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.


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!
Elder Vernon

March 17th Letter

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!
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!
Elder Vernon

Another Busy Week!

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!
Elder Vernon