Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, November 20, 2017

Week 66: Pizza XL, an Audit, and an Unfinished Email




Hello there, friends and family. It is once again Monday, and that means that you once again have something from me sitting in your inbox. This week the weather we pretty consistently just overcast. Very grey. It didn't really rain, though, so that was good.
On Tuesday we started off with a lot of phone calls and stuff from the area book until we had lunch, then we went contacting for a while. We also fixed up a survey thing to use for a different type of contacting, and almost got it finished. That evening we only had 1 person come to ECG, but he's awesome so it was ok.
We've had a lot of gray weather! This is Elder King; notice the old phone booth on the right!

Wednesday started off with more contacting until lunch, and then we had district meeting. Elder Criddle gave the language tip on the three words that all can mean "from" in various contexts and when to use which. Elder Decker gave the lesson on discouragement and how to try to fight it. After that and after more contacting, we had language study back at the apartment, during which I started translating a short article into Bosnian for the church website. Since the article was about a branch party over in Sarajevo, I discovered that I really don't know how they say names of American foods such as Chili, S'mores, or marshmallows. That evening we again went with the Deckers to visit one of those member families from before. This is the same family that had a friend there last time who was interested in learning about our church a bit more. Unfortunately, she wasn't there this time for us to get to know her better. In other news, I again translated almost the entire conversation between the Deckers and the family both ways the entire time. It's so crazy with so many people talking at once, but I really love it. It's kinda like a game to me.
Thursday morning we again started off with calls from the area book, and then we had lunch at a restaurant called Pizza XL, for something new. It's a pretty cool place with good food, and not really expensive either. It kinda reminded me of some of the restaurants in Sarajevo. For language study later I finished translating that article, and then we of course did more contacting. No one showed up for English, but Sister Decker brought garlic rolls so that made it ok, and then we finished up putting together that survey thing, with the input of the other elders. They wanted to try Pizza XL for dinner, and we kinda gave in and just went with them for round 2. But don't worry, I ordered something different the second time.
Enjoying some great food in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia with Elders Criddle, King, and Jones.
Friday morning we had a pre-audit thing for the branch finances, and since Elder Criddle and I are the Assistant Branch Clerk and Branch Clerk, we were there with Elder Decker. It was really quick since it was a pre-audit, but then I finished up some stuff on the computer that needed to get done, and then we had grilled cheese for lunch back at the apartment. That afternoon we went out with the other elders into Centar to try out the survey thing. It was a lot easier to get people talking to us when we had a pen and paper in our hand and asked if they could take a survey. Also, we of course put questions on the survey like, "Have you ever heard the word 'Mormon' before now?" and it was pretty easy to get a discussion going with them from that kind of thing. There was one funny teenage couple that we talked to that may or may not come to ECG soon, since we told them about it. At the very least, we got to be pretty good friends with them pretty fast. I really like this survey thing. I don't know why missionaries don't do it more often or why I've never done it before, since it seems a lot more effective to me than normal contacting. After that, we had another lesson with "Miles", then came home for dinner. We had American pancakes, then made some phone calls to set up lessons, and finished off the day with language study.
Visiting the Burger House...I love the food here!
Saturday started off with a typical round of contacting before lunch and studies. Our original plan for that afternoon was to use our survey again, but we ended up making calls from the area book again and getting a good number of appointments set up. That evening we of course helped clean the church like we do on Saturdays, and then we had our game night.


I'm totally out of time now, so I'll finish next week. Here are some pictures. Sorry! Have a great week!
--
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb
Croatia

Monday, November 13, 2017

Week 65: Exchanges, Pink Eggnog, and Old Slavic Graves




Hello everyone! Welcome back! I don't know if you went anywhere, but welcome back. This week, the weather was just kinda boring. Grey skies. Winter in Serbia.
So, last Monday we finished weekly planning since it didn't get done on Sunday, and then later in the day we went to go find a guy that we had a lesson scheduled with, but he wasn't at his store nor his home. There were some nice old people that talked to us on the way over there, though. A bit later we of course did our emailing. That's pretty much the only interesting stuff that happened on Monday.
On Tuesday we got with the other Elders to get some documents scanned for our visas, and then we went to the police office to turn them all in. That took a notable amount of time, so then we had lunch together at Tešić again and got ćevapi. That evening, a new lady came to ECG, and she's pretty cool. Apparently she's applying for a job on a cruise shop, and wants to refresh her English skills. After ECG we went with the Deckers to visit two members, a mom and her daughter. She had some really good questions, and it was more good translation practice for me when the Deckers got involved in the conversation.
Tuesday we had district meeting, after which we started exchanges. I went with Elder King, and Elder Criddle went with Elder Jones. After that, basically me and Elder King just did a lot of contacting, since we didn't have anything else to do. We talked to this one guy that really liked talking, even though he didn't really want to listen to what we had to say. He was pretty funny. Anytime he'd start walking away, he'd start telling us something else that'd keep him around for another 5 minutes. Elder King even got him to stay around to hear a joke before talking more. Eventually we finished the conversation, and continued on. We got tired of contacting after a number of hours, so we got some ice cream. Elder King ordered some mystery pink ice cream, and it ended up being eggnog flavored, I guess. Then we went home to do area book work.
Thursday morning, while I was eating a freshly-opened box of cereal, the cereal box tipped over and fell straight downward to the floor while upside down. So, about 70% of my cereal ended up on the floor, and the other 30% either landed on my bag or was still in the box. Oops. That morning Elder King and I went over to a lesson that the other Elders had, and it was an older lady that was pretty cool. Then Elder King and I had comp study before another lesson with "Miles". We talked about recognizing the Spirit, and it seemed to really click with him. After that, I did some work for Data Master, and Elder King started making a survey for us to use soon during contacting. Then we went contacting. Once ECG rolled around, we switched companions again so that Elder Criddle and Elder King could go to a member home for a birthday dinner. Btw, it was Elder Criddle's birthday. Sister Decker brought cinnamon rolls to ECG for him, but he wasn't there. Elder Jones and I had tacos for dinner after ECG before switching back to me being on exchanges with Elder King.
Cinnamon Rolls for Elder Criddle's birthday!

On Friday morning we had breakfast at the Deckers' so that Elder Criddle could have some of those cinnamon rolls. They were super good, btw. After that, Elder King and I did more contacting. Somehow we ended up looking at the big old gravestones around the outside of a little Orthodox church. Apparently the oldest church here in Sremska Mitrovica. The gravestones were written in really old Slavic writing, and it was really interesting to us. We met up again with Elders Criddle and Jones to switch back, but first we ordered some really low quality food for lunch. Elder Criddle and I had some study, some phone calls, then some contacting. He and Elder King were going to go to help Elder Decker with some service stuff, so I almost switched to be with Elder Jones again, but the thing got cancelled at the last minute.
A really old gravestone with Slavic writing.
On Saturday morning we had another lesson with "Danny", and we answered some of his questions. We also went through the talk from this October 2017 General Conference about miracles, by Elder Hallstrom. At the end he had some more questions, and we read a chapter from the Book of Mormon with him, since he hasn't been having the desire to read it at all. We had lunch with the other Elders over at Te[i] again, and then had language study before Elders Criddle and King went off to that service thing (football practice) that got re-scheduled. Elder Jones and I went contacting a while, including trying to find a guy that Elder King and I had met, but the store where he said he works was locked, even though the hours said they should be open. Then we went over to a different lesson. That guy was pretty old, and definitely an atheist. He said he wouldn't believe in God even if an angel came and told him to believe. He was nice, though. That evening we had a branch game night, and it was great. We played some ping pong, had some music, played some Uno, and had some desserts.
Yesterday, Sunday, we of course had church, and a lot of members showed up, but not many investigators. Good talks, good lessons. After church Elder King translated a meeting for Elder Decker, Elder Criddle and I did the tithing / fast offerings stuff, and then went home for weekly planning. After that we had a wonderful dinner at the Deckers', finished planning, had language study, etc.
The Sava River, here in Sremska Mitrovica.

Today we had another lesson with "Miles", and he's doing fairly well. Still having some problems with making it to church, but he shows up to lessons consistently. We also got lunch with the other elders, of course, and here we are emailing. That's pretty much it for today, besides our normal stuff.
Your homework for this week is to read that talk, Has the Day of Miracles Ceased? by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom. It's really good, and helps explain why good people may or may not get the expected answer to their prayers.

Elder King and a really warm coat.
That's all for now. Here's a photo of Elder King trying on a coat that he might eventually by, plus a panoramic from along the Sava river, here in Sremska. Have a great week!

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Week 64: More Translation, Mission Tour, and The Testaments



Hello friends and family! Another week here in Sremska Mitrovica has passed, and I'm still here! Not much of a surprise there, though. Anyway, on to the interesting things of the week.
On Tuesday we got some posters to advertise for our English Conversation Group (ECG) and went around town posting them wherever we could, also trying to tell people about it. Then we had lunch and studies before working on getting the computer some, since we needed to finish putting the new one in. We also had a really good lesson with "Miles", focusing on repentance. That guy really seems to "get it". It doesn't even matter what "it" is. He just gets it. Anyway, we put him on date to get baptized on November 18th, and he said he'd of course come to church on Sunday. Foreshadowing: he didn't end up coming, so we'll have to push back the baptism. That evening we of course had ECG, but no one came, so the other Elders had their language study, and we finished the computer thing for good, finally. That evening we quickly stopped by the graveyard to see if there were any candles out yet for All Saints' Day, but there weren't yet, so then we went home and did some work in the area book.
Me and Elder Criddle, in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia.
Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia
Wednesday for lunch we called in an order to a little grill place around the corner so they'd have our food ready when we got there, but when we did get there, they said that we didn't call. Apparently we called a different place with the same name... oops. We had district meeting and it was of course pretty good, and then we went with the Deckers to visit a family in the branch. It's a husband and wife who have a son that's serving as a missionary at the moment. They're really cool people. Of course, they only speak Serbian, and the Deckers are still practicing their Serbian, so I got to translate almost everything, both directions. Live translating is actually really fun, though. I'm a lot better at that than speaking for myself in Serbian. Immediately after we visited them, we went to the building next door to visit a different family in the branch, and it was about the same thing, where I translated both directions. So in total I was speaking almost nonstop for 2 hours, haha. Again, I really like translating. Anyway, at the lesson with that second family, they'd brought a friend of theirs that isn't a member of the church and had been there before when the missionaries had come and taught the restoration, so we also taught the Plan of Salvation. Now we just need to get them to take her to church! At the end of the night, the Tuzla elders (Elders Snell and Woodhouse) were coming in to stay at our place for the night since Zone Conference was going to be the next day, and it was one combined with Bosnia and Serbia zones. Apparently they got stuck at a country border for over 3 hours. That reminded me of the time last year when I was in a car that got stuck at a border for over 4, if I remember correctly. In any case, they came in kinda late.

On Thursday we grabbed some breakfast from a bakery with them and then drove up to Belgrade for the conference. There was a bit of a crazy parking situation when we got there, and it was a mess, but somehow we particularly found a single free (i.e. available AND not requiring payment) parking space. Almost everyone else was late to the conference because of the parking stuff. Elder DeFeo from the 70 was there, and he was great. The whole conference was great, really, including the Chinese food for lunch. After the thing ended, there was of course a great commotion of people taking pictures and talking with old companions and such, and like always, it was really good to see good friends that I haven't seen in a while.
It was wonderful to be with so many missionaries during our special zone conference.
We picked up some packages and letters, and then eventually headed over to the bus station, since our bus wasn't for a good hour or so. On the bus ride home, some random guy nearby started talking to us, and apparently he used to be neighbors with the missionaries in Sremska, so he knew generally who we were. At one point I asked him about his family, and he showed us some photos on his phone, and in the end I gave him a "The Family, a Proclamation to the World" that I happened to have in my bag.
I got to see the Newtons at our zone conference!
On Friday we of course did contacting, phone calls, lunch, studies, etc. For language study I read some of the Bible in Slovene, to try and make sure that I don't forget Slovene. Right at the end of language study, our landlady showed up to ask if there was anything that needed to be repaired, or things like that, and so I had to of course speak Serbian. While I didn't have any problem really speaking Serbian right after reading 5 chapters of the Slovene Bible, my brain was definitely confused. I kept questioning whether or not what I'd just said was correct, since I was speaking Serbian but still somewhat thinking in Slovene. Oops. Anyway, we had another lesson with "Miles", and we read 3 Nephi 11 with him, and he said again that he'd come to church. A bit after that lesson, we crossed the river to look for some new people to talk to, and we did actually find 2! One of them was a lady that agreed to meet us the next morning right next to the bridge. That night for dinner, we went with the other Elders to the home of a really strong member family. They have one daughter off on a mission, and the other one still home, and the mom does some translation work for the church. They're really cool people. I got to have Sarma again for the first time in a long time, and it was great. Also, even though all 3 of them speak really good English (the daughter's English is just about as good as mine, haha), they spoke Serbian to us the whole time, assumedly because they know that we love and need the practice.
My Slovene nametags came! I'm not sure I'll ever need them now.
Saturday morning we of course went to meet that lady by the bridge, and she did actually show up. Though, the meeting lasted about 3 minutes, since she basically just ran off as soon as she had her free copy of The Book of Mormon in her hands. #freeStuff. Then a guy came up to us to ask for money. Long story short, we ended up inviting him to come to church on Sunday. After that we had interviews with President Melonakos at the chuch, had American pancakes for lunch at our apartment, and then later had a lesson with "Davis", and he still won't read the Book of Mormon, but he had a lot of good questions about Apostles. After that we cleaned the church with the help of a dear non-member friend and the Deckers, Then we went to get some food really quick, and there was another ordering mixup. Oops. To end the day off, we had a branch activity where we watched "Zaveti" or rather, "The Testaments" with Serbian subtitles. I love that movie. Our dear non-member friend was there for that, and everyone (including him) was crying at the end, since the movie is so good. I'd highly recommend it.
A scene from the movie "The Testaments"

On Sunday we of course had church, and that guy that asked us for money did actually come, and he stayed the whole time. I'm not sure we're ever going to see him again, though. I taught Sunday School, and it was ok. Like I said before, I highly prefer translating what someone else is saying than trying to come up with stuff on my own to say. Oh well. I think it went fine. After church we counted tithes and fast offerings, since I'm the branch clerk, and then I got my last bit of training to be Data Master. That is, I maintain numbers for all the branches in the mission. I don't know what the Venn diagram looks like, but I'm also mission clerk. After that we had dinner at the Deckers with the other elders and that dear non-member friend, and he discovered that his favorite basketball player from back in the day is Elder Jones' grandfather, who was pals with Krešimir Ćosić back in the day. #zadarBasketball
Well folks, your homework this week is to watch "The Testaments" if you can find it. I'm sure it's out there somewhere. My favorite part is at the end when Christ approaches Helam, calls him by name, then heals his sight. I like it because Christ already knew him by name, without being introduced or anything. He knows each of us personally.


Here are photos, one of me and Elder Criddle here in Sremska, and then one of my new Slovene nametags! They finally got here! Haha. Have a great week!
--
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb
Croatia

Monday, October 30, 2017

Week 63: Back in Serbia, Pleskavica, and Translating



Hello once again! It seems like I do this every week or something. This week in Serbia the weather has been a little bit colder than it was last week in Slovenia. But, that's ok. Now it's finally cold enough that I can always wear a jacket, instead of having to figure out whether or not to take one with me.
On Monday morning we helped the sisters (all 6 of the sisters serving in Slovenia) get their luggage switched around and situated into the various cars. Elder Jensen and I got haircuts from Sister Monson, then had Kebab on the way from their apartment to ours to do apartment cleaning inspection. That night we went over to a member's place for dinner, and she'd invited over 3 other members to eat with us. That was really good for a farewell of sorts. I like these people.
On Tuesday morning, Elder Jensen and I loaded up the Celje car and drove off to Zagreb to meet a whole bunch of other Elders at the huge Ikea that they have there. I think literally a third of our mission was there to switch companions and luggage and cars for the transfers. It was great to see some old pals. That's where I got my new companion, Elder Criddle of Idaho, and we then drove off in the direction of Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia.

There was a big missionary reunion of sorts in the IKEA parking lot.

These were my MTC roommates! It was great to see them.

On the road, we eventually discovered that we were very low on gas, and then had a hard time finding a gas station. By the time we found one and were rolling in to fill up, the car said that it couldn't go any further, but we did get there and filled up and kept on our way. When we got to the border of Serbia, they asked us if we had any books. Yes, in fact, we had dictionaries and scriptures. When they had us pull over and I showed them our suitcases, I told them we had our personal stuff and that we were just going to Sremska. They guy did let us through, but he didn't look happy about it, haha. When we finally got to Sremska, we dropped of my stuff at the apartment really quick got lunch, did part of transfer planning, met the Deckers (the senior couple here), and then had ECG. Then we went with the Deckers in the car to the edge of town to an abandoned hotel to pick up Elders King and Jones. Long story. We showed them their apartment and got them set up, got dinner with them, and then went home for me to unpack.

Sister Decker, Elder Criddle, and myself, shortly after our arrival in Sremska.

On Wednesday we got some groceries, got my white card so that I'm allowed to be in Serbia for more than two days, and then headed up to Belgrade with the Deckers to go help with the massive annual book fair. I was actually there last year, and it was cool to see again. We had a bit of a run around getting to the actual event center, but we did eventually get there to meet Elders King and Jones who had come by bus. We sold a few copies of the Book of Mormon through the day, and occasionally got to explore a bit. We even sold one guy a Mongolian copy of the Book of Mormon. He also wanted a Swahili one, but we didn't have one with us, so we got his phone number. At the end of the day, Elder Criddle and I trammed to the bus station and rode a bus back to Sremska.
Elder Criddle and myself at the book fair in Belgrade.

Thursday, we showed Elders King and Jones where to go to get their white cards, then went contacting. Sremska is pretty cool so far. For lunch we got ćevapi at a place called "Pink Panter", and then had district meeting with the Deckers and the other elders. After that we had some more planning and such, then ECG again. Not many people currently come to ECG, so we're probably going to be working on promoting that. The other elders came over to our apartment to make dinner together, and it was great to have them around.
On Saturday we called some investigators and got some lessons set up, did some contacting, had tacos for lunch, did some planning and studies, etc. Nothing particularly interesting for the majority of the day. But, later on a bit, we did end up contacting over into a slightly poorer part of town. As we were walking through, one house's yard had a sizeable group of people that kinda looked at us, and so we said hello and kept going, but then I had the idea to talk to them I asked Elder Criddle what he thought, and we ended up going back a bit to talk to them. I spoke to the whole group of people and got some varied reactions. One old lady started complaining at me, one younger lady seemed willing to learn more, and one middle-aged man was willing to calmly say that he was already a believer and didn't care what we had to say. People started talking to us 2 or 3 at a time, and the older lady started shooing us out, so we left. As we were talking to some other people just down the road, the younger lady came over to ask some more questions and stuff. We got her phone number and gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. From there we headed homeward, and ordered dinner at Tešić, the best little grill place in town. While we were waiting for it to cook, we walked around the shops in the immediate vicinity to explore, and there was this really strong wind blowing leaves in everyone's faces.
Saturday morning we tried some more to get our branches new computer set up right, and it wasn't working, and then we called Tešić to have them start cooking our lunch before we got there. Just a minute after that, we got a call from Elders King and Jones asking for Tešić's phone number so they could order some for themselves. When we got over there to pick up our food, we of course found them waiting for theirs also. Though, apparently the employees got confused by the fact that they called immediately after us and ordered the same thing, and so they didn't actually put in the second order for the other elders, and so they had to wait longer for their food. Maybe next time we'll have to use tags like "mormon team A/B", or just order all of our food at the same time. After some studies and such, we had a lesson with an investigator that's been around for a while. I'll call him "Davis". He's got some interesting misconceptions about miracles. For example, he's currently struggling to understand why God doesn't make good people rich when they follow the commandments and pray for money. We'll work on it. After that lesson we cleaned the church with the other elders, and then a different lesson cancelled on us.
A view of Sremska Mitrovica.
Yesterday we got up and headed over to the church to get stuff ready for church like normal. Elders King and Jones showed up at the same time as us and helped, but then we all realized that we all blanked on daylight savings time, since that was supposed to be between Saturday and Sunday. Anyway, we had an extra hour before church. The Deckers had their son and daughter-in-law there visiting, and they were pretty cool. They spoke in sacrament meeting, and then for Sunday School, Elder King and I took turns translating what Elder Decker was teaching for the lesson after that. Elder Decker was talking really fast, and it was pretty fun to try to keep up with him, but it's good to be back in Serbia where I have more experience with the language. Tonight for dinner we had the other elders over, and they helped contribute to make fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and it was great.
We make some pretty good fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy!
Your homework is to read the introduction to the Book of Mormon! You know, with all the conference talks recently about the Book of Mormon, it's probably worth knowing what it does for us. So, look in the introduction for something that it does for us that could help you in your life. Perhaps like gaining a stronger testimony of Christ as our Savior?
Sorry for no pictures yet! I don't currently have a way to upload them. I might get it later today, but if not, then next week! Stay awesome!

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