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

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