Monday, June 9, 2014

Last letter. A mission doesn't end with the plane ride home.

Hey family!
So, this email is going to be short, because one, I don't have a lot of time, but two, I'll be able to tell you everything next week anyway. I don't know if I'll be able to email next Monday. I assume not. We'll see.
It's been an interesting week. Definitely one of the more eventful weeks of my mission, what with seeing K come home, then making the decision to listen to him speak, which then led me to packing most of the night and transferring a day earlier than I thought I was going to. In retrospect, I'm grateful I have the chance to spend the last week in the field. It is the right way to end my mission. I am excited to be serving in Krakow with Elder Saltmarsh. I found myself trying to roll up my sleeves and give myself assignments while I would be down here, but I realized that such would not be effective nor helpful for Elder Brown. I really think the clean switch is best. It will be hard, certainly, but I won't have any temptation to try to step in and take over. It will give Elder Brown a real chance to step up and rise to his calling. Elder Lanham and I talked about the transition a lot. I think it was something we both dreaded, but knew needed to happen. I was so pleased to have served with Elder Lanham. As I look back on it, I know the Lord prepared both of us to serve at a specific time and fulfill a specific role. I feel honored and humbled to have been a tool in the Lord's hands to help the work move forward here in Poland.
I had a special experience yesterday in Kielce. Throughout my mission, I've never had the opportunity to bless the sacrament. In most branches where I would have been able to do so because of lack of priesthood, I've always played the piano. President Najberg gave me the opportunity to bless yesterday while we were in church. It seemed only fitting that my last Sacrament Meeting in Poland as a missionary would be the one and only where I was able to bless the sacrament. The Spirit there was powerful. Part of it was the return of K, but I'm convinced that the Lord was also telling me that I was in the right place at the right time. It was a feeling of comfort. It was so special to be in such a small gathering of faithful saints, all wanting to renew their covenants and follow the Savior. It was strange to think that the next time I'll take the sacrament, it will be in English, and with a huge group of people. I will forever miss Poland! The most comforting thing to me that happened during that whole Sacrament Meeting was the feeling that the Lord has accepted my offering. He knows me, He knows what I've done, and I feel that He's proud of me. My mission in Poland is not over yet, and I plan to make the most of this week. My life mission will never end so long as I'm on the earth. It's comforting to know that the Lord still has a work for me to do. I plan on doing it well and serving Him in all capacities that I might be able to.
I had an influential personal study this morning. I read Alma 5, but only made it about 8 verses into the chapter. Verses 6 and 7 talk about the Lord being merciful and freeing the fathers of the people from bondage. Alma calls them all to remembrance of those experiences. I was drawn back to my time in Szczecin and the trials I dealt with. As I think about them now, I'm amazed at the speed with which I changed and recovered. There were specific people around whom I served that helped me tremendously. The Lord placed them in my path for a reason. The Lord would not have me forget the lessons learned out there, nor the influence which He had in the matter. They will play crucial roles not only now, in this last week of my mission and in my preparation for President Uchtdorf, but throughout my whole life. The gospel is one of remembrance. That's why we keep journals, that's why we study the scriptures. If I can remember the lessons learned and perspective gained on my mission, I know I'll be able to deal with whatever might come my way.
I'm excited for a good week here in Kraków. Good things are going to happen. I can feel it. Elder Jensen's already given me a challenge to find 4 new investigators this week. I'm going to do so. I'm excited to have a chance to focus just on the work again.
Just like revelation doesn't end with the closing "Amen" of a meeting, neither does a mission end with the plane ride home.
Just a few highlights of the week--leaving our keys in the office and having to go back and get them at 10:15 at night; seeing 4 baptisms across the country on the day of Pentecost; being able to bless the Sacrament in Polish for the only time on my mission during the last true Sacrament Meeting I'll have as a missionary.
I love you all. Keep up the great work. I'll see you soon!
Love,
Elder Vernon

It is a busy day today! June 2nd letter

Hey howdy hey family!
It's a busy day today, and I have very little time. I love you all, but this week's letter is going to have to be short. I'm trying to keep my journal updated, so you can all read about it when I get home.
It's been another solid week here in Poland. I was grateful for a chance to have an exchange with Elder Allen. It scared me to think it was the last one of my mission. Yet, I feel like it was successful. We had a lot of great miracles happen while we were in Kraków. One specifically comes to mind. We talked to a young guy named T in a park for probably the space of an hour. He was a university student who is studying theology. It was a spiritual lesson and one of the first times I felt like I really put together how to teach a Restoration lesson and then relate it to the person I was teaching. T was touched by it, visibly. It was a powerful experience. I felt like the Lord placed T in our path so that we could specifically teach him. Elder Allen and I talked a lot about teaching during our exchange. He is a good missionary and he is excited to improve his teaching skills and do the things which the Lord expects of him as a missionary. All in all, I would consider the whole exchange successful.
I was pleased to be able to attend a few zone trainings this week. It's always refreshing to see other missionaries and be able to see the information the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leader pass on based on our teaching. Each training was a bit different, but each was led by the Spirit and was what needed to be taught. Elder Lanham said something during the one in Kielce that caused me great reflection. He mentioned how each of us was called here for a purpose, and if we don't know that purpose, it's because we haven't spent enough time in prayer trying to figure it out. Honestly, that offended me. I didn't feel like I knew why I was called here or what exactly the Lord had used me to do, and I felt it outlandish that he thought he could tell me that I hadn't spent enough time in prayer trying to figure it out. I had spent much time trying to figure it out and it had been a subject of my prayers for a long time. I talked to Elder Lanham about it later, and as we did, understanding came for me. Had my mission have passed the way I would have had it, I would have had incredibly high numbers and been known as a missionary who worked incredibly hard. I've worked hard, but the numbers haven't ever been there. That's humbled me a lot, especially since results have been such a high indicator of what I accomplished before my mission. It was then that I realized the Lord taught me a lesson. He's used me, I feel, as a big influence on other missionaries, to help them and guide them as they go about in their work. That's something I can't measure with numbers. In order to feel like I've made a worthwhile contribution, I have to trust Him and be able to look past numbers. That's still a hard thing for me to do, but it's something I'm getting better at and learning about.
My mission isn't over yet, and I plan on making the next two weeks some of the best, but I've thought a lot about the changes that have taken place in me. None of them are what I expected to happen while I was on a mission. Well, I should take that back. The big ones were ones that I couldn't have predicted. Yet, I feel like I've become more of a complete person.
Heath, congrats on graduation. I'm excited for you.
Dad, tell Nate hi for me, as well as Austin Waddoups. He and I spent some time together in the MTC. We were in the same branch. Good luck with releasing.
Mom, thanks for all you do. I appreciate it greatly. I'll give that topic some thought.
Emms, keep on being awesome! Get excited for High School.
Doobs, keep Starszy happy! I'm excited to see him.

Love you all. The gospel is true!
Elder Vernon

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

We had MLC this week.

Hey family.
So, I've decided that I've become incredibly boring with emailing. Life is just too busy as an Assistant. Plus, I'll be home so soon that you'll hear about all my adventures anyway.

We had an exchange this week in Gdańsk. I went with our only missionary from Norway, Elder Weggersen. He's a super cool kid, and a soccer star. We had a solid exchange, talking a lot about leadership and different things. He's still quite young in the mission, but he's going to have to step up quickly.

We also had an area authority in town this weekend. His name is Elder Adler. He gathered all the missionaries in Warsaw on Friday night and spoke to us all. It was really inspirational. He talked a lot about teaching by inspiration. It caused me great reflection. As I've grown and learned on my mission, I've learned a lot about basics and fundamentals. As I've done so, it seems like so much centers around some of the most basic things we talk about starting in primary: scripture study, daily prayer, and going to church. What I'm trying to say is that I felt like that was a lot of what Elder Adler talked about, but he focused on making them count. Those things are so important. They are what tie us to God and build our personal relationship with Him. That's why they're focused on so early in our childhood. I've come to appreciate them much more as my mission has progressed. I'm grateful for Elder Adler and the Spirit which he brought and his words of wisdom which he shared. He was also here for Sunday. I ended up translating from Polish to English for him during sacrament meeting and priesthood. It was stressful, but it went ok. Priesthood was hard to translate. The acoustics in the room were horrendous and I couldn't hear much of anything. But, we figured it out alright. It's always fun to have visiting authorities in town.

We had MLC as well this week. It was fun to gather with the missionaries and give training. It was my last one as a missionary. It's kind of sad, but I'm relieved at the same time. Time is such a fickle thing. It goes so quickly. I just hope what I've done here as an Assistant has made an impact for the better. We had the area doctor, Doctor W here with us for the MLC. It was interesting to see what he talked about. He spent a lot of time talking about depression and things.

We were invited over by the Kosanovich family for dinner this week. It was kind of hectic. They were really busy, as were we, but they felt impressed to have us over. It turned out to be important that we were there, especially for me. I talked to them a lot about how they ended their missions (they both served in the same mission actually). The answers they gave didn't surprise me, but they were about things that I hadn't thought much about. I really appreciated their advice.

In other news, do we know my subject yet for my talk? Or maybe I shouldn't worry about it yet. I'm excited to hear about Chase Cuilliard. Helaman's Camp will be fun. I'm excited about it. Do I get to stay up there the whole time? Or what's the deal? I'm just curious.

Mom, as for an open house, I'm happy to do it whenever. I'm flexible. I don't think I have any plans yet for that weekend, other than speaking in church. Ha, weird. Not having plans.... that's totally not missionary like.

Well, I don't know that I can think of much else. I love you all and I love hearing about your week. Keep up the stellar work. Hannah, what do I remember about Gpa Leo? I remember many of his jokes. I also remember him waking up in the cabin and having crazy hair, along with cheeto crumbs all along his mouth. Plus, I remember him playing racquetball and drinking ocean spray grape juice.
Dad, thanks for all the doctrinal notes. Congrats with the sale. You've been at Wencor a long time. Are you going to stay?
Heath, enjoy graduation. Life moves fast. You'll be in college before you know it.
Mom, thanks for getting ready for my return. I'll do my best on this side to be ready to come home. I appreciate all that you do!
Emms, thanks for loving me more than lacrosse. Speaking of which, we found lacrosse in Poland this week! Elder Lanham and I saw some kids practicing and we went over and talked to them. We even got to throw with each other for a minute. It was a blast.

Anyway, I love you all. The gospel is true!
Elder Vernon
Elders Vernon and Weggersen

Elders Vernon and Weggersen

Spending a lot of time on trains

Last MLC

MLC in Warsaw

Elders Lanham and Vernon with the visiting area authority.

On an exchange in Krakow with Elder Allen


Monday, May 19, 2014

The term "bittersweet" has never had so much meaning as it does now.

Hey Family!
Sorry, but my time is super short. We've got to run to an exchange we've got going on today. We'll be in Gdańsk with Elders J and W (second one is from Norway). It'll be a lot of fun, but as such, our P-day has become crunched for time.
I've found myself studying the concept of light lately. It's something that has been enlightening. Ha, no pun intended. Anyway, I've placed the concept of Christ being the light of the world on the background of thinking clearly. The gospel is really intended for us to have a clear perspective of why we're here and what we're doing. So many people are lost in their own thoughts. We get so caught up in the course of our daily life that we often miss the big picture and the peace and comfort provided by the gospel. When I think about light as a source of illumination, it becomes quickly clear to me why Christ is considered "the light of the world." He is the source of our illumination as to thinking clearly about this life, and the life to come. The gospel centers around Him, and without Him, we are left in darkness. It's a beautiful concept.
It's been a good week. Things have been a little bit hectic, but enjoyable nonetheless.
I've felt a bit slow this week. Honestly, I'm getting tired. Part of me can see the end of my mission in sight and wants it to be here already, while the other part of me never wants it to end. I've never felt so torn. The term "bittersweet" has never had so much meaning as it does now. For a long time on my mission, I had all these hopes and dreams about how I was going to end my mission with all these strict rules and consecration. Now, it seems like it's taking all my efforts to just finish strong. In the end, I think that's the way I should do it. I feel that I've served my mission honorably for the time I've been here. Maintaining pace and treating every day the same is the way I feel I can serve best to the end. My mission hasn't been made by the last few months, nor by one day or two. It's a whole. I want to treat it as such.
I had a great exchange with Elder F. He's a stellar missionary. I've come to love the kid much more during my time in Poland.
A few other highlights from the week were being able to participate in something called the night of the museums here in Warsaw. Most all museums here in Warsaw stayed open all night to allow others to come see what they hold. They opened up the chapel here in Warsaw for family history purposes, and we were allowed to stay along with a pair of sisters to lead guests around the chapel and show them what we do. It was a lot of fun. We didn't stay up too late, don't worry ;). We still made it in by 10, as was requested by President. There was a super cute little girl there who reminded me of Hannah. One of the Sisters took her under her wing and drew pictures with her. I ended up getting one. It was of a seal. This little girl, E, told me it was of me. We had a good laugh about it. I love little kids.
Anyway, it's been a good week. Life is good here in Poland. I'm doing my best to finish strong. I love you all. The gospel is true!
Love,
Elder Vernon

Monday, May 12, 2014

May 12, 2104 It was great to Skype yesterday!

Hey howdy hey family!
So, I don't really know what to say this week. I'm kind of at a loss for words. You already heard about everything that happened, so I just sent a few pictures that I don't think I had sent before. One of the days I'm planning on sitting down with Elder Lanham and taking care of getting all the pictures he has of me. He's got a really nice camera and takes a lot of pictures, so he's got a fair number of me. It's been a blessing to serve with him.
It's been another good week. I felt really good about the exchange that took place in Bydgoszcz. I'd say it was one of the best exchanges of my mission. Elder Hardy and Elder Swicegood are a good combination. They laugh a ton, but at heart, they have people's best interests. We spent some time talking about how to contact with baptism, but in all honesty, I wasn't worried so much about how they were doing with that. Things seem to be going well. They are encountering some opposition, but all in all, I think they'll keep plugging through and doing their best. What seemed to me to be the most effective was the talk we had about leadership. Both of the Zone Leaders felt a little lost as to what they were supposed to do and how to best lead a zone. We talked about how to best teach District Leaders how to be District Leaders, how to run successful exchanges, and focusing on your vision and passing that on to those in their stewardship. In all honesty, it was almost exactly what Elder Lanham and I have been teaching in previous leadership training meetings, just in an extended version. I've got a lot of empathy for Elders Hardy and Swicegood. I was in their same position exactly a year ago. I was a newly called Zone Leader, white-washing into an area, not knowing what to do, and having a companion my same age in the mission who was just as clueless as I was. I felt blessed that the Lord put me in a situation which I was familiar with and helped me to show others how to be the missionaries the Lord expects them to be. I think a lot of good came from what I did up there with them, and I hope they will take the lessons they learned and run with them.
The leadership training meeting also went really well while I was up there. Everyone was receptive to what I had to teach and I feel confident that they will go home and implement all that they have learned. All in all, I think there's a lot of good things going on in Bydgoszcz right now. I was pleased with what I saw.
We saw what I felt like was a huge miracle this week. During the open house that was held on Thursday, I was playing piano to try to set a good background feeling when Sister Neto came up to me and without a whole lot of explanation took me to a room where I was to teach the Restoration with Elder Cieślak. We, without any preparation, taught a full restoration and explained why it was so important to our church. Listening were a man, R, and his friend, M. During the course of the lesson, both were visibly touched. I was as well, especially while we talked about the first vision. The Spirit entered into the room with a strong presence, and both R and M were moved to tears. After things were finished, they both quietly slipped out, asked what time church starts, and then left. In talking to others after, I learned that R has been a member since the mid 1990's. He had not been to any sort of church activity since 2002. With just one phone call from Elder Pieper to invite him to the open house, he showed up and brought a non-member friend along with him. It was a real miracle. It was a testimony to me that there are still people out there who want to hear this message, and there are those who have been touched by it who will return in time. I don't know what else may come from R. He wasn't in church yesterday and I'm not sure if anyone has been in touch with him since the open house, but I have faith that if he came once, he'll come again.
I've got an exchange today with Elder Finch, from good ol' American Fork, so that will be fun. I'm excited to talk with him and catch up a little bit. He's a good kid.
In other news, there was a huge miracle story from Sister Kosanovich this week, but I don't have the time to tell it here. Ask her about her friend "M" if you get the chance.
I'm also curious how Will proposed. He's a smart kid, so I'm sure it was a good one.
I'm sufficiently distracted now because of yesterday's call, but it's ok. Give it a few days and I'll be back to normal.
Well, I love you all. Thanks for the spiritual insights and help you give me. I appreciate it greatly. Keep on keeping on! The gospel is true!
Love,
Elder Vernon
Elders Swicegood, Vernon and Hardy

May 5, 2014 It's been a full week!

Hey family!
It's been a full week with zone conferences and the like. You'll all have to read my journal once I finish this grand adventure. I don't have nearly enough time to write about all that I've done. Heck, my journal is suffering a bit too. Life as an Assistant is just crazy. If I could use twitter, I would definitely coin a new hashtag. #AssistantProblems
We taught a lot this week about implementing baptism into our contacting. That was the main focus of basically all that we did. President wants everyone to really jump on the bandwagon and strive to be bold on the street. Elder Lanham and I have been taking this approach by starting contacts on the street with baptism for over a month now. We've seen effects as well. It gives us a greater feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. We really feel like we're doing what we've been called to do--call others to repentance. No, we're not holding up cardboard signs that read "He's coming!" or talking about the sword of justice hanging over a wicked people, but we do talk about the need for repentance and the ability to place our lives in line with God's will. It's a powerful thing to look someone in the eye, talk about the feelings of guilt and shame that we all have, and tell them a way they can be freed from those feelings thanks to the atonement of Christ, repentance, and baptism. It makes me feel like a real missionary. It's given me a great chance to reflect on my baptism and the steps I've taken to be clean of what I've done. Whether mistakes be big or small, they can all be wiped away thanks to what Christ did for all of us. What human soul doesn't yearn for that? Think about it. New starts, new beginnings, and a clean slate. Don't we all want that from time to time? The gospel is so beautiful. It provides everything that we could ever truly want in life.
I've really been thinking a lot lately about clear perspectives. I discovered a quote in an article by Elder Ballard. He said that when his grandfather died, the last words he said were, "Brethren, above all else, let us think straight." That quote struck me. All of us from time to time deal with a clouded perspective and a skewed view of life. I know I talked about it in zone conference in my testimony, but the gospel truly is what gives us a clear perspective of life and what we are doing here. When it comes to thinking straight, we have no greater tool than the gospel. The symbolism of Christ being the light of the world is also powerful. Light is what gives us a clear perspective with which to see. Christ adds light to our life and gives us the perspective we need to do what He has asked of us. I'm grateful for the light which I have in my life and the opportunity to share that with others.
I'm excited for my exchange in Bydgoszcz this week. It will be interesting to do an exchange in a threesome. I have yet to do such an exchange, but I think it will be effective nonetheless. I know both Elder Swicegood and Elder Hardy fairly well and hope to be able to help them improve as zone leaders. I really want to focus on teaching the baptism contacting while I'm there. Of course, I will do leadership training and make than an emphasis, but if I can help them to be proficient in teaching baptism on the street I will consider my job accomplished.
I really thought a lot about what Elder Retallick said after we went contacting. We finished a conversation and as we walked away, he talked about how fulfilled he felt. That fulfillment doesn't come from any other source, whether it be drugs, entertainment, or any form of earthly pleasure. It's a fulfillment that comes from being on the Lord's errand. As we do our best to fulfill our calling, the Lord gives us that fulfillment. (This one requires a side note. We took all the missionaries out on the street in the middle of zone conference so they could practice the new contacting approach. It was a cool experience. Elder Retallick is our british missionary. He's stellar.)
I'm excited to skype with all of you this weekend. It's going to be exciting! I'll be curious to see if you think I've changed at all, and I'll be interested to see if you have all changed. Dad, Mom, don't worry, you still look the same as always from what I can tell ;). Just a reminder, I'm planning on getting on about 8:00 PM here on Sunday, which should be noon over there. Hopefully that will give you all enough time that you don't have to miss too much of church.
Weird to think that Kyle's coming home this week. I'm sure he'll do a great job with his homecoming. When does Jared get back? I would have thought he would have got home this week, but maybe I'm wrong. The end is quickly coming. Pretty soon, I'll be next. I'm learning to be ok with that. Don't worry, I'm not insanely trunky or anything, and I'm committed to do my best until the end, but I'd lie if I said I wasn't excited to come home. Sorry, maybe I talk about this too much, but it's something that I'm learning to adjust to and deal with.
In other news, I found a scripture that I really like this week. It's in Mosiah 8:18--"Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings." I've thought a fair amount recently about why I was called to Poland. I don't have all the answers. I couldn't tell you all of the people whom I've affected or what the Lord exactly wanted me to do here. At the end of the day, I don't think I'm really supposed to know. I've seen ways that others were meant to affect me and I feel that I've learned the lessons to this point which God wanted me to, but I'm learning to have faith that even though I don't see the results of all the efforts I've put forth here, they've still been accepted by God.
Well hey family, I love you all. Emms, keep on keeping on. I hope you're ankle feels better. Dad, good luck with your new calling. I've got full faith in you. You'll do great. Heath, tell Brother Anderson I say hello. I miss that guy. He's awesome. Mom, thanks for being crazy and waking up in the middle of the night to figure out skype accounts. You're awesome!
Doobs, I'm waiting for a new poem next week!
I love you all. The gospel is true!

April 28, 2014

Hey howdy hey family!
So, let's get down to business. Package. I don't have any major requests besides those Jon Schmidt songs. Maybe one last jar of peanut butter would be good. Smooth preferably (Elder Lanham's not a big fan of crunchy).
Another week is in the books. It's been a busy one, but a good one as well.
We had an opportunity to proselyte this week with Elder Cieślak and Garcia. We contacted using the baptism approach. I spent most of the time working with Elder Cieślak. He was impressive in his missionary work. He's stepped up a lot to fulfill his calling as a District Leader. I've been impressed. As we taught about baptism, it was interesting to see reactions. Many people understood what we were teaching and willingly listened. I'd go so far as to say that they understood the benefits of baptism and why it would be important. Yet, when it came to to commit them to meet with us or take steps toward it, they backed out. It seemed so frustrating. All of them could see exactly what we were teaching. It's exactly what they need and everything they could want, and yet they don't reach out and take it. I've come to learn though that the Lord will give me experiences to teach me empathy and sympathy for those whom we are teaching or will teach. When a crisis takes place in our lives or conditions are such that we are prone to change, it becomes much easier for us to reshape our lives to be more in line with what God would have us do. It is much harder, however, to take someone who is comfortable with life and ask them to change. I guess what I'm getting at is I'm learning to have empathy and patience for these people. Those who are the elect and will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd are those who will listen to our message and change. As much as it saddens me that some will not listen, I feel that this baptism approach is much more effective and quickly weeds out those who are willing to change from those who aren't. I don't know that it will increase our finding numbers dramatically, but I do feel that it will change the quality of the people that we find and the lessons that we teach. That, in my book, makes all the difference in the world.
I've seen miracles happening as of late with my scripture study. I've been making an increased effort to have study daily, and I've seen the blessings come from it. I've started taking better notes of what I'm trying to learn that day and what scriptures apply to it. I've begun to find direction, counsel, and insights more frequently than before. I've learned on my mission that I have come to fall in love with the scriptures again and again. They're there to be discovered time and time again in our lives. I'm convinced of it.
I recently have been pondering the depth of the meaning of the resurrection of Christ. I read the talk from Elder Christofferson, and it was a powerful experience. Truly, Jesus is the Christ.
Really, I recommend that talk from Elder Christofferson. I love the logic he uses as he speaks. He seems to be a very well put together speaker and always covers all of his doctrinal bases. In talking about the resurrection though, I don't think I've ever really comprehended what that totally means for us all. Think about it. It means that we won't ever deal with pain, heartache, sorrow, loss, sickness, or anything ever again. When we really think about all that that means, it becomes and incredible gift that shows us just how much God loves each and every one of us. It's a powerful thing.
Our mission has been focusing a lot on repentance as of late. We have zone conferences coming up this week and we're teaching a lot about it, as well as implementing a new contacting style where we start by talking about baptism. As I've come to study and learn about repentance, including baptism, I've been filled with a sense of hope. There are uncomfortable parts to changing one's life, but in reality, the doctrine of repentance is what each and every soul yearns for. Who wouldn't want a chance for a new beginning, a fresh start, and a way to fix those things that we don't like about ourselves? At the end of the day, those who really understand what this gospel is and what it does are the ones who will accept it. Change will always be hard, and always has been, but without change, we could never become who God wishes us to be. I'm coming to understand just how perfectly this gospel answers the questions of every aching soul seeking for relief. I just read this morning in Mosiah 4:3 where it talks about having "peace of conscience." That's what repentance gives us. It's a beautiful message.
As for our schedule with zone conferences, we'll be in Katowice tomorrow, Warsaw Wednesday and Thursday, and Bydgoszcz on Friday. It will be fun to get out and see all of the missionaries. This will be my last go-around for zone conferences. It's sad, but I'm excited to see all of the missionaries and interact with them.
All in all, there's a lot of great things going on in the mission right now. We're excited to see where things go with Zone Conference and what we will be able to present. I'm enjoying the time I have in the mission field. It's going by quickly.
Yes, Mom, you did read correctly. We will be able to skype. I should have more details on that next week. Weird to think that that will happen in under two weeks. Life is flying by.
Anyway, I love you all. Emms, sorry about the ankle. Heath, glad you had fun at Prom. Hannah, keep Starszy away from the underwear! Dad, thanks for the study tips. Mom, you're the best mom in the world. Keep on keeping on.
The gospel's true!
Loves,
Elder Vernon

April 21, 2014 We've been running on little sleep

Hey howdy hey family!

Well, it's been another solid week. We've been running on little sleep and had a lot to deal with, but we're enjoying it. We received another new batch of missionaries. They're going to be great. It's weird to think that when the next batch comes in I'll be going home. I don't know what to do about that. It's weird, I don't know whether it's best to talk about it or just ignore it.  Anyway, it shocked me how young all of the missionaries who came in were. I couldn't help but think to myself, "Was I think young, naive, and blind to the world when I came into the country?" Sad thing is, I was probably worse. Anyway, their names are Elder Wynne, Garrison, Hon, Platter, and Remy. It's a pretty interesting batch of kids. There's a lot of different personalities. The trainers were Elders Retallick (our one and only Brit), Kimball (great-grandson of Spencer W. Kimball), Neuner (from my group), Allen (whose mom and sister you meet), and Fotu (our favorite polynesian from Alpine Utah). They're a really solid group and they will do well with everything. Elder Fotu matched up with Elder Hon, who is from Gilbert Arizona and said that he met President Nattress once or twice maybe before he came out. Elder Neuner with Elder Garrison, Elder Kimball with Elder Platter, Elder Retallick with Elder Wynne, and Elder Allen with Elder Remy. We, the Assistants along with a few other Elders, were able to take the trainees out on the Rynek and go contacting with them on Wednesday for an hour or so. I was with Elder Garrison, a football player from Iowa. He's a real quiet kid, and a bit nervous about everything. He reminded me a lot of myself on my first day. We had some great conversations and handed out a copy of the Book of Mormon together. He's going to do well as a missionary.

It was a lot of fun to spend time with new missionaries and just talk to them. They're always so filled with faith and pumped up about everything that we do here in the field. As I spent time with them, it gave me a chance to reflect on my own mission. I'm shocked at what the Lord has done with me in the space of just under two years. I feel that I've changed significantly. Not that I'm in any way worse. I feel like He's molded me into the person He wants me to be. It's been a long process, and it hasn't been pleasant, but it's been oh so worth it. I don't know what will exactly be different about me, and sometimes it scares me to think that people will be expecting the old me, but I have faith that it will all work out.

So, there's a lot that I want to say, but time is short. I would, however, like to share some of my thoughts from this Easter Season. After all that I've been through as of late, my perspective on the love that God has for each and every one of us has changed. With that background, my view of the atonement has changed as well. I now understand better the love which was shown by God. I better understand the empathy which the Savior can have for each and every one of us because of the pain and sorrow He suffered in our behalf. My mission hasn't been easy, nor do I expect that anyone's has been. Yet, I add my testimony to Elder Holland's: "No, it is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm" (October Conference 1999, "An High Priest of Good Things to Come"). The simple truth that God loves us all more than we can imagine has become more sweet and more meaningful to me than ever before because of what I've dealt with and what I've been through. I feel as if certain truths of the gospel have been written on my heart, never to be erased, so long as I am obedient and do what the Lord will ask of me. The gospel is powerful. No other source can heal the spiritual wounds caused by the daily blunders of life. The Savior is the one and only source of any lasting peace we seek in this life. It is only through Him that we all will be resurrected and rise from the dead. Such is the beautiful truth of the gospel.

There are many things to share, and much to be said, but one can only do so much through email. Luckily, I keep a good journal, and there will be stories galore once I get home. I hope you all have a wonderful Easter Sunday. Keep the Savior in mind, and enjoy the great time spent with family. I love you all. The gospel is true.

With lots of love,
Elder Vernon


April 14, 2014 There has been no shortage of things to do!

Hey family!
So, it's been a bit of a crazy week. Life has been a bit crazy, and my emailing time now isn't exactly long, but I'm going to do my best to get you a good email.

This has been a busy week. There's been no shortage of things to do. It's been great though. I enjoy being busy rather than not having things to do. I feel that Elder Lanham and I have been effective as well, and that's a pleasing thing. I'm grateful to be staying with him for another transfer. I feel that we will be able to accomplish great things.
Elder Lanham and I have been talking a bit lately about the difference between big picture thinking and detail-oriented thinking. I've been trying to see the big picture as of late. By nature, I'm a detail-oriented guy. Whether it be ties, clothes, whatever, I notice details. I think that's both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, it prevents me from seeing the big picture. Yet, I don't feel like I have a weakness in not seeing big picture things. I feel that I see both, and frequently do so as well. At the end of the day, it's about seeing the big picture and understanding where we need to go, but focusing on details and doing the work that needs to be done in the present. Balance is important in all we do. I'm learning that more and more.

I spent some time on an exchange this week in Łódź. Basically, I've spent more time in Łódź this past week than I have in Warsaw. We were there Saturday and Sunday for the choir thing just over a week ago, then I spent Tuesday through Thursday down there for an exchange, and then we went back down on Friday with all the missionaries going home for a baptism that was happening. The sisters down there, Sisters Blake and Moncur, had 3 unrelated baptisms all happen in the same day. It's a pretty big miracle. 3 of the 4 Elders going home had served in Łódź, so it was a nice treat to them to see everyone down there and see all that happening in Łódź before they went home. Let me put it this way, I know the road really well between Łódź and Warsaw now. It was an adventure, for sure. Anyway, back to the exchange. It was a great chance to see Łódź and work with Elder Pieper. He's a solid kid and it was a good exchange. We talked a lot about obedience and being able to expect blessings from obedience. That's a lesson I'm learning more and more on my mission. It all hinges on that scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants section 130. "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say. But when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." It's important for us all to see the blessings we do get from the Lord and to be grateful for them, no matter how they come. Obedience that we show in our small sphere affects so many other things, whether we see it or not. I'm a firm believer of it. A talk from Elder Holland emphasizes this point well, I believe. It's called "An High Priest of Good Things to Come." I can't remember if I've talked about it already, but it's quickly become one of my favorite talks. I highly recommend it.

Apart from that, we've had craziness happening with transfer calls and what not. It's been an adventure trying to put things together with a group going home and everything. Plus, a group comes in tomorrow. The group had to go home early because Elder Żeleźniak extended for a month and wanted to go home with the next group (transfers worked out such that he was a month ahead of the next group), so they headed home just a few days early because President couldn't extend Elder Żeleźniak for any longer. So, that's why there is a few days difference. Anyway, it's all worked out nicely. But, we sent the group home Saturday morning, finalized the transfer board Saturday afternoon, and then President hopped on a train to Gdańsk and made the calls Saturday night. It made for a hectic Saturday. On top of that, we had to go do all the logistical stuff. Usually, the board is finished before the day of calls so logistical stuff is easier, but with a lot of changes and no time, this one has been especially busy. So, please don't be mad if my email is short.

Alright, last thing. Dad, I was talking to a few missionaries, and the question arose about praying in the Old Testament. I've heard that people in the Old Testament often prayed to Jehovah. Yet, we pray to God the Father. How does that work? Any comments or ideas? I'd appreciate any answer you can give me.

Anyway, I love you all. I promise, I'm doing well, and I'll try to get a longer email next week. The gospel is true!

Elder Vernon

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wow! What a Week.

Hey hey hey Family!
Wow. What a week. I felt so grateful to be an Assistant this week. It was a stellar experience to be in Łódź with everyone. It's always great to see all the missionaries and spend time with them, but it's even more stellar when we get to sing in Catholic mass. I feel blessed to have the musical talents I have, and to be able to share them with others. It was amazing to see all the talents come together. I think the Lord knew this was coming and placed certain people in specific places to allow them to influence others and bring this performance together. It's another testimony to me that the Lord is in the very details of our lives.
President said something that really struck me during Sacrament Meeting with all the missionaries yesterday. Let me explain a little bit here. Although it was conference weekend, we had a small sacrament meeting with the missionaries who came to Łódź to sing. We wanted to help the missionaries see the difference and blessings of the restored church, and help them have a great measure of the Spirit when we went to sing. Thus, the sacrament meeting was held directly before the mass. Anyway, President talked about how daily revelation is what provides us with the strength and support to carry on. That's something  I firmly believe. Through different blessings I've received on my mission, the importance of daily scripture study and prayer has been emphasized. I've really come to love finding daily answers to questions, prayers, and concerns through the scriptures. I sometimes feel like I'm imposing on the Lord because a lot of the things that I ask about and concerns I want solved seem to repeat themselves. Yet, I know He wants me to rely on Him. So, I feel that He is the source of strength on which I should lean, and if there's anyone who wants to hear and help me solve my daily problems, it is Him. I'm by no means a perfect individual, and the problems we all face often take time to solve. The Lord wants to be there every step of the way. I believe it. As Elder Żeleźniak once said, "W moich błogosławieństwach, znalazłem miłość Boga. Natomiast, w moich trudnościach, znalazłem Boga Samego." I add my testimony to his. If it weren't for the trials I have had, I would not have the relationship I have with God today. I consider that a real blessing.
I'm excited to spend some time with Elder P this week on an exchange. Honestly, I don't really know what to teach. I need to spend some time in prayer before I go, but I feel that the best influence I can have on him is just to be myself and help him find himself in being a zone leader. I've already come to love him, and I'm grateful to have a chance to get to know him better this week.
So, in terms of the whole experience this weekend, we had a lot of fun. We brought a few people in from different places (sisters from Szczecin and Gdańsk, plus two elders besides us from Warsaw) and drove down to Łódź on Saturday afternoon. It was an adventure driving on an intercity freeway in Poland, but we handled it just fine. Saturday night we got down there, practiced everything, did a little bit of work with others, and got everyone to their respective apartments for the night. Sunday morning we woke up, had a sacrament meeting with just missionaries, then headed over to the church for mass. It was freezing cold inside. It made it hard to play. Plus, I was playing on a baby keyboard without a sustaining pedal, so that made things interesting. Anyway, it went well. We performed "How Firm a Foundation" in polish to start. Then, Elders Jaeger and Richens did a duet of "Jesus Once of Humble Birth" in english. After that, there was an a capella piece done by Sisters Tobler and Lenhart to "Nearer, My God to Thee" during the communion. They sang it in polish. Then, at the very end, we sang two numbers. "He is Risen" in which Sister Hemming had a solo, and was sung in english, then we closed with "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" in polish. Sister Barth was featured on the violin in that one. It was a powerful experience all in all. The Priest who led the whole mass was super nice. He talked a lot about how we're all brothers and sisters and how he's grateful that we can learn of different religions and be friends. Afterward, we took some pictures. Then, the organist for the church came and pulled me aside and asked if I would like to play the organ. I eagerly said yes. It was so cool to play a legit organ in such a huge church. The guy there was super nice and cool. Please pass my thanks to Sister Jemmett for teaching me how to play way back in the day. After all this, we drove back home, got people on trains, and went and had a meeting before we headed home for the night. Anyway, it was a busy weekend, but all in good fun. I got to spend some time with Elder Gibby as well. It was super fun to see him and talk to him. He's a good kid and has been seeing a lot of success as a missionary. I feel blessed to have trained him.
Well, I'm running out of time. We have to go get our tires changed with the first counselor in the mission presidency. Good thing Elder Lanham is driving today, and not me! I'd be nervous to have my driving judged by a pole.
Anyway, I love you all. Have fun this week with spring break and in Arizona. I'll let you know what I think about conference once I get a chance to watch it.
The church is true!
Love,
Elder Vernon


 

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31st Letter-It Was a Blessing to See Elder Raines

Hey family!
Well, it's been a crazy week. It all started off with the exchange to Kielce. It was a quick trip down there on Monday. I served with Elder F, who is a baseball player from the cottonwood area. He's a good kid and a solid missionary. It was fun to serve with him and be in Kielce. It's a really cool little city down in the south of Poland. Elder Lanham spent 8 months of his mission there, so it was cool to get to know the city a little bit.
It was a real blessing to see Elder Raines before he went home. I truly feel that the Lord sent him here to Poland for a lot of reasons, one of them being to help me. I was glad to be able to express that gratitude to him before he left. I highly doubt he knew just how much he influenced me and how much help he had provided for me. He's been an excellent missionary. I've been blessed to know him.
I'm learning more and more about revelation and the way in which the Spirit works. The more I learn, the more I realize just how willing the Lord is to give us answers that we seek. He only asks that we be aware of them. Elder Lanham and I had been talking for a while yesterday about whether or not we were budgeting our time wisely. We have been busy with many different things, and I wondered if we had been busy doing the things that matter most. I wanted to make sure that the Lord was pleased with the direction we had taken and the things we have done. Well, today, in the course of reading my emails, Dad sent me a quote from my setting-apart blessing that I had not remembered. It reads as follows:

"You will have the opportunity to be a trainer of other missionaries and by doing so you will double your effectiveness in moving forward the work of the Lord."

Reading that brought peace to my heart. I may not have been on the street as much while being an Assistant, but I feel strongly that the things which I have done have affected others for good. I hope they have done so. The Lord places us in certain positions in order to do what He would have us do. There's been a rhyme and a reason to everything I've learned and dealt with on my mission, and I think I'm beginning to see the fruits of that now.
It was a great experience to teach at MLC. The spirit was incredibly strong, and I felt blessed to be a part of it. Elder Lanham and I didn't have all the time we would have liked to be prepared, but it was obvious that the Lord helped us out. We had done all which we were capable of doing, and the Lord came in and made up the difference. I'm so grateful for the help He gives us and the things which He does for us when we are worthy and do our part.
I'm enjoying serving with Elder Lanham. It's a real pleasure. He's a stellar missionary, a good kid, and we're learning to get along well. We had a bump or two this week, as does every companionship, but we're stronger because of it.
We have a chance this Sunday to go and sing in a Catholic mass down in Łódź. There's a lot of great things going on down there right now, and a priest has invited the missionaries to sing a do a little bit of an introduction during mass. Kind of crazy. We're trying to put together a dream team choir for the event, so it's been pretty fun. We won't really get a chance to see General Conference live because of that, but we're planning on watching, so don't worry. I'm excited to see what all the general authorities have to say. Conference is always a blessing. I hope you all watch as well down in Arizona!
Hopefully you'll be able to get in touch with Elder Raines and meet him before I come home. He and I never served around each other all that extensively, but we grew to be great friends. He's a solid kid, and I look up to him a lot.
Anyway, apart from that, I've got to run. I love and miss you all. Emms, good work in track! Run the 400!
Heath, great pics. Enjoy spring break! We're gonna be neighbors!
Hannah bear, keep Starszy company for me.
Mom, thanks for the schedule. I've got the best mom ever!
Dad, thanks for your inspiration!
From poland with love,
Elder Vernon
Emergency exchange in Kielce
Elders Lanham, Vernon and Raines

Emergency Exchange-March 17th Letter

Hey family.
So, a little bit of a crazy happening, but I've actually got to run home to pack a bag and get on an emergency exchange. One of the Elders in Kielce is sick and has to come into Warsaw for some medical treatment, so I'm going down there for a few days to hold down the fort. It'll be an exciting few days. Anyway, I'm driving down with President to Kielce because he wants to do an interview down there. I'm going to be emailing during the ride, so if you want to get on, I'll be on. We're leaving about 2 o'clock here, which'll be in just about 2 and a half hours.

Later……..

So, I'm currently on the road right now on the way to Kielce. As you all know, I'm going down there for a few days because of an emergency exchange. One of the Elders there has to come into Warsaw for some medical testing. Anyway, there's no senior couple in Kielce, and they don't want the sisters down there to be left alone for a night, so they're sending me down to spend some time there. I'm excited for it. It'll be a good time. I'm going to be with Elder F, a baseball player from the Salt Lake Valley. It'll be a good time. The sisters down there right now are Sister W and Sister O. I spend a transfer around Sister O in Szczecin, so it will be fun to see her again.

We've been preparing for MLC. We've finally settled on teaching about faith and how it relates to extending the baptismal invitation on the second lesson at the latest. It took a long walk around the area last night, talking about it, to finally come to a conclusion and to feel that the Lord gave us what we need to do. Sometimes, answers don't come all at once. As downright annoying as it can get, I know it's for the best when answers don't always come in a flash.
I'm really enjoying serving with Elder Lanham. He's a really good kid. I've been able to relate to him more and be more open with him. It's a blessing from the Lord. I don't have any reason why right now shouldn't be the best time of my mission, and I think it is. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill, but I'm learning to be content with what I have and what the Lord wants me to do.ey to just relax and be himself. We become much more effective as we do so.

It was great to be back in Katowice for a few days. I enoyed seeing some of the people who I know down there. I tried to get in touch with D, but to no real success. She's gone less-active in the time that I've been gone. She has a hard situation with her husband and some family issues, so hopefully things will work out in the future. I also got to talk to A. We actually had a lesson with an investigator and he came with us. He wasn't expecting me to be there, so it was a big surprise for him. He gave me some nice compliments and it was a great chance to talk with him and re-connect. He's a special guy and is doing some great work right now as a branch president. The longer I'm on my mission, the more grateful I am for the relationships I've gained. I feel blessed by them and feel that the Lord has had a great hand in all that I've done.

I apologize if this letter is short. I'll do my best to try to answer some questions this next week and everything. I especially know that Dad asked some specific questions which I'll do my best to answer in the coming week. From what I remember now, in terms of cities I haven't visited in which there are missionaries, there's sitll a few. After today, it'll be 4 left which I haven't visited--łódź, lublin, białystok, and kraków.  We'll see if I get the chance to visit them all. I'm hoping I will, but only time will tell.

Well hey, I love you all. Keep up the great work. The church is true!
Loves,
Elder Vernon


March 17th Letter

Family!
Well, it's been a pretty stellar week over here in Poland. We had a pretty solid exchange with the Elders in Wrocław. I got a chance to serve with Elder G and Elder Lanham was with Elder F. I'll tell you a little about what I wrote to President about it.
I'm grateful to have been able to get to know Elder G better. He's a great kid. I'm very impressed with his polish, his ability to handle himself well especially at such a young age in the mission, and his knowledge. He has a very gifted brain which will take him far.
Wrocław is a pretty cool city as well. The town square is beautiful and we were blessed to have miracles happening left and right on our exchange. We've got another one this week with the zone leaders in Katowice. It'll be a fun time, I'm pretty sure.
We had a miraculous experience this week with L. We met with him and had planned to read 1 Ne. 1 with him to show him the connections with the Restoration. As we did, he brought up a lot of concerns he's having about reading the Book of Mormon and just that he's struggling with a few things in his life. It was a touching thing to see. If we hadn't have read 1 Ne. 1 with him, I don't know that those same concerns would have come out. The lesson plan was definitely guided by the Spirit. It's a comforting thing to know that the Lord places us with the right companion at the right time. We ended up giving L a priesthood blessing which seemed to really help him. He's a special guy and has a lot to do for the Lord in the future. I'm sure of it.
All in all, I feel that things are going well right now. I'm pleased to be serving with Elder Lanham. He's a solid companion and we do a lot of good together. I'm learning a lot about how to relax, do the things which the Lord wants me to do, and being merciful with my weaknesses. I feel it's a special time on my mission, and I'm grateful for it.
So, I apologize, but this letter is going to be pretty short. I didn't manage my time all that well and President walked in and we ended up meeting with him for a while and discussing a few things regarding the mission. I did create a voice recording with Elder Lanham so look for that in my drafts. I am really sorry that this is so short. We've got to run to catch a train and go on an exchange though.
Heath, I'm glad to hear your got your patriarchal blessing. Going on a mission huh? Any ideas as to when yet? I'm excited for ya.
Emms, run the 400! Way to go with starting for lacrosse. I bet you're tearing it up. Keep your back in good shape. You'll be good.
Hannah bear, you keep an eye on the pets. Make sure they don't get in trouble.
Dad, glad to hear that things are good at home. Don't apologize for writing too much.
Mom, really quickly, there's an American family who just moved into the branch. Their name is Kosanovich and they want you to look them up on facebook. They had us over for dinner twice already and they have pictures and everything. Plus, they know Elder Judd. So, the lady's name is Lisa Christman Kosanovich.
Well family, I love you all. Wish me luck this week. Life is good and moving quickly!
The gospel is true!
Loves,
Elder Vernon
Elders Lanham, Fotu and Vernon

Elder Lanham and Elder Vernon

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Busy Week of Zone Conferences

Hey howdy hey family!
So, we had lot of business this past week with zone conferences and everything. It's a pretty busy time in the mission with everything going on. To answer Dad's questions from last week, we drove with President to the conferences that were outside of Warsaw. Both of them made for early mornings, so we stayed at the mission home the night before and had breakfast made by Sister Edgren both times :). That makes for happy assistants! It was a real blessing seeing all the missionaries. I love being able to do that as an Assistant.
It was a pretty special experience teaching with Elder Lanham. The kid's got some natural talent, especially when it comes to people. He has taught me a lot, even in the two weeks we've been together. We taught with our remarks mainly focused on the restoration and the story behind it, as taught in Preach My Gospel. It was simple, but went well. Many of the missionaries commented on how they saw it in a new light and what meaning it had for them. It's interesting. Being in a foreign country, I think a lot of these missionaries have never heard the missionary lessons taught in their native tongue. I'm a firm believer that we have to know the lessons and understand them first in english before we can ever teach them in polish. It becomes a hinderance to a lot of missionaries in their teaching. After we covered the restoration, we read 1 Ne. 1 with the missionaries and showed them the connections which that chapter has to the story of the restoration. It was a powerful spiritual experience and we learned much in the preparation and teaching process. It's been an interesting experience teaching with Elder Lanham. We've never had to talk much about how to teach in unity nor go into detail about what we're going to teach. Things just seem to flow. It's a special companionship.
I learned a lot about how to put a zone conference together. Luckily, not too many of those lessons had to be learned the hard way, for nothing major went askew.
Elder Lanham, President Edgren and Elder Veron

Elder Gibby (the tallest missionary in this picture) with 8 of his companions.
I was impacted by an experience on Tuesday, after zone conference, when the missionaries serving in Gdańsk missed their train. It would have been easy to scold them or be upset with them, but neither Elder Lanham nor I reacted in such a way. I saw it as an important teaching moment. They knew they were supposed to make their train and had tried to do so, but it didn't work out. President Edgren's reaction was very instructive. Instead of being upset, he used it as a chance to associate with them, make them feel loved, and help them to build relationships with him and his wife. The reason this situation struck me was the relation I feel it has to how God treats all of us. We've all had times in our life when we approach the mercy seat for grace. None of us is perfect and we've all made mistakes. I don't think God waits in the heavens seeking to find all of our mistakes and punish us for them. He waits until we fess up that we've done something wrong. Then, He willingly encircles us with the arms of His love and helps us to feel welcome, loved, and encouraged to move and do what we need to do. As I'm learning, growing, and changing as a leader, I find much more wisdom in that style of leadership than in scolding when missionaries have done something wrong.
Throughout the course of zone conferences, I found myself reflecting on my personal connection to the Book of Mormon. I worried that I hadn't done enough in reading it and that I myself wasn't connected deeply enough to the teachings and answers which it holds. When Elder Lanham and I had started preparing our segment for zone conference, I had made a goal to have personal, spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon. I felt like I hadn't made a whole lot of ground in my preparation nor had any deep spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon for a time. As I stewed over it, I realized that much of my preparation had come long before we had decided to teach about the Book of Mormon. Through my last few weeks in Szczecin, along with my first few weeks here, I had sought a lot of guidance and help from the Lord. I had always done so by reading the Book of Mormon. I had recently received a new set of scriptures, and I had marked all the scriptures which contained answers to my questions in orange. Well, in looking back through my scriptures, I found more orange markings than I had realized. It struck me that God had already shown me the power of the Book of Mormon in my life. It didn't come from overwhelming spiritual experiences, but in finding my "daily bread" by reading a little bit at a time one day at a time. That testimony is much more powerful than one based on a single event or occurrence. I feel blessed that the Lord has helped me to gain a deeper testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon, and that this testimony came not in an instant, but over time.
I had a poignant experience at the Katowice zone conference on Friday. As Elder Lanham and I prepared to leave, Sister M stopped me and said goodbye. It had occurred to her that it was probably the last time we would see each other before the end of my mission. She had some nice things to say and thanked me for the friendship which I had shown her and the work which I had done. I was taken back. During the course of the "arguments" and different disagreements which we had, I hadn't realized the friendship which had been formed. I put arguments in quotations because although we went back and forth from time to time, they were more in a joking manner than they were anything else. I guess what I'm trying to say is it was a comfort to me that I've had an impact here and the Lord has helped me to do His work, even with people with whom I may not always see eye-to-eye.
Elder Lanham and I are excited to go to Wrocław for our exchange this week.
On our exchange, we'll be going with Elder F and Elder G. I'm excited to talk with him for a while. Since I've already served with Elder F, I'll probably be with Elder G, who's a tall lanky kid from Georgia. He's a good missionary, just super young in the mission. He is still a trainee. It'll be an adventure, for sure!
Emms, I think you should run the 400, but that's probably just me being biased. You'll do superb in whatever you do, I'm certain of that. I don't remember you ever telling me, did you make varsity for lacrosse?
Hannah-bear, it sounds like you love Starszy. As for new friends,  Elder Lanham and I were invited to dinner by a new american family that just moved in to the branch. It turns out, they had lived in the California Arcadia mission, and even knew Elder Judd! Connections!
Heath, I hope you get feeling better. You'll do well on your AP tests. I'm not too stressed. Let me know about Sterling Scholar!
Dad, Thanks for all the updates on scriptures and what not. I enjoy it. I've been thinking about your statement about John 16:33 (you'll want to check that reference) when Christ says, "Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world."  It still stumps me that it's before Gethsemane.
Mom, thanks for being so diligent with housing and everything. I appreciate it. If you find out anything about classes, I'd love to take a polish language class, some sort of music theory class (if possible), an intermediate racquetball class, and I don't know what else. Those are just some ideas.
Well, give Starszy a hug from me. I love you all. The gospel is true!
Love,
Elder Vernon

Another Busy Week!

Family!
Well, it's been another crazy week. Let me tell you about it.
To start off, we had transfers, which is always crazy. We spent all of Wednesday either at the train station or shuttling people around. It made for an exciting day and for lots of craziness. We had to move Elder Wilson into his apartment the day before, which made for some excitement. I should probably back up to Monday though and start there.

So, starting over.
Monday. We picked up Elder Z (the australian) from the train station about 7 at night. He was coming in to Warsaw to stay a few nights with us. He's extending his mission for a month, and because of legal issues, had to fly to London for a day and get his passport stamped. So, he stayed with us, and we had to wake up at 3:30 the next morning to get him to the airport. After that, we had to be at the train station by 6:30 with all of Elder Wilson's bags because he was moving into his new apartment. There was a zone leader who had to do a baptismal interview in a different city that day, so he had to catch an early train. Thus, we paired Elder Wilson with the other zone leader for the day. Eventually, Elder Wilson moved into his apartment and got that all taken care of. We picked up Elder Z from the airport about 6 that night, then went straight to the mission home where Sister Edgren had prepared a wonderful birthday dinner for me (complete with Banana Cream Pie!). That was a lovely dinner. We then went home and crashed, being insanely tired from our long day.
Wendesday, we wake up (early again, but this time only 6) and get to the train station. We're there most of the morning making sure people are catching correct trains with all of their luggage and getting where they need to. After the morning block, we run back to the office to handle a few issues, then head back to the train station. We help an Elder with a layover in Warsaw, then run to pick up Elder Wilson, who had been helping other missionaries who were white washing here in Warsaw. Back to the train station. Another block of missionaries are arriving. We have to help them get transportation cards for the buses and trams, then take luggage to apartments. Eventually, we get back to the train station one last time to help with a few more layovers, and the day is done. We then have choir practice, which was enjoyable. Eventually, we crash and hit the hay.
Thursday. President has us over for a meeting. Turns out, he's decided to split one of the zones. So, enter in craziness in preparing for zone conference. Now, instead of having 3 conferences this week, we're going to have four. We have to go and figure out logistics for everything, begin preparing, and continue to do all things necessary.
Friday. President makes calls changing a few assignments and re-arranging the zones. Mid calls, he realizes that he wants to do things a little differently in terms of what district will be in what zone. So, we're making calls, President is making calls, and everything is getting readjusted. Craziness.
So, that's a sneak peek into the transfer week of an Assistant. Yay for business!
The new zone really makes things sleek here in Poland. We've split Warsaw into two zones based on which branch the missionaries are in. We've also reduced district sizes. Now, Warsaw has 4 districts, and Łódź has 2. All other cities still only have one. No district has more than 6 missionaries though, which will make life much more manageable for district leaders. We're really focusing on doing some leadership training this week with our Zone Conferences and helping them all to understand what their role is and how to fulfill it. We've called a former AP (Elder N) to be a new zone leader along with a missionary who has yet to hit his year mark and hasn't even been a district leader yet (sounds a lot like my experience!). Elder N will do a great job training him though. It'll be good. My trainee, Elder G, has been called as a district leader in Łódź. For now, the zone leaders for the new zone are stationed in Łódź, but we have the option for them to be stationed in Warsaw in the future. We'll see what happens with it. It's been a wild ride, but lots of fun as well.
Elder Lanham and I are excited for zone conferences coming up this week. We feel that there are a lot of good things happening and that things are going to go well. We haven't had the most time to prepare for all that we want to present and do, but we trust that we're putting in all that we can and that the Lord will make up the rest.
We had a great teaching experience this week. Last night, we were invited over for dinner with one of the american families in the branch. While we were there, they also had a non-member friend over. She has been taught at different times by different sister missionaries in the Warsaw 1 branch. We taught a little bit about the Restoration and the connections found to it in 1 Ne. 1. At the end of the lesson, she asked what it meant to accept the gospel. Instantly, the conversation turned to baptism. One of the best things about the lesson was that both Brother and Sister Law served missions, so they were not afraid to bring up baptism. We had a great discussion about it and saw that M's understanding definitely increased. The miracle in all of this to me is that such great members are here in Poland. The Lord definitely knows what He is doing. The american families in Warsaw 2 who are strong members and who don't shy away from missionary work are just the examples that these polish people need to learn how to preach the gospel and how to lead a member lifestyle. It's a great blessing for the church and will greatly help the development.
I've been thinking a bit about something that Elder Lanham said this week. He talked about how with his experience in the church, it's always been about renewal. Endurance is necessary, but renewal is what helps us continue on. We see a renewal of covenants weekly with the sacrament. I see a renewal of spiritual energy every time I open the scriptures and study them myself. We see the renewal that happens each time we meet together as missionaries, whether it be in District Meeting, Zone Training, or Zone Conference. Renewal becomes an integral part of what we do in regards to church functions. In thinking about all of this, my thoughts have also turned to the mormon message done by Elder Christofferson, which talks about daily bread. I'm seeing more and more of a pattern in all that we do in the church. Renewal is absolutely a part of all we do as members. I'm beginning to realize just how dependent I am on the Lord. Without all of these renewing activities which take place on daily, weekly, and monthly basis, my spiritual strength would wane. Christ truly is the "bread of life," for without learning of Him daily and growing closer to Him, we, in a sense, starve ourselves spiritually.
Elder Lanham and I are getting along well. We feel an excitement which we haven't felt much before in terms of training and missionary work. We feel that great things are going to be happening, especially this week with Zone Conferences.
It's been a bit nervewracking but a lot of fun to prepare trainings for Zone Conference this week. Neither Elder Lanham nor I have ever run a zone conference before, so we're a bit stressed about it, but we think it will go well. We haven't had the most time to prepare, but we've tried to use the time we have had to do the best we can. All things considered, we feel pretty confident that things will be good. We work well together and we're excited to see all the missionaries and help them to be effective in their own spheres of work. We have four conferences this week. Tomorrow we will be in Poznań for the Bydgoszcz zone. Wednesday and Thursday will be here in Warsaw for the Warsaw 1 zone and the Warsaw 2 zone, respectively. Friday we will be in Katowice for the Katowice zone.
I'll give you a quick rundown of the zones.
Bydgoszcz-Bydgoszcz, Poznań, Gdańsk, Szczecin
Warsaw 1- Warsaw 1 branch, Kielce, Lublin
Warsaw 2- Warsaw 2 branch, Łódź
Katowice- Katowice, Kraków, Wrocław
Each zone has 18 missionaries in it, except for Warsaw 1, which has 20.
Heath, congrats on getting into BYU! I'm excited for ya. I'm glad sterling scholar stuff went well.
Emms, good luck with lax and track. You'll do well. I'm excited.
Hannah bear, I bet you're loving Starszy. Give him a big hug for me. Good job reading the Book of Mormon! I'm proud of you.
Mom, good luck keeping Starszy in line with everything! Sounds like he's keeping you busy! I'm sure you'll do great though.
Dad, good luck in Atlanta. Keep on being great. Thanks for the family history story. We're traveling this week by car, since we're driving with President. We'll let you know more details about everything next week.

Well, the gospel is true! I'm super happy to be serving in Poland and striving to do my best to serve the Lord! We're going to play some sports today (hopefully frisbee) so wish us luck!
Love,
Elder Vernon

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Birthday was Good!!

Family!
So, my birthday was good. We didn't have a chance to throw much of a party or anything, but we made it enjoyable. We've got a threesome going on right now, of me, Elder Wilson, and Elder Lanham, and it's been lots of fun. Elder Lanham's a super cool kid. It's been great to get to know him better. As it turns out, he's super close with none other than B P (one of my lacrosse coaches). In thinking about it, I had some of the best coaches ever. The Lord's been so good to me. Anyway, in returning to my birthday, I basically just pigged out on Reeses. Thank you for my birthday package! The shoes fit perfectly. I also received grandma's package. Tell her thanks from me. We had a meeting with President last night, and ended up eating dinner over there, but we're going to have another "birthday dinner" for me later this week. It'll be fun. I'm excited. Plus, Sister Edgren is going to make Banana Cream Pie for it. I'm so excited! Dad, I felt like you'd appreciate that.
This has been a good week. It's been busy what with all the transfers and figuring out things with the threesome, but it's been enjoyable.
I was a little bit nervous about switching companions, but I've come to peace with it. As soon as Elder Lanham got into Warsaw, things just seemed to flow. I don't know how to describe it all that well, but the longer I've been around Elder Lanham, the more confident I am that he's the companion the Lord knows that I need at this time. I can't pick out one big spiritual experience with this week that affected me, but it's been great to see the small confirming assurances that the Lord is placing in my path to help me know that He's pleased with my work.
I had a comforting experience last night as we met with President and discussed different things dealing with the mission. Elder Wilson, Elder Lanham, and I all discussed it afterward. It definitely felt like a revelatory experience--more so than any of the other meetings we've had in the past. I think part of it has to do with Elder Lanham. I'm impressed by his maturity and his understanding already of what he needs to do. As soon as he came in, he was asking questions about the mission, wondering what we can do to best help everyone. I'm excited to see what sort of good work we can do together.
I was very appreciative to have an interview this week. I'm grateful for the chance to be an assistant and serve around President frequently. I'm learning how to deal with stress in a better, more healthy way, and learning the lessons the Lord wants me to learn. It's a growing experience, but it's getting better day by day. I'm nowhere near perfect, and I'm learning to be ok with that. Yet, I can see the Lord's hand in my life and I'm getting better and learning how to effectively deal with my weaknesses and move forward, even when other things might stand as obstacles in my way.
The longer I'm on my mission, the more I'm beginning to appreciate the basics of the gospel. I feel like I've talked about this before, but all these basic things are becoming so precious to me the longer and more diligently I do them. Prayer and scripture study are some of my favorite things now because of the strength they give me. My approach on the street has also begun to change a bit. I find myself talking to people about their personal relationship with God all the time. I love talking about prayer. I do it all the time. It's so great.
So, Elder Wilson is staying in Warsaw, which means I get to see him all the time! I'm excited for that. He's also living on a street called Wilson's flat. How's that for coincidence? He's super excited. It'll be good. He's also serving with President Spencer W. Kimball's great grandson. They'll do well together.
We're beginning to prepare for zone conference. It will be the week of March 5th, so it's coming up soon. I'm excited to go around the mission and see all the missionaries. I feel like that will be a big blessing.
I'm super excited about Starszy! Dad, you were dead on. You pronounce it just like starship but without the p. But, you can say it however you all want. I'll probably pronounce it the polish way. I'm just a polish junkie, that's all.
Note from Mom: This is Starszy (our new Australian shepherd).  
The word "Starszy" means "Elder" in Polish.

For Elder Vernon's birthday we told him about our new puppy.


Well, I love you all. Sorry for the short letter. I appreciate hearing about all of your week's though. Emms, good luck with track and lacrosse. I hope you make varsity! Heath, good luck with Sterling Scholar. Hannah bear, way to go on making the cake. Dad, you're the best member missionary I know. Mom, thanks for being patient and being my personal secretary! Remember, the gospel's true!
Love,
Elder Vernon

Monday, February 17, 2014

We had a "mini-MTC" this Weekend.

Hey family!
It's been a good week here in Poland.
We had a pretty stellar miracle this week. We had come home from a meeting on Thursday and had an hour before we were to end our day. Neither Elder Wilson nor I were very excited to go contacting for the last hour. We didn't feel like it was going to be all that effective nor that anything would come of it, but we got out and did it anyway. We're glad we did. While contacting, there a was a kid standing a little ways off by a metro stop. It would have been easy to simply pass him and not make the effort to go over and contact him. I thought, however, that it was worth a shot. I'm glad we went over and talked to him. We ended up talking for about 20 minutes. He was super excited to hear our message and received it openly. When it came time to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon, he was so thrilled to take it. He held it like it were a gold nugget or priceless treasure. Then, when we called him a few days later, he had already read half of it. It was pretty remarkable. He had committed to come to church yesterday, but didn't show up. We're not totally sure what's going on, but we were glad to be a tool in the Lord's hands to help him at least be introduced to the gospel message.
Another great thing we saw happen this week was on Monday. Family Home Evening now starts at 6:30, and L was teaching the lesson, so we didn't want to miss it. Yet, we didn't want to waste time, seeing as there is now a half hour from the end of P-day to the start of the meeting. So, we decided to just go contacting around the chapel. Yes, it's not our area, and we could easily just leave our apartment at 6:00 and take up the half hour with travel time, but we felt it would be better to spend those 30 minutes talking to people. I'm sure glad we did. We handed out two copies of the Book of Mormon and got another number for a potential. It was some of the most effective contacting I've had on my mission. I know that when we make our time on P-day effective, we are blessed greatly.
I'm learning to be patient with myself on my mission. Realizing that I am a perfectionist and that I want to do everything perfectly has helped. The fact of the matter is that I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. Things don't always go perfectly, and at some point I have to be okay with that. I'm learning how to do it. My mission has definitely been and still is a growing process for me. The Lord has taught me a lot about who I am, what I am to do, and how He wants me to do it. I'm happy to be serving Him and doing the things He wants me to do.
Elder Wilson and I are doing well. He's a great companion and one of my best friends. I'm so lucky to serve with him. I'm super grateful for all that he does for me.
So, transfers are going on on the 26th of February. We're meeting with President in about a half hour to discuss them all. I'm excited to see what will happen.
In other news, we had something called a "mini-MTC" this weekend at the mission office. They brought in all of the Polish Young Single Adults and older Youth who would be eligible for a mission. There were 13 of them. Elder Wilson and I were invited for the opening dinner with them at the mission home. I was able to see D and B from Szczecin. It was super fun and such a good time. I love them so much. After the dinner, we ended up getting roped into doing a "role-play" in front of everyone who was there to demonstrate teaching for them. Yikes. Two Americans teachings polish people how to teach, in polish, and as missionaries. It was a bit stressful, but we enjoyed it. We did a pretty good job as well. It's super fun to associate with all the polish members, especially the youth. I was able to meet a lot of them and get to know them better. They're awesome and are going to be such strength to the church in the coming years.
Well, unfortunately, my time is short and we've got to get to President's house to discuss transfers. I love you all. Heath, congrats on Sterling Scholar. Doobs, you've got great polish ;). Emms, I bet you tore up the slopes. Mom, I love you and thanks for being the greatest mom ever. Dad, thanks for all the great comments. Have a great week and I'll let you know who my new companion is next time!
Love,
Elder Vernon
Hey, the gospel's true!

We Went to Adam's Ties this Week. (Feb. 10th Letter)

Adam's ties.
The sign says "That's absolutely senseless, but it looks fun."
Hey family!
Well, it's been another good week here in Poland. Elder Wilson and I had a good time presenting a little bit about member lessons and member relationships during Mission Leadership Council on Thursday. We realized a little bit late that we hadn't prepared all that much, so Wednesday became a very interesting day. Anyway, it was all in good fun.
I'm super glad that you all got a call from the Sheley's! They're so awesome. We had a fun time last Monday. They wanted to get ties from Adam's, but didn't have time to go there. So, they gave us money, and told us to pick out 20 ties for them. We had a good time doing that :).
It's been a good week this week. I enjoyed the opportunity to take part in Mission Leadership Conference and spend time with some great missionaries. Elder Wilson and I haven't seen great results from our labors this week, but we feel that the successes we have had have been meaningful ones. After almost finishing a whole building, we were let in by a young dad who was curious about our message. The message wasn't overly long, nor were we able to explain a whole lot of our message, but this is one of the few times I've been let in while tracting on my mission. When I think that the week before we were also let in and found new people to teach, I'm grateful for the Lord's hand in this work. As we exert our efforts, He helps us to see miracles.
A few of the thoughts I shared in my testimony have been on my mind as of late. I'm learning that the ups and downs of missionary work and leadership is why my mission has come to mean so much to me. If things had been easy or had gone well, my experience here would not be meaningful nor unique for me. I've come to love my mission because it's my mission, and no one else's. Sometimes, I fear that if I don't do everything perfectly, I won't learn the things I need to from my mission nor be able to use my mission as an effective springboard for life. These are the moments, I think, when I am learning to trust the Lord. He knows me, knows my weaknesses, and is incredibly good at predicting what I'm going to do. So, I'm trying to just relax, move forward, do the work I can, and trust in the Lord.
Elder Wilson and I are doing well. He's a great missionary, loves the work, and wants to do his best. Plus, he's a goofball, so we have some good laughs.
I feel like I don't have much to say this week. I don't know why.
This week, the mission is doing a "mini-MTC" for all the polish members who are in the age group where they could serve a mission. That means that B and D (from Szczecin) are going to be coming to the mission home and participating in it. I'm hoping that I'll be able to see them. One of Elder Wilson's recent converts from Katowice is also going to be coming in. His name is D. It's going to be a big old party here in Warsaw. Add into everything that President wants to meet with us to discuss transfers this week, and we have Zone Training. It's going to be a busy one! That's always the best though. I'd rather be busy than have way too much time on my hands.
Hannah bear, Elder Wilson just agreed to be your Valentine. Plus, I'll be it as well. You lucky girl. You have two Valentines! We only placed one copy of the Book of Mormon this week, but we placed it with that young dad, S. It was a well placed book, for sure.
Heath, when do you find out about BYU? Bummer about the AF/LP game. One of the office elders right now went to Lone Peak, so hopefully he doesn't find out and rub it in my face. Speaking of LP, I was talking to one of the american families here in Warsaw yesterday and found out that the wife, went to LP and graduated in 2004. Connections! Anyway, good luck with Sterling Scholar. You'll do great, I'm sure. I don't hear much about the olympics here, so updates would be great. Thanks for maintaining the Vernon legacy at AFHS.
Emms, you lucky dog. I'm jealous you're skiing so much. Tell Coach Ray I say hi. He's the man. Does that mean you decided not to do track? Good luck with lacrosse. Go Poland with gold medals!
Mom, thanks for being awesome. I appreciate everything you do for me, including figuring out schooling and housing and classes and everything. I'd be lost without you. Don't worry, I always try to help with Sister Edgren and do the dishes whenever we're over there. I think she secretly loves cooking for all the missionaries.
I'm not certain whether President Uchtdorf is visiting other missions. I haven't heard much about it. I only know when he'll be in Poland. Pass my love on to Grandma Fernie. I hope she's doing well and I'm glad she enjoyed the chocolate and bell.
Dad, thanks for all the suggestions. I tell you, being a leader is hard work. I don't feel like I know what I'm doing half of the time, but I trust that the Lord is with me. I hope you're enjoying some time in Atlanta and know that I'll be jealous that all of you will be in Iron Blosam this week. I miss that place. Travel safely.
Well everyone, the gospel is true! That's some pretty valuable knowledge right there. I'm grateful for it and for the opportunity to serve here in Poland and help these people come unto Christ. I'm doing my best to strive to help them in any way I can. I love you all. Keep up the great work and enjoy the journey!
Love,
Elder Vernon