Chris' Special Tie Knot

Chris' Special Tie Knot

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Good Week


Famous church building in Banska Bystrica
Hey all, what's up? I really have no idea where to start, I guess that's going to be a common theme for my emails, haha. Um...well, we make German pancakes and that French Toast I love all the time. This sounds so wonderful until you find out that we ran out of Mapleine last week. I thought that that was just something you could get anywhere, it's just this little bottle where you put half a teaspoon in a pot with some water and sugar and you get 3 cups of pretty decent tasting maple syrup. Then I found out that the only Maple Syrup they have here is like 15 Euros for a little like 1/2 liter thing, it's TERRIBLE. So I petition you my family, please send me some Mapleine, I don't need very much, but these things require syrup and we can't get any without having to forgo eating for a while. Anyway, thanks so much in advance, and hey, Mom, you should organize a big family home evening and read from Quentin L. Cook's address to new mission presidents from like June or July, oh my gosh, talk about deja vu!

So anyway, my investigators are either doing really well or really badly. For example, on Sunday we had the best day ever and had 3 investigators at church--I'm so happy about it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was an investigator who suddenly was wanting to meet with us more often, which we were happy about until we found out that he was just wanting to so that he could chew us out about being missionaries and tell us our mission is hopeless and try to get us to leave Slovakia. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa, your advice on talking to Catholics has helped us a lot. Suffice it to say that now I'm fighting for a baptism so that my trainer can have that (he has yet to participate in one), before the end of his mission. One thing that we've found works pretty well ever since we started using it yesterday is just be shameless. Haha, by that I mean, the people here really don't enjoy accepting service of any kind so that kind of stuff really doesn't work, so instead, we simply ask them to help us and when they ask with what, we say we're missionaries and we need help finding someone to teach, do you know anyone who's a strong believer in Christ? So far it's worked every time.

This week we're trying to work specifically on a couple of people. First, there's a member here who we're trying to just make contact with. We know her phone # and where she lives, but the man of the house always answers the phone or the doorbell, it's SO annoying, cause he's all like, "you came again?!? I'm calling the police!!" And we're just like, "dude! We just want to say hi, just let her talk to us, and you called the police last time and they didn't do anything, what makes you think it will change? We're not doing anything wrong." The first time I was actually kind of scared until I saw him, he's like 5' 0". But the poor lady, I'm 100% sure this guy is at LEAST verbally abusive and I mean, he won't even let her answer her house phone, which does NOT have caller ID, we know this. Keep us in your prayers there.
Fun photoshopping. Chris and his trainer
Our other investigators are flourishing because our finding is gradually getting better as I improve in the language. Last week we had 6 new investigators, you should have heard our District leader when we were doing call-in reports about it. Now all I'm hoping for is to be able to get all of them to be progressing and then baptized. This last week we had just the coolest training ever. It was in Brattislava, and my goodness, President McKonkie is just inspired. We talked about Branch-building, which is where I got that talk I mentioned earlier. We need to get the attitude that we're on a normal mission out of our heads. Slovakia is different from every other mission in the world, and we need to start acting like it. Remember how last week I felt a little bit stifled by the amount of rules? Well President said to us yesterday that if it isn't in the white handbook, it's not a rule. Holy liberation Batman! Haha, everything is so much easier to work now, when I suggest we do something in district meeting or at the apartment, instead of hearing, "Well something we couldn't do when we were on a mission in Africa was...," or "When the last mission president was here we weren't allowed to do that...," I hear, "well is there something against it in the White Handbook or Preach My Gospel?" I. Am. So. Grateful that the Lord has heard my prayers and that President feels like spiritual creativity is required for the people here. The first thing I want to try this week is go contacting to teach piano lessons for free, with the only stipulation being a 45 minute lesson and then a 15 minute spiritual thought. I think that that would be just amazing here and it would help the people not only to accept us, but I'd get to be around pianos a lot more than I already am, and hopefully a real piano, not just a keyboard. Haha, remind me to try and get into Grandma and Grandpa Burton's will for their piano. And the Cabin.

So I'm swiftly running out of time, but I'm a firm believer in the creativity of groups, so I'm going to put forth the question, what should I try? Do you have any exeriences from your missions that you'd think would help me here in Slovakia? How do you think would be the best way for me to contact someone, what words would help you be interested in this church?

This is their grocery store.
In answer to this week's questions, the weather is very moist. It's gross nasty almost rain. It's super misty and there's mud everywhere, but it's about 50-65 degrees every day, it feels like March or April here in January. It's very strange. At the grocery store every week we usually buy 8 litres of milk, and just whatever we want for us to eat that week, like for French Toast, we'll get some cheddar cheese (SO expensive), and some of that potatoe bread I've talked about before called knedličky, and we usually get a big thing of about 32 eggs every week. We usually have to buy flour every week, and we always get more ingredients for Halušky So that's bacon, potatoes, Brynza (Sheep cheese), Smotana (it's like sour cream), and onions. I still hate onions, but I'm finding that if I can't taste them they don't bug me so that's good. Thank heaven's we DO have a washing machine right next to our shower in our apartment, but we don't have a dryer, so we hang our clothes on this little rack in the winter and outside in the spring summer and fall. It's hard to say if everything's pretty close, I know that the Zone Leaders always get put in Banska Bystrica and Zvolen because they're in central Slovakia so it's about the same distance everywhere, but that distance is about 2.5 hours in every direction. Yeah, driving all the way across Slovakia is like Orem to St. George distance, isn't that crazy? And if you're referring to like grocery stores and stuff, yeah, we have a Billa (It's just like Smith's Slovak Style) right across the street, and right behind Billa is this awesome track and outdoor gym we go to every day. It takes about half an hour to walk from our apartment to our building (that picture of the street is the one the church building is on, leading up to the Namestie), and about 20 minutes to drive to Zvolen, so that's about everything. We usually do walk everywhere we go because we have a limit to the # of miles we can use.

Thanks for everything.

I love you all,
Starší Chris Brousseau

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Šťastný Nový Rok!

(Editor's note: This blog post is out of order. We didn't have time to create a blog post last week. We think you will love this letter!)

^^^Isn't that the BEST expression? It's like ciao, but diminuitive, so it's like a cute little bit of ciao, cause I only wanted to send a cute little bit of ciao home to you...anyway...

New coat and scarf by Tracy
So this last week has been just crazy. I honestly don't know where to begin, I guess Monday...So we found this store that has a suit that's normally 450 Euros on sale for 130, and I'm thinking that might be a worth-it investment for a missionary to make in his mission, but at the same time I'm thinking, "it's the beginning of your mission, why aren't you waiting till the end to spend the Christmas money on things like this?" but then I think it's 100% wool for crying out loud! So yeah, that's a dilemmna, but I'll ponder and pray on it so not a big deal at all, especially, like why am I even thinking about money at all, this should be a spiritual mission. While we were walking away from the store and I was thinking all that, I caught a glimpse of something I had yet to see here in Slovakia. Someone was drinking a Sprite on the namestie! Just a regular normal Sprite! I couldn't believe it, I wanted to go ask them where they got it, but we had an appointment to get to and I wasn't able to, so I'm still without regular things like that from America. Sorry for this first paragraph, I'm still trying to get my thoughts together cause everything's just crazy right now. Um, so I didn't get the suit, but I'm still considering/wanting it really badly, any advice? But on to better things that are far more important, like church in Zvolen! I heard once that cigarette smoke was the best smell you can smell during church but I'd like to submit that it's actually Christmas Punch. In Zvolen we had a congregation of entirely investigators, it was SO cool, and I honestly could see each of them being a member there, it would just be amazing, and I hope sincerely that it plays out that way.

Chess board made with post-its
So Tuesday was P~Day for us, and we got to head to Zvolen and watch a bit of a movie at a missionary couple's apartment! We watched like the first hour of 17 miracles, it was cool, but I didn't watch any of it. I was sitting at the table writing New Year's letters cause I felt like I'd seen that movie too many times back home anyway. But the celebrations here are massive! Every day literally is a holiday, like yesterday I didn't get to email because everything was closed because it was 3-kings day, and there's another holiday every day of the year, the just obviously can't close down everything for every single one, only about 1 of every 4. But they sell huge fireworks year-round because they set them off for nearly everything--they did on new years eve, and new years day, AND the day after that, and yesterday, AND Christmas and every other holiday, there's just fireworks constantly going off. Through all of this, it's pretty difficult to get any work done, we hardly got any lessons last week, which meant we were finding...all the time...When my trainer went on an exchange in Brattislava last week, another elder and I had a 5 hour block where we just tracted. Not even because we planned it that way, we just had 3 lessons cancel, and man do I HATE tracting. What this is all coming to, (I promise I'm still positive and happy) there is that a good thing came from all of this. During weekly planning, I expressed to my trainer that I am sick and tired of "finding" and we need to start getting some referrals, and I gave a good 20 minute monologue of just how this all needed to happen with things like finding at colleges so we can get some younger, more connected people interested and stuff like that and we really have taken it to heart, and we are working our TAILS off in order to get a branch ASAP now. While we've been doing this, I've really felt this feeling of boldness come upon me and you know what? It's working. I can't wait to have call-in's this week and tell the AP's that we have 6 new batismal dates, yeah, that's right, SIX! We have one lady and her son set up for the 1st of February, and we've only had 1 lesson with them! She's brand new and just golden. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for her. Then we're working on getting 2 families into the branch, either of which would allow us in Banska to move from being a group to an established branch and then the work would really just shoot forward because we'd be able to issue callings and not have to worry about keeping our members motivated as much any more. That's my vision for Banska this year. I need to have a self-sustaining, and self-motivating branch that gives referrals to missionaries and positive peer-pressure to each other! I really hope that I don't get transferred away, but I know that that very well could happen. Transfers will be issued February 3rd, and I'm sort of dreading it, but we'll see what happens, I know I just need to "let go and let God" at this point.

Walking around town
So, a little more about these investigators: The first family: they are an older couple, he's 66, and his wife is like 50, and they have a house in Banska, and he built his own little cabin up in a teeny village about an hour away called Latky. They're taking care of their 8-year old granddaughter and wow is she just sassy, the main phrase I hear out of her is yes, AND???, it's so funny. But they're just amazing. The first lesson we taught with them was the plan of salvation, and you should have heard the man at the end of it, he was like, "I have something to say...the catholic church has been around HUNDREDS of YEARS and they have all of this mixed up, and here you 2 young boys come in here and just explain it all so SIMPLY!" exactly like that, and then when his wife gave an our father at the end of the lesson, he was just like, "I hate that prayer, it's useless, why can't you pray more like them, they talk about specific things and don't memorize anything, that's how I want to pray." And Money in the bank at the end of our 2nd lesson with them, he prayed! I'm so excited to keep teaching them, the husband was made for this gospel, he reminds me so much of my grandpa, it's wonderful. And the second family are this adorable little family that were found a long time ago but dropped because they didn't really have time for religion at that time. They speak english to us but it's really slow, and so we keep speaking Slovak back, but they insist that they want to speak English with us so that's how it works. They're a Christmas miracle, where we were in their neighborhood during Christmas eve visits and we just on a whim went over and asked if we could come in and share a spiritual thought, and they said yes! It was so cool, they like hunkered down and were ready for a big hour long lesson with their 4 daughters all in their pajamas and just looking at us so intensely, it was so cute. The oldest is 10 by the way, and all of them were really disappointed when we ended after just 15 minutes, and I can't wait to go back this week and teach some more, they didn't have more time to meet until after the new year so we actually have them on schedule, and it's just going to be SO great.
Library where they send emails

There are a lot of people where this is the first email from me they're reading and I just want to apologize real fast that it's taken this long. A quick shout-out to my MTC teachers, thank you SO much for all of your help, I really felt prepared to work coming out here. Thanks so much for what you told me about your MTC experience, it really helped me to see all of the good things that were happening and that I was learning and helped me see that I didn't need to focus on what was hard or what I didn't like. Thank you so much for all of the listening you did, it really helped me to de-stress, and just the fact that you weren't scared to go off topic or be silly I know didn't only help me feel comfortable. Haha, I think I'm getting to know you better out in the field than I did in the MTC because everyone still has stories about serving with you, especially because my trainer knew you so well! Anyway, I'm so grateful that I was able to spend time with you in the MTC as well, and that you got all of my video-game references, but were able to stay focused on teaching, that's been a big help out here in the field and I've been doing a lot of looking back at your example of how to laugh and joke for like 3 seconds and then be back in teaching mode. Thanks again to all 3 of you, I wouldn't have had half of these exeriences if I hadn't learned how I should act and how to speak from you first.

Iconic church in Banska Bystrica
So that's about it, everything here is going great, my new favorite food is fried cheese, haha. I'm having trouble figuring out how people here live, because everything comes out here so much later than it does in America, like at a resteraunt the other day I say a huge premier commercial for Harry Potter 7 part 2, which is coming out here in theaters later this year, and I just couldn't believe that people just wait that long to see it, when it's been out on the internet and in other countries for (how long now?) months and months, and also how they don't just get sick of American culture just being all over the place. It's just crazy, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere different.

Milújem Vás,

Starší Chris Brousseau

Monday, January 13, 2014

Relying on Miracles


Chris, in his apartment
So I'm still here in Banska Bystrica just livin' it up. For anyone who happens to be wondering, this city is a bit smaller than Orem is, in both size and population, so yeah, it's pretty small, but it's full of personality. A little update on the suit, I've decided not to get it, I'll see what I can do when I don't have to worry about lugging an extra suit between every transfer. I can't wait to see how everything here is meant to turn out because, my goodness, the people are just ridiculously kind and amazing and nice and friendly until you start talking about the gospel. Then you've just insulted their very souls. We're teaching this doctor. He was accepting the gospel really well until we told him that we don't baptize babies and then he just flipped out at us. He went to Mass on Sunday and texted us throughout the whole service. He was like, "I feel SO fulfilled right now, your church never fulfilled anyone!," "Look at my preacher, he's so wise!," and just other stuff like that. We were actually getting a kick out of it, especially because we know he's gonna cool down and beg us to come back in a week. He's done this kind of thing before.

Library--where Chris writes emails home
Chris' street in Banska Bystrica
As far as I'm concerned, I am sick and tired of planting seeds. After my trainer and I had our little like re-awakening thing, I'm determined that there's gonna be a General Conference talk about Slovakia sometime soon, and I want to be right in the center of involvement there. I do not care about odds in the slightest, nor do I care about where other missionaries have failed. I wish that people here would stop telling me things like, "well my other companion never did that," or "Another elder tried that once and this happened," my mission is and was always meant to be different than theirs, and I'm ready to succeed, and success in my mind is far from seed planting. The field is not "white, already to harvest" everywhere EXCEPT Slovakia, so I'm going to do my harvesting. There had better be some success in store for me because the Lord knows better than anyone that I'm going to be giving this my absolute all.

Chris and his trainer
I feel so stifled here as far as creativity goes--I swear there's a rule against everything. I really want to change the dynamic of "finding"--make the people come to us so we can automatically sift through those who wouldn't be interested. Apparently, we aren't allowed to do that. We aren't allowed to do any concerts outside of Christmas, and when we tried to get this thing called tabling going, where we just set up a table and wait for people to come to us, we got shot down at the Metsky Urad, so that's not working out, and I just can't think of a good way to make that happen. Any ideas? Anyway, I really am doing wonderful and I'm so excited to finally get the ball rolling so that I can have some real success.

We've been having some REALLY good contacting sessions this week because my trainer and I have started contacting with the attitude of, "I'm not going to find anyone, I'm going to teach everyone." We've found that if you go into it with the attitude of teaching right off the bat instead of basically begging for interest, people listen more often. We've been finding some really cool people who I can't wait to send you baptismal pictures for. But that's pretty much all I have time for this week, Love you all!

Milujem ťa,

Starší Chris Brousseau