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.