Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, December 18, 2017

Week 70: Adventures in the White City...And Some Other Stuff

Hello everyone! First of all, transfers are this week; I'm off to Celje again! That's back in Slovenia, where I just was before coming to Sremska Mitrovica. So, this week was kinda crazy. A lot of good stuff, and a lot of unexpected, but not much bad. I'd call that successful.

To start of with, on Monday we ran some errands, than went to Belgrade for our p-day. In the process of meeting up with people, Elder Jones and I ended up on a random bus without the rest of the group, and got sent off to the outreaches of the city. Then we got on the same bus line going the other way and eventually ended up right back where we started. Eventually we all made it to a bowling place and had a great time. 12 of the 18 regular missionaries in our zone were there.

Bowling fun with the other missionaries!
Bowling in Serbia!

Then we rode some buses to get back to the church and such, got the car from the parking garage to drive back to Sremska, and quickly discovered that we had a flat tire. So, Elders Criddle and King changed it out for the tiny spare we had, and since all the repair places were closed for the day, we just emailed with the Belgrade missionaries, and then stayed there in the city for the night.

A flat tire changed our travel plans.
In the morning on Tuesday, Elder Jones and I went to a bakery for breakfast and I finished my Slovene Visa application form, while Elders King and Criddle went to get the car tire repaired. Then, since we were already in Belgrade where the Slovene Embassy is, we made a quick stop, but the doorman guy said they were too busy and to come back tomorrow. He wrote down my name as the first one for Wednesday. Then we all went back to Sremska, we did some business stuff, and then some random lady from New Jersey showed up at the church to say hello. She was a Presbyterian that had lived in Utah before, and had recently been living in Poland, I guess. Then we set up our table in Centar, and there were a lot of people at the skating rink there in the square. Eventually some kids started throwing tiny snowballs at us from the skating rink, so we moved to a different spot on the square.

The skating rink in the town square.

Our information table.

That night we of course had ECG. We also found out from the Deckers that one of our members got non-fatally electrocuted (it's a miracle that he's alive) while at work. So, he was in the hospital for a few days.

On Wednesday, Elder King and I headed out to Belgrade to do my visa stuff, since he knows Belgrade pretty well. We got there to the Slovene Embassy just before 10:00 when they open, and there was a bit of a crowd. We were up front when the doorman guy came out and started taking people. Since we were first on his list, he asked what what our deal was, I told him, and then he told us fairly loudly in front of the whole crowd that that doesn't exist. The problem is that I know that what I needed does in fact exist, since that's how I got to Slovenia the first time. He told us to go talk to someone else, we did, and that second guy said that he'd tell the first guy to let us in. Then we talked to the lady inside and waited around and found out some other stuff that we needed to go get, but thankfully all of it was possible to get in Belgrade. So, then we went and ran around a bit to get the things and fill out a new form. Then our phone said that it was extremely close to dying. So, we quickly called some of the Belgrade missionaries to tell them to meet us at the church in an hour with a phone charger. Then the phone died entirely. The only problem was that we needed to renew our parking, and you can only do that by text. So we ran around some more, got a sketchy parking spot, ran back to the embassy, and got there at 12:08, 8 minutes after they close. But, the doorman guy was there and he let us in to talk to the lady since she knew we'd be returning soon. So, we got all my Slovene Visa application stuff turned in. Then we realized that Elder King didn't have his nametag like he did earlier in the day. So, then we ran around town some more to the places we'd been before, looking for his nametag. Nothing. So then we went to the church, joined in on the Belgrade district meeting while our phone charged some, and then went to get a late lunch before heading back to Sremska. In the meantime, we have at least 6 people blowing up are phone for various reasons, and it was kind of absurd. Right as we were leaving the edge of Belgrade, something flew up and hit our windshield, and it may or may not have been Elder King's nametag. It went by really fast, so we don't know. As we got to Sremska, somehow we missed the exit, and it turns out that the next exit is 22 km (almost 14 miles) down the road. Oops. Thankfully we managed to pull a cool and safe U-turn thing at that next exit to avoid paying an extra 44 km (27ish miles) of toll costs. We got into town, got gas, picked up the Deckers, visited that member that got electrocuted, and his family, since he'd just gotten out of the hospital. Apparently the current went from his right hand to his right foot, totally avoiding his heart and not damaging any major organs. He has some solid burns on his hand and foot, though. We gave him a blessing, as well as some other sick family members. Then we went and put up our stand in Centar for a while before we finished off the night with some other random things that needed to get done. One of those things was setting up a miniature Christmas tree in the church.

Our mini Christmas tree.
On Thursday we got transfer announcements! Like I said earlier, I'm going back to Celje in Slovenia, right where I was last transfer. I'll be companions with Elder Love, who I've never met before, and the Monsons will also still be there. I'm excited to get to work on my Slovene speaking some more. Later in the day we got ditched for a lesson, we did some contacting, had district meeting, etc. We also found out that our investigator's sister died recently. The investigator whose name starts with an M. I forget the fake name that I gave him before. Sorry. Anyway, we set up a lesson with him for the next day in the morning so we could talk about it. Also, at district meeting, Elder Decker shined all of our shoes just to be nice. What a great guy. Then we had dinner, ECG, etc.

Friday morning we had that lesson with M, and re-taught him the Plan of Salvation, of course emphasizing the resurrection. Because of Jesus Christ, all people will one day be resurrected, body and soul together again, and we'll be able to see all of our friends and family members again. Though it's hard to be separated from loved ones, it's only a temporary thing. A bit later we looked up where an address is so we could go there for a lesson we had scheduled, and then went to the lesson. He was someone that had been taught by the missionaries before, and he was really nice, but I'm not sure it'll really go anywhere with him, since we could hardly get a word in. After that lesson, I got some information that my Slovene Visa will be ready on this next Wednesday. The original plan was for me to participate in this big carpool switch-around thing on Tuesday, but that won't work since the embassy has my passport. So, I called the Assistants to the President and got a new plan figured out. It turns out that Elder Love will be making it all the way over here to Belgrade. That's a lot further than most Slovene-serving missionaries ever get. Anyway, then we put up our table in Centar by the ice skating rink, saw our investigator "Danny", and set up a lesson for the next day. Then at the end, he helped us carry our stuff back to the church. He's a great guy. That night we went over to a member family home for dinner, and it was great. There are some really awesome people around here.

We love the people here in Serbia.
On Saturday morning we had a lesson with "Peter"and we taught him about some commandments, and he seems to be doing pretty well. He told some off-topic stories like usual, but it wasn't too bad. After lunch we helped Elder Decker with some paperwork and clerical things, and later on we had that lesson with "Danny". We talked about tithing, answered some questions, and then at the end talked about baptism some more. He's still afraid of what people will say to him if he were to get baptized, and how they'd treat him. Thankfully, some members showed up at the church right at the end of the lesson to start with something else, and we got them to tell their own stories of how they came to join the church and their overall experience since then. He's still not resolved on that, but he's coming along. That night we went with the other Elders and with the Deckers to go to dinner at a nice restaurant on the river, but then the whole place was reserved, so we went to a different nice restaurant slightly further from the river. They have some pretty good food in Serbia, by the way.

Yesterday was Sunday, and so we of course had church. It was really good, and since I'm leaving, I gave some notes to some members. I really like these people. After church we did some more paperwork stuff, had weekly planning, then had dinner at the Deckers like usual. It was also really good, like usual. But this time, Sister Decker made a traditional Serbian dish, Sarma. One of my favorites. From there we went to quickly visit some other members, and the visit wasn't exactly as quick as planned, since they also decided to feed us some cake.

As for today, we cleaned up the apartment and packed and such and had our apartment cleaning check. We also have emailed, as you can see. Nothing special.

Your homework this week is to read The Living Christ. It's a statement from modern-day Prophets and Apostles about Jesus Christ. It's quite a good read. We talked about it a lot at Zone Conference last week.

Here are some pictures from bowling and the skating rink and such. Have a great week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, December 11, 2017

Week 69: Christmas Conference and a Flat Tire

Hello there, friends and family! I hope you all are doing well. This week was a pretty good one. It's snowed some more, we got to go to Zagreb and see other missionaries, etc. I like zone conferences.
So, on Tuesday after our studies we went with the Deckers to visit that same member and her mom who isn't a member. Same pair from last week, or whenever that was. We taught them the Plan of Salvation, God's plan for us, and it went really well. At the end we asked the mom if she'd prepare to be baptized, and it basically came out that she doesn't understand why she'd need to, since she was baptized in the Orthodox church. We tried to explain the authority thing better while we were there, but we'll need to work on it some more. After lunch, Elder Criddle worked on some random stuff, and then put up our Christmas stand/table in Centar on the main square again. It was really cold that day, but some people took stuff and it was good. That night we had ECG with one student, but it was really good.
Me playing the accordion at our Christmas Zone Conference in Zagreb
On Wednesday we packed up and headed out on the road to go to Zagreb, Croatia for Zone Conference. This one was special, since it's the closest one before Christmas. So, Christmas Conference. The drive all the way to Zagreb was long and cramped, with 5 not-so-small people in a fairly small car with hardly 5 seats. Once we got to the mission home, we got to see some old missionary friends, like Sisters Locey and McColm who were in the same district as me in Sarajevo at various points, or Elder Valentine who was in the same MTC group as me over a year ago. Also, the Belgrade district had all matching sweaters. We had some scripture trivia and such, and then all went out to do some Christmas caroling in the big park right there. When we finished caroling, we all got to go wander around and look at the shops and all the cool stuff that's set up in Zagreb. It's quite amazing. Then we had a big fiasco while trying to take our car from the parking garage so we could go to the mission home for the night. Long story. We eventually made it out and over to the mission home where we then had a talent show. One of the highlights was President Melonakos telling jokes. And, in case you're wondering, I did participate by playing something on accordion. I enjoyed it. To end the night, we all had some free time for games and such, and some of us ended up playing a huge game of Uno that was total insanity, and then a few rounds of "4 Women on a Couch". That game is kinda hard to explain without seeing it, so I'll just let you wonder. Sorry, haha.
I got to see lots of other missionaries at zone conference, which was so fun!
On Thursday morning we got up and had breakfast and stuff, and continued on with zone conference. There were a lot of good presentation, a number of which were based on passaged from "The Living Christ". We had a lot of really good discussions, and good musical numbers spread throughout too. At the end, Sister Locey gave her departing testimony, since she's finishing her mission at the end of this transfer, which is in a week. Anyway, after some lingering, we all headed on the road back to our respective cities, and the drive on the way back was just as long and cramped was it was on the way there. Weird how that works.
Driving in the car with other missionaries and Elder Decker
On Friday life returned to normal. Though, on our way out of the apartment in the morning, before even getting out of the building, a lady stopped us and set up a lesson with us for the next day. Apparently she's one of the people in the phone that Elder Criddle and I have never actually met, but who we'd called a time or two to see if they'd be interested to learn more. Anyway, then we went outside to do some contacting and didn't get any other new investigators. We gave out some cards, though. Then we got lunch from Tesic and took it back to eat at the church, at which point we discovered the other Elders working there and waiting for their own lunch from Tesic to be delivered. After that we got our little table set up again in the main square of town, and while we temporarily split up, Elder Jones and I ran into "Peter" and his brother on our way over. So, we set up a lesson with him for the next day. Right as Elder Jones and I were arriving at the stand, a guy from across the street waved and stopped us and asked us if we were from America. He said he was partially from North Dakota and partially from Serbia, and said that he'd bring his family to church on Sunday. Awesome. At the stand, some lady came up and almost immediately asked what'd take for her to be able to meet with us to learn more. So, we exchanged phone numbers. Nice. All the cool things happen when we're not trying to make them happen. After we were done with the table for the day, we had district meeting back at the church with the other Elders and the Deckers. Then Elder Criddle and I had dinner and a companion study before we had a lesson with "LJ". He's a guy that flips back and forth between Sremska Mitrovica and Novi Sad, where I started my mission. So, I've actually met him a number of times before while I was there a year ago. In any case, it was a good lesson and it seems like he's learning a lot from long-term exposure to the gospel.
Our little display table set up at the main square.
Saturday it was snowing more! We started off with some lesson planning, and then we went over to the church for our lesson with "Danny". He's doing really well, and we talked about prophets, temples callings in the church, marriage, and the Word of Wisdom. He always has really good questions. We also invited him again to be baptized, and though he knows that baptism is a really important and good thing, he said he's afraid of what friends would say to him if he got baptized in this church. At least it's a clear next step, right? After that lesson we helped Elder Decker with some stuff, then had another lesson, but this one with "Peter". This lesson was really good, and he didn't go off-topic talking about paranormal stuff quite as much. We taught him about obedience, and how it's a commandment to read the scriptures like the Bible or Book of Mormon, as well as of course keeping the Sabbath day holy, and following the prophets. I think we got some good stuff cleared up, too. After that, our lesson with the lady from the stairwell didn't happen, and so we had lunch. Then we set up our table in Centar on the square, even though it was snowing. Then we had language study and dinner before going over to the branch activity, another game night. People here really like Uno, and it's great to have everyone socializing like that. I also played two heated matches of Fusball (does anyone know how to spell that?) with "LJ", and we each won one. Once the activity was over, we cleaned up the church and then headed home for the night.
Enjoying the Christmas Market in Zagreb with other missionaries. I'm behind the sister with the white hat.
Yesterday, Sunday, we had a lesson with "Danny" before church, and we had a member come to the lesson. It was that young man that recently got ordained to be a priest, and he really helped a lot. He helped answer some of Danny's concerns about how his friends might react to him getting baptized. It was really good, and we told him to pray about it too. I think he'll get baptized within the next 2 months for sure. Anyway, then we had church of course and "LJ", "Peter", and "Danny" were all there. It was great. There were some really great talks and really great classes. After church some of us had to wait around a bit, and I got to talk to some of the younger members about their mini-missions that they'd served in Sarajevo, where I served before, of course. Anyway, the rest of the day was just the regular thing with weekly planning and a wonderful dinner at the Deckers'.
As for today, it's been kinda crazy, but among other things, we went to Belgrade and went bowling with pretty much the entire zone. All 12 of us except the 4 Podgorica missionaries and the Zone Leaders. So, I guess it was 2/3 of the zone. We also discovered as we were heading out to head back to Sremska Mitrovica that our car had a flat, so we're figuring that out. I guess we'll be going back to Sremska in the morning.
Elder Criddle and I with Sister Decker
Well, I don't really have much time for email, so you'll have to figure out some homework to assign yourself. Have a great week!

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

Week 68: Pancakes, the Frappe Trap, and the Police Station

Hello everyone! I hope you all have had a great week. Over here in Serbia we got some rain and grey skies, but that's ok, since it snowed yesterday.

On Monday morning last week, we made pancakes for breakfast with the other Elders and played some chess. I only played one game, and it was against Elder King. Somehow I pulled a fast one on him and took his queen before anything else got off the board, and then I eventually won. I don't often win chess. A bit later we had a lesson with that investigator whose fake name I can't remember right now. The one that we've been teaching this whole transfer. We read 1 Nephi 10-11, and Elder Decker brought in some reading glasses that he'd gotten for him, since our investigator guy can't read without glasses, but has no glasses nor apparently any money for them. He seemed really happy to get those glasses, and is now able to read out of the Book of Mormon! From there we pretty much did the regular p-day stuff, including going to Pizza XL for dinner at the end of the day. Elder Jones ordered a milkshake, but when the waiter delivered it and Elder Jones tried it, he said it tasted funny. It looked chocolate flavored. We investigate the menus a bit and it turns out that they have a special frappe-milkshake offer thing going on right now. Many of you reading this already know this, but it's against our religion to drink coffee. So, we asked the lady that delivered our food if it was a frappe or milkshake, and she said milkshake. So, Elder Jones finished it. I ordered a "rolled pizza"and it came out as a huge horseshoe of a calzone thing. I took half it home as leftovers.

On Tuesday morning we had another lesson with "Peter", our investigator that says he has telekinesis and can control televisions with his mind. He got off topic from the lesson and talked about his supers for a good while, but we also did get to talk about prayer and the Holy Ghost and how he can recognize the Holy Ghost. He also said that he'd have his brother read the Book of Mormon to him, since he has cataracts and can't totally see. After that lesson we went with the Deckers to visit a lady that's a member, and her mom that isn't a member. Sister Decker brought lunch over, and we had a good meal with them. At the end we of course had our spiritual thought/miniature lesson, and we did it on the Restoration. That is, we taught about prophets, why Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are important, etc. At the very end, two guys came in and interrupted a bit. Apparently they're good friends that had come to repair something in the house, but they sat down with us for the last few minutes of the lesson, and so we gave them each a copy of the Book of Mormon. The one guy seemed pretty open, and the other guy said that he can't see well enough to read. Once we left their place, we met up with the other Elders at the MUP (the place where you get visas and such) and got our Serbian visas! This is my 4th one so far. After some studies and working on some other stuff, we had ECG and then headed home for dinner.

On Wednesday we went to the MUP and got some forms for a public display, then filled them out. We went with the other Elders to the actual police station to turn the forms in, and they took Elder King in by himself and apparently kinda interrogated him about our plans, then approved it. We had to take the forms back to the MUP to get a stamp on them and for them to have a copy, but now we're approved! We're going to have a little stand thing in the main square during all of December so we can advertise the "Light the World" thing! But what's even better is that they're currently putting up an ice-skating rink in that main square, and there are a few vendors around the edge of the square, so we'll fit right in with the party. This is going to be great. Then we had lunch, studies, had district meeting, etc. That night for dinner we again went to Pizza XL with the other Elders. Btw, we're not just pizza junkies; this place has a lot of really good food that isn't just pizza. Don't worry, Mom. Anyway, Elder Jones ordered another milkshake, just like before, and drank the whole thing again. But then as we were up front paying, we heard employee A say to employee B the list of things we ordered so they could get the total, and he listed off a frappe, among other things. So... Elder Jones messed up. At least it was an accident, right? And to be fair, we did ask them the first time, and they told it wasn't a frappe. We're not going to let Elder Jones order any more milkshakes from now on. As we were walking home, Elder Criddle and I ran into a few members, and even a former missionary that served here (though I'd never met him). They said we looked cold, and asked where my scarf was. I said that it was at home. The mom in the group then told me that "scarves are to be around one's neck, not in one's home" and had me promise to start wearing a scarf. So, I've been wearing a scarf since then, haha. It was a pretty funny exchange.

On Thursday we started off by going around town again and putting up posters for English Conversation Group (ECG). The only problem is that it rained through the previous night, and that it was still drizzling a bit. The signs seemed to stay up, though, even if they were already getting wet. There's one in the center of town that we put up a few weeks ago that's obviously been through some weather, but it's still there and still totally readable, so it's fine. After lunch we went back out to do some normal contacting along our normal route, but then we got a call from the Deckers to come to the church to help translate for them. That was fun, and we even got to take a quick field trip. After that we did our companionship study to plan a lesson, and then went with the Deckers to visit one of the member families that we visit pretty much every week. They're some pretty cool people, and had some really good thoughts to contribute for the discussion. Then we headed over (still with the Deckers) to visit another member at his house that he's apparently been building for 18 years. I don't know the whole story there, but he has started going quite a bit faster recently and is making good progress on it. Then we returned to the church for ECG, and we had a new participant! Or rather, the other Elders did. We divided into beginning and advanced groups this time, since the two students were on such different levels. Elder Criddle and I took the advanced group with our very regular participant, our dear atheist friend that comes to church sometimes and always to Sunday dinner with the Deckers. He's so cool. He even gave us some really good advice about our stand that we're going to have in "Centar"in the main square. Elder Criddle made grilled cheese at the apartment for dinner after ECG, and it was pretty good.

Friday morning we had another lesson with "Peter". He told us that he has a black belt in Karate. He went pretty off-topic for the first half, but then the second half went quite a bit better. A bit after that we went over to Te[i\ for lunch for the first time in a while. They commented at the fact that we hadn't been there in a week or two but had finally come back. They're pretty funny people. After lunch we did some searching around town to find a tent-thing so we can have our Christmas table in all weather. We couldn't find anything of the sort. For part of that I went on mini-exchanges with Elder Jones, and our atheist friend came with us to help us look for that tent thing, and we still didn't find anything. While we did that, Elders King and Criddle went to check on that guy from last week that we found tracting. Apparently he did read a bit of the Book of Mormon, but not much, and also isn't interested at all. Then we did a little bit of contacting before going with the Deckers to visit some members. We like them. When we got home to the apartment, Elder Criddle made some breaded baked chicken and mashed potatoes while I figured what I'm going to do for the talent show at Zone Conference this next week. MVP.

Saturday we did a bit more prep work to get our stand ready, and then Elder Criddle and I had a lesson with "Danny"(I actually can't remember the pseudonym I gave him in the past, so that might be wrong. Sorry.) This time around when we asked him if he'd read the chapter in the Book of Mormon that we'd asked him to read, he said yes! The chapter we'd asked him to read was 3 Nephi 11, of course, since that's the first chapter of the crowning event of The Book of Mormon: Christ's personal visit to the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, shortly after his resurrection. When we asked him what he learned, he basically recited the whole chapter back to us, and it was great. Then he told us that he's starting to see how commandments protect us from the consequences that come from doing bad things. Then we smoothly transitioned into teaching him about the Law of Chastity, and it actually all went really well. He's suddenly making large steps forward, and it's great. After that, we went with the other Elders and actually set up our little table in the main square to advertise the "Light the World" thing that the church is doing. Not many people stopped by, but there also weren't many people out and about in the first place. I think it was still good, though. After that we went and cleaned the church with the Deckers and our Atheist friend before heading home for dinner and language study.

On Sunday morning when we woke up, there was snow outside! I like snow. Then we of course had church, and this week was fast Sunday when we have testimony meeting, meaning that there were no assigned speakers and anyone could get up and share their thoughts about Christ and the gospel. "Peter" and "Danny" were both there at church, and "Danny" actually got up to share his testimony. He essentially talked about how thankful he is that he's met us all and has this good influence from us, unlike the bad influence he says others have at his college, and that he's thankful that he's been learning about the commandments that will help protect him from ending up in jail or anything like that. He's pretty cool. "Peter" also stayed for all of the other meetings, and he seemed to really like it and feel the Spirit. In other news, a 16-year-old young man got ordained to be a priest, so that was cool. Elder Decker is always saying that that young man is going to be the branch president here one day. For the rest of Sunday after church, we did the regular stuff like weekly planning, had a really great dinner at the Deckers (Sister Decker made meatballs with some kind of awesome special sauce, and it was marvelous), and then came home for language study.

So far today we've chilled with the other Elders a bit, worked in the church while some guys cut down a big old tree in our little courtyard using a chainsaw on a really long pole, helped a member with some stuff, then made crepes with some of the younger members that are our age and played Uno with them. People here really like Uno (and so do I, so this works).

Your homework this week is to read Alma 42. It's quite a good one. It talks about Christ, justice and mercy, and how that all works together to provide us the opportunity to receive eternal life in the end.

Have a great week! Here's a photo of the snow.
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, November 27, 2017

Week 67: Telekinesis, Tracting, and Thanksgiving

Hey everybody! Sorry the email last week got cut short. Here's the rest of what happened last week, starting with Saturday evening:

That evening we of course helped clean the church like we do on Saturdays, and then we had our game night. That was really good, again. One of the younger members brought a friend, and apparently they needed to practice for a performance they have coming up soon, so they performed a few songs for us. She sand, he played guitar, and they were both incredibly good. It was quite remarkable. After that, we all played Uno as they kept practicing.

Playing Uno at game night
On Sunday the district president was here from Belgrade with his family, and he spoke in church. After the meetings, we all had lunch together there at the church, and it was great. Once we got home, we of course did weekly planning.

Now onto this week! This week's weather has been pretty good. Most days have been relatively sunny, and even though it's cold, it's not awful.

So, on Monday morning we started off with a lesson from the area book that I'll call "Pete". He's fairly peculiar, but really nice. He's met with missionaries before, but I'm not sure how much he remembers since it was a number of years ago. He hasn't been baptized, even in the orthodox church, but he wants to. He also says that he has telekinesis and seems to honestly believe it.

After that lesson with "Peter", we headed out with the other Elders for Belgrade. They were headed up there already to start exchanges with the Zone Leaders, and we figured we'd tag along to go see other missionaries. So, we had lunch with all the Belgrade missionaries at a restaurant called Burger House that has really great burgers. Surprise. After emailing and exchanging some mail, we drove back to Sremska, but this time with Elder Sorensen and not Elder Jones. We immediately headed over to a member family's home for dinner. When we got there, they had balloons all over the place, since it was Elder King's birthday (happy birthday!) We had a great dinner, and since it was P-day, stayed to play some music with them and just talk. Then the Deckers wanted us to come over to give us some treats, and we of course obliged.

On Tuesday we started off by trying to go find the place where a potential investigator said she'd be at a certain time of day, and we discovered that the name she gave us is not a specific shop as we thought, but rather an entire suburb. She didn't answer our calls, so we didn't end up managing to find her. After lunch we had some studies and such, and then we had a lesson with a guy from the area book. Turns out he's the kind of person that agrees to meet up so he can try to prove us wrong. He pulled out a lot of the typical stuff, and we explained it all the best we could, but he has a fundamental lack of understanding about the role of modern day prophets, and he wouldn't listen to us trying to explain, so it went nowhere. Eh. After that we had ECG, and 2 church members came, plus another friend of ours. It was pretty good. After ECG I made some calls to make sure people turn in their numbers about church attendance and ECG, since I'm the "Data Master" now and it's my responsibility to make sure that that happens. So far it's been really great to get those excuses to talk to old friends from across the mission. I also get to occasionally do some computer programming to help stuff better stay in line.

On Wednesday we had district meeting, then the Deckers briefly came over to our apartment to get some pans to borrow to use for pies. After some studies and stuff, we went tracting: knocking on doors. Then we went contacting: talking to people on the street. Then we bought some food during our dinner time, met the other Elders at our apartment, and made some food together.

Thanksgiving Dinner
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! So on Thursday we started off with some phone calls and such, then I made some good progress with a mini-project for the Data Master stuff. We had a mini-lunch, then had some studies before going contacting. After contacting we headed over to the Deckers' for dinner. If I haven't mentioned, Sister Decker's cooking is really good. Definitely a lot better than mine, haha. The other Elders were of course there, plus our dear atheist friend that comes to Sunday dinner with us all, and occasionally to church. He's great. After that we had ECG like usual, and only one person came. But that's ok. After that we had some time off because of the holiday, so we had the other Elders come over and we played some games for a bit to end the night.

Sister Decker is a great cook and made a wonderful Thanksgiving Feast.
Friday we made some phone calls, had comp study, did some contacting, got lunch, then went with the Deckers to visit a member family. Sister Decker talked recipes with them for a while, and somehow I didn't need to translate. Sister Decker has quite the food vocabulary in Serbian. More than me, definitely. I really only know how to say a few kinds of meat, sugar, flour, eggs, and a few fruits and vegetables. At the end we had a spiritual though about member missionary work, since that family actually has a son out on a mission, and it seems like they've got a friend that they're about ready to bring to a church activity. From there we rushed back to the church since we were running a bit late for a lesson, but thankfully our guy "Pete" was there waiting for us. He's a cool guy. Right as we unlocked the door to go in the church for our lesson, his brother showed up, and joined us for the lesson. Thankfully we had the first lesson planned, the Restoration. So, we did that, and we really drove it home with a lot of good scriptures, and they seemed to really understand it, and both of them agreed to read the Book of Mormon. Also, "Pete" talked more about his telekinesis and some government conspiracies involving televisions.

Learning more Serbian language skills at District Meeting
After that we had language study, then went tracting. A lot of tracting. Then we had this kind of "4th floor last door" moment when the very last door that we knocked on before we were gonna head home for the night was some guy that let us in. I can't remember the last specific time that someone let us in right from the door. But, the other funny thing is that these buildings have a lot more than 4 floors, and we always go top down. So, it's less "4th floor last door", and more like "4th building first floor". Weird. In any case, I think he had Mormons confused with Amish a bit, but we cleared that up and gave him a quick version of the Restoration. He seemed ok with it, but not convinced. He also said he'd never change faiths, since everyone is Orthodox. I asked him what he'd do if God himself came and told him to change faiths. He didn't give me a straight answer. I'm not sure he's going anywhere very soon, but we'll stop by again soon to give it a shot. That night we made tacos for dinner.

On Saturday we cleaned the apartment thoroughly for cleaning checks, some repair guys decided to come over on short notice, then we went for a quick round of contacting. Then we had comp study, our cleaning check got cancelled, and we went with the Deckers to visit another member family. This time when we got there it was only the grandmother and the young daughter that were there, not the whole family. So, we talked with them for a few minutes until all the rest of them showed up. They had been out helping with some construction stuff at the uncle's place (he's a church member too). They offered us some fried pig fat.

After we left, Elder Criddle and I had some language study, then I did a bit more of that Data Master stuff before we had our branch game night that is every Saturday now. It was good, like always, but with fewer people this week. A few new people did come for the first time though. After that was over, we cleaned the church before going home.

Playing ping pong at branch game night
Sunday was of course church, and Elders Criddle and Jones spoke. After church we had a mini-lesson with our investigator that came to church, and we answered some questions that he had about the Priesthood and such. It was good, and I think he's starting to understand stuff a bit better now. After church we had some lunch, did our weekly planning, then had dinner at the Deckers'. Like usual, the food was really good. A bit later we helped Elder Decker get some stuff set up on his computer, and then came home to finish planning.

Your homework for this week (and last week) is to read 1 Nephi 10-11 (yes, that's two chapters). They talk about Christ! Who doesn't like reading about Christ? Hopefully you do. (If not, you can start practicing now).

Well everyone, have a great week! Talk to you then.
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb