Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, October 31, 2016

Week 11: Balkan Crepes, Un-Halloween, and the Town Next Door

October 31, 2016 

Hello again, Friends and Family!

To start off, last Monday I got my white card! That means I'm legally registered as living in Serbia, and am on my way to getting my Visa. I also got to play some piano for part of our studies on Tuesday morning. That was a nice little break from the regular routine.

For dinner on Tuesday, Elder Jex made us Palačinke, which are essentially just Crepes from this part of the world. We put on ours some Euro Creme (like Nutella) and Plazma crumbs (think something like crush Nilla Wafers). Those were pretty good.

Elder Jex makes a mean Palačinke!
My wonderful companion and trainer, Elder Jex
On Wednesday we were responsible to man a booth at a huge book fair going on in Belgrade/Београд, so we had to get up a bit early and get on a bus to ride all the way over there. Pretty fun. At the fair, our booth was in the very corner of the building, with not much traffic coming by, and right next to the Jehovah's Witness booth. We got talking with them a few times throughout the day and got to be pretty good friends with a few of them. In our booth we had a whole bunch of copies of The Book of Mormon in probably 20 different languages, plus plenty of pamphlets. Not a lot of people came by to talk to us, especially when they saw the sign over our booth that used the word CHURCH. Oh well.

For lunch that day we got to meet up with 2 of the elders stationed there, including Elder Hanks who I'm good friends with from the MTC. Good to see him again. We got Pljeskavica (Balkan burgers, reeeally good) at a little cafe.

On the way home, we of course rode more busses. At one point I tried talking to a guy in Serbian, and he promptly responded with "what's up, man?" (in English). So, we got talking and he apparently has gone to plenty of English conversation groups with missionaries before and knows about the church.

On both Tuesday and Thursday this week, Elder Jex and I held English Conversation group. Pretty cool things, really. We just get people together that are learning English and want to practice, and we have a discussion about things like perserverance or integrity; things that everyone can relate to on some level, and learn about. Around lunch time on Thursday we went to a bakery and I tried ordering a muffin and what looked like a little pizza ball, but I read the wrong stickers on the glass display case, and thus got two pretzel ring things. I really have no vocabulary to use that is related to food =P

It's beautiful in the fall here in Novi Sad, Serbia
 On Friday we went across the river as we were talking with people on the streets. There's a cute little town over there that seems to be straight out of a fairy tale. I'll include a picture. The view from the bridge was pretty great too. There's a fort up on a hill there that overlooks the river, and we got to go up and look at that a bit.

A Fairy Tale Town
Overlooking the River
On Saturday night, we had our branch "Harvest Party", which was really just a Halloween party without costumes and such, since people here don't really celebrate Halloween. They do celebrate "All Saints Day", though. I think that's tomorrow. It's kinda like Day Of The Dead from Hispanic cultures. Celebrate and remember your dead. Put a bunch of candles on their graves. We haven't seen yet, but apparently the graveyards really are quite a sight when that happens.

Our Branch Harvest Party
Carving for Halloween
 Yesterday, Sunday, I woke up feeling notably ill. That continued in various fashions until we got back from church, and I took a 3 hour nap. That nap fixed me, pretty much. I don't know what was really up with it all. I've definitely been feeling a lot better since then into today.

This week I've learned a lot about the idea of having our lives built upon the sure foundation which is Christ. So, you're homework is to read Helaman 5. Try thinking about how Nephi and Lehi had their foundation built in Christ, and how that helped them succeed throughout the whole chapter.

So, that's it for now. Like always, have an awesome week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Week 10: Lack of Sleep, Weird Keys, and a Side of Mustard

October 24, 2016

Hello everybody! So it turns out that I'll be serving the next 2 (or more?) months in Нови Сад, Србија! That is, Novi Sad, Serbia. My companion is Elder Jex, who's been on his mission for just over a year.  I only understand maybe 40% of what natives say, depending how fast they talk, but my companion, Elder Jex, can get it since he's been here a year. I can speak fairly well if I just come up with something to say fast enough. As a cool thing that doesn't fit anywhere else in this email, the keys here are awesome. Some of them are huge, some of them look archaic, and some of them look sponges. I'll have photos next week ;)

So, our last MTC P-day involved a lot of packing. Also, I ran into a few BYU friends on my way to the temple, and one of the temple workers had made some really tasty spaghetti for us, since it was our last day there. That night was also our list time seeing each of our teachers. Tears were shed, pictures were taken, and hands were shook. Good stuff. We also read Alma 17, which starts off talking about the sons of Mosiah and their missionary experiences. We all related to that stuff a lot.

Me with Brad Blackham, who was one of my roommates from BYU
Elder Leach and I with one of our MTC teachers, Sister Watts
Sunday was a little bit crazy. In church, I was one of the people randomly selected to speak. The topic was The Book of Mormon, and I had my general outline with a few quotes written down. I went up and mostly just followed the spirit. "Oddly enough", I ended up talking a lot about Christ, his Atonement, and how The Book of Mormon testifies of him. Christ is the center of our church and everything we teach, so I guess it was only natural that that's where I'd be led to focus my thoughts. At the end of the meeting, our district (the departing missionaries) sang my translation of "A Child's Prayer". It went quite well, I thought. I love how the song emphasized that God, our Heavenly Father, loves and hears each and every one of us. He cares about you.

That night Elder Leach and I watched "Open Your Mouth" by Elder Holland. It was a devotional he gave at the MTC a few years ago that talked about the importance of sharing this wonderful knowledge which we have, and how words are really our only tool to help others come unto Christ. one of my favorite things he said was something like "the truth must be stated to be known". It seems kinda obvious, but it emphasized the fact that we need to just tell people about Christ and his love before they can come to know for themselves of his love.

Monday and Tuesday were a lot of travel. While in Germany I tried legit German food. I got "Frankfurter mit brot" and it was pretty good. 2 long skinny sausages, a hard little split-top roll thing, and a pack of mustard-ish stuff. I don't usually like mustard, but I was in Germany, so I put it on everything and it was awesome.

My travel itinerary: From Salt Lake to Chicago, then to Frankfurt Germany, and on to Zagreb, Croatia
 I wasn't able to sleep during any of the flights. Never enough room to be able to get into a comfortable position. So, I was awake from 3:30am Utah time on Monday, until 9:30pm Croatia time on Tuesday (which is 1:30pm Utah time). If I'm doing math right, that's 34 hours. I was definitely feeling it by the end. But, since we had apparently important things to hear and do, we weren't allowed to go to sleep. All of the not-new missionaries there were really good at nicely bugging everyone to stay awake. Any time I sat down or anything, I just clocked out and started drifting off, but they would snap me back awake. There were a few times when I almost fell asleep while standing (I felt like people wouldn't be able to really judge me on that one; if I could manage it, I felt like I deserved it). At one point I was trying to write my name on the back of some little slips of paper, and at one point my brain switched off and I ended up writing arbitrary words such as "study", "origin", and even "¡practico!" (which is "I practice!" in spanish). I only realized it about 5 minutes after I'd finished and put all the papers into a little bag. So, I got them all back out and put my name on all the ones missing it.

My Mission President, President Grant, and his wife, Judy Grant, posed for a picture with me right after I arrived.
One of the cool things right off the bat when we got to the mission office was that we got a temporary "mentor" (while they picked our companions) and we just walked right out into the streets of Zagreb for an hour to go find people to teach. While I was out, we did find one guy who was willing to listen, and got his number for the Zagreb missionaries to contact later.
On Wednesday we had some more training in the mission home, and found out our companions and where we'd be going. That night we all dispersed to our various cities. On Thursday, Elder Jex and I had a fairly normal day. we had a lesson with a less active member. When we met up, he wanted to play chess first, and promptly destroyed us about 6 times in maybe 8 minutes. We also went out into the streets trying to find more people to teach (that's our primary activity so far). Got off a pamphlet to someone who was willing to listen. While we were out, we got Gyros for lunch, and Elder Jex was like "you're going to want to get that sauce back there. it's called Грчка" and then we stepped up to order. When the lady asked me a question I didn't understand, I just said Грчка, thinking she was starting to ask what I wanted on mine. She laughed. Elder Jex later informed me that the discussion went something like this: "will this be for here or to go?" "Greek."

Friday, we got up at 3:30 to drive back to Zagreb for a mission-wide conference where we heard from President Hallstrom from the 70, and Elder Johnston. Their talks were good, but apparently I was too tired to actually properly pay attention. I wonder why. #jetLagPlusNoSleepAnyway. But now it's ok ;) I've gotten enough sleep since then. In any case, it was super cool to get to see all the missionaries from the whole mission all together. When Elder Jex and I got back to Novi Sad that night, we met up with some local friends and got dinner together. That was some good practice with speaking my Serbian, since they also spoke english and could help me along with it.

Saturday was a whole lot of street contacting. It's hard to get up the guts to just stop someone and start talking to them (in Serbian). But, it works out. People are usually polite, even if they don't want to talk about religion. We did find a few people willing to take some pamphlets or give us their number. This city is pretty cool, btw. I like trying to read all the signs written in Cyrillic. There were a few times the last few days when there were fighter jets flying over the city really fast in some kind of show. Apparently it's not a holiday, but it sure seemed like it.

The sights in Novi Sad
Sunday, was when we had church, of course. Elder Jex and I blessed the sacrament, and so I got to read the blessing for the water from a card written in the Cyrillic alphabet. This is was the Cyrillic alphabet generally looks, like, btw: Ја знам да је Исус Христ наш спаситељ и да нас воли Он. I also had the opportunity to start the meeting by introducing myself and bear my testimony (Surprise! jk. Not a surprise at all). After me, Elder Jex was the other speaker, and he talked about grace, and how we are enough right now, thanks to Christ and his mercy. I only asks that we try to follow him and improve ourselves bit by bit.
We also taught Sunday school, about Helaman 5. We focused largely on how we need to build our foundation on Christ. I ended up mostly just writing stuff up on the board, since it takes me a while to come up with something to say which I can say in Serbian. But, I did contribute now and then.

 And today is P-day! So, we get to do our grocery shopping and laundry. It'll be good.

Your homework this week is to read 3 Nephi 11, where Christ first appears to the Nephites and begins teaching them.

Like always, I love you all! Stay awesome.


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

Assignment of First Area and Companion

19 October 2016
Dear Brother and Sister Echols,

We are excited to have Elder Ryan Kyle Echols in the Adriatic North Mission. Elder Echols will be serving with Elder Benjamin Jex and he will be living in the city of Novi Sad, which is part of the Serbia & Montenegro Zone. We know the Lord will bless your missionary as he faithfully serves and loves the people here. We know your family will also be blessed because of his service and your support of this mission.

Being in a new country and  learning a new language can be challenging at times, but it is an exciting and important time in missionary service.  A positive person is generally more successfully then one who only sees the negative or becomes depressed and defeated. We see what we focus on, so will you please help Elder Echols by only sending positive and encouraging letters each week, helping him to see the tender mercies of the Lord each day.

We look forward to witnessing Elder Echols' certain growth and spiritual development for the duration of his mission. Thank you for sending us such a fine missionary.

Adriatic North Mission Office Staff

Elder Echols has arrived in Zagreb, Croatia!

October 18, 2016

Brother and Sister Echols,

Elder Echols has arrived in the Adriatic North Mission.  We are excited to have him here.   You will receive an email once companionships have been assigned with the name of his new companion and the location of his first area.

Thank you for sharing your missionary with us!

Elder & Sister Halling
Adriatic North Mission Office Staff

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Week 9: Apostle #4, Packing, and Orientation

Me and Brother Bradford, the 2nd Counselor in my MTC Branch Presidency

October 15, 2016

Hello friends! It was a pretty good week here...a good way to finish of my stay at the MTC!

On Sunday we had Fast and Testimony meetings, where the whole time is just given for people to bear testimony. Since we lost our Branch President last week, President Wiseman, and since it was the last testimony meeting for both we the Adriatic North people and the Polski missionaries. It's so cool how everyone here is having their own spiritual experiences and growing in different ways that they need. We got to see a little bit of that in our testimony meeting.

On Monday and Tuesday, our lessons with Jadranka went really well. We taught her about the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, and Law of Tithing (if you'd like to learn more about those, feel free to search them on LDS.org). Even though she asked some hard questions, and initially didn't think she'd be able to follow the Law of Tithing, Elder Leach and I did really well with explaining why they're important, and that following these commandments is an expression of our Faith. Since she's really developed a strong trust and Faith in Christ and that the Gospel is important for her, she did commit to keep those commandments. It was pretty cool to see her make those decisions.

Studying and getting ready to teach an investigator lesson
So, for our Tuesday devotional, we heard from Elder David A. Bednar, another one of the 12 Apostles. So, that makes 4 for us while we've been here! (that's an entire third!) Pretty cool. He mostly talked about how to get the most out of General Conference, but what I really got out of it was the real authority that God's servants have. He, as one of the 12 apostles in this day, has the authority to speak on behalf of Christ. When such a servant of the Lord promises blessings, they are sure. As a missionary, I've also been called to preach his word and speak on his behalf. When I'm speaking with the Spirit, to know what the Lord would have me say, I also can promise blessings that are sure, and have a miraculous ability to help those I meet. It's incredible. I've already seen it happen in lessons I've taught here at the MTC, or even talking to other missionaries.

On Wednesday we got new people! 3 new Croatians, 1 Bulgarian, and 1 Slovene (though he was apparently actually sick that day and only arrived yesterday). They're all super cool. We also got to talk to a lady, Sister Madsen, that has notable history in our mission. She personally knew Krešimir Ćosić, the man who first brought this gospel to Yugoslavia. Pretty cool to get to talk to her.

Sister Madsen, who was an ANM missionary in the early days of the mission
Thursday was In-Field-Orientation, which is something like 8 hours long. It's more in-depth training on what specifically happens in the field. How to best find people to teach, better work alongside church members, as well as setting effective goals. It was really long but pretty useful. That evening, a lot of us were losing our minds, due to our impending travel to another continent, and how long we'd been in orientation. (I'm fine. Don't worry)

In-Field Orientation was good, but really long
Yesterday, Friday, we had our last Skype lesson with a Croatian native. This one happened to be the branch president in Zagreb. He's such a cool guy. I'm super excited to get to meet more natives. For exercise, we got to show the new people what Australian Handball is all about. I really like getting to pass on zone traditions like that. Plus, when we did our elimination rounds at the end, I won again! It was a pretty intense last match between me and Elder Rasmussen (he's super good, and so I don't think anyone was expecting me to survive a 1-on-1 battle with him).

Lastly, we've begun packing. Our rooms are huge messes right now because of it, but soon they'll be condensed all into our suitcases. I'm really not looking forward to such a long flight, but it's easily made up for by how exciting it is to be going to Croatia (and eventually other countries) to go bring people unto Christ. Can't wait.
Taking a break from packing, which involved trying on some silly glasses.
 I hope you're all still doing well with your lives. Feel free to email me and tell me how life is for you, and I'll do my absolute best to respond on my next P-day when I can email.

Your homework this week is to read Mosiah 15, which talks about the Atonement, but also how we ought to "publish peace". Bring the love of Christ to everyone you can!

Volim vas!
-Elder Echols

P.S. My P-day is probably going to change to Mondays. And, my address is going to change, of course. I'll have my signature changed next week with the new address.​