Elder Echols

Elder Echols

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

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