Friday, June 29, 2012

June 26, 2012

June 26, 2012

Dear family,
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 necessary. 

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 Frankfurt.  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 Europe.  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. 

While in 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 4:00 am was about 10 Celsius (50 F. if you divide by 5 multiply by 9 and add 32).  We returned to Zagreb about noon 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 happy.

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 Subtitles. 

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 

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