Mormon Mission World

Monday, March 26, 2012

Zone Conference Trip

Last week the Mission president invited us to join him on a Zone Conference trip across the entire county of Bulgaria.  We were thrilled and excited to be able to meet all the missionaries in the other two districts and see the country along the way.

We traveled with the two Assistants to the President, Elders Neuenswander & Frandsen.  They had the task of facilitating the actual zone conferences in each district.  Although President Roth and his wife each took a part on the programs, the Assistants and Zones leaders were in charge of the rest. In each area the Zone leaders, as well as conducting the meeting, directed a presentation on a memorization that had recently been implemented by the President. There were eight parts they had all been asked to memorize - in Bulgarian. The Zone leaders and Assistants set a great example by being prepared to recite any part of it as requested by the group. Others were called on to recite a part as well. Some were more prepared than others, but it was a fun activity, especially since we were not on the hot seat!  The Zone leaders in each area also took care of providing lunch and arranged a musical number to add to the spirit of the meeting.

The Assistants main presentation was on using media wisely to invite the Spirit and peace into your heart.  They played several clips of music to demonstrate inappropriate as well as appropriate pieces. It is not only hard rock or rap that can drive away the Spirit. Even if the lyrics are uplifting the beat and feeling can be offensive or the message (although appropriate in another setting) may not promote focus on the work they are trying to accomplish – such as songs of romance or ones that bring back memories of home.  Home is somewhere we all want to go someday, but it is hard to focus if you are longing for another place.
 They did a great job and ended with a song that brought peace to everyone in attendance.  It is so inspiring to see the young men take their responsibilities so seriously and uplift one another.  Being on a mission gives them such an opportunity to get outside themselves and learn to love others. They also learn to govern themselves and have opportunities for leadership that prepares them for the future. It is a marvelous thing for them as well as those that they are called to serve.

President Roth spoke on “Believing Christ”. (Read Stephen Robinson’s book, Believing Christ)
Many of us believe in Christ, but don’t always believe that Jesus has the power to save. So we don’t believe Christ. We think that we will never make it to the Celestial kingdom because we are not “good enough”. We often despair and think of giving up because we can’t seem to be as good as we see other people be. But when we enter the waters of baptism and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, we form a new partnership called the New and Everlasting Covenant. This new covenant has two partners. Our self, one who is flawed and human, and the Savior, one who is perfect and immortal. This partnership is perfect right now. He causes us to be justified, or judged “not guilty”, and able to enter the Celestrial Kingdom.  Right now! We are not perfect yet on our own, but will be later. This is Perfection-in-Christ (Moroni 10:32-33). It doesn’t matter if we are a 1 or a 5 or a 10, on the scale of 1-10 of goodness, providing we maintain the partnership by abiding in the gospel covenant. (Thank Heaven for the Sacrament and repentance). So if you despair of ever “making it”, believe Christ! Don’t call him a liar. He told us he has the power to save, and he does. We are all saved through Christ. That is the infinite and individual Atonement. It applies to you, and me, individually.
Us in front of Roman ruins of Amphitheater

Roman Ruins Amphitheater in Plovdiv

Hotel we stayed at in Ruse, on Romanian Border

Us near Danube River, Romania on far shore

Our drivers and guides, Elder Neuenswander and Elder Frandsen

Building in Central Square of Ruse

Beach on Black Sea, Varna

Roman Bath ruins in Plovdiv

View from our hotel room in Varna

Cathedral of the Assumption -Varna

This week we have included some pictures of the sights we saw as we traveled. Each city has its own character and charm. Even though we are not anxious to make the bumpy drive again anytime soon, there are places we would like to explore more extensively. Bulgaria is a beautiful country with the only exception being those structures that were built during a time in the past when beauty was not a priority or even a consideration. We hope you enjoy the sights even a fraction of how much we did.

Elder and Sister Segeberg

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First Week in Bulgaria

Hi All
After our first week in Sophia we are getting settled into our new home and city. We have included some pictures of our apartment as well as the street outside.

 It has been a busy week. Sister Roth took us shopping on Tuesday to two places across town. One was a lot like Costco! It was called Metro. It was HUGE and they had everything under the sun. It was like Disneyland! Hopefully, we can find our way back when we want to go again. For now our larder is stocked.
Our assignments have been picking up in the office. It seems they were taking it easy on us last week and letting us get settled. Now we are getting buried in tasks that need doing – and most needed completing yesterday.

Elder Segeberg is the new Mission clerk which involves meetings as well record keeping and while he is with the presidency they find a few extra assignments for him as well – some of which get passed on to me. We share one another’s burdens!

We have taken a few more walking tours of town and have included some pictures of interesting scenes and buildings. There is a lot of beautiful architecture in Sophia. We are not always sure what the buildings are, but we certainly admire them. The area also has many stark looking buildings but they are much less photogenic. We have found the sidewalks to be far less treacherous in the center of town. I wonder why? Also there were crews improving some areas of the sidewalks. I guess the urban renewal projects have not expanded to our part or town. 

We have also run across some familiar sights in advertisements as well as shops on the street. Just to name a couple we have seen Dunkin Donuts, Dominos and KFC. So far we have not found the Burger King.  

The weather has turned to spring and like everywhere else the warm sunny weather brings people out of doors. Yesterday in the park there were families with children, youth and elderly people like us everywhere – riding bikes, scooters and skates or just sitting enjoying  the scene . There were venders selling ice cream, snack foods and drinks as well as balloons and other novelties.  The atmosphere was quite festive.

Sunday we took a trip to Blagoevgrad to attend church there and to train the leaders on the financial system they are using. There has been some confusion regarding paperwork being completed properly. The drive was very long, but being able to see the scenery outside of the city was very enjoyable. This was another beautiful spring day and just perfect for the trip

Another week is about to begin! Soon we will find what adventure  it will bring.

Elder and Sister Segeberg

Monday, March 12, 2012

In Bulgaria

We flew into Sofia on Thursday evening after a long day of travel. We had been sufficiently weighed, scanned and wanded everywhere we went. There was no direct flight from Riga to Sophia so we had a layover in Vienna where I so wanted to see something neat but it was very cloudy and we might as well have been landing in Detroit. But as we flew out of Vienna on Austrian Air there was sweet music playing over the intercom -- the Viennese Waltz. How appropriate! That was the best part!

  The Mission President, President Roth, and his wife were there with smiling faces to meet us at the airport. They took us to the office for a quick staff meeting and then to our new home just a block away. I had a little trouble with the soviet era elevator. It looks like a closet. 

                                     The moving closet, otherwise know here as an elevator

I got on with several of our bags which left no room for anyone else. Sister Roth told me to push button #2 for my floor and she would meet me there. In the meantime a fellow on the 4th or 5th floor called the elevator which responded to his request by taking me to the higher floor. Not knowing what floor I was on, I got off so he could get on and down he went to the 2nd floor where I had requested it to go. It seems it was designed to be responsive, if not efficient. I could hear Sister Roth and Elder Segeberg the lower floor talking and wondering where I had gone and how I had turned into a Bulgarian man. So back into the moving closet I got (which was not as easy since it had stopped a little high so I had to pull all three bags up over the edge to get them into the elevator. Finally I arrived at the right floor and was reunited with everyone. A little too much excitement after a long day!! After a quick tour we went out to have some dinner. This was not as easy as anticipated since it was International Women’s Day and every restaurant was booked solid. We ended up at the food court in the mall and ate at KFC. By the time we arrived back at our new home we were exhausted.
After a good night’s sleep it is amazing how much brighter things look. We began to find places for our things and did a little cleaning. Eventually we realized that since we did not have an internet connection all our electronics were still on Vienna time which is an hour behind Sofia. Then we scrambled to get to the office to meet with the Office Elders for our orientation.
Most of Friday and Saturday we wondered around the city. Friday was spent trying to find food – you know –hunting and gathering. There are many little shops with fruit or bread or meat, which are great, but we were hoping to find a real grocery store to get some of the other things that we needed. After two trips along the same street and a couple of close calls trying to cross that street, we did locate the store. It even had the pillows we needed.

Cute Church we saw
Cathedral in Center of Sofia

Sign said Happy Egg, touch the egg and make a wish

Views around Sofia. looks like a WW1 monument

View from our Apartment

On Saturday we headed for the Center to do a little sightseeing. We toured an enormous church that had spectacularly painting on its domed ceilings. Unfortunately, the many years of candle burning had taken their toll and the beautiful artwork is obscured with a dark covering. We also spent some time at an open air market in the park. Elder Segeberg thought that the Soviet memorabilia was fascinating but could not figure out what he would do with it if he purchased any. I found a Matroshka doll that I thought we needed to accent  our apartment. I knew exactly what to do with it.

Sunday was great! There was a lot less pressure attending church than the first week in Latvia. We have not studied any Bulgarian so we didn’t have to worry about trying to speak it the way we did with Russian in our Latvia branch. The people were very warm and friendly and several spoke English well.

Little market we like near our house
We are confident that we will be settled in soon and enjoying our stay here. As we wonder around it is evident that this is a poorer country than Latvia. The sidewalks are treacherous with broken or deteriorating concrete, as well as many evidences that dogs have left behind. As we gaze at the sights we are amazed that we are here. When we studied history in school we did not imagine that we would ever be walking the streets of Bulgaria.

I guess you never know where we are going to turn up next!

Love to all
Elder & Sister Segeberg

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bulgaria Here We Come

And thEy’re off!
 After much investigation and work on Elder Segeberg’s part we are about to depart for Bulgaria. Since missionaries don’t often move from one mission to another, it has been slow getting it figured out.  The original concern was that if we went on a tourist visa our paperwork for the more permanent visa might not be completed in time. We would then have to leave the country after 90 days and could not return for another 90 days. But he discovered that although we will have to leave after 90 days, we can return at any time on different type of visa. It may take another two months or more to get everything ready to even apply for the type D visa. So why waste time? We are going to go on Thursday on a tourist visa and spend three months getting things in order there. According to the mission president, things are crashing down around them. On June 1st we will return to Riga, by way of Warsaw, if our paper work is in order, to apply for the visa. We can continue to work on many of the Bulgarian Mission’s things from here since a lot is on the web. Once our visas are processed, we will pack up everything and pick up the visas in Warsaw on the way back to Bulgaria. We think it is a great solution since we will be able to get there soon to help where we are most needed. Also, we can find out just what we need there and what we don’t. Since we have feathered our Riga nest all ready, we can take whatever we find that we need with us and not take anything unnecessary. Anyway, the adventure continues! 

Aside from the detective work, we managed to have a busy week! We taught the final two lessons of the Strengthening Marriage course that we have been teaching to the sweet couple we have been working with – one on Tuesday and the other on Saturday.  It really seems to have been useful for them. Now they have a bag of tools to use when they have a conflict or a problem to work out. They actually seem to be using the things they learned. We have made great friends!

After the lesson on Tuesday we stopped in the Center (of town) and had lunch. It began to snow great, big flakes – the kind that never last very long.

 It was very pretty so we took a walk through the park on our way to visit the Museum of the Occupation which is all about the history of Latvia and the countries that have occupied them for their prime location and access to the Baltic Sea. It was very interesting! When we left we expected the snow to have stopped. Not so much! It was more like a blizzard! Where was my warm hat when I needed it? It was at home nice, dry and warm while I was frozen, wet and cold. By the time we got home my hair was frozen and covered with snow that did not just brush off. It was an unpleasant end to a pleasant day. We were ready for hot cocoa!

On Sunday it was sad telling everyone at Church ‘good-bye.’ There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on. Elder Segeberg discovered that mustaches really are scratchy when one fellow hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  We have gotten close to many people and will miss them dearly. Returning in June has many benefits.

Talk to you next week from Bulgaria!