Elder Saltmarsh and I have had a great week enjoying the Christmas Season and doing the Lord's work in North Praga. It's quite similar to what you described Dad. Definitely a rougher part of town and we only walk in well-lit areas. It's been good to learn how to be street smart. Thinking back now, I've definitely learned a lot about that. I didn't know so much growing up in happy-valley Utah, but Elder Mikolyski gave me a run down real fast within the first couple weeks I was here. The reason why it hasn't really been open lately is because it's all the way across the river (look up Warsaw, you'll see what I mean) and is just kind of out of the way of everybody, but there's actually a ton of less actives out here that we're excited to track down and teach. The logistics of the mission here are interesting. A while ago, this mission was huge. As in over 100 elders. As things were made smaller though, areas were closed, and now we're only at 42 elders. Thus, I believe North Praga has been open before, but we are re-opening it right now. The lay out of Warsaw is such as well that there used to be small branches everywhere, but they've consolidated into two bigger branches because of lack of leadership, and because of it, there are something like 250 less actives in the Warsaw area. Now, this consolidation happened a long time ago, but we're still dealing with the repercussions. It's hard, because nobody wants to take a bus or tramwaj (trax, in essence), for an hour to church. That's how long it takes to get from our apartment to church, usually. Thus, it becomes our job to convince them it is worth the trip. We've been trying to focus on finding as a mission lately. so less active work isn't as big as it could be, but I'm sure we will be doing quite a bit in the future.
So, we had another lesson with our baptismal date, J, this week. He's in the hospital right now, so unfortunately he wasn't able to come to church. He did, however, call us from the hospital, requesting a Book of Mormon so he could read while he was there. Nothing major is wrong with his health, as far as we can tell. He was merely having some tests done and the doctors would not let him leave until they got the results back. His desire to continue to read the Book of Mormon, even in the hospital, was inspiring to me. He is beginning to understand the power the Book of Mormon contains and see how it blesses his life. I haven't been able to teach him from the beginning, but he's got an amazing story from the sounds of it. I don't have a ton of time today to share it with you, but I definitely will in the future.
So, an interesting experience this week. We were calling different apartments in a certain building, when an old lady smoking a cigarette came out. She was grumpy, told us to leave in not so nice terms, and that nobody would want to hear our message. Well, I wasn't quite sure what to do and felt a little bit awkward. Elder Saltmarsh, however, ignored her and kept on working. He reminded me after this experience that when Satan throws adversity at us, whether it be in the form of a grumpy old lady or not, that's when we need to keep working. Usually, it means we are close to success and there is someone that needs to hear our message right around the corner. It was a great learning experience for me and a reminder to keep pressing on even through adversity.
Another cool experience happened last night. Elder Saltmarsh and I contacted a man walking his dog. He was very straightforward with us and told us he was Catholic, but was interested in what distinguishes our church from his. I told him that the major factor that distinguishes our church from any other church is that we have proper authority on the earth today, and a living prophet who guides our church, along with 12 apostles. This man was a bit taken aback. He didn't realize everything that our religion entailed. It started me thinking just how much of a blessing it is to have the priesthood on the earth today. It indeed is what separates our church from any other. We have that proper authority to perform saving ordinances and to help God's children return to Him. What a blessing that is.
So, you want to hear about White Elephant, huh? Well, I actually brought the teddy bear, and Elder Saltmarsh ended up with it. Yes, he sleeps with it nightly :). I ended up with some sweet blue slippers. I was happy with that, for sure.
I love hearing about what everybody got for Christmas! I'm sad I had to miss all the parties, but I'm glad to see the pictures! Thanks for those. I love all your letters and pictures. They're the best. I hope you get my Christmas package soon!
Oh, you wanna know something cool? Look in the most recent Conference Ensign right after the page with all the authorities, and there are some people from Poland. The left two girls are both in the Warsaw branch I'm in! I even got one of their signatures in my Polish Conference Ensign. Nifty, right?
Dad, one doctrinal question. Who wrote the introduction to the book of Mormon? Not the intro intro, but the title page sort of deal, where it talks about the purpose of the Book. Do you know what I'm getting at? I think it was Mormon, but heard differently yesterday, so I want clarification.
I finished the Book of Mormon a couple days ago. I want to write about that too, but don't have time. Ah, there's never time to say enough.
We're going to the Nielson's tonight for New Year's, so that will be fun! Perks of being in Warsaw :).
I'm trying to get my dictionaries today along with a coat.
I love you all, the gospel is true. Sorry if I missed any questions. I'll answer them in my recording for next week.
Check drafts for pictures and recordings!
Love you all again!
Elder Spencer Vernon
Re-post from Sister Nielson's blog:
For New Years Eve, because we wanted to get our missionaries off the streets, we had them over to the Mission Home. We had a great dinner, played some games and watched a new movie about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Since our Mission is starting our reading of the Book of Mormon as a Mission, this was a great lead in.
What this also reminded us of was Lake Powell.
Seems like when we get our family together at Lake Powell there is only so much room in the houseboat around the table to eat. When that happens someone is always left out and has to stand in the kitchen and watch all the fun. (Elders Jensen, Wilson, Dopp, Baranowski, Sisters Young and Packard, Elders Mikolyski, Saltmarsh, Manwill, Van Bakel, Vernon, Walter, Register and Kotter)
We did have a great time and it was so fun to watch, listen to and laugh with our missionaries.