Elder Echols

Elder Echols

Monday, August 14, 2017

Week 52: Mostar, Conference, Yellow Jackets, and Burdocks

Greetings from Sarajevo! In case you all didn't know (and I don't really know why you would), the Sarajevo Film Festival is currently happening here. That means that there's an unusual amount of people here that are from outside of Bosnia. It's pretty cool. Also, the weather has finally cooled off the last two or three days. Huzzah.

The elders that were wearing shorts had to cover up to enter the dervish.
The sisters had to cover their heads to enter the dervish.
So, recap from last Monday, we loaded up the whole zone into 3 small cars and went on a road trip. We went to a dervish (Islamic monestary) first. While there, I first got stung by a yellow jacket or something, and then later discovered there were some Mexican tourists, and spoke some extremely rusty Spanish with them for a bit. Then we went to the giant bridge in Mostar ("most" means bridge in Bosnian, btw).

In Mostar with the popular bridge in the background.
While there, we tried to find and visit an inactive member. We did manage to find her apartment building, but then there were about 12 doors per floor and 5 or so floors. We asked someone on the first floor if they knew who she was by name, and they pointed two doors down. A second neighbor confirmed. She wasn't there, though, so we just left a copy of the new Croatian translation of the Book of Mormon, and our info. We don't have a working phone number for her, so hopefully she calls. Further on the road to Zone Conference, we stopped at Jajce, where there's a big waterfall, an underground church, and a big fort on top of the hill. Pretty cool.

The waterfalls at Jajce.
A boat ride into a small cave.
Then we eventually made it to Banja Luka and set up the church a bit for conference the next day. That night, all the (6) elders from the zone again slept in one apartment.

On Tuesday, we had an extremely enjoyable conference, all about Jesus Christ and his Atonement and what he can do for us, and such things. It was very good. We also got to hear the departing testimonies of some missionaries that are going home very soon, at the end of this transfer, including Sisters Beus and Turner who are here in Sarajevo. We'll miss them. So, do you remember from over a month ago when my wallet got stolen? Well we had to cancel my cards, you know. I finally got a replacement MSF card at Zone Conference. Now I can buy my own food! Haha. We also got a few copies of The Book of Mormon in Arabic to give to some investigators. In the car on the way back, I used the page numbers and verse markings to learn the Arabic numerals. I have no idea how to pronounce them though, haha.

Beautiful Bosnian Mountains.
On Wednesday, we got some burek for lunch, had district meeting, had and passed apartment inspection, made some flyers, etc. At the end of the day we went with the sisters over to dinner at the embassy family's house. They're so great. We played some more music with them. On the way back from their place, we passed a place with a bunch of young-adult guys playing Monopoly really intensely...probably using real money.

Thursday, we went out of town a bit to go visit a long-time investigator. When we found his house with the GPS, we called him to say we were there, and he told us he was down at the market, because he didn't expect us to be able to find his house. So we went down there to meet him. He's hoping to move into Sarajevo soon, and that'd mean he could some to church a lot more regularly, so we're hoping for it too. When we got back to town, we quickly set up a surprise for the sisters, since it was Sister Beus and Sister Turner's 18-month mark. It was a scripture scavenger hunt, and at the end was of course a big chocolate cake hidden in the tithing drawer. When they found it in such an unexpected spot, they just started cracking up, and couldn't even really say anything. They really liked it. Then of course we had ECG, and one of our participants brought some plant things that are apparently called burdocks. They're little balls that are basically just the scratchy part of velcro. So, you throw them at people and it sticks to their clothes. Anyway, after ECG the sisters shared some of their cake with us.

Sister Beaus (left) and Sister Turner (right) are heading home next week. Mission accomplished!
On Saturday we made some calls and printed some flyers, and then in the evening we ended up running into a couple from Austria who are members of the church. He had served here about 3 years ago, and knew a fair number of the members that are still around. They were really cool.

The Bosnian Zone: all the young missionaries currently serving in Bosnia
On Saturday we went up to the barn to do service again, but this time there was a lot more to do. It was great. During a little break in the middle, we and the sisters were just sitting at a picnic table waiting, and there were some yellow jackets bothering us. No one got stung, but we accidentally made a few of them mad, so I ended up killing two so they wouldn't sting us. After service, the Newtons took us all to lunch over at SCC, a big mall. Sister Turner ordered enchiladas, and they ended up being covered in Ajvar, not enchilada sauce. Ajvar is a local specialty. It's a sauce made mostly out of red bell peppers, but also eggplant and some stuff like that. So, not really good for enchiladas, haha. That evening we went to visit our member friend that's in that center across town, and he's still doing a lot better than before.

Yesterday morning started off in a pretty interesting way. We got to the church to find one of our members and her husband standing outside the church with a neighbor of the church, looking at the side door that was wide open. Apparently it was like that when they got there. That's the door that no one ever uses. So, their suspicion was that someone had broken in during the night, so they promptly called the cops and had us all wait outside until the cops showed up to go in. Turns out nothing was missing or even messed up, so we're pretty sure that the door just malfunctioned (that one is an automatic sliding door that we just never unlock). Anyway, Sisters Turner and Beus gave their farewell talks, and it was really good. That evening while we were in the church, a random member from New York walked in. Apparently he's been traveling the world visiting his international friends, and decided to just stop in to the church here and see what it's like. Apparently he'd served in Texas, Spanish speaking, and then lived in China for a while. This guy has been all over the place.

Also, in case any of you are wondering, we find out on Thursday what is happening with transfers. And no, I don't really have any guesses as to what country I'll be in.

Now, for your homework, I want you to find a talk about Christ and his Atonement and what that means for us. My favorite one is called "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox (it's a BYU Devotional that you've probably read before if you actually do your homework that I give, haha). The video is below for you to watch.

"His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox - video

Another good one is "None Were With Him" by Elder Holland. But those are just suggestions; you pick. Try to learn something new.

Enjoy the pictures from the Dervish and Mostar. Have a great week!

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Week 51: Return of The Wallet, plus Herzegovina

Hello friends and family! I hope you all are doing well. It’s pretty darn hot over here in Sarajevo, but it could be worse. We’re surviving. Hopefully you are too! Haha.

Last Monday, after emailing, we went adventuring around baščaršija, which is the Turkish “old town” where they have a whole lot of tourist shops and such. I ended up buying a mug, and a very small pen made out of a large-ish bullet. The souvenirs around here are pretty interesting. They also had tanks and planes made out of only bullets. Anyway, a bit later Elder Smith and I quickly met up with an investigator for the 15 minutes or so that he had free. At the end of the evening we had another branch FHE activity where we played games and played some music all together. The turnout was a little bit low, but it was still really fun.

On Tuesday we ended up having lunch with our newest member and his girlfriend. While we were waiting for our food, we asked them to check some of the translations that we’ve been doing. And apparently the restaurant is one that they frequent, since they new to the owner, a man from Kuwait. He was super cool. Man, that was a hot day, though. Walking back from that, we were just getting baked, and weren’t feeling too good by the time we got back to the apartment for comp study. That night we of course had ECG, and it was a pretty small turn out. It seems like everyone is going to the coast for mini-vacations right now. People just vanish for a week or two or more, and then come back a bit more tan. Anyway, after ECG, we practiced the “mission song” with the sisters. We’re pretty sure that everyone is going to be singing it at Zone Conference.

Wednesday morning, we got a peculiar phone call. It was from American Corner (a place around here where we can occasionally use computers for free on P-day), saying that there was a guy up the hill, near the hospital, that had my wallet. Like, the wallet of mine that got stolen at the very start of July. Anyway, they gave me the guy’s name and phone number, so we went to pick it up from him while he was there at work. What I gather happened was that the thief ran through my wallet a month ago when he first stole it, took my cash, and then just threw it to the side of the road, at the mercy of the sun and rain. A month later, some random guy finds it, investigates, and finds a membership card to American Corner. They have our phone number, so they call us, and I go get my wallet. Weird, right? Anyway, when I got my wallet back, it was a bit more worn than it already was when it was stolen, but it’s still definitely useable. It was really interesting seeing how weather-worn the papers inside were. So, now I don’t have to buy a new wallet! Hooray. On the way back from getting my wallet, we got stopped by a guy speaking pretty good English. Apparently he’s a cop, and he gave us his phone number in case we ever need any help. What a great guy. During the rest of the day we did some other stuff like printing off some signs to put in the church’s front windows so that potential visitors will know when we have church and such. That evening we had a lesson with our newest member, and then a quick dinner with him and his girlfriend at Woki, the restaurant right next to the church. I don’t remember if I ever mentioned it, but there used to be this waitress that was ALWAYS there, and then she quit so she could take a vacation for a few weeks. The last time we saw her there, we gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. Guess what? SHE’S BACK. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to just turn around and get the job again after being gone for such a short time. I guess they couldn’t turn her down, with all that experience. We’ll be following up with her soon about her reading.

On Thursday we talked to a library about potentially donating some books about the church, or Krešimir Ćosić (the first member of the church over here in the Balkans). So, we’ll probably be doing that soon, if we can. Shortly after that, we were in the church and ran into Elder Newton just as we were about to go have lunch, as was he. So, we went adventuring around a bit looking for a doner place that had the kind of doner he wanted. Some places were closed, and some places just didn’t have the right type. We eventually got one, though. That evening, before ECG, we had another lesson with our investigator/ECG/friend lady (do you all know who I’m talking about by now?), and our newest member was again on that lesson to help us. We discovered some of her concerns, and I feel like we have a better idea of what direction to go with her now. For ECG, we just had our two groups combined, and played a game of Taboo (or Catchphrase) for the last half. That was a pretty good time.

On Friday, we started the paperwork to try and get a spot in the center of town to have a little display table or something of the sort. Some way to have people come to us, or to play music. Maybe chalk drawings of the plan of salvation, or something. A bit later on, we also talked with the sisters to plan out a concert of sorts, so that’ll be coming up soon.

Saturday morning was service up at the horseback riding center, like usual. The only thing that was different, though, was that no riders came for us to serve. So, we ended up cleaning. That means scooping horse poop in the sun, haha. It was pretty interesting. Anyway, after service we went with the sisters and Newtons to lunch at Burger Bar, then went to clean the church. When I finished picking what songs we’d sing on Sunday, I started practicing some music for that concert thing, specifically the song “Savior, Redeemer” from the movie 17 Miracles. While doing so, we got a call from Sister Melonakos asking if I could play the accompaniment for that very song at Zone Conference. And then we got a text from the Zone Leaders asking if I could play accompaniment at Zone Conference. And then Elder Smith mentioned that Sister Melonakos also mentioned that I might have to accompany everyone to sing the mission song. I wonder if anyone else in the zone plays piano… Anyway, we also went to visit a member, and that was pretty good.

On Sunday we of course had church, but this week was fast Sunday. Our investigator ECG friend lady came (I really need to figure out something shorter to call her), and really seemed to like it. There was also a visiting member from the US, and she was pretty cool to meet. Apparently she’ll be here next week too. After church there wasn’t much of anything too interesting until around 10pm when all of the elders from the whole zone were in our apartment. Of course, that’s only 6 in total, but it’s still a lot for what our apartment has in terms of beds. Also, all 5 of the sisters from the zone were in the sisters’ apartment. So, all 11 of us were in one city. Maybe you’re wondering why. That’s because this morning we all loaded up into some cars and headed out for a zone p-day on the way to zone conference.

The view of the bridge in Mostar from the restaurant.
So yeah, today’s been a solid amount of driving. We went over to Mostar, a really cool city in Herzegovina that has a really cool old bridge and such. The bridge is about 75 feet over the river, I think (Wikipedia would know better than me; feel free to investigate). Also, relatively close to Mostar is a dervish cut into the side of a cliff, right next to the river that goes into a cave. We went to see those things, and they were pretty cool. Later on in our ride today towards Banja Luka for zone conference, we briefly hit Jajce and got to see an old underground church, plus a cool fort thing.

That's basically all the time I have right now. Please figure out something spiritual to read for your homework from me ;) Pictures will have to come next week, I think. Stay awesome!
Elder Ryan Echols
Adriatic North Mission
Svačićev Trg 3/1
HR-10000 Zagreb