Monday October 15, 2012
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