22902_000_010He was a stranger in a foreign land. He would live there for only three months before returning to a nation where the Church had not yet been established.
Albin Lotric has lived in Slovenia all his life, except for three months when he worked in Norway. Those three months changed his life—and helped lead to the establishment of the Church in Slovenia.
Albin was born in 1963 in a small village in the Julian Alps on Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. At that time, Slovenia was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. His parents worked in a factory, maintained a small family farm, and taught their children to study and work hard. After graduating from high school, he accepted a job at the company where his parents worked.
His employment was interrupted by a 15-month stint in the Yugoslavian army, where he was exposed to “all kinds of people, good and bad,” he says. “I learned that I wasn’t supposed to think too much but do only what I was told. I came to believe that all people are selfish and are ready to walk all over those who are weaker. I became distrustful of others and relied only on myself. I didn’t feel any real emotions at that time.”
After his military assignment, Albin returned to his job but felt restless and dissatisfied. He eventually quit his job to study computer and information technology at the university. But he was still not finding joy in life. “On weekends my friends and I would have what we called fun—wandering from place to place, drinking alcohol, and flirting with girls we met,” he says. “I wasn’t happy because I felt empty inside. It all seemed fake.”
Then in 1987 he met Boza Gartner, a young woman he had known briefly before, and they began dating. In June 1989, he was accepted as an international student trainee for three months at a company in Stavanger, Norway. He moved to Norway, started his internship, and met the missionaries a few weeks later.
“A young man holding a book stopped me on the street,” Albin says. “He said something to me in Norwegian, and his book was written in Norwegian. I explained in English that I didn’t understand a word he said and that I had no intention of taking any book, especially one in a language I did not understand.” To his surprise the missionary, an American, responded in English and offered to get Albin a copy of the Book of Mormon in English. Albin politely gave the missionary his address, but he hoped nothing would come of it.
A few days later the missionaries arrived at his door and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon in English. They later gave him a copy in Croatian, which he could also read. (A Slovenian edition did not yet exist.) Albin’s conversations with the missionaries caused him to think about his religious beliefs.
“I had always believed in God,” he says. “And I prayed almost daily—prayers I was taught as a Catholic.”
Although parts of the Book of Mormon were interesting, he says, “I had no spiritual witness while reading it.” And when he attended the Stavanger Branch in Norway, where he was a stranger who knew no one and didn’t speak the language, he initially felt uncomfortable, yet he soon liked what he saw and felt at church. The members welcomed him warmly. “They were extremely kind to me,” he says. “They showed great interest in me by asking where I was from and what I was doing in the town. They invited me to come again. When I did, they accepted me as a part of their family.”
Now he felt more motivated to study the Book of Mormon and pray about it. “I prayed more and more,” he says, “waiting to get some kind of answer. Then one day while I was reading the words of Moroni, the answer came—unexpected, unannounced. I felt the Holy Ghost giving me indescribable feelings, and my mind was enlightened. At that same moment I was aware of all my sins, and I began to cry. I had never cried because of a book before. In that moment I knew the Holy Ghost was present with me, and I was thankful to the Lord.”
Albin was baptized on his 26th birthday, 19 August 1989. “I was a completely different man now than when I went to Norway in June,” he says. “My soul was clean, my sins were forgiven, and I was starting a new life much different from the one before. I felt glad, peaceful, and safe.” He also felt the nudges of the Holy Ghost—hinting of spiritual responsibilities that awaited him at home.
When he learned that the Church had not yet been established in Slovenia and that, as far as he knew, no Church members lived there, he realized the importance of learning all he could during his few remaining weeks in Norway. He continued attending Church meetings, family home evenings, and other activities; received the Aaronic Priesthood; had many discussions with missionaries, members, and Church leaders; and read the Doctrine and Covenants in English.
“I was worried about being left on my own back home,” he says. “I prayed that God would give me strength to explain my beliefs to my girlfriend, my parents, and others. I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew God would help me as long as I remained worthy.”
The closest branch in what was then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was in Zagreb, Croatia—three hours away from Albin’s home in Slovenia. He later learned there was a branch a little more than an hour away, in Klagenfurt, Austria. For more than a year he attended the branch in Austria every Sunday, even though his ability to speak German was limited. “The branch president and all the members were very friendly and kind,” he says. He received the Melchizedek Priesthood and served in his first Church callings in the Klagenfurt Branch. And his girlfriend, Boza, often went with him. Sister missionaries taught her the gospel.
“It took me almost six months to get my own testimony,” says Boza. “The Book of Mormon had not yet been translated into Slovenian, and it was difficult for me to read it in Croatian. One Sunday in 1990 I went to a nearby grove to pray for the answer, just like Joseph Smith did. The answer came in the middle of the prayer as an exceptional warmth around my heart. I thought at first that this warmth came from the sun—but the sun had already gone down, and the warm feeling was still there. I felt peace and knew from that moment on that God wanted me to accept His gospel.” Albin baptized her in the Klagenfurt Branch in March 1990.
In December of that year, the first two full-time missionaries were assigned to Slovenia, and soon the first baptisms in that land took place. In the summer of 1991, Slovenia proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia. After a tense 10-day war, the matter was peacefully resolved. A few months later, on 22 December 1991, the first branch in Slovenia was organized, with Albin Lotric as branch president.
The next year, in July 1992, Albin and Boza were married in Slovenia and then sealed in the Frankfurt Germany Temple—the first couple living in Slovenia to be sealed. “I could not have found a better, more understanding wife,” Albin says. “She gives me strength with her love and encouragement. It is especially wonderful to be together in the temple, to review the plan of salvation and enter into an eternal bond together. It gives perspective to all other activities in life.
“My wife and I are trying to plant the seeds of a gospel-centered life in the hearts of our three children,” Albin says, “so they will be strong enough to face the challenges that will come and so they will be able to stand up for their beliefs.” The children are learning about the gospel through family home evening and scripture study, using the illustrated Book of Mormon Stories, which has been translated into Slovenian. Albin and Boza are helping them learn to recognize answers to their simple prayers. “The Lord is blessing us abundantly,” Albin says.
With the Church still in its infancy in Slovenia, President and Sister Lotric and other pioneering Saints continue to assist in its growth. Sister Lotric serves in the auxiliaries and is writing a history of the Church in Slovenia. And after serving as branch president for seven years, President Lotric was called in April 1998 to serve as Slovenia’s first district president. Over the years he has represented the Church on national television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, and in legal matters.
Meanwhile his career has blossomed. With university degrees in business administration and computer science, he currently works in the information technology department of the Slovenian ministry of finance. “To live according to the teachings of this Church requires many demands of the members,” he says. “But I know from my own experience that the resulting blessings bring much more joy than any earthly thing.”
One of his most memorable assignments has been to serve on the translation team for the upcoming Slovenian edition of the Book of Mormon. “When the Book of Mormon comes forth with all its divinity and power,” says President Lotric, “the gates of heaven will open wide. The Spirit will testify even more mightily to the people of Slovenia that the word of God has once more been revealed to the children of men and that there is no name given under the heavens but the name of Jesus Christ through which salvation can come.”
In July 1999, nearly 10 years after Albin’s baptism, the Slovenia Ljubljana Mission—which includes various countries of the former Yugoslavia—was created. In Slovenia itself, a nation of two million inhabitants, there are now about 250 members, one district, and three branches—in Ljubljana, Celje, and Maribor. Couples have been sealed in the temple. Young men and women from Slovenia are serving full-time missions in various parts of the world. And members in Slovenia can now receive the Liahona in their own language.
Was it worth anyone’s time to befriend a stranger in a foreign land and teach him the gospel, knowing that in three months he would return to his home in a nation where the Church had not yet been established?
“The ways of our Lord are sometimes unpredictable and beyond human imagination,” says Albin Lotric. “He chose a wonderful way to present the gospel to me.”