This past week has primarily been a quiet catch up week for us. In Europe, most people take several weeks of vacation time during mid-July and mid-August. When we have called to schedule appointments the past couple of weeks we have been told repeatedly, “Sorry, we are at the sea this month!” So we have taken the opportunity to work on getting notes input into the church data base about our recent visits for filming, do some future project planning and studying the local language at the movie theater. (By the way, we can get two movie tickets to new releases, two large drinks and a huge bucket of popcorn all for about $10 here! And it really is a good way to learn how they actually say things as we listen in English and read the Croatian subtitles!)
I continue to be amazed at the scope of the humanitarian work LDS Charities does for the poor and needy. After nearly a year serving as humanitarian missionaries we continue to learn more and more about the availability of services provided through LDS Charities. We recently received notice from the area refugee specialist that there were “surplus supplies” available from the LDS Charities warehouse for any humanitarian couple in the Europe Area to distribute to organization we felt were in need. I submitted a request for some supplies for the refugee centers in Croatia that we have been working with. I immediately received a reply that because they were refugees, we could request supplies from a much more extensive list than the ‘surplus supplies” list. I then was sent a list containing over 100 different items that were available to refugee centers. Soap, towels, raincoats, sweat shirts, winter hats, blankets, diapers and toothbrushes were a few necessities on the lengthy list. As I began putting the request order together, my email notification popped up and I had another email from the Europe area refugee specialist. Surprisingly, this email was to tell me that if the centers needed anything not on the list, we could submit a request for those items as well. So my initial request for a few “surplus supplies” has now become three separate orders and hopefully we will be able to meet many of their greatest needs. Prior to this experience I was under the false assumption that LDS Charities only provided the very basics of hygiene supplies and maybe blankets to refugees. How misinformed I was! Again, the generosity of faithful members of the LDS church is providing aid and assistance to those who truly need it. Now if our Croatia Red Cross partners will just return from the sea, we can finalize the orders and get them submitted!
|President and Sister Melonakos and Sisters Dahl and McColm|
visiting with refugees at a center in Kutina, Croatia. Listening to
their stories is heartbreaking but so happy that LDS Charities
can ease their burdens even just a little bit!
We did have the opportunity to visit one of our water projects that we had approved at the end of last year. It is a complete renovation of plumbing and bathrooms of a large high school that was built in the early 1970’s. The local TV news station was there to interview LDS Charities. We opted to have the young missionaries from the area do the media interview because they speak the language, and because we are tired of being in front of a camera after our whirlwind video production trek a few weeks ago. Some preliminary work was done while the students were in school but they had to wait until summer holidays to begin the real work. The school director and his staff wanted to show us the progress that has been made. There are three sets of bathrooms that are being updated and they are in various stages of work. They had to replace water pipes, remove tiles and old squat toilets and basically gut each room before they could begin installing the new materials. One of the things we love about this particular school is that they are utilizing members of the community, parents and students to assist with work on the project. They have parents who are plumbers, electricians, and tile workers who are volunteering their time and expertise. As a technical high school, they offer certifications for students in several areas that provide the skills that will allow the students to help with installing new radiators and doing some of the electrical work as well. It’s a great display of community involvement that will knit people together for many years to come! The school director is eager for his students to return so they can see all the work that has been done to make their school better. One of the staff members said, “Now the students will just want to hang out in the bathrooms all day!” It was heartwarming to feel their love for the students and their enthusiasm for this less than glamorous project.
|Old squat toilet and tile|
|Before.... ( plus a little demolition work!)|
|New tile and plumbing for a sit down toilet! As you can see there|
is still much work to do, but they are making progress!
|Presenting the school director with a plaque. He apologized for|
being in his "working clothes" and not his "director clothes".
The first month we arrived in the mission field we agreed that we would not talk about “what’s next” until 6 months before we finished our service so we could remain focused on our missionary work. August 1st was the date we agreed on and we have both upheld our agreement and have not had any discussions whatsoever on the topic. Guess what? It’s now time for us to begin the “what’s next” discussion in earnest. Because it’s a pretty slow time right now, we decided to take a very short holiday of our own to “the sea” to begin our negotiations, um, I mean discussion, about what lies ahead for us. Oh, and of course, to check out the one and only amusement park in the Balkans that recently opened just outside Zadar. We are currently homeless, jobless and have no obligations awaiting us. It’s an unwritten chapter in our book of life. For me this is both exciting and very overwhelming and scary. I don’t like the “unknown.” I don’t thrive on change and making important decisions is not one of my greatest strengths! We have no doubt that God will guide us in our decision, leading us where He needs us next. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, just let us know!