Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Week 6: When it rains in Utah

September 24, 2016
Hello everybody!

During study time on Sunday, I re-listened to a talk by Brad Wilcox called "His Grace is Sufficient". It's so good, and explains the Atonement so well. I 200% recommend you read or watch it. Here's a link:

Our two devotionals this week were not any of the 12 apostles, but that's totally ok. They were still good. I just had a hard time listening because of how cramped those seats are, and how hot it is in a suitcoat with all those people. For the devotional on Tuesday, the main topic that was spoken on was how this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is either totally true, or it's the biggest hoax on the planet. Either Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, or he didn't. The remarkable part though, is that we can pray about it and receive an answer from God if it is all true or not. Znam osobno da je Joseph Smith vidio Nebeskog Otca i Isusa Krista, da je Mormonova Knjiga istinita, i da je ova Božja crkva. 

The food is still ok, though sometimes certain meals have iffy selection and I end up augmenting my tray with a bowl of cereal. our food storage is most definitely NOT used up. I don't think you understand =P we could probably feed the whole zone for a full week. And, Elder Crapo's mom sent each of us 4 roommates a big gift bag of green stuff; mostly food. 

So, the cereal fast was just a stupid thing that some elders in the zone decided to do for fun. They were planning on only eating cereal for something like 3 days. They only made it through dinner, breakfast, and then lunch before they gave up for lack of nutrition. It was super funny, though. And, I guess I could mention that on Sundays for breakfast they only have cereal, since they don't want to make cafeteria employees work if they don't need to.

Our cereal fast attempt
For the movie Sunday night, we watched Ephraim's Rescue, a movie about the early Mormon pioneers. It's such a good one. I again recommend you watch it if you have time. There's one part where a young man kisses a young woman, and like usual, the whole room went up in hoops and hollers. This is what happens when you trap a bunch of 18/19/20 year olds together for weeks on end.

The rest of the week was pretty routine...more language study, teaching more lessons, more Australian handball for exercise time. And I won one time this week! Some of these other elders are pretty intense about it, and there's only 1 winner each time we play, so I was impressed by myself. We also play volleyball and 4-square in the gym sometimes, and those are pretty fun.

These last few days it's been raining on and off. I think it's super funny because rain isn't a terribly common thing here in Utah, and so everyone has been running around and dancing in the rain whenever they can. Something out of the ordinary to cheer us all up.

One other really fun thing that happened this week was when we were practicing making sentences in Croatian. A sentence we came up to translate into Croatian was "did you know if God will give me a dog?" So, we translated it, verified it with the teacher, and then dumped it into google translate. Google translate said that it meant "did you know that you will give me a dog god?" Apparently Google translate can't handle Croatian hardly at all.

Google Translate Error
We had our last in-person member lesson (TRC) yesterday. Next week we'll be Skyping native speakers! So that's exciting. I think it's super cool that after 5.5 weeks here, we can understand and speak full blown Croatian, even if we definitely take our time remembering vocabulary and building our sentences. We probably have accents, and surely have a far smaller vocabulary than a native 10 year old, but that's ok. Možemo pričati na Hrvatskom! (if anything I say in Croatian makes no sense accordion to Google Translate, I apologize. Feel free to ask me what it means!)

The Elders in my Zone
Your homework: Read or listen to "His Grace Is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox. Yes, I was serious earlier in this email when I told you to read it ;) Christ loves us and gave his life for us so that we can repent and be forgiven, and thus improve. That's the point of this life: to learn and to grow through learning from our mistakes.

Have a good week! I love you all. (And check on the blog for more photos and stories, BTW. My mother apparently does a really good job of keeping it up to date).

Elder Ryan Echols
2005 N 900 E Unit 232
Provo UT 84602

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Special Message from a Recently Returned Adriatic North Missionary!

As Ryan's Mom, I was so happy to receive the following message on Facebook from a sister missionary who recently returned home from the Adriatic North Mission:

September 16, 2016 

Hi! My name is Holly. I returned home from the Adriatic North Mission just a short month ago. I normally don't do this, but I wanted to share with you what happened tonight. I had the opportunity to go to the MTC and be taught by the missionaries going to the ANM. Your son, and his companion taught me about the restoration in Croatian. Elder Echols is going to going to be SO perfect for those people! He was incredible! He gave the opening prayer and did soooo good! So much better than I could have at one month! He taught me about the restoration. He recited the first vision in perfect Croatian already! SO AHEAD! I am teary eyed thinking about how excited I am that he will be going to bless those people I love so much. It was a great lesson. A little later, his companion had just bore his testimony and Elder Echols jumped in and shared his. He testified on the answers that come from the Book of Mormon. The spirit immediately entered the room as that was an answer to my prayer. I am so thankful you raised a son who is close to the Spirit enough to answer my prayers tonight and I know soon he will be answering the prayers of many in the Balkins. He looked happy! He is going to be a great missionary! I am excited for his and your journey! Enjoy these 2 years! I know he will!

Sister Higgins

Sister Holly Higgins


Week 5: Halfway Through the MTC!

I got to see both Elder Trevor Peterson and Elder Zachary Ralph several times this week!

September 17, 2016

Hello all!

This week on Sunday Elder Ballard spoke at the devotional. I always love when one of the 12 come. Also, hardly anyone realized it was 9/11. The MTC is so isolated, and no one ever really knows what day it is =P

Our first temple walk with our 5 new members of the zone was good. They're all super cool. 

New missionaries in my zone: Elders Vasic, Davis, Jensen, Mueller, and Sister Wilson. 

Monday, I started feeling a notably less sick. Been gradually feeling better since then.

On Tuesday, Quentin L. Cook of the 12 came for the devotional. So, that's 3 of the 12 apostles in a row. Beforehand, during choir practice, the choir director told us the story of Jacob and his brother Esau, and how that's what the song "Nearer My God To Thee" is about. My favorite line from the song is "nearer my God, to thee, e'en though it be a cross that raiseth me." If we're put up on a cross, we're 4 feet physically closer to heaven. But, of course, this cross is symbolic of whatever hardships and trials we have in life. The hard things in life should prompt us to come closer to God. To ask more sincerely for his help. The choir director also told a story of how some scientists smashed some peanut butter between two huge black rocks that were crazy hot, left it for "many days", and then cracked it open. Guess what was in there? I diamond. "Though we, the peanut butter, don't necessarily enjoy being smashed between burning rocks, that's how we become a diamond". Of course, Elder Cook's talk and testimony was so good. He just said so much good stuff that I can't even think of what to say. His testimony is super powerful, though. He knows that Christ lives and leads this church, and I believe it too.

This week I also got an Adriatic North Mission t-shirt. I love the map, with all 5 flags. I also got 3 new ties in the mail (thanks mom!) and that was great.

Adriatic North Mission T-shirt!
Me and Elder Logan Leach wearing our new t-shirts
DearElder letter and one of the new ties from my mom
 Your homework this week is to study Alma 42. The chapter is one where Alma the Younger is speaking to one of his sons who has had some problems in the past. Alma explains about justice and the law of God and how we'd all be lost if it were just that. However, our Heavenly Father is merciful, and thus provided a Savior for us, Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ, both justice and mercy can be satisfied. Our part is to simply choose to come unto Christ, and live our lives as he wants us to.

I hope you all have a great week! I love you all.


Elder Ryan Echols
2005 N 900 E Unit 232
Provo UT 84602

I found Sister Brimhall at the MTC this week. I knew her while I was attending BYU.

I also found Elder Sam Dearden at the MTC this week! He was in my ward in Ohio and is going to the Seattle Tacoma mission.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Week 4: The Departure and Arrival of Friends

September 10, 2016

Hello family and friends!

I hope you all have been having a good week, whatever you're up to.

This week for me included the last few days for the Czechs and Slovaks from our zone. On Sunday, a lot of them spoke for testimony meeting, and it was pretty great to hear all of their perspectives on their impending departures to foreign lands. Later on Sunday we all took a lot of pictures together while on our walk to the temple.

Lots of Missionaries walking to the Provo Temple
Me and lots of Missionary Friends Posing for Pictures

And, the night before, while they were all packing, my roommates and I received many donations to our food storage. Starsi Hammer also gave me a Rubik's cube that had been given to him by a previous Polish-speaking elder. I'll pass it on to someone else in the zone just before I leave. (Zone traditions are a big thing here.)

Sunday night a bunch of us elected to watch "The Testaments", which is a historical fiction set in the Americas during the times that the events of The Book of Mormon were happening (you should watch it). Of course, the crowning event of The Book of Mormon, and thus this movie, is the visitation of Christ to the people of the Americas. My favorite part of the movie is when Christ is walking through the crowds, because the way it's depicted really reminded me that he knows each of us, one by one, and loves us all more than we could imagine. He even calls the character Helam by name, and then heals his blindness. Christ knows your name and loves you. Here I am bearing my testimony in the Croatian language:

On Monday, Elder Leach got sick, and so I stayed back with him for part of the day rather than having him go to class so sick. We went to the doctor, and while I waited I contributed a few pieces to the giant jigsaw puzzle they have there. We even got to venture out of the MTC, across the street to the BYU health center to pick up a prescription for him.

On Tuesday, the devotional was by D. Todd Christofferson, one of the quorum of the 12 Apostles. When he entered the room, we were all in the middle of singing a prelude hymn, (for my non-Mormon friends, it's tradition for all to arise when an apostle enters the room) and I thought it was pretty funny how abruptly everybody stood up, since most people weren't able to see who it actually was.

Departing missionaries saying their goodbyes to all the friends they made while at the MTC
An empty lunchroom before new missionaries arrive at the MTC
On Wednesday our district got to be host missionaries to new arrivals. I hosted 4 new missionaries, and while I was doing so, I happened to see Jon Schmidt dropping off his twin sons. Pretty cool. We also got 5 new people into our zone: 3 czech speakers, 1 Macedonian/Bulgarian, and 1 Slovak speaker. They're pretty cool so far ;)

Me and other missionaries preparing to host new missionary arrivals
Jon Schmidt dropping off his twin missionaries
This missionary host saw a good friend of his being dropped off and ran to give him a hug. I am in the background and got to host the next dropped off missionary.
 Thursday, I got sick. Nothing too bad...just a stuffy nose, cough, congestion type thing. The MTC plague. With that, the day started off really rough with about zero motivation. The first words I said were "ne mogu danas" (meaning "I can't today") but then when we got to our lesson with Jadranka, it went 0% according to plan, but it was so much better than we ever could've planned for. She started off with a really hard question, and we were able to answer it by the end. The spirit was there testifying of the truth of the Book of Mormon. I know it is true.

For "exercise time" I took a nap. #sickDay. That was quite relaxing. Later that night during study (outside) I one-by-one ran into a bunch of people I new from various places, such as Elder Trevor Peterson from home in Ohio. That was fun.

One of my best friends, Elder Trevor Peterson, from Loveland, Ohio, arrived at the MTC this week!
Friday, for exercise time we introduced the newbies to Australian Handball, of course. Some of them are already darn good at it, and all of them seem to like it. Zone traditions are the best. I also finally found Elder Zachary Ralph, who had arrived on Wednesday.

Another friend of mine, Elder Zachary Ralph, who arrived at the MTC this week, from Blanchester, Ohio!
 Our lessons, teaching members of the church, went really well. In class we finally officially learned about "cases". Cases are a grammar concept common to slavic languages. Feel free to look it up =P. Our teachers have seemingly been keeping us in the dark about this absolutely essential language concept, so it was nice to finally get it out in the open. I also went to the doctor and got some pills to help with my sinus problems. I've been feeling better since then.

So, that's pretty much it for this week. Your homework is to read 2 Nephi, chapter 31. It talks about the importance of baptism, and how one can come unto Christ.

Vidimo se! s ljubav,
Elder Ryan Echols
2005 N 900 E Unit 232
Provo UT 84602

Monday, September 5, 2016

Week 3: Still in the MTC. That's ok though ;)

Elder Echols with the Polski Missionaries
September 3, 2016

Hello friends and family!

Here's a long one. One fun thing this week was that there was a girl from Hawaii outside at lunch with those white ball things on the strings that they spin around, and a Polish elder dared me to go ask to try. She had an extra set, so I did it. The whole zone was laughing, since I kept hitting myself in the face. It was super fun.

Elder Leach and I on p-day
 Elder Leach and myself taught the priesthood lesson on Sunday, and it was a great discussion. I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that it can bless lives. During sacrament meeting, Sister Hall from our district sang "Savior, Redeemer" from the movie 17 miracles. You should look up the song if you haven't heard it. It talks about how wonderful it is that Christ would save us.

On Sunday and Monday, Elder Isom was pretty sick. We did some exchanges. I included one here when I was on exchanges with Elder Crapo. I got my turn to stay back at the residence hall with him, and I took a big nap. that was nice.

Elder Crapo and I on exchanges while Elder Isom was sick
 At the start of this week, I was hitting a bit of a wall in terms of learning Croatian. But, I talked with some other elders, prayed about it, and then got past the wall. Miracles happen.

Learning Croatian is hard at times, but prayer and faith help us move forward
Sometimes you just need a little cat nap to move forward with your language studies
 Here's a video of the elders in my district singing "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" in Croatian:

This week we started on our second investigator, Jadranka (who is actually our teacher, sister Vukorepa). Elder Leach and I are getting a lot better at teaching lessons (which are 100% in Croatian, btw). We're also getting a lot better at Handball. I finally got some photos. Elder Theriault, going to poland, is killer at it (and 4-square).

Here's me playing Australian Handball with some other Elders
Here's a video of some of the Elders and Sisters playing the game:

One day this week we tried having a language fast (speak only Croatian all day). we got to lunch really well, but then people gave up. It was cool while it lasted. I love Croatian grammar, but it's super weird. You often have to plan your whole sentence before you start talking such that words which come at the end of an English sentence can fit into the start of your Croatian sentence. I'm also getting pretty good at reading Serbian, practicing on my own.

The Book of Mormon in English (top) and Serbian (bottom)
I found that Elder Hammer from the zone had a Rubik's cube that he inherited from an old Polski elder. he gave it to me. I'll pass it along when I leave the MTC. When I first found that he had it, I started solving it and blew his mind. It was pretty funny how much he was flipping out. There's a guy from around the corner that can solve it in about 14 seconds though, rather than my 20.

This week we also got to do some TRC (teaching members of the church; still in Croatian, or maybe Serbian). And, this morning we went to the temple. I love the temple. And we had breakfast in the cafeteria. so good. and it was only $4 for me. Sometimes the food here in the MTC can get kinda old. It's ok though.

Here's a blurry picture of the MTC lunchroom. You can see me on the far left side!
BTW, DearElders are the best, even if they're short.

Also, this next week we'll be hosting new missionaries! (Trevor and Zach, that means there's a slim chance I'll get to show you around when you first arrive!!)

Me and my two best friends from Cincinnati: Zachary Ralph and Trevor Peterson. Both Zachary and Trevor are reporting to the MTC this week, on Wednesday September 7th, when I get to be a host!
Your domaća this week is to read Alma 36. It's Alma the younger telling his story of redemption. The Atonement is real, and Christ can help you.

Elder Ryan Echols
2005 N 900 E Unit 232
Provo UT 84602