Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dane's last requests before leaving for the States!

Dane had a few requests before he headed back to the States. The first was he wanted to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe and buy a t-shirt.....Simple! The restarant is across from the Cultural Center. This was one of those rainy days.
The lunch was great and guess what?? They even had his size of T-shirt in stock. (I have been trying to get him one since last Christmas and all they have had is XXL...they finally got a shipment in!

For his next request, well that was a little harder to involved taking President Nielson away from his duties for an hour! Growing up, Dane and his Dad have spent many hours on the golf course together and Dane wanted to go golfing with his Dad. Unfortunately, golf courses are hard to find in Poland, but we do have a really nice driving range close to the Mission Home. the driving range we went!
And this is how it went! As we got the clubs and the golf balls, the phone calls started coming, and they kept coming.... so much for this.
Well, if President Nielson isn't going to 'get into the swing of things'...I was! (This could be the first time I have been on a driving range....I can't remember....I'm too old!)
And we swung! I MEANT to take a practice swing, OK? (Not really...I missed! the ball is still on the tee...We are trying to baptize, and I have to be honest!)
President Nielson finally put down his phone, and we had a great time. I think he even had a little fun!
Well....Dane's two wishes were met and he is ready to fly home tomorrow. It was great having him here. We love him and are proud of all he is accomplishing. Now....back to the mission with 100% of our thoughts. We are actually able to stay in Warsaw all next week (and regroup!) ....and I am looking forward to it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bydgoszcz District Meeting....and a tour of Torun!

This picture was taken in April of this year. I wanted to include it so you could remember the state of the building where we meet in Bydgoszcz. It is an historical building, so in order to have any improvements made to it, one has to go through a bunch of 'red tape'.

As you can see, it is in need of some repair.

We arrived in Bydgoszcz this morning to find ...
...the stairs being replaced! This is good news and a step in the right direction. The downside: these workers have been here for several days! Ok, so it's a slow process! At least someone is doing something...and it looks great!

Meeting with the Bydgoszcz Missionaries for District Meeting. (L to R): Elders Nielson, Lundin (District Leader), Murphey, and Fletcher. In the front: Sisters Garcia and Steadman. Another great District Meeting, and it was good to see these missionaries again.

After District Meeting, we were in for a treat! Ewa, a member who lives in Bydgoszcz and just graduated from Law School in Torun, has consented to take us on a whirlwind tour of this beautiful town.
Our first stop was this 'leaning' tower. The tower is part of the walls that were built in the 14th century. It leans 1.4 meters. I have heard two legends regarding being able to stand with your back against the tower and not fall over: 1) whoever can do this, will get married soon AND 2) whoever can do this, always tells the truth!

Two young lawyers that seem to be able to do this. But wait! They are both cheating! Ewa is holding herself up with an umbrella, and Dane is holding onto a brick. Something tells me they will be very good lawyers! Meaning....they are creative!!!! (I don't want any feedback from our lawyer friends!)

A statue of the most famous citizen of Torun....Copernicus!

This is the house where Copernicus was born (1473). The family resided here from 1463-1480. Torun is full of spectacular Gothic Architecture and a large collection of redbrick churches. What is extra nice about this town is that it was virtually undamaged in WWII.

The largest and most impressive church in the area is the Cathedral of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. It was so big and surrounded with beautiful green trees that I could not get a decent picture of it....again, the red brick was amazing.

This fountain and statue is Torun's own 'Pied Piper' story. Legend has it that a witch came to visit but wasn't welcomed. As she was leaving she invoked a curse, and the town was invaded by frogs. The mayor offered a sack of gold and his daughter to anyone who could rid the town of the frogs. A humble peasant boy appeared and began to play his fiddle luring all the frogs into the woods. The town was saved, and the boy received his prizes.
This is the site of the original medival castle that was built and inhabited by the Teutonic Knights. WWII didn't destroy's destruction came centuries before. It was actually destroyed by the inhabitants of the town in 1454 who were protesting all the economic restrictions the Knights put on them. (They must have been really ticked off...Teutonic castles are built to last! See Malbork Castle!)

Now, you CAN'T go to Torun and NOT buy gingerbread! The tradition of baking gingerbread in Torun is almost as long as it's history. This town was located at the crossing of the most important European trade routes so there were no problems with attaining ingredients like ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. from the East.

Torun gingerbread is still baked in the traditional shape of carriages, coats of arms, knights, townspeople at work, hearts and Katarzynki---the most famous shape. A legend of how this shape came to be: There was a master baker who had a daughter named Katarzyna (Kasia) who helped him with his work. One day the baker got very sick and could not work. Kasia loved her father and wanted to help so she decided to make the gingerbread. Not being able to find the baking tray her father always used, she cut little circles with a glass and baked them. However, the cookies attached in a bunch of 6 and turned into the shape that is well known today. Kasia worried that she wouldn't be able to sell the gingerbread, but the people loved it. Not only did they taste good but loved the new shape! Some say that it was not just the flour, the honey, the spices that made the gingerbread so good; but also Kasia's love for her father that made the cookies so special.

Why did I enclose this story? Well, grandkids, Uncle Dane is bringing home Katarzynki gingerbread for all of you! Hope you like it....and remember, Grandpa and Grandma love you!

Sidenote: Thank you, Ewa, for a great tour! We loved it!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gdansk...District Meeting...and a little Sightseeing!

Monday morning we got up early and decided to see a little of the town before District Meeting started. Below is a picture of St. Mary's Basilica...located in the middle of the Main Town and is believed to be the largest old brick church in the world.
We climbed up the 405 steps inside this church to view Gdansk from a tiny platform located at the top of the tower seen in the picture... (center left). Seems like we went down some 400+ steps in the Salt Mines around Krakow a few months ago. So now we are even...
The weather wasn't the best, but the view was still spectacular!
We had to hurry, because this group of sharp Missionaries were waiting for us at the chapel to start District Meeting! (L toR): Elder Garrett (District Leader), Elders Krzyminski, Gudnason, Gladun, and Elder and Sister Zatylny. We love and appreciate the missionaries serving in this area. They are working hard to find and teach with the spirit.
Elder Garrett gave us some excellent training on "Teach People Not Lessons" and it was followed by role-play!
Dane made the perfect "investigator".
After District Meeting, Sister Zatylny had prepared some delicious tortilla soup.
Everyone appreciated the great lunch. Thank you, Sister Zatylny, for taking such good care of our missionaries!
There are 3 main cities that make up the Gdansk area...Gdansk, Gydnia and the charming beach city of Sopot. We had to take a look.
This is known as the 'crooked house'. It is located on a street turned into a pedestrian mall that leads from the railway line to the pier. It makes you a little 'sea-sick' to look at it. Inside is a bunch of restaurants and small shops...nothing great. But the outside of the building is definitely worth the stop.
Here we are walking on the longest wooden pier in Europe built in 1928. It took us out into the Gulf of Gdansk. It was well taken care of. These people are smart....there's a charge to walk the pier! President especially liked the orange shoes this young lady was wearing. Pretty bright.
Walking back towards the beach is also a beautiful view. Here is the 'Grand Hotel' (built in 1927)where Hitler stayed as the Nazis were invading Warsaw.
A nice walk on the pier, a couple of ice cream cones and we were back in the car for a special tour of the Gdansk harbour.
Today this harbour is home to many huge ships....most of them in for paint and repair.

If you enlarge this picture, you can see the new soccer dome that will be used for the 2012 Euro Cup. Gdansk is one of several cities in Poland that will be hosting games. When the sun shines, the dome glows like the color of fitting!

These are huge granaries that were used to store grain that was being imported/exported. This was of special interest to President Nielson since his father, uncles, and grandfather once owned a large granary in Mesa, Arizona....FP Nielson and Sons.
An old fort which used to guard the entrance into the harbor. Now it is a marina for pleasure boats and sailboats to dock.
We finally arrive at what we have come to see: Westerplatte...a long peninsula at the entrance of the Gdansk harbour. When Gdansk became a free city after WWI, Poland was permitted to maintain a post at this location. It served a trade and a military purpose and had soldiers stationed there to protect it. WWII broke out here on September 1939 when a German battleship began shelling the Polish guard post. The Germans thought the fight would be over in hours, but these 182 men held out for 7 days before surrendering.
This sight is now a memorial, with some of the ruins left as they were after being bombed.
That night, we met up with the Gdansk Elders for dinner at a favorite spot in the Main Town...'Burritos'! A fresh-mex restaurant that had the best mexican food I have had in Poland. Taco Bell was in Poland around 1993 but it didn't take off and they left. I wonder with all the changes in the past few years how they would do now. If any of you entrepreneurs would like to try- I know our missionaries would support your efforts. (Always get the mix of hot/mild sauce on your's the best!) (L to R): Dane, Elders Krzyminski, Garrett, Gudnason, and Gladun.)
While at 'Burritos', guess who we ran into?
Sister Austin and her 3 children ( Rachel, Julie and Dan) who have come to see a little of her mission before taking her home. It was a nice surprise! They were on their way to Wroclaw on a night train.....and we are on our way to Bydgoszcz in the morning! (More District Meetings!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A beautiful Sunday spent in Gdansk.

This weekend we found ourselves in the beautiful city of Gdansk....and guess who else we found there?
Our youngest son, Dane, has been in London for the summer attending a semester of law school specializing in sports and entertainment law. As he was headed back to the States, he decided to swing by and see us! It was great to be able to show him another part of this wonderful country that we live in.
It's Sunday on Dlugi Targ....a very busy tourist day.
The Police are all over, even in the canal, to make sure that everyone is behaving!
Business is usual as the ships dock to unload all the amber shoppers. Little do these people know (and that's why we are here), there is really something better to do on a beautiful Sunday...That is attending church and showing Heavenly Father that you love him and are thankful for all he has given you!

And that's where we found ourselves.....mingling with the Saints at the Gdansk Branch!
Sister Lewis (left) and Magda (right) do a wonderful job teaching Primary! (Sister Lewis even teaches in Polish!) Today we had a visitor from Bydgoszcz...Ola (center)! She and Claudia were fast friends!
Marinela (Center) taught a great lesson on Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.
As Sunday School was being held, the Elders were teaching Investigators in the Gospel Principles class. Elders Gladun and Garrett with Anja.
Some of the Priesthood leadership in the Gdansk Branch: (L toR): Elder Zatylny-full time Missionary who offers much member support and training; Branch President Kempa-who does a great job leading and tending to the affairs of the branch; and Brother Lewis-1st Counselor in the Branch Presidency who helps with training and is a great help to this branch.
Elders Gudnason and Krzyminski with Maciek-an Investigator.
It was so great to be in the Gdansk Branch and to be able to introduce Dane to some of its great members.
After church, the Lewis' kindly invited us to their home for dinner.
It was delicious, and it was great to have some home-cooked American food....that someone else made! The Lewis' are in Gdansk for 2 years for work. They are such a support to this Branch. Thank you for all you do to help the church grow in this area. You are making a difference!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Senior Missionaries Departing and Arriving!

We love our Senior Missionaries. They are so essential in building the church here in Poland. They bring with them years of church experience, the desire to work hard and a great attitude! It is always sad to see one go home. Sister Austin, a Single Sister, has served faithfully for 18 months and is about to return to her home in Arizona.
Sister Briggs, a former companion, and our Assistants, Elders Eastman and Hillyard (who have served with Sister Austin in Bydgoszcz and Katowice) all came to a 'good-bye' dinner to see this great Sister off!
When it came to our special 'tie cutting ceremony', Sister Austin was prepared! She is an expert seamstress/quilter and had actually made her own quilt square including a strip from a favorite grey skirt and a pink strip...her favorite color! There is no way I could cut this! And I didn't!

Thank you, Sister Austin, for giving 110% the last 18 months to serve the people of Poland. Thank you for your great attitude as it was necessary to move you around to different cities. Thank you for all the times you came to MY rescue and helped me in the kitchen. But most of all, thank you for your testimony! We love you and wish you the very best!

There was very little time to mourn the loss of Sister Austin.....a few hours later, we were back at the airport picking up our new Senior Couple......
....Elder McGrath...

...and Sister McGrath.
The Office Staff, Elder and Sister Richards and Elders Sheridan and Johnson came to the Mission Home to orient the McGraths and give them keys to their apartment.
We are excited to have this great couple serving in Poland. They bring with them a lot of experience and enthusiasm. A sidenote: While visiting, President Nielson and Elder McGrath
realized that they had probably spoken in Las Vegas as Elder McGrath served as a Bishop in one of the UNLV singles wards.
AND THEY'RE OFF!!! On a rainy, over-cast day our new couple started down the road headed to Katowice where they will be serving as the Young Single Adult couple in the branch. The YSA program in Katowice is really taking off and there is much to do! We welcome the McGraths to Katowice and to POLAND.