Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 1, 2013

Branch Christmas Party

Christmas in our Apartment

Senior Sisters

Zagreb Mission Conference

Missionaries who have served and are serving in Osijek

Gingerbread House at the Branch Party

Snejana and Neva who made the Gingerbread House

Branch Party

Branch Party

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Siječanj 1, 2013

Sretna nova godina  Happy New Year! Dear kiddos!

It seems like forever ago that we sent a letter home.  It has been so nice to celebrate with you over Skype.  You all look wonderful and we were so impressed with your talent show and reading and acting out of the nativity.  Thank you for including us.  We felt like we were at home for the two hours we had with you.  We do love each of you so much.

We had a very nice Christmas here in Osijek!  The mission Christmas conference was really fun.  President and Sister Rowe are a great mission president and wife.  I remember Jonny and Michael talking about their presidents while they were on their missions.  They said (and probably the rest of you also said, too) they were sure their president would be a general authority following their mission.  President Rowe is of the same caliber.  And Sister Rowe is such a great support and help to him.  We love them both.  It is always so
fun to be with all of the other missionaries, to eat and have fun with them and then to have a pep talk and assurance that the Lord is in charge here on our mission and will help us as we seek for it.  I asked President Rowe if all was okay following interviews with him.  He said, "Everything is good.  We have a good boss."

I don't know if you guessed the reason for Pres. Rowe and Pres. Babič’s (District Pres. for Croatia) visit to our Branch on the 23rd.  They came to call Zoran Korajac to be our new Branch President!  We have been so excited for the last few weeks anticipating this happening.  Zoran is such a good guy, with a strong testimony, full of faith, very humble, compassionate and hard working.  He has spent his past few summers on the coast where he makes twice as much as he can make working here.  When Pres. Rowe called him he told him the Lord was calling him to be the Branch President and wanted him to stay here in Osijek.  He was afraid to pray about it because he knew the answer before he prayed.  So now we are praying for a good woman to become his wife and praying he can find a better job here in Osijek.  We decided that is part of our mission call now and most every young woman we see walking down the street Dad will ask me if that might be the one for Zoran.   It is so great to have a Branch president who speaks the language of our members and can relate to the members far better than we can.  Dad is one of his counselors so he will continue to help however is needed.  Our call when we came was "member/leader support" and to do whatever else our president needed.  We are thrilled!!!

Our Branch Christmas party was really fun.  We had about 40 people with ham for about 75!  After everyone had all they could eat, we sent home left-overs with many people.  We had lots of members and
investigators come, ate, sang carols, played some ping pong and enjoyed watching a friend of Zoran’s break dance (like Seth and Tim).  One of the great traditions for Christmas here in Osijek is to go visit your friends and eat their special Christmas cakes, which are sort of like petit fours.  We went caroling with the missionaries and were invited in to a couple of homes to eat cake after caroling.  We also caroled for our landlords and ate their cake and talked with them.  We spent about an hour and a half caroling in a rest home.  One of our members lives there.  Many of the residents have Alzheimer's.  They didn't know who we were but sure enjoyed our singing.  We went up and down the halls, and in and out of rooms that had 3-4 people in them.  They would follow us and some would join in singing.  It was a nice day!

Two things we have really enjoyed in the last couple of days:  Our friend Božo, the 72 year old most active member of our Branch (not yet baptized) came by Saturday morning on his walk to Aljmaš.  We joined
him and walked for part of his 36 mile walk.  He does this weekly.  We talked about his dream of having a wife and children and that he was so sad that had never happened.  We talked about the spirit world and
that he could still realize that dream one day.  He has a brother who died very young while serving in the army and his mother died last fall.  I told him that maybe our dads were teaching the gospel to his mom and brother right now in the spirit world and that as soon as he was ready, he could go to the temple and do the work for them.  He is the one that we are reading the Book of Mormon with each week.  He has a testimony but something is keeping him from really seeing the truth.  He told us that day that he has a large stone inside him that he has to remove before he can get baptized.  It was a great walk and talk.  As Dad and I returned home we talked about it being like on the road to Emmaus.

Second, we have been trying since we arrived in Osijek to contact a member family who lives about an hour away from here.  After having no success on the phone again today, we drove to their apartment in
Županja to just see if we could maybe find them home.  The mom invited us in and we had a great visit with her and her daughter and son.  Her daughter is taking tests to enter medical school this fall and the son
was busy studying.   They are very busy but said they would love to join us at church some time.  It was a nice visit and we are hopeful they will really come when they can.

We have had a very nice couple of weeks celebrating Christmas and New Years. We received many Christmas cards in the mail from you and our siblings, nephews and nieces and friends.  We were so surprised to receive them and have really enjoyed each one.  We have read and re-read the cards just like we have looked at and re-looked at the photo book from all of you.  We are still thankful to be here and know that this is where the Lord wanted us to serve.  We love the people here and are so excited for Gary and Ann to arrive and get acquainted with the people throughout this mission and help to hasten the work.

We continue to see the hand of God helping and directing us each day. We know we have been blessed far more than we deserve.  And we know part of what we do is a direct result of each of you praying for us
and all the missionaries.  Tanya reminded us that we need to write a few of our blessings down each day so we are trying to be better at be a little more reflective.  We love you each so much.

Love, mom and dad/mutti and bumpa

Christmas Eve, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve, 2012

 Dear Family:

It was so fun to be a part of the annual Christmas Pageant on Sunday afternoon with all of you.  We were absolutely amazed at how organized and how well you all of you did.  We love you so much.  All of you are so great. We have so many great memories of being all together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our family for the last 45 years.  We spent part of the Christmas holiday together in Twin Falls in December 1967, when I wanted to ask Grandpa Babbel if I could marry mom.  She wasn’t ready for that discussion until a little later in the program.

We remember the years when our only gifts were from the DI and all of the great DI Christmases since then.  We especially remember the Christmas we got the piano and the Christmas at the Cabin with diamond rings.  Today, we spent all day helping some “Christmas Families” in need.  You kids have helped carry on that tradition that Grandpa Babbel began with Gary and Candy when they were 10 or 11.

We just sent the missionaries home after doing the Christmas story from the Bible.  They each had to play 2 or 3 parts and they were almost as hard to keep focused as all of you kids were when you were young.  We love to read and remember the Bible story of his birth and life.  We know more assuredly that He lives and that he set the perfect selfless example for all of us to follow.  We are blessed to understand (in small part) the divine plan of happiness.  We are happy because of Him.  We take for granted the blessing of being born in America and that we had so many selfless, inspired men and women who laid the groundwork of our free country and opened the door for the restoration of the Gospel. This means so much to us as we serve here in Croatia and see the struggles these people have endured over the last 400+ years (about the same time the Ivins family first arrived in the New World).  They have had many wars even since the late 1800's when the Babbels came to America.  For the most part, our ancestors have been spared the horrors of war.  We are so grateful for our ancestors who joined the church and came to Zion (America) one at a time leaving family and friends behind.  Looking back we can see clearly how the pieces of the puzzle have come together through the good choices our ancestors made, including our own parents and grandparents who met and married and multiplied and replenished the earth so we (mom and dad) could meet and marry and start our own new nation.  Of the many choices we have made, the best and most important choice was our decision to marry and to start a family and bring you into the world.  We are so grateful for the choices you have made to marry each other and raise such remarkable families. Thank you for doing your part to help our family progress toward perfection and ultimately realize our divine destiny as one big happy eternal family.  

As you know, having days like this help us know that “We’re richer than Bill Gagen!” per Grandpa Babbel.  We know that you have had some fear and trepidation and a few problems that help us remember that we must live by faith.  But most of all you have taught us that you have been able to do hard things.  Through it all we have learned that "The Greatest Blessing in our Lives, Before, Now and Forever, is to Love and Be Loved.  The Greatest Ingredient of that Blessing is Unselfishness.”  So with this we come back to the Christmas message. Our Heavenly Father and Jesus are the perfect examples of that simple recipe for happiness.  They love us--unselfishly.  They are happy when we love each other, The Lord and ourselves.  We know that.  The key is for us to keep loving—unselfishly.  As we keep this one commandment, to love one another, we will remain in Their Love.  Our favorite scriptures of the week are John 14 and 15.  We thank you for being here on earth at this time.  We thank you for your choices and know that you and your children and grandchildren have been and will be reserved to come to the earth “for such a time as this”.  We love you.  We thank you and we are proud of you and we congratulate you and wish you the very best Christmas ever and the very best and Happy New Year.  

Love Mutti and Bumpa

Weds, December 19, 2012

Srijeda (Wednesday) 19 Prosinaca (December) 2012

Dear Kiddos,

Hello to all of you.  We are busy enjoying this season of celebrating the birth of Jesus just like each of you must be.  We think of all that is going on at home and miss each of you and celebrating with you.  But, we are happy and especially grateful we can be here on a mission and have the privilege of representing Christ.  We are so thankful for Him and enjoy bearing our testimonies to our Branch members and to others we can communicate with, sometimes not so successfully (at least in Croatian).

Dad has gone to take one of the members shopping for some food.  He will take him to deliver some chocolate to a few places and on a few other errands.  I just made some brownies to take to our Missionary Christmas conference tomorrow in Zagreb.  All of the missionaries from all 4 countries will be there and it will be a fun celebration.  We have also been preparing for our Branch Christmas party this coming Friday.  We found a box of decorations in the Church closet along with 2/3 of a tree.  So, we went with the Elders and got a nice tree from Hungary for about $20 so we will use it and enjoy the nice, fresh smell.  For the party we are going to cook some ham and baked potatoes, green beans and fresh carrots and have a fresh fruit salad with mom’s lemon dressing.  We have asked the members to help bring something if they can and all of them said they would bring cake or cookies.

Tashie, Geremy and Greyson, and Christian and Amy sent a picture of them taken at our 8th ward Christmas party.  They had a photo booth at the party with a few hats, beards, etc and took pics of all the families.  It was such a good picture and great idea that we are going to do the same thing here.  A friend of one of our members is coming dressed as Michael Jackson and will dance for us.  (We will miss Tim dancing; maybe you can get him to dance again for all of you at the Babbel family Christmas party.)  We will have some special Christmas music, sing a few carols and have a spiritual message from one of the members or Elder Mulder.  We have invited all the English class, investigators and even the guy who sold us the tree.  We hope to have 50 or so but will be happy with whoever makes it.  

We have had some positive experiences as we have been around to visit some of the less active members and invite them to the party and to Church on Sunday.  When we can take a member with us to invite them, they seem more eager to come out.  We bought the ham and other things for the party at a store, Metro, which is like Costco.  A member had a card to get into the store and sent a text to another member who works there.  He came down to visit with us and agreed to come and help cut the ham.  We are hopeful he will really come.  We feel as we get 1 or 2 of the members to come again who used to come all the time, it might trigger some interest in some of the other members to come back.  We had a fast on Sunday with the missionaries and our 17 year old young woman to ask for help in the missionary work.  She asked us to join her in fasting for 5 baptisms to take place on one day.  There is a lot of faith with our members and a willingness to help in the work.

We met with a mom and her son (16) and daughter (19) yesterday.  The mom hasn’t come for a long time but her kids have come to Aktivnost and also to church a few times.  They love to come but live about 25 minutes away in the car.  We are happy to go get them and have wondered why they haven’t wanted to come lately.  The mom told us why; she said she doesn’t feel comfortable using our gas.  She did say she will let them come once or twice a month and we can go get them, so we are grateful for that and want to respect her wishes.   They are humble people.  

The snow from our big storm has about washed away with the rain.  Some snow is forecast for the next few days so we may still have a fresh, white Christmas.  Pres. Rowe and Pres. Babić (District Pres.) are coming to our Branch this Sunday and will speak and also teach Sunday school.  Everyone is excited for that and hopefully that will also get many of the members out.

We will have the missionaries over Christmas Eve.  We will have dinner, sing some carols and read the Christmas story.  They will also come on Christmas day for dinner and to call their families.  We read “That Thine Alms May Be in Secret” with the English class.  I read it to Dad a couple of days before and we both cried all the way through it.  It wasn’t quite the same for them because we had to explain the meaning of so many of the words to them.  Another evening in class we read “T’was the night before Christmas.”  They enjoyed reading it but again we needed to stop often to explain what was being said.  They are pretty good readers and I think they enjoy taking turns reading.  We also read the Christmas story from Luke and some from Matthew.  It has been really fun for us to read with them.  We also have a book given to us from the Bretzings.  They said while they were away as mission president the book was a great treat for them to read at Christmas.  We have been reading and enjoying it.

We are happy and are so thankful for each of you.  We are excited to talk with all of you Sunday and will enjoy being with you during your talent show.   Have a great day.  We hope you are not too busy and can enjoy Christmas every day.  Read some of your Christmas stories!   Enjoy some music and sing some songs.  Visit your neighbors and have lots of fun.  Peter, we can hardly wait for you to get home with everyone!  Have a fun time at the Babbel family party.  Enjoy it for us, too.

We love you all.  Love, mom and dad  xoxox

December 5, 2012

Leaf Artist



Chapel in Zagreb:  ONLY Chapel in our Mission!
Srijeda (Wednesday) Prosinac (December) 5, 2012

Dear Kiddos,

We have had a good day and week.  We went early this morning with one of our most faithful members to purchase some food for another member who lives with his mother over an hour away from here.  We bought fruit and vegetables, bread and some meat and some staples (flour, rice, beans, pasta and milk that stores for several weeks on the shelf).  As we walked into the store, Zoran said, "I love this time of the year...everything looking like Christmas."  We have had a touch of snow and it is cold and Christmas decorations are up everywhere.  I thought about being home and helping to prepare some food and gifts for a Christmas family.  We left the store with our trunk full of food and headed to Otok.  The young man and his mother were happy to see us.  We went into their home and all sat around their kitchen stove where the heat was.  They told us of their needs.  He has AIDS and they have been struggling for a long time.  It was nice to have Zoran with us to translate.  He brought a Book of Mormon with him along with a reading plan to help read the book.  Dad talked to the young man about the reason for fasting and paying fast offerings.  He said that the funds are to help the poor and the needy.  As we fast two meals we give the money we would have spent on food to the Bishop to be used to help someone else.  And the amazing thing is all the donations are kept together and are used around the world to bless the lives of all who need it.  Then, when we one in need is back on his feet, he can pay his donations to help someone else.

The member receiving assistance doesn't speak any English but he does speak German in addition to his Croatian.  It was amazing to listen to Dad speak in German to him.  He quoted the 4th article of faith about the principles and ordinances of the Gospel, faith, repentance, baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I thought about all the times Dad would help you recite the articles of faith while showering or while he was showering, and how he would often recite them in German.  And then I thought about Esther helping to save the Jewish people from being put to death.  She was told by (I think it was her father?) that who knew if she was saved for such a time as this.  Maybe Dad recited his German for years for just such a time as this.  It was a good experience.  Dad anointed the member with oil (in English) in preparation for Zoran to give him a blessing in Croatian.  Before the blessing Dad asked me to say a prayer in Croatian.  My Croatian is still lacking quite a bit!  Then we went with the member to a neighbor to purchase 5 meters of wood to help keep his mother and him warm during the next few months.  Dad asked for a receipt and everyone just looked at him and then laughed.  A receipt?  It was a good experience for all of us.

Tonight we have been getting the Church books figured out with internet banking that Dad just got signed up for.  We are happy to be on top of things.  We are going early in the morning to take a couple of members on a family errand about 2 hours away.  We may have a couple of hours to wander around.  We may try to find a sawmill that belongs to the husband of another member.  It would be great if we could have a visit with him.

Our District Conference Sunday was really a nice day.  We had 21 of us from Osijek.  The elders rode the train to Zagreb and we were going to have 2 members ride the train home.  We asked Božo if he would mind taking the train and he said no, that was fine.  When we tried to find him later to drive him to the train with the other man, we couldn’t find him.  We called his phone and he said he was already on the train headed back to Osijek.  He had walked to the train station in the rain about 3 miles and bought his own ticket!  Dad will write to you about the conference later.  He has gone to bed and I am going to join him.  Thanks for going to the temple together last night and doing all the names for our Branch.  They will be so happy when we tell them.

We love you all so very much!  Love, mom and dad/mutti and bumpa