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Bosnia Trip
Apr 25th, 2009 by ron

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Greetings!
We are still trying to get Tasa’s container through customs and delivered. In the past week we have taken trams, buses, taxi’s, and walked for miles to try spend face time with the shippers to get the container from the port in Croatia to Belgrade , through customs and delivered to Tasa. So far we have only accomplished getting the container to Belgrade where it is being held up in customs until they analyze the toothpaste and bar soap in the hygiene kits that are in the container. We have been told that shipping agents and customs agents are on the take and we are afraid that it may be the case as we are worried that we may have to pay an arm and a leg to get this container delivered. It contains winter coats, boots, and clothing all from DI and baby quilts, blankets and hygiene kits all new. Please pray for us literally as it may cost more than the stuff is even worth. Tasa is the gypsy leader who is also a member of the church and is in the branch presidency here in Belgrade.
We got up at 4:30 am on Thursday and readied ourselves for a road trip to Bosnia and were on the road by 6:00am. Remember, the car is parked at the church 5 blocks away. We pulled our little overnight bags and carried our backpacks all the way. Now, you might ask why we don’t go to the church, get the car, drive to our apt. and pick up our luggage and the answer is clear……NO parking at our apt. building. By the time we double parked the car, took our little rickety elevator (which sometimes gets hung up) to the 11th floor and got back to the car we would either have a parking ticket or our car would be towed. Our streets are so narrow, many are one way streets, and there is just no place to park. There is not one single parking stall for our apt. building. People downtown where we live just don’t own a car. Mass transit is very good here and so that is how we get around on a daily basis. We buy a monthly pass and it is good for bus & tram. The church has purchased 2 stall in front of the church building and we have a devise that looks like a tripod which stands up with a padlock to keep other people from parking there. The members who have cars also have keys so they can park there but nearly everyone takes the bus to church.
Well back to my story! We were on the road by 6:00 headed to Bosnia. Driving through Bosnia was very beautiful with it’s rolling hills and beautiful green mountains. The road is a 2 lane highway that is like driving over Cedar Mountain. There were lovely little villages all along the way and each home seemed to have an outhouse, smoke house for smoking meats, a garden spot with rows and rows of onions already up, and many had a cow, or sheep grazing on the hillside or a goat or two. Many Bosnians are Muslim and you can tell the women because they wear scarves on their heads and long skirts or dresses. Their Mausk’s (church buildings) are everywhere.
As we drove along, I noticed pock marks on the front of the houses, where big chunks had fallen away. I told Ron that it looked like someone had opened fire on them. We came to realize that’s exactly what had happened. During the war between Serbia and Bosnia of 1998, the Serbs tried to do an ethnic cleansing, and tried to take over Bosnia. The Bosnians were warned to leave and many who did burned their own houses as they headed for safer ground fearing that the Serbs would move in and take over their homes. We counted 62 burned out shells in a short distance. It must have been such a frightening time for them. Luckily the US and NATO stepped in and helped Bosnia out. For this reason, Bosnians like Americans a lot.
We first went to Sarajevo. If you remember your history, they hosted the winter Olympics in 1972. It is a beautiful city high up in the mountains. There is an American couple in Sarajevo and he works for the American Embassy there. They are both Latter-day Saints and are both anxious to help us in any way possible. They will be wonderful local contact persons for us there. We went to meet with the Red Cross to see if we can partner up with them to get a wheelchair project started. The church is not recognized there yet and so this may be a way to get the name of the church recognized while helping handicapped people at the same time. We had a very good meeting and things look promising. We plan to make application for wheelchairs right away. After our meeting we walked around a local market and visited with a few people there and were warmly received! We couldn’t stay long however as we needed to get on the road back to Tuzla, Bosnia where we had reservations and the only hotel in town.
Our hotel took us back farther than we cared to remember! It was soooooooooo old and in the middle of some renovations. I hope they hurry on the renovations as we will be going back quite often. The Durrance’s were with us and are actually our bosses (if you will) as they are in charge of all of the Humanitarian Missionaries in the Balkin region. They are headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany but are actually from Florida and speak with quite the southern drawl – y’all. They are just our age and are quite a lot of fun to work with. They have been out on their mission since Dec. and came to Tuzla a few months ago & organized a wheelchair project with the Red Cross there. We were there for the Distribution Ceremony. The local TV station interviewed our mission president for the local news and showed many of the recipients of the chairs. It was such an emotional thing to see a father carry his 11 (or so) year old son around on his back. The boy was so crippled. What a blessing this gift is going to be in the life of this boy and his father. I talked to the m and although they couldn’t understand my words and I couldn’t understand theirs, we communicated spirit to spirit. I held the boy’s hands and he clung on to me, didn’t want to let go. I cried my eyes out. Another story was of twin little 6 yr. old girls who aren’t able to walk. Do you think that twin chairs will bless their lives and that of their parents? Can you imagine carrying TWO handicapped children everywhere they went? There were so many people in need of these chairs and not enough chairs to go around. See the pictures attached and you will recognize who and what I am talking about.
After the ceremony, the Red Cross took us to one of their hospitals in the area. The Pres. Of the local Red Cross is also a doctor and a fine man. He volunteers his time to the Red Cross. He is a lung specialist and said that 2/3 of their population smoke and start at a very young age and so they see a tremendously large number of terminally ill cancer patients with lung cancer. They want to partner up with us to do another wheelchair project and are also interested in Neo-Natal Resussitation if we can get permission from their ministers of health in that region.
A funny thing that wasn’t funny at the time.
After Ron’s shower that morning, he cleaned out his ears with a Serbian Q-tip (not that brand) and the cotton came off the stick deep in his ear. We tried and tried to get it out with tweezers and couldn’t reach it. The time came to go to the ceremony and he still hadn’t figured out how to get it out. He tried flushing it out with water, banging on the side of his head then all of a sudden it came to him, use the little Christmas tree shaped tooth cleaning brush. He stuck it in his ear ant twirled it a little bit and out it came! Hooray! Another one of our little daily miracles if you ask me!
On our way home, we drove another route than we had come. It was beautiful. We stopped and talked to a little old couple (picture also included) who were working on the side of a hill. Turns out that she was picking up rocks to place at the top of the field to stop erosion. They were ready to plant hay. He said he would just scatter the seeds and it will grow. She was a little embarrassed because she was afraid she didn’t look presentable but they let us take their picture just the same!
Just before we crossed back over the Serbian border we came to a bridge crossing over the Danube River. I said to Ron that it looked like a trestle bridge and sure enough it was, train tracks leading right down the middle and only wide enough for one train. As we neared the middle of the bridge, we realized that a semi-truck was coming in the opposite direction. We weren’t quite sure if there was enough room to pass but we made it, white knuckle, with an inch or two to spare and to top it off it was nearly dark! Densley is a pretty darn good driver. As you can see, we don’t lack for adventure over here. We are loving doing what we are doing and most of all, love hearing from you. Thank you for your responses and for caring enough to keep us in mind.
We love you all,
Elder and Sis. Densley

The Wheelchair Project
Apr 25th, 2009 by ron

We want to partner up with the Red Cross to get a wheelchair project going there. It was a favorable experience and looks like great things could happen there and also get the name of the church out there in an attempt to get recognition from the government.  We also attended a wheelchair donation ceremony in Tusla Bosbia.  It was a real tear jerker.  One father carried his son of around 11 or 12 on his back in order to transport him around.  What a blessing that chair is going to be to them both.  His picture is included in our blog.  Also a set of twin girls who are 6 yrs. old.  They are so cute and what a blessing to their family as well and for the two little girls.  There were many other chairs given out that day and what a tear jerker.  The sad part about it is that there are many more people in that town who weren’t on the list to receive a chair and so we will start application for more right away.  It was a most amazing experience to be  part of that.

My computer is doing some funky things so I am not telling the entire story but one more thing before I close! We took a different route on our way home and just before we came to the border crossing back into Serbia, we came to a bridge to cross the Danube River and the bridge was actually a one lane train trestle with train tracks running right through the center. It was almost dark and we were in the center of the bridge when a semi-truck appeared. We passed in the middle of the bridge with mere inches to spare. It was white knuckle all the way! Needless to say, we are having some amazing experiences and feel so blessed to be a part of this miraculous work going on here.
We love you all and wish you the best.
Love,
E/S Densley

Working with (International Orthodox Church Charities)
Apr 19th, 2009 by ron

Donation of Wheel Chairtranslatorpalictown-hall

This has been a fruitful week for us. We met with the Red Cross here in Belgrade on Tuesday and also the IOCC (International Orthodox Church Charities) about the possibility of partnering up with them to do some projects. There is such a need in Bosnia and especially Kosovo. We will meet with them again in a week or so.
We traveled to Novi Sad and gave our first wheelchair away which was an awesome experience. We made application for 250 more wheelchairs to be delivered in about 90 days and started the paperwork on 355 more all terrain chairs. That one will take a few months to complete. From there we went to Sremska Mitrovica and met with the director of a hospital. He was very nice and helpful and has high regards for the church as we have partnered up with them before and donated other things out 5 years ago. He showed us around his hospital including the children’s ward, the newborn nursery, the new mothers ward where the new moms were in bed nursing their new babies. I’m sure they were thrilled to have a bunch of strangers walk in on them. It was really hot in the new mothers room, no ventilation and the sun beating through the windows with no coverings and flies buzzing around. It was actually really clean looking, however, they still sterilize stainless steel needles with steam sterilizers and they have no blood analyzer in this hospital. It was like going back to the 50’s. We are hoping to get a Neo-Natal Resusitation program going with this hospital for them to teach the nurses, doctors and midwives in the surrounding areas as well as their own. The director seemed favorable to being a part of that program.
On Friday we took some personal time (A P-day) and took the train to Subotica. It is a quaint smaller town near the Hungarian border. It was a 3 hr. train ride away. I wasn’t feeling too well, have bronchitis, and so I slept most of the way. I had gotten a z-pack before we left so I just needed time to recoup. We got a beautiful hotel room that would rival the best rooms in the US and very reasonable. a young man that we had met in Belgrade showed us to our hotel and then to the main square of the city. From there we walked around a bit, found a nice little restaurant where we had a steak sandwich complete with tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded cabbage and onion on the largest bun you will ever find but it was so delicious. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we hadn’t eaten for about 8 hours! We walked around a little more in the rain (I had an umbrella) then walked back to our hotel and I was in bed for the night by 5:00pm. By the next morning I felt some better and due to the fact that the sun was shining, I would make anyone feel better. We ate breakfast at the hotel- the 6th floor overlooking the city, then took a taxi to Palic Lake and the Palic Zoo where you get up close and personal with the animals. The lake was a beautiful setting but a little green. We rented a side-by-side bicycle built for two- or three and peddled around the lake. It was fun. We then took a taxi back to town, Met with Ivan and took him to lunch,(we had Barek and didn’t like it all) picked up our bags at the hotel and walked back to the train station for our 3 hour ride back to Belgrade. We both really enjoyed our ride this time, me because I felt better and could stay awake and Ron because he could sit back and enjoy the country side and the many rolling farms as we rolled through the countryside.
Today was the Orthodox Easter. They don’t celebrate the traditional Christian Easter. We went to church this morning. They held Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School and then everyone went upstairs to the outreach center where they served lunch. They had the tables set so beautifully with hand decorated easter eggs and pretty centerpiece with eggs hanging from it and pretty colored napkins. First everyone took an egg and cracked it on their neighbors egg to see who’s would crack first. After everyone’s egg was cracked and eaten, they server Hungarian Goolosh. It is a pile of mashed potatoes smothered with meat in a gravy that reminded me of beef stew minus the vegetables. There was plenty of french bread to sop up all the gravy. It was really tasty but I miss the vegetables that we are used to at home. Then they server a traditional Serbian cake that was a yellow sponge cake with three layers of putting topped with a nice layer of whipped cream. They don’t spare the calories and these people are not fat. After we hand washed all the dishes we were happy to celebrate Easter in the Serbian Manner. Tonight at 10:00 the Orthodox Church set off fireworks from their cathedrial that is just up the street. It rivaled Stadium of Fire at BYU!

Weekend in Novi Sad
Apr 12th, 2009 by ron

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Shooting  some hoop with nomember

Shooting some hoop with nomember

Our host for the game

Our host for the game

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Watches Broom

Watches Broom

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We had quite a week. First of all we have had company. Sam and Kate arrived last Sunday and we aren’t sure how long they will be here with us but they have skills that havebeen helpful to us as Sam served a mission here 4 years ago and is fluent in the language. We have contacted hospitals to see if they might have a need of any of the services that we provide. We contacted the Red Cross a week of so ago and will be going back tomorrow to meet with higher up officials to see if there is anything we might partner up with them to do.
We went to Novi Sad and met with the pediatric hospital there with favorable results. They are so skeptical about us and don’t know if they trust you at first It’s like they are afraid that we are going to gain their trust and then steal some of their babies. While in Novi Sad we met a man and his wife who have been friends with the missionaries for about 8 years. They claim to be Athiest but love being around LDS people and especially missionaries. His name is PJ. He and his wife took Ron and I and Sam and Kate to see the old fort that was built to protect Novi Sad many many years ago. It was really neat–see the pictures in out blog- and really has quite the history. They invited us back on Saturday to have a picnic and for Ron and the Elders and Sam to play basketball with him. They took us to a private park on a hillside overlooking Novi Sad. It was so beautiful and green with grass and flowers and trees. Pj seemed to take a real liking to us and has offered to help us in any way he can. When we were ready to leave Ron talked to him about the church. He said the only problem is that I am Athiest. Ron said look at your beautiful wife and adorable little 3 yr. old son. Where do you think he came from. Ron told him that all he needs to do is ask God if he is really there and he will get his answer. We shall see what happens.
Earlier that day we stopped in Sremska and visited with another family. They are very active in the church. They are the Ivanovic family. Djordje (George) helped translate our manuals for the Humanitarian Dept of the church and we need him to do some more translating. They served us a wonderful lunch of home cured ham, homemade sausages(we’re not sure what meat they used!) cheeses, pickles, potato salad that was just potatoes,onions,vinegar, salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. It was actually quite good. Georges mother does all of the cooking for the family and is a real sweet little grandma! She also made some tasty rolled desserts that were like a cinnamon roll some with ground walnuts, some with chocolate, and some with a very thick layer of poppy seeds. The poppy seed one is nasty as all get out. Matt , you remember the kind that you called dirt in the Czech Republic because you said they tasted worse than dirt?! This family is quite poor but so awesome. They live in a 4 room house, 1 bedroom, a livingroom, a kitchen and 1 bathroom. Three kids sleep in one bedroom, the mom and dad sleep on the couch in the li9vingroom and the grandma and grandpa sleep in the kitchen on another couch. The oldest son sleeps in the barn. George teaches school in two different schools and then does translating for the church. He is the sole breadwinner for the whole family. It is quite an amazing thing. If we can get him some more translating work it will help the family immensely.
We had the missionaries for dinner today (4 of them) along with Nikola the branch Pres. and Sam and Kate. I made fried chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, steamed carrots,corn, and french bread. How about all those carbs! They just love a home cooked meal just like mom made and it was so fun. The elders even did the dishes and then they all gave me a blessing because I have my old cough back and it is driving me crazy. It is getting in my way so I need to get rid of it fast.
Hey, if you read our blog, please leave a short message so that we know you still care!! Our e-mails are dropping off! I might get homesick otherwise!!!!
We love you all,
Elder and Sis. Densley

The Country of Serbia
Apr 5th, 2009 by ron

Church in  Novi Sod

Church in Novi Sod

US Bombing

US Bombing

Branch Pres & Elder D

Branch Pres & Elder D

Watching General Conference

Watching General Conference

Orthodox Church

Orthodox Church

LDS Church in Poncevo Serbia

LDS Church in Poncevo Serbia

Secret Door

Secret Door

Gypsy Wagon

Gypsy Wagon

Hospital file system

Hospital file system

Serbian Police

Serbian Police

Selling Wood

Selling Wood

We have had a busy week and it sure makes the time go by quickly.  Monday we went to Novi Sad to meet Dr. Grebbeldinger.   He is a real champion in the country of Serbia as he puts the needs of the people ahead of his position and fame.  This was Ron’s first experience with driving in Serbia and he managed to get stopped by a policeman for making an illegal turn.   The policeman told him to go because we didn’t understand what he was saying!  He did really well from that point on.

On Tuesday we went to a smaller city Poncevo.  We went to contact a school about doing a health fair there about not smoking.   They have a smoking room for the kids there so they need it really bad but the principal was in a meeting so we will have to go back.  We next contacted a local hospital to tall to their administrator but the administrator had only started the day before and so we were asked to come back at another date.  The hospital was so old and crumbling around them..Ron went upstairs to make a copy with a lady and he said that their records and x-rays were in cardboard boxes lining the hallways.  We tried to contact the Red Cross but they went home at 2:00 so we have work to do there at a later date but it was a start.  We also went to the 2 room church.  It is so meager and yet the people are happy and continue to do what is right.  The building is old and is rented by the church.  It has a trap door in the floor where Jews hid out from the Nazi’s during WWll.  It is a small room with a homemade ladder leading down and is cold and completely dark and damp’  It just makes your heart ache.  We have nothing to complain about.

On Wed. the Elders took us downtown to get our bus pass.  We took a bus for awhile  and then had to walk for another while in and around and about until we finally got there.  I would never be able to find it again if I tried hard.

On Friday we drove the church auditors to Novi Sad and too Sremska Mitrovena.  The Branch Pres. in Novi Sad was and Elder Kearny from Provo.  His mission is over and we put he and 2 other elders of the train for home on Sat.  They all served 2 years and 3 weeks.  Now another elder,Elder Singer is the Branch Pres.  Ron will most likely be the auditor for the time we are here because the auditors had to come over from Germany to do the audit and they asked Ron if he would be willing to do it from now on and of course he said yes.  These little branches barely have enough people to barely keep it going and Poncevo Branch was closed down last week and they must come into Belgrade from now on to go to church.  They only had one active family and one elderly sister who isn’t able to go to church right now  because she has been really ill.

On Sat. we walked to the train station and bid the 3 elders farewell then walked to the church to see the other elders.  We then walked to a huge Orthodox Church that is a few blocks from here.  They are in the middle of renovations and  fork lifts were buzzing back and forth between people–where is osha when we need them!!!!!  Their religious customs are really unusual.  No chairs to sit anywhere.  They have little podiums set up all over with pictures of their patron saints.  People walk up, cross themselves from head to toe three times, bow down and kiss the picture and then they are supposed to deposit money into the slot but most of them don’t.  We then went into another building where a priest was christening a young boy about 7 months old.  The child was in a stroller  The priest sang and chanted  and after a few minutes the father picked up the child and he and the priest walked around in circles while the priest continued to chant and sing and swing a little metal urn with smoking incense.  When he was done, the father paid him some money and it was done.  Quite a contrast to our conference that we listened to a few hours later.

It was humbling to watch the sweet saints who come to watch conference on T.V. in english with a live translator.  Sat. Morning because it ends at midnight and they can’t get home by bus or however they got there and then they turn around and do the same thing on Sunday.  I’m telling you we have it so easy compared to them.  I must say goodbye because we are going to walk to the church for conference again.

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