Dennis and Dionne Newton

Dennis and Dionne Newton
Dennis & Dionne Newton

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Tale of Two Translators

Due to our inability to grasp the Bosonski language, Dionne and I often hire translators when a potential partner does not speak English. Because car travel is typically involved, we have had some enjoyable conversations with our translators. With their permission, I want to share some of the content of a couple of these conversations.

Whoever coined the adage "never talk about religion or politics in polite company" has never been to Bosnia. Bosnians talk about politics with the same frequency and passion as Kansas Citians talk about the Chiefs. It is impossible to truly get to know the people of the Balkans without learning their thoughts on these two important topics. Ask a simple question and you will be treated to an hour long discussion. If you don't ask any questions, then they will bring the topic up (usually by referencing Trump Clinton).
The funny thing is that Bosnians, in my experience so far, are generally loud and passionate but also decent listeners. This actually leads to some good conversations rather than shouting matches. But I have not asked about toilet paper.
Such was our experience with two translators these past two weeks. Both are women in their early 20's who are attending college. One conversation was political and the other was religious. I was favorably impressed by the minds of both translators. Their opinions were well thought out, erudite, and logical.


We went to visit a small rural school near Vlasenica with Nina Rašejević; a horse-loving political science student. It took little time until she began to ask about politics. Specifically, she wanted to know about the presidential campaign. She, like everyone that has brought up the topic here in the Balkans, is very concerned about Donald Trump. The other day we had a 10-year old boy bring up the topic out of the blue and inform us that he was very, very worried that Trump might be elected.

Nina and some horses we found along the road
But soon we were talking about many other political topics. Since I am a true Wyoming-born native, I generally am hesitant to share my own political views. But I do like to ask questions. Nina, like many of her generation, is a strong Bernie Sanders supporter. She was saddened when he lost the nomination process. Then she added another fascinating tidbit. She believes that the best politically run state in the United States is California. California!

I now understand why Ramie has stayed so long. I just thought it was Cheryl.
Okay, maybe this was her one opinion that I found a little questionable. But we had a lovely conversation. She is quite concerned about the fractious nature of Bosnian politics. Everything is sub-divided by ethnicity; locals love to complain about this but few are willing to make the changes. But she referenced several political parties (and there are 100s in this country) which are trying to overcome the traditional divisions. Surprisingly, unification candidates made some headway in the latest local elections and so there is a little optimism to see if this can be effective.

Discussing where water pipes need to be repaired with the principal and main janitor of the school system.
She also said that she most admires the policies of the Scandinavian countries; most specifically Sweden. We here this all the time. Everyone in Bosnia loves Sweden. Think they are the model of the perfect political system. Everyone dreams of moving to Sweden.

Nina does not have much faith in capitalism as a political system. She strongly prefers some form of socialism. And is hopeful about a time when a "truer" form of Marxism (or communism) can exist. She knows that this is idealistic. But she likes the Marxist concepts and believes that the world has failed repeatedly at implementing Karl Marx's true vision. When I pressed her little for a historical example of Marxism succeeding, her best example was Tito's Yugoslavia. That is another thing that most Balkans are nostalgic about. Most look back quite fondly about the Tito era.

A wood burning heater in the rural school we visited. Appropriately enough this school was built during the Tito era.
My own age and experiences belies a tinge of skepticism about communism but I really appreciated her idealism. And we talked much about the advancement of technology and how that will change human lives in the distant future. When machines can do most of our work, how will we then want to be governed? These are questions that some of the brightest minds are considering so it was fun to talk through them with Nina and to get her opinion. It is at this time when she hopes for a communal type lifestyle which will enable people to follow their passions rather than to be bogged down in a day-to-day job. And I find it conceivable that technology could advance to a state where many of the human responsibilities are bequeathed in some form of communal model. While this seems so contrary to the human nature that I know, I do find it at least theoretically conceivable.

We both used Wall-E as examples of the problems with each approach...Nina mentioned that capitalism is what ruined the world to begin with...I mentioned that absolute reliance on technology led to fat wheelchair bound humans. It is really remarkable how many complex conversations can reference the Pixar catalogue.
We did not solve any of the world's problems but it was enjoyable to listen to someone who grew up with a completely different worldview than my own.


Our second translator gave me permission to write about our conversations but did not want to be identified by name. So I am not going to give too much personal information about her. She is Muslim and studied theology for two-years at an Iranian university. In my realm of friends that makes her unique and interesting to talk to.

She enjoys discussing religion, philosophy and theology. Which I do as well. So we had an immensely enjoyable conversation on our drive.

Proof that we did some work on this drive. This is the location where a water reservoir will be built to serve the little community of Hrasno (100 inhabitants). They are currently get water from a nearby river.

Some quick historical background on Islam. Founded in the 7th century CE, Islam flourished during the Middle Ages while the rest of Europe languished in the Dark Ages. In Islamic parlance, this time period is known as the Golden Age of Islam. Arts, science, philosophy, theology, math, and astronomy were all embraced and advanced by Muslims during this time period. During this early period Islam seemed to take a particular interest in Hellenism and especially Aristotle (known in Arabic sources as "the Master of Logic" and the "first teacher." As the Oxford History of Islam states..."to place Islamic philosophy in its proper historical context, one must first review the various stages through which its predecessor, Greek-Hellenistic philosophy, passed, to the eventual capture of Alexandria by Arabs in 641 CE."

This was the "primary channel through which Greek philosophy was transmitted to the Muslim world (Alexandria), where the study of Greek philosophy and science was flourishing when the Arabs conquered it in 641." Very early on Muslim thought and Hellenism became meshed together. For 500 years Muslim philosophers worked to make sense out of Islam theology and Hellenistic philosophy. So Islam has a rich history akin to that of the early Christian Fathers, Augustine, Aquinas, and Renaissance philosophers.

An Arab depiction of Socrates teaching his students.
Another quick aside that may be controversial to nearly everyone reading this post. Orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims all share similar beliefs about the nature of God due to the impact of their interactions with Hellenism. When the world of ideas clashed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the logic of the Greeks had to be accommodated by the major religions. "Greek philosophy had a profound impact on Christianity beginning primarily with the Patristic writers (about 180 CE to roughly 325 CE). Traditional Christians adopted the Neoplatonic notion of perfection as a static, absolute upper limit. This notion of perfection was adopted by what I shall refer to as the 'absolutist tradition,' represented by thinkers such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and John Calvin." (Ostler but it could one of hundreds of authors who attest the same idea of dependency) Remember this idea...because I am going to return to it as I talk about one of my most surprising conclusions as I talked with my new friend.

Somewhat familiar with LDS beliefs, we talked a little about the nature of God. As we talked, we found ourselves hitting the same classic philosophical conundrums that are written about in philosophical treatises (e.g., even though we did not talk about this, a good example is the existence of God in a world filled with evil). Our conversation started by talking about whether or not God (or Allah although we never used that name for God) is incorporeal (does not have a body). For her, the idea of God having a body would in someway limit God and make him less deserving of worship. Even the term "father" is an anthropomorphism that is unfortunate because the idea of gender does not apply to God.

The drive to Kalesija is along a river in a valley. Quite gorgeous.
This led to a fascinating discussion of what then is God. Does God have matter of any kind? If not, why? What would limit him if God had some form of matter? And then I posed the classic question about whether or not something can exist if it does not include some form of matter. (The study and philosophy of matter is one of the most important and yet under appreciated subjects in the field of theology.)

"Just look around if you want to know God's existence." Driving around Bosnia, I would have to agree. On the other hand, I believe that the Irish rail workers dubbed Rock Springs, Wyoming as "hell on earth." Would have to agree that Rock Springs is evidence of another's existence.
This led to another discussion about creation. Like most within the Judeo-Christian tradition, Muslims believe in creation ex nihilo. As we discussing whether or not God existed before creation (yes), did that mean that he existed in some material form or was God simply intelligence, we somehow dropped into a possibility raised by Muslim thinkers about God having created universes before our universe. It is fun to see that Muslim theologians have been forced to deal with the same problem that LDS theologians have had to face (it is a called the elephant on top of a turtle problem).

No discussion about God and creation can take place without a mention of predetermination, omniscience, and free will. One thing I respect about this translator is her ability to speak so many different languages. In addition to Bosonski, she is fluent in Farsi, can read Arabic, recognizes Spanish (watching Spanish language soaps), and could carry out a philosophical conversation in English. Quite impressive.

The paradox of creation, omniscience, and free will is this: if God made us out of nothing, he is solely responsible for our nature (he made us!). Even though he allows us to act freely, how can our nature be truly free if he is the one responsible for giving us our character and personality. The idea of God's omniscience compounds this problem. If God knows everything that we will do in the future, then, even though we supposedly have free will, it is impossible for me to do anything other than what God knows that I will do.

It is this logical paradox that has led to the rise of process theology and open theism among Western philosophers. Unfortunately, I have not found a Islamic parallel. It might exist but I have not found it. It is logical that Islamic scholars will begin to innovate in this direction because their thought is suspect to the same philosophical issues.

I have been fascinated by the rise of open theism within the Christian theological world. Its proponents view it as a return to actual text and meaning of the Bible. Its opponents view it as heretical. There seems to be no middle ground.
Her response was well thought out and effective. Interestingly, it echoes many of the same responses that I have heard from historic fundamentalist Christian writers when pressed about the same issues (not me doing the pressing mind you...the theological community). The idea is that God knows us so well that his omniscience is based on this understanding and is not determinant. And, in that sense, we are free because he does not force our actions. It was very enjoyable to hear her describe what she had learned about God, free will, and her own inspiration.

This cartoon illustrates that there was nothing new that we talked about. We were covering ground that has been walked on many, many times.  
On and on we talked. We touched nearly every important attribute of God. And we also talked about how can we discern truth; meaning absolute truth. This is when my most interesting insight struck me. As I was talking about God with this Muslim college student, I realized that I had had this same conversation so many times with endless numbers of fundamentalist Christians and a handful of Orthodox Jews. While a few details are different (e.g., a small thing like the role of Christ), it is the same Hellenistic notion of God being defended using the same philosophical arguments but just couched the language of a different texts (either the Torah, the writings of Paul, or the Quran).

She mentioned that she feels God's presence when she reads the Quran. It is that book that testifies to her of God's existence. This made me recall the way some orthodox Jews talk about the Torah. They believe the Torah to be the literal word of G-d. Likewise, my fundamental Christian friends feel much the same way about the Bible. The words of the Bible draw them nearer to God. They know God exists because of the words found in the Bible.

If I mixed and matched the texts and the statements about the attributes of God, I could easily get confused with whom I was having a conversation. As a Latter-Day Saint, I realized that when all of these groups are combined, there are nearly 3 billion who believe in this Hellenistic God worldview; a view quite different from my own. That is a big marshmallow!

This was my big "aha." Along with the utopia that is Sweden!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fabulous Fall Frenzy

Well it's been a frenzy of activity the past couple of weeks for us here! As we have traveled extensively through Bosnia and Croatia, we've been blessed with a beautiful tapestry of God's handiwork throughout the countryside. Fall in the Balkans is spectacular!

We still need to get a good camera, iPhone pictures do not do justice to the brilliant foliage or majesty of the mountains. We have driven over 30 hours in the past few weeks and have enjoyed nearly every minute, minus a few hours of occasional rain and fog. We made multiple stops along the way to try to get that "perfect picture"!

Amidst the vacation looking travels, we have been doing actual humanitarian work. We have met with the administration of four different schools in more rural parts of Bosnia to assess the potential to assist with water/sanitation projects in some older schools. One school is a small field school in a rural area. Due to very old pipes and large mountains and valleys between the school and the reservoir the children are quite often without running water at the school. Two of the other projects involve replacing old pipes and bathroom fixtures that are no longer functional. The fourth project is the repair/replacement of a septic tank for the school.

We have now submitted our first two project proposals for approval! (Two of the above school projects) We will know if they are approved this week on both projects. The other two are pending further information from the schools prior to submission, but hopefully will be submitted and approved soon as well. I feel so blessed to be involved in the process of helping so many school children and the administrators are all so grateful. Most have been dealing with inadequate sanitation situations for many, many years and now have hope of finally being able complete projects that will benefit the students immensely.

As most of you know, I have a soft spot for individuals with special needs. Those individuals fall into the LDS Charities guidelines of helping the "poor and needy" so we are hoping to do some projects targeted at helping organizations that champion their causes. As part of our quest to find organizations that assist those with special needs, we met with a very progressive organization called Mala Sirena (which means Little Mermaid). It was founded and is run by parents of children with special needs. They have a passionate desire to bring joy and happiness to the lives of children with disabilities as well as their families through building a strong foundation of inclusion. They chose the name because the Little Mermaid is different, yet the same. She is a symbol of hope for inclusion. Inclusion is not common in BiH, but this organization is working hard to provide inclusive opportunities for children with disabilities in a variety of ways. They provide teaching assistants to enable children with special needs to attend public school within their own community. Additionally, they offer a variety of therapeutic services including speech therapy and physiotherapy at their center. Previously, these services were not readily available in the small town.  Parents had to travel with their children several hours to obtain services which made it difficult, if not impossible, for children to receive the needed therapies.

One of the most impressive programs they offer is an inclusive kindergarten (ages 3-6 in BiH). We spent an hour watching the amazing teachers include a child in a wheelchair and another on the autism spectrum in the activities. The other children were so accepting and loving towards their friends and there was an overall sense of total acceptance from everyone present. Attitudes are often difficult to change, yet through early exposure, Mala Sirena is able to break down those barriers, change attitudes and improve the quality of life for everyone involved! I was so impressed with the

staff, the children and the program. As we watched them do the "Hokey Pokey" and sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" in Bosanski I couldn't help but smile. Children are the same all around the world. They just want to have fun and be loved unconditionally. Here is a short video of the precious moments we were able to witness.

I also had the opportunity to do a little mentoring with one of the instructors at Riders of Hope last week. She is an excellent instructor who wants to learn and do things correctly and ultimately obtain her PATH certification. She was a pleasure to work with. I continue to marvel at the work they do there with such limited resources. Everyone there is remarkable. They continue to treat us like we've known each other for years! We were invited and have even been given permission to travel to Verona, Italy with them in November for Fieracavalli, which is a world wide horse expo. I must say I am excited for that trip, even if it will only be for a few days.

On Friday we traveled to the mission headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia. The entire mission gathered for a special fireside with visiting General Authority Elder Hallstrom who is one of the presidents of the Quorum of the Seventy (important people for my non-LDS friends) as well as Elder Johnson who is in the Europe Area Presidency. They were accompanied by their wives who also spoke to the group. It was an amazing sight to see 100+ missionaries gathered in one place. The spirit was very strong as we listened to the words shared. Sister Grant shared a tender talk and offered words of love to all. She is truly a special woman. President Grant spoke briefly, but wanted to allow as much time as possible for the visitors to address the missionaries.

 Among my favorite words shared by Elder Hallstrom at the meeting were "learn it, then do it"! So often we listen to people speak and feel motivated to improve, to act upon the things we learn, be it spiritual or temporal. I can't tell you how many times I've been to a work or church conference and walked out saying, "I'm going to do.... " whatever it was I just learned about. But guess what? More often than not, I don't follow through. I'm sure I'm not the only one who loses the motivation once I'm home and fall back into the same old routine. Elder Hallstrom talked about learning ways to improve ourselves spiritually and then actually putting that knowledge into action, not filing it away. So once again, I walked out feeling motivated to make some changes. Let's see how well I do in a few weeks! We also got to sing from the new Croatian hymn books! That was awesome. We have a book of about 50 hymns that we have been singing from, but this is the whole hymn book translated. To hear the voices of over 100 missionaries sing in the mission language was something special. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has nothing on that group!

As we were driving home from Zagreb with the sister missionaries from Sarajevo, I asked them, "What was the coolest or most special thing that has happened on your mission so far?" As I listened to them share their stories with enthusiasm I pondered the same question for myself. The answer to that question continues to grow as I reflect on all the special moments we have had in such a short time in Bosnia. I know my Father in heaven knows me, loves me and desires for me to be happy. Why else would he put me in such a beautiful country with such amazing people and the opportunity to serve others, including a therapeutic riding center? I am so blessed and grateful for this chance to give of my time and talents for a short season in Bosnia. I am also grateful for modern technology that allows me to keep in touch with those I love, even if it is a text message at 3:00am! What more could I ask for?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Biggest Challenge of Our Mission By Far

Prior to moving to Sarajevo, Dionne and I served in a ward with a high Hispanic population. Despite the two years there, I did not pick up any Spanish. I have always struggled with foreign language. My first college report card was all A's (including Physics) except for my German class (B). And two years among my friends in Kaw River did not turn this weakness into a strength!

Dionne and I are now 9 weeks into our mission. The regular missionaries who reported to the MTC with us are now just arriving in country. They have been studying the language all of this time. Dionne and I will both be way behind them!

I want to take this post and talk a little bit about the language; Bosonski. It is a cross between Hrvatski (Croatian) and Serbian. Since Bosnia is made up of three primary ethnic groups (Bosniaks - primarily Muslims, Serbs - primarily eastern orthodox, and Croats - primarily Roman Catholics), there is not an official alphabet. Kids are taught in the Latin alphabet (used by Bosniaks and Croats) for two weeks and then in the Cryllic alphabet (used by Serbs) for two weeks. Official signage includes both alphabets.

Latin alphabet in a classroom. They do not use X, W, Q or Y. They have special C's, D's, S's and Z's.
It is not required or expected that senior missionaries learn the language. But Dionne and I both have a strong impression that it is going to be important for us to be more than just functional. So we are trying to learn this crazy language.

Bosnia is divided in two; the Federation and Srpska. Many of the Srpska signs, like this one, are only in Cryllic.
Dionne and I learn differently. She likes to hear something, write it down, and apply it. I tend to like to study something and then think about it my mind (like on a run or a walk). We realized this as we started taking weekly one-hour language lessons from the MTC. After two joint sessions, we began taking independent lessons with our tutor. We compare notes but cannot study together!

There are two useful textbooks for BCS...the red and the blue. Dionne likes the Red better since it is filled with exercises. I gravitate to the Blue since it has grammar rules. For me, the rote memorization was frustration without an idea of what was going on!
Now I am going to make a blanket statement that is going to sound insensitive and harsh. Realize that this statement is made after 10 weeks of language study. This language is crazy! Absolutely insane! Everything conjugates in this language. Nouns all conjugate based on their "case" (subject, accusative, dative, etc). There are seven main cases and everything conjugates based on whatever case the noun is in (and also whether or not it is a male, female, or neutral noun). The adjectives also conjugate based on which noun they are describing. And, of course, verbs conjugate based on the noun that they are describing (as well as the standard past and future tenses). The whole thing is crazy!

If I could only learn new words I would be okay. But trying to reasonably figure out the conjugation rules is driving me batty!

Let me give a quick example of how a verb conjugates...and note that this is easier than the noun and adjective stuff.  The verb that means "to believe" is "vjerovati." But if I want to say "I believe" I use "vjerujem." If I want to say you believe it is either "vjeruješ" or "vjerujete." He believes is "vjeruje," we believe is "vjerujemo," and they believe is "vjeruju." Remarkably, Bosnians know all of this like the back of their hands and make these conjugations while speaking 100 miles a minute. When I try to do it, it just gives me a brain cramp.

I have memorized about 500 words so far. And I can communicate for simple things using single words. But putting together real sentences has been a problem. The MTC has put together two very useful spreadsheets which summarize all of the grammatical rules on two pages. Once everything is explained there is a certain sense of logic to the language. And I generally can form a sentence if I have 10 minutes to mentally consult this spreadsheet. But 10 minutes per sentence is not very functional!!!

This page summarizes the noun and adjective conjugations. Everything depends on where the noun is used in the sentence, whether it is single or plural, and whether it is masculine, feminine, neutral or a special case called feminine fourth. Someimes prepositions are used and sometimes not. And they often have special rules associated each of them as well. Hopefully you can understand our headache!
The first month I was here, I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting. Because we have both English and Bosonski speakers, we usually speak in language and then translate into English. I decided to not use a translator. I took the challenge of writing my 10 minute talk and then translating it into Bosonski. And I did it without the aid of Google Translate (cheating!).

It took me almost 8 work hours to translate my talk into Bosonski. And, unfortunately, I did not have time to practice reading the talk out loud as much as I would have liked. Let's just say...lines like "On je koristio njegovog blaglova da zaključi dva značajani propovedi" do not easily roll off the tongue.

While it was great practice for me, the one Bosnian member in attendance pulled me aside after and talked about some of my many language problems. I asked him to look over my translation skills...he took my talk, worked on it for a few minutes, and then summarily announced to me (in typical no holds barred Bosnian fashion)..."this is not how we say this...this is not good."

My talk after it was marked up by a member. 
Not only is conjugation a major issue, Bosnians say things in quite different ways than we do. So you kind of have to learn how they say things. For example, the translation for the phrase "I am full" is "Ne mogu više." You would think that you could match up the words and figure things out. So, logically, I = Ne, am = mogu, and full = više. Not even close. Ne mean "not," mogu means "able to," and više means more. So the literal English translation is "not able more." So I have just memorized what "ne mogu više" means and tried not to think about the why too much.

Here is another example. We have been singing translated LDS hymns. I keep expecting that I will understand a title. But I have yet to make sense of one. Take, for example, the hymn we sang this morning. "Ne Mogu Bez Tebe"...or literally translated as "Not Able to Without You." What hymn do you think that is?

 The literal translation of this hymn is "Not Able to Without You"
As I sing this hymn, I keep looking for the word "sat" which means hour or a word that means "need." The English title of this hymn is "I Need Thee Every Hour." Dionne and I were able to piece together many of the words but could not figure out the logic. It is just going to take more experience and practice speaking with our Bosnian friends.

One of the dictionaries that we have bought to use as a resource. Dionne tends to use Google Translate while I have resisted using it so far. I am using a language app to study words.
Here is one of the coolest things I have heard translated so far. I was giving a testimony and one of the Elders was translating. I talked about roller coasters. The Elder was not sure how to translate the term "roller coaster." The Bishop later stood up and explained that the literal translation of the roller coaster in Bosnian is "vlak smrt" which means "train of death." Now that is cool!

This is pretty easy to translate. "Knjiga" means book. You indicate possession by adding "ova" to a word.
One final translation. To get our visas, Dionne and I had to go to this building. The literal translation of the words on the door is "House of Torture (or Pain)." Which is what they proceeded to do. 

If I would have known that they would have to draw blood again on the mission, I may have rethought my willingness to come!  

My scars from the "house of torture"
Loku Noč!

Just to clarify the falsification in translation made by Denny, Poliklinika does not translate to "House of torture (or pain)"! It translates to "poly clinic", meaning it is a clinic with multiple clinics inside. He's such a baby! Just didn't want anyone going around saying Bosnians call their medical clinics "house of torture"!  Love you all! ~ Dionne

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Back to work!

Sorry our posting has been a little off schedule the past couple of weeks. Hopefully, we will be back on track for our weekly posts now. As you know from Denny's post earlier in the week, we spent this past week traveling through Croatia to Slovenia for a Senior Missionary Conference. We enjoyed meeting all the couples serving in the Adriatic North Mission and putting faces to the names on our lists! We received uplifting messages, learned more about what other couples are doing in the mission field and had the opportunity to share what we do as welfare/humanitarian missionaries. Senior couples are given specific assignments within the mission. Some offer member and leadership support, some work specifically with the young single adults while others help build self-reliance or establish religious classes (known as seminary and institute) for the communities. There is great diversity in our assignments, yet we are all united in helping to bring the joy of Christ to others while we are here.

Sister Bradford and her husband are serving in Banja Luka,
which is also part of the Bonsia zone so we will get to spend time
together at monthly zone conferences. They just arrive last week!
We took a chair lift up to the top of a mountain
with the Porters and then walked down.

A view from the first landing of the gondola
over looking the cloud covered valley.

The valley was completely covered by the clouds
 in the morning but by the time we headed
back down the view was amazing!
544 steps later...

The conference was a nice break after an extremely busy couple of weeks and a good balance of inspirational presentations and time for socializing and getting to know the other couples while maybe unexpectedly getting a little exercise at the same time! Like the 544 steps up the mountain to the waterfall... we only saw the sign that said "20 minute walk". Apparently there is also a sign indicating the number of steps, but we missed that one. It's probably a good thing because I'm positive I would have declined the opportunity. Between bad knees, being extremely out of shape and high altitude I almost gave up. Denny and the other couple went up ahead while I waited on a bench only to return quickly and informed me it was "only a few more steps" to the waterfall. After 500 steps, what's a few more.... ugh! But I'm glad I did it and enjoyed the splendor of the waterfall atop of the mountain.

This is from the middle of a high wood bridge...
I actually walked across it just to take yet
another picture of the stunning scenery.

The conference ended around noon so Denny and I decide to do a scenic drive around the Julian Alps on our way home. I've already shared several of those pictures on Facebook so I won't repost them, except for this panorama of one of the many magnificent vistas. It was truly breathtaking! As I contemplate the beauty of the earth I can not deny that God lives!

Sarajevo and a long to-do list awaited us upon our return late Friday night. We have meetings scheduled this week with Muslim Aid to discuss possible projects as well as a small rural school in BiH that is experiencing major difficulties in supplying water to the students. Scheduling a meeting with a Drop in Center that serves and supports street involved children in BiH is also on that long to-do list for this week. Language study is also high on the priority list so we will be better able to communicate with the local residents as we move forward with projects. My current list includes things I need to be able to say in order to teach riders at Riders of Hope... at least it's motivation! I can say "up" and "down", "left" and "right" and "super"!  I also know most parts of the body needed to ride, just don't know how to tell them what to do with those body parts yet! LOL!

Our journey continues as we pray for opportunities to serve others and make their burdens lighter with help from a loving Heavenly Father who knows their struggles. I'd like to express my gratitude to all that have made it possible for us to be here. From our amazing family to the wonderful people taking care of my precious horses, I am forever grateful for their support. We love you all! Until next week...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Our Kids Claim We Are On Vacation Instead of on a Mission: Today They Were Right

This past weekend we traveled from Sarajevo to a senior missionary conference in Slovenia. Along the way we spent a day in Split, Croatia. If you google Croatia and start looking at images of the country, you will quickly find gorgeous images of Split. Imagine our surprise and delight to drive just 4 hours from the mountains of Sarajevo and find palm trees along the Adriatic Sea.

Split does not have a great swimming beach in the city per se but it has a wonderful old town right along the coast line. When we visited there were 5 small cruise ships in town!
In the center of old town is a literal castle with parts that date back to the Roman era. Inside the castle walls is a sprawling complex of restaurants, shops, ruins, apartments, rooms for rent, churches, and court yards all connected by a maze of alleyways which twist and turn in all directions. We stayed the night in a little room in the middle of the castle.

One of the courtyards inside the castle walls.
Our daughter, Briel, has an app that tracks wherever her mother happens to be. She looked at it during the day and posted this picture wondering what her mother was doing sleeping in a literal castle. 

"What are you doing sleeping in a castle?"
We spent much of day wandering the old town and the castle grounds. Although we did go outside of the castle area for a Dalmatian style dinner.

Split was busy but not crazy like it is in August (peak tourist season).
One downside to living in Bosnia is that it is a landlocked country and fish is relatively more expensive than other types of meat. So we were excited to eat some fresh seafood in Split. 

Dionne ordered the shrimp but decided it was simply too much effort for the amount of food she got. She thought about "sucking the head" to get a little more meat...but only for a few seconds.
We left old town and decided to climb about a million steps to a hill that borders the city. There is a nice cafe on the edge of the hill and so we relaxed for quite a while before we came back down.

Old town is to the the red clay brick roofs throughout the Balkans.

I have written about the beauty of the floral quite often. Split was no exception. This wall of flowers adorned a wall just outside of the city.

You would never guess that we are several weeks into Autumn. The flowers have retained their luster.
Another interesting feature of Split is the stray cats that wander all over the city. In Sarajevo it is dogs; cats in Split. We saw food laid out for them so somebody is clearly feeding them. And they act like they own the joint.

Found hundreds of cats all over the city.
Dionne and I have been trying to take selfies but I have found that I am not that skilled snapping the picture. They never seem to turn out that great. Unlike a bus load of Asian tourists we saw who were snapped pictures with their selfie sticks every 20 seconds or so.

Behind us is a Roman ruin which you cannot see because of my selfie skills.
Anyway, it was on to Slovenia after visiting Split. I am sure we will be back sometime soon. In the meantime, just wanted everyone to see how much more expensive gas is here than in the U.S.

Little over half a tank of gas (of course it is Kuna)