Monday, April 29, 2013

Baptism in Bydogoszcz! (pictures courtesy of Kelley Kagele)

Elder Vernon, Odys, Karolina, and Elder Gudnason

Hey hey hey family! Well, another week is past and gone.
It's been a good week, one full of exciting times, and disappointments, like all weeks in missionary work. I have been sick this week, which has been a bummer, but I'm feeling better and healthy now, so it's all good! Mom, I know you'll be interested in what I had and everything, so I'll let you know now, it was just a cold. I actually ended up losing my voice with it, so i couldn't do a whole lot, which was frustrating, but Sis. Kagele (Mom, you will love her) got some nyquil for me, and I'm all taken care of. I'm already back up and going strong, so no worries. I'll apologize right now, this computer is being strange, and I can't get my voice recording to work, so you'll have to wait until next week for that.
My new companion is going to be Elder W! Yes, that's the same Elder W from my group in the MTC, who you guys met at that academic dinner at BYU. We're super excited to serve together. He's a great and powerful missionary, and I'm hopeful we will do great things together. I actually head into Warsaw on Thursday to go pick him up. We have a Zone Leader Council--now actually known as Mission Leadership Council--on the day of transfers, so what will happen is he will have his luggage there at the meeting, and after we will come up to Bydgoszcz. It's pretty exciting! As for the others, Elder H is staying in Bydgoszcz and training! He'll do a great job, and I'm excited for him. His companion, Elder D(from Highland Utah of all places. Crazy, right?) is going to Krakow. He's excited and will do a great job down there.
As you all already know, we had the baptism on Saturday! It was a great experience. This branch in Bydgoszcz understands how the church should function. There are about 4 or 5 families that make up most of the branch. One of those is the Kagele's, and the rest are all polish families that all have lots of kids and are strong in the gospel. Actually, funny coincidence with that. The branch president here has the last name Zalewski. His 18 year old son, O, performed the baptism on Saturday. O is super cool. Anyway, there was a missionary I met in the MTC who I actually played lacrosse with at a BYU camp forever ago, and he has polish ancestry. His last name is, you guessed it, Zalewski! He told me to keep an eye out for the name. Who would have guessed that I'd find it here in Bydgoszcz. Anyway, the baptism and the confirmation both went very well. K is a little bit scared of the water we think, because the first time she went under, she was super stiff and wouldn't go all the way down. It took almost a minute for her to calm down enough to go under again. We got it all figured out though and everything went smoothly the second time.
Elders Vernon, Gudnason, Harris and Dodge

Being a new zone leader, and not having taught K at all, I actually had to do the baptismal interview. I was super nervous, having never done one before, but Elder G and I role-played it in companionship study and everything went super well. I'm always amazed at who the gospel touches. K is a shy, quiet, 16 year old girl, but she has a testimony. It's just a testimony builder to me that God is preparing people everywhere for this message. 

Elder G is a fantastic missionary. I'm grateful for the chance to work with him for a couple of weeks. I've learned a lot about contacting from him, and especially about asking for referrals. He asks everyone. He has fine tuned skills that I know I need to develop as a missionary, and it's been a real blessing seeing them all in action this week. He knows what it means to be a missionary, and it's helping me to get a view of who I can really be as a missionary. He's committed to work until the very end as well, which is a real blessing for the both of us. He hasn't slowed down one bit, and we won't this week either. I've been learning a lot about how dumb Americans are from him too. It's been a real eye-opening experience, haha.
Well, we just found out the emailing closes early today. Time's up for me. I have to go! I love you all and the gospel is true!
Love, Elder Vernon

Monday, April 22, 2013

Good luck saying that town's name! (Bydgoszcz)

Hey hey hey family!
So, I apologize we're a bit late on the emailing today, but there's some crazy stuff going on as of late. So, as of today, I'm officially in a new city!  I just replaced Elder Bokinsky as a Zone Leader in Bydgoszcz (good luck saying that town's name). Elder Bokinsky has a knee injury and he is in the office recovering. I got the call from President Nielson Friday night that I would be heading out to Bydgoszcz on Monday, and I was absolutely shocked. I didn't know what to say. Then, when he told me I was going to be a Zone Leader, that just added to it. I'm now in Bydgoszcz with Elder G. He's from Iceland, and goes home in a week and a half. I guess my job is to get used to Bydgoszcz, try to get familiar with the area, and then be ready for a new companion when transfers happen in a week and a half. Little bit crazy, huh?
Elder Vernon in Bydgoszcz
Anyway, amidst all the crazy packing in a space of two days, teaching 16 lessons with Elder G (that's a new mission high for me), placing 17 copies of the Book of Mormon, and obtaining a baptismal date, we somehow managed to get me safe and sound to Bydgoszcz. This week has seemed to last forever. It's been crazy. Monday through Wednesday Elder M and I went on an exchange. It was great to have a chance to work with him again and learn from him. He has captured the vision of how to teach, and I was grateful that he was able to help me catch the vision as well. Such little things can make all the difference between having an outpouring of the Spirit, and just feeling his presence. Asking the right questions, explaining things with clarity, and letting the Spirit work through a purely borne testimony works wonders. As I sat there in companionship study and learned about these things with Elder M, I truly felt like my perspective was lifted to a whole new level. 
The last lesson I learned from Elder M was about goals. He told me a short quote from Elder Jensen about how the specificity, effectiveness, and reality of our goals shaped our repentance process. I thought about that for a minute, and I have realized how true that is. Elder M said that you can tell a lot about a missionary by the goals he sets, and I quickly realized how true that is. With this new knowledge, I hope to set better, more specific, and more effective goals in the future.
While on that exchange, Elder G was with Elder V (a zone leader in Warsaw, who's actually from Holland).  They taught a lady named A, whom Elder M and I found last week on our exchange. They extended her the baptismal challenge and she accepted! It was super exciting to see such progress in our area. We've been working hard and we have seen a lot of success because of it. Well, I shouldn't say that. Success comes in the Lord's time, but I'm just grateful he's blessed us as of late.
The Warsaw district: Elders Van Bakel, Gibby, Raines, Manwill, Vernon and Garfield.  Sisters Howells and Allen
Because I knew I was transferring, I was able to say goodbye to a lot of the members on Sunday, which doesn't usually happen. I was surprised by the strength of the relationships I'd formed with the members here. I felt a little more distant than I did in Katowice, but as I left, I realized that I had built relationships with them. Good ones too. 
Last night, we taught a lesson to a couple of students. They are all agnostics, and are struggling with the issue of faith. Well, we taught them with J helping us, and although we didn't make much ground, the Spirit was strong. I was happy to be able to teach my last lesson in Warsaw with J helping us. He's made some incredible growth as of late in this gospel. I'm so happy to have been by his side and helped him along his road. It was hard to say goodbye to him, but that is the way it has to be. I hope he will continue to grow, be strong in the gospel, and watch the gospel bless his life.
Saying goodbye to Elder G was also hard. He has been a great companion. He's got great potential and he's going to do amazing things in the mission field.
Saying goodbye to Elder Gibby at the Warsaw train station
As for Bydgoszcz, I was transferred into a baptism! A girl named K is getting baptized this Saturday. I'm excited to see what will happen and hope to help her along her road to new-convert comfort. I'm  also excited to see what will happen here in Bydgoszcz. I feel humbled to be a zone leader, but i'm excited for the challenge it's going to give me.
In other news, I was curious, Dad, could you give me any advice on how to give counsel to missionaries?  I'm not sure I have figured out the best, most effective way to put these things forward that they need to change without being sharp, abrasive, or overwhelming?
Dad, thanks for the points of advice. I always appreciate whatever advice you give me. 
Hannah, I didn't get my socks yet, but I'm excited to get them! I had a great week, and we placed 17 copies of the Book of Mormon. For now, I can't think of anything particular I need, but Moon Pies are always great! I'll try to get you my new address next week.
Emms, congrats on making choir! I'm excited for you. You'll love AF. It's a great place. Work hard, do your best, and be as committed as you can to whatever you get yourself into. I know it's hard. Trust me. But do your best, and control what you can control. Other than that, don't worry about it. Miss you too.
Heath, I'm glad you're dancing again and enjoying life. Thanks for all the updates about missions and such. It's always exciting to hear about everyone. keep having fun. Loves you too.
Mom, I received a package from Grandma Honey with chocolate chip cookie mix on Sunday, which was great! I didn't get my socks yet, but I hope they will come soon. As a zone leader, I come into Warsaw at least once a month for mission leadership council, so that won't be too bad. Thanks for all the gospel knowledge you pass on to me! It's always awesome to receive. I love you lots.
Well family, I think that's all from me for today. I wish I had more time, because there's always more to say, but there's work to be done, a city to get accustomed to, and things to learn. This is the Lord's work! The church is true, and so is the Book of Mormon! Love you all! You're in my thoughts and prayers.
Elder Vernon

Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom and Grandpa Ted!

Hey hey hey family! It's been another week that has far too quickly come and gone.
To start off, thanks a bunch for all the conference talks! I love them, and I'm excited to hear the ones you've sent me now. Thanks tons too for your love, care, packages, and everything. Missions are a true family affair, and we are all blessed because of them. That I know. You guys are the best. Thanks for fasting for me and Elder G. We appreciate your prayers and fasting, because we also are trying to find someone who will accept our message. I feel someone is close, we just have to keep pressing on and trying to find them. Before I go any farther, however, let me just say, Happy Happy Birthday to Mom and Grandpa Ted! I'm glad they had a good time and everything went well. Mom, your pottery is on its way!  Sister Nielson was a life saver and helped me so much! I gave her a big thanks. She's an incredible woman. I'm quickly realizing how much she does for the mission and for every one of us. We're lucky to have her! She and President Nielson make up a truly amazing couple.
Give Grandpa Ted a big Happy Birthday from me, ok? I'm glad you got my letter, Mom, as well.
Ok, now to do business. Story time, right? Well, nothing super exciting happened this week after our escapade with the hospital escapee, but we did have some good times. I'm continually amazed at the things I am learning while being a trainer. This transfer is changing my mission more so than anything else to this point. As I look back at myself as a missionary and where I am now, I'm humbled, realizing all the Lord has helped me to become. I'm still not a perfect missionary, far from it, but I know that the Lord is helping me every step of the way along this journey as a missionary. As President Monson says, "He whom the Lord calls, He qualifies." I know this is true. The opportunity to serve and love Elder G as his trainer so far through this transfer has pushed me to become more than I ever thought I could be. It's also humbled me. I've seen so many of my weaknesses come to fruition that I didn't even realize I have, but it gives me comfort that I can use the atonement to overcome them and with Christ's help become better day by day. I may have a long list in front of me, but I am willing and ready to take them down one by one.
I had an exchange with Elder M (my district leader) this week, during which I learned more than any other exchange to this point. It wasn't anything from what Elder M said either, but through his actions. I was humbled by how much he's learned to love the Polish people and how confident and how bold he is in his missionary work. These are areas I knew that I needed to work on, but I was humbled realizing just how far I really have to go. From the example that Elder M set, however, I know now what I need to learn, and how to do it.
Zone Training was another fantastic meeting. Dad, you're right, I feel ready to go take on the world after all of those. One thing they specifically discussed was trying to talk to 10 people a day with whom we wouldn't normally make contact. Some of those situations often come on buses or trams throughout the city. I'll be honest, it's hard to contact on trams, buses, and the metro. It can be awkward, but as we put ourselves in said 'awkward' situations, miracles happen. While riding on the tramwaj that day after Zone Training, I had an extra bag with me and tried to make the excuse, "It's ok, I don't need to contact. It'll just be too weird/awkard. I'm carrying too many bags, and these people don't want to be bothered." My mind flashed back to Zone Training, realized that such a statement was a Substitute for Success (part of our mission motto--Faith to Succeed without Substitutes for Success), and decided to put myself out there and follow the Lord's counsel He has given me through my leaders. As I did, success instantly followed. I think the 2nd or 3rd person I talked to was named U. She has mormon friends in Montana, and is searching for God in her life. She was willing and ready to read the Book of Mormon and wanted to learn about how it can help her in her search for God. My testimony continues to grow that as we follow the counsel the Lord and our leaders give us, blessings immediately follow. The sooner we follow, the faster the blessings come. As Elder Stanley G. Ellis said during conference, it's about doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done, and not when it is convenient.
Elder G and I have been studying and talking about bearing personal testimony, and I've realized just how powerful a pure testimony can be. When we can show these people not only what we believe, but why we believe it and how it has affected our lives, that's when we gain real power in our teaching. That's when the Holy Ghost can carry the power of our words unto the hearts of the hearers and miracles happen. President Monson counseled us in Priesthood session of General Conference to bear the truth with testimony, and I'm realizing now the "why" behind his words. He is truly an inspired man of God, and our prophet in these days. The more I follow his words and heed his counsel, the more my testimony of that grows.
I don't always know why the Lord has us do some things, go some places, or track down certain people, but I am learning to trust Him, to do what I should, and to watch Him unfold miracles in this work as I follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and heed His word. Elder G and I had such an experience this week. We met a man named S a week or so ago (actually, literally seconds before our encounter with the hospital escapee) who invited us to come teach his family this past Saturday. Well, as we went to his house, we quickly realized the address he gave us doesn't exist. We were frustrated, discouraged, and didn't quite know what to do. We said a prayer, asking for Heavenly Father's guidance, and for a blessing on S and his family, wherever they might be. After the prayer, Elder G felt we should move on and be on our way home, for it was getting late and curfew was close. I was hesitant, wanting desperately to find this family, but followed him. As we walked out of the complex we were in, we ran into one of our investigators, M. We met with him a week and a half ago, and he is one of our most promising investigators at the moment. We were able to talk to him for a minute about his Book of Mormon reading and give him some encouragement. I'm grateful for a Heavenly Father that puts us in a place where we can be His tools in doing His work, even when we don't quite understand what certain things happen. In the end, however, everything works out, and His work goes forward, as I learned after thinking about this run-in with M.
Heath, I'm glad you had a good time at Prom! Grant sounds like he was a solid date. High school dances are some of my favorite memories of high school. I'm glad the knee is getting better. Keep up the good work and keep being awesome!
Hannah bear, I hope you are good. Good job on your spelling test! We placed 11 copies of the Book of Mormon this week, a really good number! I love you and miss you too. Thanks for your prayers!
Emms, good luck with your choir audition! You'll be great. Have fun with everything. Miss you tons too! You're super duper awesome!
Dad, thanks for all the advice. You're the best.
Mom, I love you lots and you're the greatest Mom ever. Remember that, K? Good. Keep the faith everyone. The church is true and I love you!
Elder Vernon

Monday, April 8, 2013

"A Mission is a Family Affair."

How's it going family who I love so so very much!
Well, what a great week. I absolutely love conference week. Conference for missionaries is like Christmas, but better! It's seriously so great. I'll honestly say conference means a whole lot more to me as a missionary now than it did in the past. We were able to watch the priesthood session (missed Dad as my companion a ton during that) and Saturday afternoon. What great talks! And thank you so so much for sending me some recordings of your favorites. I was able to download them and I cannot wait to go listen to them! I really liked President Monson's statement, "A mission is a family affair." Well, I don't know that you can say it any better than that. It's the truth. Tell Grandma Fernie thank you very much for her conference outline. I really appreciate it. Tell James and Jim hi, along with Gary Judd (I am glad you ran into them at the priesthood session).  Thanks for asking about what I need. The only things I'm really lacking right now is some super-orange, and socks. I'm planning on picking up some socks today, but I was wondering if you guys could send me some as well? I've got a request. Elder G has these socks from CTR Clothing (for missionaries, go figure) called "Dry-Max." Well, they're basically the best socks ever. He raves about them, as do other missionaries who have them. Could you maybe send me one or two pairs? They're kinda pricey, but I know a missionary who wore them his whole mission and they were still in great shape. I think you can find them on or some such website. Size L please!
Hannah bear, we placed 14 copies of the Book of Mormon this week! It was a really good week. Mom, no stress, we have more time to email, so I'll still write long letters. I love writing you guys, so no stress. I still have not received my Easter package but I got two packages yesterday, both labeled from Grandma Honey. One of the packages had pancake mix and the other package contained peanut butter. I assume that was the one you mentioned. Last logistical thing. If you would, now that I can email, could you put my email up on the blog for people to email me? That'd be great. Thanks!
Ok, now onto the missionary work part of the week.
Elder G and I have been striving to improve our contacting on buses on tramwajs, and we have seen great success because of it. We have started to set specific goals for every tramwaj or bus ride we will have regarding how many people we will talk to on our journey to the chapel, to an office in which we sometimes meet, etc, and it has helped us immensely. So much more of our finding now comes "along the way" instead of just from big contacting blocks, and we have seen great dividends in terms of lessons and investigators from it. We hope to see more as time goes on. I'm learning quickly that proper and specific goal setting will yield proper and specific results, if we are diligent in our efforts.
We've begun teaching a man named M, who actually found us one night on the street. We were contacting, and he came up to us and started talking to us. Well, we set up to meet with him, and we had a lesson with him this past week. This lesson was significant because I feel it was the first time on my mission my companion and I have ever explained the Book of Mormon to the fullest possible extent. We shared scriptures that had affected us in life, the influence the Book of Mormon can have on each of us, and helped him to truly understand everything that this Book means. Dad, I even used how it's a story about a family from Jerusalem that we've practiced so many times. Having pictures of football was inspired too, because I shared Alma 26:12 with him and talked about the influence it had on me and was able to show him that picture of my taped wrists.
Note from mom (Elder Vernon wrote his favorite scripture on his tape for every football game he played in High School.)
 I feel confident knowing that he truly understands what is expected of him in reading and praying, and how this will bless his life. I am amazed to see my growth not only in the language, but in my missionary skills as I continue to apply the things learned in Preach My Gospel and leadership meetings.
Finally, we had a simple spiritual experience this week. We were tracting next to a very loud street. We wanted to teach a lesson and have our message be heard, but felt we were struggling to do so through the domafon (outer phone that allows us to communicate with houses without knocking doors). We said a prayer, simply asking Heavenly Father to help us be heard, to share our message effectively with these people. The next door we rang let us into the klatka--we usually can't get into an apartment building unless someone unlocks the outer door for us, which is what this person did. They didn't want to hear our message, but I'm grateful for a Father in Heaven that hears and answers prayers and influenced someone to let us into a klatka so that we could teach and preach more effectively.
We had a crazy and somewhat nerve racking experience on Saturday. So, we were out and about contacting, trying to find Elder G's lost umbrella from the night before when we were chasing down a tramwaj, which lead us to a part of town we rarely go to. We ended up on a sidewalk almost never walked, and talked to a dad, gave him a Book of Mormon, and set up to teach his family. Yay for families! Anyway, we assumed that was why we were where we were, because we just felt we needed to be there. There was so much more though. We, at the end of the street, saw an old, 70 year old man laying in the road with a pool of blood around his face. He was on the tramwaj tracks and my first thought was "No... he must have been hit and died." Not quite though. He was actually an escapee from the hospital. He had an IV in his hand and a bandage as well. Anyway, he had fallen on these tramwaj tracks and gashed his forehead, deeply. He was bleeding profusely from his head. It was a bit of a disturbing sight actually. Well, he was trying to get up, and a tramwaj technician who was in the area ran to his side while elder G helped on the other side. A young man called the ambulance while they tried to get this old man to sit down on a ledge by the sidewalk. This man would have none of it though, and he, being surprisingly strong, fought them off and ran across the street, still bleeding and in a dazed condition. We realize now he was not in a good mental state at all. This tramwaj technician throws up his hands, in essence says, "whatever" and walks away. Elder G and I are unsure of what to do and a bit hesitant, seeing as we both don't like blood. Well, this old man falls again onto the sidewalk across the street without catching himself and hit his forehead again, and is still bleeding horrendously bad. We both gathered our courage in an instant, and ran to help him. By the time we got there, he was up again under his own power, and trying to run. He then ran into a cement pillar head first, and collapsed to the ground. We chased him, finally got to him, and he was trying to get up again. Well, we couldn't hold him down, so we got him up and tried to sit him down on the side while avoiding the blood as much as possible. A homeless man was helping us as well. We got this old man sitting down, but he was still fighting, furiously, talking about how he needed to catch a bus and get home. He was definitely not mentally sane and had multiple concussions. He was amazingly strong as well. The homeless man and I were holding him "sitting down" and trying to keep him under control while a girl was calling the ambulance. Eventually, it came to the point where this man was trying to get away, so I was behind him, holding him back, while the homeless man was in front, holding his shoulders and keeping him from going anywhere. The homeless man is the real hero hero here. He had blood everywhere. Elder G and I miraculously kept ourselves blood free. Well, the paramedics showed up after about ten minutes of this, and took him away without asking any questions or taking any names. We were so grateful for the homeless man and his help. We could not have done it without him. We called President Nielson immediately after the whole ordeal to let him know what had happened, in case the police did a report on this or something, and he told us he was incredibly proud of us, and also said "that sort of help is eternal." How right he is. The Lord needed us to help this man, to keep him safe while he was not in his right mind, and I am so grateful we were there and able to respond to the call. I shudder to think of the guilt we would have felt had we not been courageous enough to step up to the call and do what was required of us. When we are on the Lord's errand, He truly makes us worthy to the task. If anything, I know now that I really don't like blood, but I can deal with it when necessary! Mom, maybe being a doctor is in my future! :)
Well, know that I'm having an exciting time here in Poland! I wish I could share more and what not, but time is running short. We need to get going because we are going to Kim's pottery today! Mom, get excited! Oh, and happy birthday to you and Grandpa Ted! I won't email until next Monday, and your Birthdays are on Sunday, so I'll just say so now, as well as next week, cool? Cool.
The gospel is true. The Lord is in the details of our lives. He loves us, and we truly can be answers to the prayers of others as we are on His errand. Christ lives, stands at the head of our church, and is our Savior and Redeemer. The Book of Mormon is true, and Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Missions are awesome, and I'm loving mine. It's hard, and I struggle at times, but I wouldn't give this experience up for anything.
I love you all. I thank you for your prayers, love, letters, packages, and everything you do for me. I am so grateful to know I have a family back home supporting me. Keep the faith, catch the frogs,
Another note from mom...(During spring break the girls had fun catching frogs. Hannah told  Elder Vernon all about it in her last email).

and have a great day!
With lots and lots of love,
Elder Vernon

Friday, April 5, 2013

Smingus Dyngus

Hey hey hey! What a great day!
So, I apologize that I didn't get to email yesterday. I promise, I wasn't playing an April Fools' joke on all of you and that I just didn't email. Allow me to explain. So, Easter here in Poland is a big deal. Like, a really big deal. As in bigger than Christmas for some people. The day after Easter is also really big and has quite a peculiar name. It is called Smingus Dyngus. Yeah, read just like it sounds. Usually, it's like a nation-wide water fight, and everyone just celebrates the beginning of spring by going crazy and spraying everyone with water. Yesterday, that didn't happen so much, due to the fact that Poland is experiencing some crazy weather and we still have like 4 inches of snow, which all fell on Easter Sunday. It's been an interesting spring, to say the least.  Anyway, this day is also a huge national holiday and nothing is open. Thus, we couldn't email or shop, so we are doing that today ;). I hope you didn't all worry too much. Mom, I was stressed knowing that you would probably be stressed out about the whole ordeal. Anyway, I'm emailing now, and we had a great week, so hopefully you'll allow me to tell you about it.
First off, let's talk about P-day yesterday. So we showed up at the chapel yesterday, since nothing was open, and found it full of all the other missionaries in Warsaw, as well as President and Sister Nielson. Everyone had got together for a big ol' Smingus Dyngus party. As luck would have it, there was 4 inches (or more) of newly fallen snow perfect for packing, so we built a 10 ft (roughly) tall snowman! It was like we were all little kids again. Anyway, see Sis. Nielson's blog for more details. Suffice it to say that it was a great time, and nobody got too wet. Mom, I hope you're taking pictures off of Sister Nielson's blog and downloading them to our computer, because I don't have access to them, and often she takes better pictures and much more pictures than I do. She always tells us to have our parents download them and put them in our scrapbooks, so I hope you're doing so!

(Sisters Young and Lenhart; Elders Van Bakel, Manwill, Mikolyski, Boyce, Raines, Wilson, Gibby, Vernon and Tiner.) 
One other note. I'm super super excited for conference this weekend! Sadly, however, I don't think I'll be able to watch all the sessions. Now, I don't know how quickly they will have them up or what the deal will be, but if you could, could you guys email me the audio recordings of the sessions? From the looks of it, we'll be watching priesthood and Saturday Afternoon sessions. I'm grateful for the chance to watch conference all the way over here in Poland, and hope that I will learn lots from the messages the general authorities have to share.
In other news, we just received word that we are now allowed to email friends, missionaries, etc., as well as family, so that's a bit of a shocker, but a welcome surprise!
My Easter Sunday was absolutely fantastic. Church was really great. There was a special spirit there, and I love being able to worship on such a wonderful Sunday as Easter. The Jensen's, the senior couple here in Warsaw, also invited us over for Easter dinner, so we were able to have a home-cooked meal on Easter Sunday. It was a lot of fun and they are a great couple. Elder Jensen brings some incredible insights into every meeting when he is present, and it's been a real treat learning from him. They took some pictures of us while we were there as well, so you may want to take a look on their blog for those.
Elder G and I have been striving to be effective in our work lately, and the Lord has blessed us as we put in the extra effort. We set out some time this week to work in the Area Book and search for those who have been affected by this Gospel in the past, as Elder Schutze suggested that we do.  As we did this past Tuesday, we made a list of those we couldn't get a hold of by phone, and decided to try and visit them. Well, as we looked at where these people live, we discovered that there were 3 or 4 of them in the surrounding vicinity--and in a few instances in the same building--of less active members that we were planning to go visit the next day. What a blessing that was, to be able to make the time we were going to spend the next day even more effective as we sought out the Lord's sheep who are lost and need a little urge to come back into the fold. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make contact with any of the less actives, or former investigators, but we know where they are, and will be searching for them and striving to find them in the coming weeks and months.
Elder G and I were also reminded of the principle of persistence this week. We had what seemed to be a fruitless night. This was Wednesday, when we were searching for less-actives and former investigators. Well, on the tramwaj ride home, I said a little prayer in my heart for the Lord to bless my efforts that I might be able to find someone who was prepared for the Gospel. As I did so, I began contacting on the tramwaj, and soon found R, who was willing to talk, learn, and eventually take a Book of Mormon. I'm also learning that in all I do, Elder G follows, because as I was contacting, he also began to contact, and placed a Book of Mormon on his own. After getting off the tramwaj, we contacted into a lady named A, and were able to also give her a Book of Mormon, and teach her a whole street lesson. I'm learning daily just how important persistence and prayer are in this work, and what a vital role they play in all we do in life.
We had a lesson with an investigator this past week, and we invited our recent convert, J, to be on the lesson with us. J surprises me all the time with how well he understands this gospel and his growth in learning its principles. A, our investigator, was struggling and wanted to find concrete reasons that the Book of Mormon is true, but J, before either Elder G or I were able to pipe up, said to A, "But that's not faith now, is it?" J proceeded to bear testimony of the principle of faith and help A learn more about how God works and how we have to move forward in faith. We hope that A will progress thanks to these things he is learning and the testimony of J. The real miracle to me is J's progression. I'm so grateful for an Atonement that helps us to progress and move forward, as it is evident that J has done. I'm also grateful for the Gift of the Holy Ghost which moves our knowledge forward and helps us to testify with power. This gospel is true, the Lord lives, and it is truly His message that we share. I'm so grateful to do so, and grateful to have pondered such things in my heart during the Easter season. I'm forever indebted to Christ for His sacrifice for me, and trying daily to be a faithful and worthy servant of His, and to earn His trust.
We also ran into a man late one night who was mocking us quite rudely.  Well, needless to say, I was a little frustrated and wasn't having any of that. I told him (probably a little more bluntly than I should have), that we are here to teach those who want to learn from our message, not to argue about past events. Well, he yelled all sorts of things as we walked away, and I was a bit fired up. It took me a little while to cool off, but this is where I learned a big lesson from Elder G. He told me, "Just feel sorry for that guy. He doesn't realize what he's doing or what he's missing. It's not worth it getting worked up over." I was humbled by his response. He's definitely right. I tell you what, it seems at times as if he's training me, not the other way around. I'm learning a ton from him and he is an incredible missionary. I'm learning day by day to really enjoy my time with him, because before I know it, it could be over.
Love you all!
Elder Vernon