Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Birthday to Emma!

Hey howdy hey family!
Please understand my enthusiam through my capitalization of all letters in that phrase. Somebody across the world just yelled that while emailing in an email cafe somewhere in Szczecin. Or not. But you'll never know! At least not for a while. Ha, I think I'm starting to turn into Dad. I have no qualms about doing random embarassing acts in front of everybody anymore. I guess that's what having a black name tag that everyone stares at does for you. And sticking out like a sore thumb. Add into that the fact that we don't fit in here because we're american and have nice accents, and you've got a great combo for success for someone who wants to get used to being stared at and no longer getting embarassed by anything! Missions are the best! I'm going to be so weird when I get home. It's ok though, we don't talk about that strange far away land called America here in Poland. That's only just a dream, and won't ever happen.
So, on to some stories, alright?
This week was a great week! I'm excited to be in Szczecin and serving with such a great district. We unfortunately have yet to find a family to teach, but we have seen some good success with teaching on the street. We're still searching for an investigator to help progress to baptism and activity in the church, and we have faith that we will find one. A few tactics we're striving to improve on are our questions we ask, how to begin teaching, and setting out a 2 hour block every day where we strive to speak only Polish. As we strove to reach our goals of being out at 11, and only spending an hour for lunch, we saw an improvement, but we lost a focus on them later in the week. We've got to get back into reaching for them this week.

For District Council, I'm planning on focusing on the role of the Holy Ghost in conversion. I want to especially emphasize letting the Holy Ghost testify as we teach and asking good questions that will invite Him into our teaching. Elder M has especially mastered this skill and I am inviting him to share some thoughts, insights, and some of his knowledge with us on the subject. I know that as we ask inspired questions given us by the Holy Ghost, our teaching will improve and investigators will progress even more.

The exchange I had with Elder F went very well this week. I was pleased to serve with him and do some great work. He's a great Elder and has a great mission in front of him. I felt a little strange going into the exchange not having anything specific to teach him during companion study and trying to do it by example instead, but I think he caught it in the end. I'm not a perfect missionary and I've got a lot to improve on, but I feel that the Lord was pleased with my efforts for this exchange. We set some good goals as well.

I'm learning recently about how much the tone and pace of the missionary work of Elder H and me is set by me. Throughout my mission, I've found it easy to blame different issues on my companion, or just saying, "That's just the way it is." I don't want to do that anymore. I'm determined that the pace, expectations, and tone of my missionary work will be set by me and what I feel the Lord expects of me. I'm not perfect, and I know I have flaws, but I don't want those flaws to hold me back from the work that I could be doing.

A great spiritual experience Elder F and I had on our exchange came on Wednesday right before lunch. It was about 12:58 and we had lunch planned at 13:00. We were standing in front of the apartment, and we were about to go inside. We decided to continue on and try to find one more person to talk to. We did, and we found D, a 20 something year old guy who wanted to learn about The Book of Mormon. We were able to teach him a street lesson and give him a copy of The Book of Mormon. I know that as we are diligent and strive to be obedient the Lord blesses us.

Elder H and I are doing well and getting along great. I'm so grateful to have him as a companion. He's got a great work ethic, speak polish well, and is a great missionary. I'm a lucky senior companion.

In other cool news, we Dan Jones'ed a bit this week. Let me explain a bit. That means we got up on a ledge on the side of the street and while people walked by we just tried to preach and talk to them and have our companions talk to those walking by and try to teach them. It was a bit scary (strangely, not as much as I thought it would be. I think it helps doing it in polish because it just seems different) and it didn't seem super successful right off the bat, but I think we could definitely get some self-referrals (people who ask for a missionary visit online) from it soon. We'll see. It was at least fun to feel like a missionary of old preaching to the crowds. All of us did it for a bit too. Even Elder F and Elder H, who were both super scared because their polish is still a little fresh and improving. It was awesome.
I also got interviewed by the radio this week here in Szczecin. It wasn't anything big. I just met a reporter on the street, and he instantly pulled out a microphone and asked a few questions. He wanted to watch us contact and record some of it, but we didn't feel that was too appropriate. We called President Edgren about it and he agreed. Anyway, I still made it on to polish radio, speaking all in polish! That's not an everyday feat. President Edgren gave us a big compliment too. While I was on the phone with him, he said he trusts out judgment out here. That's the reason why he placed Elder M and I out here, because we're both veteran missionaries and he trusts our judgment with whatever we do. That's humbling. Mission Presidents have so much trust for their missionaries. It's incredible.

Well, in other news, Conference is this week! We're so excited out here. It's going to be a huge party. I think missionaries get more excited for conference than they do for Christmas or anything else in the world. It's pretty crazy. I don't think we have a limit either on how many sessions we are allowed to watch, so we'll probably watch as many as we can on Sunday! It'll be exciting. Since Elder M is branch president, he's got computer privileges. Thus, we're good to go for conference watching! It's going to be the best. I hope you all will watch it as well. We're so lucky to have a prophet and 12 apostles who speak to us for God and show us what his will is. It's going to be a great experience. Plus, this marks the 50th anniversary of President Monson being called as an apostle. How's that for a long service? I'm excited to see what will happen.

I apologize that I don't update you very much on our teaching pool. The truth of the matter is, we don't really have one. We do a lot of teaching on the street, but it rarely seems to lead anywhere. It's kind of sad, but I know the Lord has people here being prepared and searching for the gospel. We've just got to find them. Plus, I still like what you said Dad, in an email a while ago, about how when we do all we can, we can stand back and watch the Lord's hand work. Sometimes that does mean spending a lot of hours on the street and teaching lots of first lessons that don't seem to go anywhere, but I am confident that good will come of all of this. It has to. This is the work of God and will not be stopped by any man-made devices or strategies.
One of the members here who was just baptized 3 months ago, had his birthday this week. We had a little party for Branch Family Night last monday. It was fun. The quote from Robert C. Gay's talk in conference a year ago comes to mind, "May our lives of service confirm that God forsakes no one."  I think that is very true. 2 young kids in white shirts and ties reached out to him a couple of months ago, and it's changed his life forever. God cares about all of us. I'm sure of it.

Oh, Emms, I don't know if I ever told you, but I did get your letter you sent a while ago. Thanks! I'll try to respond when I can. Time is hard to come by out here sometimes.
Thanks for all the voice recordings! I love hearing them. They're the best. I just have the best family in the whole wide world. That's all I have to say.
Dang it! No. AF lost? Bummer. It's ok. I think this will fuel their fire for the rest of the season. Hopefully they can make a good run into the playoffs and make some good things happen. Coach Behm and Coach Lehman will make sure that things go well. I'm so lucky that I was able to play under them. They're some of the best coaches I've ever had. Heath, tell them hi for me, will you? Thanks!
Go Cougars! It'll be interesting to see what happens next week with Utah State. 
Hannah bear, way to go on your solo! We placed 13 copies of the Book of Mormon this week! Hey, are you and Dad preparing for Halloween? You're the best littlest sister ever! Love you!
Mom, I get excited for Monday mornings too because it means I get to email my family! And hear from them. It's the best. Poland weather is cooling off as well, but we're doing well. Thanks for the thermals. Ah, snow in the mountains? Dang. I miss my mountains. Poland has none of them. But, there are other benefits here, like the polish language! I don't get to speak that everyday. Tell Grandma Fernie happy birthday for me and that I love here, ok? Thanks. Keep up the great work! Love you.
Heath, there's no way you can be applying for colleges. That's so not cool. I feel super old now. What are your plans? Are you going to try to get into the Y, go somewhere else, what? You know, we could go to the same school for the first time in forever if you go to the Y. That would be cool, and probably a little bit different. Keep enjoying school, dance, and the works. Hey, did you know Elder L's sister? She just emailed Elder M. I guess she's at Juiliard dancing right now. I think you did Ballet with her, right? Anywho, small world. Love you!
Emms! CLEAR THE ROADS!!!!! NOBODY IS SAFE WHEN EMMA IS DRIVING!!!! Just kidding. I have complete confidence in your driving skills with your permit....... I'm glad you met Mr. Bryson. He's one of my favorites coaches ever. There's nobody quite like him. Hey, enjoy life at the AFJH. It's a great place. Love you lots!
Dad, you're the best. Keep up the great stuff with missionary work in the stake. I know they're all the better for it. Acting as an investigator is the best. That's when I learn the most. Role plays are some great stuff! I'm actually planning on doing the feeling the spirit activity this week in District Council. It's a great thing to do. I agree. We don't really know something until we can teach it. It's the truth. Hey, love you lots. You're the best Dad in the world.
Hey, the gospel is true! I can't wait for conference! I'm forwarding the video of me on the radio, but I'm not sure which one it is, so just watch them all until you hear it. I saw hannah's video of water skiing for the first time just barely. Way to go Hannah!
Well, with love and hugs and a heart that's true, here's another email from Poland to you!
Elder Vernon

Monday, September 23, 2013

It has been a great week here in Szczecin!

Our kitchen in Szczecin

My companion Elder H
Hey hey hey family!
Overall it has been a great week here in Szczecin! I am sad to say that J did not get baptized. There are some issues and some things that just needed to get straightened out, so we ended up postponing it until he gets back from a trip. We'll let you know when he returns.
Secondly, I love the voice recordings that you all send! They're the best. I've been able to pull them all off and listen to them one by one, and I'm a huge fan. We've had some good laughs. Please, keep sending them!
Dad, I have yet to get your letter from China. Where did you send it? If it was to the mission office, then that makes sense that I haven't received it yet. If you sent it to one of the apartments, then I'm a little worried. But all is good. It'll get to me one way or another, I'm sure.
I'll try to answer some of your questions before I get into my email. Mom, as for the scriptures, I would like my full name on them. As for polish sides, I'm not sure. I can't think of anything off the top of my head. Polish people love their salads, but they're not normal salads. Weird things with pickles, carrots, and sometimes apples, or sauerkraut. It's a funky food world a little bit. They also love bread with almost everything. They do meals differently, it's kind of in courses, and it's polite to leave a little bit of food so that they know you don't want more of that portion. If you eat it all, they will refill your plate with whatever they're serving. A good polish side is also soup. Gulasz is good, as well as zurek, which is a kielbasa based soup with hard boiled egg halves in it. I hope that helps somewhat.
As for laundry, we have a washer, but we have to hang dry clothes. I haven't had a dryer my whole mission. That will be a very strange luxury when I get home.
I've got a good coat right now. It's really warm and does well. If I end up needing another one, I'll be sure to get one, so don't worry too much Mom. The weather has started to cool off a bit, but we're doing fine.
In other news, I have a few requests. I'd like a few audio files of a couple talks, if it wouldn't be too much trouble. There's one by President Eyring called "Act in All Diligence" which was given in Priesthood Session in 2010 I think, and another by President Uctdorf called "Of Things That Matter Most." I think that one was also in 2010, if I remember right. Anyway, I'd be very grateful if you could get me the audio files!
When I left Bydgoszcz I left two flat rate boxes with Sister Kagele. Have you received them yet? If not, would you mind getting in contact with Sister Kagele to see if she sent them? I left them with Elder Rittmanic to give to her, and I'm just hoping the chain gets connected all the way!
Let's move on to some stories, alright?
Elder H and I have recently set some specific goals to find a family within this coming week. During weekly planning we sat down and did all we could to try to make plans to put ourselves in a position to find and teach a family in this coming week. We're going to try to contact in a park where a family would be walking at least once a day, at an optimal time for families to be out and about--around 6:00 PM. We're also striving to tighten up the daily schedule and make sure we are only spending an hour for lunch and dinner, and getting out the door right at 11 in the morning every day. We've also set a goal to talk to 15 people walking with strollers a day, which has been a good thing that has stretched us recently. We feel confident that these plans are going to help us achieve our goal of finding, teaching, and baptizing a family. Elder H was sick for a few days this past week, so that unfortunately took up some time, but we are still doing alright and trying our best. With some hard work this week, we should be in a good position to still reach all our transfer number goals. For District Council this week, I'm focusing on teaching Revelation Through Prayer. I want to focus on how prayer plays a role in our work as missionaries, and how it plays a role in conversion for investigators. I've prayed about it and feel confident that this is what the Lord wants me to teach this week. For what reason, I'm not sure, but I'm confident that it is in line with His will. If the chance arises, I would like to share the things I have learned about a "Daily Devotional" spent in prayer with the other Elders, but I'm unsure if during district meeting would be the right place and time. In any case, I have notes prepared for it, and although I feel as if I won't share it tomorrow, I will be ready in case the Spirit directs otherwise.
I've also got a planned exchange this week with Elder F. I'm excited and feel that we will have a great time together and get some good work done. I am going to strive to do my best to help him be confident as a missionary. He's doing well and I'm excited for the great things that he will do as a missionary. I feel that both he and Elder H have big roles to play here in the mission. They're ready and capable for a lot already, which seems to be a lot sooner than I was ready for whatever came my way.
Elder H and I are doing fantastic. He's a great missionary. We are enjoying working together. Sometimes, it's hard to stay focused during studies because we get along so well and we just start talking, but we're working on being more focused and doing the Lord's work to the fullest. We've set out a companionship study schedule that will help us stay focused. In other news, piano teaching has been an adventure! I haven't felt so stretched with my polish for a long time! I thought I prepared well too, but it was hard to predict all the terms that I would encounter and what I would need to say. Plus, I had never taught piano before, and this was kind of like starting from ground zero. It's a hoot. I've got a better idea now of what I need to do though, so hopefully the lessons will get better as we go along. Don't worry though, the first lessons weren't bad, they just have a lot of potential to get better :). I know you all have very busy schedules, and I don't want to interrupt or take away more time than necessary, but would it be possible if you could search for any sort of learning/teaching piano helps? I'd be very grateful. Anything found in polish would be very nice as well. We already have a hymns made easy book here in Szczecin, but anything else would be very helpful and appreciated.We also received the ability to text this week on the mission phones. That's something we haven't had my whole mission. It felt so weird to send a text again. I'm totally not used to it. I don't know what I'm going to be like when I get home with all of that, but we'll tackle that barrier when we get there. I don't like to think about coming home too much. I'm going to miss the mission field way too much. Anyway, I know that texting will be a great tool for the mission in being successful with setting up meetings and getting things done, we just have to make sure it stays a tool, and not anything else. 
Well, I'm running out of time. Know that I know the church is true. I'm glad Grandma Fernie got herself a kiten! That thing will definitely be spoiled, but it will give Grandma some good company. I'm sad the cougars lost, but we'll get Utah the next time around, for sure! Go AF football! I'm glad to hear they won. Now they just have to beat Lone Peak so I can have bragging rights while I'm out here. If we lose, I don't know if I'll hear the end of it from Elder Fotu.Anyway, I love you all. I've got to go so I can send some pictures. Tell James I say hi and miss him and to keep rocking the thespian world. He's the man.With lots of hugs and a love that's true, remember forever that the gospel is true!

Elder Vernon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Week Here in Poland!

Hey hey hey family! It's been another week here in Poland!
Mom, to answer your concerns right off the bat, I'm no longer down in the dumps. Elder H and I had a great week and it was just what I needed to bring me back out. Things are good in Szczecin and I'm enjoying life. This district is awesome. Everybody is ready to work hard and just do missionary work, which I love. Elder H is awesome. Honestly, I've never seen a missionary so young in the mission so capable of doing everything and so dedicated and willing to work. He's obedient too, so it's never a battle to get to things on time, role play, or anything of the sort. It's a blast as well to be serving around Elder M again, especially for his last transfer. I love that guy so much. He's a spiritual giant. I've been lucky enough to be able to be in contact with him my whole mission. I know the Lord definitely wants me to learn something from him, which I'm trying to do. Elder F is just a bucketfull of polynesian awesomeness
Anyway, let's move on to some stories, 
Elder H and I discovered something in our role-playing this morning. We've decided to make a concerted effort to refer to the restoration as quickly as possible on the street. We role-played answering some questions and in a few sentences getting into the restoration. We've also been practicing teaching with simplicity. I've felt for a while on my mission that absolute simplicity is vital in missionary work. I know that as we strive to do our best in these areas, we will be blessed and our teaching will improve. 
Elder H and I had some great success with our goals from last week. We set our transfer goals as a district, and Elder H and I tried to focus on acheiving our goals of two lessons taught and two copies of The Book of Mormon placed a day. Miracles abounded. We found people all the time, had greater success than I've had in a long time on my mission, and found the people we visualized in planning in the places we planned to find them. One night was especially miraculous to the both of us. We had Zone Training in Poznań on Wednedsday. Both of us were skeptical that we could acheive our goals with so much time spent traveling and with a meeting. As we got home--later than planned because of a mix up with the trains--we were even more unsure, but committed to try our best. We went to the chapel for a meeting we had set up already. On the way, we passed out a copy of The Book of Mormon to a lady at a light right next to the chapel. Then, we had our meeting. On the way home, at 8:50 at night, we found a man ready to listen to our message. We taught him a street lesson and gave him a copy of The Book of Mormon. I know that when we strive to do our best to acheive the righteous goals we have set, the Lord blesses our efforts and helps us. At the end of the week, when we looked back on our numbers, we saw 14 lessons taught, and 13 copies of The Book of Mormon placed--which is 2 lessons taught a day, and almost 2 copies of The Book of Mormon placed a day. The Lord is so merciful.
In other news, one of the recent converts here in Szczecin, B, is incredible. He's always willing to help out, works hard, and is a stellar member. He seems willing to learn how to play the piano and I asked him if he would want me to teach him. He said that he'd be alright with that. I'm hopefully going to try to start teaching him for a half hour or so every week so he can eventually play the hymns here in this branch. 
I should talk for a minute here about zone training. It was a great meeting. It was awesome to say hi to Elder Saltmarsh for the first time in who knows how long. By the way, he sends his best regards! It's been fun to call in to him every night. District leaders call in to the Zone leaders to tell them that everyone is in and safe. President Edgren has asked us to stop using the word meeting to denote our gatherings of missionaries. Instead, they are now going to be known as Councils. This comes from a talk from Elder Bednar talking about how he doesn't like the word meeting. It denotes too much of a business setting. A council is much more fitting, for it is a place where we will learn the doctrines of the kingdom and come to uplift one another. Thus, we're changing that in the mission. The whole Zone Training was very much focused on looking outside the box for finding ideas. It was a good meeting (dang it, I mean council), and we've all been told we need to do something crazy for our finding ideas before the next Zone Training. We're already starting. On Thursday night, we walked past the other elders by happenstance and saw them out playing the guitar and singing with a table of copies of The Book of Mormon and other church paraphenalia (spell check?) They called us over, and we joined them in singing and contacting. We didn't know many hymns (only "Praise to the Man" and that only in English) but it was still a blast to sing, see people look at us strangely, and enjoy ourselves as missionaries. Some people actually came up and tried to pay us, but we wouldn't take it, of course. Come on, we're missionaries! So, we gave them a copy of The Book of Mormon instead. Yay for the gospel!
Well, another story for the week. Monday night, we were contacting after p-day. We ran into a drunk guy wearing basically no pants, simply boxers. He got kind of aggressive and wasn't very nice. Anyway, we decided to keep going and avoid him. As we did so, we discovered it was later than we thought, so we had to take a tramwaj (trolley, in essence) home. As we hopped on, this drunk guy also hopped on at the last second. Well, he had been yelling at us for not being Christ-like earlier because we wouldn't give him money (the missionary handbook actually asks us not to do so). We were scared things could escalate on the tramwaj and get nasty, so we decided to non-chalantly sit down and try to avoid the situation. Well, he ended up standing right behind our chairs and even rested his hand on the back of my chair. Yet, he never noticed us nor said a word. Within about 5 minutes he got off the tramwaj, and we were able to get home without any problems. It may seem like a small situation, but I know the Lord blesses missionaries and keeps them safe! Could we have handled the drunk guy? Definitely. Elder H is a ju-jitsu master and also wrestled. It is nice though that the whole situation was avoided. 
Hannah bear, We placed 13 copies of the Book of Mormon this week. It was a great week. What kind of computer do we have now? I'm curious to find out.
Mom, you're the best! Am I going to get to eat some of these peaches? I'm doing my best to exercise. You'd also be proud of my diet. I'm eating well! I even made myself fried rice from my recipe book yesterday. It was good! 
Emms, Nice back to the future quote. I'm a fan. Missionary work is the best. It seems like every question we don't have an answer to always gets asked. It's an adventure every day! Have fun at Strawberry!
Heath, keep up being an awesome senior at AFHS! I'm happy the football team is doing well and you're enjoying life. Remember, I have to ok all of your boyfriends (but seriously). I'll be sure to shoot Parker a letter. 
Dad, I'm glad you ran into Trinity. He's awesome. I didn't have to cool him down too much on the field, but there were a few times.... Well, we won't get into details. I'm glad the fireside went well. It seems like the Lord is really preparing this younger generation of missionaries. The work is speeding up! Everyone is playing a part as well, no matter where we are. I like the Hugh B. Brown quote and scripture. It's the truth. The Lord knows what he's doing. MIssionary work is the greatest. Thanks for the AF update. Sounds like they have a great team. I'm glad. BYU hopefully can pull out a win next week too, and then we'll be in business!
I love you all. The gospel is true! This is the Lord's work. Keep up being awesome everybody! I pray for you all.
Elder Vernon
P.S. Tell Grandma I got the package, and thanks for the email. Unfortunately, I won't have time to email her back, I'm already pushing it as is. Tell her and grandpa I love them though! There should be a tie coming for Grandpa soon!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Life in Szczecin!

Hey hey hey family! 
Well, life out here in Szczecin is interesting. It's a smaller town, like Bydgoszcz, with about 400,000 inhabitiants. I think I like these smaller towns better than Warsaw. Eh, I'm not sure. I loved Warsaw. Anyway, it's been a new experience. As much as I loved Bydgoszcz (and I truly did. That branch is awesome) I was glad to get out to a new city. Elder H is awesome. I've never seen a more dedicated trainee. He's so focused on the work and his mission. It's great and just what I needed. He's 20, from Orange County California. I'm excited to serve with him. We're setting some high goals and we'll hopefully see some good success. Elder Mikolyski is not trunky in the slightest. He's ready to work hard and end his mission on a bang. I'm so happy to be serving around him again. We had a good laugh about the irony of our situation. He started out as my district leader, then was my zone leader. Then we both went to Warsaw, he as Assistant and me as a Senior Companion. After that, I was his Zone Leader, and now I'm his district leader on his very last transfer in the country. He's the best. I've been so blessed to be able to serve around him my whole mission and see the growth that's taken place in him. He's a spiritual giant. He's going to do great things in this last transfer with Elder F. Elder F is awesome as well. You were right, he's a great missionary. Basically, we're going to do some awesome work this transfer, and we have a district goal to baptize four people. It's totally going to happen. We've got some great missionaries and awesome work to do.
This is my President's emal portion for the day:
It's been a great week up here in Szczecin. I'm enjoying being here in this branch with this district. I'm grateful the Lord has placed me here. I feel that this district has a special chance to do some great things. We've taken some time and set some goals as a district for what we want to accomplish. We set some goals for number totals we want to see throughout the transfer. They are as follows:
4 Baptisms
24 Investigators in Sacrament Meeting
32 New Investigators
200 Total Lessons Taught
200 Copies of The Book of Mormon Placed
Each companionship has committed to play their half and do what they need to in order to achieve these goals. I really am excited for the things this district can do. We have a lot of hard-working missionaries and a real desire to do the Lord's work. I'm also realizing just how much of a blessing it is that the district is smaller. It's going to allow me to know all of the missionaries in my district better and tailor district meetings specifically to their needs. We're excited to get down to work and do our best.
I've been studying the past few days about meekness. I'm still having a hard time separating it from humility. I'm beginning to think they are more or less the same thing. The more I learn, the more I realize just how hard of an attribute it is to develop. I recognize that I want to receive recognition for everything I do by those around me. Such is the natural man. Yet, true meekness, true excellence, does not draw attention to itself. It's such a hard attribute to develop. Pride is so evident in all we do as human beings. I know that if I continue to strive to learn about humility and meekness, try to develop it, and give thanks to the Lord for all that I have, I will make progress.
Well, in other news, the recordings work! I just loaded them onto my voice recorder and I'm going to go listen to them when we get home! I'm super excited to see what all of you have to say.
My entrance to Szczecin was exciting. Well, I should say the first day I was here. After dropping off my bags, we were on our way to the chapel. We stopped at a grocery store so I could grab a bottle of water to leave in the chapel. On our way out, I got pelted with what felt like a handful of rice. Sadly, it was much worse. I got pooped on by what seemed like a flock of pigeons! It wasn't just one little dropping, but more like 10. Some landed on my head, some on my backpack, and some on my shirt. We had to go wash me off at the chapel. Luckily, it was at the end of the day, so we didn't have to do much work with a poopy shirt. Oh the adventures of missionary work! That was an interesting omen. But, it was not predictive of the things happening here. I'm loving it in Szczecin. I'll do my best to take some pictures this week and to send them next week.
As for more of an update on the week, saying goodbye to Bydgoszcz was sad. We went over to the Kagele's for a dinner and had a great time. Elder Allen was playing songs on the ukelele and we were all singing and just talking for a minute. It almost felt like I was back home. It was a super strange deja vu sort of experience. Like Yogi Berra would say, "It's deja vu all over again." The Kagele's are an awesome family though. What a blessing they are to the missionaries in Bydogszcz and that branch.
To pronounce Szczecin, I would say the closest pronounciation would be sh-che-cheen. Yeah, that's about as close as I'm going to get.
Pictures take forever to load on this computer, and I'm running out of time, so those will come next week.
I'm excited that BYU pulled off the win against Texas! That's big news. Hopefully they'll be able to do ok this year. And congrats for AF! Ah, I'm always so happy when my football teams do well.
I apologize, I'm really out of time, so I can't do personal notes this week, but know that I love you all. I know the gospel is true! LIfe is awesome as a missionary and I miss you all lots!
With lots and lots of love!

Elder Vernon

Friday, September 6, 2013

Moving to Szczecin

Hey hey hey family!
I am moving to Szczecin. Elder Manwill will be staying here as District Leader in Bydgoszcz. Elder Allen is headed to Poznań to serve with Elder Peacock, the missionary whom Elder Rittmanic trained. Elder White is coming here to be with Elder Manwill. And, Bydgoszcz is getting sisters! Sister Lenhart and Sister Ellis are opening up an area here in Bydgoszcz. I have no idea where, but it will be exciting to see it happen. As always, the next big concern is health. Don't worry, I'm getting over my illnesses. The doctor made me stay in for a couple days this week, just to make sure I got better. He's a smart man. Knowing me, I would have still been working and probably made myself sicker than I needed to be. I don't like being inside. You're all very aware of that. So, apart from stir craziness, I think I'm going to be alright. Sadly, I have to leave Bydgoszcz. I've really come to love this branch and I've been super lucky to have the Kagele's here to help. Szczecin will be quite different. The branch has about 7-8 members on a weekly basis, there are only two hours of church, and Elder Mikołyski is the branch president. Yay for humble circumstances! I had to eat a little bit of humble pie as well. I know missionary leadership is no form of worldly glory and that in no way shape or form am I more or less honorable because of the position I hold, but it was kind of hard to not be zone leader anymore. I really enjoyed it. 
As for the work in our area, things have really come to a standstill. With me being sick and the business of Zone Conference a few weeks ago, we haven't had much time to do work. I'm going to try to be all packed this afternoon so we can work un-interrupted the rest of the week before I leave to Szczecin.
I'm excited to serve with Elder Hardy. I don't know much about him, but I have seen in him a desire to work hard and to be the best he can be. That makes me pleased. I'm sure we'll have a great transfer together. I want to set some high goals with him and strive for some big things. Since he has already led 3 people to baptism here in Poland (he and Elder Kotter had a very successful transfer this past transfer), I know his faith will be high. I want to utilize that as best as possible while I can. Though I don't know much about Szczecin, I expect great things to happen.
I'm learning a lot about prayer recently. I stumbled across an article in an old Liahona from 2003 about opening the heavens. It was written by Elder Yoshiko Kikuchi. He talked about setting time aside every morning for a "daily devotional" and promised great blessings from doing so. I had been struggling with my morning prayers, so I took his advice to find a quiet place after having prepared for the day, saying a personal prayer, asking for help with matters, and giving myself time to ponder. Immediately after doing so, I moved on to my personal study. The results were marvelous. That was possibly the most effective and focused study I've had my whole mission. The specific question I had--how to more effectively provide counsel--was answered in Helaman 2, a chapter which I thought merely describes the murdering of the chief judge. It was a powerful moment for me to have a question directly answered from The Book of Mormon. It adds to my testimony that it is a true book from God.
I'm grateful to have served with Elder Rittmanic. He's taught me lessons I know the Lord specifically wanted me to learn. It hasn't been the easiest transfer of my mission, but it's been one of the most rewarding. I've come to a much greater knowledge of who God is, what He expects from me, and how to fulfill my role as a missionary. I'm excited to see what I can take from this transfer to apply in the future.
I've been learning another lesson on my mission, and specifically lately. The Lord really wants us to be ourselves while we're on our missions. For a long time, I was so focused on being consecrated, on doing everything perfectly right, and trying to be the perfect missionary, that I wasn't very happy at all. I have been praying hard looking for an answer. Finally, the answer to my prayers came in the form of a question: "Hey, when's the last time you actually were yourself?" "Well," I thought, "I'm not sure. I really don't know." Then the next question came: "When's the last time you actually had a good laugh, or just had fun?" My answer was the same. I couldn't remember. That's when it hit me. It wasn't about throwing everything away and being a cookie cutter missionary. The Lord wants me (and all of His missionaries) to be themselves and use the gifts and talents they have within the bounds He has set. It's not about focusing on what we're doing wrong, but rather on what we're doing right, and trying to make improvements. That's not an excuse to be disobedient. I'm just learning not to put so much pressure on myself and be myself, just within missionary boundaries. I'm who I am for a reason. We all are. I made the mistake of trying to be a robot missionary for too long, but I think I've finally learned my lesson about how to have fun, share a good laugh, and be myself, but still be focused on the work and not stress about every little thing.
Dad, dang. BYU seems to be the master of just coming up short in past years. Someday they'll get over that hump and lead Bronco to a BCS bowl. Texas will be a good game. BYU is always tough to beat at home.
I'm glad AF is looking good. I knew that offense would do well as soon as the kids had been running it for a few years. Tell Trev to keep plugging away. I hope he's enjoying it.
I'm glad you're enjoying PMG. I agree, it truly allows missionaries to be led by the Spirit. It allows puts a lot more trust into the missionary's hands. It's been interesting. Missionaries that understand that trust and do their best really succeed, whereas others who seem to throw it away, don't. From what I seem to have learned, missionaries who really want to be disobedient are going to be, no matter what system they are in or where they are. Preach My Gospel simply allows those missionaries who really want to do the Lord's work the freedom they need to do it the best way possible--the Lord's way. It's a great thing. Keep up the great study. Love ya!
Mom, you're the best. Thanks for caring about me. I hope you're having fun at work! You won't be able to get Sister Kagele updates anymore, but I'll try to give you the scoop the best I can out in Szczecin. Remember, there's a missionary in Poland who has the best Mom in the world and loves her lots and lots! 
Heath, congrats on getting asked to Homecoming! That'll be a fun dance. Have fun with all the activities you've got going on. Remember, senior year only happens once! Love you!
Emms, good luck with bug catching! The church is truly the same no matter where we are. It'll still be the same in a tiny branch in the boonies of Poland! Hey, did you decide on a sport to play yet? Track with Coach Bryson isn't a bad option. You'd be super good at it too. Love you lots!
Hannah bear, have fun playing with Carson! Sorry about the stink bug. Bugs, bugs, all over the place. Bugs, bugs, flying in your face! Have a great week. Love you lots!
Well family, I've got to run. There's always many things to do. I will talk to you next Monday though. Until then, remember, the church is true! And go Cougars! (and Cavemen!) But mostly the church is true. That's most important anyway.
With Love,

Elder Vernon

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Got Grandma Honey's Peanut Butter Package. Letter from August 26th

Hey hey hey family!
Wow, where does the time go? It feels like yesterday that I emailed you guys, and now it's Monday all over again.
I'm going to apologize right now. I woke up this morning with a pretty sore throat, and my head feels a bit foggy right now, so if I'm all over the place, that's why. Mom, don't stress. If it gets bad I'll call Sister Edgren.
I received Grandma Honey's peanut butter package! Tell her thank you very much for that. We've finished the big 3 lb. jar and we're now moving on to the one that Grandma Honey sent. We're excited. As for the fry recipe, we have not tried it yet. I got put on a very high fiber diet last week that consisted of lots of fruits and veggies, so I haven't had the time to try them. By the way, did you know that kiwi skins are super good for you and high in fiber? They're also edible. Two little facts I had no idea about.
Now, onto some stories from the week.
We had Zone Conference this week, which was super awesome. I talked a lot about it on my voice recording. We were given a whole lot of latitude in everything that we do. We were also given a lot of lee-way regarding rules. From the sounds of it, almost anything is free game within reason, and as long as it helps us to accomplish our purpose. I was taken a bit off guard by the announcements made, but I'm excited to see what blessings and results they will bring. I realize that there has been a lot of trust put into the hands of missionaries and these new tools and opportunities will only be effective if focused on the purpose. The older I get as a missionary the more I realize just how inspired that purpose is. I'm trying to make it a part of everything I do as a missionary. I forget it at times, but I'm trying to make a conscious effort to improve.
I'm also learning a lot about leadership. I'm so grateful for an opportunity to serve with Elder Rittmanic. He has great people skills which I am learning a great deal from. Not that my people skills were inherently bad at the beginning of this transfer. I don't think they were. They did, however, have a lot of room for improvement. Especially in the area of giving guidance and counsel. 
Mieliśmy duchowe doświadczenie wczoraj. Byliśmy przed naszymi drzwiami około 8:55 i podjęliśmy decyzję pójść dalej w dół ulicy. Nie chcieliśmy powrócić do domu aż do 9-ej. Jak szliśmy dalej, spotkaliśmy pewną panią zwaną A. Ona kiedyś wpadła do domu G podczas gdy mieliśmy tam spotkanie kilka tydoni temu. Ona nas zatrzymała i powiedziała że chce z nami się spotkać. Dosłownie ona ukradła Księgę Mormona z mojej ręki. Ona nie była do końca trzeżwa kiedy to wszystko się stało, ale ustanowiliśmy z nią kontakt i mamy nadzieję że wielkie rzecze się zdarzą dzięki temu doświadczeniu. Wiem że błogosławieństa pochodzą od posłuszeństwa, nawet te małe wydarzenia kilka minut przed 9-ą.
(We had a spiritual experience last night. We were in front of our door at 8:55 PM and decided to keep on heading down the street. We didn't want to return home until 9:00. As we went about 100 yards farther down the street, we ran into a lady named A. She had stopped in at Gs house once while we were teaching him a few weeks back. She stopped us on the street, and told us that she wants to meet with us. She literally stole the copy of The Book of Mormon I was holding out of my hands. She was fairly drunk as all this happened, but we were able to make contact with her and we hope to see great things come from this in the future. I know blessings come from obedience--even the little instances at 8:57 at night.)
I came to an interesting conclusion this week. I realized that a lot of the people we talk to on the street end up trying to teach us and don't exactly want to listen to what we have to say. We talked to a kid in his mid 20's for about 20 or so minutes on the street this week. At the end of the conversation, he asked me who was going to go away from our conversation and think more about it. I told him that I probably would. He talked a lot about what we could believe in. He said we can believe in what we experience. He believes that God exists because he had a very near death experience and feels that God saved him. Yet, he doesn't believe in a church and claims he doesn't need to believe in a book because what is that to him when he doesn't experience anything from it. He said he had even read the Book of Mormon some time ago. He didn't finish it, but he read quite a bit of itI encouraged him to read it again. I tried to simply bear testimony and touch his heart, but I'm not sure how effective it was.
Dad, thanks for the outline of Pres. Scoresby's talk. I'm beginning to realize his wisdom. What a smart guy. Thanks for the scripture as well. Don't worry, I'm focused on the work, but doesn't BYU football start soon? As Corwin would say, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Love you lots. Thanks for all you do.
Emms, good luck adjusting to AFJH. I'm glad you got over to the Hall's house. Their cat Jazzy is super cool. Good luck with ballet! Love you.
Heath, you're now officially a senior! I'm freaking out. That's totally not allowed. You're way too old. I remember walking out of Coach Atwood's class with a very sore hand as well. He keeps you busy writing. Have fun with everything this year! You're only a senior once. Loves you lots!
Hannah Doober! I love your poems. Good luck with the bug catching business! Have fun in school. You're super cool. The gospel is true. There's no more blood in my ..... we'll just leave it at that. Loves you lots!
Mom, way to go being back at school! Sounds like you had a good time there. You're going to rock your new calling, for sure! You'll do great. I'm super excited to see what you learn. Thanks for all you do. I'm convinced I have the best momma in the whole wide world. Love you lots!
Well family, sorry if this week's letter is a little bit shorter, but Elder Rittmanic is already done and I hate making him wait. I love you all lots! Keep up the great work, and remember, we're the Vernon family!
The gospel is true.
Elder Vernon