Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Love from Croatia

Lippizan Horses

Changing Tires in for Snow Tires


Serbian Flags

Monday October 29, 2012
Dear Kiddos,
We have had another great week; have thought about all of you and what you are doing, missing you but keeping busy and still happy to have this great opportunity of serving our Heavenly Father and learning so much.  Dad has gone to pick up some cleats that were left in the town of Đakovo, about 40 minutes from Osijek.  I decided to stay here to write an email to you.  We are leaving in the morning for Ljubljana to train the new District Executive Secretary.  We have emailed back and forth and we are excited to be able to go there again and meet this member.  He is anxious to learn and do his calling in the best possible way so we are looking forward to being with him.  I will try to keep this short and send a few pictures with it.  

Last Monday we went with the Elders to Đakovo to see the Lippizan horses.  The Sisters had gone with us another time and chose not to go again.  We took Nancy and Greg there right before they got on the train to leave us.  This trip with the elders was such a great day.  It was the perfect fall day!  Nice sun, clear skies with a couple of clouds and a perfect temperature.  We went to see the Moms and their little foals who were hanging out together in some beautiful gently rolling hills.  It was truly a glorious day.  We felt bad the sisters hadn’t joined us and we wish all of you could have been there with us.  The Lippizan stallions are famous horses who have been show cased in Vienna, Austria for years.  They are born black and then turn white as they mature.  The man in charge of the place was very pleasant and said we could take a look where ever we chose to wander.  Dad gave him a pass-along card of the SLC temple (1 of the 200 you sent to us).  The man was really sweet and said he wanted to show it to his wife and kids.  We haven’t taught much with the cards, just encourage them to look up the Mormon web site and we are hopeful that  when they are contacted by the missionaries in the future they will ready to be taught.   Who knows, maybe one of our grandkids will be the one to teach them.  We are getting more bold as we meet people and are still looking for a family to teach.  

We were busy teaching a piano lesson, reading the Book of Mormon, taking a member to the doctor and then back to stay in the hospital for some more recovery, going out to help Dad's Counselor learn more about being a counselor in the Branch presidency and then taking a mom and her son to Serbia to some of their family who they hadn’t seen for 5 years.  They were pretty worried about going to see them, but when we arrived they were met with hugs and warm greetings and really glad to see each other.  It was really great to see how much they had missed each other and wanted to be together.  We were there for about 3 hours so when we were returning home it was pretty dark.  As we were driving along the country road to the freeway about 45 miles an hour, out of nowhere we came upon a tractor without any lights on.  I let out a loud gasp and grabbed Dad’s arm.  He instinctively swerved around the tractor and then had to correct out of a slight fish tail.  It was a pretty scary few moments!  We stopped the car and had a prayer of thanksgiving for our safety.  We thought it would have been a lousy way for all of you to see Croatia…to come and take us home.  I don’t know how many of you remember that in dad’s patriarchal blessing he was given the blessing of being safe on the roads.  We have been so grateful for that blessing several times over the years and were grateful once again.  

This past weekend we enjoyed a visit from Elder and Sister Smartt, one of the counselors to Pres. Rowe.  They took us to dinner Saturday night and we chatted for 2 ½ hours until he and Dad remembered BYU was playing football and they could listen to the game.  We talked about the work here and some of our concerns.  We feel that our members, poor as they are, need to sacrifice something and save up to go back to the temple.  When we went this summer with 8 of our members, none of them had any money to help pay their way.  They did bring food for the bus ride there but that was all they could do.  I told the Smartts we wanted to give them each a piggy bank (made from yogurt cartons) and ask them to start saving so they could pay their way to go to the temple again.  The District President suggests they save their money for a month at a time and then put it into the “other” account at the Branch under temple.  He said it will be too much of a temptation to have the money at home.  Pres. Smartt told us to not get discouraged, that we were doing a good job, and this was the Lord’s work and He would help us.  Sometimes it is almost overwhelming looking at the struggles the members go through.   We feel very strongly that we would like to help them get lined up to work.  We want to help them become self-reliant and teach them begin to store some food, one can at a time.  There is so much to do.  It would be great to have all of you here to help us help them.  

We had a great Sacrament meeting with the Smartts followed with Pres. Smartt teaching our Sunday School.  It is a real treat to have the mission leaders come participate in our meetings.  Pres. Smartt talked about dealing with adversity and the trials we all have to go through.  He promised all of us that as we keep the commandments and pray for Heavenly Father’s help, He would be with us to guide and help us.  Heavenly Father wants us to be successful.  Dad and I feel just the same.  We have the Lord helping us all the time.  We are blessed each day.  And part of our blessings are seeing and knowing how well each of you are doing while we are gone.  Just as we were promised by President Taylor when he set us apart, we can see how you are watched over by angels.  You are all doing right and helping others and when you do that, you are blessed beyond measure.  Please keep saying your prayers.  Heavenly Father delights to bless us.  Thank Him for those blessings and continue to pray for one another.  We are thinking about all of you getting together tonight at Jason and Robyn’s, about Tasha and Germey’s fiesta farewell and birthday celebration tonight and Peter holding down the fort in Missoula and leading his class in being such a good student and friend to all.

We love you and will enjoy Slovenia tomorrow for all of you!!

Love, Mom and Dad/Mutti and Bumpa

Elder and Sister Ivins
Matije Gupca 7a
31000 Osijek, Croatia
385 (0) 91 444-8114 (Elder Ivins)
385 (0) 91 444-8115 (Sister Ivins)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thurs, Oct 18, 2012

Hi all,

This is our kitchen wall:

Our landlady, Sylvia, just came up to bring some new curtains and checked out the wall.  She said how nice it was that we could eat with each of you every day (svaki dan).

We love you all!!  mom and dad

Monday, Oct 15, 2012

Monday October 15, 2012
Dear Kiddos,
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  Nancy and Greg brought the big duffel full of goodies for us.  How fun to have Christmas in October.  We are grateful for all of your efforts in getting it ready to send with them.  We love everything you sent, especially the photos.  We are just sitting down to look at them.  Everyone who comes into our apartment loves to look at all of you on our wall.  You all look happy and beautiful.  It is great to now have Barrett on the wall among all his cousins and aunts and uncles.  We truly are the richest people not only in America (as our Croatian policeman told us after he studied our wall), but in the whole world.  We love each of you and are so grateful for your goodness.  Thank you again for being you and doing what you do to make the world a better place not only for us but for everyone else in the world. 
We have had a great week with Nancy and Greg.  The country of Slovenia is absolutely beautiful; very similar to Switzerland, Montana, Canada and Redfish and the cabin all rolled into one.  We took so many pictures—until our battery went dead-- so we also downloaded all of Nancy’s pictures onto our computer.  We took a little boat (like a gondola) over to the island in the middle of Lake Bled.  The Slovenes have a fleet of the boats and the rowers share the money earned from taking people to the island.  The boats and drivers pass from father to son and have been around for years.  Tuesday morning we walked around the lake, about 3 ½ miles and up to a castle on the hillside.  There is a large path around the lake lined with big trees and several estates with beautiful houses.  It was so picturesque!  It takes twice as long as it should to walk around it because you feel like you just need to capture one more view on your camera.  We had the opportunity to hand out several Pass-a-long Cards—mostly to people we asked to take our picture or if we could take their picture.  Our favorites are of the Salt Lake Temple at Christmas time.  Thanks for sending us another 200.  We gave out about 50 in four days. We met a single girl from Taiwan who travels the world alone for two weeks every year on her annual leave from work in advertising.  We met a couple from Brazil who live in Germany for work and their friends from Brazil who used to live in Chicago.  They all love the picture—especially the kids.  We talked to three accountants (men) from Egypt, Somalia and Italy, who work in London.  At least one of them promised to visit the web site.  We also gave away one of the new cards with the box-code square who was happy to get it and said he was a Christian.  We invite many of them to visit Salt Lake and to learn more about the Mormons at www.mormon.org
We stayed on the lake in a bed and breakfast with a gorgeous view right off our balcony and enjoyed fresh pressed apple juice for breakfast.  Later in the day we walked through a gorge carved out by the river.  It was just spectacular as we walked along a boardwalk and followed the crashing, beautiful, almost glacier like water.  It was crystal clear and we could see the fish swimming.  We drove to the borders of Italy and Austria and took pictures of Nancy and Greg walking across the borders from Slovenia into Austria and Italy.  There is no longer any border control and no need to show passports because these three countries are all belong to the EU.  The Italian border was a little interesting in that there was about 10 feet on “no man’s land” with the road in serious disrepair because neither country claimed it.  We checked out the biggest ski jump in the world in the Julian Alps of Slovenia.  If you come in winter you can try and break the record (about 800 feet?).  We headed from there over a pass with 50 hairpin switch backs that are numbered that was built in the First WW by Russian Prisoners of War for the Germans to supply their troops fighting the Italians. Each of the 26 turns going up the pass were made of cobblestones; coming down the pass, the remaining turns were paved just like the rest of the road.  We spent the night in the little village of Bovec, which was in the center of about 30 WWI battles fought up and down these valleys and mountains which were the main thoroughfare between Italy and Vienna.  There were waterfalls and old glaciers all along the pass and the whole drive was an ooh and ahhh experience.   
 This was the “part of Italy” where Hemmingway was a Red Cross ambulance driver fought during WW I.  He wrote A Farewell to Arms about the tragic four year war here—which was fought much like the battles in France with trenches and poison gas.   The town of Kobarid (which the Italians call Caparetto) has a museum filled with photos and many artifacts of the war and a documentary with footage shot during the war.  It was very interesting to learn about this area about which we knew so little even though there were about one million casualties (killed and wounded) here from 1915-1918.  Dad wants to read more about this area, including the book The White War.
We travelled on to Rijeka and Opatija, two beautiful cities on the Adriatic coast and then on to Zadar where we spent the night with Elder and Sister Tanner in their beautiful apartment.  (Tanners also stayed with us at Lake Bled.  Greg’s brother is married to Sister Tanner’s sister.  Tanners have been here 5 months longer than we have.)  We enjoyed the sea organ play the gentle waves from the Adriatic and walked along the travertine cobblestones of the city.  Zadar is a great city also.  We enjoyed games and tortilla soup from Sister Tanner.  Thursday we visited Plitvice in a mist and light rain and then traveled to Zagreb, and enjoyed the night views and then stayed at the mountain retreat where we had stayed with all the senior couples.
 We have had a great missionary week with Greg and Nancy.  They helped us talk with people everywhere we went and shared pass along cards with all of them.  We visited with people from all over the world and spoke to them about families being eternal.  We decided one good approach to talking about the church is to offer to take a picture of them.  Then they want to take a picture for you and then you start talking and tell them why we are here as missionaries and about our church that helps families be together forever.  One of our great experiences was meeting a family in Zagreb at the main cathedral.  The mom took a picture of us.  She was a beautiful lady and looked foreign.  We asked her where she was from and she said Utah.  From Salt Lake!  She and her husband have lived there since March of this year.  She is the manager of City Creek Nordstrom.  We asked her if she knew Nora Cummins (do you remember she used to live in our ward with her family?)  She said Nora is her boss.  Linda and her husband live on the avenues in Monson’s ward.  They are not members and don’t know much about Mormons yet.  Linda’s relatives are from Croatia but she was born in Australia.  She grew up speaking Croatian and they were here to visit relatives.  Nancy said they would love to have them over for dinner when they all return to Utah.  We decided we were witnessing the Lord’s hand in getting us all in the same place at the same time to meet.  They should have been there 3 hours earlier but were delayed at the border of Bosnia with car problems.  We have seen and experienced so many tender mercies while here on our mission and are so grateful for them. 
 We arrived home to Osijek just in time for Activnos.  The whole Branch was so excited to meet Nancy and Greg!  We played Do You love your Neighbor?  (MaryAnn and Darrell's famous game) and the country game.  Two friends made chocolate mint palačinka (crepes) and we brought ice cream to go with it.  Saturday was a baptism.  He is a 20 year old student.  It is so great for our members to have another young person to hang out with.  It is so important for them to have friends with similar interests and the gospel to help them remain strong.  Sunday was our Branch Conference and President Babić, his wife and 2 sons came to our meeting from Zagreb.  Our newest convert was confirmed and received the Holy Ghost and Brother Bilić was sustained as a counselor to Dad.  Greg stood in the circle to help confirm.  Dad and President Babić each spoke; Dad about unity, families and the ward family and President Babić about Croatia becoming a stake by 2020.  He told us about joining the church, being the only one in his family, serving a mission to England and then coming home to marry his wife who had joined the church while he was on his mission.  He didn’t grow up in a family with the church, but now he and his family were the new generation with the church.  His wife is so proud of him and said he always gives a good talk.  President Babić also taught Sunday School about becoming converted, having a change of heart, and helping to strengthen one another as we work toward becoming a stake.  Dad’s talk was very humble and spoken from the heart about all he believes and loves about his family including each of you, his siblings and my siblings.  He is doing such a great job as president of our little branch as he tries to help each member with their different needs.  It isn’t easy with the language but somehow communication works.
 We also enjoyed a short time Sunday afternoon in Serbia.  We went to a cemetery and met several sweet people.  They all understood us with our limited Croatian, their Serbian and our English.  One grandmother was putting flowers on her grandson’s grave who passed away 6 years ago from cancer.  He had it for 3 years and died at age 6.  We gave her a card and told her families could be together forever and encouraged her to go to the website on the back of the card and learn more about the Mormons.  One sweet man had just lost his wife a few months ago and was tenderly taking care of her grave.  Another was a small older lady, bent clear over trying to tell us about her life.  They were all sweet, gentle people who were ready to receive the gospel.  We couldn’t communicate much to them, but hopefully we planted a few seeds.
 We can’t say enough about the Monsons’ influence among the members and people here on our mission.  They were so involved one on one with each member, taking time to talk with them and learn about their trials and listening with their hearts.  Nancy initiated taking a picture of the whole Branch to put on our bulletin board.  They loved the members and now have gone home promising to pray for them and told them they would be anxious to hear about them and their progress.  They told another friend they would be excited to hear about his baptism (when it happens).  We witnessed the importance of other people’s influence for good as they take a genuine interest in your life.  We are grateful they came.  We had a wonderful time together and could see how nice it would be to serve with another senior couple.  We wanted to make this short to make it easier to get through.  There is so much more to talk about but we will save it for a later date.  We love you each so much.  We miss you but we are happy and busy.  We have lots we would like to see happen while we are here and already we are 5 months out of 18.  We need to get on the stick!  We sure think it would be great to have Gary and Ann join us in the Adriatic North Mission but will be happy for them wherever they are called to serve.  We are waiting anxiously for them to receive their call.  We love you!!!  Mom and Dad/ Mutti and Bumpa        

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 1, 2012

Cute Friends

Not Quite Van Cliburn--but close!

Fermenting Grapes

Dad and the Elders
Friends with Luna, the dog :)

Ponedjeljak 1 listopad 2012

Dear Kiddos,

Good morning,  It was so fun to be with all of you yesterday.  Tashie and Geremy and Greyson, we didn’t see you but we felt your presence and hope they were able to finally connect with you so you could see and talk with all of the family there.  It was a nice blessing, Mitch; we could hear every word of it.  I don’t know who was holding the I-Pad so close for us, but whoever, thanks so much.  You all looked so nice and happy and even peaceful which is amazing with so many of you all together. 

We have had a nice week.  We drove in to Zagreb on Tuesday late afternoon to change our rental car with a loaner car.  They let us have the car for the first 4 days free and then were going to start charging us per day.  The loaner car is also free and we still don’t know how long we will have it.  We left the car at the dealer on Friday the 21st of Sept.  We know they ordered parts for the car but we haven’t heard yet when it will be done.  We hope to get it sometime this week so we have it to pick up Nancy and Greg in one week.  We are excited they are coming.

We just spoke with one of the senior missionaries about a place to stay at Lake Bled in Slovenia.  The Monsons fly into Ljubljana which is about 40 minutes from Lake Bled.  We are not sure about our plans yet, but whatever we do will be great to do with them.

We had a nice experience yesterday visiting with the family in Ilok.  We took the elders with us so they could also play the piano and also translate if we needed them to.  We had a difficult time finding their home.  The GPS couldn’t quite find it and we asked several people and they gave us varying instructions.  The dad, finally came and met us and we followed him to their home.  I had seen a sign with their name on it and we wondered if that had anything to do with the family.  We drove up a hill and came out into a clearing and that was where they live.

The dad and his brother have a winery, with (according to them) the best wine in all of Croatia.  They have kind of an estate with their home, his brother’s home and his mother’s home, a two car garage and lots of land with a patio covered with sort of an arbor over it.  We were about an hour late and had talked with them telling them we had had some problems.  When we arrived they invited us to their table and wanted to get us a drink.   They had been telling us about their winery and wanted to serve us some of their wine.  They were quite astonished when we said we didn’t drink.  They thought we could surely drink their wine because it was so good.  I said we could have some grape juice but they don’t make it.  They had some orange juice and then the mom, brought over 4 different trays full of breads and cake.  She had some wonderful croissant type rolls, some rolled up bread with 2 different fillings, some wonderful chocolate cake and a bowl full of grapes.  We were all quite hungry because it was fast Sunday, so we really ate quite a lot.

We had a great time talking about their family and about our families and then we had a mini-piano recital.  Both of the girls play really well.  Then it was my turn.  I played a song that sounded pretty nice at church but not so good there.  Then Elder Mulder played a couple of songs.  He is a bit of a van Cliburn and they were very impressed.  Then Elder Bates sang with Elder Mulder…”The Prayer of the Children”, written about the war here in Croatia by Kurt Bestor.  He served a mission here before the war.  The song is really nice.  

We went outside to see their winery.  He had a large building with several vats (about 40 inches tall filled with grapes that were fermenting.  Lots of fruit flies were flying around and both dad and I began to cough and choke.  He also had several large stainless steel tanks full of fermenting grapes.  It was all very interesting.  They produce about 100,000 litres of wine every year. 

After seeing all of this we went back inside the home and gave them a Book of Mormon.  They asked some questions and then Dad asked if we could leave them with a prayer.  The mom said they only pray in the church.  We read Alma 34:18-27 about praying over your flocks, etc.  And then the mom said they do have a prayer in their hearts all day long.  Elder Bates offered a prayer and prayed for their home, family, and their lessons in school, their winery and their vineyards.

They said they come to Osijek often and we asked that when they come again they come to visit us and we will have them into our home.  We talked on our way home about what a great family they are.  I don’t know if they are prepared to receive the gospel yet but they are a good family.  They love one another, the children respect their parents and the parents treat their children with respect.  They were very gracious, happy and hard working.  We enjoyed being with them and in their home.  They had a great library of books so we hope they will take some time and read from the Book of Mormon.  We’ll let you know when we see them again.  (One of the books in their library is The Bridge on the Drina). 

All is well here in Osijek.  Our allergies seem to have left us, at least for now.  Everything has really greened up with the rain we have had and the cooler weather.  We have been enjoying the big full moon.  The report on Dad’s face was good.   The stitches were a bit tricky to get out.  It doesn’t look too good yet but we know things get better with age, so we are hopeful.

We took a Brother to Zagreb with us for the Branch President training Saturday.  It was a bit crazy traveling in the car with his Croatian and our English.  We need to learn more Croatian or he needs to learn more English so we can communicate better.  He will be sustained on the 14th at our ward conference.  Then he can begin conducting Sacrament meetings.  He helped Dad give a 10-year old a back to school blessing.  The boy had been sick so his mom asked dad to also anoint him and give him a blessing to get better.  the Brother anointed him and then Dad gave the blessing.  This Brother is really a good, humble man and we are happy dad has a counselor.

All is well here.  We hope you have arrived home safely, Peter.  Send us an email sometime.  We love to hear from all of you.  Annie, how is your back?  We hope you are happy and doing okay.  Gabe, we are glad your cast is off.  Be careful on the crutches and follow your Doctor’s orders.

We love you all.  Mom and Dad/Mutti and Bumpa 

Elder and Sister Ivins
Matije Gupca 7a
31000 Osijek, Croatia
385 (0) 91 444-8114 (Elder Ivins)
385 (0) 91 444-8115 (Sister Ivins)