Sunday, December 28, 2014

During the month of December, we were able to make two visits to Camp Konik, a refugee camp located just outside the city of Podgorica.  There are about 475 people living in two camps and some awful apartment buildings.  They live in the most humble of circumstances.  These people fled Kosovo during the war in 1999.  This was to be temporary camps, but many still live here.  The children are innocent victims.  On December 3, we visited the camp to help distribute hygiene kits that were assembled and donated by LDS charities.  What a life-changing experience for us!  Our Christmas Eve trip was an invitation to watch the distribution of gifts provided by the rotary club.  It was great to see their excitement and joy - cute kids, huh!      

December 9, we flew to Zone Conference in Belgrade, Serbia.   It was a great conference, but a very long day - up at 4:30 am to catch or flight and home at 9:00 pm.  We left beautiful weather in Podgorica and arrived to a dismal, rainy day in Belgrade.  After our first taxi ride, and a long walk in the rain, we arrived at the church, soaked and cold.  We froze all day and had a long waiting period before we could take a taxi back and catch our flight home.  We needed to pass a little time in the airport - do we look as tired and bedraggled as we feel?                                            

                                                                                        December 17, we were able to meet our Red Cross partners, Natasa and Goren, to tour the Red Cross warehouse.  We were able to see the inventory of wheelchairs and walkers that LDS charities has donated to the people in Montenegro.  As the news goes out about the availability of wheelchairs, more and more requests are received.  The chairs are fitted to each individual, according to their size, weight and need.

  On December 19, the Adriatic North mission had a Christmas conference for all missionaries.  It was held in Zabreg, Croatia at this beautiful church building (the only stand-alone church we have seen).  After a flight Thursday evening from Podgorica to Belgrade, Serbia, and many challenges with van rentals and accidents (not us, the other van), we spent the night with President and Sister Morgan.  Early Friday morning 
(4:30 am), we left in one big van with seven other missionaries for a three and one-half hour (turned five hour) drive to Zagreb.  We were able to be a part of the wonderful Christmas meeting and dinner for about three and one-half hours before we had to start the long drive back to Belgrade for our flight back to Podgorica. 

We have missed seeing Christmas decorations in our city.  We decided that they just didn't decorate here.  Finally, we realized that they decorate later because they don't celebrate Christmas until January 7.   As it gets closer to Christmas, more and more decorations go us.

Our first Christmas in Montenegro was hard being away from our family.  But thanks to emails, Skype, cards, pictures and our care package we were able to be a part of the celebration at home.  We celebrated Christmas day with Elder Lowis, Elder Pantelakis, Elder Hixon, Srdjan (our awesome member) and Elder Poore.  (What an awful picture of us two old foggies practically laying down on the couch!)  By the way, the picture in the background was in recognition of a service from LDS charities to a rehab center.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our first days in the Adriatic North Mission

We arrived in Zagreb, Croatia on November 15 where we were greeted by President and Sister Grant.  We were then loaded into a van, and after a three hour drive, we arrived in Belgrade, Serbia for a District Conference.  After meeting Saturday and Sunday, we drove back to Zagreb where we spent the night at the mission home.  So, if we look a little tired, it's because we have been awake for about 36 hours.

After a night in the mission home, we loaded up again and off to the airport we went for our flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia.  The Westwoods met us, stuffed our luggage in the humanitarian station wagon (with the back full and two carry-on bags, plus our handbags between us).  We drove along the beautiful Adriatic Sea coast, then turned up, up, up, up over the mountains and down, down, down to Podgorica.

Podgorica is a beautiful city with lots of trees - can't wait to see it in the Spring.  This is outside our temporary apartment window.

We have now been here and have moved into our permanent home away from home.  We are getting a little more acquainted with the city and haven't got too lost for a few days.  We are both so turned around here that we have really had a struggle with directions.  No where are there street signs or direction markers.  This bridge, called Millennium Most (most means bridge) is over the Moraca River and is a good landmark for us.  This picture was taken on Saturday during a huge rain storm (which is quite common in the winter).  Today, walking to church, the water was muddy, muddy and up to the bottom of the white structure at the bottom of the bridge.

This is one of several parks in the middle of the city.  We really enjoy walking almost everywhere we go.  The sidewalks are old and dangerous, but much safer than driving in the horrible traffic.  Honking taxi cab drivers and lead-footed speeders keep you on the edge of your seat when driving, or very cautious when walking across the street.

   .These giant transformers made from pieces of junk cars and trucks are here and there around the city.  

The pizza is yummy here!  The Goodfella's is the best - a little pricier - 1.5 euros for one slice (1/4 an 18").  The MiMi stands are everywhere.  There pizza is 1 euros for the same slice.  They fold it in half and stick it in a cardboard sleeve.  People walk around eating it all hours of the day. 

This is a picture of the "walking street".  It goes for two block with tiny shops on both sides of the street.  It's great - you don't have to worry about cars.

This beautiful building is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Podgorica.  It's very lovely on the inside, despite the big hole in the front window (which we're trying to get replaced).   We have met here twice now - the four Elders, Elder and Sister Taylor, our member Srgon (last week we had one inactive member and one investigator attend plus the Westwoods - quite the crowd!)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our Great MTC District!

This is the wonderful district that we worked with during our stress week.  From the left:  Elder & Sister Johnson going to Hong Kong as welfare regional coordinators, Elder & Sister Birch going to Calgary, Canada as office specialists, Sister Foster & Sister Grover going to Salt Lake City as Family History Specialist, and the silly old couple on the end going to Montenegro in the Adriatic North Mission.  What a special group of people!

Missionaries at Last!

Well, after four long months, we are finally officially missionaries - we have finished our first week at the MTC!  What a stretch-ourselves-out-of-our-comfort-zone week, but also, what a very,very spiritual and uplifting week.  We are almost ready to fly off to Montenegro - just four more days of training on our responsibilities.