Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, May 21, 2018

Week 92: A Magical Bus, Germans, and other Foreigners



Welcome back! I'm glad you're here.

So, last week on Monday besides emailing, we did our daily work on Facebook, which included something pretty cool. I got in a conversation with a guy that'd tried to get a visit from the missionaries a few times in the past, but they could never find where he lived. The missionaries would always just get lost. So, I chatted back and forth with him some to get more details about where he lives, and other details to help out, and set up an appointment for the Zone Leaders to go visit him on Thursday, since they were the closest. Keep reading to hear the end of the story ;) Later in the day on Monday we got some good food, did an Escape Room, and had a really good time with it all.

Tuesday's plan was for the Sisters to ride with the Nields to the home of two members that live kinda far out of town, and for Elder Christensen and I to take the bus. We missed our bus by about 30 seconds. So, we called the Nields to tell them that we'd missed the bus and probably wouldn't be making it. As we were slowly walking back into town (the bus station is kinda far away), we called the members that we were going to visit. The lady asked us where we were, had us ask some people for directions (but no one wanted to talk to us), and then she told us to cross the street and get on the next bus. We did. I have no idea how that worked out, but when we got off of the bus at the last stop, way out of town, their van was there in that other little town waiting to pick us up and take us the rest of the way, which was only a few minutes. So, we did indeed have a fantastic meal with them, including the Nields and the Sisters. That lady speaks German, since she lived in Germany for quite a few years, so Sisters Icke and Marinković had a fun time getting to speak to her in German. The husband in that couple is a musician and plays guitar at a nearby restaurant, so he played a few songs for us while singing, and it was great. Anyway, when we all got back to town, we had some business-y stuff to take care of around town, during which time we happened to run into someone that I knew from my time(s) in Sremska Mitrovica. Later in the day the Sister Training Leaders, Sisters Woolf and Orchard, showed up from Belgrade to start exchanges with our sisters here. They joined us all for a group language study, and then English Conversation Group, too. A lot of people came to that, and then the 6 of us went to get some food before the end of the night.


Wednesday started with some work on Facebook, during which I somehow ended up in a conversation with a relative of one of those members that we visited the day before. I didn't even realize that he had the same last name as our member friend until he asked if I knew the guy, haha. After that we had District Meeting at the Nields, at which I gave a lesson on studying these languages. Nothing particularly interesting happened for the rest of the day.

Thursday started off with some contacting, which somehow led us to McDonald's at about lunch time. So, we had McDonald's for lunch, then kept contacting. After doing our work on Facebook and then more contacting, we had language study, and then headed over to the church for English. At the end of that, the Zone Leaders showed up to start exchanges with us. But first, they told us what happened with the lesson that I'd set up for them over Facebook. Apparently they kinda struggled to get there where he lives, and so arrived a bit late, but they did indeed find him and had a great lesson. Turns out that this guy has read the whole Book of Mormon and has a pretty cool story. He also asked to be baptized and join the church. So, they set a date for him to be baptized! At the end they of course set up a return appointment, invited him to church, and then came here to Novi Sad to start exchanges and tell us the story. I also found out yesterday from them that the guy did indeed come to church on Sunday! From there we went and all got burritos together at Tortilla Casa, which was great as always, and then the Zone Leaders (Elders McNeil and Bradshaw) stayed the night with us.


Friday morning was when our exchanges with the Zone Leaders started, so Elders Christensen and McNeil headed out for Belgrade, and I stayed with Elder Bradshaw. After that, the morning got pretty crazy. We went contacting into the center of town, and as we were waiting at a crosswalk to get there, an older couple that looked like tourists came up to us and said "Guten Tag!". So, I told them "Guten Tag. Ich spreche kein Deutsch. Sprechen Sie English?" which being interpreted is, "Hello. I don't speak German. Do you speak English?" They told me they don't speak English. The guy showed me a card thing that said he doesn't receive blood transfusions (at least that's what I gathered from the little illustration; the card was in German and I didn't have a half hour to try to understand it). Then I realized that they're Jehova's Witnesses. I told them in my broken German that we're Mormons, and that we talk with people about "the book", as I showed them the Book of Mormon that I had. I also told them that "the book"is about Jesus. They said that they love Jesus and that Jesus is their life. We had a nice little moment, and my vocabulary ran out, so we shook hands and parted kindly. Then I explained to Elder Bradshaw what had happened since he speaks even less German than I do. Then we continued into the center of town where there were apparently even more tourists. One lady approached us and said in American English, "Wow, you guys sure are recognizable anywhere."Turns out she was a member of the church on vacation, so we talked with her a bit. Then we kept going, and tried talking to one guy who apparently didn't speak Serbian. So, we asked in English where he was from, and he said Israel. Apparently he was on vacation too, even though he didn't look like it to us. As we continued, we talked to a guy that was pretty funny and seemed open enough to listen, and he told us where he lives and that we could come buy next week at some point. Later in the day, it was looking like it was going to rain, and then a huge strike of lightning and crack of thunder exploded in the sky, a few minutes before it started raining pretty hard. So we took shelter in the church and called some people. One of them agreed to meet up with us this coming week. Later that evening after it had stopped raining, we were doing some more contacting, and then we got a text from the sisters asking if we were coming to American Corner. American Corner is where we go at 6:30 on Fridays to help local students practice English with natives in a casual setting. When we got that text, it was 6:45, since we'd totally forgotten about it. Well, I'd forgotten about it, and Elder Bradshaw didn't now about it to start with. So, then we went over there for that, and for dinner went to a cool Chinese restaurant at the top of a mall. It had a really good view of the city.


Saturday of course started off with church cleaning, and then we planned our Sunday School lesson with the sisters, since we were going to be in charge of it. We got our stuff figured out, had lunch, did some studies, and then Elder Bradshaw and I met up with the Nields to head up to Belgrade to finish the exchanges. It also just so happens that there was a baptism scheduled in Belgrade that evening, so we attended that, and it was great. Somehow I got pulled into a "special musical number"for an interlude thing, but it was all good. It was also of course really good to get to see other missionaries there. After that we of course drove home to Novi Sad with Elder Christensen again.

On Sunday morning we had to be to the church early for some meetings. Then sacrament meeting included me translating for Elder Nield, the sisters performing a musical number, and a member of the district presidency giving a great talk. For Sunday school, we and the sisters presented our lesson about how we can get more people attending church, and it seemed to go pretty well. After church we took care of some interviews and paperwork, did our Facebook work, had weekly planning, and then had yet another wonderful dinner at the Nields' place.


As for today, Monday, we started off with some tennis down by the river with the Nields and the sisters, since the Nields are pretty good at tennis. That was pretty fun. I haven't played a real sport in quite a while. Then we got lunch, did some emailing, did some more paperwork, etc. It's been a pretty good P-day so far.

Well, we're running out of time, so you'll have to figure out your own homework! Here are some photos from this week including one along the Danube, plus one on our magical bus ride out to visit those members. Have a great week!
--
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb
Croatia

Monday, May 14, 2018

Week 91: Facebook, a Food Festival, and Phoning Home



So, last week we didn't actually end up going to Fruška Gora, since Sister Smith had to pack or something like that. Anyway, this week was really warm again. I guess that's what happens when it's summer, though.

On Tuesday morning we had a training meeting thing about using Facebook for proselyting. So, now Elder Christensen and I are 2 of the 4 missionaries in this mission that can use Facebook. He and I help moderate some of the church's Facebook pages. Honestly, it's quite a lot like normal street contacting, but on the internet; we try to start good discussions with people and get them interested in learning more, but we also have all the conveniences of the internet like them being able to answer whenever they're available (not when they're rushing to work and we try to stop them), or not needing to try to get their phone number so we can stay in contact past those first 5 minutes. A lot of people already post really good comments by themselves, too. It's cool. Anyway, as we were leaving the church, a guy came up to us to talk to us. Turns out it was the guy from my very first transfer here in Novi Sad back in October or November 2016 that said he'd like to be baptized, and then never showed up to the meetings we'd set up with him. He asked us when English was, so we of course told him, and then we went to get lunch at a Chinese fast food place that we'd seen a few days before and wanted to try at sometime. It was awful. If you're ever in Novi Sad, don't bother getting the Chinese food by the bus station. From there we went home for our daily studies, and later on we of course had ECG. The guy from that morning and my first transfer in Novi Sad did indeed come, as well as plenty of our regular friends. That was also when we got to meet Sister Icke for the first time, since she and Sister Smith had traded earlier that morning. After ECG, Elder Christensen and I went to meet one of my other old friends that I know from the first time I was here in Novi Sad, and we went out to get some really good burgers at a place called Toster.

Elder Christensen, using Facebook for missionary work.
Wednesday started off with some clerical work in the church office, and then going over to the police station to turn in my papers for the renewal of my Serbian visa, but it turned out that the person I needed to talk to was only going to be there at 2:00, so we'd have to come back then. So, we went home for lunch, and then over to the church for district meeting. We kinda had to rush district meeting so that I could get back over to the police station in time at 2:00, but we did fine with that and I did get my papers turned in for my visa renewal. Then we had our language study before President and Sister Melonakos showed up for interviews! It's always good to get to see them. Sister Melonakos got a kick out of the fact that I'm learning German from Sisters Icke and Marinković. After interviews we went with President and Elder Nield to get some dinner at a Chinese fast food restaurant (a good one this time), since all the sisters from the branch were then having an activity at the church. Then, at the end of the day Elder Christensen and I went back to the church and did our first session of Facebook proselyting, which was pretty cool.

The clock in the Novi Sad missionary apartment, with the faces of some missionaries who have served there.
Thursday started off with some normal contacting, during which we figured out where a place is to get Sarajevo-style Ćevapi. After our contacting and some other business-y things, we went back to the Sarajevski Ćevap place for lunch, and it was really good. After lunch and language study, we did our Facebook work for the day, which included me getting into a chat with a guy that frequently posts really good questions on the church's posts. The evening then of course finished with our typical Thursday activity of English Conversation Group.

Friday started with more office work, and then getting Gyros for lunch before coming back to the church to do our Facebook proselyting. Then after language study and some contacting, we went with the sisters to the park to set up a display of sorts. This time, instead of a whiteboard, we mad a little tower out of copies of The Book of Mormon. We got a few people to stop and talk to us, and one guy told us his story and said he'd come to church. Once we were done in the park, we all headed over to American Corner, where we talk with local students in English to give them practice speaking with native English speakers. That's always really fun, since we get to just relax and talk with them. After that we finished the night by going with one of our friends to get some dinner at the really good Mexican food place.

Our tower made of  copies of the Book of Mormon
On Saturday morning we went to the church to clean with the Nields and the Sisters, and then practiced with the Sisters for our musical number for the next day. When we finished that, it was raining, so Elder Christensen and I took the opportunity to do our daily Facebook work, and got some good conversations going with people. One guy in Bosnia even said he'd go to church there. After lunch back at home, we went out contacting since it had stopped raining, and discovered that there was a festival of sorts in the center of town. They had a bunch of booths with food and souvenirs, plus a little stage with some performances. We stopped to take a break for a few minutes and buy ourselves some "Kuroš Kolač"es, or "chimney cakes". Those are from Hungary, and they're really good. As we continued on contacting, we discovered that the center of town, "Centar", kinda looked like Disney Land. It was pretty cool. When we got back to the apartment for dinner at the end of the night, I somehow ended up teaching Elder Christensen a bit about Autonomous Differential Equations.
Teaching Elder Christensen some math!! Have I mentioned I love math?
Yesterday for church Sister Icke gave a talk in excellent Serbian for only being in the mission field for 2 months, and then the 4 of us did our musical number, "A Child's Prayer", with me on piano accompaniment. Then Elder Nield spoke and I got to translate. We had pretty good attendance for church overall, including one son of a member who isn't a member himself. He stayed for the whole thing, and our lesson for Elders' Quorum was again about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. That same member from last time that taught the other guy all about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon this time took the initiative to ask him at the end of the class if he'd like to be a member. I like how gutsy this guy is, haha. Our visitor said he'd have to think about it, but he said he really liked church and we did get his phone number, so we'll see what we can do there. After church we of course had some office work to do, and then went over to the Nields' for dinner and our Skype calls, since it was Mothers' Day! Dinner was of course delicious, especially including dessert, but it was even better to have that Skype call with my parents and sister.

A Skype Family Photo on Mother's Day
So far today it's rained some, and we've emailed, and we've decided that we're going to an escape room later. So, we'll see what adventures we can get out of that.

Your homework this week is to tell your mom that you love her! Hopefully you already did it yesterday (and today again), but that doesn't mean you can't do it again.

Here's a photo of our district (plus a friend), an infamous clock in the Novi Sad apartment, and the white-board remnants of my math lesson for Elder Christensen.

Have a great week!

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Week 90: Gyros, Burritos, and Magical Investigators



Hello everyone! Happy Monday! I hope you're all doing well! Life in Novi Sad is pretty good.

On Monday last week we went contacting some, and then went to email. After emailing, we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant that was pretty good, and then the rest of the day was kinda just the normal P-day stuff like buying groceries.

Tuesday also started off with some contacting, and we did talk to one guy that gave us his phone number. There was another guy who didn't give us his number or take a copy of the Book of Mormon, but he seemed to like what we were talking about, and said he'd come to church. After language study and lunch, we went with the sisters to the park to set up a whiteboard with a scripture on it, since it was a big holiday. We got a few people to stop, but nothing quite notable until one guy stopped and talked to us for quite a while. Since we'd written James 1:5 on the whiteboard, and he asked what the deal was with it, we got to tell him the story about Joseph Smith searching for the right church. That night we of course had ECG, and 2 of the old regulars that I knew from "back in the day" came, which was cool.

On Wednesday when we were doing our morning contacting we got slightly lost and it took longer to get back for lunch that we anticipated, so we ended up just going to the legendary "Gyros Master"for lunch. We had language study and then district meeting, which we had outside this week. Later on we made some phone calls and got some stuff set up, and then met up with a member that I knew from my last time here. We walked through the park over to the church, read a chapter from the Book of Mormon and talked about it, and then went to get some ice cream with him.


Thursday included lunch at the new place for Mexican food that didn't exist when I was here at the start of my mission, and then going to visit a guy that we'd called on Wednesday. He was really cool, and seemed to be glad to get back in contact with the missionaries, since he used to know other missionaries here in the past. Apparently he's had some really hard stuff in his life, like having been in a coma, but things are starting to get better for him now. We tried to help him know that we're here to help, and that the gospel can help more than anything else. That evening for English group there were a few more people, one of which I again knew from before.

Friday included a lot of contacting, some of which was us kinda getting lost again in the unfamiliar northern outskirts of the city. While we were out and about, 3 different people deliberately approached us to talk to us, which is highly peculiar to happen even once. The first one was a lady with LDS/Mormon friends in Canada that she was going to visit soon, the second was a guy immediately after that who apparently met missionaries about 15 years ago and wanted to know where we had church here, and the third was a guy that simply asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon. We also met a really kind older man that talked to us briefly, and then took a card and said he'd come to church. After walking around the city for almost the whole day, we ended up at American Corner, just like we did my first time in Novi Sad. That's a place where kids can come to get more practice speaking English with each other and with native speakers like us. After that we got some more gyros from Gyros Master, and found out that Sister Smith is getting mid-transferred. She'll be going to Banja Luka, and we'll be getting Sister Icke in her place. That means that both of the sisters here, Sisters Icke and Marinković, will be from Germany.

  
Saturday of course started with church cleaning as a district, and then we had lunch at Domaćica, a restaurant that I've walked past dozens of times on the way to the Novi Sad church, but never previously eaten at. It was pretty good after all, haha. After that we helped the sisters with some lessons, and then the rest of the day wasn't very interesting.

Yesterday of course included going to church and seeing more old friends from the branch here, and also the surprise that the older fellow who said he'd come to church actually did end up coming. He stayed for the whole thing, including Sunday School and going to Priesthood. The people there for our Priesthood class were me and Elder Christensen, Elder Nield, the fellow that came to visit, and one of our members that comes every single week. The original lesson plan for our Priesthood class was to talk about "ministering", but it pretty much turned into a lesson specifically for our non-member friend about where the Book of Mormon came from, why it's important, who Joseph Smith is, etc., with significant help from the local member who was there. The man left with a copy of the Book of Mormon and the plan to read it, which was all pretty cool. After church we of course did our typical business-y stuff like counting attendance and finances, and then later on we had dinner at the Nields' place with them and the sisters. As with every meal at a senior couple's place, both the food and the company was wonderful.


Today so far we helped the Nields renew their visas and have done some emailing (as you can see), and we're planning on going to Fruška Gora later for some fun.

You homework this week is to read Joseph Smith - History 1:1-20. That's the story we related to our investigator in church on Sunday that we want all people to know about. The heavens have opened again.

Anyway, here are some of the local Novi Sad sights, including the Mormons in the park with a bible quote! That's us, haha. Have a great week!
--
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb
Croatia