Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, August 14, 2017

Week 52: Mostar, Conference, Yellow Jackets, and Burdocks

Greetings from Sarajevo! In case you all didn't know (and I don't really know why you would), the Sarajevo Film Festival is currently happening here. That means that there's an unusual amount of people here that are from outside of Bosnia. It's pretty cool. Also, the weather has finally cooled off the last two or three days. Huzzah.

The elders that were wearing shorts had to cover up to enter the dervish.
The sisters had to cover their heads to enter the dervish.
So, recap from last Monday, we loaded up the whole zone into 3 small cars and went on a road trip. We went to a dervish (Islamic monestary) first. While there, I first got stung by a yellow jacket or something, and then later discovered there were some Mexican tourists, and spoke some extremely rusty Spanish with them for a bit. Then we went to the giant bridge in Mostar ("most" means bridge in Bosnian, btw).

In Mostar with the popular bridge in the background.
While there, we tried to find and visit an inactive member. We did manage to find her apartment building, but then there were about 12 doors per floor and 5 or so floors. We asked someone on the first floor if they knew who she was by name, and they pointed two doors down. A second neighbor confirmed. She wasn't there, though, so we just left a copy of the new Croatian translation of the Book of Mormon, and our info. We don't have a working phone number for her, so hopefully she calls. Further on the road to Zone Conference, we stopped at Jajce, where there's a big waterfall, an underground church, and a big fort on top of the hill. Pretty cool.

The waterfalls at Jajce.
A boat ride into a small cave.
Then we eventually made it to Banja Luka and set up the church a bit for conference the next day. That night, all the (6) elders from the zone again slept in one apartment.

On Tuesday, we had an extremely enjoyable conference, all about Jesus Christ and his Atonement and what he can do for us, and such things. It was very good. We also got to hear the departing testimonies of some missionaries that are going home very soon, at the end of this transfer, including Sisters Beus and Turner who are here in Sarajevo. We'll miss them. So, do you remember from over a month ago when my wallet got stolen? Well we had to cancel my cards, you know. I finally got a replacement MSF card at Zone Conference. Now I can buy my own food! Haha. We also got a few copies of The Book of Mormon in Arabic to give to some investigators. In the car on the way back, I used the page numbers and verse markings to learn the Arabic numerals. I have no idea how to pronounce them though, haha.

Beautiful Bosnian Mountains.
On Wednesday, we got some burek for lunch, had district meeting, had and passed apartment inspection, made some flyers, etc. At the end of the day we went with the sisters over to dinner at the embassy family's house. They're so great. We played some more music with them. On the way back from their place, we passed a place with a bunch of young-adult guys playing Monopoly really intensely...probably using real money.

Thursday, we went out of town a bit to go visit a long-time investigator. When we found his house with the GPS, we called him to say we were there, and he told us he was down at the market, because he didn't expect us to be able to find his house. So we went down there to meet him. He's hoping to move into Sarajevo soon, and that'd mean he could some to church a lot more regularly, so we're hoping for it too. When we got back to town, we quickly set up a surprise for the sisters, since it was Sister Beus and Sister Turner's 18-month mark. It was a scripture scavenger hunt, and at the end was of course a big chocolate cake hidden in the tithing drawer. When they found it in such an unexpected spot, they just started cracking up, and couldn't even really say anything. They really liked it. Then of course we had ECG, and one of our participants brought some plant things that are apparently called burdocks. They're little balls that are basically just the scratchy part of velcro. So, you throw them at people and it sticks to their clothes. Anyway, after ECG the sisters shared some of their cake with us.

Sister Beaus (left) and Sister Turner (right) are heading home next week. Mission accomplished!
On Saturday we made some calls and printed some flyers, and then in the evening we ended up running into a couple from Austria who are members of the church. He had served here about 3 years ago, and knew a fair number of the members that are still around. They were really cool.

The Bosnian Zone: all the young missionaries currently serving in Bosnia
On Saturday we went up to the barn to do service again, but this time there was a lot more to do. It was great. During a little break in the middle, we and the sisters were just sitting at a picnic table waiting, and there were some yellow jackets bothering us. No one got stung, but we accidentally made a few of them mad, so I ended up killing two so they wouldn't sting us. After service, the Newtons took us all to lunch over at SCC, a big mall. Sister Turner ordered enchiladas, and they ended up being covered in Ajvar, not enchilada sauce. Ajvar is a local specialty. It's a sauce made mostly out of red bell peppers, but also eggplant and some stuff like that. So, not really good for enchiladas, haha. That evening we went to visit our member friend that's in that center across town, and he's still doing a lot better than before.

Yesterday morning started off in a pretty interesting way. We got to the church to find one of our members and her husband standing outside the church with a neighbor of the church, looking at the side door that was wide open. Apparently it was like that when they got there. That's the door that no one ever uses. So, their suspicion was that someone had broken in during the night, so they promptly called the cops and had us all wait outside until the cops showed up to go in. Turns out nothing was missing or even messed up, so we're pretty sure that the door just malfunctioned (that one is an automatic sliding door that we just never unlock). Anyway, Sisters Turner and Beus gave their farewell talks, and it was really good. That evening while we were in the church, a random member from New York walked in. Apparently he's been traveling the world visiting his international friends, and decided to just stop in to the church here and see what it's like. Apparently he'd served in Texas, Spanish speaking, and then lived in China for a while. This guy has been all over the place.

Also, in case any of you are wondering, we find out on Thursday what is happening with transfers. And no, I don't really have any guesses as to what country I'll be in.

Now, for your homework, I want you to find a talk about Christ and his Atonement and what that means for us. My favorite one is called "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox (it's a BYU Devotional that you've probably read before if you actually do your homework that I give, haha). The video is below for you to watch.

"His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox - video

Another good one is "None Were With Him" by Elder Holland. But those are just suggestions; you pick. Try to learn something new.

Enjoy the pictures from the Dervish and Mostar. Have a great week!

Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, August 7, 2017

Week 51: Return of The Wallet, plus Herzegovina

Hello friends and family! I hope you all are doing well. It’s pretty darn hot over here in Sarajevo, but it could be worse. We’re surviving. Hopefully you are too! Haha.

Last Monday, after emailing, we went adventuring around baščaršija, which is the Turkish “old town” where they have a whole lot of tourist shops and such. I ended up buying a mug, and a very small pen made out of a large-ish bullet. The souvenirs around here are pretty interesting. They also had tanks and planes made out of only bullets. Anyway, a bit later Elder Smith and I quickly met up with an investigator for the 15 minutes or so that he had free. At the end of the evening we had another branch FHE activity where we played games and played some music all together. The turnout was a little bit low, but it was still really fun.

On Tuesday we ended up having lunch with our newest member and his girlfriend. While we were waiting for our food, we asked them to check some of the translations that we’ve been doing. And apparently the restaurant is one that they frequent, since they new to the owner, a man from Kuwait. He was super cool. Man, that was a hot day, though. Walking back from that, we were just getting baked, and weren’t feeling too good by the time we got back to the apartment for comp study. That night we of course had ECG, and it was a pretty small turn out. It seems like everyone is going to the coast for mini-vacations right now. People just vanish for a week or two or more, and then come back a bit more tan. Anyway, after ECG, we practiced the “mission song” with the sisters. We’re pretty sure that everyone is going to be singing it at Zone Conference.

Wednesday morning, we got a peculiar phone call. It was from American Corner (a place around here where we can occasionally use computers for free on P-day), saying that there was a guy up the hill, near the hospital, that had my wallet. Like, the wallet of mine that got stolen at the very start of July. Anyway, they gave me the guy’s name and phone number, so we went to pick it up from him while he was there at work. What I gather happened was that the thief ran through my wallet a month ago when he first stole it, took my cash, and then just threw it to the side of the road, at the mercy of the sun and rain. A month later, some random guy finds it, investigates, and finds a membership card to American Corner. They have our phone number, so they call us, and I go get my wallet. Weird, right? Anyway, when I got my wallet back, it was a bit more worn than it already was when it was stolen, but it’s still definitely useable. It was really interesting seeing how weather-worn the papers inside were. So, now I don’t have to buy a new wallet! Hooray. On the way back from getting my wallet, we got stopped by a guy speaking pretty good English. Apparently he’s a cop, and he gave us his phone number in case we ever need any help. What a great guy. During the rest of the day we did some other stuff like printing off some signs to put in the church’s front windows so that potential visitors will know when we have church and such. That evening we had a lesson with our newest member, and then a quick dinner with him and his girlfriend at Woki, the restaurant right next to the church. I don’t remember if I ever mentioned it, but there used to be this waitress that was ALWAYS there, and then she quit so she could take a vacation for a few weeks. The last time we saw her there, we gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. Guess what? SHE’S BACK. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to just turn around and get the job again after being gone for such a short time. I guess they couldn’t turn her down, with all that experience. We’ll be following up with her soon about her reading.

On Thursday we talked to a library about potentially donating some books about the church, or Krešimir Ćosić (the first member of the church over here in the Balkans). So, we’ll probably be doing that soon, if we can. Shortly after that, we were in the church and ran into Elder Newton just as we were about to go have lunch, as was he. So, we went adventuring around a bit looking for a doner place that had the kind of doner he wanted. Some places were closed, and some places just didn’t have the right type. We eventually got one, though. That evening, before ECG, we had another lesson with our investigator/ECG/friend lady (do you all know who I’m talking about by now?), and our newest member was again on that lesson to help us. We discovered some of her concerns, and I feel like we have a better idea of what direction to go with her now. For ECG, we just had our two groups combined, and played a game of Taboo (or Catchphrase) for the last half. That was a pretty good time.

On Friday, we started the paperwork to try and get a spot in the center of town to have a little display table or something of the sort. Some way to have people come to us, or to play music. Maybe chalk drawings of the plan of salvation, or something. A bit later on, we also talked with the sisters to plan out a concert of sorts, so that’ll be coming up soon.

Saturday morning was service up at the horseback riding center, like usual. The only thing that was different, though, was that no riders came for us to serve. So, we ended up cleaning. That means scooping horse poop in the sun, haha. It was pretty interesting. Anyway, after service we went with the sisters and Newtons to lunch at Burger Bar, then went to clean the church. When I finished picking what songs we’d sing on Sunday, I started practicing some music for that concert thing, specifically the song “Savior, Redeemer” from the movie 17 Miracles. While doing so, we got a call from Sister Melonakos asking if I could play the accompaniment for that very song at Zone Conference. And then we got a text from the Zone Leaders asking if I could play accompaniment at Zone Conference. And then Elder Smith mentioned that Sister Melonakos also mentioned that I might have to accompany everyone to sing the mission song. I wonder if anyone else in the zone plays piano… Anyway, we also went to visit a member, and that was pretty good.

On Sunday we of course had church, but this week was fast Sunday. Our investigator ECG friend lady came (I really need to figure out something shorter to call her), and really seemed to like it. There was also a visiting member from the US, and she was pretty cool to meet. Apparently she’ll be here next week too. After church there wasn’t much of anything too interesting until around 10pm when all of the elders from the whole zone were in our apartment. Of course, that’s only 6 in total, but it’s still a lot for what our apartment has in terms of beds. Also, all 5 of the sisters from the zone were in the sisters’ apartment. So, all 11 of us were in one city. Maybe you’re wondering why. That’s because this morning we all loaded up into some cars and headed out for a zone p-day on the way to zone conference.

The view of the bridge in Mostar from the restaurant.
So yeah, today’s been a solid amount of driving. We went over to Mostar, a really cool city in Herzegovina that has a really cool old bridge and such. The bridge is about 75 feet over the river, I think (Wikipedia would know better than me; feel free to investigate). Also, relatively close to Mostar is a dervish cut into the side of a cliff, right next to the river that goes into a cave. We went to see those things, and they were pretty cool. Later on in our ride today towards Banja Luka for zone conference, we briefly hit Jajce and got to see an old underground church, plus a cool fort thing.

That's basically all the time I have right now. Please figure out something spiritual to read for your homework from me ;) Pictures will have to come next week, I think. Stay awesome!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, July 31, 2017

Week 50: A Mystery Microwave Lasagna, and a lot of Enchiladas

Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying life. I don't really know what else to say as an intro, so here we go.

I forget what I told you last Monday about what we did, but long story short is that we went up on the mountain again to see the old Olympic bobsled track, and old WWII memorial, and some other stuff. After that, when we came back into town, we made a stop at one of the huge malls, and I bought a tie that was 75% off of its original price. That evening we also had branch FHE, which was mostly playing sports in the park. We had a few of our friends from ECG also show up to that, and it was great. That night, Elder Smith and I finally took the baptismal font down, now that the hole is (hopefully) patched and sealed up. I guess we'll see how well that patch does its job the next time we have a baptism, haha.

Me and Elder Smith at the Olympic Bobsled track in Sarajevo.
On Tuesday morning, we had a "lesson" in a café with the husband and wife that I mentioned a long time ago (right when we got the new Croatian translation of The Book of Mormon). That was the first time we'd been able to meet with them since that first lesson out at their place. Let's just say the setting was less than ideal, with how loud it was and everyone smoking, but I still think we made a small amount of progress. When we left, we smelled like cigarettes. At some point in the afternoon, we went to go pick up a package that we'd ordered a while back that finally arrived. The package was a Croatian triple combination (so, scriptures) that we were getting as a gift for our newest member. That's the 3rd Croatian triple combination I've seen in my life, since they're so new. Anyway, we ended up writing some notes in it (the sisters too) in preparation for giving it to him.

Wednesday wasn't terribly eventful, except for having tacos for lunch, and then something that happened while we were contacting. We talked to a lady who seemed interested, but she said that she lives outside of town, so she wouldn't have time to come into the city later in the week, but that she had time right there. So, she got her two granddaughters out of the nearby store, and then we all sat down at a nearby café and talked about The Book of Mormon and such. Apparently she was Orthodox, and she was really funny. She kept jokingly asking us if we were some sect and if we were trying to pull her off the right path. She was pretty interested in what The Book of Mormon said about Jesus, though, and how that lines up with the Bible. At the end, we gave her a Croatian copy, and she looks at it, then asks if we have it in Cyrillic. So, we say yes and I give her the one Serbian copy that I happen to have in my bag. She was pleased with that.

My Bosnian nametag against the backdrop of the Bosnian mountains.
That night we were doing some phone calls to potential investigators to try to set up lesson, and towards the end we get a call from an unknown number. Elder Smith talked to him, and apparently the guy said that we'd called him, but he'd just missed the call. The confusing part is that we didn't have his number in our phone anywhere at all. Our phone didn't recognize it. So, either he has two phone numbers and just called us back from the other one(?), or that was a miracle. He asked if he could come to church, and we obviously said yes, and gave him the details.

Thursday morning we had a huge runaround with an investigator that lives out of town that told us he was in town and could meet, but then ditched us, mixed in with the repair guys surprisedly calling us saying that they were already at the church to look at our AC unit (and we weren't there to let them in). A bit off a mess of a morning. Though, one big highlight of the day was lunch! Haha. We decided to make mashed potatoes and fried chicken, with gravy. That was probably the most classically American meal that I've had in a good while. So good. They have burgers and pizza around here, which are good, but they do it a bit differently from in America. In any case, we're planning on having that again for lunch this week at some point.

Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, which me and Elder Smith made ourselves.
Later on in the day, just before ECG, we had our first actual lesson with that lady (who we originally met through ECG) that had come to the recent baptism. We also had a member present on the lesson: the most recent convert! He was super useful to have on that lesson, and helped answer her questions in a really clear way. That night for dinner I really didn't want to put any effort into it, and somehow found a microwave lasagna in the freezer, even though I didn't remember buying it. So, I guess you could call that another miracle for the week, haha.

On Friday we visited Haris, and discovered that he was feeling sick, so we gave him a blessing. He then helped us figure out who some inactive members might be for us or the sisters to visit, and we made some good progress there. On the bus ride back, we talked to some cool college-age kids that were apparently learning English, and invited them to come to ECG this next week. From the bus, we had to rush over to a lesson with a guy that Elder Perry and I had contacted back on my birthday, in March. He's in a branch of Islam that specifically focuses on love and tolerance, and avoiding hate. What a great guy. We ended up having our lesson in a café, which is of course sub-optimal, but it actually wasn't too bad this time. We had a very respectful conversation, and learned plenty about what he believes. He told us he'd talk to us in a month or two when he finishes reading The Book of Mormon... that's fine. Immediately after that, we had a lesson with our most recent member, and talked about the priesthood a bit, and answered some of his questions. I love that he always has questions.

The old WWII Memorial in Sarajevo.
Saturday morning we had service, and so we went up kinda early. We had the same rider as last week (in case you forgot, the service we do here is hippo-therapy: therapy for children with special needs, using horseback riding), and he seemed to have a really good time with it again. That afternoon we cleaned the church and such, and set some goals for August with the sisters. After that, we went to visit our member-friend across the city that likes to paint. Stuff still hasn't quite finished up with the sale of his mother's old property, but it should be soon. He is doing better, though.

On Sunday, we of course had church. Most of church was just as good as normal, but then at the end we had a big potluck lunch (which was of course awesome). Sister Newton brought a whole bunch of enchiladas, and so we of course ended up taking home a very large quantity of leftovers. We're set for our meals this week. It was really good to have some time to get to know everyone even better, and get various members talking more with each other.

Now, your homework for this week might be kinda hard. I'd like you to read/listen to a series of talks called "A House of Glory" by S. Michael Wilcox. The only problem is that I think it might cost money. We've listened to it over the last week or two, since Elder Smith already had it. In any case, as a backup plan, your secondary homework is to read section 88 in the Doctrine and Covenants, which is the section that says "establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God" in verse 119. See what you can learn about temples. Now, if you don't know what a temple is, your tertiary homework is to read this talk: The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World, by Thomas S. Monson. Or maybe you can just do all three homework assignments for extra credit. Just learn more about temples!

The Washington D.C. Temple. Our church has about 150 temples worldwide.
Well, that's all I've got for this week, folks. I hope you all are doing well and also doing good (that is, doing good things, perhaps like serving others). Here's a photo from last Monday up at the WWII memorial and a panoramic from the main road in a village in the Bosnian countryside.
Have a great week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, July 24, 2017

Week 49: Exchanges, and a Pigeon-Slaying Cat

Hello Everyone! Here we are again at another Monday and I have to figure out something to write about. Good thing I have my journal as source material. Anyway, the weather this week has been about the same as before: just really hot, but not to the point of dying.

Last Monday, after emailing we met two young guys for a lesson, but they had to be somewhere else soon, so it was a very brief lesson. From there we went to do some contacting, and then met the sisters over by the Cathedral to go to the Srebrenica museum. Somehow this was my third time, and I'm still learning stuff about the Yugoslav wars.

This is the Srebenica Museum.
That evening we had another FHE activity for the branch, which included making grilled cheese sandwiches and watching Meet The Mormons. Our newest member was there of course, and he brought his girlfriend! It was really good to have them there, especially with what movie it was. She didn't really know who we are, and he didn't really have any exposure to what the church is like outside of Sarajevo. I think it was awesome for them to get to see that we're a world-wide church with full-size congregations across the world. (If you want to watch the trailer to the movie, click the first image below. If you want to watch the full movie, click the second image below).

"Meet the Mormons" Movie Trailer

 "Meet the Mormons" Full Movie

On Tuesday we started off the day with some phone calls (you end up doing a lot of phone calls as a missionary, trying to keep up with all of your not-quite-investigator friends), and then around lunch time the Banja Luka elders got into town to start exchanges. Elder Smith went up to Banja Luka, and Elder King stayed here with me, so it was like he'd never left! Right off the bat, we had an awesome first lesson with a college-age guy, teaching the Restoration. After that we had a lesson with another pair of younger guys, both Muslims, one being a painter and the other a trumpet player. The painter just kinda chilled and looked at the paintings around the church while his trumpet playing friend grilled us on all of the questions designed to stump Christians. Thankfully we aren't quite like the Christians that he's accustomed to talking to, and we held up really well against it, and committed them both to read The Book of Mormon to see if it's true. After that we had language study and ECG, and at ECG we got one of our participants to agree to meet up with us to learn more about the church! She's the one that came to the baptism, and she's really cool.

Enjoying ice cream during exchanges with Elder King, the Sister Missionaries, and Sister Newton.
Wednesday, Elder King and I went up the hill to visit that less-active member and deliver some cookies, but he and his wife weren't there, so we just left the cookies on the doorstep (they undoubtedly got melted beyond all belief before anyone could eat them), and then started knocking on nearby doors. We got some pretty interesting stuff, including a lady that said she was 90 years old who got really mad at us for preaching religion, and she even simply insulted our language skills. She didn't seem to speak English, though...anyway, we did find one new investigator and one "almost" one that we'll come back to visit sometime soon. After lunch at Woki, we had district meeting and then comp study. Our appointment with that ECG participant lady then fell through, but we were able to meet with a different ECG participant whose father passed away recently and buy some magnets from him. Long story. To shorten it up, we're trying to make sure that he knows that we're here for him. Also, on the way over to that, we found a wallet on the ground filled with Turkish money and credit cards. Thankfully there was a phone number on a business card that had the same name as all of the credit cards, so we called it, had our native-Bosnian friend from ECG talk to him, and then he went to return the wallet, around the corner and across the street to the place where the guy apparently was. That evening, the Newtons took us all to the rotating restaurant, since Elder King never got a farewell dinner, but he was in town again for the exchange.

The view from the rotating restaurant.
On Thursday morning, Elder King and I had to sit at the church to wait for another repairman to come to check out the air conditioning. Yaaaay. A bit later in the day, our RM friend, Haris, came into town to help us with some missionary work. We went contacting with him, and got a new investigator really quick. It was a girl that had actually met the missionaries 2 or 3 years ago. I always think it's cool to know that missionaries have been in this city non-stop for the last 5 years, talking with people almost every day the whole time. When you add it up, that's kinda a lot of people that have spoken, even briefly, with missionaries.

Missionaries stay busy all the time and talk to a lot of people!
After contacting, we had a second lesson scheduled with that really cool young guy from Tuesday, but he didn't show up and wouldn't answer his phone. #whiffed. At that point, Elders Smith and Hole arrived back from Banja Luka in preparation for interviews with President Melonakos and the end of the exchange. The Melonakoses were a bit late though, so we were able to get Elder Smith's stuff back into the apartment really quick before interviews. While President was interviewing everyone, Sister Melonakos sat with the rest of us in the other room, just talking. We also learned the new "mission song" and had a good time with that. The Melonakoses are really great. I'm glad that they're here. After that, Elder Smith and I had a lesson with an older lady, and of course the lesson ran long, almost making us late to ECG. That's fine, though.

On Friday morning we started off with a lesson with our good friend/investigator that's been around since shortly after I arrived. So, we've been teaching him for something like 5 or 6 months. He's still doing well though, he just has a hard time finding time to meet up because of his job. This was the first time we were able to meet up with him since he attended the recent baptism, so we got to talk about that with him. He said that he was surprised how happy everyone was; everyone was acting like it was their own baptism and special day, they were so happy, not just the baptism of one person. After that lesson, we had a lesson with our newest member again. We talked with him about his questions, about the priesthood, and then set up an account for him on LDS.org and FamilySearch, so now he can go do family history work! He seemed pretty excited about that. That evening, we got on a bus to go out of town a bit to visit a member and meet his family some more. They fed us ice cream, some cake, and then sandwiches (in that order). The mom told us some stories from the war, and it was really interesting to hear from a first person perspective.

Saturday morning, we of course had service up at the horseback riding place, and that was pretty great. After that we cleaned the church and such, and then spent some time with that ECG participant whose father recently passed away. Then we went to visit that member that lives in that center across town. He's doing a lot better already, just knowing that he'll be out of there soon. While we were sitting outside talking, I saw a cat sneaking towards a large group of pigeons. Shortly thereafter, the group of pigeons exploded up into the air as the cat ran at them, leaping into the air and grabbing one of the pigeons. The cat pulled it down to the ground and killed it, while some crows made a huge ruckus about the attack. Then the cat calmly walked off with it's dead pigeon. During this whole time, Elder Smith and I were having a hard time paying any attention to what our member friend was saying. Oops. In any case, it was a good lesson, and we got to see a feral cat take down a hideous flying beast. From there we went home, made some more phone calls, and had dinner.

As for Sunday, we of course had church, and that lady from ECG came! So, we're making progress there. I might've mentioned it a week or two ago, but Branch President Newton asked me to play a special musical number on accordion today. So, I did. This week I had borrowed an accordion from a member to practice some, and then during church yesterday I played "If You Could Hie To Kolob". People seemed to like it. Haris taught Sunday school about sunflowers and our tendency to follow after things pertaining to light and truth, and then at the end our investigator/ECG friend lady (I apologize for not being able to use names) asked a bunch of somewhat unrelated (but very good) questions. It was great to have her there.

Me playing the accordion.
As for today, we started off with going grocery shopping and doing some reimbursements, and then we went with the sisters up on the mountain to look at the bobsled track and get some cool views of the city.

Your homework is to read Why the Church by Elder D. Todd Christofferson. Why would God establish an imperfect organization of imperfect people and call it his? Why do we even need to go to church? Read and find out ;)

Have an awesome week! I hope you all are doing well. Enjoy the pictures.
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, July 17, 2017

Week 48: FHE, Translation, and Pizza

Hello everyone! I hope you all are having a great summer so far and that the weather is nice wherever you are. Over here it's been going between being barely too hot, and just right. So, no complaints here.

Anyway, last Monday evening we missionaries held a branch Family Home Evening (FHE) activity to start facilitating friendships between members and investigators. We played some games, including crazy Uno, and it was great. The turnout was pretty low, since it was the first time, but the people that did come were one member and one investigator, so I think it was effective anyway. We'll be doing it again this week, but we've had more people say that they're coming already.

On Tuesday we went to an inactive member's house to visit him and his wife who isn't a member. They fed us lunch, and we taught them the Restoration for our spiritual message. After that we contacted, had comp study, had a lesson with our recent convert, got ditched for a different lesson, had dinner, and then ECG. Pretty standard day, I guess. The new investigator that we found was a guy from Holland, and he apparently is here on an internship.

Sarajevo is a beautiful place.
On Wednesday we tried getting some appointments set up with a less-active member or an investigator that lives out of town, but those didn't work out, so we ended up with just district meeting and a lot of finding. We used that large block of finding time to go out to a part of our area that is far enough away from our apartment that it never really gets touched. While we were out there, we happened to discover that there's a place where you can go bowling: in Zetra, the old Olympic Hall. Apparently they've re-purposed the place into a recreational center of sorts. We're definitely going to check that out one of these P-days.
Thursday morning we were supposed to meet a guy for him to fix the AC in the church, but we were kinda late getting there. I guess it's a good thing he was almost two hours late...? A bit later we had a quick park lesson, and then for lunch we had some leftover burritos. Our lesson with our Dutch friend fell through, and his number wasn't working, so we ended up going out to visit that less-active member. It was a pretty good visit, and as some spoilers, he ended up coming to church this week! While we were visiting him, he also told us some good news; pretty soon he and his siblings will be selling their mom's old property and splitting the money, so that'll be enough for him to buy an apartment. That'll be really good, since right now he's pretty much in a homeless shelter that has plenty of mentally unsound residents. It'll be good for him to get out of there.

Sisters Turner, Orchard, and Beus teach the advanced class in our English Conversation Group (ECG).
Anyway, that evening for ECG, we switched groups with the sisters so that we were the ones with the advanced group. That was pretty fun, getting to know those other participants a bit better. After ECG, our newest member and I helped Sister Turner translate an article for the church's Bosnia page, and that was pretty funny. Sister Turner or I would translate a sentence from English into Bosnian, knowing of course precisely what it means in English, and then our native friend would say that it doesn't make sense, but he'd agree that we got the translation right. So, he was basically just complaining about what it said in English, haha.

We see lots of interesting buildings while we are out and about in Sarajevo.
Friday we had a lot of contacting, and contacted down the river a bit to a really good pizza place called Montana's. After we ordered and were waiting, we discovered that they had stuffed crust pizza. So, now we know what we'll be ordering for next time! A bit later in the afternoon, we did a "finding activity" with the sisters. A scavenger hunt of sorts. We each had a list of particular people to find and try to talk to, such as "an old man with an ice cream cone", or "a college-aged couple". It kinda seemed like any time we'd contact a normal person who wasn't specifically on the list, then someone would walk by us that was on the list, while we were busy talking. In any case, the sisters won, and so we bought them popcorn from the movie theater (we might not be able to watch movies, but that doesn't mean we can't walk into the theater and get popcorn, haha). After that we spent some time with our newest member and his girlfriend, so that we can get to be friends with her too. At the end, even though we didn't specifically talk about religion the whole time, she saw the copy of The Book of Mormon that Elder Smith was holding, and asked to see it, asking what it was. He of course explained it to her, let her keep the copy, and she said that she'd read it. Progress!

The streets of Sarajevo at night.
For Saturday, we started off with contacting, and then had a lesson in the afternoon with our newest member, talking about the priesthood. We don't have any details yet, but the plan is for him to receive the priesthood really soon. So, we're excited for that. After that lesson we cleaned the church with the sisters and figured out a special musical number for church. That night after language study we went contacting some more. We met a guy that basically said "I don't really get what you want to talk about when we meet up, but I'm down. Recently I've been having some really bad luck with dating, and maybe you all can help me figure it out" so that was pretty funny. Sadly he had to cancel for the lesson because he was feeling really sick, but we'll get him eventually.

On Sunday I played the piano for a musical number sung by the other missionaries.
On Sunday, we had a visiting family of members come to church. They've been living in London, but are just on vacation right now around the Balkans. One of the sons passed the sacrament, some of the daughters helped with primary, and I sat with some of them during Sunday School to translate for them. It was really great to have them there. They seemed to enjoy getting to see how the church is doing well even way out here so far from any temples or stakes. After church, we missionaries had a bit of lunch together at the church while Elder Smith was waiting for the office to be free and while the sisters were waiting for a lesson. The rest of the day was just kinda planning and the regular stuff.

Have I mentioned how much I like the food here? Look at this dough pocket full of sausage!
The grocery stores have lots of fun snacks
Today we've paid bills and gotten haircuts and gone grocery shopping and looked for printer int, and it's not even 12:00 yet. Adventures yet await.

Your homework for this week is a bit of a correction from last week. I'm pretty sure I mixed up two chapters. I said to read 2 Nephi 2, but that description was actually about 2 Nephi 31. So, whichever of those two chapters you didn't read last week, read this week. Sorry about the confusion!

Have an awesome week and enjoy life! Talk to you next week.
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb