Mormon Mission World

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Home from the Mission

Home Sweet Home!
Our return journey to America was long and tiring; however, it went as well as could be expected.  Originally, since our reservations were made at the last minute, we were not assigned seats together.  Several sweet airline attendants arranged a change of seats for us so that we were able to sit together the entire way.  On one flight we even had a row of three seats all to ourselves.
Landing in Seattle at 11:30 pm meant that we could not expect a marching band to greet us at the airport. Ryan’s smiling face was enough to make us feel welcome.  Once we arrived at his home we were greeted by a banner in the kitchen which they had done for FHE on Monday with a huge ‘Welcome Home’ as well as other messages.
More quickly than we anticipated we were able to purchase the perfect vehicle for us, a Ford Escape.  It came complete with all of the bells & whistles that we wanted, good gas mileage, and is fun to drive.  For our trip to Ocean Shores we managed to fit all of our six pieces of luggage, miscellaneous other bags and baggage as well as a cart-full of groceries into our new vehicle, affectionately referred to as Ruby.  When we finally arrived with our treasures we were happy to find all safe and sound.  Our home had been well cared for and the ocean was right where we left it.
Since returning home we have enjoyed time with the children and grandchildren who still live in the area.  On our first Sunday there was dinner with Ryan’s and Shelly’s families.  The following Saturday there was a family gathering which added Heath’s family to the celebration.  Also, we look forward to visiting with the others as soon as we can arrange to travel.
As we traveled home there was time to ponder the future.  One thought that came to me was, “Will there ever be missionaries in Ocean Shores?”  There had been none in our branch for as long as we had owned our home there.  Upon arriving in Ocean Shores we quickly learned that missionaries were coming in a week.  The branch was thrilled!  An apartment had been located for them and outfitted with furniture and food.  Each day more items show up on their doorstep. We too are excited that missionaries will be in our branch.  We look forward to being involved with them.  After seeing the difference it made in Bulgaria, we are eager to be involved in their teaching appointments. As well as everywhere else, there is an enthusiasm to build centers of strength.  We can be of help in this area.
During our service it has been such a privilege to wear the Savior’s name on our name tags.  At baptism we covenant to take His name upon us.  For eighteen months we literally took His name upon us each morning as we attached our name tags to our lapels.  One of the senior couples with whom we associated pointed out that it is a great separator – some are drawn to you and some are drive away.  Just as at His return some will be on the left and some on the right as the believers are separated from the unbelievers.  On a smaller scale this is true whenever His name is apparent.  It was an honor to be His representatives.  We will always cherish this special time. We are now looking forward to new opportunities.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Sad Farewell

Our time to return home has come more quickly than anticipated.  Amid the scurry of last minute activities I have found myself pondering many things.  Just like so many things in life, there are pros and cons to the end of this chapter.

There are a few things that we will not miss as we depart for home
Broken sidewalks – Often I commented that I wanted to see more of Bulgaria than the ground.  But every time I lifted my eyes I would trip on some obstacle on the sidewalk.  I am thankful for city maintenance people.

We will not miss one neighbor’s un-rhythmic drumming on his drums several evenings a week. 
We also will not miss the three flights of stairs in Mission Home to be climbed several times a day. We must be getting old.
Also we will not miss days without:
·         Heat
·         Hot water
·         Electricity
·         Or all of the above at the same time

However, among the things that we will miss are:
The corner vegetable stand!  A half block from our home is a large vegetable stand.  Nearly daily we go there to buy fresh fruits and veggies. (The frequency may be necessitated by our small fridge.)  The staff is very friendly and kind to old folks who speak very little of the language.
Up the main street just a little way is Pro Market where we go for milk and incidentals.  One of their specialties is fresh squeezed orange juice!  Not only do we purchase this delicious juice, frequently young missionaries can be seen with a liter bottle to wash down their breakfast or lunch, or just as a snack.

We will miss fresh homemade bread from the woman that we fondly call the bread lady.  She always has a warm smile each time we approach her window to purchase a loaf of fresh bread!  Quickly she learned what we prefer, a large loaf from the middle of the batch (so that there is no crust on the sides.)  She also chats away as she serves us.  We have no idea what she is saying!  But it sounds pleasant!

I will miss the German yogurt with 3.8% fat content.  One day I commented to Elder Segeberg how much better the yogurt tasted here.  His reply was that if I ate something other than fat free yogurt in America I might find more taste as well!  Here I felt less guilty eating the full fat since there is no alternative.

Most important our list of things that we will miss are the dedicated missionaries who gladly sacrifice 18-24 months of their youth to serve the Lord.  Their enthusiasm, to find and teach those who are kept from the love of their Savior only because they know not where to find it, is contagious. We have grown to love each and every one of them.  We will continue to pray for their well-being and success.

Next would be our wonderful Mission President and his charming wife, President and Sister Wilstead and the other senior missionaries with whom we have served.  You meet some great people on a mission!  We appreciate every one that we have met.
Also we will miss the courageous and faithful members.  Life in Eastern Europe is not easy.  It is difficult to turn from old customs and traditions to embrace something totally different.  But the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings hope to all of us, no matter our situation or our location.
Last but not least, we will miss is the joy on the faces of newly baptized members. You can truly see the light of Christ in their countenance. They bring enthusiasm and joy to the branches as they feel the difference that Christ has made in their lives.

And of course there are many things that we look forward to such as:
·         Peanut Butter
·         Pickles
·         Powdered sugar that is not gritty
·         Costco  (may need to take out a loan the first time we go there)
·         A car (can’t decide which one)
·         Brown Sugar (I want a 25 pound bag)
·         Hot water whenever we want it
·         Heat when we are cold

But most important are our loved ones!  We will not be able to get enough of them!  During our time so far away we have appreciated their love and support.  We have treasured the opportunities to see their faces as we Skype.  What a great innovation!

So, as we say good bye to our many new friends we will concentrate on the many joys that we will soon enjoy! One chapter is closing, but a new one is about to open!
Elder and Sister Segeberg

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tower of Babel

This week we visited our favorite burger place, a place called, Boom!  Their menu suddenly featured Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches.  Elder Segeberg just had to have one.  After mentioning the menu change to the President and his wife soon they and the Sofia senior missionaries were off on a quest for the tasty sandwich.  Due to a cold front that was still passing through Sofia we traveled through wind and snow to arrive at our destination.  As well as American style food this restaurant boasts waitresses who speak English well. 
 We were immediately greeted by our favorite waitress and seated at a long table.  Our President’s wife enthusiastically ordered first requesting a Philly Steak with a side of onion rings.  The President told the waitress that he would like the same.  Another member of our party indicated that she, too, wanted the same.  Another, who was there for the first time, opted to try a hamburger.  The waitress came around to our end of the table to take our order.  Elder Segeberg asked for a Philly Cheese sandwich as well.  Since everything is made fresh this is not fast food. 
While we waited we enjoyed a pleasant conversation about our weekend activities.  The President and his wife had traveled to Varna and Ruse.  Our other companions had spent the weekend visiting Stara Zagora.  I had taught a cooking class on Saturday making Chocolate Chip Cookies.  When the three who ordered first were given a steak knife, they feared that something had gone awry.  After an inquiry into what was being prepared for them they discovered that they were getting a steak, a fillet (mignon) steak!  Philly, fillet, sounds about the same.  They took the news in stride and enjoyed their unexpected meal. 
This is another example of ‘lost in translation’ rearing its ugly head once again.  Of all the challenges in Bulgaria, the language is the greatest.  There is so much that we would like to communicate to those we know as well as those that we meet only briefly.  I know that the Lord had good reasons for the whole Tower of Babel episode but I sure wish that the statute of limitations would run out on it.  Be grateful when you can communicate with your waitress, your hair stylist, the checker at the local store, and that person who you feel needs an encouraging word.  Open your mouth and let the words spill out!  

Elder & Sister Segeberg

Friday, March 1, 2013

Happy Baba Marta


Happy Baba Marta Day! Today dawned bright and sunny after several days of clouds, rain and even snow.  Here in Bulgaria on the 1st of March, Baba Marta Day is celebrated. For those not in the know, that's Grandmother March, the day when martenitsi are exchanged in anticipation of spring, and worn pinned on the clothing or tied on the wrist.
Baba Marta Day is related to welcoming the upcoming spring. The month of March, according to Bulgarian folklore, marks the beginning of springtime, therefore, the first day of March is a traditional holiday associated with sending off winter and welcoming spring.

 Wherever you go on this special day you’ll hear people greet each other with words “Chestita Baba Marta!” after which they exchange additional wishes of good health, luck, happiness and protection against evil for friends and family alike, while pinning traditional symbolic charms with tassels called “Martenitsi” (Martenitsa singular, Martenitsi plural) on each other’s clothes.  Martenitsi are in the form of yarn tassels, male and female yarn dolls known as Pizho and Penda, or yarn bracelets, but always red and white.  All over the country streets are full of little stalls selling these Martenitsi and all day long you’ll witness people happily shouting ‘Chestita Baba Marta!’ and exchanging these charms– quite a fascinating and joyful experience really! It’s not uncommon to look like an over-decorated Christmas tree by the end of the day with all these charms pinned on you!

There are various theories and even several legends, some involving real historical figures, about the symbolism of these two particular colors – red & white, from which Martenitsa are made. The most popular belief is that “red” stands for “life/birth” and “white” denotes “anew/on clear grounds”. Combined together, they mean “a new beginning”; a celebration of Life and Survival. Another popular explanation is that white stands for wisdom and red for good health, which means that anyone giving you a Martenitsa is wishing you both throughout the new year.

In accordance with ancient tradition is personified by the mythical, rather grumpy and limping grandmotherly figure of Baba Marta (Grandma March) whose job it is to brush out winter and let in Spring. There are several different stories relating to Baba Marta, but all have one thing in common: she is a very irritable and unpredictable old lady, extremely moody, (hence the unpredictable weather in March.) She is known to cast bad spells on people who displease her and will only visit clean houses, which means that March is also the month for what is traditionally known as Spring cleaning!  If she’s displeased with what she finds she’ll make it known by sending you bad wintery weather spells, but if she’s happy you’ll find her smile reflected in the warming sun!
The Martenitsi are worn until the first sighting of a stork (a harbinger of spring)  or, more commonly nowadays, a budding fruit bearing tree.  By the end of March and well into April you’ll find trees everywhere decorated with these red-and-white charms. Beware if you don’t wear your Martinitza until then, for Bulgarians believe that you will be visited by evil spirits and bad luck will befall you! You’ll even find pets and domestic animals such as young horses, lambs, kids and sheep wearing Martenitsi.  Houses, too, are decorated with their own Martenitsa.

So, if you find yourself in Bulgaria in the beginning of March, don’t be shocked to see that everyone is wearing funny white and red tassels on their clothes. No, they don’t have bad taste in fashion, they just like their traditions!

Elder & Sister Segeberg