Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, June 26, 2017

Week 45: Bajram, and Yes, the Mormons are in Bosnia

Hello everyone! Happy Monday! This week the weather has been getting pretty darn hot and humid. Full-blown summer is rolling in. Hopefully the weather isn't too bad wherever you happen to be on this planet.

Last Monday, while I was showing Elder Smith around town, we stopped by the fancy rug store in the old part of town. I've never been all the way in before. Man, that place is crazy. Rugs from Persia and Iran and other places like that. They even had some pictures made out of rugs to hang up on your walls like paintings. Cool stuff.

The fancy rug store in old town Sarajevo.
A picture made of a framed rug to be used as a wall hanging.
Later in the night after emailing, we ran into a guy and his wife that I've ran into on the streets before a number of times. The husband is pretty funny, and he looks like a quirky professor that's now retired in Hawaii: crazy gray hair and beard, plus a floral-pattern button-up shirt. They're both super friendly, and apparently sing in the choir at some other church very regularly. Though, the guy admitted that he's pretty solidly atheist by now; they just go to that church and pretend to believe so that they can sing and have friends. What an interesting spot to be in. We of course tried to share with him about how we can find out for ourselves if God exists, through The Book of Mormon and prayer, but he wasn't really open to listen. He just wanted to talk about old movies, like Gone With the Wind. On our way home shortly thereafter, we ran into a pair of American guys that were quite astounded to see the Mormons in Bosnia. Paraphrased, the way they greeted us was, "Holy cow, Batman, the Mormons are in Bosnia!" We proceeded to talk to them a bit about their own beliefs (or again, the lack thereof), and one of them ended up saying, "You know, I don't believe in God and I'm not religious, but I believe in people who are! You guys are doing some great stuff, and I'm really proud of you as human beings."

On Tuesday we started off by helping the new sisters that just came in for the transfer, Sisters Orchard and Beus, to go get their white cards so they won't get kicked out of the country. The only thing was that they couldn't get their white cards. So, we ended up just helping them get situated with the city and everything, since both of them just barely came into the city. Sister Beus just came from Slovenia, which has an entirely different language from anything over here, and Sister Orchard just came from Serbia.

Sister Orchard and Sister Beus
A little bit later, Elder Smith and I had a lesson with that investigator that the last sisters put on date to be baptized July 8th. When those sisters got transferred out, they handed him over to us for us to teach him. He's such a stud. He's already really solid. Has good questions, and keeps his commitments. He gets how important this stuff is. We also had Haris the RM on that lesson, and he was a huge help, like usual. After the lesson, we were just on the street for a second figuring out some schedule stuff with Haris when some random lady walks by, and Haris drops our conversation, says hello to her, and promptly asks her if she'd like to learn about God and such. She totally ignored him, but it was funny how he just dropped our conversation for that. What a great guy.

On Wednesday we paid a guy to take forever to fix the church's front door... and then it was more broken. We'll get that figured out this week, I think. A bit later during the day, we were contacting and found this guy that seemed to be really interested in what we had to say, so we sat with him on a nearby bench to talk. Long story short, he studied in Saudi Arabia and knew Arabic and had a third of the Kur'an memorized, and he was trying to convert us to Islam and save our souls. I appreciate the effort, but I'm still not a Muslim. After that we had a lesson with the brother and sister that we met at ECG recently. She still has a lot of good questions about the Book of Mormon.

On Thursday, we started off with some contacting, and I decided to change my approach a bit and use some Islamic vocabulary. For example, when they're talking about people like Moses, Abraham, or Christ who had taught God's people, they say the word meaning "messenger", as opposed to "prophet" like we usually do. 

It seemed to make people more willing to talk to us, at least by a small margin. While out, we happened to run into a former investigator (from about 2 years ago) who I'd met once before, whose son comes to ECG every week. Apparently she'll be coming to church in a week! So that's cool. Elder Smith also gave her friend there a copy of The Book of Mormon. Shortly after that we met up with Haris to go contacting with him. He's super fearless, and contacts pretty differently from us. It seems to work a bit better to get them to initially stop and listen. There was one point where he got me talking to a pair of teenagers, and then their friend showed up, and then 2 more, and then about 5 more. So, I  was preaching to a whole mob of teenagers for a few minutes. Near the end of our contacting with Haris, we stopped at a little store to buy some water, and some lady stopped us and asked in broken English if we were from Salt Lake City. As we talked to her we found out that she and her husband are from around here, but they lived in SLC for about 15 years. She payed for our water. I love people like that. We invited them to church, too. A few minutes later, just around the corner as we were walking past a little outdoor café, a couple sitting there stopped us and asked in perfect English if we were from Salt Lake City. As we talked to them we found out that he's from around here, she's from the US, but he lived in SLC for about 15 years where he met her and they got married. Turns out the old couple we'd met just around the corner was the guy's parents. We invited them to church too! From there we had another awesome lesson with that investigator that's on baptismal date. He's doing so well. He sees how all of the commandments are relevant to him and easily agrees to follow them. From there we had a district meeting where Haris taught us some about Islam and what sort of approaches we can take to talking to them so that our message even makes sense to them, and they're not so afraid of us or think we're just weird and blow us off. A lot of it is just vocabulary stuff. Another one is telling them that God restored his truth to the Earth, rather than saying that he restored his church. The whole "restored church" thing doesn't make much sense in an Islam context, from what I understand. It's always important to understand where someone is coming from, and make it relevant to them, in a context they can understand.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, which began the restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth once more.

Friday we had our last online meeting for District Leaders with President Grant before he's going home. I'm gonna miss him. For the rest of the day we helped the sisters finally get legal (they took a trip to the Montenegro border on Thursday to fix some problems), did some calls, and went contacting in the humidity. It's getting pretty darn hot out here.

On Saturday we of course started out with going up to the barn to do service. After that we had lunch with the sisters, the Newtons, and that investigator that's planning on getting baptized. It was great having him get to know some of these other people, such as Elder Newton, the current branch president. From there we had a lesson with that investigator where Brother Wood was there with us. He helped a lot, and it was again good to have the investigator meet another person from the branch. Later on we cleaned the church, got ditched for a lesson, and then had a really good lesson with a lady that had come to church with one of our other investigators last week. Since she's coming from a Muslim background, we focused on teaching in a way that would be relevant and make sense to her, and I think it went really well.

Sunday was the start of Bajram, which is the 3-day holiday at the end of Ramadan. So, that meant that the streets have been either very empty, or very busy, depending on the time of day. It's pretty interesting. Not a lot of people could come to church on Sunday, but it was still good, of course. After church we did our weekly planning and then went contacting for a while. We met some pretty cool people, like a high school kid who spoke really awesome English that mentioned he liked string theory. There was also a guy that was half Tanzanian, half Bosnian, and had grown up in the UK. He also said something along the lines of, "Holy moley, Mormons in Bosnia?! How'd you guys get in here?!" just like that other guy. It seems like people that are from around here that are somehow notably familiar with Mormons are typically extremely surprised that we're here doing our thing.

As for today, we've done plenty of the regular stuff like grocery shopping, paying bills, and cleaning up the apartment, and had a mini-lesson with an old referral/investigator from before I got here. Long story. Also, we discovered that a lot of businesses are closed for Bajram, including both places where we can email. So, this email is brought to you by the one computer in the church.

Your homework for this week is to read 2 Nephi 29, which is a chapter that talks about how God will never stop speaking to his people. He cares for all people all over the earth, and thus he continues to speak through prophets. Or should I say "messengers"? Anyway, this chapter has some good verses that we like to share on the street with Muslims, since it seems to click with them well.

Here is a picture of a giant orthodox church here in Sarajevo. Have an awesome week!

Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb

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