I really enjoy the Sunday dinners we have at the Holmes' home. I have the opportunity to meet these amazing people that maybe otherwise I wouldn't have met.
There is one particular story of a woman from a couple Sundays ago that I would like to share. Her name is Liz.
Liz is Serbian. Hopefully that one sentence can give you a little idea about what her childhood was like. Her country was at war, as most of Eastern Europe was at the time. And the leader of her country was suggesting a movement for ethnic purification. Liz's family has both Jewish and gypsy roots. So of course, parts of her family were targets. Liz's parents were part of the resistant movement. Especially her mother. And as her mother became more vocal in her opposition of the current government, the situation for the family became more dangerous. Death threats were issued, and so it became time for Liz's family to leave their home and flee to Austria. They left during Christmas time, on the pretext that they were just visiting different members of the family around the country. When they got to the family member closest to the border, they made their escape, leaving most of their belongings behind so as not to arouse suspicion.
Upon arriving in Austria, Liz's mother became very ill. And then only a few short days later, she died. So this poor girl of 15, was left without a home, without a mother, in a completely foreign country. The family had no one to help them. Serbians were highly discriminated against in Austria. Her father had been a top educated accountant in Serbia, but in Austria, the only work he could find was selling newspapers on the side of the street. The family lived for about six months in a car around Vienna. This is around the time they met another Serbian refugee family. They were good people. Recent converts to the church. They gave Liz a Book of Mormon.
Liz was struck from the first verse. "I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents..." She understood Nephi, and felt a connection with him. She too was raised by goodly parents. She too had to make a journey into the wilderness. And her family was persecuted for their beliefs. Liz was baptized soon after, along with her father and brother. Later, she moved to Utah. She went to BYU and served a mission in Georgia. She graduated with a degree in International Law, and is currently working on her doctorate to specialize in children's rights. Specifically, reintegrating children soldiers back into society.
It was a really amazing night. We got to ask Liz a lot of questions about her life. Even the little stories that I learned would take hours to write about. But the one thing I really loved about listening to Liz is how happy she is. She knows her life was hard, still is hard, and still will be hard. But she doesn't regret any of it. She doesn't regret any of it because she knows that what she went through has given her a better understanding of the Atonement. And that all of our pain and suffering cannot compare to what the Savior has given us.
There are a lot of stories of the Saints here that echo Liz's story. And I'm glad for the chance to be here just for the sake of getting to know and learn from these wonderful people.