear me.” Petar is about 45 and is really happy to be a member of the church with the Priesthood. He was so excited to be made a priest. When Dad gave him a lesson about the Priesthood, Petar instructed Dad for about 5 minutes on how to properly pronounce Svedocanstvo (Priesthood in Croatian with hats over the “c” and the second “s”). When Dad asked him if he was ready to receive the Priesthood, Petar nervously said he couldn’t play the piano…would that be okay? The Elders play the piano really well and he thought maybe he needed to play like them to hold the Priesthood. Our newest baptizee, 20 year old Robert, was ordained Sunday and will bless the sacrament next Sunday. Robert and Petar have become fast friends and went on splits with the Elders last week. They are both so excited to be members and are very bold and approach everyone they meet on the street and ask them if they would like to know more about Jesus Christ. They did meet one young man who came to church Sunday and is lined up for another discussion this week. The District President for
Croatia challenged all the members at our big
celebration and District Conference the first week of June to catch the vision
to do our part to help Croatia become a stake by 2020. Robert and Petar are doing their part in
helping us become a stake. We did a
combined (men and women) Sunday School class on the growth of the Church. We read in Croatian from the Joseph Smith
Story about the baptism of Joseph and Oliver and their prophesies concerning
the rise of the Church and from the book of Daniel about the stone cut out of
the mountain without hands filling the whole earth. We showed the little video on the growth of
the Stakes of the Church over time since 1830(?) until 2010. Then we showed a sweet video on the Cultural
Celebration in connection with the dedication of the Temple in Ukraine.
Many of the people had tears in their eyes when it was done, even if
they couldn’t read and understand the “Russian” and/or the English
On Sunday evening we were invited to join the other missionaries and go to a member’s home to celebrate the birthday of her husband. Danaja is our Relief Society President and her husband is Robert. She joined the church a few years ago. She had been looking for a church since she was 13. She had visited the Catholic Church and a couple of other churches but didn’t find the answers she was looking for. After she and Robert were married he was on the street one day and met the missionaries. He brought them home and told her maybe they could answer her questions. She was so excited to talk with them and after being taught joined the church. She said Robert doesn’t want to give up some of his habits to join the church but is nice about her going. He loves the missionaries and seemed happy to have us there to share his birthday cake. Danaja made a great cake. She filled a bundt type of cake with chocolate filling, spread it with fresh orange and strawberry slices and then covered it with whipping cream. It was delicious!
All is well. It has been raining and we are wondering if we will have to turn on the heat or the air-conditioner. But it is nothing like
Stanley where it has gone from about 30 to 80 on
the same day--we miss that---and you. We
love you. This has been a little
combination of both of us. You try and
figure out who wrote what and then let us know how things are at home. We are really missing the plans for the
cabin. Love Mom and Dad
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Hello Dear Family, First off, Happy Birthday Betsy! We hope you have a great day all day on the 5th! We have been thinking about you and hopefully we will be able to skype you. If not, we love you so very much! We hope all of you remember Betsy Tuesday. We also hope this gets to each of you. I am writing this is the car as Dad is driving back to Osijek from Zagreb. It is fun to have this ipad to type on while driving but we don't know yet if our internet will work when we return to our place tonight. Our landlord said we could use his wifi but we haven't tried to connect yet. As dad said we have been on the road pretty much since we arrived in Croatia.
President and sister Rowe are very nice. They are like each of you and we feel a connection to them already. We have met 4 of their children. Their second son is in Fruit Heights living with an aunt and attending Davis High. The aunt's daughter has been over here going to school so they switched for a semester. The mission home is nice and big...bedrooms for each of the family, a guest bedroom and lots of bunks in one room in the basement for missionaries to stay for conferences. They took us to dinner to a great restaurant across the street our first night. We have been eating Croatian food, lots of good bread, fresh fruit and salads of all kinds of vegetables, fresh and grilled and used in the salads. We have yet to have any desserts so I am really missing chocolate chip cookies, brownies and anything else with chocolate in it.
Thursday morning we met with the President in his office. He wants us to help build up the branch in Osijek. 3 of the 4 active members are traveling in the car with us. We also have 1 set of elders, 1 set of sisters and dad and me. The Branch has about 40 less active members. 1 man really likes to come but also likes to attend his Catholic Church. Since he is a baptized member of the Catholic Church he doesn't want to get baptized into the Mormon church.
We arrived in Osijek Thursday evening and took the sisters to dinner. We ordered way to much so took the leftovers to the elders and met them. Then all of us went to meet Mariana and her grandmother to arrange to take them with us Friday morning to the celebration on the island. Uglijan. Mariana speaks English very well and her grandmother, Mirjana speaks English better than we speak Croatian. We showed them our picture book of all of you which gave us a common connection. We drove to Zadar on the coast of Croatia and took the ferry to Uglijan where the celebration was. The meeting was held on the estate of Kreimir Cosic. Two LDS families purchased a 30 year lease of the place. The building is made of stones with lots of stone walls around the grounds. They have begun to plant many things and the whole place was beautiful. An old beautiful. We ate on the grounds, and had a fireside that night on the grounds after dinner. Ann Madsen, Truman Madsen's wife, spoke for a few minutes along with several former basketball players who had played with Kresimir, all members of the church.
After all was done for the evening we spent a couple of hours driving people to the different places that had been arranged to house all of the people (about 300 of us) for the night. Many residents on the island have homes like a bed and breakfast. One of the senior couples had moved to Zadar a couple of months ago to take care of all the plans for this conference. We stayed in a large home with 4 elders and 1 other young man. 5 people were baptized early the next morning at 7:00 am in the Adriatic Sea. It was a really nice experience. Mirjana was the oldest baptized and got the coldest getting out. The others were cold but didn't seem to mind. It was pretty exciting and a great way to celebrate the beginning of the church in Croatia 40 years ago. The couple Kresimir baptized 40 years ago was there to celebrate and spoke at the baptism. I got to go and help cut bread (really good bread) and fruit for the breakfast, scrambled eggs, fruit, bread, juice and wonderful yogurt for breakfast.
After breakfast we broke up into groups, one for the priesthood, one for the young adults and one for the RS. Elder Kopischke, the Europe Area President spoke to the Priesthood and then answered questions. Sister Kopischke, Sister Rowe and Ann Madsen spoke in our meeting and then answered questions. It was really a spiritual meeting. I spoke to Sister Madsen today at our District Conference about her talk. I told her how much I had enjoyed it. She spoke to the women about the priesthood, how we need to respect the priesthood, our men who have the priesthood,help them honor the priesthood and use the priesthood to bless others. It was a good talk that I think was helpful to the women in Croatia (and all of us). Sister Madsen had an interpreter for the meeting so the Croatian sisters would know what she was saying. Because she had an interpreter she had time to think and listen while the interpreter was talking. She said it wasn't her words she was using but that the words came to her what to say. As I watched her speak in the meeting I noticed how she was thinking and listening. While we were in the MTC we were taught to ask "heaven sent questions". Before we talk we need to listen and let the spirit help us know what to say. Sister Madsen's experience was a great example of what they were trying to teach us in the MTC.
There is so much to tell you and I have gone on way longer than some of you will have time to read this. We are happy and doing well but homesick for all of you. We miss you! We miss the chaos! So enjoy being together for us. Our new home in Osijek is really nice. Very large with lots of room for all of you to visit. I don't know if we will be here for the entire time or not. Our place is a smoky smelling. I am trying to be brave and ignore the smell. We just bought some cleaner and are going to clean our place...it looks clean but I hope we can get some of the smell gone with cleaning. We bought some sheets and towels yesterday and pillows. We need dishes, pots and pans and food. Tomorrow we will try to get organized and get some things to make it feel more like it is our place.
We had a wonderful, spiritual weekend. We love the missionaries, young ones and old ones. The members are great and happy. Pres. Rowe and Sister Rowe are great and were excited today as they spoke about Croatia and things happening here. Everyone has been challenged to help invite others to come to Christ and enjoy the plan of happiness. We are excited to meet more of the people and invite others to come back to church and enjoy the blessings of the priesthood and the blessing of feeling and loved and helping one another. I love you all. Dad loves you all. Happy Birthday Betsy! We hope to get connected and mail this off and then skype with you tonight. Love and kisses and hugs!!! Mom and Dad/ Mutti and Bumpa