Monday, September 19, 2011

Brno Burn and the Porac Miracle

What. A. Week.
Elder Zabriskie and I are still coming to our senses about what just happened. Poor guy, he hasn't had one normal week since arriving in the mission, and I don't see one coming for awhile. That's just what happens when you serve with me I guess. :)

We started off the week kind of rough. We are scheduled for a baptism this Saturday, but our investigator still has a lot of concerns so we've had to postpone it a little bit. We're meeting with her tonight so we hope to get things straightened out. She loves the church, the Book of Mormon, and the members, but has a few problems with doctrine. But if she keeps reading the Book of Mormon, coming to church and praying all of those concerns will go away. It can be so easy to build and strengthen a testimony. Just read the Word, pray about it, and go to church. On the other hand, it is so easy to lose a testimony by neglecting those vitally important things. Our other baptismal date is doing well, we're excited about what's happening here!

On Tuesday Elder Hicken and I had an exchange, Elder Zabriskie and Elder Tenney had a successful time without the two old missionaries. New people to teach! :)

Then our adventures began on Wednesday. We had a conference in Brno that we needed to be at on Thursday. We decided to take a straight shot to Brno, from Kosice Wednesday afternoon. around 1:30. We would get in Brno around 8:30. It was the perfect plan. We had two connections to make, but we gave ourselves plenty of time. On the way there was an accident on the tracks and we just sat there on the rails for 70 minutes. There was a guy there who didn't understand what was said on the intercom and while he was passing by asked if we knew what was happening. We told him what we knew and like good missionaries jumped at this easy opportunity to share with this man what we're doing here. Turns out he is a pilot from Germany. He wasn't really familiar with the church until we mentioned the Book of Mormon. "Oh, you're Mormons?? I had a boss that was a Mormon. He's a bishop now, or something". Elder Tenney, without missing a beat, asks for the boss's name. "Uchtdorf, do you know him?" Ya, we know who he is. We took the chance to talk to him about the restoration and about Prophets and apostles and that his former boss is now a special witness of Christ. Like the disciples of the new testament. He made a comment that I thought was interesting. "That's kind of strange, because Dieter was just a normal guy, you know? I can't believe that he is who you say he is." I never thought about our church leaders like that before. The Prophet and the 12 Apostles are just that, normal men with families who worked normal jobs before. The original 12 were the same kind of men. But God somehow accomplishes his work through us. Normal, everyday people. There is nothing especially spectacular about me, but if I allow myself, as an individual, to be a tool for the Lord there is no limit to what I can accomplish. Our potential is literally limitless! Right??

Anyways, he was just an interesting guy who I would love to sit down and talk to again.
So we obviously miss our connection in Bratislava, but we found a bus that would get us to Brno by 10:15. Great. A little later, but that's fine. We wait for the bus and it's 20 minutes late. And then some. We finally roll into Brno around 10:40 and try to figure out how to get to this apartment that I've never been to. We're told to get on a number 8 tram to Osova. We get to the stop and there are two number 8s going in two different directions. We jump on one of them and ask the driver if it takes us to Osova. We got an affirmative reply so off we go, a little annoyed that it's so late, but we're kept pretty entertained by the drunk homeless man who is shouting at Elder Tenney in drunken Czech. Elder Hicken talks to some people next to him (because he's a good missionary who talks to EVERYONE) and he finds out that Osova is the other direction! The tram stops and we ask again if it goes to Osova, the driver said, "Oh, I thought you something else, ya you want to go on the other side..." Great. So we jump off the tram and get to the other side where we wait for the next one. We are POSITIVE that this tram will take us where we want it to go. In 16 minutes to be exact. 15 minutes into the tram ride it stops at the "final destination". Excuse me?? We are in a city where we have never been and it's 11:00 at night. We get to a tram/bus stop with a map and we call the Brno elders to help us figure out where we are. (Keep in mind that those missionaries were brand new to the area and were of zero help) We found where we were on the map and and realized that we could not but further from our destination. And the next bus was coming in 30 minutes. So we wait for what feels like forever, for a long bus ride, and then finally jump into bed. 12:30 am. Still recovering.

The conference was fantastic and I really didn't want it to end. I'll tell you all about it later maybe.
The trip back was just as exciting. We missed our train because the conference ended late, so we got into Zilina late, around 10:30. As all of us, 4 missionaries from Koscie and Elder Walker and McCellen from Zilina, were outside the door of the apartment waiting to go in Elder Walker's key breaks. BREAKS! He holds up the round part of the key to show us and the teeth part of the key is in the key hole. fantastic. Where is the other set, you might ask? Elder Romero had them still in Trencin. So we give the other Zilina elders a call and they come to get us. They had two missionaries from Banska staying over there already so it was a full house. 10 of us slept over in that tiny and OLD apartment. Kosice was on the very next train home in the morning.

And then Saturday Elder Zabriskie and I went out to Porac, a tiny, tiny little village 2 hours away to catch up on a referral. It was in the Roma part of Porac, but they were very well off for Roma. Car and everything. We started teaching just 3 people. The son and mom of the guy who referred us to them and one other woman. Then more came in, and then some more and little by little about 17 people were there, crowded in that little kitchen hearing the message of the restoration. I never imagined that I would teach to a roomful of people who were literally hanging on to every word that was said. Elder Zabriskie and I taught really well together and we are scheduled to come back on Saturday. This time with more Book of Mormons and other info for them. We are going to take it slow with them all. Make sure we don't leave anyone behind. Half the zone has been texting us where our investigators came from (we definitely got a highlight in the newsletter :) Just doing our job. :)

While our travels were full of set backs and was extremely frustrating, every time something went wrong we ran into someone we could talk to and in some small way, help. Every hold up opened up a new opportunity to slow down and focus on what it most important--the people of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Instead of getting worked up or annoyed, I was filled with peace that everything would be ok. As we do what we're supposed to do we're promised that peace. I just love being a missionary! if nothing else, you never know what will happen next! :)

I hope everyone is doing well and I'll keep you posted on any new adventures this week. We have to go to Zilina on Wednesday for new missionary/trainer training. I'm excited to get some more direction, but Elder Zabriskie is a pro already. He'll be a better missionary than me, that's for sure!

Love you all! Thank you for the letters and the emails! I appreciate them all, even if I can't find the time to respond individually! :)

-Starsi Williams

Monday, September 5, 2011

Early Transfer and a Trip to Prague

What an intriguing subject line, no?

Hope everyone is doing well! I am doing super! As you may know already, we had to end transfers a little early as President Irwin has some conferences next week. He's shaken some things up. Thursday afternoon I get a phone call from President Irwin. He says, "Elder Williams, you're training next transfer!" followed by a "You need to be in Prague tomorrow night!" Uhhh..... So I'm training now. I am with Elder Zabriskie who hails from the Great Salt Lake. He's a fantastic missionary and I am really excited to serve with him. I remember how awful I was to my trainer and I had nightmares that it would be a similar experience. I keep asking if he's happy. So far he is. :) **I apologize in advance to the Zabriskie family. I will do my best to make sure he does well. But thank you for sending your son/brother on a mission. I appreciate what he brings to the district** In the other area we have Elder Tenney, who I served with in Bratislava when he was being trained, and he is with Elder Hicken, who has been serving in the Czech Republic his whole mission. All of us are stoked to serve together and I am just so excited to see what will happen. Mark my words, last transfer's miracles were only a warm-up. :) Elder Zabriskie's FIRST time contacting in the city ended with us setting up a meeting and getting a phone number. The meeting was great and we're going to see him tmrw at FHE. ......And then baptism! :)

The transfer call kind of messed me up, I was on a train for 18 hours, to and from Prague. Elder Wilcox (who trained in Kosice last year) said that it was "the WORST experience of his life." But I got some letters written, per usual.

The branch is totally in love with these three new missionaries, and our new converts are still glowing. Last week Ivet gave a stellar talk and Marek said that he has been preparing his own talk! I just love these people.

I am just so excited that we have a full district again, Elder Stansfield and I were kind of running around with our heads cut off. We had to do everything on our own- and Elder Hicken and Tenney kind of feel like reinforcements.

I don't have a ton of time, but a shout out: Morgan is engaged! Excuuuuuuse meeee???? I had no idea! Letter please.

I love you all and I appreciate the words of support, they are needed. Now I just need your prayers. Elder Zabriskie asks a ton of Slovak questions (which is SO good) and I'm forced to actually recall grammar principles now. Gift of tongues would be oh-so-nice. But he's doing well, and might pass me up pretty soon. And he already loves Kofola. I'm so proud. I'm sure we'll have some adventures this week. I'll keep you posted!

Love you!
Elder Williams

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August 29, 2011

Hey everyone!

Can you believe that I left a year ago? My year mark (the 25) was kind of anti-climatic. Which is good I guess-- nothing too dramatic. We had specialized training in Zilina and we spent all day there, we got back just in time for bed. But it was a fantastic conference. Lately, whenever I have been working on something or trying to improve in a specific area of my work it's talked about at conference. This past week we talked about planning (huge focus) and member relationships. We really need to work on making sure the members see us as missionaries who were sent to grow and establish the church, not there to merely support them. At the end of the conference President Irwin showed us the full MTC devotional Elder Holland gave in January. We were shown a little clip of it at Elder Pearson's conference, but the whole thing was really spectacular. I have been worrying a lot about my post-mission life (such a silly thing to worry about really, as I have neither control nor the time to do anything about it). But Elder Holland talked a lot about what the choice to go on a mission means, or ought to mean, for those who serve. He spoke a lot about discipleship and what it takes. All of us must pay a price to come to know our Savior. He paid so much to know us. His price was everything, and as a result He knows us perfectly. We don't have to pay what he did, but he definitely asks us for sacrifices. To follow Him where ever He needs us to go. Discipleship is a concept I'm having a difficult time in understanding. Granted, I know what the word implies, but I don't think I quite get the full import of what it really means. Yet. Until then I will keep doing what I'm doing, trying constantly to improve and see where it leads me.

On Saturday we saw our 2nd baptismal service! Lenka was just glowing and giddy the entire morning leading up to the service. She has this perpetual smile that everyone loves. I really never thought that I would see THREE people baptized in a single transfer. All of them was found, taught and baptized this transfer. It's all a miracle. Naturally, I forgot my camera for this wonderful occasion, but Elder Stansfield took some pics and I'll forward them on. :) The branch just loves Lenka (as well as Ivet and Marek) and on Sunday, when she walked into the chapel everyone just lit up. The branch's faith has been higher then it has in a long time as these new converts are already speaking in sacrament meeting, participating in Sunday school and not falling away like so many converts they've seen do in the past. They have really brought new life into the branch and have enthusiasm for the gospel that is contagious! Ivet never ceases to amaze me, she wants to learn to play the piano for church and we'll be going through the keyboard program the church has. She'll get her own keyboard and I'll teach her how to play some simple hymns. I'm looking forward to the day when it's not a "missionary show" at church. So far we do everything.

Such as teaching.....

The past three weeks in a row I have been teaching either Priesthood or Sunday School. All in Slovak. It's a miracle anyone ever understands me. But it's definitely good practice and I hope (not really though) that I will continue getting opportunities like that to practice. At the very least the members are entertained. Som zlate. :)

Food update: Hot wings at the Stiles last night. 'nough said. All that was missing was Frank's Hot Sauce :( (which would be a nice gift ;)

Fashion update: Because it's been so hot last week (still got nothing on AZ) I've noticed a trend with old, heavy, men; we'll call them gentlemen. They love button up shirts but only with the last two or three buttons done up. Then they just sit with their chests/bellies out in the open as they sit in a restaurant or on the bus. So chic.

Things are doing well here in Kosice. Everyone is enjoying FHE that we do and we are working on geting our next baptismal date, a lovely woman named Viera, all prepped for her baptism at the end of September. We're hoping for a new investigator in the form of a referral from West Virginia. Here's the story:

Arthur was riding his bike when he saw a couple missionaries hanging out on the porch of a house. He went up to them and started asking who they were and what they were doing. You know, the questions missionaries LOVE. They got to know him and started teaching him, turns out he is from Slovakia! We know about Arthur because Elder LeSuer (obvi from AZ), the missionary who taught Arthur is cousins with Elder Tenny, a missionary serving in Bratislava! So when Arthur moved back we were able to get his info and this week will be a "find Arthur" week before transfers. (<--more on that) So far, no luck, but we have good ol' Sister Curtis in the mission home hunting for some more information on Arthur. The news that Arthur is also a young adult made us even more excited about him.

Transfers are ending this Saturday! President Irwin is out of the country all week next week so the new missionaries (4 of them) are coming a little early. The zone is all excited for them, especially because it means we will have more missionaries to help us out. :)

Pday will be on the normal Monday so I will talk to you all there!

Hope everyone is good!

Elder Williams