April 10, 2017

Adriatic North Mission



LDS Church & Missionary Work


Joe (Adriatic North Mission)

–Paraphrased from Joe’s mission interview–

Serbia & the Adriatic North Mission

So while I was serving, all the only countries open were Slovenia Croatia and Serbia but the mission covered all the former Yugoslavia which includes Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia not Macedonia that’s not for me Bolivia yeah those those countries  are former Yugoslavia but the history behind the mission it dates back to about the 80’ s mostly. I used to be part of the I  think of the Germany, Vienna mission back in the day and it just covered a lot of Eastern Europe so  I’ve even got a bishopric member who served in Serbia when it was part of the Germany mission and basically the mission was really revolutionized by a former BYU basketball star. His jersey is actually still up in the Marriott center. He came to BYU as a student. He wasn’t a  member but he investigated the church and was really good friends with a member of the Twelve Apostles. I can’t remember who it was, at the time they might have even been president Benson. I can’t remember, and then he just basically shares what he learned from the church after he converted and brought it to to Croatia to start out with.He was also the one who translated the Book of Mormon into Croatian and that’s what was used for  a majority of the mission.

Translating the Book of Mormon into Serbian

We didn’t get the Serbian copy of the book of Mormon until I was about to leave in 2008. That’s when we first got that copy and it was a huge blessing to receive the of warning in their language, but the Croatian copy suffice  to say it was good enough to to use while we’re missionaries but she probably did more for the  saints in former Yugoslavia and revolution is really getting things started in that part of the country sadly he he died  of cancer in in the 90s I believe but he was one of the great working hands to to get it going  and President Monson worked with the members and dedicated the land of all of former Yugoslavia starting in Croatia for missionary work. That’s kind of where it bloomed in the the power of the spirits and missionary work got started but like i said before that did a dedicatory prayer by President Monson it was just part of the Vienna Germany mission when I was serving. There’s one district in sylvania to in Croatia and just one in Serbia but that’s what  I know for Slovenia croatia, but  Serbia definitely we had one district and there were three organized branches when I first  started and also 13 missionaries just in Serbia. The cities that were open in Serbia were Belgrad, Novisad and another one and I started serving in Novisad then went from there to my other area.

Kosovo Becomes Independent

And from the beginning of of my mission having only three branches by the end of the mission we spread out to starting more groups we didn’t have enough people to organize more branches but we were able to start some more groups just outside of Baghdad and then the other on the northern tip of Serbia where were able to start to to organize and have senior couples to kind of be the leaders of those groups or or even of the branches and get work starting to spread and missionary work was spreading like crazy up until about 2008 until well December 2007 or February of 2007, it kind of started to crumble before our eyes and that’s a very very significant experience because in December 2007  that was the dedicated date for Kosovo to declare its independence away from Serbia and it was also conveniently at the time that the book of Mormon  was supposed to be in our hands in Serbian. We just thought okay everything’s fine we just go back  to serving and then mid-February of 2008 both Kosovo declared independence and we received the Serbian translated copy of the book of Mormon at least. They were in  her hands yet we couldn’t get them into Serbia because of all that was happening with Kosovo because long story short Kosovo wanted to declare its independence but Serbia said you’re not going to do that you’re still part of Serbia so if you even try  that we’re going to come  back we’re going to come at you full force and and take you and take you  back essentially and that was backed by Russia but then America us we kind of stepped in and they said no Serbia Russia leave them alone let Kosovo declare their independence away from you if you don’t if you go in and invade Kosovo then we will back Kosovo and attack you now that’s kind of pretty general that’s all very like I said long story short but Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia as you can tell as you could probably guess was very very very mad very upset with Americans and since truth be told the church is looked at as an American church and so our lives were kind in danger because of that so what  happened was the area authorities and a mission president at the time decided that the best thing to  do right now just in case nothing was happening to  the church or anything just yet but nothing did happen that way just to spoil the story nothing happen to the church but as a precautionary measure they took all the Serbian missionaries they took us all out which I unfortunately was not in Serbia at the time I was on exchanges with the zone leader doing a zone conference type meeting.

Leaving Serbia for Safety Reasons

We were doing a meeting with the mission president of all the zone leaders throughout  all of the mission but when i got back we got back from Slovenia to Croatia to Zagreb stay the night. We had tickets for the next train the following morning and the president called us early that morning before we left we started just basically telling us that we’re not going back to Serbia so I had all my things there and as you can imagine hearing that news we were heart broken absolutely heartbroken and I thought for sure  now this is just temporary where we’re going to go  back but all of our stuff came. All the missionaries, after a lot  of different complications, we eventually all got back into Serbia or into Croatia and that was that was kind of it we got into Zagreb. We opened up a big box of Serbian copies of the book of Mormon because I got transferred we took a few boxes from the mission home and brought them to Croatia. Then the Serbian missionaries came over and we basically told him hey we have a big present for you and we started distributing the Serbian copies of the Book of Mormon.  the Lord is filled with so much mystery and  so much wisdom that it doesn’t matter what Satan tries to do. His work will be fulfilled and  it’s kind of a testimony of the Book of Mormon in and of itself because even though we we were using Croatian copies of the book of Mormon and Serbian Croatian is very very  similar. you read one you understand you basically know the other is what it comes down to but at the same time it’s not their language so even though we had the  Serbian copy or the the Croatian copy it’s not it’s not their language. It’s just like how Americans if we receive a book that’s in Australian or British English  we can understand it perfectly fine but it’s still not our language. It doesn’t communicate to us as powerfully as it being in our language so to receive  a copy of a book so powerful so true so impactful into so many lives in your language means so much more. It’s revolutionizing the work and because of all the events that  happened with Kosovo declaring its independence  and with all the complications that went through with border control for Serbia and Croatia getting those books into Serbia was nearly impossible and you can kind of say that’s because of all these experiences. Satan knows that the book  of moon is true just by this experience he knows  of its power. He knows of its truthfulness and he will do anything in his power which compared the Lord’s is very limited to keep truth away from people he’s trying to influence, but it happened little by little. Members from Serbia were able to come from Serbia by car or by train and take boxes from the mission home in Slovenia or even those boxes that we had in Croatia to the different parts of Serbia. The members could enjoy the  book of Mormon in their language and the work of the Lord will be accomplished in any way possible so it didn’t matter that we were taken out.

Madeleine (Adriatic North Mission)

–Paraphrased from Madeleine’s mission interview–

Slovenia & The Adriatic North Mission

Slovenia is a part of the Adriatic North Mission which includes five countries now. When I left they added either Macedonia or Montenegro. It’s a country down in the south. It was Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia- so basically the northern reaches of Yugoslavia- most of which was in war with each other just 20 years ago, about the age all of us were born- that’s when they were all basically in genocide.

Languages Spoken In The Mission

Linguistically the three lower countries Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia speak the same language, they just say they don’t speak the same language- they say the speak completely different languages, because they hate each other essentially. Slovene is actually a different language, so missionaries who go to Slovenia tend to stay in Slovenia. But I did learn a lot of Croatian- there’s a lot of immigrants that come up to Slovenia from Croatia and our mission home is in Zagreb, Croatia.

LDS Meeting Houses In The Balkans

We have about 12 branches- maybe more in the mission. We don’t have any wards. The biggest branches have about 100 attendance, and we have actual church buildings for them. In Serbia- it’s not an actual standing building. In Croatia we have a nice building and in Slovenia we have one, and otherwise they are usually storefronts converted into small chapels.

LDS Church Growth In Slovenia

So in Slovenia we have about three branches- I think they just opened up a fourth in Kranj. The average size of the branch is about 15 people who go every week and Ljubljana had 80-100 people, but now it might be smaller because it divided with Kranj- we’re working on getting it from a district to a stake. Eventually some day there will be a temple in Slovenia- that was promised by an Apostle once.

The growth is enormous in the region right now- from 20 years of stagnation. In Slovenia The Church opened right when Slovenia pulled out of the war with Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. So The Church has been in Slovenia the longest out of the four countries- the other three countries continued to fight until 1994-1995. So The Church started going down only recently, and Bosnia only opened two years ago and they’re mostly Muslims.

Ethnic and Religious Division

They’re not only divided by mutual ethnic problems, but they’re also divided by religion- the Slovenes and Croatians are Catholic, the Serbians are Greek Orthodox and the Bosnians are Muslims. So people who serve in the lower three countries get to serve in all three usually, and you get completely different cultures because of their religious backgrounds- that’s part of the reason they ended up fighting, because of religious conflict.

The people tend to identify themselves deeply by their religion, whether or not they actually practice their religion. They feel this real sense of nationality tied to their religious sentiment- so when they convert to a different faith it’s like they are leaving their nationality and ceasing too be a Serbian or ceasing to be a Bosnian, and so it’s very difficult for them. But the people who do it are sincere and do it with enormous persecution- in Slovenia it’s not as bad.

Slovenians also have this sense of angelology- they focus on angels and mystical things and magic in the forest. They don’t care exactly what you believe as long as you believe in some greater force. The church is doing an amazing thing in bringing together people who have for several hundred years- back to when the Turks invaded- been slaughtering each other. They come together because they share a mutual faith and love of Christ.

Nathan (Adriatic North Mission, 2012-2014)

–Paraphrased from Nathan’s mission interview–

Mission Overview & History

The Adriatic North Mission consists of five countries- when I got there in 2012, it only consisted of three countries- Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. Then in 2012 Bosnia was added to the mission. Then in July 2013 Montenegro was added to the Adriatic North Mission, from the Adriatic South mission.

The church is relatively new. In 2012 they celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Church in the former Yugoslavia area. They had a wonderful gathering in Zadar, which is where The Church was founded and started growing.

Krešimir Ćosić

One of the main founders was a man name Krešimir Ćosić- a lot of older people remember him as the BYU basketball player- he came over from Croatia, joined the BYU basketball team, was converted and eventually brought the gospel back to Croatia and was one of the first members and missionaries in Croatia to help the church grow.

Now the church is growing. It’s all branches and districts. There are two chapels in the five countries- church built chapels- simple, but very homely- you can really feel the spirit of unity between the countries in these chapels.

Living in Zagreb, Croatia

While living in Croatia, I served in the capital city of Zagreb. It was more of an urban area, and it wasn’t that much different from the U.S. There were a lot of apartments, and the main road of transportation was bike, bus, or tram. Zagreb was more modernized than most of Croatia, but it wasn’t quite up to par with the rest of western Europe. They’re definitely heading that direction there.

Shopping in Croatia is very different there. Most of their stores are a lot smaller and there’s more spreadout throughout the neighborhoods. Most people would buy groceries on a day to day basis, with few people stocking up for a week or two like we do here. Often, you would see an outdoor market (also known as a platz in Croatian). You could find fresh fruits and vegetables, clothes, and other goods. Sometimes the markets could get very big, and normally they were found in centralized locations. The stands would be put up and taken back down every day, which was a lot of work and would often require a lot of cleanup.

The weather in Zagreb and the Balkans in general is very similar to that of Utah, except more extreme. They have warmer, more humid summers. Moisture captures the heat, but it also captures the cold as well. Winters would get much colder.. With the moisture came more rain and precipitation. It wasn’t that different overall, and I enjoyed having four seasons a year.

Learning Serbian

Serbian is the language I learned first, so I got a better handle of the grammar. It’s different from Croatian in that they don’t have the same y or j sounds. They’re different in the way they use pronouns as well. They have a few words that are completely different as well. In Serbia they double conjugate their verbs. For example, in English you say “I want to run,” while in Serbian it would translate directly to “I want that I run.” In many ways, this was a lot easier for missionaries because the two conjugations can go together. I kept my Serbian accent as I served in other areas in Bosnia, and it was a lot harder for me to get rid of my accent than it was to pick it up.

Another difference between Serbian and English is its Cyrillic alphabet. It’s somewhat similar to the Russian, and many letters have corresponding letters in the Latin alphabet, but it’s quite different.

Learning Bosnian

Bosnian is one of the easiest languages I learned because it takes languages from nearby countries and you can use whatever you want. It’s very laid back. The best way I can explain it is that they use the Croatian grammar rules but more Serbian words. You’ll find a lot of the same greetings and farewells as you would here in Serbia. Bosnian people tend to speak slowly and precisely, so it was very easy to follow. They use their hands a lot as they speak or as they thought as well.

Learning Croatian

One of the most recognized traits of the Croatian language is the use of the “j” or the “y” sounds. In Croatian they don’t double conjugate like in Serbian. If they want to use two verbs they use the infinitive just like in English. Some words for hello and goodbye can be used interchangeably. Sometimes they’ll string several farewells together as you’re walking away.

Muslims and Latter-Day Saints

I loved serving in an area where the dominant religion was Islam. Most people, when they hear the word Muslim, they think “oh no, terrorists.” But there’s never been a nicer people on the planet. There’s a lot of similarities between Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Muslims believe in prayer, fasting, and giving offerings. They believe in being kind and having a strong family just like we do. Muslims believe in a trek to a Holy City, and we believe in going to the temple. It strengthened my testimony to see how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints incorporates all of the truth. Followers of Islam are so devoted to their faith, and it was amazing to experience that and be able to share my faith with them as well.

Balkan Food

The food was absolutely delicious. It was the best two years of eating of my life. Dishes tended to be really healthy and simple or really fatty and greasy (but still simple) On the healthier side, they had a lot of salads. Kupus Salata or cabbage salad was a mission favorite. New missionaries would hate it when they arrived, but you eat it so often you fall in love with it.

On the fat and greasy side, Balkan peoples eat a lot of meat. My favorite dish was Cevapi, which was a kind of “steak fingers.” It would be served on a platter with a round type of flatbread, into which you would stuff inside. The meal would always be accompanied by onions or onion soup and Kaymak, which is a really salty kind of butter. It was really delicious! Another dish they had is called Pljeskavica. Cevapi-like meat would be served in patty form. I loved it even more when it was stuffed and served with Kaymak.

Bakeries could be found on every street. People would buy bread daily, and missionaries would buy pastries daily. The fresh, homemade bread and pastries were absolutely delicious. They served pastries with meats, fruits like apple or strawberry, or chocolate.

The best dish they served was Burek. It was similar to a meat pie, but it comes with so many different varieties and possible ingredients. Often, it would be served with plain yogurt.

Economic Conditions

Living conditions varied between Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. Croatia was part of the EU, so they were held to a higher standard than the other countries. They had better apartments and public transportation. Serbia and Bosnia aren’t on the same level quite yet. I don’t think it made much of a difference in preaching the gospel, but the lack of public transportation made it a bit harder to get around.

Crime and Safety in Serbia and Bosnia

Because the economic standings weren’t the best in Serbia and Bosnia, crime seemed to be a bigger issue. In both places I served, poverty was an issue, and that led some people to drastic measures. Usually, however, the poor were just as friendly if not more so than others. In most cases, these people weren’t people to be afraid of. It’s easy to misjudge them by appearance, but it wasn’t always true. Crime did happen, but anywhere you go you’ll have those kinds of people who are desperate. For those that are in that tight situation and end up trying to steal, you can’t really blame them.

If you’re smart and aware of your surroundings, you won’t have any problems. Try not to keep things in your back pocket, and keep bags in front of you. If you have a companion or are traveling with someone, look out for each other. Have common sense, and you won’t have any problems. I never did during my whole mission

Places to See in the Adriatic North Mission

There’s a lot of geographic diversity between the 5 countries. Croatia has an extremely long coastline along the Adriatic sea that’s beautiful. Some cities go from the sea up into the mountainsides. Zadar and Split are other coastal cities and are really big tourist attractions because of their beauty and history.

Northern Croatia and Slovenia are very mountainous regions with lots of green hills. There’s lakes called the Plitvice that are beautiful no matter what time of year you go there.

Bosnia was one of my favorite places to go to because it’s reminds me of home. It’s more of a rugged area with lots of canyons. I served in one city called Sarajevo. On the tram it took almost an hour to go from one end to the other. It was a really long city set between two canyons/mountainsides. Sarajevo was a magical place, and the skyline was gorgeous as I drove up. Every night you would hear the calls to prayer ring out, and the city would become peaceful.

Serbia is more flat, and you could see for miles down the road. Just in general, everything there was beautiful, and it was a beautiful place to serve. Because of all the wars and contentions going on, the people in the Balkans have become very humble and willing to hear new ideas. Particularly in Bosnia, people have their religion (Islam) respect that of others (Christians, Jews, etc.), but are willing to sit down and hear more about others’ beliefs.

Religion in the Balkans

In the Balkans, religion is tied to nationality. If you’re Croatian, you’re Catholic. If you’re Serbian, you’re Serbian Orthodox. And if you’re Bosnian, you’re Muslim. They often prescribe to the thinking that if you’re a Muslim, you shouldn’t be in Croatia or Serbia, you should be in Bosnia. If you’re Catholic, you shouldn’t be in Serbia or Bosnia. It’s interesting to see how these differences have arisen, and how they have divided the countries. Part of the reason for the wars that have occurred in this reason is the differences of religion.

Travel Tips for the Balkans

Don’t plan on being able to use your credit card. A lot of stores in the region don’t have card readers, and they deal only in cash. There are ATM’s, but they charge a lot to take out money.

Culturally, people are very nice and welcoming. Sometimes, because of wars that have gone on in the area, there are people who hold grudges. In Serbia, there are a few extreme people who dislike Americans. In Bosnia, however, people tend to love Americans. People in the region overall are willing to help you, especially if you put forth the effort to learn their languages.

Something funny about Balkan culture is that they don’t like air conditioning. Especially the older generation tends to attribute it to health problems. That was one funny quirk about local beliefs


Sarah (Adriatic North Mission, Slovene-Speaking)

–Paraphrased from Sarah’s mission interview–

LDS Church Units In Slovenia

In Slovenia there are four branches now- they just opened Quran branch a little under a year ago- I was there when they opened it. So all of the Slovene-speaking missionaries are in one of those four branches- so you either serve in Ljubljana, Maribor, Celje or Kranj. And I think each branch has one set of Elders and one set of Sisters. There aren’t any wards in the mission- we’re working towards it. The closest temple is Frankfurt- so in August and sometime in Spring they do a temple trip- it takes 8-9 hours, not sure, but they carpool up there and stay for a week. The only building we have is in Ljubljana, which is the capital. The church built a building in like 2007 maybe. That building’s there, and then the other three buildings are rented spaces used as chapels. They’re small branches, depending on where you serve. Ljubljana split, so Ljubljana used to be Ljubljana and Kranj, so it got a little smaller because half the people went to Kranj.

LDS Senior Couples In Slovenia

The branch presidents are mostly senior couples. I think the one in Ljubljana is working for the embassy, but in Kranj they have a branch president’s who’s a local and then the district president is someone from Ljubljana- he’s great. But yeah, senior couples get called to leadership positions a lot.

The church has only been in Slovenia for like 20 years- so sometimes it’s easy to forget and ask why is this not growing faster, but you need to be patient- we haven’t been there that long, not many people know about us, or are comfortable, and so it’s just growing right now, so it’s exciting! I think Bosnia opened up like two years before my mission. I think a couple months ago they opened up a new city in Serbia.

Religions In Slovenia

A lot of them are Catholic, but not practicing- it really depends on what age range. The older people might be atheist because of the communist Yugoslavia, but some of them are really religious if they lived through that, and they really held onto their beliefs. But in Slovenia it’s mostly Catholic. The other countries in the mission have other religions, but not so much in Slovenia. The younger generation- they don’t believe in God, some of them believe in an energy kind of thing- like an energy that connects the universe, but it’s not personified. There are a lot more people there who are Hare Krishna, than I thought, but I had no exposure to Hare Krishna before I got there. I was surprised that there were a significant amount of people who were Eastern-oriented.

Common Challenges And Misconceptions

A lot of them said I already have my religion, I already believe in Christ. We got some misconceptions. In the cities the people kind of know who we are because they’re smaller cities and we’ve been around for a while, but a lot of times we were called Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they’re there too and they’re doing similar things to what we do. I’ve been called Amish a couple things- which is interesting- I always pulled out my cell phone when I got that- I’m like I’m not Amish.

There was a documentary going around for a little while- People kept telling us oh we saw you on TV- I don’t know what it’s about- I don’t know if it was a positive thing, or a negative thing, but we went with it. For the most part people have heard of Mormons before- whether it’s positive or negative is a different story, but they know about us because they have television and the internet. It’s not a third world country by any means, so they have access to those resources.

I think distinguishing us from other Christian religions is difficult, because we do talk a lot about Christ and we are Christian, and so it’s easy for them to believe that we’re pretty much the same, so why do I need to change, and then Jospeh Smith and The Book of Mormon can be hard for them to understand, which is understandable.


Jordan (Adriatic North Mission)

–Paraphrased from Jordan’s mission interview–

Mission Geography & History

The Adriatic North Mission is one of the coolest missions I’ve ever heard of- like you can go to tons of places! When I get to describe where I was serving- next door to Italy, Austria and Hungary- the Eastern European edge- each country has their own culture and history. As a missionary in the Adriatic North Mission you have the opportunity to serve in each country. The countries include Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro and these countries have their own significant history, being former Yugoslavia, lots of Civil Wars and things that happened there. The countries are nationally recognized by religion. So being in Slovenia they are a majority Roman Catholic- structurally and culturally they are influenced by Austria and Italy. Their buildings more up towards Maribor have an Austrian feel. It was really cool the different cultures that way.

Missionary Numbers

Missionary wise there were about 70 missionaries when I got there. In Slovenia there were 12 of us, and that was tiny comparatively. Towards the end of my mission they almost doubled missionaries- we doubled the amount of sister missionaries.

Senior Couple Missionaries

We had senior couples in almost every area and they helped us out so much when it came to missionary travels, member support etc. It was nice having someone to turn to, because sometimes it was a struggle. You’re with your companion, but at the same time you feel a little isolated from the world. It was good to have senior couples there.

Missionary Ethnicities

Missionaries called to serve there- most were Americans, however a few of them (superstars) were from the area. We had a couple mini missionaries and a couple full time missionaries- one got called to our mission he’s from Celje- one of my favorite people in the world- he’s serving in Serbia currently. The majority of missionaries in the Adriatic North Mission were from the United States, not all from Utah.

Being One Of The First Sisters To Serve in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Sisters got pulled out of Serbia for a little bit. I was lucky enough to be one of the first sisters to serve in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We opened up a city- me and a brand new missionary- I had been speaking Serbian for about four months and she was brand new into the country, and we just white washed the area. That was an incredible experience, realizing how much faith we had to put forth walking out each morning. Talking to people in the streets and through their doors. I know contacting can be spiritually guided- we had miracles all the time.

Serving the Balkan People

The people there are so incredible- the people from the Balkans- Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia- they are in my heart forever. My mission changed the way that I love. In the beginning of my mission I felt really strongly about being an example of the believers (see Timothy). When I finished my mission it was that perfect love casts out all fear. It didn’t matter how many struggles I had because I wanted to be there for the people there and if the people could tell of my sincerity they were way more willing to have a conversation with me. Learning what struggles each person had. It was cultural- a lot of the family struggles or lifestyle struggles- but being able to testify sincerely that God loves them- it made a huge impact.

Gospel Planting vs. Reaping

A lot of the time the mission was seed planting. As much as I would’ve loved to watch all of the reaping I was really blessed to go and put out the face, being that disciple that could leave a good impression of the Gospel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a struggle, keep that smile on. You know, because that’s what matters when people see that you love life and start to wonder why you are so happy.


Culture, Language, and Travel


Nathan (Adriatic North Mission)

–Paraphrased from Nathan’s mission interview–

Living in Zagreb, Croatia

While living in Croatia, I served in the capital city of Zagreb. It was more of an urban area, and it wasn’t that much different from the U.S. There were a lot of apartments, and the main road of transportation was bike, bus, or tram. Zagreb was more modernized than most of Croatia, but it wasn’t quite up to par with the rest of western Europe. They’re definitely heading that direction there.

Shopping in Croatia is very different there. Most of their stores are a lot smaller and there’s more spreadout throughout the neighborhoods. Most people would buy groceries on a day to day basis, with few people stocking up for a week or two like we do here. Often, you would see an outdoor market (also known as a platz in Croatian). You could find fresh fruits and vegetables, clothes, and other goods. Sometimes the markets could get very big, and normally they were found in centralized locations. The stands would be put up and taken back down every day, which was a lot of work and would often require a lot of cleanup.

The weather in Zagreb and the Balkans in general is very similar to that of Utah, except more extreme. They have warmer, more humid summers. Moisture captures the heat, but it also captures the cold as well. Winters would get much colder.. With the moisture came more rain and precipitation. It wasn’t that different overall, and I enjoyed having four seasons a year.

Learning Serbian

Serbian is the language I learned first, so I got a better handle of the grammar. It’s different from Croatian in that they don’t have the same y or j sounds. They’re different in the way they use pronouns as well. They have a few words that are completely different as well. In Serbia they double conjugate their verbs. For example, in English you say “I want to run,” while in Serbian it would translate directly to “I want that I run.” In many ways, this was a lot easier for missionaries because the two conjugations can go together. I kept my Serbian accent as I served in other areas in Bosnia, and it was a lot harder for me to get rid of my accent than it was to pick it up.

Another difference between Serbian and English is its Cyrillic alphabet. It’s somewhat similar to the Russian, and many letters have corresponding letters in the Latin alphabet, but it’s quite different.

Learning Bosnian

Bosnian is one of the easiest languages I learned because it takes languages from nearby countries and you can use whatever you want. It’s very laid back. The best way I can explain it is that they use the Croatian grammar rules but more Serbian words. You’ll find a lot of the same greetings and farewells as you would here in Serbia. Bosnian people tend to speak slowly and precisely, so it was very easy to follow. They use their hands a lot as they speak or as they thought as well.

Learning Croatian

One of the most recognized traits of the Croatian language is the use of the “j” or the “y” sounds. In Croatian they don’t double conjugate like in Serbian. If they want to use two verbs they use the infinitive just like in English. Some words for hello and goodbye can be used interchangeably. Sometimes they’ll string several farewells together as you’re walking away.

Muslims and Latter-Day Saints

I loved serving in an area where the dominant religion was Islam. Most people, when they hear the word Muslim, they think “oh no, terrorists.” But there’s never been a nicer people on the planet. There’s a lot of similarities between Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Muslims believe in prayer, fasting, and giving offerings. They believe in being kind and having a strong family just like we do. Muslims believe in a trek to a Holy City, and we believe in going to the temple. It strengthened my testimony to see how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints incorporates all of the truth. Followers of Islam are so devoted to their faith, and it was amazing to experience that and be able to share my faith with them as well.

Balkan Food

The food was absolutely delicious. It was the best two years of eating of my life. Dishes tended to be really healthy and simple or really fatty and greasy (but still simple) On the healthier side, they had a lot of salads. Kupus Salata or cabbage salad was a mission favorite. New missionaries would hate it when they arrived, but you eat it so often you fall in love with it.

On the fat and greasy side, Balkan peoples eat a lot of meat. My favorite dish was Cevapi, which was a kind of “steak fingers.” It would be served on a platter with a round type of flatbread, into which you would stuff inside. The meal would always be accompanied by onions or onion soup and Kaymak, which is a really salty kind of butter. It was really delicious! Another dish they had is called Pljeskavica. Cevapi-like meat would be served in patty form. I loved it even more when it was stuffed and served with Kaymak.

Bakeries could be found on every street. People would buy bread daily, and missionaries would buy pastries daily. The fresh, homemade bread and pastries were absolutely delicious. They served pastries with meats, fruits like apple or strawberry, or chocolate.

The best dish they served was Burek. It was similar to a meat pie, but it comes with so many different varieties and possible ingredients. Often, it would be served with plain yogurt.

Economic Conditions

Living conditions varied between Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. Croatia was part of the EU, so they were held to a higher standard than the other countries. They had better apartments and public transportation. Serbia and Bosnia aren’t on the same level quite yet. I don’t think it made much of a difference in preaching the gospel, but the lack of public transportation made it a bit harder to get around.

Crime and Safety in Serbia and Bosnia

Because the economic standings weren’t the best in Serbia and Bosnia, crime seemed to be a bigger issue. In both places I served, poverty was an issue, and that led some people to drastic measures. Usually, however, the poor were just as friendly if not more so than others. In most cases, these people weren’t people to be afraid of. It’s easy to misjudge them by appearance, but it wasn’t always true. Crime did happen, but anywhere you go you’ll have those kinds of people who are desperate. For those that are in that tight situation and end up trying to steal, you can’t really blame them.

If you’re smart and aware of your surroundings, you won’t have any problems. Try not to keep things in your back pocket, and keep bags in front of you. If you have a companion or are traveling with someone, look out for each other. Have common sense, and you won’t have any problems. I never did during my whole mission

Places to See in the Adriatic North Mission

There’s a lot of geographic diversity between the 5 countries. Croatia has an extremely long coastline along the Adriatic sea that’s beautiful. Some cities go from the sea up into the mountainsides. Zadar and Split are other coastal cities and are really big tourist attractions because of their beauty and history.

Northern Croatia and Slovenia are very mountainous regions with lots of green hills. There’s lakes called the Plitvice that are beautiful no matter what time of year you go there.

Bosnia was one of my favorite places to go to because it’s reminds me of home. It’s more of a rugged area with lots of canyons. I served in one city called Sarajevo. On the tram it took almost an hour to go from one end to the other. It was a really long city set between two canyons/mountainsides. Sarajevo was a magical place, and the skyline was gorgeous as I drove up. Every night you would hear the calls to prayer ring out, and the city would become peaceful.

Serbia is more flat, and you could see for miles down the road. Just in general, everything there was beautiful, and it was a beautiful place to serve. Because of all the wars and contentions going on, the people in the Balkans have become very humble and willing to hear new ideas. Particularly in Bosnia, people have their religion (Islam) respect that of others (Christians, Jews, etc.), but are willing to sit down and hear more about others’ beliefs.

Religion in the Balkans

In the Balkans, religion is tied to nationality. If you’re Croatian, you’re Catholic. If you’re Serbian, you’re Serbian Orthodox. And if you’re Bosnian, you’re Muslim. They often prescribe to the thinking that if you’re a Muslim, you shouldn’t be in Croatia or Serbia, you should be in Bosnia. If you’re Catholic, you shouldn’t be in Serbia or Bosnia. It’s interesting to see how these differences have arisen, and how they have divided the countries. Part of the reason for the wars that have occurred in this reason is the differences of religion.

Travel Tips for the Balkans

Don’t plan on being able to use your credit card. A lot of stores in the region don’t have card readers, and they deal only in cash. There are ATM’s, but they charge a lot to take out money.

Culturally, people are very nice and welcoming. Sometimes, because of wars that have gone on in the area, there are people who hold grudges. In Serbia, there are a few extreme people who dislike Americans. In Bosnia, however, people tend to love Americans. People in the region overall are willing to help you, especially if you put forth the effort to learn their languages.

Something funny about Balkan culture is that they don’t like air conditioning. Especially the older generation tends to attribute it to health problems. That was one funny quirk about local beliefs