Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Missionary Poem

A Missionary Poem, by Elder Echols

The dawn is yet to break.
We rise; our beds protest.
We don the small black tag,
And scriptures we digest.
"Let's go work."

Here we find ourselves
Walking down the street.
Shoes just crunch the snow.
Someone new to greet.
"Thanks but no."

Cold wind blows right through,
We walk another mile.
We pick a block to tract,
This may take a while.
"Twenty floors."

"You don't get paid for this?"
Not with money, no.
Yet more rewards await,
If we just faith can show;
"Come on in."

One door is all it takes,
One fellow by the park.
They learn and come to see
How faith can light the dark.
"Follow Him."

They feel the truth of it,
Knowing in their heart.
To change for Him is hard,
But that's the sweetest part.
"Yes, I will."
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Week 24: Contacting, Chili, and A New Schedule

Hello everyone!

This week was a lot closer to a normal week than last week seemed to be. Sometimes it's hard to know what to think of as a regular week, though. In any case, we did a lot of contacting this week, and a lot of it seemed pretty successful; a lot more people were willing to set up a different time to meet than there usually are. However, on the other end of things, a whole lot of lessons we had scheduled ended up falling through. Just gotta keep working.

On Monday, after emailing last time, Elder Palmer and I explored Baščaršija, as I think it's called. It's a super old part of town that is now just a bunch of markets, street vendors, and stores. It's quite an interesting place. We also stopped by the bridge where WWI started. Sarajevo seems to have some pretty rich history. I've also been generally learning about the Seige of Sarajevo that happened in the 90's during the Yugoslav wars. Sarajevo was surrounded by enemy forces for 4 years or so, and plenty of the people here remember it for themselves. Anyway, later Monday night, Elders Hillock and Perry showed up from Banja Luka to stay the night and finish up the exchange.

Assassin's Bridge, where Franz Ferdinand was shot, thus starting WWI
A Local Museum
On Tuesday, I finally exchanged all of my Serbian money (Dinar) for Bosnian currency (Marks). We did a lot of phone calls to try and get into contact with old investigators who had vanished for no specific reason. That night we also had ECG, and it was pretty great. I like the group here already.

Wednesday was pretty much just contacting until the night. We've been getting a fair amount of new investigators this week, so that's nice. We haven't been able to meet up with any of them yet, for one reason or another.

That night we went over to the Newtons', as also the sisters and the Tuzla Elders, so that we could all watch the worldwide missionary broadcast. The Newtons fed us all Cincinnati style chili for dinner before the broadcast, though, and that was pretty great. It's always nice when we get fed. 

Enjoying Cincinnati-style Chili. Thank you Newtons!!
I tried it both ways: on spaghetti, and on a hot dog
As for the broadcast itself, it was really good too. They talked a lot about our purpose as missionaries and how to fulfill it, but as I'd suspect some of you have already heard about, they also announced a worldwide change to the daily missionary schedule, as well as what "key indicators" we use in our work. We'll start using this new schedule on Wednesday, if I understand correctly, and the new key indicators are already in use. I definitely thing these new changes are going to be good. The schedule is more flexible to individual circumstances, and I think it'll help people be more productive with their time.

Taking notes during the broadcast
After the broadcast, our whole mission had a big Skype call together to talk about it a little bit, and answer questions that anyone had. We also had a little devotional of sorts just amongst ourselves there at the Newtons.

Waving "hello" to the other missionaries during our Skype call
Thursday was more contacting, and then some tracting later on in the day. The tracting was hard though, since the tall apartment buildings we were planning on tracting were pretty hard to get into. Typically you would just buzz the intercom and someone would let you in, but this time was unusually difficult to find someone on the intercoms to let us in.

That night we also had ECG, and then went contacting more after dinner. We only had about 15 minutes though, and I think typically that time would just get lost as transition time, but thanks to Elder Perry, we used it for more contacting. And guess what? We actually talked to someone who was willing to talk to us and set up to meet another time! I believe that was a blessing for using even that small bit of time wisely.

Friday, we did more contacting, more lessons fell through, and we had the landlord fix our washing machine. To je to.

Saturday, we cleaned the church, and then went with the Newtons to do service up at a therapeutic horseback riding place. Unfortunately, our service there had to be cancelled, so we just had to head back. From there we, with the Newtons, visited a member that's been in a rough spot recently, and took him to lunch. We finished out the day with more street contacting and more cancelled lessons.

As for yesterday, Sunday, I got to play piano for sacrament meeting again. It's nice to get to play every now and then, even if it's just once a week. For Sunday school, Elder Perry taught in English, and I translated into Bosnian. Or maybe I should say that I tried to, haha. It was pretty fun, though.

After church we did more contacting (surprise? haha) and then got fed dinner along with the sisters at a member home! That was pretty darn good food, I have to say. I really appreciate getting to know the members. And, not just so that we have a better chance of getting fed at some point ;) Talking with members is a great way to see how this gospel really does affect lives and what good it does for both families and individuals.

Your homework for this week is to read Mormon chapter 9, which talks about miracles, and why some people might say that miracles have stopped. God never changes, and he's done miracles in the past, so why wouldn't he do miracles now? Because people change. Read the chapter to find out more ;) but I do know that miracles still do happen. Ask anyone that's gone on a mission, and they'll certainly have a story to tell. I'm only a 5th the way through my mission and I've seen a few small ones. Imajte vjeru.

That's it for this week. Here's a photo of a busted payphone, too "Molim? Ne mogu da vas čujem." Also, a picture of me in front of the bridge where WWI apparently started (Assassin's Bridge).

I guess no one uses pay phones here, either.
Sarajevo has lots of historical sites, like this bridge where WWI started

Have a great week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Week 23: Bosnia and Exchanges

Hey everybody! Crazy week with mid-transfers and everything, but here's the rundown.

Tuesday, we started off by doing some tracting. It was a good start to the day, really. We picked back up on a row of buildings that we'd started on a previous day, and very quickly found a college-age girl that was super open and interested in our message and reading The Book of Mormon. The interesting thing though, is that she's only at that apartment having lunch with her parents on one day a week, and we happened to get her precisely then.
Later on in the same building, we came to a door that had a slightly older lady answer. I asked if she was a believer at all, and she said that she used to be. With a slight tear in her eye she said that she had lost a child and wasn't a believer anymore. She then said goodbye and shut the door. Even though she had shut the door on us, it really didn't sit right with me to leave yet, since one of the principal things we share with people is the Plan of Happiness, which includes the fact that we'll be able to see our loved ones again after this life, and that families can be eternal. So, I knocked on the door again, and told her that she could be with her child again after this life, and that our message really is one of hope that we wanted to share with her. She reaffirmed her answer to be a no, and again shut the door, still with a tear in her eye. It really is so sad to me that we have this incredible truth about the eternal nature of families, and she wasn't willing to hear what it was.

After we'd finished tracting for the day, we had another Skype lesson with our investigator from out of town. He really is pretty excited about learning more about the church. After that we had ECG, and I got to say goodbye to the friends there that I've met.

Elder Osborn and I were only companions for a short time
Wednesday, I packed. We also cleaned the apartment while we were at it. For lunch we went to a Chinese restaurant, and I burnt my tongue. Oh well. To finish off the day we visited one of our investigators and shared a spiritual thought, and I said goodbye. I really am going to miss all these people that I've met from Novi Sad. But, I'm sure we'll see each other again at some point.

Thursday, we loaded up in the car and went up to Belgrade to pick up Elder Froc from the airport, since he flew in from Montenegro so he can take my place in Novi Sad. Then, we 3 drove over to somewhere just over the border into Croatia to meet up with another 5 missionaries involved in the mid-transfer. We all had lunch together and then swapped companions, beginning my time with Elder Perry. When we got back to Sarajevo, I officially met the Newtons, and then we went back to our apartment for me to unpack.

Reunited with Elder Froc and Elder Isom, who were in my MTC group
For those wondering, Bosnia is very mountainous, apparently. Sarajevo is settled in a bowl of sorts among the mountains. I hear that there's been some particularly cool history here, so we'll probably go explore some museums on our P-days. Some parts of town are small windy roads among hills of building, all covered in snow, but some parts of town are bigger and more open modern areas with lots of shopping and restaurants. Most people here are Muslim by religion. I definitely like it so far in this city.

Sarajevo, Bosnia

Beautiful snow!
Friday, we headed over to Tuzla with the Newtons to see the baptism of one of the investigators there that Elder Leach has been teaching. It was really good to see Elders Leach and Crapo there, of course. 

Elder Crapo, Elder Leach, and myself
It was also very good to have my first time seeing a baptism out here. The new member was so happy to get to make that covenant. It was pretty interesting though, since the baptism was done in a full-on swimming pool that they'd rented out for the baptism. After the baptism I promptly ended up switching Elder Perry for Elder Palmer before we headed back to Sarajevo for us to go on exchanges. Apparently he's served in Sarajevo before, so it's been pretty interesting hearing him talk about his memories here from the start of his mission.
Lots of missionaries attended the baptism in Tuzla
Elder Palmer and I on our way back to Sarajevo after the baptism
Saturday, we did some contacting, and cleaned the church a bit. We had two lessons scheduled for the day, but neither person showed up in the end, so we did more contacting. We've also been doing a lot of roleplays as part of the exchange. It was pretty interesting going contacting on the street, since the assumption around here is that everyone is Muslim, and so I can no longer use the common ground of Christ as our Savior like I did with the Orthodox Christians back in Novi Sad.

Sarajevo Street

Sunday, we had church, of course. This week there weren't any native members that came, so we happened to have all of our meetings in English. After church, Elder Palmer and I visited one of his good friends that's an inactive member. I think this whole exchange, he's been trying to get me to meet his old investigators and such so I can carry on his work from when he was serving here. Sounds like a good plan to me. Anyway, that inactive member we visited and his wife fed us as we talked to them and shared a spiritual thought. All the food was homemade and really quite good. When we got home we did some planning and Elder Palmer made some phone calls, and then we went contacting. Pretty relaxed day.

Your homework for this week is to look through the titles of recent General Conference talks, and pick one that catches your eye. And of course, then read it. While you read the talk, ask yourself how you can apply it to your own life. Think of one specific thing in your life that you can can change to better live by the principles taught in that talk, and then start living that one new thing. Even doing something as simple as this is a way of repenting and coming closer to Christ, and it'll help you have a happier life as you progress.

Anyway, to summarize, this week has been a good one, though a bit weird. Bosnia is pretty cool, and I'm looking forward to getting to work with my new companion this week! Haha.
Have a great week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Reunited with my MTC companion, Elder Leach, while at the baptism in Tuzla

In the Beautiful Bosnian Mountains

Monday, January 16, 2017

Week 22: Zone Conference and a Frozen River

Hello everyone!

To start off with the biggest news, I'm being mid-transferred to the city of Sarajevo, in the country of Bosnia & Herzegovina! More on that later.

You know what's a rough time? Trying to get your hair cut in a foreign country where you don't know haircut vocabulary. I think it must be a pretty funny thing to witness from the outside, too. But, haircuts aside, I actually am feeling pretty good about speaking in a foreign language every day for everything that matters most. This week I feel like I made a switch of some kind; now I'm a lot more confident about speaking, and I feel like I understand a lot more than I really should when natives speak. Have you all ever heard of the Gift of Tongues? It's when you get divine help to go from speaking zero Serbian to conversing on the street with natives, in something like 5 months. Though, I readily admit that I have a lot more to learn, and I do still definitely hear plenty of words I don't know yet, and I definitely make plenty of mistakes when speaking. But, my point is that the Hand of Heaven really is in this work, helping us to be able to preach of Christ.

Also, as for weather over here, it got pretty darn cold last week into this week. It was cold enough that the entire surface of the Danube river was frozen over solid here in Novi Sad. Quite a sight. It's also been snowing on and off some.

The Frozen Danube, with the Fort across the River in View
The snow is really pretty!
Anyway, last Monday was pretty busy, filled with the regular stuff like emailing and grocery shopping, but also with getting haircuts and sending off a few letters. It was snowing pretty hard most of the day, too. That night as we got back to work, we found one guy while contacting on the street who was willing to accept a copy of The Book of Mormon. In case you didn't know, The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ; it's a book of scripture quite like the Bible, and we believe that both are the word of God. Also, if The Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet in our day and age. Isn't that cool? If you don't already have one, you can request a copy of The Book of Mormon from Mormon.org or LDS.org (for free). I promise that it's a book that can change your life for the better.

Reading the Book of Mormon will draw you closer to God
The Book of Mormon and the Holy Bible both testify of Jesus Christ
On Tuesday we had Zone Conference over in Belgrade. As always, it was really great to see a bunch of the other missionaries, and to learn how we can improve. I got to play piano for some parts of the meetings, as well as after while we were waiting a bit. That was a pretty great set of meetings. Oh, and lunch was catering by Burrito Madre; we even got churros with our burritos. A very good set of meetings indeed.

Wednesday started off by going with the McAlpins out of town a bit to visit some members. They unexpectedly fed us some soup and Sarma and such, and it was super good. I really love Sarma. During that trip with the McAlpins, I found out that I'll be accompanying for a special musical number at church on the 22nd. So, that'll be fun.

Enjoying Dinner with the McAlpins
When we returned from that visit, Elder Osborn and I went contacting and tracting, and had a decent amount of success. We then went to a lesson with an investigator. It went pretty well, and we invited him to be baptized at the end, but he didn't directly accept it. We'll obviously keep working with him, though. I think he's headed in the right direction.

Thursday, we started off by mailing a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants off to our out-of-town investigator, as well as some other stuff. We then went contacting, and Elder Osborn promptly got off a Book of Mormon and got her contact info. Later on tonight when we contacted her again to try to set up a meeting time, she said we could meet once she'd read the (whole) Book of Mormon. I'm not quite sure how to feel about that. She very well could be one of those people that really has their interest piqued by The Book of Mormon and plows through it in less than a week, but maybe not. We'll see!

Later on, we had a lesson with a member at the church, and just as we were finishing up and heading out to go contacting some more, the power went out there in the church. When we returned an hour or so later for ECG, the power was still out, so we went on a little bit of a scavenger hunt to find the right switch to flip back. Once the gazda (landlord) showed up, he was able to show us where the right switch was hidden, and then we got on with our English Conversation Group.

Something fun we saw while out contacting...a big shed full of corn!
After ECG we went to get dinner at this little home-made soups and sandwich shop. Great food for really good prices, and the guy working there was super nice. We had a solid conversation, and at one point he said that we spoke Serbian really well for being Americans. He also said that he wouldn't have guessed that we were Americans; maybe Czech or Slovak, but not American. Score. What a friendly guy. He didn't seem particularly interested in religion, but we left our card anyway.

Friday, we did a lot of contacting on the street. Later on in the day we had a lesson with one of our investigators that's doing pretty well, and answered a lot of his questions. We also got to share about the First Vision with his son who was there. Really good stuff. On our way out of that lesson, we actually got a call from our investigator that lives way out of town, and so we ended up heading over to the church to have a little Skype lesson with him. We talked a little bit about the Doctrine and Covenants, and then to finish up we gave him Moroni's challenge, from Moroni 10:3-5, inviting him to find out for himself if The Book of Mormon is true. It was a pretty good day to me.

So, now about the fact that I'm going to Bosnia. On Thursday this coming week, the 19th, I'll be moving over to the city of Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia) to be companions with Elder Perry. Apparently some other Elders in the mission have been having Visa problems, and thus the unexpected switch-around. We got the call to notify us of the transfer on Saturday morning during studies. So, soon I'll be speaking Bosnian! For the rest of Saturday, we did a lot of contacting.

Yesterday, Sunday, we had church of course, and that was pretty good. After church we helped with tithing and such, and later had dinner at the McAlpins. A fairly regular Sunday.

Your homework for this week is to read Alma 46! It's the chapter in which Captain Moroni creates the Title of Liberty. It's a chapter that talks a bit about what it's like to stand up for what you know is right. As you read it, see what you can learn for yourself about standing up for your beliefs.

The words Captain Moroni wrote on the Title of Liberty
Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty
Well folks, that's it for this week! I'll be emailing from Bosnia next week of course, so that's exciting. I hope you all are doing well!

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