Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Preparations Czech-style

No Christmas tree this year but not to worry we have this beautiful czech wreath made by Sestra Lydia.

The missionaries from Prague and Brno put on a Christmas concert in the St. Mikalus Cathedral which is right in the middle of Old Town. We ended the concert with "I Believe in Christ" which has just been translated into czech. What a thrill to bear our testimonies of Jesus Christ through song in their own language.

(You know how people always say "I'll email you the photo." Well they didn't so we don't have a photo of the choir but..)
Here we are after the concert with Sister Perez

The Young Adults put on the Christmas Nativity for the branch.
They are a very creative bunch!!

A walk through Old Town at night to see the Christmas lights and cottages.

Back during the day to have the roasted ham.... yum,

admire the tree and. . .

pick out Waldo's Christmas gift.

(We even found his eating establishment here in Prague!)

Now for the big decision..... which carp to fry.

(All over the city right on the streets are these huge tubs full of live carp, the traditional Czech Christmas Eve meal.)

They picked out a BIG one.

Even the carp looks happy with their choice.....

That was a short lived smile! Some people take the carp home alive and let it swim in the bathtub for a day or two. Well it's tradition you know !!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Karlovy Vary, Loket and BAPTISMS

The office vylet to Karlovy Vary, a 2 hour trip south west of Prague. We learned a very important lesson on our way. We have been in the Czech Republic for 14 months and really feel like we belong here. . . not so fast Robbins! We were stopped by the police who were checking who knows what? When they saw that we were Americans they wanted to make sure there weren't any illegal aliens among us. (Never thought I would be an alien!) I happily pulled out the copies of our passports that I was told to always carry with us, only to find out that they want originals ONLY. So we were given a fine right there on the spot. There was one missionary in the van who didn't have her passport, but luckily the officer didn't count. Who knows what they would have required of her!?! They really are serious about foreigners in their country.
Karlovy Vary is famous for its' hot natural mineral springs. Visitors buy a small cup to drink the water from the 12 different springs and decide which tastes the best and will cure what ails you. We personally thought all of them tasted like salty copper laced water and didn't cure anything. However we both woke up during the night with a tummy ache. (The water or McDonalds? That's another thing, who knew we would choose to go to McDonald's!?! It tasted sooo good.)

Look at the bottom of that spring, no wonder we had tummy aches!
(To the right of me is Elder Hicken, my cousin Lynn's grandson.)

Other sites of Karlovy Vary. Either a pregnant ghost or the "Ghost of Christmas Future".
(No not Waldo.)

Czech Republics' "Old Faithful" excepts it spouts continually!

The bird woman. "Feed the birds" as in "Mary Poppins"

The buildings in this country are beautiful. Is that "Waldo"?

A collumnade walk-way (I'm not sure that is a word.)

The charming "Hotel Romance", we should return there without the Elders.

Sestra Robbins getting too friendly with the Good Czech Soldier Svejk and Starsi Robbins pushing his luck.

We are told that scenes from Casino Royale we're filmed at the Grandhotel Pupp!

Since we haven't seen the movie we don't know if the exterior made it into the movie.

On to another castle. There are over 300 in the Czech Republic, so there is always one close to wherever you are going. This one is named Loket=Elbow. The name of the castle and the town are derived from the shape of the Ohre River bend which indeed suggests a human arm bent at the elbow.

Looking down on the town from the castle.

Elder Robbins found revenge for being shut up in the dungeon. . .

Can you see the tears? (Silly boy left the door open)

Zanetta "Jane" from Kazakistan was baptized. Her mother was also baptzed last month, what wonderful women they are and we are so happy to have another beautiful young single adult.

Our great friend Tugi from Mongolia also was baptized. He is a little young (11) for our young single adult group, but he comes to outreach in Hradecs and is the champion UNO and Bingo player!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let the holiday celebrations and parties begin. . .

Yes, when you come on a mission you still spend Thanksgiving day in the kitchen! With Sister Anderson, getting ready to feed 24 hungry missionaries, after the 2nd annual turkey bowl......
If they met ALL the "Standards of Excellence" ie. lessons, contacts, new investigators, hours speaking Czech etc., they were able to participate in the Turkey bowl and celebration. President Slovacek said it was one of the best three weeks in the mission. Whoever thought a turkey bowl would be such an inspiration to do the Lord's work??

Happy missionaries
(Can you find Elder Waldo?)

They all participated!

Thanksgiving dinner that same night in the mission home. The Slovaceks, their two children Heidi, Matthew and Michelle; a new member from Liberice. We realized we are sitting in the exact same seats as last year.

November 27th, the colorful Podzimi Tancovacku ("before the cold" ) or Fall Dance
The room is ready. . .

Jarda and Helena our master and mistress of ceremony. Helena is the Institute teacher and Jarda is on the Young Adult Commitee. They are both so much fun and are such a blessing to the branch here. They love the young adults so much and we love them!!! They are a very talented duo and should go on tour!

Sestras Velechovska and Panyrkova
the refreshments are ready. . .

let the dancing begin!!!!

December 5th, the day little children have to recite a poem, sing a song and tell St. Mikalus, the devil and the angel if they have been good.
He looks a little worried. . .

You would be too it you had to talk to these guys!

Elder Waldo must have been very good, not a trace of worry.

This is what Waffle -fest looks like. Held every nine weeks right before transfers.

We think they like it!?! Elder Erickson, the one on the left, is the mission champion sweet roll maker. He was a master chef before his mission and his food tastes like it!

One last photo of some of our "skvele" young adults. (left to right)
Front: Klara, Krystina, Veronica
Middle: Daniel, Jirka, Ales
Back: Viktor, Magda, Tomasi
What a great group! They are all first generation members of the Church!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Velvet Revolution and Giving Thanks

November 17th was the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Americans were cautioned to not go down to the actual celebration for fear of terrorist presence. We went down last week-end to see the displays, candles and flowers. After the massive changes in other Eastern Block countries in the late 1980's, the Czechoslovak Communist regime could not hope to save itself. The citizens of Prague demonstrated in Wencelas Square in the thousands and despite the obstinate stance of the authorities and contingents of police and security forces, their voices could not longer be silenced. One of the last Communist governments in the world came toppling down. After the peaceful revolution in East Germany a "Velvet Revolution" took place in Prague in November of 1989. It's hard to really understand what this freedom meant to a people who had been under Nazi and then Communist rule for 50 years. How thankful we are for our freedom. Most of the demonstrations which resulted in these revolutionary changes occured on the very spot where Elder Waldo is standing. This is one of the most historic places in the Czech Republic. It is where the Nazi's came when they took over the country in 1939. It is the same place that the Russian's came in 1945, soon to be joined by General Patton and his American forces who went as far as Plzen, to free the Czech's from Nazi rule. Again, in 1968, the Russian's rolled their tanks down Wencelas square to crack down on dissidents and famous martyrs lost their lives. It truly is representive of freedom and sacrifice known only to the Czech people.

On Wencelas Square

This brings us to another season of thanksgiving. . . ."stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord and likewise at even:" 1Chr.23:30 Hopefully we haven't waited for Thanksgiving to thank the Lord for his bounteous blessings of this last year. However we want to remember those blessings. "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." 1Cor 9:15 We have witnessed many prepare to make covenants with the Lord and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. ". . and in as much as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, . . . the fulness of the earth is yours. D&C 59:15-16. We have seen the difference the gospel makes in ours and others ability to feel God's love. We have been through many personally challenging experiences that have helped us learn more patience and faith. Those things have given us the opportunity to learn in a way we never have before. We have tried to receive this learning with a cheerful heart. ". . . doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, " D&C 46:7 We have asked the Lord to help us make our weekly Family Home Evenings and Outreach a place where the young people can feel the spirit and His love for them.

On Friday we walked through beautiful Letna Park which is right next to the church building. The sun was shining and the leaves were gently falling. It was a perfect autumn day, perhaps one of the last of the season. We walked to the eastside of the park that overlooks the Vltava River. It is a favorite spot of artists depicting the bridges and spires of Prague. ". . .let thy heart be full of thanks unto God. . . " Alma 37:37 We give thanks to Him for the privilege of being in this beautiful land and to serve in this mission. We give thanks to Him for watching over our family and friends. May we always be willing to ". . . receive it from the hand of the Lord with a thankful heart in all things." D&C 62:7

". . . live in thanksgiving daily for the many mercies
and blessings which he doth bestow upon you."
Alma 34:37

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Halloween, Birthday and Reliving the past in Slovakia

Before we leave rijen (October) in Prague we have to show the very traditional "Halloween Party "put on by the young adults....... Halloween is not a Czech holiday but the Czechs certainly got into the spirit of it. That is Sestra Kocky on the end. The party was a success with....

eating donuts on a string,

pumpking carving,

and lots of great costumes!!!!!

The Andersons had us for birthday dinner with Sisters Magidson and Austin, Elders Grimshaw and Erickson. Three investigators, Tanya who is sitting next to me was baptized last week and her daughter Jane is still taking the missionary lessons.
(me in my birthday sweater)

At family home evening, Klara, the young woman in the middle made the most elegant birthday cake for me.
It is decorated in pure chocolate!!!!

Viktor gave me a yellow rose. All this attention and celebrating almost makes is worth is to move on to a new decade.

November 5-7th we attended a "seniors conference" for all the senior missionaries in our mission. It was held in Trencin Slovakia. We stayed in the Brezina Hotel which is located right close to the site where Slovakia was dedicated by Elder Uchtdorf on May 12, 2006 for the proclaming of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We visited the Bojnice Castle which is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the Slovak castles: the castle's fairytale silhouette of steep roofed towers and palaces is the crown of the upper Nitra valley.

The present romantic castle stands on the site of a 12th century medieval castle. In 1889-1910 its last aristocratic owner, Count John Palffy had it reconstructed as a splendid romantic residence on the model of a French gothic chateaux. And romantic it is. . .

I dubs not to be one of the serfs to keep the place up!

I found Elder Waldo playing next to the cannon.

Chivalry is not dead, helping me alight into my carriage!

All those "seniors" again!!

The last morning we were there we walked to the beautiful forested spot where Elder Uchtdorf along with 56 members from the Czech Republic and Slovakia met to dedicate this land.

We read together his prayer and then returned to our hotel to share our feelings and testimonies.

Excerpt from his prayer that was especially touching for us

"We are standing on top of this beautiful hill, with a cloud-covered sky above us that is opening up just enough that the sunlight is shining and warming all who are here. We pray that the gospel, with its light and warmth will come to all the people who are living in this beautiful country, even to those who do not know yet what a wonderful pearl of great price is available here. We are in the city of Trencin, which is also known as the Pearl of Provazie. This place has been known to the world beginning from 180 years after the birth of our Savior, our Redeemer. It is located at the beautiful river of Vah., in the shadows of the Carpathian mountains.
Bless all the members of the church to be a light and a blessing for the people of this nation. Bless the youth of this country, and especially the youth of the Church, that they will see the light which is coming from on high, through inspiration and revelation and through learning and studying the restored gospel. Bless them with moral and physical health and strength to make inspired decisions.
Oh God, our Heavenly Father, soften the hearts of the people, especially the youth. Grant that they may be curious concerning this work, that they will be searching for the truth... Grant that the spirit of the adversary may be limited and curtailed... Wilt Thou raise up men which are willing to accept the truth and who will see the light which is coming from Thy gospel and the faithful membership in Thy Church. Please open doors into the homes and into the hearts of the people."