Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, April 24, 2017

Week 36: Snow, Getting Locked Out, and Achieving Goals

Pozdrav sa balkana!

Hey everybody, happy Monday! I hope you've been doing well recently. I have. This week was really great, even though the weather was awful (but I won't give spoilers here; you'll have to read the rest!)

So last Monday, like I mentioned last week, we went golfing, and Sisters Rougeau and Martineau headed out for Zagreb. Later that night I also bought a new jacket for proselyting, since before now I've only had my winter coat, or my suit jacket.

A store's clothing display, while shopping for a jacket
On Tuesday we packed and cleaned more, had a lesson with our recent(ish) convert, had one last lunch together (at a place called Metropolis that we quite like), and then we headed over to the airport. About 3 minutes after Elder Perry left, Elder King showed up! 

Me and my new companion, Elder King
We took a taxi home that ended up being stupidly expensive for some reason, and then we got Elder King set up a bit, and then hit the ATM real quick. The ATM ate his card. But, he got his cash, so that's good I guess. We got groceries and did some planning, and in the mean time it started DUMPING SNOW. Like, seriously. It didn't even stop for something like 3 days.

I had to go back to wearing a coat and scarf because of all the snow!
On Wednesday we got Elder King's white card, meaning he has permission to stay here for a while without getting deported. Very good thing to have. On the way to the lawyer's place, we missed the right stop about 2 or 3 times, since the windows were all fogged up on the tram. Good times. For lunch I introduced Elder King to Woki, the restaurant right next to the church, and he loved it. I didn't even have him try the doughnuts. After that we had a lesson with one of our main investigators, and talked about "getting an answer"about whether or not this church is actually God's church on Earth and whether or not The Book of Mormon is true. If The Book of Mormon is true, and this church is God's church. Otherwise, this whole thing is bogus. It's one or the other, and it can't be a mix of the two. You can find out which it is by reading The Book of Mormon and praying to ask God if it's true or not. You should try it if you haven't yet (and maybe even if you already have).

Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and you can know that for yourself, through prayer.
The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and will help you draw closer to Him.
Anyway, when we finished that lesson, we realized that the church's office door had locked itself, with all our keys and all of Elder King's stuff in there except his coat. The part that really scared us was that everyone else that had keys to the office was not even in the country of Bosnia. Thankfully we eventually got ahold of one of the members of the branch presidency that was in town, and though he didn't have keys to the office, he had keys to the front door. His kind wife brought them to us. So, that meant that we could leave and lock the church and go do productive things like find people who want to learn more about God's plan for us. We did some tracting, and had a return appointment with a family we (Elder Perry and I) had found tracting a few days before. After all that, we still had to wait for Sister Martineau and her new trainee to get back from Zagreb so that they could unlock to office for us. So, we went contacting in the snow. Except that it didn't really work, with the weather being like that. For dinner I took Elder King to get his first velika porcija of Bosnian ćevapi. He'd had ćevapi before in Montenegro though, so it wasn't too big of a deal. While we were doing some studies at the church, the sisters finally got back from Zagreb, and we go to meet the new sister briefly! Her name is Sister McColm.

Bosnian ćevapi, in large portions!

Elder King and his portion of Bosnian ćevapi. I think he liked it!
On Thursday we hit the Area Book pretty hard, and also cleaned up our phone's contact list. We got 3 new investigators from that, out of our daily goal of 4. A bit later we went contacting in the snow, and right at the end we barely found one last new investigator to fulfill our goal. We then made Palačinke for dinner.

For Friday, we started off with a bit of a scheduling mess, trying to figure out when District Meeting would work for everyone. But, eventually we figured it out. So, District Meeting was pretty good. We got to properly meet Sister McColm, and set some good goals for the transfer. In the rest of the day, Elder King and I had some lessons scheduled that ended up ditching. But, there was one lesson that we did have that was over at the lady's house. But because of gender rules, we took the sisters with us! That was pretty fun. Turns out the lady is a 7th Day Adventist; that's fairly uncommon around here. We had a pretty good lesson with her, and at the end she fed us all some juice and cake.

Parts of Sarajevo are so quaint, with shops amidst a backdrop of beautiful hills.
On Saturday we went with the Newtons up to do service at the horseback riding place again, and when we got back we cleaned the church. We did a bit of contacting, had studies, and then had dinner at a place called Surf-n-fries. They had fry sauce (not by that name, though) and were playing some pretty good music.

Sunday, yesterday, we had church! No surprise there, haha. There were some talks about the scriptures, and I played piano like usual, and it was great. I also translated for Sunday School. After lunch, a lesson ditched on us, and then we did our weekly planning. I feel like some good stuff is coming this transfer, btw. After planning, we went contacting for an hour and a half. Near the end, we talked to this guy that said he was an atheist and that he was in a rush, but when we said we could walk and talk with him, he said that was fine. So, we walked with him for a few minutes and talked about how God is aware of each of us, and wants the best for us, and that the hard things in our lives can help us become stronger and come closer to Him if we rely on Him. At the end we told him to let us know if there was anything that we could do for him, and he said that praying for him would probably be the best we could do. So, I asked if we could do it right there. He said "sure, but I don't know any prayers"since most of the people around here use memorized prayers. We explained how we pray, it just being us speaking from our heart, and then we said a prayer for him right there. After that he did take a copy of The Book of Mormon, and seemed to be a bit happier than when we found him. It's always nice to know you did help someone in some way. A few minutes later we were running out of time for contacting, but we hadn't yet hit our goal of 2 new investigators for the day. Then we ran into a guy that didn't have much time to talk then, but was totally willing to set up to meet for the next day (today) and give us his phone number really quick. Another one coming in at the last minute to hit the goal! It's always interesting when that happens.

So far today we've had some lessons ditch, had lunch at Woki, did some cleaning, and visited a bookstore or two to get Sister McColm her own dictionary.

Your homework is going to be to read Mormon 9 in The Book of Mormon. It lays out the logic behind why it only makes sense that God still works through miracles, and still speaks to us through prophets.

Here are some photos with my new companion, Elder King. One is at the Eternal Flame, and the other is right by Woki in the bright sun. Btw, the sun came out again yesterday.

Elder King in front of The Eternal Flame in Sarajevo.
Me and Elder King on the street in Sarajevo, in front of Woki, one of my favorite restaurants.
Have an awesome week! Don't forget to read your scriptures.
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, April 17, 2017

Week 35: Transfers, 33%, A "Dying" Missionary, and Some Golf

Hello everyone! Before you get too antsy about it, transfers were announced this week! I'm staying, Elder Perry is heading out to Zagreb tomorrow, and Elder King is coming in from Serbia to be my new companion. Also, Sister Rougeau is heading home tomorrow, and we're getting one of the new "greenie" sisters in her place for Sister Martineau to train. I haven't seen someone get trained yet (except myself), so I think it'll be fun to get to see the process there.

Anyway, last Monday was pretty fun. We did our contacting in the morning, during which we had an immediate sit-on-a-bench lesson with a super devout Muslim guy. After we finished there, we got haircuts, then went to watch a bit of the Sarajevo International Guitar Festival, and the sisters came too. That was really cool. We got to see two of the competitors perform. Super crazy fancy classical-music guitar playing. It kinda reminded me of August Rush.

On Tuesday we got our visas! Too bad Elder Perry had to cancel his this morning, haha. We also did a bunch of contacting, of course. In the afternoon when we went out, the weather looked great... for the first 20 minutes. Then, giant clouds appeared over the mountains in the distance, and we could hear some thunder and see it raining over there. We didn't have umbrellas with us. Eventually the storm clouds caught up with us, and though it was light rain at first, it quickly accelerated. We tried contacting in the rain, since we were out there anyway, but no one would stop (even though they had umbrellas). So, we ended up heading into the bridge pijaca and hiding in a fruit stand along with the two workers. Just across the way we could see a guy selling umbrellas, and man was he capitalizing on the sudden downpour! Once the rain eased up a bit, we got home without being tooo soaked, haha. That evening we had ECG like usual, but it was still a pretty small crowd.

On Wednesday we started off with contacting (surprise?), but shortly before lunch we found out that Elders Leach and Evans from Tuzla, plus Sisters Anjewierden and Higley from Banja Luka, were in town to do some visa stuff in Sarajevo for impending transfers. We all had lunch together at Woki (including with our Sarajevo sisters).

Lunch at Woki with the Banja Luka sisters and the Tuzla elders.
The unfortunate part, though, was that they were all out of their signature doughnuts. Lame. It was still great, though. A bit later we got permission from the Zone Leaders to go on exchanges and do a bit of contacting, since Elders Leach and Evans had nothing to quite do except wait for the visa stuff. So, I went contacting with Elder Leach for an hour or so! Just like old times in the MTC, except now we both speak this language adequately, haha. We even got a new investigator while we were at it. After that, we Sarajevo missionaries had a dinner appointment at a member home, and it was great. From there, Elder Perry and I headed over to our return appointment with that one guy that I told you about last time. The one whose apartment was really dark? That one.

When we get there, he lets us in and everything, and is still really friendly, but he's a bit less willing to listen because he's come to the knowledge since our previous visit that we aren't Muslim like he is. But, he is still willin to listen as a whole. We taught a bit about the Restoration and The Book of Mormon, and invited him to come to church. He said he wouldn't, and packed a cigarette right before our eyes. We made some really powerful promises about how his life would change for the better if he'd come to church every week, and he understood. We asked him if he would come. He said no. So, we said a closing prayer, left him with a copy of The Book of Mormon, and told him to read it every day. Maybe something will eventually change and he'll come around, but for now he's not going anywhere, physically or spiritually. He's someone who's just not willing to put in the effort, from what we can tell. But, we did the best we could, and I felt good about the honest effort we put into it. I suppose that's what Jacob is talking about in Jacob 1:18-19. We can do all we can, but in the end the decision is still theirs.

Anyway, since the visa stuff didn't finish on Wednesday, Elders Leach and Evans stayed with us overnight into Thursday. On Thursday morning we got up and got some stuff prepped for our branch party that was going to be that night. Then we looked at transfer announcements! In case you already forgot from the top of the email, I'm staying in Sarajevo and getting Elder King as my new companion, and Elder Perry is going to be a Zone Leader in Zagreb. A little bit later, Elder Perry and I had a lesson with that one investigator of ours that's been doing really well. We taught him about The Gospel of Christ (see Article of Faith #4), and invited him to be baptized. He's still not too sure, but he said he'd be baptized if he got a definite answer inside that all of this is true, with The Book of Mormon and everything. We suspect it'll happen this next transfer as he continues to come to church and read The Book of Mormon. From there we set up more for the branch party, and had a lesson with a recent member. From there, the branch party got started. It was really great! But the funny thing was that only people from our English Conversation Group came, and no one from the branch did. But that's fine, I guess XD We had pizza and played games and it was great. The UNO table got pretty heated. At the end, we had a lot of leftover pizza, so one of the ECG participants took a stack of boxes to give to poor people on the streets. What a guy. But there was still more pizza, so Elder Perry and I have been having leftovers of that for lunch almost every day since.

On Friday we tried getting Elder Perry's visa canceled so he can leave for Croatia, but there was no one there that day in that part of the office to do it, and they told us to come back on Monday. After we had our pizza for lunch, we had a lesson with one of the guys who came to watch General Conference last weekend. He said that it was really great. Flawless. Every speaker was wonderful. Perfect. And he said that it seemed to orchestrated. So, that was sad that he let that be more important than the message they actually said. He also said we were too young to have any actual knowledge about all this important religious stuff. That was also unfortunate. We also watched the Restoration video with him (the classic one), and he seemed to like it on an intellectual level. We don't expect to see him around much anymore, honestly, but sometimes that's how it goes. After some contacting, we had a really great District Meeting where we shared some testimonies and such. With Elder Perry going to Zagreb and Sister Rougeau going home, that was our last one before some changes. From there we all headed over to the rotating restaurant at the top of a tower for a farewell dinner of sorts. Prepare Sister Rougeau for her "funeral". I got squid for my dinner.

Sisters Rougeau and Martineau, and Elder Perry and myself at the rotating restaurant
Saturday was a fairly boring day involving a fair amount of cleaning and Elder Perry packing, but in the evening we got out to do some solid tracting. We had a peculiar amount of success, compared to what we seem to usually see, getting 3 return appointments, and one that was a "come back later". Of the 3 return appointments, one of them was a family of 4 that briefly invited us in. Both the mother and father listened to our little 5-minute intro or whatever it was, and seemed plenty interested to learn more. They seem really promising.

On Sunday we of course had church, and guess what? It was Easter! Though you wouldn't have known unless you were there at church listening. Since this is a primarily Islam area, and Muslims (if I understand correctly) don't believe in Christ's resurrection, Easter isn't really a big deal here. But it's a big deal to us! Haha. Elder Perry and another member gave good talks, and Sister Rougeau and I performed a special musical number. Good stuff. After church, since Elder Perry and Sister Rougeau are peacing out this week to various other places, there were a LOT of photos taken. Sister Rougeau and I also recorded a video of another hymn that ought to be up on the church's website for Bosnia, crkvaisusakrista.ba, sooner or later.

Sister Rougeau and the Newtons
Elder Perry and the Newtons
That night for dinner we went over to the Newtons' for Easter dinner. We had shrimp gumbo, chicken enchiladas, and mashed potatoes. Plus cheesecake for dessert. It was all super good, despite how some people might say it's not quite traditional for Easter dinner. What a great time.

We had a wonderful and unusual Easter dinner

Chicken enchiladas and Cornbread! Thanks to the Newtons for hosting us!
After we returned home and Elder Perry did a bit more packing, we met up with the sisters briefly to give them his bigger suitcases to get up to Zagreb, since he'll be flying and they're driving. There we said our final goodbyes to our dear friend, Sister Rougeau. She'll be dearly missed, especially with all of her southern sass. Her time here was well spent, and she has a grand new adventure awaiting her in "the next life" (life after the mission). RIP, Sister Rougeau (October 2015, to April 2017).

This morning, Monday, we started off by going with Elder Newton to the only golf course around here, which has 6 holes. We started of with some shots in the driving range, then moved to the course (which was almost entirely hills). Despite having earned the golfing merit badge in Boy Scouts, I've only been golfing perhaps once or twice before this. Elder Newton ended with +6 on the 9 holes we did (we repeated 3), Elder Perry with +9 or so, and I had +17 by the end of hole 4 when I popped a previously-earned blister on my hand and had to transform into a caddy. Good times.

Me, attempting to golf

Golfing was pretty fun
Your homework for this week is to read 3 Nephi 11-12, which is when Jesus Christ first appears in the Americas after his resurrection. This section is the beginning of the most pivotal part of The Book of Mormon, when Jesus Christ himself teaches the people, similar to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. His teaching is powerful, yet often simple. His appearance here to the people in the Americas is yet another testimony that he is the Son of God, slain and risen again. Happy Easter!
Jesus Christ visited his "other sheep" in the Americas after his resurrection

He Is Risen! Happy Easter!
Also, for any of you wondering, the 33% in my subject line is referring to the fact that today is my 8-month mark, which is 1/3 of my two years as a full-time missionary. So that's fun. Plus here are some photos:  tracting in the Balkans, 365 = our district, and 401 = Elder Perry enjoying golf again.

Our missionary district

Elder Perry enjoying golfing
Have an awesome week! You can do hard things.
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

Monday, April 10, 2017

Week 34: General Conference, and a Blender (and a Recap of Week 33)

Hey everybody! Sorry for the lame weekly last time. Anyway, here's the recap from the rest of that week. Since it's super long, the really interesting paragraphs will have an asterisk next to them like this: *

Tuesday (the 28th) we started off with another mission-wide district leader video call meeting thing, and since Elder Perry is the district leader here in Sarajevo, I was invited too. After that we did some contacting. At ECG that night there again weren't a whole lot of people, but definitely still enough to be quality. Somehow in my group, the discussion steered towards our religion, and someone asked how we were different from other Christians. To answer their question, I basically taught the first lesson, "The Restoration" to the 5 of them. That was pretty awesome. After ECG, Sister Rougeau and I practiced a bit for some musical things we have coming up.

On Wednesday we did a lot of contacting (including the encounter with the Sarajevski Pjesnik) and had some lessons ditch us, but one lesson did pull through at the very end. This guy has been a body builder for something like 15 years, btw, so he's absolutely huge. The lesson was really good, but at the end when we offered him a copy of The Book of Mormon, he said that his house wouldn't be a good place to have one of those. Kinda sad, but I think there's hope for the future. At the end of the night we decided to make clam chowder for dinner, but then discovered that we had neither butter nor salt, and that our 2-day old pack of chicken had already gone way bad. So, we made soup from one of those "add water" packets, and threw in some boiled potatoes.

On Thursday we had more lessons ditch, but somehow found 5 new investigators throughout the day. One was a kinda crazy lady that came up to talk to us. One was a slightly older guy who, once we started talking, had us come over to a little stone wall nearby to sit while we talked for a few minutes. Right after he said we could meet up and he walked off, we started to walk off, but there was another slightly old guy sitting there on the wall a few feet down who then stopped us and asked us what we were "selling". We explained The Book of Mormon a bit and also set up to meet with him sometime. I think it's interesting how the first guy's decision to have us go over to that wall made it so that the second guy noticed us and stopped us.

On Friday we had some pretty funny contacting experiences. One of the ones we had (that's a fairly regular one) went as follows: we stopped a lady to start talking, and she's immediately like, "oh, you're the Jehovah's Witnesses!" and we're like "Nope!" and continued to explain who we actually were. The JWs are a lot more well known around here than we are, btw. Another interesting one was when a guy stopped us, speaking darn-near perfect English, asking if we were the Mormons, and explaining that he didn't know Mormons were in Bosnia. Apparently he was from Bosnia, but had lived in the US for a notable amount of time. He was an Atheist, and had a very perspective on it all that I'd never quite heard before: "Even if there were to be more to you guys, I wouldn't really care. I know you're offering Eternal Life and stuff, but I don't want it. That sounds like it would just get boring!" He was a pretty funny dude, but he didn't seem to understand that the choice is about how happy we want to be for eternity, not if we get eternity or not. The more we follow God and Christ and learn to become like them, the happier we will be in the life after this one. A bit later in the day, we had a "lesson" with a lady whose Bosnian was remarkably hard to understand. I say "lesson" because it was pretty much just her asking us for money, and saying that she wanted to finalize her divorce and find a fine "momak" (lad, fellow, young man) to marry, and how she wanted kids. That was an interesting one.

Later, while on the tram, a guy sitting next to where we were standing asked in entirely-perfect English if we were from Salt Lake. We told him where we were actually from and got talking to him, and apparently he grew up in Bosnia, but has lived a bunch of different places around the world, many of them being in the US, one being Salt Lake City UT. For dinner that night when we went to a restaurant, our waiter spoke pretty good English. We came to the agreement that we would speak to him in Bosnian, and he would speak to us in English, and that way we could both practice the other's language. Apparently he used to work on cruise ships, waiting tables, and he also speaks a few other languages. He was a really smart guy, from everything we could tell, and he had a college degree in something not too easy, but he said he really just loves waiting tables since you get to meet so many people and it's "low stress". You meet a lot of interesting people when you talk to them.

On Saturday, April 1st, we cleaned the church, did some contacting, and had a few lessons ditch us, but one did show up. He asked a lot of questions, a fair number of which were about political stuff that I'd never even heard of. For dinner we went with the Newtons to have dinner at a local member's home, and by consequence had some pretty good food. The member's high-school-age grandson was there too, and he knew his English really well. When we asked him how he learned, he said that it was all from video games and movies. Apparently they don't make video games in Bosnian, so he just plays everything in English (and it's paying off).

That night we discovered at the church that the sisters had set up a scripture-trail scavenger hunt thing like it was going to lead to some gift, but right from the start Elder Perry and I knew that it was April Fools' day (since we had been planning our prank for the sisters), so we weren't surprised when the last scripture was one about fools, with a "happy April Fools' day!" note attached. Good stuff. For anyone wondering, our joke for the sisters was going to be to tell them that we got 4 referrals, and one was a family of 6 that we'd already put on baptismal date. Also, for some reason there were fireworks at the very end of the night. I guess Bosnians really like April Fools' day?

On Sunday, we had no investigators at church. Our most solid investigator had work again I guess, and who knows about all the other people that said they'd come but didn't. We had some lessons scheduled for after church that ditched. Then, we did weekly planning and made palačinke (crepes) for dinner. Sister Rougeau, thanks for the recipe.

On Monday, last P-day, like I said in my very short email that day, we went to Visoko to see the "pyramids" they have there. I think the problem was really that our tour guide cancelled on us the night before, and so we simply didn't know where the cool stuff was. But on our way there, it was pretty fun trying to find the Tuzla Elders as we're both driving around the city. Eventually we convinced them to stop and let us come to them. Then we went on our hike and got offered Rakija and we drank our water. Once we got back to Sarajevo, we did our email really quick, and then planned our lesson for Zone Conference with the sisters. We struggled at first, but then we came up with a brilliant idea, thanks to Sister Martineau spitting out the word "blender". I'll talk about that more later. You'll be amazed.

Now onto this week!

On Tuesday we started off by getting some new cards printed to hand out to people on the street, with the specific point of getting people to come for General Conference. We got 200 printed in total, 100 for us and 100 for the sisters. We went contacting a bit, had a lesson with our recent(ish) convert, and had ECG. My ECG group had extremely low attendance, and it was very hard to keep a conversation going with that few people.

On Wednesday, we had two lessons to start off the day, one with a guy that's apparently pals with the president of Italy (or something like that), and the second one was with our most promising investigator. He's doing pretty well with everything. After that we had district meeting, at the end of which we had Sister Rougeau do a scripture hunt. It was a scripture hunt much like the ones that she's given us, but at the end there was a store-bought cake (Elders' cooking should not often be trusted) rather than a homemade one like Sister Rougeau does. We had to ensure it was as good as her cakes are. For the rest of the day, Elder Perry and I did some more contacting, trying to hand out our cards to invite people to General Conference.

On Thursday we started off the day by dishing out the General Conference cards hardcore. We only had an hour and a half to get out all the rest of our (80 or so) cards, since we'd soon be needing to head out for Zone Conference and wouldn't have another opportunity. Perhaps to your surprise, we did it, even though that was a lot of people to talk to in a fairly short time. Apparently the sisters also got out all their cards, so that's 200 card floating around the city encouraging people to come listen to the voice of a prophet. Not as good as 200 missionaries, but we can only do so much ;)

From there we had a lesson at the church. Apparently Elders Perry and Winfield met with this guy while I was with Elder DeLeeuw on exchanges, but it was the first lesson I'd had with him. We reviewed the Restoration, and even watched the semi-infamous Restoration video that's a bit old. It's so good. That was the first time I've seen it in Croatian, and I really liked getting to watch it again. Anyway, that afternoon we packed up and got on a bus to Banja Luka to go to Zone Conference. It's quite a long bus ride, btw. About 5 hours. But, the bus was pretty empty, so it wasn't too bad at all. When we got there, we had some Gyros for a quick dinner and Elder Perry and I took a taxi over to the Zone Leaders' apartment. That taxi driver was crazy.

Now for Friday, the exciting day. Elder Perry and I stopped by the grocery store on our walk over to the church so we could buy some supplies for a smoothie. When we got to the church, the sisters pulled out the blender they brought, and we all watched Elder Perry put the ingredients in the blender and blend it up.

For his topic of presentation, President Grant talked about repentance, and it was really great. It's always good to have a few new ways to look at the same old topic. In a similar way, the APs and Zone Leadership both talked in their presentations about how we can change up our standard approaches to finding investigators. They related it to the story of the high jump being revolutionized by the guy who started going of the bar backwards. You gotta try something new if you're ever going to find anything better than what you currently do. So, I think the whole zone is excited to start changing up routines. It'll be good.

*Now for the part you've all been waiting for: why the blender and smoothie? Of course word got out among the zone that we were using a blender for our presentation, and people were pretty confused, since most people knew that our topic was "stay on task: receive ordinances". As we started our presentation, we go up there with this empty blender, and start talking about ordinances. We asked for what a few key ordinances are, and for each one we added an ingredient into the blender. Baptism = yogurt, Confirmation = berries, etc. Then we talked about how these ordinances need to be done with the proper authority, relating this to the blender actually being plugged into the wall outlet, and having a connection to that power. So then we have a smoothie, right? We did all of the necessary ordinance with the proper authority, so we'll inherit Eternal Glory, right? No, it's still just some yogurt and fruit and such in a blender. We have to do a bit more to actually activate the blender: we have to act for ourselves, effectively turning the switch. We have to read our scriptures, go to church, repent, regularly partake of the sacrament, help other people, etc., and as we do these things, then our these ordinances and the covenants we made with them will actually be useful to us. They help us become better people, and prepare to be fit to return to God's presence. That's the point. Then you have the smoothing of Eternal Life. At that point we passed out little cups of the smoothie that we'd carefully blended earlier that morning. I thought it was pretty fun getting to do that presentation.

Me and the Blender, plus the other missionaries
At the end of the meeting, we got to hear Sister Rougeau's closing testimony, since she's going home in just over a week. We're all going to miss her a lot. Once the meeting ended, we the Sarajevo missionaries had to bust it out of there to catch the only bus back to Sarajevo for the day. We get to the bus station with about 5 minutes before the bus should leave, and there's a problem with our tickets. After we run around a bit between employees trying to talk bus-station stuff in the language of Bosnian, we get it figured out, get over to the bus, and the driver says they're stock full. But, we had extra cookies and banana bread from Zone Conference, so they let us on. We just sat on the floor and stairs and stuff until enough people cleared out for us to have seats. Elder Perry's seat for a good while was right up next to the bus driver, who was a bit eccentric. He kept calling Elder Perry by the name "Jerry" and making slightly inappropriate jokes. Eventually Elder Perry got to change seats, at which point the driver couldn't really talk to him anymore. But, he would still occasionally say something like, "Jerry, where are you? Are you asleep? I need someone to talk to!" It was quite an interesting bus ride.

On Saturday and Sunday, we watched General Conference as a branch! English in one room, Croatian in another. At first we had some troubles getting the projector set up to show English, but we got it eventually. We as missionaries watched it in Croatian with our local Bosnian friends, both members and not. Also, for those of you wondering about those 200 cards that we handed out, only one person came: one of our English Group participants. I'm glad that she got to come. And as for the other 199 cards, they're still floating around the city making people wonder why we claim to have a living prophet. In total we had 7 non-members come to at least one session of Conference; one of them was our most solid investigator that I've mentioned a few times, and most of the others were ones we've been having lessons with recently. Everyone really liked it, and we're excited to talk with each of them more.

While watching General Conference in Croatian, I had a peculiar discover about learning foreign languages: it's far easier to understand General Conference in a language that you started learning 8 months ago when you DON'T think about English. If you try to translate it into English in your head, you just get confused and miss things and it's a mess. When you just listen to their words for what they are, the meaning behind them comes a lot more easily, even without your native tongue being involved. Unless they use a word you literally have never learned... but that's ok.

*For Saturday, after General Conference was over, we did some studies, and then went tracting. As suggested at Zone Conference, we decided to use some different starting-lines. I don't know if it changed their receptiveness at all, but it definitely made it less boring for us, trying to come up with something new to say. At one point a man came to the door, looking a bit worn from perhaps a rough life, but still friendly. He shook our hands, and listened to a bit of what we had to say. During that initial part, we could of course see inside his apartment a bit, except that it was extremely dark in there. After our initial discussion, he invited us in to talk a bit more. Elder Perry looked at me. I didn't feel any reason to not go in, so I nodded, and we went in. I don't really know how to describe this apartment. As we entered, he turned on a few lights, but it was still remarkably dim. It was definitely messier than any mother would approve of, but It could've also been far worse. Going in, it didn't really seem to bad. So, we sat down and talked a bit, probably just 15 minutes. We talked a bit about him, shared a few scriptures about the Plan of Salvation, explained a bit about the book from which we were reading (The Book of Mormon, naturally) and it's importance. In my perspective, it was a notably powerful conversation, despite its brevity. We exchanged phone numbers and set up a return appointment, I knelt in a closing prayer, and we headed out. As we were leaving, saw a few more things around his apartment, and headed out the door, I finally realized what a dark place that apartment was. But, in more than just the lack-of-lightbulbs way. It also seemed like a spiritually dark place. Somehow while we were there still talking, I didn't feel that it was such a dark place. Thinking about it now, I attribute it to how we brought with us light and truth, also bearing with us the holy name of Christ. If you put a bright lightbulb in a dark room, it's no longer a dark room. Of course, some people might bring up the fact that some dark places like that can be dangerous, and that it was stupid for us to actually go in. But, the Lord protects those on his errand; if it were a dangerous place for us to be, we surely would've been warned by the Spirit not to stay around. But, that wasn't the case, and as such we were able to bring that man the first few pieces of a bright and hopeful message. He seems to have a very open heart, and I'm excited to see what changes the Gospel can help him make in his life.

Now, your homework for this week is to read or listen to the BYU devotional called "Come Unto Christ", by Henry B. Eyring. Listen to it carefully, and seek to apply it to your life. here's the link for you: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/henry-b-eyring_come-unto-christ/

This message that we're out here spreading as missionaries is one of hope and light. If you're not a part of that, I invite you to find out more. Even if you think your life is plenty satisfying as it is, I promise there's more. If you're already a member, but have somehow lost sight of the light of the gospel, I also invite you to search it out again and get back on that path. It might be hard, but it'll be worth it.

We have quite an amazing view from our apartment
Btw, for anyone that cares, I find out on Thursday where I'll be for next transfer. All the rumors/guesses are that I'll stay and Elder Perry will leave.

That's all for this week. Have a great 7 days between now and next time you get my email!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb