Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, March 20, 2017

Week 31: Moving Apartments and Banja Luka

Hello everyone! Another week has gone by and now you have yet another letter from me. Isn't time a funny thing? Anyway, this week the weather was really good, the work was pretty good, and I got to go to Banja Luka again! More on that later.

To start off with, last Monday was pretty interesting. The Banja Luka elders (Elders DeLeeuw and Winfield) came down to start exchanges, so we spent most of the day with them, our senior couple (the Newtons), and our sisters. If I've done my calculations correctly, that's exactly half of all the missionaries in Bosnia!

Bosnian Missionaries, from left to right: Elder DeLeeuw, Elder Winfield, Sister Rougeau, Elder Perry, Me (Elder Echols), and Sister Martineau
My Bosnian name tag with the beautiful Bosnian mountains beyond
Anyway, we all drove up into the mountains a bit to go see some cool stuff. The first thing was an old abandoned hotel, I guess, but it was so deteriorated that you couldn't tell what anything was. But, through the busted walls it had a really great view of Sarajevo and the surrounding valley, The second thing we went to see was the old bobsled track from the winter '84 Olympic games. You can get up on it and walk the length as it squiggles through the trees. It was also covered in very colorful graffiti, which honestly looked pretty cool. We also saw from other cool views from the mountain tops, and even encountered a pile of stray puppies.

The old, abandoned hotel
The bobsled track in Sarajevo from the 1984 Winter Olympics
Me with Sisters Rougeau and Martineau
After all that, we all went back to the Newtons' to have pizza and play Risk. It's good to take a break every now and then. From there when we came back to our apartment with the Banja Luka elders for them to stay the night, Elder Winfield and I played a round of chess. He beat me (not a surprise).

Playing Risk, eating pizza, and emailing our parents while at the Newton's apartment
While at the Newtons I got measured on their wall
On Tuesday, Elder DeLeeuw and I drove over to Banja Luka to start our exchange. On the way there, a cow was in the road in our way, slowly walking across. Once we got to Banja Luka and got set up a bit, we went contacting and got a new investigator right off the bat. For part of ECG that night we combined with Sisters Anjewierden and Higley to play Telestrations with all the participants. Always a good time.

Why did the cow cross the road? (Notice you can see me in the rearview mirror snapping this picture)
On Wednesday, still in Banja Luka, we went contacting more, of course. We briefly stopped to watch the old men play their giant chess, and one ended up coming to talk to us about the other people watching chess. He was really quiet though, so we couldn't hardly ever hear what he was saying, and thus we simply kept bringing up The Book of Mormon and why we were there and stuff. It turned out he wasn't interested.

Elder DeLeeuw watching a game of giant chess
For lunch we got Banjalucki cevapi, and that was the best cevapi I've had yet. Also, the restaurant was playing all native music, generally turbofolk. We then had district meeting, during which I realized that my coat didn't have my tag on it anymore. So, after district meeting we checked around the church with no success, but then returned to the cevapi place. As soon as we opened the door and the employee guy saw us, he just turned to his counter, picked up my tag, and handed it over without us needing to say anything. What a great guy.

This is Banjalucki cevapi. It is similar to a hamburger
On Thursday we drove back in the direction of Sarajevo, stopping halfway at a little town called Travnik to meet up with Elders Winfield and Perry so we could switch back. But first, we had lunch together.

Once we arrived back in Sarajevo, we went to the Newtons' to drop off the car, and found them working with the church's Advokat to find us a new apartment. Later that day, we found out that we're moving apartments by April 1st at the latest. But, we spent the rest of the day contacting, having ECG, and doing language study at McDonald's.

Apparently St. Patrick's day was this last week, right? We missed it because no one around here cares about it I guess.

On Friday we did a lot of contacting again. We did pretty well, with 4 new investigators by the end of the day. We also had a lesson (3rd, I think) with a guy that seems to be really doing well. We taught him the plan of salvation, and at the end we asked if he had any other questions, and he just kinda sat there and looked at it and said "...good plan." We also invited him to be baptized, but he said he wants to learn more about it all before he goes promising anything. Makes sense. He'll get there.

Beautiful Bosnia
That evening we did some tracting in a really tall apartment building. One of the first doors we got to, at he top, had fluent English speakers inside. There was a pretty funny moment when we started speaking to them at the door in Bosnian. Turns out they were college students having a bit of a party for the weekend. They invited us in for some drinks, but we declined. Pretty funny conversation. A few floors later, a guy answered the door saying he was an Atheist that has faith in Satan. He invited us in to try Satanism, but we declined.

Saturday we cleaned the church, and multiple people skipped out on lessons they'd scheduled with us. We even had a lesson scheduled with someone and their family at their house (it's not very common for people to invite/welcome you to their home), and so we walked all the way out there and found their address. Their gate to their yard was locked, but a lady saw us their and came to see what we wanted. We told her who we were looking for, and she had no idea who it was. Also, the phone number we had stopped working a few hours before that. It was a nice stroll, at least. From there we took a different way back that happened to go by 3 or 4 huge graveyards all right next to each other. We could also see an even bigger graveyard on one of the other nearby hills. This city has a LOT of graves, btw. It's just one of the key things about Sarajevo.

Look at this cool cemetery!
More gravestones
This photo shows you the immense size of this cemetery!
Yesterday, Sunday, we had church! Surprise. I gave a talk, and played piano like usual. We had an investigator come, but not any of the ones we've had any lessons with. People are so busy with life nowadays. After church we cleaned our apartment even more, and the landlord came by to sort out some details about us moving out soon. The rest of the night was just the regular stuff.

Today we started off with a huge packing/cleaning spree, with the help of the Newtons and the Sisters. 1000 thanks to them. So, now we're all packed up and going to move some of our stuff over to our new apartment (which is an awesome apartment) in just a little while. The new apartment is in one of the buildings along the main road, and sits almost directly 5 floors about McDonald's. With our new location, it'll only take one elevator ride to get to a prime contacting spot, as opposed to a 10 minute walk.

A hillside filled with homes in Sarajevo
Anyway, I'm totally out of time, so you'll find out more next week! Sorry for no homework, but it'll be good for you to figure out something on your own to study ;)

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

Me and Elder Perry, enjoying the view last p-day

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