Monday, December 30, 2013

Stinky … and maybe not the most well-groomed for Zone Conference

Hey hey hey family!
Well, it has been a pretty good week, if I do say so myself. Busy, of course, but that's where all the fun comes in.
Well, with the start of the new year, I'm excited to make some new year's resolutions, but I'm trying to be wise as I do so. As I've been told now by a few people, I set expectations which are much too high for myself. Thus, I'm going to try to be reasonable but specific in the new year's resolutions which I set. Hopefully that will help me be an obedient missionary, do my best, and strive to magnify my calling even more.
For District Council this week, I'm planning on teaching the role of the Book of Mormon in Conversion. As I've been studying and learning, I've felt it's important to focus on the witness of Christ which is contained in the Book of Mormon. Along with that, our testimony of the Book of Mormon helps us to know that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which is the true church on the earth. Yet, the Book of Mormon was not solely written just to testify of Joseph Smith and the church. It was written to testify of Christ. That's something I don't think I've emphasized enough lately in my teaching, and that is the focus I'd like to take in District Council tomorrow.
Mini miracles happen every day, and I find it hard to pick just one. The one that I think gave me the most confidence, however, this week was when we were talking to an older man named K. He told us he already had a copy of the Book of Mormon and seemed pretty content with just walking away. We didn't let him go so fast. He skirted around a lot of our questions, didn't seem to have much interest in anything, and his dog was a little impatient. I felt inspired to ask him about his family. As I did, his whole demeanor changed. All I did was ask him if he had one, and he does. He told us about how his daughter died some years ago. We were able to testify of eternal families and the plan of salvation, and our testimonies softened his heart enough that he gave us his number. Now, in the grand scheme of things, one phone number may not seem like much, but to a missionary who still feels like he's struggling and is very unsure of himself, it meant the world.
I've started the Book of Mormon over from the beginning this week. As I have, I've been intrigued with the differences in the behavior of Laman and Lemuel as compared to Nephi. All had to go through less than comfortable circumstances. All left home and went into the wilderness. All left their wealth back at home and liveda meager lifestyle for a number of years. Yet, there are substantial differences. Laman and Lemuel seem to just put up their hands and pout, not wanting to do much, and blaming their father for everything that goes wrong. Nephi sees things differently. He seeks for a spiritual confirmation of the decision his father has made, and he receives one. Thanks to that answer, his whole demeanor and attitude toward the situation changes. He willingly is obedient, does what he is asked, and does so without contention. That is why he was blessed. That is why he was able to see miracles in his lifetime. That is why he progressed.
Elder Fotu and I continue to do well together. I'm grateful to be serving with him. We've had a great time so far, and I'm interested to see what will happen with both of us next transfer. As far as I'm concerned, he's a great missionary.
If I remember right, I kind of gave you a run down of what we did on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so you're already current with all that. So, maybe I'll start with the day after Christmas. We all had a train at 6:55 AM to go to Poznań for Zone Conference. We rode a tramwaj down with the Gays and we got there with about 25 minutes to spare. Well, the Sisters showed up about 6:40, giving us about 15 minutes before the train left. Well, we were all supposed to bring white elephant gifts again this year for a gift exchange (I brought a teddy bear again. It was too classic not to repeat) and the Sisters had bought theirs and wrapped them all nicely and what not. They had forgotten them, however, in their hustle and bustle to get out of the house and make it to the train station. So, this is where Elder Fotu and I enter the story. The Sisters' apartment is probably about a good 10-15 minute walk to the train station. Well, we didn't want to miss the train, knowing that President wanted to do interviews with us before the Zone Conference, and due to the fact that it was the day after Christmas and not too many trains were running. So, we ran. That marks the second time this year that I've been really sweaty after a sprint in a suit. But, we made it back in record time. Elder Fotu was pretty convinced his pants were going to rip, and I thought we were definitely going to miss the train, but we both made it to the apartment and back in a solid 15 minutes, with about 30 seconds to a minute to spare before the train took off from the station. Now, we were both possibly a little bit stinky, and maybe not the most well-groomed for the zone conference, but we didn't have much of a choice. Poland takes the 26th off too, so there would have been no stores open and the Sisters would not have been able to buy any gifts to replace the ones they forgot. Anyway, chock it up on the list of things that have been exciting adventures for my mission!
This picture was taken on the train right after the run to get the Sister's white elephant gifts.
Zone Conference was awesome. It's always a blast to be around other missionaries and enjoy time spent together. One little hiccup in the whole thing was that we had a whole christmas program, and President was expecting me to play the piano for the whole thing. Well, nobody had told me, and President simply asked me about 20 minutes before the whole thing started. Good thing I had been goofing around with all the Christmas hymns all season and knew a lot of them fairly well, or else it could have been bad. Then, in the middle of the program, there was a quick change and they decided to have Sisters Barth and Ott play a violin duet instead of sing "O, Come All Ye Faithful" for a seconed time. Luckily, I had accompanied Sister Barth for the same song in Szczecin for the Christmas program, but it was still a little bit of a stresser. We made it through alright though, with no one the wiser. Like Sister Edgren said, Thanks Mom for making me practice all the time!
Hmm, I'm trying to think what else I can update you all on. I told you all about Midnight Mass. Well, I remembered a pretty awkward/humorous moment that we had as we were leaving. At the hour mark, we all decided that it was about time to go, so we all tried to sneak out the back. As we did, the whole congregation knelt to pray together. Well, we didn't know what to do, so we ended up standing in the corner, eventually kneeling and just waiting out the awkwardness until the prayer was over and we could all sneak out without too much trouble. Yay for awkwardness. All in all though, it was really cool to hear polish singing, enjoy the cultural part, and see what a catholic mass was like. I was just happy I understood basically everything that was going on too. That always makes me feel good.
The Gays have been super nice to us all Christmas long. They let us hang out at their house half of Christmas Eve and basically all Christmas Day. We all had a great time enjoying the season together, playing card games, eating good food, and just being happy. It was a great Christmas. I definitely enjoyed spending it with a small district so we could all do stuff together and enjoy being around good friends.
Mom, I got your Christmas package, so don't worry! I also got the flat-rate envelope with the shirts and ties, so we're all good there as well. Elder Fotu was funny. He made me choose which shirt I liked the best and keeps trying to give me his tie back. He's way too nice of a kid and way too Christlike. He says thanks for the gifts by the way. He feels bad that you went to all the trouble to get him one. But, I told him just to accept it and be happy, so hopefully he will.
We had a few contacting miracles last night. Elder Fotu and I met a guy named A who was born in Sweden and speaks fluent english and polish. Well, he is polish, so of course he speaks polish, but his english was very impressive. Anyway, he is back for the holidays, and we were able to talk to him and give him a copy of the Book of Mormon. We testified to him that it has changed our lives for the better. He said he hopes it can do the same for him. He's been pretty depressed lately and is searching for a way to be happy. Well, if that's not a golden contact, I don't know what is!
Another thing that was kind of cool that happened last night is that we were out and about in a part of town that we don't hardly ever go to. We got a little lost, and found a back way that got us home right in time. But, that's not the miraculous part. We ran into a lady named I. She had been contacted by the Sisters quite a while ago. She never gave the Sisters her number, but she is reading from the Book of Mormon and promises that she will call when she finishes. It's always so cool to meet someone who, while yet a little hesitant, is making progress and learning about what we have to teach.
We've also been back in contact with J as of yesterday and the day before. He was in the hospital again, super sick. He seems to be doing better now and is coming to our Branch Christmas Party tonight, so we're excited about that. Hopefully we can get him into the waters of baptism this Saturday. That'd be a miracle if I've ever seen one. We're praying for him.
Well family, my love and best wishes go to you all. Hannah, keep Tao safe. Emms, good luck with the cheeks! Heath, let me know how the knee goes. Dad, thanks again for the doctrinal papers. I enjoy it. Mom, you're the best Mom in the whole wide world! I couldn't ask for anyone better.
The gospel's true! I was so happy to talk with all of you on Christmas. I couldn't ask for a better gift than that.
Well, keep on keeping on. There's a missionary in Poland who's doing his best, day by day.
And a happy new year!
Elder Vernon

Monday, December 23, 2013

This Elder is Super Excited to Talk to you all on Wednesday!

Well, this Elder is super excited to talk to you all on Wednesday! It will be super! I'm freaking out a little bit that after this I'll only have one phone call left though. It'll be alright though. I'll figure out how to manage my feelings somehow. Maybe I'll just have a mid life crisis. Or not.
Anyway, Hannah bear, to answer your question, we handed out 10 copies of the Book of Mormon! It was a great week.
Another week has come and gone in good old Szczecin. It was highlighted by a great Christmas Program created by the Gays which we had yesterday for Sacrament Meeting. It brought the Spirit in a powerful way, and all of the members loved it. We even had 4 investigators in the meeting, and all of them said they were impressed.
I had a stroke of inspiration and changed District Council the morning of. I actually focused on overcoming discouragement by having an eternal perspective and measuring success using ourselves as a guideline, and not the apparent effects of our efforts. I talked about pg. 10 in Preach My Gospel and chapters 3 and 4 of 1st Nephi. It was a great council, and I feel that the message was received well by the members of the district.
A miracle we saw this week was with our investigator, G. He had told us that he was going to be out of town until the new year, so we had put him on the back burner and we were just waiting until the new year rolled around. Well, he showed up unannounced to English on Wednesday and stayed for Institute. It was the perfect lesson for him as well--2 Nephi 31, the Doctrine of Christ. He participated well, seemed to learn a lot, and we have great hopes that he will progress toward baptism.
A lesson that I'm learning this week is that conversion is a process of spiritual healing. Wherever we come from, we all have our different spiritual injuries. That is true regardless of person, situation, or background. I think that some injuries and sins can be healed immediately, but there are some deep-seated things which take time to heal. That's why we need conversion. As we are continually true to what we know, Christ can heal us. The Doctrine of Christ is what we can use to be converted as well, and that is why it stands as such a fundamental and powerful part of our church and its doctrine. This gave me a new light on why conversion is so important. I enjoyed studying from conference about it, as well as from different sources in the scriptures.
Elder Fotu and I are getting along well. He's a great kid and I'm lucky to serve with him. We're happy to be seeing so much success in getting people to church and hope to see them meet with us more and progress to baptism. Miracles are happening everywhere!
We also had our shoe shining activity this Saturday. It went fairly well. People were a bit hesitant to come and have their shoes polished, but it was still fun. We had a few still show up and we handed out a few copies of the Book of Mormon. It was kind of funny though. The night before, we had to teach the sisters to polish shoes since they'd never done it before. Well, they wanted to practice exactly like it would be the next day, so we ended having our shoes shined while still on our feet. It felt a little backward..... We got a picture though, so I'll send it along. I've heard rumor that pictures with only an elder and a sister are not kosher, so I don't know if the picture passes, but it's being sent anyway.

We got in touch with J again this week. He seems to be doing ok. He has had some health problems and that's why he hasn't been in touch with us. We gave him a priesthood blessing as we met, and he promised to be in church, but then didn't show up. Bummer. But, he still wants to be baptized. We're just praying that his health will hold up enough that he'll be able to make it to baptism.
The Christmas Program was a definite hit. I was pretty stressed out, what with so many songs I had to play and everything that was going on, but we made it through ok. It's a bit of a relief to have it over, for sure. People loved it though, which is all that matters. Thus, we would have to say it was a success.
Mental health is doing ok. I won't say it's perfect, because it's not, but it's getting better. I'm glad I've got people on my side and helping me with everything. Without that, I think I'd be in trouble. I've seen the Lord's hand in my life so much since I've realized all of this. It's a miracle, for sure. Both of the past two weeks, I've received letters or emails from random missionaries here in Poland simply telling me how much they appreciate me for what I've done and the friendship we've formed while we've been here. It makes a difference, for sure. Even just small things like that definitely help.
We're keeping an eye out for this flat rate envelope. We haven't received anything yet, but maybe we'll go make a stop at the post office tomorrow morning just to see if they have it or something. We'll find out. Anyway, supposedly post officves are complete zoos right now because of the holidays, so we'll be sure to get there early and get done what we need to before the crowd gets there.
We had a bit of an exciting time this week with exchanges. The sisters had an exchange with the Sister training leader in the zone. Anyway, Sister Barth went to Bydgoszcz and Sister Owen stayed here. Sister Owen worked with a Sister Wood who was in her group at the MTC, so they were two trainees roaming the streets of Szczecin trying to do the work. They did pretty well. It was a big test for the both of them, but they rocked it. As the exchange was over, Sister Barth hopped on a train to Poznań, and from Poznań she had to catch a train to Szczecin. Well, her train to Poznań was late getting in, and so she missed her connection. Thus, we got a phone call from an unknown number that had a little bit of a stressed out sister on the other line. Anyway, that added some excitement to everything because we had to call the office, get a new train time, try to get a hold of the missionaries in Poznań so they could meet her at the station, somehow get back in touch with Sister Barth (she has no phone, remember) and get her the new time and everything. Anyway, it was a bit of an adventure, but she got home safe in the end. Yay for missionary craziness!
Last week we decorated the Christmas Tree in the chapel for family night. It was a good time, and I'm including a picture. Hope you enjoy it.
Well, that's about all. I'm super excited to talk to you all. It'll be a great time. If I don't call by 6:15 Poland time, it might be a good idea to call me and see what's up. Anyway, just a suggestion, but I don't think we'll have any problems.
Mom, everyone loves those ding dongs down the street!
Emms, it's ok. The short world is the best way to go. Wisdom teeth? And Heath has surgery? That'll be a fun house.
Hannah bear, watch those turtles.
Heath, no, the jedi braid can't be gone! Ah well. Who got to keep it? Good luck with those goldfish coming out the other end!
Well family, I'm glad to hear that you helped some sub for santa families. It's always good to help those in need. I know the Lord appreciates it as well. I send you all my love. Remember, the gospel is true! It's one of the best presents we could have here on the earth. Send everyone my love.
From the Missionary in Poland Whom Everyone Associates with Harry Potter Because of a Certain Mean Uncle,
AKA Elder Vernon

Merry Merry Christmas!
P.S. Hey Buddy, you wanna go pick some snow berries?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Elders Vernon, Mikolyski, Fotu and Hardy

Elders Vernon and Fotu. Merry Christmas!
Hey hey hey Family!
So, I'm freaking out that Steve is already back. That's super weird. He seems super happy though, and looks like he loved it, so I'm glad.
So, I got your envelope of ornaments! They were super funny. I had a good laugh about them all. Thanks for the pick me up and all the jokes. I laughed and laughed. Elder Fotu probably thinks we're all nuts, but it's all good.
Second, Elder Saltmarsh sends his warmest regards and wishes you all a Merry Christmas.
So, in other terms, don't worry, my mental health seems to be on the up and up. I'm doing a lot better.
Let's move on to some stories from the week, sound good?
This has been a solid week. We continue to see big numbers in sacrament meeting here in Szczecin. We had 15 people yesterday, including 3 investigators. It's a real blessing to see so many people coming so often. The Gays have played a large role in all of that.
Elder Fotu and I had a very busy week, even though our numbers don't reflect it. We have been translating the Christmas Program which the Gays have made for the branch, helped in preparing music for the same program, and even made a trip to Poznań for Zone Training. As we discussed it last night, we admitted that our numbers aren't that great, but we didn't feel at all like the week was wasted. I felt that it was a better week than I've had in a long time.
This week has been a lot better. Something that especially helped was during my scripture study this morning. I was reading in the end of Ether about the giant battle between Coriantumr and Shiz. In those chapters, it talks about how the hearts of those men and women had been hardened and their minds were blind. I thought about myself, and realized that in a sense, I had been acting the same way too. These people couldn't let the Lord work in their lives, and wouldn't listen to Him. I don't think I was doing the same thing in such a great measure, but I had always felt that because I was struggling and feeling that something was off, that meant that I was doing something wrong. It hit me then that nothing was wrong. The Lord was simply trying to have a hand in my life, and I was too blind to let Him do so. Things have been a lot better this week with the anxiety and things, and I hope that it will continue to be so. I'm trying not to beat myself up and think that something's wrong, but rely on the Lord, do the things He would have me do, and let Him guide my life, whether that be through clear skies or stormy seas.
Elder Fotu and I have seen miracle after miracle lately. We feel that the Lord is really blessing us. This week, Elder Fotu had the idea to go through our whole phone and send a text to everyone inviting them to church. We did, and because of it, a man named E showed up. He had been in church 2 months ago, back when Elder Mikolyski was here, but after he came, he just slowly slipped off the map and was traveling for some time. Well, we had both forgotten about him, but as he came back, he was very willing to participate, asked for another copy of the Book of Mormon (he had lost his first one), and even said he will be back next week and invite a friend to come. We can't say yet what will come of this, but we have high hopes that there will be great things in the future with E,
Brother S continues to loosen up. The Gays invited him over for dinner on Friday, and we were there to translate. He was very hospitable, polite, and told some great stories about past missionaries and his conversion. Along with that, he even came to branch family night this past week. He seemed to enjoy himself as well.
I'm so grateful the Gays have had the mind and energy to put together a Christmas program for the branch. As I was translating, I was grumbling a bit, thinking about how much time it would take away from contacting and other missionary work. Then, a quote came to mind which I had heard from an area seventy: "Building the church doesn't always mean expanding." As I thought about it, I realized that this program can do wonders in helping these Poles feel the Christmas spirit and learn how to run a branch (and hopefully eventual ward) in the future. Thus, making sure it is done well can be a huge blessing for this branch and is just as worthy of work as contacting or teaching investigators.
Elder Fotu and I are doing well. We love Szczecin and enjoy serving together. Things are going well, and I hope they will continue to do so. We're excited for Christmas (we even went with the Gays and got a tree for the branch today) and hope this Christmas spirit will help us be successful in our work.

So, Grandma sent me a pretty funny story about how Andrew may have driven her van across the street or something.... which gave me a pretty good laugh. Never a dull moment back there at home I guess. Hopefully Grandma's knee is doing ok as well. Sounds like she may have done something to it.
Oh, before I forget, I apologize for not sending any recordings again this week.
In other news, I bought you all some Christmas gifts! Well, kind of. I bought some more polish pottery, but christmas style! Just a mug and plate (for Santa Claus' cookies!) and some ornaments. Plus, I have a bunch of chocolate and stuff for you all to enjoy. Just one problem... I don't really have a box to send it all in. So, I promise, it will be sent. I'm just not sure when. You might be having Christmas in July for all I know, but it will get there, worry not!
I have another cool story which happened on Thursday when we went over to Poznań for zone training (which was super good by the way. Plus, I got to see some of my missionary buddies, which is always a treat). I paid for all of the train tickets for the ride over (it's just easier to do that way because they get refunded and there's less hassle). Well, the bill turned out to be 160 PLN. I had two 100 PLN bills and a 10 PLN bill. I passed the 200 over, and thought to myself, you should pass the 10 as well, then you'll have a 50, which will be a lot easier than 2 20's. So, I did. Then, later in the day, we were coming back, and we almost didn't make the train. We only did by about 30 seconds, and the 50 PLN bill played a huge part in that. Let me tell you why. So, Sister Barth (who knows Will [they're both in the music program at BYU] and is crazy good at the violin) had to stay after for zone training and figure out some music they want to play at Christmas. Elder Fotu and I went to the train station with the intent to get tickets. Well, our train left at 2:28, and the next one wasn't until 3:50 or something, and the sisters had a meeting that night, so if we didn't make the 2:28 train, they would have to move it, and it was with some really awesome potential investigators, plus a member was going to be on it, so it was important to make it on time (run on sentence anyone?). So, we went to buy the tickets. The line was super long for all of them, so we tried using an automated machine. Elder Fotu also had two 100 bills, just as a side note. Well, we didn't know if the Sisters were going to make it in time for the train, so we were calling them because we didn't want to buy the tickets if we weren't going to make the train. We're also trying not to hold up these machines, but luckily nobody was behind us. The sisters weren't answering their phone, and we had about 6 minutes until our train was scheduled to leave. Side note: the place we were buying the tickets was all the way across the train station from our platform and we both had heavy boxes of stuff that we were taking back to Szczecin (like my new scriptures!), so getting over there in 6 minutes was really chancing it. Plus, our train was early, and so there was a good chance it was going to leave early, seeing as it came all the way from Kraków, and didn't want to wait too long. So, we're calling the sisters like crazy, they're not answering, and we're debating what to do. Finally, they answer and say they made it, so we go to buy the tickets. Remember, the sum is 159.60PLN. So, the machine took the first 100 of Elder Fotu, but it wouldn't take the second. I guess the machines only take certain bills for certain sums. The machines don't give bills back, and the smallest bill here is a 10, so it wouldn't let us pay for 60 pln with a 100. We could only pay with 50 or lower. Well, Elder Fotu only had a 10 and maybe a 20 with him, so we were out of luck. Then, I remembered my 50. I popped it in real fast, he put in the 10, and we were out of there. Then, after a hearty run across the train station with heavy packages and backpacks, we made it to the train and jumped on about 30 seconds before we pulled out of the station. So, the Holy Ghost was definitely there and told me to get a 50, because it was probably only because of that that we made the train in time. If not, we would have had to fiddle with bills and try to figure out how to get everything in there. But, we didn't, we made it back on time, the sisters had an awesome meeting, and everything was good. Such is the missionary life!
Well everyone, I love you all. Heath, good luck with your dare. Emms, good luck with the test! Hannah bear, have fun at Nutcracker! You'll be awesome. Dad, I'm still playing in Sacrament meeting. lessons have died down a bit, but I'm playing a ton in the program this week. I'll be spending a lot of time practicing during lunches for sure! Mom, good work with the interfaith program. I'm sure it was great!
Well, time is running out. I love you all! The gospel is true! Don't worry too much about me, I'm doing fine out here. The Lord is with you all!
Remember, the best way to spread christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.
Elder Vernon

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another great week in Poland!

Hey, well it's been another great week here in Poland! I'll do my best to get some logistics out of the way first. Mom, I haven't got my scriptures yet. Theyr'e actually waiting in Bydgoszcz. We have Zone Training this week and the zone leaders are bringing them out then, but they are in Poland, and I should get them this week. I also haven't received my twelve days of Christmas package yet, but we're hoping it will come soon. Probably first part of this week. Also, I can't remember if I said this last week or not, but I just found out that Cardigans are now allowed for missionaries, so Elder Vernon might have to go find himself a cardigan to wear! Heather, I need style tips though. What's going to be the best color? I'll probably just end up getting a gray one.
As for a miracle this week, we got a miraculous phone call yesterday. A man named J called us who lives out in Gorzów Wielkopolski. He was an investigator back in 2001 when there was a branch out in that town. He was completely prepared for baptism, everything looked to be in order, but his neighbor died a day before his baptism and he wasn't able to make it. His missionary ended up going home, contact was lost, and things never worked out. Well, he got back in touch with the office yesterday, and I was able to talk to him. He wants to be baptized now, and also wants to get back in touch with his missionary that taught him, who lives in Clinton, Utah. Well, in talking to the Gays about it this morning, we found out that Elder Gay has family in Clinton, as well as a daughter who lives there now. Thus, things look like we will be able to help him get back in contact! We're hoping to be able to go out and visit him this Tuesday. It would be incredible if he were to be baptized and make an addition to the Szczecin Branch.
A lesson I've been learning this week is about pride. Subconciously, I had understood for a long time that humility doesn't necessarily mean thinking less of one's self, just thinking less about one's self. Yet, from time to time I find myself beating myself up. Well, I think the lesson finally hit home this week. I found one of President Uchtdorf's talk which said this exact thing. It, along with the Spirit, sunk in deep. I'm trying to do my best to think more of others, help them, and be a priesthood holder who is always on the Lord's errand.
We also had a great meeting with an investigator named G this week. He's actually hara krishna (spell check? it's the religion that does the festival of colors thing out in Spanish Fork) but is searching for his own road, so he claims. He meets with Jehovah's Witnesses and with others. He came to church yesterday as well! He's slowly easing in to everything, and it's apparent he doesn't want to take anything too fast, but things are going well and we have great hope for him to progress to be baptized. He asked great questions, seemed very willing to read the Book of Mormon, and keep all the committments we extended. Keep him in your prayers. He seems to only be about 24 as well, so he would be a great addition to the branch!
In other news, we have a great new finding idea that some missionaries in New York did. They served free hot chocolate and shined shoes for free in Harlem. I think McKenna Miller was actually part of it. We saw the whole article today on Deseret News when we were at the Gays (they showed us on their ipads). Anyway, it said that the majority of the pictures were from Sister McKenna Miller, but it never had a picture of her. Anyway, we're planning on doing some sort of the same thing this week, I hope. We're looking to get all the pieces of the puzzle to fall in place and make it happen.
Hey, speaking of puzzles, have you guys been doing a Christmas puzzle again? If not, you better find one for next year. We gotta keep that tradition going.
We also went and sang carols in tunnels this week for a finding activity. Nothing too much came of it, but it was a lot of fun. We enjoyed spreading the Christmas cheer and helping others come closer to Christ!
Oh, hey, I had a question. Can you send me the Gloria music? I don't want to take our only CD of it for risk of losing it in the mail, but if you can find it on ITunes or something and send me a copy, I'd love to have it. I was thinking about it this week because Elder Fotu read Luke 1 and 2. You know, the Lex de Azevado stuff with John Paul Jones (Darth Vader) narrating at the beginning? Anyway, that's all.
Dad, I found another cool connection with being part of Christ's seed, or his sons and daughters. Elder McConkie talks about it in his last conference talk on the atonement. Look it up. It was a cool connection. I also had a doctrinal question. We're asked all the time what God's name is. Jehovah's Witnesses believe it to be Jehovah, and they always freak out when I tell them that Jehovah is Christ. What is the best way to explain that? What is the doctrinal basis for it? I'd love to hear what you have to say.
Well family, sorry that the email is a little short today. I'll try to do better next week. Time kind of got away from me. Know that there's a missionary in Poland who's doing his best and working hard, but trying not to freak out too much or let anxiety get a hold of him. Anyway, he's alright. Don't worry about him too much. He thanks you for all your prayers and for the love you send his way. Oh, hey, by the way, that guy is me! And I'm the luckiest kid in the world to have the best family which is going to last forever!
So, yeah. Keep the faith, enjoy the snow, and remember, We are the Vernon's and we know who we are!
Humorous! (Beat ya Doober)
Love you all lots,
Elder Vernon

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving was sooooo good!

Hey hey hey family! Looks like everyone had a great time in Disneyland! I'm super jealous that you all got to go.
So, down to business. Mom, don't worry, I'm doing a bit better. This week has been hard, but I'm getting better day by day. I'm not totally sure what to update you on. I'm glad I'm with Elder Fotu. He's a quiet kid and doesn't say much, but as soon as he notices that I'm lost in thought or starting to slip, he simply says, "alright, let's go." We get out the door, go work, and it's a lot better. Anyway, I've had better days and worse days, but as a whole, I'm doing ok.
As regarding Christmas, I'm fine if you just send the Christmas box to Warsaw. Then I won't have the temptation to open it :). It's probably safer being sent there anyway. Nothing really comes to mind in particular. As always, Nutter Butters, Golden Oreos, and Sour Patch Kids are always welcome, but not totally necessary. I'm also going to put together some candy and stuff to send home for Christmas. It will probably be late, but let me know if there's anything you want.
As for Thanksgiving, we had dinner at the Gay's. It was sooooo good. Sister Gay is a really good cook. She raised 13 kids, plus has lived in a small town her whole life, so she's full of old town country cooking. It's the best. Although, Mom, I still miss your yogurt chicken. Anyway, Thanksgiving was a hard night for me, and I'm not totally sure why, but it was good to have a home cooked meal and good people with whom to spend the holiday.
As for missionary work:
My plans for accomplishing goals this week is to worry only about what I can control. I don't have any control over people's reactions or the progress of the work. I just have control over the type of missionary I can be. So, this week, I'm just trying to relax, do what I can, and let the Lord do the rest.
For District Council, I'm teaching about Teaching People, Not Lessons. I'm excited. It's going to be a good meeting. I want to focus on asking questions to discern spiritual needs. I agree with your message. Basics are so important. Remembering to focus on investigators and ask the right questions will greatly influence our teaching. That's why it's a fundamental in the training program. I hope we can make some progress in it thanks to District Council this week.
A miracle we've seen this week has been with the progress of the members here. We've had 17 and 16 people in Sacrament Meeting respectively in the past two weeks. That's a big number for Szczecin. It's great to see.
I'm learning lessons about the fundamentals of daily life. It's so important to have meaningful prayers daily, read the scriptures, and focus on God in our life. I think I understood all these things, and I never stopped doing them, but I was going through motions. I'm relearning again how important they are and making them a bigger part of my life. I'm reminded of the Lord's promise in the Doctrine and Covenants section 88: "Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you." These basic fundamentals are how we draw closer to the Lord, and when we do them, we will have His help in the things which we wish to undertake. I can't think of anything that would be better than that help.
Elder Fotu is awesome. He's so Christlike. It's a joy to work with him. He's quieter than most companions I've had, but it's a good thing I think. He's diligent and obedient, and he makes me want to be a better missionary.
We've seen other miracles as well. A less active member, A, who hadn't been to church in months, has come the last two weeks. She bore her testimony yesterday, and it was powerful. She seems to be back for good. We also got in touch with a less active member J who was baptized by Elder Hardy and Elder Kotter. He couldn't make it to church yesterday, but he wants to meet with us this week! Hopefully good things will come from all of this!
On Thanksgiving Elder Fotu and I took some time to talk about things for which we were grateful in our lives. I thought about it, and realized the big role which the Spirit has played in my life. My mind was drawn back to the decision between high schools. You know, I don't know all the reasons why I was supposed to go to AFHS. I don't think I'm supposed to know. All I know is that was where the Lord wanted me to be. I can see the incredible influence it's had on my life as well. I mean, I couldn't ask for a better group of buddies than I had there (I say had, I should say have, cuz we're all still close, or at least we will be after our missions). I'm who I am today because of the things I did and experienced in high school. Then, I thought about preparing for my mission. As soon as I got my call, I didn't have any doubts that Poland was where I needed to be. So, I guess you could say that I'm grateful for the Spirit in my life and the influence that He continually has in it. Even when I was little and "calm things" entered into my body. That's a comforting gift to have from a loving Father in Heaven.
Well family, you're the best! I miss you all. The gospel is true! Sorry, I don't have time to make personal comments to all of you, but know that I appreciate your letters, love, and support. The gospel's true! Families are forever!
With love and faith,
Elder Vernon

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Wonderful Week Full of Miracles

Hey family!
So, I'm going to apologize. This email is going to be short, unfortunately, but we had to do an assignment for Sister Edgren and I'm just running out of time. It actually wasn't zone conference, just zone training, but we still went to Poznań for it. It was a super good time, and I had a great interview with President. He's the man. I love interviews with him.
This has been a wonderful week, full of miracles. I've taken a vested interest in trying to recognize the Lord's hand in my life, and it's been miraculous to see the benefits and blessings that are coming from it. I have many more miracles than I have time to write, but I will try to include the most significant ones.
For District Council, I'm going to try to lead a discussion, as was done with Zone Council. I see the wisdom behind such a council and the way they will lead to better inspiration for those who attend. I am focusing this week on the topic "Revelation through Church Attendance." With the emphasis placed on this area by the Area Presidency and the vital commitment it is in helping our investigators progress, I know that as we focus on it, we will see blessings. I am trying to focus on the basics as well, simple teaching, promising blessings, and explaining why it is important. My testimony is always growing of basics in missionary work.
Our main miracle for the week was definitely meeting F.  As it turns out, Elder Fotu had a great idea to invite people to church for one hour both on Friday and Saturday while we were out contacting. We simply just invited them to come with us to church and experience for themselves the blessings they can experience. One man, whom we met late Saturday night, actually showed up! He was a bit drunk when we talked to him, but he still came. He told us that he had other plans that morning, but woke up late, so figured that God wanted him to come to our church instead. I think he was very right. It was great to have him at church, and he enjoyed it as well. He promised to be there next week and we set up to meet with him before the meeting next week. God blesses our efforts when we strive to do new things and have new contacting ideas.
A lesson I've been learning is about the powers of heaven and about fundamentals. I came across the scripture in 3 Ne 21:25 this week, which says "And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in their midst." Christ here talks about how we will have the powers of heaven with us in these latter days. I've thought about that. I don't think I realize that as often as I should or could. Yet, I know that we are not to control the powers of heaven, as it says in the Lord's revelation to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. So, I gave it some serious thought. I've come to the conclusion that the powers of heaven can and will work in our lives as long as we try to do our best. We can't force God's hand. His work will be done in His own time and not in ours. So, if we're not to force His hand, we still have things we can control. That is our actions and decisions. As long as we strive to do our best and we are obedient, God promises us that things will work together for our good. Thus, in a true paradox, the powers of heaven take part in our lives as we strive not to control them. We do what we can, focus on perfecting the basics, and God promises that He will take care of the rest. This is a lesson that is meaningful to learn. Of course, these are all ideas and things I've learned in the past, yet I feel that true comprehension and understanding of these are becoming fuller and more applied in my life.
Elder Fotu and I are getting along well.  We're taking big leaps and bounds together. Our companionship studies are focusing around teaching the points in the first discussion to dissolve concerns and make commitments, and I'm excited to see those things play out in our teaching. Elder Fotu is continuing to progress and I'm grateful for the time I can work with him. He's truly a christlike missionary.
Something else we did this week was pretty exciting. On the way home, on the train, we got the great idea to do missionary work. We were in an open car, so there were just seats in rows, like in a plane. Anyway, I got up and started Dan Jones'ing (in other words, preaching as if I were on a soapbox) while the sisters and Elder Fotu handed out pass along cards and talked to people. It was pretty exciting. We even handed out a copy of the Book of Mormon because of it. It was pretty cool. It's always a rush to preach like that. It's pretty fun. I enjoy it.
Thanks for sending so many pictures. That helped a ton. I sent a few of them to Sister Edgren. Hopefully they worked out well.
I loved that story about your experience with President Kimball. What an experience! I can't imagine sitting across from the prophet at age 14 and being asked if I was going to serve a mission. That's something else.
I've been trying to notice the Lord's hand in even all the little things this week, and it's made a huge difference. He is so much more a part of our lives than I think we even realize. It's so cool to see how He just twists a situation one way or lets us see little miracles in our lives from day to day to help us realize how evident His hand is in all we do. It's always there.
I also have been reading some talks from Elder Wirthlin lately. He's quickly becoming one of my favorites. My new favorite talk of his is "Come what may and love it." It was the last talk he ever gave in conference. Truly, wise words.
Well, I'm running out of time. You'll all just have to gather around my journal to hear about the other things that have taken place this week which have been miracles. I promise, they're happening.
Heath, way to go with learning a dance in a couple hours! Of course they can count on you to do that.
Emms, thanks for the heads up about Disneyland. Yes, we'll have to go when I get back. It'll be a party. Keep loving school and living it up. People are truly in our lives for a reason.
Hannah bear, you're just the doober. Keep on being awesome. Oh, 8 copies of the Book of Mormon. Humorous! Beat ya!
Mom, you're the best! Stay healthy!
Dad, keep the family safe. Thanks for everything.
I love you all greatly. The gospel is true!
With faith and love,
Elder Vernon

Elder Mikolyski went home (Letter from November 12, 2013)

Holy cow, sorry about yesterday. With the national holiday basically everything was closed. Made for an interesting P-day. Elder Fotu and I just went and hung out in the park. It was relaxing. I'm excited to get these new scriptures though! What did you end up doing for the name on them? Or did you even put one on them? Either way, I'll be happy.
That's so cool that you all got to meet Elder Mikolyski. I can't call him Chad. That's just too weird. Sounds like you got to meet a ton of missionary people though. Super exciting. Make sure Elder Mikolyski gets over there for family night. I told him he needed to and that you would invite him. Yeah, I expected it. Heck, we're family. I know you all that well.
As for this week, it's been good. Transfer week is always weird, but it's been great.
It's been a great week. I always feel a bit awkward with the whole transition from one transfer to another, but things are going well. Elder Fotu and I are doing well together. It's been a bit of an adjustment, going from a companion whom I talked with almost non-stop and now having a quiet, subdued, companion. It's given me, however, a lot of time for inner reflection for which I've been grateful.
As for plans for the week, Elder Fotu and I have set some great goals for the transfer, but we have yet to set plans to get them done. I want to focus on accomplishing that this week and planning out how we want to do all that we plan to do. I've shared with Elder Fotu the goal of having him be senior companion ready next transfer and he's willing to work hard and prepare for it.
A miracle that Elder Fotu and I saw this week happened while we were tracting. A man, after we knocked on his door, came out and started trying to argue with us. He was complaining about how he didn't want us to knock on his door and didn't want to hear what we had to say. He was a bit drunk, so that didn't help at all. In the end, he started trying to escalate the situation and start a fight. I was blessed and am grateful to have Elder Fotu as a companion. He, though not completely sure of what the man was saying, had the presence and poise to calmly wait and not say anything. In the end, we simply wished the man a good night and walked away, hoping and praying he wouldn't follow. He didn't, and we were grateful and blessed. I know we have the Lord's protection with us as His missionaries, and I am so grateful for it.
A lesson I've been learning this week is about how the Lord feels about less-active members. I haven't had any real contact with them, but we had a meeting at Elder and Sister Gay's apartment yesterday with all the missionaries. We talked and discussed how best to find those who are less-active and what we can do to help them. The Gays are so wonderful. They are committed to help us with all we do and willing to drive us wherever we need to go to visit these less-actives. As we've been making plans to track down these lost sheep, I've been thinking about what the Lord feels for them. Then, after reading 3 Ne. 18 this morning, I think I'm beginnning to understand. I don't know that the Lord loves one person more than another. In fact, I'm sure He doesn't. Yet, I think He feels an extra sadness for those who have made covenants and then have fallen away. These are sheep who were at one time numbered among His fold and have since lost their way. I'm beginning to feel a greater draw towards working with less-actives. I don't want to let it interfere with finding and seeking out those who want to know the truth, but I believe that finding those who have lost their way is a vitally important work as well.
The work is going well, all in all. Elder Fotu and I are learning together, striving to plan better, work harder, and be better missionaries. He's a great companion. I'm excited about this transfer and the chance to be with him for the course of it. I have good feelings about it.
I'm continuing to serve as translator for the branch. It's been an exciting experience. I translated for a meeting between the Gays and the former branch president here on Wednesday.
As for the sisters here, they're doing great. Sister Barth is training Sister Owen. Sister Barth is from Cedar City, and I'd actually met her because she was serving in Gdańsk when I was a Zone Leader in Bydogszcz. She's in her fourth transfer and training, which is exactly how old I was in the mission when I trained Elder Gibby. She's a secret master at the violin (like, good enough that she played at the Shakespeare Festival). She knows Will Vernon from BYU as well thanks to the violin I think. Sister Owen is fresh out of America from Washington State. She's doing well for how long she's been out. She doesn't look too much like a deer in the headlights. They've brought a great spirit with them to Szczecin. It's been a lot of help to have them here and a good spark for the work to keep moving forward. The members are excited about it as well.
A few other logistical things. My address is now the address that you had before, to which Dad sent his first letter and to which you guys sent all of the letters from family night which I received a little while ago (big thanks for all of those by the way!). Christmas requests... I'm honestly not sure. I'll be happy with whatever you send. I'll give it some thought though and get back to you. I've bought a few shirts here already because some of my long sleeve ones are starting to wear out. I'll just keep replacing them as they go, as long as that's ok with you. I plan on getting a few really nice euro fit ones right before I come home. I might get one soon to just wear for nice occasions like zone conference etc. while still here. We'll see. Still on the fence about it.
I feel like this email is a little short, so I apologize for that, but I don't know what else to say. It was weird seeing Elder Mikolyski and Elder Hardy off. Transfers are just seeming to fly by now. Time is such a strange thing. I feel like my mission is going to end way too soon. I'm trying to work as hard as I can now so that I'll be as ready for that day as I can be.
Bummer to hear about BYU. I hope they do better next week with Notre Dame.
Oh, mom, Sister Edgren has requested two lighthearted pictures and two pictures of us at work as missionaries. I was wondering, do you have any good pictures of me? Like that one of me on the street in Kato? Can you send them to me by email? Thanks!
Well, time is up. I love you all! The gospel is true!
Hey, does Steve get home soon? Weird.
Elder Vernon

Monday, November 4, 2013

Staying in Szczecin!

Hardy and Vernon in the Szczecin Cemetery

Szczecin District
Vernon, Hardy, Mikolyski, Fotu
Elder and Sister Gay

Vernon and Fotu
My new companion

Hey howdy hey family!
Well, Dad, you were right! I'm staying in Szczecin! I'm actually moving apartments though, so that will be exciting. And my companion? None other than Elder Fotu, the same missionary whom you met at the Work of Salvation broadcast! What a tender mercy for you to have met two of my companions already! Plus, you'll meet Elder Mikolyski this week. I'm excited that you'll be able to go to his homecoming. He's freaking out a bit right now. He's leaving on Wednesday this week. It's hard to believe his mission is coming to an end. He's been such a good missionary. I'm so lucky to have served around him my whole mission. I've been blessed.
My plans this week for achieving goals is to be myself. Going into transfers, I've always been a little bit nervous, anxious, and unsure of what my new companion's missionary style will be, what things he likes to emphasize, etc. It's going to be a lot easier having served around Elder Fotu for a transfer already. I really want to start this transfer off right and get things going on the right foot. I'm going to try to set expectations with him for what we want to do and the things we place value on, and move forward already having a good foundation of companionship unity in place. I'm excited to serve with him and help him along in his missionary work. I see great things in his future and he has a desire to work hard, about which I'm quite excited. I feel we're going to do great things together.

Something I discovered in the scriptures today was when Christ talks about how none of those whom the Father has given Him will be lost. There are references to this in 3 Nephi 15 as well as John 17 and Doctrine and Covenants 50. I did some research into this. I was curious what it takes from our side to be someone whom the Father has given to Christ. I plan on going into more depth in the next few days, but as of right now, I think the main thing is to just be baptized, and then to keep our covenants. Ammon, in Alma 26, talks about those Lamanites who were converted are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they will be gathered into His garners at the last day. It's a comforting feeling to me that as long as I am doing what I should be and need to be doing, everything else is in the Lord's hands. I've learned a lot on my mission, but the thing which most pressing on my mind right now is the great love the Lord has for all of His children. Sometimes, I think I discredit that love, but it is absolutely endless and will always be there, no matter what we do. That drives me and helps me to do what I know is right.

This week, Elder Hardy and I had a decision to make. It was about 8:00 at night, and we needed to do some cleaning in our apartment. We were in the chapel, and had decided to go home to finish off our cleaning, when Elder Hardy said, "Let's go tract." Such had been our plans, and I agreed that was what I felt we should do, even with cleaning checks coming soon. So, we tracted. We rang domofones, and we were let into a klatka. Once inside, we realized that last week we had already knocked the apartment whose domofon we rang. Yet, we both felt we needed to knock it again. We did, and a young lady answered. She wasn't willing to let us in to teach her a lesson, but she did take an ulotka, and our conversation did go for a couple minutes at her door. I know the Lord led us to her that night. As we are obedient and follow promptings, small, yet significant little miralces happen like this one.

I've taken some time this week to write down the ways in which I've seen the hand of the Lord in my day. It's made a big difference. I'm seeing just how much He is involved in this work on a day to day basis. I'm amazed.

I love Elder Hardy and I am grateful I've had the chance to serve with him. I'm confident he will do well in Gdańsk with Elder Dodge. All in all, I feel like Elder Hardy has put me back on track. Not that I was lost or striving to be disobedient, but I just felt like I was in a bit of a funk for a while. Elder Hardy brought me out of it and I know that the Lord placed him as my companion so he could do so. I'm grateful for that.

District Meeting this week was awesome. It was such a spiritual experience. I looked back and found the hand of the Lord in my life so much more than I realized it was there. As I looked back, I saw that Elder Hardy and I had a point where it seemed like all the success we had in contacting just kind of stopped all at once. I was curious as to why. I was worried that I was doing something wrong. But, I learned something. We weren't doing anything wrong, I simply think the Lord wanted us to increase our work with members and help them start sharing the gospel. Through a few learned lessons and some insights from the Holy Ghost, Elder Hardy and I realized that our member relations could and should be improved, and that by doing so, we can help the members learn to do missionary work, which will be a great blessing to this branch. If we wouldn't have suddenly hit a road block in contacting, we never would have learned that lesson nor done what we needed to. The Lord is at work in everything we do!
This week was also Day of the Dead here in Poland. I don't know if you all knew, but Szczecin has one of the biggest cemeteries in Europe. It's basically like a forest with graves everywhere. There are tons of trees, and the whole thing is over 400 acres. Thus, it was really cool to go there to see all that is there, especially on a day like the day of the dead. Add in to that the fact that one of the members here works at the cemetery, which means he gave us a tour, and it was super cool. I felt like I was at the cabin when we first walked in, seeing all sorts of pine trees and walking in the dark. It was like our night hikes we took out there. I miss that place. Hey, in thinking about it, can you guys look up some of the cool historic sites of Szczecin that would be worthwhile to go visit? We don't have access to those sort of things here, so I would be appreciative of anything you can find on the subject.
I also didn't have time to record this week. Sorry! I'll do my best to send some next week. We had cleaning checks this morning, so we were a little busy. Mom, Dad, thanks for implanting in me the desire to have a clean house and to do things right. The Gays complimented us very highly and said we did a great job. I'll just say this, I've passed every cleaning check I've had with flying colors, thanks to a good influence I've got from my parents. Who would ever have thought that the kid whose room floor sometimes couldn't be seen would turn out to be just a little bit of a clean freak? I didn't! It's a good thing though. Cleanliness brings spirituality.
President complimented highly the work that I've done here in Szczecin already. He wants me to work with Elder Fotu and have him prepared to be a senior companion by next transfer. We're excited to serve together and work hard. It'll be a good time. In other news, Szczecin is getting sisters! We are going to have a pair of Elders, a pair of Sisters, and then a senior couple here in Szczecin. The sisters are going to be Sister Barth and a trainee. I don't know a whole ton about Sister Barth, but I do know that she knows good old Will Vernon and that she herself is a violin player. It will be a totally different feel having sisters here in Szczecin. Elder Fotu and I are going to have to exhibit some man power so that we don't get overthrown. It'll be good though.
So, my translating duties have become quite large now. Elder Gay, since he conducts, has me translate at the pulpit for him during sacrament meeting. Then, he taught Sunday School, and I translated again for him during that. Last hour, with priesthood/relief society combined (we only have that on fast sundays) Elder Mikolyski taught, and I translated from Polish to English for the Gays. So, after all of that, my brain hurt. Plus, I was fasting. But, it's all in the service of the Lord, so I gladly did it! Nothing's better than mission life.
We also had a chance to meet with another referral this week. He wasn't too interested in our message, but he did take a copy of the Book of Mormon and was willing to at least meet once. He was a super nice guy, and very well put together. He and his wife would make stellar members. He's also interested in family history work. We'll see what happens.
Grandma Fernie! Have fun with your kitty and keep on being awesome! Lots of love!
Heath, I'm glad you had a good time on halloween! Keep on being awesome and good luck with the Cougarettes!
Emms, have fun with the ski season! It's going to be great. Tell Mr. Dibb hi for me.
Hannah bear, your poems are the best! I love you lots and lots. Have fun with nutcracker!
Mom, get feeling better, ok? You're the best mom ever.
Dad, thanks for the BYU updates. I'll keep breaking down the hymns. I love music! I'd be interested in what you think about being given to Christ by the Father. Any thoughts?
I love you all. Remember, the work is true and the gospel is true!
Lots of love,
Elder Vernon

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Lord's Hand has been at Work in My Life

Hey howdy hey family!
So, another week is come and gone, and it's crazy to think how fast time goes. Elder Hardy and I have been enjoying ourselves and working hard, and although we haven't seen any major successes, we're doing what we can. Elder Hardy has been a great companion and I've enjoyed serving with him. We have transfer calls coming up next Sunday, and we're not sure what's going to happen. It's a pretty big toss up. Things look like I'll be staying in Szczecin, but we have no idea if Elder Hardy and I will stay together or what. I haven't been with a companion two transfers in a row my whole mission. I don't know it if will happen or not. Anyway, it's kind of exciting. There's always a bit of stress and anxiety that happens the week before transfers. It's all part of the fun of a mission.
It sounds like you've all had a great week. I'm glad AF got a good win against Wasatch. I would have loved to have played them my senior year, but alas, it wasn't to be. Sleeping on the field sounds like a lot of fun too! I'm glad Trev stuck with football and has enjoyed it. He's a good kid. BYU looked really good, huh? Sounds like it. Beating Boise State is never easy, but it sounds like we put a bit of a whooping on them. Our schedule continues to get better and better as well. Wisconsin and Notre Dame? Plus Texas, Georgia Tech, and Boise State? Add Utah into the mix, and that's a whole lot of solid games. You know, I wasn't totally sure about the independence move when it happened, but as far as the schedule is looking, it looks pretty good now. What's BYU's record anyway? I'm getting carried away. Anyway, I just love BYU Football.
Anyway, let's get on to the week, huh?
Our plans for the week are to continue our member relations. I'm just beginning to realize the importance of these relations in everything we do. I think we can do a lot in heping our members do missionary work. It's something I've just kind of neglected during my mission, preferring to just hit the street and contact. As I've thought about it though, I know it's something that is important and will help these members not only now, but in the future as well as the church continues to grow.
For District Council I want to do something a little bit different. I was reading in the scriptures today, and felt that I should do a District Council for the end of the transfer focused on seeing how the Lord has blessed us this transfer and how His hand has been at work in this work. I don't have the whole idea completely figured out yet, but I feel confident that it is what the Lord wants me to teach and cover tomorrow.
A lesson I've learned this week is how much the Lord's hand has been at work in my life. Elder Hardy and I were talking a little bit after planning this week, and we began talking about how the Lord's hand has been in our lives and how it helped us get on our missions. I came to a deeper appreciation of the things the Lord has done for me and just how much He still does. It was a very instructive experience. I feel that I'm continually learning of the Lord's love for me. I don't quite know how to describe it, but I think it's deeper and stronger than I could ever realize. I think it's going to take me a lifetime, and maybe more, to realize how much the Lord does for me and for all of His children.
A spiritual experience I had this week was when Elder Hardy and I were contacting. The thing I love most about contacting is how quickly and how easily spiritual experiences can be seen almost every day. I looked across the way and saw a rough looking man. I thought to myself that he wasn't ready for the gospel and tried to make an excuse to just keep walking, but the Spirit nudged me to go talk to him. I debated for a second, but in the end, I made my way over there. Well, his name was D, and although he had already had a few beers that night, he gave us his number and told us sincerely that he wants to meet and stop drinking. He was a very honest man and I'm hoping that good things can and will come from our encounter.
Elder Hardy and I are doing well. Elder Hardy is a great, dedicated and diligent missionary. I'm enjoying serving with him. I know the Lord wants us to be together right now as well, for we are learning from one another and helping each other grow. It's a blessing to be his companion.
There have been some other cool and exciting things that have happened as well. First, we went to see a less active member with the Gays this week on Friday. It was a great meeting. I've been serving as translator a lot now since they speak little to no polish. It's been a bit of an adventure, and my vocabulary has been tested a bit, but we've done alright. It's all part of the fun.
We also went and helped the Gays with their legal work this week. That was a bit of an adventure. We had to go back and forth between two different buildings a couple times, ended up walking into an office into which we definitely were not supposed to go (don't worry though, they were nice and redirected us to where we needed to be), and I again had to serve as translator for the whole ordeal, which was much more in depth than I ever expected (not in terms of personal information, but just in terms of making sure everything was filled out correctly). But, the Gays made lunch for us (they're way too nice, but it's hard to say no. Sister Gay is a really good cook. She comes from a small town and had like 12 or 13 kids. She's made a lot of meals in her life) and it's hard for two 20 year old boys to say no to free food. So, it was worth it.
Mom, in terms of musical stuff, I'm currently also teaching one of the members here how to conduct. We haven't had anyone to do that in a long time, so it will be good to have someone doing it. Sister Gay is also helping. She's a good pianist and knows her stuff, so it's been helpful. Thanks for making sure I knew how to lead. It definitely paid off, as have the piano lessons. I love playing the piano now, and it's been a huge blessing here in Poland. I have a strong testimony of the hymns and the Spirit they bring. It's a wonderful thing. I'm still teaching piano lessons as well. They haven't been quite as frequent or intense lately, but hopefully they'll continue to make progress. Those books are very helpful, so thank you for sending them!
I'm learning more and more about what the early church must have been like. I was asked on Thursday by President Edgren to release Elder Mikolyski and call Elder Gay to be the new branch president yesterday. Elder Gay doesn't speak polish, so he's asked me to be his translator for any sort of branch business he's going to have to do.
Dad, have a super great birthday! I can't believe you're going to be 50 in a year. At least that won't be until after I'm home though. Anyway, are you going to go watch Tapestry for your birthday, like usual? I hope so. Thanks for being the greatest Dad in the world and always helping me here in the work, and at home. I couldn't have asked for a better example or a better Dad in my life. I'm the luckiest kid in the world.
Hey, I got all your letters from family home evening this week! Thanks for sending them! It was great to get them all. I have the best family in the whole world.
Anyway, about those letters... Heather, Keep on being awesome and enjoying high school! It's the best time in the world. Good luck with your ACT stuff. As for your other question in the letter, the best thing that helped me with my scripture studying was something that Bro. Perry, one of my seminary teachers did. He told us a quote from his mission, which is as follows: "If you fail to read from the standard works every day, you will lose your spirituality." He then asked us to make a commitment not to miss another day of scripture reading our whole lives. He didn't force us to do it, but encouraged us to do so. I did, and I still have the sticky note in the front of my scriptures. It was Jan. 9, 2011 I think. Somewhere around there. Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, I have not missed a day of scripture reading since then. It hasn't always been the best reading, but I've at least read something every day since that day. As for Hannah Ashby, I knew her older sister Whitney a little bit, but never met Hannah. I'm glad you became good friends with her. From everything that I saw from that family, they were great people.
Emms, do you have Mr. Dibb as your science teacher? He would do the same thing with my class. He's awesome, and super funny. I rememer that class well. Be sure that when March Madness rolls around, the games will be broadcast in his classroom. Yeah, he's that awesome. I'm glad you're enjoying junior high. Yes, I did walk those halls once upon a time. I've got a lot of memories from that.
Hannah bear, good job on dancing! You keep on being awesome, ok? Ok, sounds good.
Dad, thanks for the insights and updates. I enjoy hearing what Pres. Scoresby talks about and what not. He's an incredible man, that's for sure. Have a great birthday and keep being the best Dad in the world!
Mom, you're the best. Thanks for everything. Don't worry, your motherly advice is definitely needed. I'd be lost without it :). You know me, I have no common sense. Anyway, you're the best Mom ever, that's all.
I love you all greatly! Keep up the great work and remember, the gospel is true!
With love,
Elder Vernon

October 21st Letter

Hello hello hello! Well, it sounds like everyone had a super great week. Please give Marty, Sally, Carrie, Logan, and Grandma Fernie my warmest regards! I had a good laugh at the joke as well!
I'm excited to get this next flat rate envelope. Knowing all you, it's going to be a good one! I've got the greatest family in the world, that's for sure!
As for us this week, we unfortunately didn't have a baptism. J is back in the hospital and has turned off his phone.
As for the referral, L and his wife, U, had us over for lunch yesterday. It was super awesome! They're some super nice people. It was great to have a real home cooked polish lunch as well. It was some really good food. They said we're the third pair of missionaries they've had over for a visit, so the Lord is definitely not forgetting about them.
For District Council this week I want to focus on the Book of Mormon and the role it plays in conversion. I want to focus role plays on commonly asked questions on the street and how to deal with them. Sometimes, we encounter objections or questions that make us step back and realize we don't know how to answer. Finding answers now will help us answer them in the future when we encounter them again.
I could talk about many experiences this week. I've seen the hand of the Lord abundantly in the work and in everything I do. I think the one I want to talk about, however, is last week's District Council. I prepared everything in my studies and had my layout ready to go, but ended up forgetting it at home. I discovered that frightening fact about 5 minutes before District Council was about to start. Suprisingly enough to myself, I didn't get too worried. I had prepared well, and I simply taught without notes. In my opinion, it was the best District Council I've taught to this point on my mission. I could feel the Spirit with me and working through me. I feel like I incidentally made a great step in learning how to teach by the Spirit. Now, in the future, I'm not so sure I want to take my notes with me to teach. Of course, I will still plan and make a layout, but I may just end up leaving it at home once again!
Another lesson I learned was in 3 Nephi 11. I wanted to study about how to better recognize and feel the Spirit in my life, and what I could do in order to do so. Well, in reading about the Nephites hearing the voice from heaven 3 times, I discovered a pattern that allowed them to hear it the third time it spoke. Something changed. They opened their ears to hear it, and were looking steadfastly towards heaven. I thought about that. I think that is comparable to our lives. In my mind, we have to open our hears to the Spirit, which means creating an environment for ourselves which is conducive to his presence. I've heard it said that the Spirit is a perfect gentleman. If he is not welcome, he will quietly leave. I believe it. The second point, looking steadfastly towards heaven, I felt was representative of us aligning our will with God's. If we simply want something to be our way, we're not looking towards heaven. Yet, we when are humble and want to understand what God wants us to do, and not what we want, that is when we look up towards heaven and begin to allow the Spirit to speak to us. Of course, these are lessons I already new, but it was a great experience to see them displayed in such a way and to make new connections about them.
Elder Hardy and I are getting along great. We're becoming great friends. It's a pleasure to serve with him and I'm glad I'm learning lessons from him that I know the Lord wants me to learn.
Elder and Sister Gay have arrived in Szczecin! They're a huge blessing in this branch. I'll be honest, we needed a woman's touch here for a long time. We 20 year old boys sadly just can't quite figure out how to run things sometimes.
I made a really cool connection with my studies of the Atonement this week. I was trying to study teaching in unity, and came to the conclusion that without companionship unity, there is no way that teaching in unity will ever work. I think that's the big secret to teaching in unity, honestly, is having good companionship unity. Well, I thought about how God and Christ want us to be unified with them, and with those around us in our families, wards, areas, etc. As Christ has said, "If ye are not one, ye are not mine." Well, I looked up the Atonement in the BD and realized that the atonement is what brings us back into unity with God. As humans, when we sin, we estrange, or pull ourselves away, from God. The atonement is what reconciles us and brings us back into that unity--it sets us "at one" with God. Of course, we know this already, but seeing it in this new light was a cool experience. It began to make much more sense. The fall, then, also becomes a much better symbolistic teacher when viewed in this light with the atonement. What a beautiful plan the plan of Salvation is. I love it. The gospel is the best.
Keep up the great work Emms! You're a busy girl, but I know it's worth it!
Hannah Doober! We placed 6 copies of the Book of Mormon this week. I can't wait to see your ladybug costume. It will be great. Thanks for the poem!
Heath, it makes me feel old when I don't know who your dates are. Anyway, I'll keep thinking about your dare idea. Keep up being awesome and enjoy high school! Tell Coach Atwood I say hello.
Dad, I ended up being able to download all of conference from the branch computer thanks to Elder Mikolyski's branch president capabilities, so I'm actually good. Thanks a bunch though. I would love a hard copy of Elder Nielson and Elder Dube's talks, however, if that's not too much trouble. You can just email them and I can print them off. Thanks for the spiritual thoughts and advice. I love them and they always help. You're the best dad ever! Oh, hey, any news on the new scriptures?
Mom, I'm feeling a lot better. Don't worry. I'm exercising. Sorry, I'm out of time, but I love you and miss you all. I'm doing well, and am happy and proud to be engaged in the great work of salvation. It's the Lord's work for sure!
With lots of love and hugs,
Elder Vernon

October 14th Letter

Hey hey hey family! I hope you've all had a great week. I know it's been a good one here in Poland. I'm enjoying life and enjoying the chance to be a missionary.

Elder Hardy and I have decided this week to make a concentrated effort on learning and teaching the message of the Restoration, the 1st lesson in Preach My Gospel. We liked what was taught at Zone Training about focusing on the first discussion and striving to master it as we teach and work here in Poland. We know that as we focus on it and strive to teach it to the fullest, our efforts will be seen by the Lord and He will help us in His own work.

For District Council this week, I am focusing on commitments. I know that as we strive to do the best we can with commitments, the Lord will help us to move investigators along the path to baptism. If there has been one weakness that I have seen in many missionaries, including myself, during my mission, it has been that of commitments. I feel that we as missionaries just don't do a very good job of extending them, nor of following up. If we can improve on that, the work will move forward at a faster rate.

A miracle that I saw this week actually started last Monday. My family was able to provide Elder Hardy and me with a good number of referrals. My mom was talking to a lady at her work when the conversation turned to my mission and that I was in Szczecin currently. This lady's husband has family here in Szczecin. Long story short, they provided us with around 5-7 names here in Szczecin of people we can go visit. Elder Hardy and I tried to visit them on Tuesday, but with little to no avail. Well, on Thursday, one of the referrals we were given actually showed up at the chapel looking for us. We hadn't had contact with this man, L, before this, but he had heard me on the radio thanks to the interview I did. He actually got in contact with his family in my hometown, and came searching for us. We were able to talk to him a little bit, and have actually set up a meeting with him this Wednesday. L is a sailor, and leaves next Sunday to go to sea for 4-6 months, so we were blessed to make contact with him before he leaves.

Elder Saltmarsh and I had a good exchange this week, and I was pleased to see J pass his baptismal interview. If all things go well, he should be baptized on Saturday. Elder Saltmarsh seemed a bit down on himself but I tried to help him as best I could pick himself back up and get a jumpstart to go back home with a new companion and get the fire back in the work. He reminded me of a lot of things as well. He helped me realize that from time to time, I get too focused on purely contacting. If there's nothing else to do, I just have a habit of hitting the streets, when there is more to missionary work than just contacting. I realized I've neglected area book work a little bit, as well as making phone calls. I'm grateful for the reminder of how I can work more effectively and serve the Lord well with the time I have.

In other news, President expressed some fantastic compliments to me on the phone yesterday. He told me that the reason he moved me out to Szczecin was not because I was demoted or for some reason like that, but because he knows that I would do exactly what he asked me to do and be a huge strength to not only the members, but to Elder Mikolyski and the other missionaries out here. That was a very humbling, but very comforting thing to hear. He also told me he wanted someone out here he could call on to be a branch president after Elder Mikolyski left. Well, as it turns out, I'm not going to be branch president, because we're getting a senior couple here in Szczecin this Tuesday! That will be a great blessing to everyone out here. They will do great things for the branch and the work. I'm excited. Their last name is Gay. That will be an interesting thing to try to explain to the poles out here, but we'll do our best. From the looks of it, I'll probably be called on to do a lot of translating as soon as Elder Mikolyski leaves for the branch president. Or maybe they'll get some poles to do it. A few of them here speak pretty good english. We'll see what happens. I'm excited though. It will be a big blessing, especially because this might mean more homecooked food from a 2nd mom!

Heath, you lucky dog! I-phone? I'm jealous. Good job on the ACT! I'm excited to see what you decide to do for college. Of course, I'm rooting for BYU, but I'll be happy with whatever you choose. Also, Sarah was complaining because she hasn't heard from you in forever. Sorry, don't kill the messenger. I'm sure you're busy, so I don't blame you for falling behind.

Emms, you're a speedster. You better do track this year. You'll dominate. Yes, Dad has amazing old man strength. I would love to race him in a 400 sometime. Maybe when I get back from the mission. We'll see. In any case, enjoy the winter fever and make sure you do some good skiing. Good luck with school and everything.

Hannah bear, you're the doober! Keep up being doobery! I'll write you a poem soon and send it to you, ok?

Mom, way to go being super Mom. Keep on keeping on and tell everybody at the junior high hello for me. Does Mr. Dean still work there? He was my german teacher and is a pretty funny guy.

Dad, thanks for the football updates. Lehi? No. That's sad. We're going to have to take state just to make up for that. Keep on doing work in the stake.

Sorry for the abrupt end, but I'm running out of time and want to send some pictures. Love you all! The gospel is true!
Elder Vernon

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thanks a ton for the referrals!

Hey hey hey family!
So, guess who is the most spiritually content, happy missionary in the world today? That's right, it's me! Haha, maybe not, but I am feeling so awesome. Conference was so good! I can't even describe how awesome it was. I loved every minute of it. We actually got to watch all of it too, so I feel super lucky. That's the first time on my mission I've been able to do that. Since Elder Mikolyski has branch president privileges, we got to have a conference party and watch it with all the Elders in the district by ourselves. I'll try to send a picture if I have time. Don't worry, we also watched it with the members in polish. Conference has been notoriously bad here in the past. All they did was watch it on the Branch President's computer in a little cramped room with a baby speaker on the computer. Well, we gave them a treat. We put up trash bags on the window in the chapel so it was all dark, got a projector, a great set of speakers, and had it transmitted live for all watching purposes. Everybody enjoyed it. Plus, we had food, including ice cream sundaes, which is always a plus to any sort of ward/branch activity.
Some of my favorite moments from conference were definitely Elder Dube's talk, as well as Elder Ochoa's. And who can forget Elder S. Gifford Nielson's? Shout out to an old BYU quarterback and to LaVell Edwards in conference! (Exclamation Point). I talked about this one on my voice recording a bit, but I can just see how excited Dad got about the enthusiasm and fire shown by Elder Nielson, and about how the girls just went, oh come on Dad, not again. At least, that's how it played out in my mind. If you could, would you send me some of the audio files from conference? I can just upload them onto my flashdrive and then we can listen to them at night. I do appreciate it greatly. Some favorites and requests include Elder Holland's, Elder Dube's, Elder Gifford Nielson's, Elder Hales', Elder Scott's, Pres. Uchtdorf's from both sessions, as well as Pres. Eyring's from both sessions, and of course Pres. Monson's from both sessions. Many more as well, but we'll just start with that I guess.
Thanks a ton for the referrals! Way to go family for being missionaries! I'm so proud of all of you and for everything you do. When we do all we can, the Lord steps in and helps us. I know it! (Exclamation point). Miracles happen even today in missionary work, and in all we do. It's just another testament that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Heath, HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I'm excited for you. You're going to be old. Welcome to the ranks of adulthood!
Emms, I'm glad you enjoyed your birthday. It sounded like a good one for sure.
District council was a success this week. We had a very spiritual experience. Together, we did a "feeling the Spirit" activity I had been taught by previous young men leaders before my mission. It's a simple exercise of saying a prayer, singing a hymn, sharing testimony and scriptures, and love for others that greatly invites the Spirit. I feel that each member of the district was moved by what happened, and it was a perfect segue into Elder Mikolyski's portion on asking questions. It was a fantastic district council and I'm pleased with what happened and the progress of the district so far.
Side note here: Dad, can you pass on my thanks to Bro. Cuilliard for this activity? I still remember doing it for the first time. He took the time to do it with my group up at Helaman's camp. I still draw back on that experience to this day. It's a foundation stone in my testimony. Also, can you pass some on to Bro. Thacker as well? I still carry the little card he made for us priests on how to do this acitivity in my scriptures. It's beacuse of these two great men I was able to do this activity here and able to help others have a meaningful experience that will help them in their future lives. If you can, I think I already have Bro. Cuillard's email, but could you get me Bro. Thacker's? I would like to send them both a personal thanks as well. I've had some of the best leaders. I'm such a lucky and blessed kid. Like the 105 year old man to whom President Monson gave a blessing, the Lord has been so good to me.
A lesson I've learned this week came from teaching piano. As I have been teaching, I have been emphasizing playing correct keys with correct fingers. Trying to cross fingers and play with any which one is a bad habit into which many beginning piano players seem to fall. As I've been teaching, a big part of me has wanted to be loving and not have to correct them unless totally necessary, rather emphasizing good effort, but I know I cannot let them play with wrong fingers, for it forms bad habits that will be hard to break later. As I was thinking about this, I thought about God's relationship to us. He is the master teacher, and we often make little mistakes or do things wrong without even knowing about it, simply due to our human nature. Such is the case with beginning piano players. As we strive to play the keys of life, sometimes unintentionally with wrong fingers, God has to gently correct us and show us how to do it correctly. It gave me a new perspective as to why God must chasten those He loves. We cannot allow little wrongdoings now, however innocent, to form into bad habits later. Though some commandments may seem pointless, and breaking them harmless, the bad habits and consequences from them will have great influences later.
Elder Hardy and I had a great spiritual experience in contacting this week. We came across a man named G, who was a business man whom we had encountered about a week and a half ago. In that instance, we merely gave him a pass-along card, talked for a minute, and gave him the address to the chapel in Warsaw. When we met him again, we talked and he began to open up. He's struggling and having a hard time. We were able to testify to him of the peace found in the Book of Mormon, especially in times such as these. Though skeptical, he took the Book of Mormon with a commitment to see what it was about and read it. We were not able to obtain his number, but I have faith that he will read and is serious in his endeavor to find peace. As Elder Hardy and I discussed the contact after, we both felt that we had been guided by the Spirit to say specific things and testify of certain principles. The whole conversation seemed to just flow with an influence that was definitely from the Spirit. We felt confident that the Lord wanted us to meet G, testify to him, and introduce him, at least in part, to the gospel that can provide him solutions to any problem he may face in life.
Elder Hardy and I are getting along well. He's a great missionary. His desire to work hard, be obedient, and be diligent continually inspires me and helps me to be my best.
My testimony has been strengthened this week that God truly loves every single one of His children, regardless of circumstance, troubles, or anything in between. I don't have time to share the whole story, but I will say this, I ended up giving a blessing to a man who has almost nothing in terms of worldly possessions. There was a powerful spirit during the blessing. The feeling of love, care, and compassion was so powerful. Priesthood blessings are always powerful, but this one was especially so. Even though he has fallen on some hard times, he is a beloved son of Father in Heaven. God knows him, personally, and cares deeply for him. I know it.
I'm sorry, but time is running short. I love you all. Listen to the words of the prophets. Conference is the best thing in the world! 
Hannah, we placed two copies of the Book of Mormon. Kind of a slow week, but things are looking up. Thanks for the poem!
Emms, the future is as bright as your faith!
Heath, enjoy the week and lucky you! I'm jealous you went to conference.
Dad, you're the best. I got your letter, and it was just what I needed. Thanks for all you do and your great faith.
Mom, I've got the best missionary for a mom in the whole wide world! Keep up the great work, and I'm glad you found the radio interview recording. 

Well, I love you all. The gospel is true! This is the Lord's work!

Elder Vernon

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Radio Interview

Last week Elder Vernon ran into a reporter while he was contacting on his mission. The reporter interviewed Spencer and the interview was on the radio in Szczecin. Elder Vernon told us about the interview in his email and said he was grateful for the opportunity to talk about the Church on the radio. I really wanted to hear the interview so I did a google search. I figured it was a looong shot but I thought I would try to find the interview. I was shocked when I found the interview!! Don't ask me how I found it because it was pure luck or maybe inspiration. Here is the link to the interview. If you scroll down the page (after going to the link) and click on the sound icon you can hear him speaking Polish. I cried when I heard him. The gift of tongues is real!!,103836,przyjechali-by-nawrocic-szczecinian-to-mormoni-z