Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Central European Christmas

Are we really in central Europe having a Prague Christmas!?!........ Here's the proof...Huge Christmas tree on Old Town Square - Staromeska

Every town square; large or small sets up Christmas houses selling decorations, trinkets, warm woollies, food and mulled wine. (this we haven't tried.)
Out on a winters' night with the Alsops, Slovaceks and Sestra Brown at Old Town in Prague.

Look who came to our apartment for Family Home Evening on December 22nd.....
Young Single Adults from the Prague Branch. Where's Waldo?
District finding on Christmas Eve... Singing Christmas Carols in Czech and English at Namesti Republiky. We talked to a couple from Austria and another from Brazil. I even was able to use my Portuguese.

Dinner and Family Home Evening at the mission home on Christmas Eve

Even a visit from Santa and his reindeer!

Christmas morning.....

The Alsops and we hosted breakfast for all the missionaries in Prague .

We had a gift exchange and games. ( you would be amazed how coveted the 2 cans of A&W Rootbeer were!)
Tonight is New Years Eve and we have been advised to stay in.... lots of fireworks and drinking!!
We wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR where ever you are!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


"A century ago men were watching with bated breath the march of Napoleon and waiting with feverish impatience for news of the wars. All the while in their own homes, babies were being born. but who could think about babies-everyone was thinking of battles. In one year, midway between Trafalgar and Waterloo there appeared upon the world a host of heroes. Gladstone was born in Liverpool, Tennyson at the Somersby Rectory, and Oliver Wendell Holmes in Massachusetts, and the very same day of that same year, Charles Darwin made his debut at Shewbury and Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath in Kentucky. Music was enriched by the advent of Felix Mendelsson at Hamburg. But no one thought of babies; everyone was thinking of battles. But which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies of 1809? We fancy that God can only manage his world with battalions, and all the while he's doing it with beautiful babies. When a wrong wants righting, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent want opening, God sends a baby into the world, perhaps into a simple home, out of an obscure mother, and then God puts the idea into the mother's heart and she puts it into the baby's mind and then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts of the battles. The greatest forces in the world are babies." E. T. Sullivan
How grateful we are for that baby born two thousand and eight years ago and whose birth and perfect life we celebrate at this time of the year.
Merry Christmas - Vesele Vanoce
Praha 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Land once Cold

In August of 1936 Elder John A. Widtsoe dedicated the land of Czechoslovakia and made this prophecy: " Communism is the work of the devil. The Lord is using it to break down the hold of the Catholic and the Russian Orthodox churches over the minds of man. When communism has completed its task of breaking its hold, it will pass out of existence almost overnight and then the church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) will send missionaries by the hundreds into the Slavic lands of Europe.... There is more of the blood of Israel in Western Russia than all the rest of Europe put together. And when the time comes to do missionary work there, the people will come into the church by the thousands. Whole villages and towns will join the church in groups. This mission is important because it is opening the door to the Slavic nations."

Fast forward seventy six years to August 2008. Petr Kubisz a divorced man in his 40's is sitting on a bench in a busy town square, Karlovo Namesti, in downtown Prague. A week before he bought his first Bible and has started to read it. He is contemplating his life and God. Across town Elders Rowberry and Young are on their way to a park close to the mission office. Elder Rowberry turns to his companion and says, "We need to go to Karlovo Namesti, right now, there is a man we need to talk to." They jump on the metro and leave the station by way of an exit they never use. Walking up the stairs, Elder Rowberry sees a man sitting alone on a bench. "Their he is!" ( I asked Elder Rowberry, "So you felt he was the one?" "No", he replied, "I knew!" ) Petr, one of the blood of Israel was baptized two weeks ago. When I was asking Elder Rowberry about the details of this experience, he said to me, "This happens all the time. We just expect it. That's a missionary's job, to follow the spirit." These missionaries do that very well. They are dedicated, bold and faithful and it is a privilege to work along side them. The baptisms in the Czech Republic have doubled this year!!! Our mission song:

We Are Called of God

We come from places far and near to find the Lord's elect
With faith to work His miracles, out souls with strength are blessed.
Past martyrs of the land we place in reverence and respect,
They died for freedoms we hold dear and we will not forget.
The seeds are sown, the field is white in Czech and Slovak tongue,
Come join the harvest of men's souls, until God's work is done.
We are called of God to a land once cold, bringing forth his wonderous light.
And with us the Lord labors here.
Ellen Slovacek,(mission mother) and Elder Robert Tanner

In 2003 Elder L. Tom Perry was asked by President Gordon B. Hinckley to to come to Central Europe. "...He awoke to what he described as one of the most powerful revelations of his life. It was made known to him that the future strength of the Church in central Europe would be among the age group 18 to 30, and that is where the missionary success would be achieved."

We have opened the Outreach Center, our first Family Home Evening with the Young Single Adults - December 8, 2008

10 Members, 2 investigators and few others stopped in. We feel very good about our beginning and are looking forward to great things with these wonderful young people!

Czech Institute Class

First English Institute Class , December 11, 2008

( One last great Czech experience: Last Sunday I bore my testimony at Fast and Testimony meeting in Czech. After the meeting, people were so complimentary.Telling me I did so well and they understood everything I said. So I'm feeling all great about my Czech. Then last night as I was greeting a sister in the branch I said to her: "Ti si skela." (You are wonderful.) She looks at me and replies, "I don't speak English." What!! I WAS speaking Czech!! Of well so much for my great Czech and confidence.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thanksgiving and on to December

For everyone who felt sorry for us having to eat KFC for Thanksgiving, don't! We had a complete "feast" with turkey and all the fixins' at the mission home with the Slovaceks, their daughter: Heidi and wonderful American friend: Casey and the Alsops. Heidi checked out a website for Expats in the Czech Republic and found the last turkey in Prague! It was a delicious and delightful dinner. We then arrived home to see and talk to all our family gathered at the Christensens for dinner. Much to be thankful for.Lunch with the two Prague districts. This was transfer week and we lost six of our missionaries: two sisters went home and 4 Elders were transferred. We were sad to see them go, but we sure have some great replacements!!
After sunset on December 5th. St Mikulas (Nicholas) accompanied by an angel and the devil wander the town squares bringing small gifts and goodies to the children. The children must recite a poem or sing a song (right up my alley) and say if they have been good in school and at home before they are given their treats.

We observed a small boy reciting his poem with tears streaming down his face, poor little guy!! But he was rewarded with two bags of treats!!!

This guy scared me too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Elder Waldo found a much nicer looking group..........

so did I.

Monday, November 24, 2008

November or Listopad in Prague

Winter has finally arrrived in Prague this week with snowstorms and cold wind, but these first two photos were taken before the winter blast! Petrin Hill is one of Prague's favorite parks, high above the city. You can take a funicular( that's a fun word) railway car to the top or walk it. We walked up (after a baptism, hence the suit). That is Prague Castle in the background. We rode the funicular railway back down. We continue to find new places to explore!

We haven't seen alot of beggars in Prague, but the ones we have seen are in this position to petition for help. But we are all beggars of sorts. We depend upon our Eternal Father who created us. We recognize that is one of many reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving.

We had dinner with a young family: the Bywaters and Ed Barner, both from our Branch. The Bywaters are here doing a project for a masters in architecture and we will be living in Ed's apartment for 4 months while he is in the United States. (It is a lovely big apartment, plenty of room for visitors!!!) As you can see the Bywaters have three adorable children and it was so good to get our arms around some littles ones. We realize how much we miss our own.

Today was the missionary Turkey bowl-Thanksgiving feast! The "red" zone beat the "blue" zone. Um, seems to me I've heard that somewhere else lately. The feast afterward was complete with KFC (no turkeys in Prague)? However we did have homemade rolls and pumpkin pie. Quite a treat since the pumpkin is imported. What a grand time the missionaries had together!!!
Whether you live in a country that celebrates thanksgiving or not we can't let November 2008 become a memory without giving thanks to the Lord for His bounteous blessings this past year. We welcomed into our family a worthy son, how grateful we are that JJ and Natalie make each other so happy. We received two little cherubs straight from the presence of God. We watched as fathers, mothers and siblings lovingly adjusted. We cheered as young boys developed their talents at the keyboard, the playing field and in the classroom. We observed little girls learn to sing and dance and create. We witnessed the hand of the Lord in blessing husbands and wives strengthen eternal marriages. We watched him comfort those who lost loved ones and strenghten those with physical and spiritual challenges. We felt the power of the priesthood as worthy sons gave us blessings and as our Stake President placed his hands on our heads to set us apart as the Lord's servants to serve in the Czech Republic. We have felt His watchful care as we continue to adjust to a new calling, language and culture. We have felt your prayers of faith and words of encouragement. Mail in the inbox certainly has taken on a new meaning. We know the Lord loves us and all of you, our dear family and friends.
Happy Thanksgiving to you ALL!
" in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you ." Alma 34:38

Monday, November 10, 2008

Variations on a theme of Missionary Work

A preview of things to come, (can you find Elder Waldo?) or I uploaded my photos in the wrong order and it takes too much time to start over!

These are the missionaries in our district: Robbins, Perez, Lee, Robbins
Whiting, Rowberry, Chambers and McLaughlin. We just finished our weekly district meeting and we all have our fingers up in support of Elder McLaughlin who practically cut his finger off with his Leatherman. Ouch!!!!! Everyone has such a happy smile because we were eating Halloween candy during district meeting sent to us by Aunt Susie. We all thank you!!
On the tram to our first contact finding activity with the missionaries. They take this sign and set it up in one of the city parks and sing hymns.

(Insert photos of singing missionaries :)

Three or four missionaries contact the people in the park while the others sing. When it was Elder Anderson's turn he turned to me and said, "Let's go." OK says I, I'll give it a try", knowing my Czech is very limited it will be fun to see him in action. He talked to a young man and then two young women who weren't interested and then he saw an older woman sitting on a bench and turned to me. "This one is yours." "But ..." "No buts about it!" I said the only thing I could think of: "We have a message about the Book of Mormon." The woman threw her hands in the air and exclaimed. "No, no I don't want to hear about it!!" Elder Anderson calmed her down and she did wish us good health. I guess I have some work to do on my contacting skills.

Elder Chambers is more successful

When we have some time we have been hopping on a tram and taking it to the end of the line just to see the city. We have found that near the ends of this lines are huge apartment complexes called panaloks. These were built by the communists to alleviate the housing shortage and to build what they thought would be ideal communities. We have been told that they were all grey in color and you can see since theCzechs have taken over they have brightened things up!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What we have learned in one month...

Eating a trdlnik,(that is not a typo) a piece of dough wrapped around a 4 inch wooden cylinder, baked, rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Eaten warm on a cold day.. Trdlnik je skvele!
(Trdlnik are wonderful)

We have now been residents of the Czech Republic for one month and here are some of the things we have learned:
1. You can hear Czech, English, Russian, French, Spanish, Farsi and Bulgarian spoken in the same block or at church. Unfortunately we don't understand much of any of them except English. Even the dogs understand more than we do.!!
2. We have too many new things to learn: our phone number has 9 digits, the tram to church is number 8; the tram to town is 18, new pin # - - - -, new apt # is 521, we live on the B metro line, the church is on the A , man's surname is Chanek, but his wives' name is Chanecova, your name may be Jan, but we call you Honza and on and on...
3. Everyone rides the trams or metro. Some of the escalators down are 5 stories. It is hard to get people to smile on the trams and metro.
4. Czechs love dyed hair, especially anything from pumpkin orange to eggplant purple. (There are alot of dreadlocks)
5. Czech babies are beautiful and are seen all bundle up and out and about in any weather.
6. You have to shop often, remember everthing you buy you have to carry home. Luckily we only live a block and a half from the grocery store. (Oh that's why they sell milk in 1 litre bottles and the largest bag of sugar is 1 kilo.)
7. Czech chocolate is delicious and I know someone who is becoming addicted. He trys to justify it by pointing out its antioxidant properties.
8. Czech chickens only lay brown eggs.
9. There is just enough humidity to flatten your hair or curl it. (If only I had some curl.)
10. The Lord promised to "be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." and he has. We know the names of some of those angel and they begin with "Elder" or "Sister."

Remember when I wrote about returning to the cathedral that was so crowded. Well we did! It is the St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. It took 600 years to complete it. (where's Waldo?)

It is magnificently huge and the stained glass windows are exquisite.

There is a tower of one side with 287 steps to the top. They say the view is fabulous. The tower was closed and won't open until April, so we will return again, because we live here.

On November 1st we helped with a Super Sabota (Super Saturday) for the young adults. This was our group. We had a yummy lunch, good class and fun games. There are some great faithful young people here.

That same night the branch had a Halloween party and these 3 characters (the ones on the right) showed up along with quite a few others. We left a little early to go to cemetery. Halloween isn't a big holiday here, but Nov. 1st is All Saints Day. The graves are decorated with elaborate floral arrangements and candles are lit on all the graves at night. The 3 Elders wanted to go with us, I think mostly just to get a reaction on the metro and they certainly did. First time I've seen the Czechs smile.

This crucifix was in the cemetery and people had placed lit candles at the base of the statue. I find it interesting that people who claim to be atheists still feel strongly the light of Christ.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apartment Dwellers Prague Style

This is our Czech home for the next 5 weeks. We are on the 5th floor in the back corner. It is the lovely suburb of Vysocanska. Rubeska 521 for any of you who get here in the next 5 weeks. We are 25 minutes from church on the metro (subway with a transfer) or 30 minutes on the tram, definitely a more scenic route. Last Saturday was my solo ride on the metro and I must say I was quite proficient. (Something I didn't think possible 3 weeks ago) I went in to help Sister Alsop fix the lunch for the sisters who came in for Auxilliary Training and to view the Women's Conference. Mike had his own solo when her came in later for a baptism.

This is the kitchen-living room and Elder Robbins is listening to the BYU game! We have all the comforts of home just in a small space. We even have a washer and dryer, unusual here and a garbage disposal, but no dishwasher except for the 2 human ones and were pretty good at sharing that responsibilty.

The Brockbanks (friends of Kari and Eric) picked up their missionary in Hungary and on their way through Prague, as they took this Sister to the temple in Germany. graciously stopped to bring us a package from our kids and a few things we decided we could use. Thank you, thank you! Robbins children thank you for the bday present. Couldn't have received a better frame of the kids big and little.

Then we were off to VIENNA!!!!!

We went for 3 days to receive training in setting up the Outreach Center. We took a 4 1/2 hour train ride through the countryside and it was beautiful, The country was mostly rolling hills and black soil farm lands. Here and there we passed by small villages mostly with red tilled roofs and always a church steeple pointing heavenward. It appeared that the last 40 years hadn't touched them very much. Many people in Prague have what they call their cottages in the country and we saw many of them along the streams we passed. To call many of them a cottage was a stretch, but they were lined up on plots about 50 x100 with the the cottage at one end and the rest they use to plant their gardens. The training was so helpful and we feel much more confident in what and how to accomplish what we have been called to do. There were six couples to be trained and two of them were with us in the MTC and it was good to see them again.

The first night we were there we had famous Weinerschnitzel, (highly reccommended by the missionaries and BYU study aboard students) You can't really tell from the photo but those pieces are two deep and cover the plate. Talk about great doggies bags. Took us 3 days just to finish them!

We didn't have much time for sight seeing but what we saw was gorgeous. We visited Karlsplazt and Sisi's summer palace. (An Austrian queen) I tell you what, that girl knew how to live, I'd love to see her permanent residence. If you're wondering about the elegant "fleece-blanket" wrap. Somebody's mother didn't tell her to take a warm coat to Vienna. But I did stay snuggy warm and recieved all kinds of comments from the couples we were with: "Strange blanket woman seen in Vienna. Blanket woman appears to have been abducted by people in black suits and coats."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We are REAL Missionaries

With President and Sister Slovachek

(For all of you who have thought we are just tourists in Prague these pictures are to reassure you that we really are on a mission. )
We attended our first zone conference this week and we know why the Slovacheks are here. They are very strong leaders and teachers and the missionaries love them. The theme for the conference was: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" This mission had a total of 29 baptisms last year and so far this year they have had 42. The missionaries received training on finding contacts wherever they are: tram, metros, buses etc. As soon as we go off daylight savings it will begin to get dark around 4ish so it's harder to find the people in the squares and parks! Many of the apartment buildings are locked and it is very difficult to tract them. I am so impressed with these missionaries and I sat there with tears running down my cheeks thinking about their mothers and how proud they would be to see them with such courage and strength as they overcome their own fears to share the gospel. Two missionaries who are leaving this month bore their testimonies and I loved what the sister said. "This has been the most amazing game of hide and seek." These missionaries are doing every thing they can to find the Lord's elect in the Czech Republic.

With our Zone Leaders: "The A Team" Elders Anderson and Auger

After institute class having goodies. We are going to Vienna this week for some training to learn how to set up the Outreach Program. As we understand it now it's to provide a wholesome place and activities where young adult can come and be with others and a place for the missionaries to bring investigators to fell the spirit and friendship.

Missionaries do have Pday. We took a few hours and visited Vsyehrad, a rock fortress along the Vltava River. This is where according to legend "the rule of the wise woman skilled in magic ways was replaced by the rule of men." (Was this a good idea?) Anyway it is a huge fortress and inside it is the St Peter - St. Paul Cathedral. Unfortunately we arrived 10 minutes too late for the last tour of the day but, "we live here so we can come back another day." Next to the cathedral is a cemetery where many revered Czech musicians, writers and artists are buried. One of the most famous.........

Antoine Dvorak

We moved in to an apartment that we will be in for 6 weeks but I couldn't end this post without telling about our Bohemian Penzion that we lived in for 9 days. A slightly musty, coffee smell greets you are you enter, along with the soulful sound of french or american jazz. The small and I empasize small room had two beds with slats and a 3 inch mattress and I thought, "Oh no, girls camp!" But they were surprisingly comfortable. Master of the house, Alexander was most welcoming and very apologetic of the flooded bathroom and broken water heater. Only one day without hot water

Every morning we had this spread: yogurt, boiled eggs, ham & cheese and all these delicious breads and pasteries. I loved it but I know somebody who doesn't want a boiled egg for a longggg time and has his mouth all set for a bowl of Wheaties!!

I know, I know, I don't usually leave the bed unmade, but I wanted to remember that the mattress truly was only 3 inches thick! Dobre Noc!