In the spirit of Mother’s Day I want to share the story of Danica Mladinov. Danica was born on the island of Split off the coast of Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia). Danica immigrated to the United States when she was 17 years old with her mother, Maria Mladinov, and two younger brothers as World War II ended. The story of how they immigrated is fascinating. Five years prior to their arrival in the US, Danica’s father, Anton, a merchant mariner, saw what Hitler was doing in Europe and he decided to leave Europe to make a better life for his family. Anton jumped ship in New York City and made his way to Canada. He worked hard for over five years performing odd jobs, saving money and working toward becoming a legal immigrant and eventually a U.S. Citizen so that he could bring his family to the US. He learned the heating and plumbing trade and eventually made his way from Canada back to NYC. Because of the war and the devastation in Europe, keeping up with his family was nearly impossible. Anton was not aware that one night in 1944 Maria and the three children escaped Croatia under the cover of darkness. They went by boat to Italy then on to Egypt where they spent three years living in refugee camps. They were totally unaware of Anton’s whereabouts and he was unaware of their whereabouts. During this time Maria and her three teenage children had all but given up hope on ever reuniting with Anton. When the war ended their home country was in ruins so they decided to make a new life for themselves in Australia through the Red Cross refugee relocation program. Literally within two or three days of their departure for Australia they received a letter from Anton via the Red Cross. The letter indicated that Anton had purchased a rowhouse in the Bronx and was excited for the family to join him for a new life in America. They couldn’t believe their good fortune in receiving the letter; they counted it as a miracle! They quickly changed their plans and left for the US. The boat docked at a port in Manhattan and it was on that port where Anton and his family were reunited after five years. Danica did not know one word of English, but shortly after arriving she landed a job as a seamstress. Her skill as a seamstress served her well in helping to support her parents and two brothers.
Danica continued to use this skill to make her own clothes and later her seamstress skills earned her a career in retail fashion. Why do I offer you this story? Well, at some point, young Danica met a gentleman named Connie Stout at a restaurant on 34th Street in New York City. They fell in love and got married on Easter Sunday, 1956. They have a son named Bill Stout. Bill attends Bethel with his girlfriend Anne Brandon. When Bill told me this story, I marveled at what his family went through to get here. It was amazing to me that his grandmother was only days away from boarding a ship to Australia, then she gets a letter that changes the course of her life and ultimately allows Bill to be born. Bill said to me, “I believe in the providence of God. All these things had to line up in order for me to be here. God and His grace are simply amazing!” To which I say, “Amen!”
When I think of Bill’s story, I think of how hard Anton worked to learn a new language and a new trade to save money to buy a home for his family. He did all of this while hanging onto the hope of seeing his family again. Then I think about Maria, and all she went through to escape Croatia, through Italy and on to Egypt only to have to live in refugee camps for three years. Bill said she almost lost hope of being reunited with Anton, but then she got that letter. Here’s the lesson for us: Never lose hope in God! Trust in the providence of God. He will see you through. Bill said that his mother has been a wonderful mother and grandmother. She was a woman of great faith and a witness to the providence of God. She passed away on Ash Wednesday in 2019 and is now with the Lord.
This Mother’s Day I think of mothers like Maria and Danica who are an example to us of how to live out our faith in Christ. They lived with faith, hope and love, may we do the same.Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful moms of Bethel. May God bless Bill Stout and his family and may God bless our Bethel Church Family. May we live with faith, hope and love, and then let’s trust in the providence of God. Written with much love for you all.