Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, December 26, 2016

Week 19: A Scarf, A Green Book, One Call, and an Awful Onion

Hello friends and family! Merry Christmas to all! I hope you've been having a great holiday season. This week was a pretty good one for me, and I hope it was for you also.

On Monday evening, our branch had a Christmas-themed FHE activity together. There was much singing, some testimonies given of Christ our Lord, as well as food and games. One of the best parts was when we each got a piece of paper taped to our back, and we went around writing nice things about people on their backs. There was so much love in that room right then, even though people hadn't yet looked at what was written on their paper. Right then I definitely felt like these people are my family. We also had a White Elephant gift exchange. Since it's started getting cold recently, I'd been planning on buying a scarf, but hadn't yet gotten around to it. However, the gift that I got out of the exchange at this activity was a red plaid scarf! It was a little Christmas miracle to me that I ended up with it. From that point we had some food that people had brought to share, and then some of us played a game called 4 Women On A Couch. I don't really want to try to explain it here, but I think I can just mention that it's pretty confusing in the best way possible, super funny, and everyone loved it, even if they were just watching.

Tuesday we went contacting on the street. No one really listened to us. That evening we had English Conversation Group scheduled, but not a single soul showed up. Tako je život, ponekad. It was really weird that no one showed up, though.

Wednesday we started off with the McAlpins briefly having us over so I could help with some computer stuff, and they also quickly fed us breakfast so we could still get working on time. Having such a great breakfast (and generally something out of the ordinary in the morning) really started the day off well. When we went out contacting right after that, a lot more people than usual seemed open and willing to listen. I think something like 4 people were willing to listen to us, with 2 open to meet again.

Thursday we headed off to Zagreb, Croatia, for our zone's Christmas Conference. We met up with some other missionaries in Sremska Mitrovica to get carpool stuff situated, and I ended up in the back row of "the silver bullet" (the mission's 8-seat van) with Elder Froc, from my MTC group, and Elder Rice. That was a pretty fun car ride. Once at the mission office, we all had our conference-y stuff, including talking about setting goals and keeping high expectations and such. Very good stuff. From there we all went out into Centar to go caroling. It was really fun to be there singing with other missionaries, being "a light unto the world". We also got to explore downtown Zagreb a bit and see cool Christmas stuff they have set up there. When we got back to the office, there was hot chocolate prepared for us, and we all got to sit and talk a bit. After that stuff, we went to the mission home for the night where we had a Christmas talent show! Everything was great, whether it was silly music, or smaller groups of missionaries singing really well. Then we played some games, and watched a documentary about Krešimir Ćosić.

Friday we started off with Sister Grant talking to us about using music in our missionary efforts as well as our personal lives. She referred to the church's music as "the green scriptures" since the hymnals are always green. As a gift, we each received one of the newly translated Croatian Hymnals! The first official hymnal in any of the languages/countries in our mission area. President Grant also talked to us about some really good stuff, including how to help avoid people ditching us for appointments! That's going to come in handy. To close that meeting, some of shared testimonies, and it was really good. These people are the best.

For the drive home, I got to be the driver! This was my first time driving since becoming a missionary. It was pretty interesting though, since we were stuck waiting to get through the Croatia/Serbia border for 4.5 hours. There were some parts where most people would just turn their cars off while we all waited for the line to move any significant amount. We eventually got through, and it was all ok. Quite an adventure.

On Saturday night we went over to the McAlpins' so that Elder Osborn could Skype his family, since they got special permission to do it a night early. While we were there, the McAlpins also fed us waffles, since Sister McAlpin found out that waffles on Christmas morning are a tradition for my family. The McAlpins are like having grandparents that live just on the other side of town, and it's pretty great. After Elder Osborn and I retired to our apartment for the night, I opened up all the "wait until Christmas to open this!" letters that various people sent with me. Thanks so much if you were one of the people that sent a card or letter!

Christmas Stocking my Mom sent from home
Yesterday was Christmas! We had our branch Christmas program, and it was really good. Small branches like ours generally don't sound entirely on-key for hymns, but it doesn't even matter ;) After the program we all had a big Christmas lunch together. After that Elder Osborn and I did some weekly planning before we headed over to the McAlpins for me to get to Skype my family. In case you hadn't already guessed, it was really good to get to talk to them (I love you guys!), and even briefly see my cat. From there we went to visit a sick investigator and give a blessing of healing, and then we headed home.

Skyping with my sister Kayla, my mom, and my dad on Christmas!
The last week or two, there's been a mysterious stench in our kitchen, and we've been searching for the source of it for quite a while. Last night we finally found it. Hidden away behind a pile of rags, in a little plastic bag, we found an onion. A red onion that seemed like it had been rotting for years, though it was probably "only" a few months. It smelled beyond awful. We got rid of that thing fast. Hopefully our apartment will go back to not smelling weird fairly soon =P

As for your homework, I'd encourage you to figure out a way to serve the people around you, even though the Christmas season is technically over. Figure out even one simple way to serve, and go do it! Be a light to the world.

Have a great week! Enjoy your breaks from school and such, and have a Happy New Year!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

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