Last pday we went to the Osijek zoo! (October 13th). The Elders and Elder Russell came with us. (Okay, so actually, it was us going with the Elders, they basically had to drag us out of our apartment to go...) But it ended up being really fun! I had the impression from Sister Brothersen that it was THE WORST thing ever and that I would just cry because this animals were in a terrible confinement, but it was actually really fun!! They had lots of animals and they had lots of space to roam and play. There was this super cool reptile exhibit that looked like a Mayan temple and lots of cool aquariums and stuff. And really adorable monkeys. One monkey was convinced he was going to get some tic tacs from Elder Rad. It didnt work out. But we all had a good laugh about it.
This past week we had an exchange. Sister Marks (that one sister I mentioned before who I totally admire and feel cool cause she thinks Im cool... Yeah. Her) came to Osijek. I cant even tell you how much I love that lady. We had such a good time together. She is really funny and an incredible missionary. She just inspired me all week. And we are just good talkers together. You know you just have those friends that you can just talk forever with? And at the end of the conversation, you just feel uplifted and edified and motivated for life? Thats how I feel with Sister Marks. And she is an INCREDIBLE contacter/teacher. You can tell she has worked hard on her mission and she is just so inspiring
Including the great times I had with Sister Marks, we also had a really weird couple of days. Not weird as in bad, but weird as in way different than normal. First of all, we were exhausted basically every day, so we gave up eating for our meals, and for meal breaks we just slept. That was great, but weird. And then on Friday, Sister Russell asked us to accompany with her on a trip with a woman named Milka Fundermann (or something like that), whose husband recently got in a terrible car accident and is now in a coma in a hopsital about an hour and a half away from here. So we went to translate and to keep company. It was one of the funniest days of my mission. Sister Marks has a great sense of humor, and when she laughs, everything gets about 10x funnier. So Milka was also in this accident with her husband, and her brain got shaken up a little bit, and so she has trouble focusing/remembering? And she married a german man and has been speaking nothing but German for 20 years, so she would speak half in Croation and half in German and it was the funniest thing. I didnt realize how much Croation I really did know until I realized how much German I didnt know. She would say something to me, and I would panic and think that maybe she was saying a bunch of words in Croation I didnt know, so I would just kind of squint at her and look like i was concentrating, and then she would pause, think for a second, and then say it all in Croation. It was so hilarious. I felt connected to Dad somehow, just because this lady spoke german. And her sister, Mara came with us too. She was also hilarious. We got lost in this city trying to find the hospital, and we went to stop people to ask for directions and Milka would yell out the window HALLO!! To stop people, and then when we got directions from them, she would turn to us to explain them to us, and she would just explain them all in german. And then Sister Marks and I would just laugh, and then we would get a little more lost and then Milka would yell LINKS! or RECHTS! and we would just start laughing so hard. And then we would need more directions and we were searching for people down the streets and there was a little grandma outside her house and Mara yelled, OH, BAKA ZNA!! Which means, OH! Grandma knows!!! And I thought it was the funniest thing. Basically just the whole day was great. And then we came home, took a nap, and then went to Aktivnost, which was also hilarious. It was just a great week. We dont know how long Milka will be in Osijek, because normally her husband and her spend half the year in Germany and the other half in Pula, but because her husband is in the hospital near Osijek, and because Milka is staying with her family here, we have another active member at church. She is super great, Im gonna be sending a picture we took together on Sunday.
We also had the opportunity yesterday to go visit a less active member in Vukovar. If you havent heard of Vukovar, it might be worthwhile just to google it really fast. Im not sure how much information will actually come up... but it is a very famous city in Croatia. And it was really interesting to go there. We were a little nervous, because this woman last told us to have the missonaries come with a real Croation so they could understand and translate better, so I was really nervous to go, thinking she would be this mean lady... and it was one of the best nights of my mission. This woman was baptized in Italy in 1997. She moved to Italy because of the war, and moved back about 6 years ago, and she hasnt had any capability of coming to church or paratking of the sacrament for these past 6 years. We went with the Russells and President Russell had the opportunity to bless the sacrament in Croation. This woman could not even contain her excitement. She was so full of the Spirit and kept on telling us that over and over again. She was like "I cant even describe to you what that felt like. Sisters... its has been years." She has been faithful to the gospel for years, and hasnt been able to come to church for all this time. I mentioned to her it must be tough for someone to try and get motivated to drive an hour away at such an early time in the morning, and she said "Its not too early. My heart longs to be there." But she physically cannot come. She loves this gospel so much. She is so faithful. And it was an honor to even meet her. She never even learned the gospel in her native tongue. She didnt even speak Italian that well when she received the lessons. She told us that the Lord helped her understand. She brought out her Italian hymn book, because singing hymns was her favorite part of Sunday. She didnt even know what they would be in Croation. She pulled out her favorite song and began to sing. I didnt recognize the words, but I recgonized the melody.. "I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord... no tender voice like thine can peace afford." I became so grateful for our MTC teacher making us sing that every day in Serbian, because the words came to mind, and as she continued in Italian, I joined in, "Bez tebe, ja ne mogu, uvijek trebam Tebe. O Spasi, blagoslovi, sad idem k tebi." What a spiritual experience. The Lord truly does care about all of his children. This woman was so uplifted by our entire experience. We taught, we read, we laughed, we sang. By the end she said, "The Holy Ghost is here, now. How else could we feel so close? I feel like we have been friends forever. We could have grown up together."
She still said next time she would like for us to bring a native Croation, but just because she knows it would be easier for a native to translate, not because she was upset, but because she wants full understanding on both sides. She doesnt want anything lost in translation. But that experience was so so so cool. I needed that too. The spirit was so strong. And, with the help of the Lord, I did translate it all.
I think Ive written so much this week, because I havent even gotten the chance to write in my journal yet... So you got all of it, not filtered. Anyway. Its been a great week. And studies this morning were wonderful too. I spent the entire hour reading the Book of Mormon. Did you know the Book of Mormon is totally the word of God? Because I do. And I forget how much I know that until I immerse myself in it again. And it truly is a feast to the soul. I feel so spiritually satisfied. Its so wonderful.
I love you all and I hope you have a good week!