Monday, September 24, 2012

Poland Letter #5

Ok, crazy week this week. I've got lots to say and not so much time to do it in, so I'll do my best, and whatever I don't get to, I'll put on my voice recorder and send home next week. I've included just a few recordings this week. Hopefully they work! I also still haven't received that first letter sent from Dad to the apartment. I'll let you know when I do get it, and I'm looking forward very much to the next one.
First, Monday night. Super cool story. I was struggling a little bit, I won't lie. It was a hard day, finding out about Heather and Grandma Helen. Then we had to go pick up Elder C at the train station for an exchange and we were going to be home late. I was grumbling a little bit and kind of unhappy. Then, on our way home, we saw we left some lights on in the chapel, so we had to go turn them off. This being so, we missed the bus we were going to take and had to go to a completely different stop and take a whole different bus. I was trying to be happy, but I really just wasn't. As it turns out though, the Lord had a plan. Because after all this, we ran into Z. If we would've hit our normal bus, we never would have seen him. We were able to talk to him for 45 minutes and address a lot of his concerns and really help him. It was such a blessing from the Lord to be able to do so. We had another lesson with him later in the week which didn't go very well. He was really argumentative and didn't really want to listen to what we had to say, so we'll see what happens with him, but it might be the end of the road with teaching him.
We also taught R twice this week. He's super cool. We taught him all about prayer and obedience and he even prayed for us! It sounded as if he was already a member he prays so well. We were thinking we were going to have to drop him because he hasn't been making any progress, but I don't think we will anymore. He's making huge progress. He told us he really wants to change his life, but he's scared what it would be like to be a member in Poland. The church here is so small. He told us he likes what he sees with us though. He talked about how we just have an inner peace he hasn't found anywhere else. I know that peace comes directly from the Gospel and the Holy Ghost. It makes such a difference to know that we are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father. What direction and comfort that gives us in life.
A few exciting things happened this week other than these. First, I now definitely know what beer smells like! That's something new. So many people drink here. It's unbelievable. I want so badly to help them learn of this gospel and see the change it can make in their lives. Also, smoking is very prevalent. Like, 13 year old kids smoking prevalent. Crazy, huh? Yeah. It's hard to see it all around you, but I know there are people here that I can help to change their lives. Also, I got spit on this week during contacting. That was something new. Don't worry, I didn't freak out or anything. The guy just spit on me as he walked by. It got on my hand and shirt, and I just wished him a good night and kept on moving. You know me, I'm not one to let my temper go. It just made me think all about the trials and things the Savior had to endure in His time on the Earth. Anything I might have to go through is nothing compared to that.
I gave a talk in Church yesterday! In Polish! That was exciting, and very nervewracking too. But, I made it through and everyone told me I did a great job. I also talked to a member for a while named A. He's a gypsy. Or at least his ancestors were. I told him about how my Grandma thinks we are part gypsy. He thought that was super cool. This is the guy who is super well doctrinally versed that I think I talked about last week. If not, tell me and I'll tell you some more about him. Anyway, he's been in Łódź at a conference this past week and got to interact with some of the other Elders in my MTC group. He told me he's very impressed with the quality of missionaries coming to Poland, and that we are some of the best missionaries he's seen come out of the MTC. What a huge confidence builder for me to hear that! I've still got so much work to do, but it was comforting to hear that from him.
We also had to change our sink this week! That was fun. I talked about that on my voice recorder. I'll send some pictures too if I have time.
Heather, I forgot to tell you, but I never received any of Kelsey's letters. I'd love to write her though. Could you send me her address? I'd really appreciate that. And maybe tell her I never got any of her letters. I'm not sure exactly what happened with that.
I'm glad to hear the funeral went well! I'm excited to get the program and other letters from home. I'm running out of time. I'll print out your letter and hopefully tell you a little more about my week and answer some more of your questions. First, I'll try to answer the ones in the email.
My apartment is great. It's actually the biggest in the mission, which is awesome. We're also right next to our bus stop, and we ride the bus a lot, so that's really nice. I'm finding some good things to eat. They have Pierogi which are kind of like Ravioli, and those are really good. We also eat Kielbasa with pasta a lot. That's good too. The apples are really good right now, since they are in season as well. I could still use some nice easy missionary meals though for Poland food. They don't have chili here, and canned vegetables are not super popular either, so I could use a little help. Please, mom? Any ideas? Don't worry though. I'm healthy and doing my best to eat well!
For church we meet in a little rented office space on the second floor of a building in Kato. It's really small. We average about 35 members a week who come to church. Yes, I still play the piano every week. It's actually really nice to be able to play. I play grandpa's arrangements as well on P-days sometimes and I'm working on a piece that Sister P, a sister missionary in Kato, wants to sing. It's a version of Come Thou Fount. It is really cool.
Anyway, I'm out of time. Sorry I can't write more! Dad, BYU game sounds crazy. I'm interested to see what happens with Riley and Taysom. Our defense sounds incredible though.
Love you all. This gospel is true. Good luck Heather with your MRI and surgery! I'll be fasting for you. Emms, I'm excited for your letter. Hannah, good luck with your tooth! I love hearing about your soccer games!
With lots of love,
Elder Vernon

Monday, September 17, 2012

Week #4 in Poland

Oh my goodness. It sounds like it was a crazy insane week for everybody back at home. I'm so sad to hear about Grandma Helen. Mom, don't worry, there's no good way to break that news. It's ok though. I have a testimony of eternal families. She lived an incredible life and it was just her time to go. As much as we will miss her on this side, she was definitely needed more on the other side. It's a comfort to me to know I have another angel behind me helping me in this work. Heather, I'm so sorry about your knee. I wish I could honestly say I know how you feel, but I don't. Major injuries is not something I've ever had to deal with, but I know it's something Dad has dealt with. I'm sure he's helping you with it. I just wish you the best. It hurts so bad to have something just torn away from you like that. The good news is for you, that dancing will be back, just not for a while. It hurt me when football ended my senior year. I felt like that was torn away from me. I wasn't ready for it to end. The same with trying out for lacrosse and not making it. It just hurts. The good thing is there is one thing that can't be torn away from us. That's the gospel. Continually, it is here in our lives to give us perspective, to give us direction. The only way that will go away is if we throw it away. It can continue to be our rock, to give us a direction to go, and to help us when times are tough. I know that to be true. I have so much more I can say about this but I know you are all anxious to hear about my week. Thank you for sharing your updates with me! I love hearing about all that goes on at home. We email at an internet cafe, so I print out your letters and read them throughout the week. Thank you for giving me plenty of details and letting me know what's going on. Thank you also so much for all the Blog updates. It's so great to hear what's going on all around the World, and in the MTC! It's a huge comfort to me to see this work go forward everywhere. Mom, Dad, thank you for your spiritual insights. I know I haven't said much about them before now, but I just wanted to make sure you know I really appreciate them.
Ok, now onto my week. We had another lesson with Z. He's an interesting character. He's worried our church is only about money and that all we do is build temples. We had a member, A with us on the lesson. Let me tell you, this guy is a champ! He is in the branch presidency here in kato and has been a member his whole life. He is incredibly doctrinally sound. He was able to explain a ton of stuff to Z and really help us out. We also had a few lessons with a member named A. He has his mission call to England, so Elder Mikolyski and I are helping him with his English and just all around getting prepared to serve. It's a lot of fun helping him get ready, imagining what I was like at that point and how much I've grown. He also brought a friend to one of our lessons named B. She's awesome and super open. We taught her all about the Restoration and we're looking to meet with her again soon. Oh, and guess what? I placed my first copy of the Book of Mormon all by myself this week! And not only that, but it was in Polish! Oh, and I didn't only place one, but I placed 4! Not at once, but at a couple different times throughout the week. It's still super hard to understand Polish, but I can gain a lot by someone's body lanugage and just kind of how they are acting. It's so great to see the Lord bless my efforts out here. Both times when I placed these copies, I felt super discouraged that day and just like I couldn't do much on my own. So, I said a prayer, asking for the Lord to bless my efforts and not just to make it happen, and immediately right after that, I placed copies of the Book of Mormon. So cool to see that happen! Grace is real and continues to be an enabling power in my life daily. We had a meeting last night with an old man named B.  He's so sweet. Heather, you would love his style. Actually, you'd love all the old men here. They have sweet style. Anyway, we had a lesson out in his garden. I took some pictures that I'm going to send home. Make sure you zoom in and check out B's tie. It's awesome. Anway, funny story. He was climbing this ladder to get some grapes for us to take home. This ladder looks like it was made in the 60's. It's made of super old wood and falling apart. Secondly, it's pretty much perpendicular to the ground. Like 90 degrees. No joke. He's making me hold it for him, and he almost falls over backwards like five times, and the ladder is cracking sounding like it was going to break. Oh my goodness, we thought he was going to die on our hands because the ladder was going to break. It was a miracle nothing happened, but Elder Mikolyski and I were just laughing trying to keep him safe. It was an adventure for sure. I haven't got my voice recorder yet. We're going to the mall today, so hopefully I can get it then. I'm sending home a few picture though of B and his garden, and also of us heading to Poland! I hope you like them!
Love ya.
Mom, I love you. I hope you're handling everything well. I know you are. All my love.
I'm sorry I don't have time to write more. We need to get going. I love you all. This gospel is true. This work is real. Jesus Christ lives.
With Love,
Elder Vernon

Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 3 in Poland

(To protect the identity of people Elder Vernon writes about I have abbreviated their names)
Family! Another week has gone by. I can't believe it. It's already the 10th of September. That means I'm a third of the way through this transfer. That's crazy. Time is going so fast. Once again, it's been a solid week. Let me tell you about it.
First off, zone conference. Holy cow. It was awesome. I learned so much from President Nielson. He's incredible. He really understands this work and how it's supposed to go forth. A couple of highlights. He talked about keeping an "evidence book." It's a sort of journal where you write every day a piece of evidence that God lives. Whether it be a miracle, an answer to a prayer, just something during the day that shows that God lives and cares about you. In my mind, it's basically a tender mercies journal. I've begun to do it. I was already writing them in my normal journal, but it's a great idea to have them in a separate journal as well. I recommend that you guys start doing it too! As you begin to take notice of those little tender mercies in your life, more and more begin to appear. It's so cool to watch. Another thing he covered was the differences between doing things that are good, better, and best. It was all about serving a consecrated mission and really devoting your time to the Lord. It's really given me a direction in which I can work to become the missionary the Lord needs me to be. As you should well know, I don't like too much to not know where to go. I need a specific set of instructions to work under, and then I will do everything I can to meet those specifications. That lesson gave me just that. We also covered contacting a little bit. In reality, we're not contacting people, we're teaching people on the street. Something that Pres. Nielson really wants us to do is give them short, bold statements of truth, promise blessings, and then ask inspired questions about what we've said. It's an incredible pattern that really improves contacting. I'm really trying to do my best to improve my contacting. I just want to find the people the Lord wants me to find here so that I can teach them.
A couple other things that happened this week. We're teaching a man named Z. He's probably in his late 50's. He is progressing toward baptism. We had a super spiritual lessons with him this week where we asked him to be baptized, and he said yes! We didn't set a date though, because he needed to go. We set up to meet with him later that week, and when we had our next meeting, he didn't look good. His countenance was all dark and it was very apparent that Satan had worked hard on him. Elder Mikolyski and I were both scared we might lose him, but we had a member on our lesson. His name is A, he's a 20 year old kid here in Sosnowiec, and he's a champion. Z had some fears about the people at church and feeling loved as he comes to church. A was able to soothe those a bit and we were able to teach Z all about the Plan of Salvation. It was another super spiritual lesson. We talked to Z all about the gift of the Holy Ghost and that's something he really wants to have in his life. He loves the peace and comfort that it brings. We didn't talk about his baptism though. It just didn't seem right to bring up. As it turned out, he didn't show up for church, which is a big bummer, but we should be meeting with him again this week. I really hope he continues to investigate this church and come closer to Christ. I know that this Church is true and the happiness I feel because of the lessons and doctrine it teaches are like nothing else.
We had a few other lessons with people throughout the week, but nothing really solid. Honestly, it's hard to find people who are actually interested in this gospel and want to progress, but I know they are here. Even though my Polish isn't very great yet, I'm striving to do what I can so we can find them.
So, an update on my Polish. I'm beginning to understand more and more! Especially in church. There are a lot of times still, in fact the majority of the time, where I just feel lost and don't really understand what's going on. I can say a lot of what I want about the gospel, but regarding other things, not so much. That's ok though. My first calling here is to teach, which I can do. A lot of people have been complimenting me on my Polish as well. They say it sounds quite good and a lot of them don't believe I've only been here 3 weeks. I had a conversation with a man named M at church yesterday. When I told him I'd only been here 3 weeks, he didn't believe me. That was a big confidence boost ;). I'm also playing hymns every week in church. Mom, thank you so much for keeping me playing the piano. It's a huge blessing for these people out here to have someone who can play the piano and play almost all the hymns in their hymnbook. They don't have very many, but they sing them with full vigor and vim. It's a beautiful thing to hear.
Another cool story this week. So we teach an english class once a week. It's an hour long and free for the public. We follow up with each of the students and see if they want a personal class with us, but we tell them that as missionaries, we will share something spiritual with them before we help them with english. Anyway, we had an older lady, a grandma (or babcia in polish) accept one of these classes. Elder Mikolyski had to be in and out during the spiritual though because we were in the chapel and lots was going on, but I was able to teach her all about Hel. 5:12 and how you, Mom, shared it with me. I talked about how this book, the Book of Mormon, can strengthen families and be a real help in all of our lives. The Spirit was super strong while I was testifying, and she seemed very interested in it. Hopefully, we can set her up with the Sisters and she will begin to investigate the gospel.
We also had some excitement during church. A local news station, TVN, did a special about mormonism, since Mitt Romney is gaining publicity. They filmed a little bit of sacrament meeting and did interviews with the members. It was a big hubbub and a lot of people were really excited about it. We have a solid branch down here in Kato. I'm glad the members got a chance to share their faith and talk about the things that are important to them. I think I even made it on camera while I was playing piano haha. I might be famous in Poland! We'll see.
Ok, to answer your questions.
Dad, yes I'm recovered from the flu. Jet lag, I'm getting there. It's hard. I'm tired a lot of the time and sometimes it's hard to sleep at night. It's funny, the whole time I've been on my mission, I've been waking up at least once a night. That never happened at home. Anyway, I'm fine, and the jet lag will just take some time to fully recover from. Elder Mikolyski says it takes everybody about a month to fully recover from it. Since I'm over the flu, I'm now eating like a horse. I'm always hungry haha. I'm trying to budget well so I have money to make it to the end of the month. I'm sure I'll be fine.  That's crazy that Utah lost to Utah State. Utah State continues to just get better and better.  I'm excited to get your package from London. It will be great to get things from home.
Heath, Emms, Hannah, sorry, but I don't have very much email time today. We're supposed to keep it under an hour, but I'll write you by hand and answer your responses.I love you. The church is true!
Mom. Zone conference was incredible. So good. Don't worry, I'm taking vitamins and trying to stay healthy. It's starting to cool off a little bit in the mornings and evenings, but nothing major yet. I actually found a coat in our apartment! It's Elder Hillyard's. He actually teaches at the MTC right now and is from PG. His last area was Kato so I guess he just left it. It's a little beat up, but at least I will have something warm until I can find a good coat for a good price. Tap water is a little sketchy here, but we have filters, so it's all good.
I'm sad to hear about Grandma Helen. She has definitely lived a full life and has done some incredible things. I hope it's not her time, but if it is, I know the Lord will accept her with open arms.
I'm doing well, I love you all, and the church is true!
Love, Elder Vernon

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Katowice Zone Conference (copied from Sister Nielson's blog)

We were met at the Katowice chapel by this great group of missionaries who are currently serving in the Katowice Zone. (We'll name them later!) This group is full of energy and many 'young' missionaries who are learning fast to keep up with their Senior Companions. It was great to see them all.

Katowice District: (Sitting): Elder and Sister McGrath, Sisters Howells, Ence and Peterson. (Standing): Elders Vreeken (Zone Leader), Rittmanic, Mikolyski (District Leader) and Vernon. Elder Vernon has been in Poland now for two weeks and he is a great addition to our mission. This is an outstanding district and anxious to serve and teach.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Week 2 in Poland

Family! Oh so good to hear from you. I'm still trying to figure out this email thing. I've decided on this. I'll write what happened in my week, then I will answer your questions.
So, firstly, this week was hard. Like, really hard. You remember when I had that weekend my junior year during football where I played jv and varsity in consecutive nights, then played like 4 lacrosse games on Saturday, and was super sick? Like chills, shivers, really bad throwing up and diarrhea sick? Yeah, well it happened all over again. Monday night I was shivering like crazy and just felt like crap. That night, Elder Mikolyski gave me a blessing. It was just what I needed. The Lord told me how proud He is of me doing this work here and how much progress I've made. He also told me that the progress I can continue to make is so much more than I can even imagine. I was also promised that by my faith I could be healed and work a full day the next day. I have to say, I have a lot of faith to build still, because I didn't sleep at all that night and ended up throwing up around 4 am. Needless to say, I didn't go out and work that day (Tuesday) or the next day (Wednesday). I spent them sleeping and trying to recover. Thursday, Elder Mikolyski went to Warsaw for a leadership conference with the Zone Leader in our Zone, Elder Vreeken. I was on splits with Elder Vreeken's companion, Elder Rittmanic. They're both serving in Kato as well, just a different area. Elder Rittmanic is from Provo and went into the MTC the group right before mine. He's great. He went to Timpview and is a football player. Anyway, we did a little bit of work Thursday until I got lightheaded and a bit weak, so we went home and I slept some more. Friday, Elder Mikolyski was back and we went and helped a member move all of her furniture and things to a new apartment, on the 5th floor. Let me tell you something, they don't have elevators here, and the staircases are so skinny. Moving her refrigerator was a fun experience. Luckily, we had Elder Rittmanic (he's a lineman). He and I manhandled that refrigerator and got it done. I slept real good that night too haha. Saturday we went tracting for the first time. That was super interesting. We had some people yell at us. Honestly, it didn't scare me at all. I just feel so bad for them. They don't realize what they're missing. I want so badly to give it to them as well. Sunday was great. We did a lot of contacting, but to no real avail. It's ok though. I'm trying to talk to a lot of people. I'm beginning to understand more Polish too! Especially on gospel related subjects, there's a lot I can pick out. It's hard though. It's very evident that I'm new here. People compliment me on my Polish all the time though, which is a big confidence builder. I just feel so bad for Aaron. I can't even imagine being in a country where I don't know any of the language. I would feel so lost. Today we're going laser tagging for P-day. I'm excited. It should be fun! One other side note. We found longboarding in Poland! It's the only one I've ever seen here. It's not popular at all. Needless to say, we went up and talked to the girl and guy who where boarding. They thought we were going to give them a spiel all about the gospel and were kinda cold toward us initially, but when they found out I longboard, they opened right up. It was really cool. We invited them to the english class we teach and hopefully they'll show up. FYI, longboard in Polish, is just longboard, same as English.
Ok, question time.
Mom, yes I'm cooking my own meals, and yes, some easy recipes would be greatly appreciated. I won't lie, I'm a little bit lost with what to do for food. I'm living off sandwiches, cereal, yogurt, and pasta right now :). I got your letter this morning! Super fast, huh? It was so great to get that already. We have zone conference tomorrow, so hopefully I will be able to get whatever mail was sent to the office then. I'm excited to read this article about BYU. I'm glad they won. Can you send me an article about the game? Thanks. Elder Mikolyski is solid. Our interests are a bit different, but we get along great. He's a good missionary. I knew Matt would have go to California. Our Bulgarian Elders did the same while in the MTC. Thanks so much for the support Mom and the news.
Dad, thank you so much for the advice and the information. I'm so jealous that Elder Madsen is teaching that class. I would love to be learning from him. There's so much I still need to know and learn as a missionary.
I love you all. This gospel is true.
With love,
Elder Vernon