Wednesday, September 29, 2010


It has been another whirlwind week in Romania and we have 'girded our loins' to accomplish all we can in every waking moment. We are currently juggling 8 projects which I will list for those of you who think we're on vacation.

1) Rebuilding showers and bathrooms in a retirement home.
2) Rebuilding showers and bathrooms and providing bedding in a family shelter for abused woman and children.
3) Providing mattresses and bedding for a retirement home for homeless elderly.
4) Providing tables for a daycare center and repairing a van used by children with severe disabilities.
5) Awaiting a container from the Humanitarian Center filled with hygiene kits, school kits, quilts. We expect it sometime in October.
6) Awaiting a container of 370 wheelchairs to arrive in October.
7) Organizing an Neonatal Resuscitation Training in two cities in November.
8) Providing educational supplies for impoverished youth in Constanta.

After our mission, we will write books. We think of new titles every day:
"'s in your genes and I'm not talking Levis"
"Sticky Notes Can Be Man's Best Friend"
"The 'To Do' List Can Be Liberating"
"Imagine Twenty-four/Seven!"
"Living Without Football"
"Bad Haircuts"

As you can see, we've mastered the art of list-making! We do it every few days and it keeps us on task.

As mentioned, one of our projects involves buying 24 mattresses for a home for the elderly. Anyone who knows Denny also knows that he is the absolute authority on mattress virtues (his motto: "You're not buying a mattress, you're buying a good night's sleep.") When it came time to put the money on the table, he couldn't stand not knowing exactly what we were buying so we jumped on a train and took a quick 4-hour ride to the Danube Delta city of Galati.

Here we are posing in front of the picture window of another senior missionary couple's apartment. They are fortunate to have this view every morning (of course, not of us, the water of the Danube!)

The Van Wagoner's are from southern Utah. They live in this great apartment and are dynamos as they fulfill their missionary duties. They are also tons of fun!

Every hour of the day brings a different view. Here, a barge is getting a push up the Danube. If I lived here, I would have to put ghetto tin foil in my windows so I could get something done!

On to the mattress shopping....
Denny tries out a bed. I think he likes it! We bought 24 of these.

The sample was a little small but a tad larger than our current bed!

Back in Bucharest... It was transfer week where we said good-bye to 4 out of the 8 in our district. They will serve in other locations in the mission. It's always hard to say good-bye.
The District!

Elder Bateman gets a farewell kiss from Sora Gorzo. She is a favorite of all the missionaries and they put up with her kisses. After he endured this, the mission president opted to leave him in Bucharest for another 6 weeks. There will be more Sora Gozo kisses!

If you are reading this and you are a mother of one of these fine missionaries, know that they are well and happy and "...As the Army of Helaman"! We're on our way to Ruby Tuesday for a real American hamburger!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our Next Big Push

Our humanitarian mission in Romania continues to amaze us as we add new experiences to the long list of what we have titled, "Can you believe we did that?". After the wheelchair project, we took a few days off and slept in past the 6:30 a.m. normal wake-up time. We are now fully immersed in the next big push, another Major Initiative, NRT (Neonatal Resuscitation Training) which will take place the first week of November. Dr. George Bennett and his wife, Marcia have been pulling the project together from their home in Salt Lake while we have been doing the footwork here in Romania. They will arrive with another Neonatalogist, Dr. Donna Dizon-Townson at the end of October (Halloween to you!) and we will all travel by van to two cities where the training will take place. Forty hospitals will send doctors, nurses and midwives to be trained. It is humbling to know that what we are doing will really make a difference here in Romania. Saving babies is pretty darn important.

I stumbled on to a neat story about a doctor in Utah who helps with NRT projects in Africa and South America.

In other news...we burned more clothes this week as we celebrated our one year mark. Don't worry that these items had any life left in them...they are missionary clothes...once great and now totally worn out! Six months to go. We are spinning out of control!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Giving Wheelchairs

We have been busy lately, bringing to fruition a wheelchair project started in late February and culminating just last week. We have been so engrossed that even blogging took a back seat! For those faithful followers with twisted nighties, I hope this post (with 37 pictures and the video) redeems me!

Soon after entering the Missionary Training Center a year ago, we were taught how the Church uses it's senior missionaries to carry out humanitarian giving throughout the world. In 2 weeks we removed the label "Retired" from our vocabulary and learned a new business, the business of helping the poor and others who need us. Couples like us are all over the world, in developing countries where there are huge social needs. We spend our days traveling around this big city or to small villages finding community organizations who aid schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, etc. We spend our nights at the computer, submitting proposals for approval. I have blogged about some such projects--giving Braille writers, goats, computers, rebuilding bathrooms and more. Currently, we have 8 projects decorating our dining room table in differing stages of completion. In addition to these small, manageable local projects, the Church also trusts us with huge projects we call 'Major Initiatives' which include 5 areas of focus: Clean Water, Neonatal Resuscitation, Vision Care, Nutrition, and Wheelchairs. Different areas of the world receive different projects and Romania's this year has been all about Wheelchairs and in November, Neonatal Resuscitation.

The Church is amazing and wonderful. There are 51,000 young missionaries all over the world spreading the Restored Gospel as Jesus taught, to all corners of the Earth. They are having great success as they find people who are prepared and ready to hear. Senior missionaries are all over the world as well, with differing assignments. As humanitarian missionaries, we work to alleviate suffering and promote self-reliance. What other business or organization would hire people in their 60's from various occupations from farmers to CEO's to Realtors, train them on the job, trust them with thousands of dollars to distribute, and send them to developing countries to get the job done in 18 months? The young missionaries teach who we are, why we're here, and where we're going. The joke among the senior missionaries is that we wear a name tag to remind us WHO we are, and if we don't have a ready map, we're not sure WHERE we are or WHERE we're going or even WHY we're going!

Since we've been in Romania, we have imported 875 wheelchairs. There are more on the way! The project just completed in Cluj involved much more than ordering and delivering wheelchairs. I will explain with pictures.

There are 250 wheelchairs stacked in this gym awaiting distribution.

Last March, the Jacksons traveled from their home in Draper to Romania to help us write the project. They became our good friends as we were in constant contact with them over Skype for the last 6 months. They are missionaries themselves who travel the world kicking off projects. They are wheelchair 'experts' and they have 5 projects in the works for this year alone.

A laptop, nourishment and papers galore...and it was just the beginning.

With them, we traveled 300 miles north of Bucharest to Cluj where we met with Sally Wood-Lamont, the president of a foundation that champions the disabled. In this picture, Doug is explaining the virtues of the RoughRider wheelchair. Sally's role will be to gather 14 people together from different locations throughout Romania who will get a portion of this shipment. They will attend a 3-day course presented by physical therapists from the USA to learn how to properly fit and adjust this new rough-terrain wheelchair.

The team arrived a few days before the training. Here, Lara and Doug are installing the banner.

Tires are pumped and so are we! Now, all we need are the students.

After short opening remarks, t-shirts were presented and this picture was taken.

We were fortunate to have two of the best teachers...Lara and Misha. They have years of teaching and hospital experience and they were tons of fun, to boot! Calin assisted as an interpreter as their 'Romaneste' was limited!

Many of the students were wheelchair users which made them very attentive.

Also a bonus a bonus was that Lara was a former Utah Jazz dancer!
Lara and Misha taught well together. As you can see, all eyes are riveted on them. They were (to use a Romanian term) 'fetching'!

Our 2 translators were indispensable. President Iupure (standing) is the President of the Cluj Branch and Calin (background) is a young student in medical school.

Testing the equipment on a field trip.

The wheelchairs were met with wide acceptance, especially from the 'experts', regular wheelchair users.

These wheelchairs were developed for rough terrain areas of the world--African sand, Romanian land-mine sidewalks etc. Their wide front tires can plow through almost anything.

As part of the course, the participants were taught to adjust each chair to fit different needs of the rider.

Everyone got involved with the adjusting.

At noon, we had lunch. It was a time to chill with friends.

Lara, Misha and Calin with a star of the class. Smiles abounded!

Finally, it was time to put new skills to practice when new recipients arrived to get their new chair. Some came on crutches, some in borrowed wheelchairs, and one came being carried by an older brother. Teams worked together to measure and adjust and watch the smiles on faces.

As this man is being assessed, the whole process is being observed by Elder Colton, our Area Welfare Specialist who came from Germany for the final day.

Following are pictures of some of the recipients.

Finally, it was time for celebrating. In the crowd was President Lundberg of the Romania Bucharest Mission, and other dignitaries. It was filmed by a TV station from Bucharest.

President Lundberg speaking to the assemblage.

Denny presented a crystal plaque to Sally, our great partner. She is from Scotland and came soon after the revolution in the early 1990's and has been a champion of the disabled ever since.

Certificates were awarded, along with a kiss from Lara, to all the class members.

The picture of success!

As we closed the gate to the 100 year-old School for the Blind, our training location, we took one final picture.

These two made it all happen!

It was a ton of work to pull this all together but having this crew made it so much fun.

So, I hope this explains why this blog is 3 weeks overdue. Stand up, untwist your nightie...
Don't miss the video in the next blog!