Monday, December 30, 2013

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

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

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