Elder Echols

Elder Echols

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

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