Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, February 20, 2017

Week 27: Sushi, 25%, and This Weather

Hello my physically distant friends and family!

This week was a little bit rough, but it definitely had its good patches, and things seem to be back on their way upward.

Tuesday, as many of you know, was Valentine's Day. There were a lot of young couples out and about in the city and in the park enjoying the sun that was out. As for us, we of course did some finding, and we found some very talkative but also very uninterested people, haha. We had a few lessons fall through like normal, but we did have another lesson with our recent convert. He's doing really well.

Wednesday was more contacting, but for lunch we tried a place called "Sushi San". Honestly, that's a pretty good pun, since "san"is the Bosnian word for "dream", and it's also a title of sorts in Japanese (if I understand correctly, Daniel San). That sushi was really good, and the employees were super nice. I think we're going to get to be their friends.

Who knew you could find great sushi in Bosnia?
We also had District Meeting on Wednesday, so I got to meet Sister Martineau, our new addition to the district. Later that night, Elder Perry and I did some tracting and got kicked out of a few apartment buildings. Pretty fun.

Thursday we did some contacting and got some people who were interested in meeting up, so that was nice. We also had two lessons, but one was only 10 minutes before he had to go, and we simply got to know him a bit, so I don't know how much that should really count as a lesson. But, the other lesson was really solid! He was really open and really seemed to get what we were saying and agreed with us. Just after that, President Grant and his wife and some other of the awesome people from the mission office came through, and we had interviews with President Grant. He's a pretty great guy, btw.

Friday was my 6-month mark! So, that means I'm 25% through this whole thing. It really doesn't feel like I've been out here that long. The passage of time is very strange as a missionary.

We started off Saturday by going for a run through the streets of Sarajevo for our morning exercise. That definitely woke me up, haha. Through the rest of the day, the weather was awesome. Sun shining and everything, and it felt like a chilly summer day, or something. We did some good contacting. With one young guy we stopped, we asked him what brings him happiness. He said "weed". So, that was pretty funny. We also had a few lessons that were pretty good, one being again with that recent member.

A beautiful day in Sarajevo
On our way back home for the night, a college-age guy called out to us "My Brothers!"and then came over and started talking to us. Apparently he's known previous missionaries, and wanted to meet up with us again to get some questions answered. He also spoke English pretty well. So, we have a lesson scheduled with him for this next week.

Remember how I said the weather was awesome on Friday? Almost felt like Summer? Well on Saturday it snowed literally all day. It seemed to come out of nowhere. But it is still February, so I guess the warm weather should be what is weird to me. It's harder to get people to listen to us when the weather is bad, though.

On Sunday we had church, of course, which included me and Elder Perry translating into Bosnian. I really enjoy translating, but it's pretty hard. This time around, the word "box" was pretty essential, but I had no idea how to say that in Bosnian. Always a party. The rest of the day, we planned and such. Also, as part of my language study I've been reading The Blue Book (our grammar textbook) cover to cover, and I finally finished it all the way through! So, hypothetically, I now know all the grammar of these languages, haha. But you know how that goes. Time to read it again =P

Today, Monday, we started off the day with contacting, and it was pretty impressive how few people wanted to stop and listen to us. Just one of those days, I guess. After that, we looked around a bookstore a bit, and I discovered some things such as Shakespeare plays, Dante's Divine Comedy, Les Misérables, The Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc., all of them in Bosnian/Croatian, of course. Pretty cool to see that kind of thing.

Popular Books in Bosnian
The Hunger Games books in Bosnian
Your homework for this week is to read/watch Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet, a General Conference talk by Elder Holland about Christ and his Atonement for us. The Atonement really is one of the greatest gifts from God that we have been given. I implore you to use it in your life, and I know that you will find more peace and joy as you do so.

Have an awesome week! Don't forget who you are, and take time to slow down every now and then too.
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Week 26: A lot of Visa Stuff, and Some Moves

Hello once again, friends and family. I hope you've all been doing well recently. This week we found out about transfers! The news is that I'll be staying in Sarajevo with Elder Perry. One of the two sisters in the city, Sister Locey, is getting moved out, though. So, our city will not be entirely without change.

Sister Locey was transferred to Zadar, Croatia. She will be missed in Sarajevo!
Tuesday started off with us doing some visa work, again. Visa work takes up a lot of our time, really. Later in the day we had a second lesson with the guy from last Thursday. It doesn't seem like our message is quite clicking with him in one way or another. We're trying our best though, and maybe something will hit a light bulb soon. Our other lesson fell through. The rest of the day was mostly just regular stuff, including English Conversation Group. After that, for dinner, we went to this cool Palačinke place for dinner. It has a whole bunch of awesome old stuff everywhere, with old music playing. Quite an interesting atmosphere, with really good food too.

Wednesday we did more visa work, and a notable amount of contacting. We also got stood up for 2 lessons, one of which was supposed to be with our golden investigator from Monday. So, that's sad. It's ok, though.

Thursday we did more visa stuff (don't worry, it's pretty much done now), and found out about transfers. We also helped the Ostergaards meet one of the recent converts here, and it was decided that we'd be starting an institute class here! First one ever in Sarajevo, if I understood correctly. So, we'll be teaching that soon.

On Friday we finished up doing my visa stuff, so that's good to have done. We also had district meeting, of course. Later in the day, after language study, we went back to the church and discovered that Sisters Locey and Rougeau had set up a scavenger hunt for us (for Elder Perry's year mark). At the end was a big chocolate cake that they had made. Happy year mark to Elder Perry! Later that night we had a lesson with a recent convert, and he really liked the cake too.

Elder Perry with his cake to mark one year in the mission field!
Sisters Rougeau and Locey made the cake for Elder Perry and put together a scavenger hunt.
On Saturday we had a lesson with someone we'd met on the street a few days before, and he talked a lot. It was definitely good, though, haha. Later on, we got to go with the Newtons to do some service, helping with therapeutic horseback riding, and that was pretty cool. While still in our service clothes, we also went to help someone move, in a way. First time helping someone move while on the mission! I'd call that a solid Elders' Quorum activity.

Elder Echols and Elder Perry helping out at Riders of Hope

On Saturday night we had Sister Locey's farewell dinner. (Whenever a missionary gets moved out, the Newtons treat the district to a dinner at the choice of the departing missionary). We had dinner at a rotating restaurant at the top of a really tall building. It was super fancy, and generally awesome. In case you haven't heard, Bosnia is really inexpensive, so our meals were something like $15 each, despite it being one of the nicest restaurants in Sarajevo. 

Sister Locey at her farewell dinner. That's a giant creme brulee in front of her!

"American Pie" is on the menu!!
On Sunday, we of course had church like we do every Sunday, but this time I had a talk. I feel like it went pretty well. Also, Sister Rougeau had a special musical number, and it was splendid. After church, since Sister Locey is getting transferred, we got a bunch of photos of her and the branch together. For the rest of the evening, Elder Perry and I did a whole lot of phone calls to set up some lessons and such. A lot of phone calls.

Elders Echols and Perry, Sisters Newton, Locey and Rougeau, and Brother Newton.
Your homework for this week is to listen to (or read) Come Unto Christ, a speech given by Henry B. Eyring at BYU back in the day. I don't know really what to say about it, except that it's really good. It's fairly self explanatory. It talks about how we can be better disciples of Christ.

Here are some pics of the city from a huge tower. Sarajevo is pretty cool.

The view from the top of the Avaz Tower in Sarajevo

Selfie 35 floors up!!
I hope you all are doing well, and that you have a great week!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Week 25: McDonald's, a Museum, and a Few Surprises

Hello everybody! This week was pretty good. A little crazy, but plenty regular stuff too.

On Monday, near the end of the day, we hopped on a bus to Banja Luka for zone conference. That was a long bus ride, but thankfully we also had the sisters there to talk to. When we got to Banja Luka we got a taxi, and then Elder Perry and I stayed the night with Elders Hillock and Palmer.

Tuesday was Zone Conference, of course, and we got a lot of training on how to implement the new schedule effectively. "With great power comes great responsibility" was involved, including drawings of Spider-man. With this new schedule, we have a lot more time to choose when (and even where) we do things. The main thing is that we can do companion study and language study when and where we want during the day, but we also have planning in the morning (not at night), and an extra half hour to get ready in the morning. So far it's pretty nice.

On Wednesday we started living the new schedule, and I felt more ready for the day, and the weather was great, and we got 5 new investigators on the street! That's a lot more than usual for one day. One of the guys we talked to even said right off the bat, "I've always wanted to be a part of the Mormon society" or something like that. That was quite a fun surprise to hear.

Thursday we started off the day by doing some more visa work for Elder Perry, including having his blood drawn. Also, he failed his vision test (since he wasn't wearing his glasses). The lady doing the vision test then commanded him to wear his glasses. Pretty fun stuff. Later in the day we had a lesson! That's the first sit-down lesson I've had here in Sarajevo. He was a really chill guy, and I thought it went pretty well.
Recently, with the new schedule, we've been doing our language study at the local McDonald's (it's a really nice McDonald's, btw) and and been getting to be friends with some of the employees there by asking them some language questions.

Friday we did some more visa work, had district meeting, did contacting, etc. Not a hugely special day, but you definitely have to have normal days every now and then.

Saturday we had some interesting street contacts. The first peculiar one was with an older lady, and as we talked to her, she essentially recited the history of Bosnia from the last 40 years. We were there for a while, but it was still good. Two people later, we got talking with a guy that was very adamant in his skepticism of organized religion. As part of our long discussion, he ended up asking if we really do believe that "this Thomas Monson guy" is a prophet. And you know what are simultaneous answer was? "Yes".
In case some of you haven't heard, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka "the Mormon church") is a man named Thomas S. Monson, and he is a prophet of God in our day, right now. And yes, we really do believe that he receives guidance from God as prophets like Moses or Noah did. If you want to hear some stuff that he and the 12 Apostles have said recently, just go to LDS.org and check out some talks from General Conference. I know you'll find something special that can help you in your life.

President Thomas S. Monson

Yesterday, Sunday, we had church of course, and it was a pretty good one. None of our investigators came as we were expecting, but that just happens sometimes. Since it was the first Sunday of the month, it was testimony meeting, where any member of the congregation can get up and share their witness of the truth of the gospel. Being a missionary, I naturally got up and spoke a bit. It was pretty interesting speaking in a meeting in two languages, translating for myself. I think I probably missed translating a few sentences while I was switching back and forth.

After church we did some planning and stuff, and then had dinner at a member home! They fed us pancakes, and it was awesome. They have little kids, and it was really loud, but it was definitely good to get to know them better. From there, Elder Perry and I went out contacting for just an hour or so to finish the day. We found some pretty cool people who seemed willing to learn more. We also talked to a really drunk guy that asked us for money so he could drink more. We also ran into a lady from Italy that didn't speak Bosnian, but spoke English really well. I think it's really interesting, whenever we run into someone that doesn't speak Bosnian very well, trying to do missionary work in English. It's so uncommon for us to speak to people on the street in English that it's quite an unfamiliar thing by now.

Today, Monday, has actually started off quite peculiarly. We did our proselyting here in the morning already, because of the new schedule, and I definitely like that a lot. As we started off contacting, we started talking to a guy who said he was a Muslim, telling him that we have an important message about God and the purpose of life, and he said that he was free at that very instant to hear it. So, we walked around the corner over to the church with him, and sat down for a quick lesson. As we briefly spoke to him about our purpose here on Earth, how the spirit works, and about The Book of Mormon, he listened very intently and accepted all we said, even saying that he already believed The Book of Mormon to be true. We committed him to read some of it for himself at home, and set up to meet with him again on Wednesday. But along with that, Elder Perry explained a bit about baptism, and asked him if he'd prepare to be baptized on March 11th, and he said yes! So, we have someone on the path to making a big step in their life to follow Christ. After the lesson, we asked each other, "What even just happened?" since it was such a surprise.

The Book of Mormon is true and testifies of Jesus Christ
Since then, we did the regular P-day stuff like buying groceries, but we also went to a museum here in Sarajevo. The galleries and videos they had were about the Srebrenica Genecide, and the Siege of Sarajevo, back during the Yugoslav Wars in the 90's. It was quite a thing to see. What surprises me most, I think, is that I'd never heard about any of this until this last summer when I knew I was going to be coming here to the former Yugoslavia. I'd never heard of it in any history classes or anything, unless it was such a side-note to the discussion that it absolutely flew over my head. This area has a lot of big history, most within the last 25 years, and when we're talking with people on the street, like I mentioned with that older lady, many of them lived through it and remember it vividly. Learning about the Siege of Sarajevo, apparently the war was essentially in a ring around the city, in the tops of the nearby hills. There are a lot of monuments and such around the city marking notable places such as "sniper alley". But from what I can understand, people in the center of the city almost lived normal lives during to 1395 days of the Siege. They had concerts and clubs and times where people would get together just like in normal times. People have quite the stories from those times.
This marker is a memorial to the children who died in the siege of Sarajevo
Your homework for this week is to read Alma 5. It talks about what will happen after this life, and what we must do in this life to prepare for that. I know that the plan of our God is one of great mercy, and that we will be blessed immensely for following Christ as best as we can in this life.

Sometimes out here as missionaries, we only see small amounts of success from lots of work that we put in, but that's ok. We have to try to invite anyone we can unto Christ, and though many people don't accept that invitation, we see a lot of small miracles along the way, and sometimes big ones too.

I hope you all have a good week, and keep on working hard!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb