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