Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Week 100: Subotica, Chalking, and People talking about Sports

Hey everybody!

So, this week has had quite a bit less rain. It's nice to have sunshine again. Last Monday, after emailing, it did end up raining in the evening. It's been good since then, though.

On Tuesday we called people to try to set up lessons, and had a meeting with Elder Nield to go over how things were while they were gone on the mission's annual temple trip. That evening before English, that same member that had cooked for us on Saturday showed up to again cook a meal for us, since she felt like she'd messed up the other meal (even though it was totally fine and we told her so repeatedly). So, we had a nice soup, and then Gibanica, too.

Wednesday started off with a trip to the MUP (police station?) to get some forms that we'll need for Elder Bird's visa when we finally find time to do that. The MUP is kinda far away, and it has very restricted working hours, so it's hard to get over there. That afternoon we had a great district meeting at the Nields' place with them and the sisters, and some guests! That is, the sisters from Belgrade, Sisters Livingston and Roberts, were down here for exchanges, so they joined us for district meeting. That evening we had another Book of Mormon class scheduled for branch members to attend, but no one came except for the 4 sisters. Oh well. After that, the 6 of us went together to get dinner at a place that has traditional Serbian food (most of which is meat). Pretty good stuff.

In the morning on Thursday we got picked up by the Nields and went out to Subotica! That's a town in Serbia that's extremely close to the Hungarian border, so almost all the signs have both Serbian and Hungarian written on them. The reason for our little trip was to visit some members that live all the way out there, since there isn't a branch in Subotica. What great people. That afternoon, after we'd come back to Novi Sad, Elder Bird and I had some studies and did our Facebook finding, and then English Conversation Group of course rolled around. For dinner after that, we tried to get Sushi, but the place where we went had totally run out of sushi, and then it took forever for our food to come out, so we just took it to-go. But, while we were waiting for our food, we ended up drawing various missionary lessons on our paper throw-away place mats.

Friday started off with some paperwork stuff at the church, and then we went to get lunch at a place near the church that we walk past all the time but have never tried. It's called "Bajka", which means "Fairytale", and it turns out that they have reeeeeeally good pizza. We're definitely going to go back there sometime. Later that afternoon/evning, we went over to the river with the sisters to do some big chalk drawings. We drew out the Plan of Salvation with some labels and scriptures. We did it in a place that's pretty busy at night because of Exit, which is a huge music festival that happened this last week. On our way home, we noticed that all of the TVs in the city were set to a certain tennis match with Novak Đoković.

Chalk Drawings we did of the Plan of Salvation
On Saturday morning we cleaned the church with the Nields and the sisters, and it was good to have the whole group of us 6 back together, since the Nields had been gone on the annual mission temple trip to Switzerland. After that, Elder Bird and I had lunch at Gyros Master, and then had some studies. That evening, like every Saturday, the sisters had their German class, and then we went to get waffles for dinner.

Sunday of course started with church, and there were a lot of people there. We had 6 investigators at church! Since there were 19 non-missionaries there, that means we had over 30% nonmember attendance! There was an interesting moment with the sacrament when we were passing the water, too. It turned out that we were one cup short, so Elder Bird and I went and filled one up and re-blessed it so the last person could take the sacrament too. It's kinda a cool teaching moment when stuff like that happens, since sometimes people think you can just fill up another cup without re-blessing it. In any case, the sisters performed a special musical number, singing and playing Ukulele, and that was wonderful. At the end of the day we had dinner at the Nields' with the sisters and some other German visitors, so I got to practice more German! I don't remember my original missionary call letter saying anything about learning German... anyway, we also heard that Novak Đoković won Wimbledon (tennis), and that Croatia got 2nd in the World Cup (soccer, if you don't know). Cool.

As for today, we did some emailing, etc., had a lesson with "John" (he asks really good questions, btw), and then played some games with him. Fairly uneventful day.

Your homework this week is to read 3 Nephi 12! That has the Book of Mormon version of what are often called the "Beattitudes". We talked about that as part of our lesson with "John" and the question came up of how meekness is a positive attribute. Isn't meekness the same as being submissive? Just letting people walk all over you? Perhaps in some sense of the word, but I think what was intended here is submitting to the will of God with patience. What do you think?

Thanks for reading these emails! You'll only be getting a few more. Here are some photos! One is a sign in Subotica that has the days of the week in both Serbian and Hungarian. Another one is a panoramic of part of our chalk diagram of the Plan of Salvation. It's in two parts.
Have a great week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, July 9, 2018

Week 99: Piano, Rain, and even more Real Germans

Hello! I hope you all are doing well and that the weather is good wherever you are. This week we had a lot of rain over here in Novi Sad, but that's ok.

So last Monday, after emailing, we actually did some pretty cool stuff. The first one was that we went to a place that sells reeeeeally good crepes. They weren't even expensive! We're definitely going to go back at some point. Later that evening we went with some members and other friends to go see a free piano concert, put on my a mother/daughter duo that happen to be members of this church from Utah. They were also reeeeeally good at piano. On the walk home, as we passed the main square in front of the cathedral, there was a guy standing in front of a statue playing trumpet for everyone to hear. I like this place.

The stage where the piano concert was held
On Tuesday morning we took a little venture over to a fancy hotel to pick up some CDs of the pianists from them before they left town, since plenty of the people that came with us wanted CDs. The rest of the day was pretty normal, except English. For ECG, a bunch of new people showed up, since they saw advertisements on Facebook. They're all really cool and I hope they stick around to become regulars =)

Happy Fourth of July! On Wednesday morning the Zone Leaders showed up to give us a paper that Elder Bird needs for his Visa, and then we went to quickly get lunch with them at the renowned Gyros Master. That evening, just before we were going to hold a Book of Mormon class for the members (and whoever else decided to come), we had a mini lesson with "John". We ended up reading a chapter in the Book of Mormon, and just relating it to the topics that he's already been learning about, like the Plan of Salvation. Then, we had our Book of Mormon class! The only person that came was "John", haha. Well, the sisters were there too. And one member lady showed up about half way through and did participate well. That's fine, though. It was still good.

Thursday morning started off with district meeting, with Sister Marinković teaching the lesson on conversion. After that we got some Chinese food for lunch, and then home for some studies. When we went contacting later, we managed to give a lady one of our cards with the church websites. When Elder Bird and I were at the church before English to do our Facebook work talking with people on the internet about the gospel of Jesus Christ, one of our members randomly showed up and started talking to us. He ended up asking to borrow our phone to call one of the other missionaries that served here that's been gone for a while in other places in the mission. So, when that Elder picked up the phone, he answered in English since he was expecting other missionaries. It was pretty funny to hear his reaction when the member started talking to him and he realized who it was. Cool stuff. For English, another new person showed up, and then at the end I gave a spiritual thought. This time I did it about prophets, and shared our particular belief that prophets are not just a thing of the past, but rather that we also have guidance from them today. I explained about Joseph Smith and the restoration, and then we finished. 

But, after we finished, we put on the short movie "the Restoration" and invited people to stay to watch, which most of them did. That was cool. After that, since Thursdays are when one of the restaurants here has sushi, we had sushi for dinner.

Excellent sushi for dinner.
On Friday morning we had a video call with our Facebook boss who is up in Frankfurt at the Area Office, and the other missionaries in the mission that do Facebook Finding. Then while Elder Bird and I did the day's hour of Facebook work, the sisters were downstairs having a lesson with Sister Marinković's grandma, who lives in Germany but is originally from Serbia. But, this one was in person! I guess the family was on a road trip or something and got permission to visit. So, when Elder Bird and I finished, we got to meet the Marinković family, and we all got lunch together. So, you know how new missionaries never reeeeally know what's going on when they first show up in the mission and they need to speak a foreign language? That was me and Elder Bird, since everyone except for us spoke German (and not all spoke English or Serbian). It was a fun experience, though. There's no better practice in a new language than trying to speak it with natives. Later on in the evening after they all had left, Elder Bird and I went with the sisters to "American Corner" like we do every Friday to help students practice English. That one is always fun.

Hanging out with friends at the piano concert
On Saturday, after having studies, we of course got up to go clean the church like we do every Saturday, but at that precise moment it started absolutely pouring rain. Crazy. So, the roads were more like rivers as we made our way to the church. As we and the sisters cleaned, one of our members was there to "supervise" like she did last week, but also cooked lunch in the meantime. What a great lady. At some point in there it stopped raining, and then in the evening we had the sisters' German class, which is pretty well attended now that it's been going for a few weeks. I like it. After that, while we were waiting for people to clear out, I ended up having my 3rd miniature lesson of Hungarian, but this time by one of the sisters' investigators that was there. Mi mormonok vagyunk. In any case, it just so happened that it started pouring rain again right as we were about to leave. What luck.

Yesterday, Sunday, we of course had church. One interesting thing that happened this time was that the 1st counselor in the branch presidency, the one in charge while Elder Nield is gone, told me that I was giving a talk. So, I made up a 20-minute talk before church started. After we'd finished our weekly business-y stuff, we got up to go home, and at that precise moment it started pouring rain, yet again. Elder Bird asked on the way home, "How does the sky still have water to dump on us?!" For dinner, since I'd run out of food for the week and the Nields are still out of town, I had soup for dinner, haha.

Your homework this week is to read Doctrine & Covenants, section 46, which talks about spiritual gifts (and some other stuff). This week we listened to another talk about Joseph Smith, and and the start it was stated that every member of the church who has received the Gift of the Holy Ghost has at least one of these gifts, such as are listed in D&C 46. So, try to figure out which ones you have, and search to get more =)

Here are some photos! Have a great week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Week 98: Letter from the Mission President of the Adriatic North Mission

5 July 2018

Dear Brother and Sister Echols,

You have likely already been informed by Elder Echols that he has been assigned to be a District Leader in Novi Sad, Serbia of the Adriatic North Mission (ANM) for the current nine-week transfer cycle which his companion is Elder Benjamin Joseph Bird.

Missionary assignments in the ANM have three components. Besides one’s position (trainer, junior companion, leader), there is the city of service (we have 18 cities), and a missionary’s companion. Assignments do not always change with each transfer. Missionaries may have the same assignment for multiple transfers, or missionaries may have their assignments change every transfer.

Changes in missionary’s positions, like changes in church callings, reflect the will of the Lord and the needs of the area. Sometimes we have leadership assignments, sometimes we don’t, but we always serve each other, the people of the ANM, and God.

For missionaries in the ANM, the most important aspect of any assignment is how one serves, not where, with whom, or in which position one serves. The greatest missionaries serve the Lord by serving their companions, their investigators, and the members among whom they are assigned to labor. They understand the Lord’s words in Matthew 23:11-12 “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Elder Echols's assignment to serve as a District Leader will provide an opportunity to continue serving his fellow missionaries, hone leadership skills, and better prepare him to serve in God’s kingdom for years to come. We know that God will bless Elder Echols as he faithfully serves in this assignment. Thank you for sending us such a fine missionary.

With great appreciation and love,

President and Sister Melonakos Adriatic North Mission