Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 7, 2010

What do you call a person who doesn't know the Star Spangle Banner? Not American.

This past week in district meeting we had the Star Spangle Banner as a closing song. The good thing is that we are all Americans, except for my halfie friend and companion Sister Fitzsimmons. But to my horror, everyone started grabbing at the hymn books to find the song. I yelled, "No you do not need to open the Hymn book for this song!" Like my name is Shaniqua from Oakland. The elders just looked at me and just made excuses for it, they just did it out of habit. We all had a good laugh and in the end we all put our hands over our hearts, especially during the prayer when Elder Robinson thanked Heavenly Father for America and every thing about her. It was funny, but not sacrilegious. These poor Elders miss the mother land :).

Well, one of our investigators has decided to get baptized. We are so excited for her. She is so happy now and has a sort of a peace about her. The only hard part is she always feeds us and makes food for four. We end up shoveling our faces so she will not think that her excellent cooking is bad. Now we are meeting with her twice a week, and twice a week we have to shovel our faces. But I'm not going to complain about good food, since what the Lord giveth, he also taketh away. She is so good to us, really. For Easter she had us over and said, "Today I am your family." We had a great meal and a great lesson about the Resurrection.

I have been reading the Hymns a lot lately. I really miss poetry, and I really miss singing hymns in English. I have been reading the song, "Jesus The Very Thought of Thee" on page 141 a lot. I'll share my favorite verse:

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall how kind thou art,
How good to those who seek.

Okay one more verse I love,

Jesus the very thought of thee,
With sweetness fills my breast,
Far sweeter great thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.

I just love the Hymns and there are a lot more I read often. What I love about poetry is that something new always pops out and it just gets better and better the more I read it. I have been memorizing them so I can think about them in the trams or just sometime during the day. I feel such a peace when I read and think about them and also hum the tune in my head.

We talked to the Elders in our district this week about our concern that we don't feel they have confidence in us as missionaries. They are so wonderful and afterward I felt such a weight lifted from my shoulders and freedom to feel their confidence in us and to be the missionary I want to be. Sister Fitzsimmons and I are not looking forward to this transfer ending because we have such a good time together and with our dear Elders. But Sister Fitzsimmons didn't get my joke when I said to everyone, "I'm really glad that we are learning to work together because this is going to help your wifies, this will help Sister Fitzsimmon’s husband, and it will help my colleagues."

We went group contacting in a park last Saturday. Elder Pashce and I were going around and talking to people and here are our favorite quotes from the day:

-What church does the devil go to?
-Christ was a communist
-Man is God

We still haven't figured out what church the devil goes to, other than his own church.

Well I will be sending some pictures today, they will be great. I love you and thank you for your emails. Just to let you know, if you write me I will write you, but if you don't this is all you get! My email is

I also cannot and don't check my regular email, or my blog site. Thank you Lynny for putting this up for me. So if you comment on anything, I won't see it till July 2011. Thanks everyone for the support and love!

s ljubavlju,

Sister Dillender

May 31, 2010 - Church in Zagreb

Hello Everyone,

Monte Picasa came and did some training at the American Embassy. But while he was here he took some pictures of all the branches he visited. The first bunch are the Zagreb branch where I serve. (you will obviously see me in the pictures with the elders I serve with here). I thought you would like to see them. You can read his letter and at the end of his letter is a place where you are invited to look at his photo album. I hope you enjoy!

Dear President and Sister Thompson, Elders, Sisters, beloved members of the church in Croatia, and their friends and family,

My wife Sandi and I, and our good friends Tony and Cathy Hall, had the great blessing of visiting Croatia recently and meeting the most wonderful missionaries and church members while there.

By way of introduction, we all live in Boise, Idaho, where Tony and I work for the United States Attorney's Office. Tony and I traveled to Zagreb, Croatia in early May in order to teach Croatian prosecutors for the United States Department of Justice. Because we arrived on a weekend, Tony and I wanted to attend church at the Zagreb branch.

After getting some general idea of the branch's location, we embarked on a train that was supposed to take us near it. After riding for some time, we became worried that we had missed the church. Just then, a young women got on the crowded train. Her wonderful spirit immediately identified her as someone we needed to talk to, and is it turned out, she was indeed on her way to the same location. She led us off the train and to the chapel where we met the rest of the members, the missionaries, and Elder and Sister Thompson. Elder Thompson was serving as the District President at the time.

I can't begin to explain the spirit that was in that little church. Tony and I enjoyed three hours of meetings and then stayed and talked with the members and missionaries for some time after. (See attached pictures). At the risk of leaving someone out, I won't try to mention each missionary by name, but they were all wonderful, and their families should be very proud of their faithful service and the love shown to the people of Croatia.

As we left the church, the missionaries inquired about the rest of our trip. When we explained that our wives would be arriving in the next few days, and that we would be traveling to the Dalmatian Coast, we were told that we should visit the little branch in Zadar where 8 members resided. We were given the name and phone number of Elder Hadley in Zadar.

Our wives arrived mid-week. By Friday, we were ready to leave Zagreb, but were still trying to decide our route of travel. Because of the wonderful stories that we shared with Sandi and Cathy about our visit to the Zagreb branch, they were very anxious to make sure that our travel plans would allow us to be in Zadar on Sunday. Consequently, we changed our itinerary, forgoing a trip south to Dubrovnik and spending our time in Trogir and Split instead.

(As an interesting side story, before we left Zagreb, Tony, Cathy, Sandi and I were making one more visit to the main square in Zagreb when we ran into President and Sister Thompson, their son, and two grandchildren. Because of this wonderful and miraculous reunion in a city of almost one million people, our wives were able to meet some of the wonderful people they had heard about. Again, pictures are attached.)

We arrived in Zadar near sunset on Saturday night and had the chance to talk to Elder Wood on the phone. He assured us of the meeting times and the location of the house where they met. The next morning, we used the GPS in our rental car in an attempt to find the church, but again, we seemed to be lost until we saw some young ladies walking down the sidewalk ahead of us. One of us mentioned that it looked like the Relief Society headed towards the church. As it turned out, it was the Sister missionaries and a wonderful young lady who they had invited to church for the first time.

The church in Zadar is held on the bottom floor of a small apartment building. We immediately were welcomed by the wonderful people in the branch, some investigators, and of course, the missionaries. This happened to be Mothers Day, and the presence of Cathy and Sandi seemed to be especially appreciated by the missionaries (who would be calling their mothers shortly after the meetings ended.)

The Spirit of the Lord was again powerful as this little group met to partake of the sacrament and learn the gospel. It would take me an hour to explain everything I felt, and every conversation I had. Instead, I intend to send this email to my wife, and Tony and Cathy, since I am quite sure they will want to add their own thoughts about the experience.

Again, we took group pictures after church. Because photography is my serious hobby, I was carrying a large number of lenses which I exchanged frequently as we took pictures. About 10 minutes after leaving the church (headed north towards Istria) I received a phone call on my cell phone which I did not answer (despite my wife's insistence that the call may be "important.") Two hours later, I realized that I was missing my 15 mm lens, which would be important to me the next day when we arrived in Pula. I immediately called Elder Hadley and Woods, who assured me that they had found my lens and had tried to call us right after church. I asked anxiously about the possibility of sending the lens via Fed Ex or UPS, and was told that these services couldn't help me under the circumstances. Instead, the Elders told me that they would contact a bus driver who would be driving all the way to Pula the next day. They told me that this bus driver would then be met by the missionaries in Pula.

The next afternoon, as soon as we pulled into the parking lot of a wonderful Roman colosseum in Pula, we called Elder Champion and Warren. Within 10 minutes, they arrived with a strange package of plastic bags, tape, and a scarf that carefully protected my lens. It had been wrapped and sent by Elder Woods and Hadley. What a blessing this was, and quite a miracle. I took a few pictures of the Pula Elders near the colosseum on their prep day.

The attached pictures are a few memories of missionaries and members who we had a privilege to meet. Because of the difficulties of handwriting, I hope that I have properly discerned the correct email addresses of all of you. If you find that someone has not received this email as intended, please forward as necessary.

To the members of the church in Croatia, we admire your faith and dedication to the Lord. You are making history there, and we will continue to pray for your welfare. To the many wonderful Elders and Sister Missionaries, thank you for your service, for your love of the Savior and his church, and for the people of Croatia. May Heavenly Father continue to bless you in your missionary efforts. To President and Sister Thompson, we believe that you are now back home in Ontario, Oregon, where you are missing the missionaries and members you lovingly served. May God bless you and your family as you return to life at home.

To my wife, Sandi, and good friends Tony and Cathy, thanks for sharing this wonderful place with me. Please feel free to hit "reply to all" when you want to share your thoughts about these wonderful people.

Since I took about 4,000 pictures of Croatia, I will be sending additional pictures of the country at some point, and I will try to include all of you. But this will take some time. Croatia is a beautiful country filled with walled cities, cathedrals, castles, ancient ruins, mountains, and green rolling hills. Two weeks was not nearly enough time to see all of it. The people there are also wonderful, and made our trip all the more enjoyable.

Although we saw many interesting things of historical value, and saw many beautiful sites, our best experiences were with the missionaries and valiant members of the church. I hope you enjoy the attached pictures of them.

Monte Stiles
Boise, Idaho

You are invited to view Monte's photo album: