Hi everyone, We finally had time to stop and e-mail to let you know we're doing well. We're in Athens, Greece waiting for tomorrow's flight to Romania. Our visit with the missionaries in Egypt and Jordan was supportive to them and educational for us. So many times Joe and I looked at each other and said, "Are we really sitting in the living room of an Egyptian or Jordanian family drinking cinnamon tea?" We visiting the leprosaurim in Egypt, took a wheelchair to a crippled Muslim woman (I'll never forget her beautiful, excited eyes), checked on a clean-water project in Jordan, a school for Street Children in Cairo and sat in the Minister of Health's office in a city in Jordan to receive approval for a container delivery. We've made memories we hope to never forget. We found the people wonderfully friendly--wanting to help in every way they could. The Jordanians are especially kind and good people. Both countries are extremely poor--especially Egypt. It would break your heart to see the children gather filthy water from the river or the Nile to drink--where animals gather and garbage and sewage is dumped. What you see on TV is a fact. We didn't need to go searching for it.
We took a few hours every couple of days to visit historical sites. Our favorite was having dinner (with the Mayor of 5 villages) overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We sat on the balcony of a Resturant at an ancient Roman ruins near the corner of the Golan Heights, Syria, and Jordan, and watched the sun set over the Sea of Galilee while watching the evening lights of Israel begin to glow. In the midst of one of the most tense spots on earth we found the greatest peace. We waded in the Dead Sea, and sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," on the grounds where Jesus walked and in the language He spoke. No question, we have been blessed to be a part of His great work in the lands that He loved so much. We leave tomorrow for Romania. We'll be there for a few days before heading back to the office in Frankfurt and back to paperwork. We love you all. We thank you so much for your love and support. There are no words to express the love we have for our family, especially our babies. Please take care of yourselves and give each other a big hug. May the Lord bless and be with you all.
Near our apartment, we answered a special request from our war-scholar grandson, Tanner, who asked for “anything war-like.” We took pictures of several monuments in the cemetery across the street. Especially for you Tan-Man. This is a monument to the lost German soldiers of war. It rests inside the building shown in the distance in the picture below. Just like American fields, tombstones run for acres in long narrow row. Behind rows of crosses for lost German soldiers are the monument and the graves of hundreds of Jews who lost their lives in the name of medical research during Hitler’s “reign.
This is to let everyone know that we are safe-and-sound in Cairo, Egypt. We arrived about 3 hours ago and were met at the airport by our missionaries here. We picked up a wheelchair and some newborn and hygiene kits on the way from the airport to deliver tomorrow. And, we've already seen some of the problems that arise in this work--mostly, translation. Elder Lindsay asked for 66 boxes of each kits and got 6 of each from the organization where they are stored. So, we will need to return another day for the other 120 boxes. They're kept behind locked doors by the organization we ordered them for.
The Lindsays are from Minnesota originally, and moved to Utah about the same time we did. Sister Lindsay has never been out of the US, so this is an experience of a lifetime for them both. They've already made friends here in the Embassey and with the local people. The nicest part of our trip is seeing them in action. They're doing a great job monitoring the humanitarian work here. They also have our three day visit all booked up -- activities with the members (tonight we're taking a boat ride down the Nile with the Branch members), going to meet the organization heads they work with, Saturday to the Lepard colony, and Sunday they plan for us to take a camel ride to the Sphinx. They wanted us to enjoy the culture while we're here, which is great for us. We may never return.
Friday is the Muslim Sabbath here in Egypt and the church honors that, so we will be going to church tomorrow. We really look forward to meeting with their small branch and feeling their spirit and unity.
This past week we spent a lot of time reading and helping our Humanitarian Missionaries prepare Project Proposals. We’re the first step to approval and our job is to screen any problems that may develop. Since the Church’s primary goal—outside of helping the needy—is to teach self-reliance, one of our responsibilities is to be sure that when the Church leaves we have actually helped and not enabled. We also want to help the community learn how to rally around these organizations and help strengthen them. It’s really fun to watch how well our missionaries work with small charities to help offer care to the poor, disabled and aged—while attempting to develop a sense of self-reliance and networking. We do this by contacting organizations that are already established in the community, and help them become more viable and stronger--more capable of serving their people. As our friends, Bill & Kathy Clark who are serving in Mongolia as Humanitarian Country Directors said, “most people think we’re just out here passing out toothbrushes. They have no idea the service we do.”
That is so true. This past week we helped approve ten projects. As you can guess, one of the best parts of our day is to e-mail or call our missionaries and say, “your project has been approved.”
Romania: The Church provided furniture for an education/counseling room for children leaving orphanages. The goal is to help these children merge into society and find employment. We helped to repair a van to transport disabled and abandoned children to/from an education center and homecare. We provided tables with cabinets for a small pediatric hospital that care for malnourished babies/toddlers. They had no tables to do medical treatments on, so they used cribs. One of our favorite projects is the one that give the most for the least amount of money. Romania has hundreds-of-thousand Street Children, and there are organizations that do nothing more than provide a hot meal a day and a place to wash the one set of clothes they own. This week we provided a washing machine to an organization that offers these children a place to get a hug, a meal and have their clothes washed. 3000+ children were aided through these projects.
Croatia: Our humanitarian missionaries in Croatia have been asked to help in the Mission Office there, but they were so excited when they found the opportunity to help a school for blind children. We provided a Braille Printer for the school so that children can learn to read in Braille. 200+ children Moldova: Moldova is an entirely new country for us. It is south of Russia and was once part of the USSR. Today its people work hard to develop a Democratic Society. Our missionaries there found a small organization that had purchased a building a few years ago that needed a lot of repair. Over the last 5 years we have tried to help them renovate the building for the use of caring for the aged and disabled of all ages. Community volunteers offered to help re-roof the building if we provided the materials. With the willingness to take care of their own, how could anyone say “No”? The home provides living, training and care for a 1000 persons. We also approved a clean-water project for Moldova which will provide water to a small community of about 4500.
Slovakia: In this very poor country, physically & mentally disabled children are often completely abandoned. Parents have little or no means to care for their children, and so they “give” them away. Like Romania, small organizations take these children in and offer care, food and a home. Our missionaries there found two such centers, both needed play-ground equipment for physical activity for these children. One had a fenced yard with nothing for disabled children to play on. The other had two attached garages in the city where no play area is available. Our missionaries asked for playground equipment to help these small children use their bodies in constructive, physical ways. Can you imagine the smiles on these precious little faces as they play on a swing or monkey-Jim for the first time in their lives? 500 children
Jordan: Jordan has two couple missionaries working hard on Humanitarian projects as well as helping to establish LDS Charities at the Amman Center. One of our couples works primarily on projects. They have a clean-water project that is helping to supply water to villages and schools for close to 100 thousand people. This week we approved a container of 100 wheelchairs, blankets, hygiene kits, school kits and newborn kits. This one project will provide needed items for more than 7000 people.
Lebanon: Our missionaries in Lebanon have helped a group of Catholic Nuns care for 50orphaned children. Last year we help them develop a garden with vegetable plants and fruit trees to help feed these children. They asked if we could help them with a small water system so the Nuns did not have to walk to the well to water their garden and trees. The community offered to pay 1/3 the cost, so we agreed to help with the rest. Their willingness to take some responsibility showed their desire to be more self-reliant and willing to take care of themselves as much as possible. These projects may seem small to us in the United States, but it means everything to developing nations, where so few have even the necessities of life. We continue to love this work and feel so much gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the opportunity to serve His children. We feel His love and help every day. There have been times when we have felt overwhelmed and unqualified for what we do. When this happens, we close our office door and ask Heavenly Father for His help and guidance. He is always there to show us the way and give us answers to our questions. We are losing three of our couples this year and need replacements desperately. It saddens us to think that these countries, Albania, Croatia and Moldova, will lose their missionaries. We already feel a stewardship over these people and feel Heavenly Father’s love for them through this work.
Thursday, we leave for the Middle East to visit our missionaries there and see the projects they are working on. We will visit Jordan and Egypt, and then back up to Romania, where we have a new missionary couple working night and day to bring light into the lives of Heavenly Father’s children.
We look forward to telling you all about it next week.
We finally took time to enjoy our host country. Well, part of Germany that is. We decided that it was time to go castle hopping, so we spent Saturday driving up, across and back down the Rein River. Along the drive are at least a dozen old castles. Some castles were a thousand years old. Most were badly damaged by the Medieval Wars, by the French. But a few still remain active. In just 6 hours we saw hundreds of years of history pass before us, and a dozen castles. Some of them were rebuilt by the Prussian King. And, almost all of them are nestled on the hillside in the midst of grape vineyards. The small villages along the Rein are enchanting. We stopped for lunch and again for dinner, just so we’d have an excuse to “mingle” with the natives. We really enjoy the German people. They always try to speak English, and that’s good because our Germany is “nicht guten.”
We love the “Ginger-bread” houses in these small villages. This building is more than a Hansel & Gretel house. It’s a small restaurant/home in the center of a quant village. We just had to take a quick picture of a German dream home near a quiet market square. The village of Bacharach in tightly nestled between the Rein River and the mountainside. It quickly became one of our favorite villages. A large castle lingers over it, now used as a youth hostel. The village is about an hour outside of Frankfurt, and a really pleasant place to return for a quiet dinner at a friendly garden restaurant on a narrow stone street. We look forward to doing just that! Wanna join us?
On the opposite side of the river is this beautiful view and another castle. It’s interesting how the French attacked and destroyed a castle on one side of the river and left the one on the opposite side nearly untouched
OK. Utah. This is what we mean by trees! And we didn’t even need to go high into the mountains to find them. We had a nice stroll through the park to reach the top of the hillside and enjoy the view below. No snow, no rain—just a beautiful sunny day in Deutschland.
Behind and below, are the Rheine River and a line of small villages along the river, and vineyards running up the hillside. Way-y-y in the distance is Frankfurt. We had a leisured Saturday and a nice break from work. Then on Monday, back to work we go. This is Elder Durrance, better known as Papa Joe, sitting at his desk talking to our new friend in Amman, Jordan. Through the window—if you look really hard—is our apartment building. You can almost see the windows to our apartment. Our office is just a step away from home. All we need do is walk through the parking lot and we’re home or at work. That makes going home for lunch very convenient. And, we’re never late for work, but somehow we’re always late going home. You can honestly say that we really put in a full day’s work. Today, we work for 12 hours straight. Though sometimes it’s a long day, we love the affects of our efforts.