Monday, March 9, 2015
Hey all! Well, I'm hoping that this week I'll be able to be a little bit more in detail and eloquent than last week. I am SO happy to be serving in Bratislava now finally. My companion Elder Williams is always more and more surprised about how many people I already know here, and it's just because this is a place I've been waiting to serve in my whole mission.
A little bit about the District: Myself, Elder W. from Cincinnati, Ohio, Elder J. from Brigham City, Utah, Elder R. from Virginia/Qatar, Sister A. from Highland, Utah, Sister E. from Hollister, California, and our Senior Couple the C.'s from Idaho Falls, Idaho. So far we get along very well, and I'm very happy to be able to work with these wonderful people! Elder W. went to BYU before his mission and studies saxophone performance, and also plays guitar and piano, so we get along pretty nicely, I'm teaching him currently how to cook. I've already served with Elder J. (way back in my first transfer), and Elder R. (2 transfers in Nitra), so needless to say there are some great inside jokes that go about. The C.'s are the sweetest things ever, and they're SO helpful, I'm so lucky to be in a city with a senior couple again, WE NEED MORE OF THOSE!!!
About the week, here are some highlights:
W.: She has been meeting with missionaries for quite a long time now, my previous companion Elder S. actually was one of the 2 missionaries who found her, and she has decided that this Saturday is finally the day that she's going to be baptized. I can hardly wait! She's an awesome journalist who is peppy and ready for the church. Pray for that to happen, because she's had dates before and every time something seems to get in the way.
M.: She has ALSO been meeting with missionaries for a while. She is the biggest sweetheart though. O. was visiting Bratislava, and they became really really good friends during the course of the time, and as far as I can tell, she is ready for baptism. The C.'s told us during our last meeting about how impressed they were with the change they've seen in her, she's done something very similar to others in gaining confidence, and being visibly happier than when they started. I can't wait to see how things will play out in her life.
There is a Ping-pong table in our church building. We invite people to come and play for game night, and boy are there some seriously professional players who come whup up on us. I think I'll be a lot better by the time I get out of Blava.
We've had a lot more random people who know a lot more anti-material here than in any other city I've been in, which makes me feel for people who serve in places like New York, or Chicago, or Indianapolis. That's got to make it harder than you want it to be. We did get to meet a super deep level Free Mason the other day though, that was pretty sweet. What is even sweeter is getting to re-iterate myself from earlier. There is no anti-material without answer. About 97% of it is fallacious, doing things like mis-quoting people and taking things completely out of context, and the other 3% is truth used to "prove" the rest of it.
I am again, so happy to be serving a mission. I'm getting into a little bit of a harder stage, having realized yesterday that I really don't have much time left, but I'm letting that sorrow motivate me to work as hard as I can. We blew standards of Excellence out of the water this week, and I can't wait to send some more pictures home of people whose lives have been changed for the better by the gospel, because gosh, does Slovakia have a LOT of elect. I am so proud to be able to say that I am a Slovak missionary through and through.
Nebo je modre, cirkev je pravdiva, a ja som stastny. (Or is blue, the Church is true, and I'm happy. (Thanks, Google Translate))
Elder Chris Brousseau
Sunday, March 8, 2015
So first off, M. got baptized!!! Haha, I'm totally just on top of the world about it, it's so fun. She had to get baptized twice because her hair came up, and I can only imagine the difficulty they had explaining that to her, because she really doesn't speak German all that well. On another note, Mom, which areas in Germany did you serve in, and is there any way you could get me a list of converts and re-activations from your mission? The Sisters in Germany were curious. #2!! I totally just got transferred... So I'm not in Zilina anymore... I'm not sure how I feel.
Well anyway, last week was awesome. Monday we just sort of didn't have time to do anything, we met with R. the man I mentioned last week, which was entertaining, but at that point it had started to wear on me a little bit. I've decided that I really don't like teaching someone about God and having them argue whether god is all-knowing and all-powerful or not. If you don't believe in those things, I don't think you really believe in God, more like some blundering extra-terrestrial scientist. But enough of that.
On Tuesday, we taught Z. again, and Elder S. took pictures with her and everything because he thought he was going to be leaving (ha!), and it went really well. We've decided to work on the basics with her again, not the basic lessons, because she gets those, but like reading and praying, and just mainly to try and strengthen her relationship to God, because a stronger relationship to God means a stronger motivation to act on the feelings of the spirit. We also taught P.M., and I think it went kind of mediocre, mostly because when we taught him again on Friday he had all sorts of questions about the End of the World. I don't actually know if it was because of our teaching, but we WERE going over the apostasy, so it might be... We told him to read Revelation and it would answer all of his questions. Totally joking, we DID tell him to read, but meanwhile, we're going to find answers to the questions that can be answered concerning that subject.
Wednesday: I really honestly don't remember very much besides finishing going over the Baptismal Interview questions with M.. She is so prepared, and it just goes to show how the Lord works. A little bit about her story: She moved to Germany with this guy she had had a kid with. Things didn't work out, and they broke up, but she doesn't speak German and still lived in Germany. She found and started dating the first man she could find who spoke Slovak AND German, and the Sisters there later contacted that man, and he agreed to meet and discuss the gospel. He went to church a couple of times, and brought M. along, as well as let her sit in on the lessons. They found that it was a lot easier for them to understand the gospel in Slovak, and gave the APs here their Skype # and they began to teach them because Elder B. (Chris' trainer) was an AP and he spoke Slovak. He eventually hit a roadblock where he didn't want to commit to living certain commandments, and no longer wanted to meet, and on top of that, Elder B. had left, and the APs could no longer understand very well. They transferred them over to Zilina, and the man still didn't want to meet, but M. still did. Meeting with her was hard at that point, mainly because they were living together and he really didn't want us to talk to her. Then, in December, he hit her during an argument, and she called the police. He went to jail and she got a restraining order. That made it much easier for us to start meeting, and for her to overcome problems like smoking and drinking, and eventually to get baptized. SO cool, and she was never "found"...
The rest of the week is likewise pretty much just a blur until Saturday. We had a really awkward baptismal interview with M. on Thursday, awkward just because the Elder was giving his first one, I'm sure he'll do better in the future. On Saturday though, she got baptized, and it was so cool, even though we weren't there, but then Jan P. called us up for a meeting and said, "I want to show you something." weird, but he had done this in the past, and it was usually just like a restaurant or something. This time, he drove us like 25 minutes outside our area in order to show us this statue of Janosik, the Slovak Robin Hood. Really cool, but quite a weird, unwelcome feeling to sit in a car and have to ask, "Where are we going?" and get the answer, "Just relax and enjoy the ride." Throughout this whole week though, we've been teaching L., who, goodness, just needs to accept baptism. He keeps talking about how he needs a new start, and how we've introduced him to feelings and things he hadn't thought a person could actually feel, and he knows that it's true. Interesting, I feel like all of those things motivate to baptism...
Anyway, that's all I can think of to say at the moment, I've got to go, we're going to go do some teaching.
(Editor's note: Here is last week's email. We included it in this letter to avoid a transfer cliff-hanger.)
February 23, 2015
Blava, Mila Blava (Blue, Blue, Mila)
Well, here's the big surprise, I'm in Bratislava with Elder W., that's right Kennen, the same one you played sax with at BYU, and I'm the District Leader in Ruzinov South. Now that that's up, a little bit about the city:
Blava is by far the biggest city I've ever served in. It's about the same size (I would guess) as Orem and Provo combined, both as far as inhabitants and land size, but maybe I'm overestimating that. Everything is super old. It's a lot more ghetto than every other city I've seen, but that's probably just another side-effect of more people. Our building is a lot bigger than in other cities, and that's because the branch has "a lot more members" which, it does, just not a ton more active. It's the biggest one I've been in, but not by much. The main differences I've seen in the last week have been that we RELY on busses for transport, which makes me a little bit anxious, just because I don't really like at all having to rely on public transportation (I know, I know, it saves the environment...whatever), and I don't at this moment have a great love for tram/bus contacting, but I'll work on it.
I don't have a lot of time today, I'll let you know more next week, LOVE!
Starsi Chris Brousseau
Monday, March 2, 2015
Hele, I'm sure you're all surprised that I didn't email you on Monday, but it's because of this: We are literally teaching too much to have the full hour and a half of email time, and usually the first hour is spent emailing President, and replying to other emails, and we only had about 45 minutes, so here we are now on...I don't remember, but I think Wednesday, and here's my email.
Well. Last week was crazy, just like it seems every week is now. I've noticed that the more time you spend diligently finding, the less time you actually end up spending. I'll explain myself real quick. At training we discussed a principle that I was really quite impressed with. The principle discussed was that we don't set apart hours of our day for "finding," we should be finding 100% of the time, we set apart specific hours for "contacting," or "tracting," not finding. I had noticed before then that around 40-60%, I'm not willing to commit to an exact estimate, of our new investigators are found either through teaching someone else, or through us talking to people about the gospel while we're doing something that isn't contacting or tracting. Contacting and tracting are not super effective missionary activities in actuality, however, they become more effective in proportion to how much you do them. It clicked in my head when I heard that, that if we diligently find, even when we're not "finding," that then we will have more people to teach, and we'll have to "find" a whole ton less. This is extremely true, and the best part is seeing it work.
So, we totally went bowling on Monday. It's super inexpensive here, because they found that if they put the same prices on bowling here as they did in America, no one goes bowling, so it's actually around the exact price of what it's worth. I was reminded yet again of how absolutely terrible I am at bowling, I had the lowest score both games. Later we taught Z., who is awesome, and she's totally going to get baptized, she's just scared of what her Catholic friends would do if that happened. We talked about Adam and Eve, which is always a really fun discussion, especially when she doesn't actually agree with the Catholic belief, and thinks ours is way better.
Another highlight of every week is P.M., this now completely active member here. This guy is seriously Branch President status now, he's preparing to go to the temple, and he has started to have enough confidence in his knowledge of the gospel to actually put forth his own ideas and comparisons during priesthood in church, which, I must say, are spot on. I am so happy to have him to work with, we're working on teaching him about every apostasy the world has gone through in as much detail as we can find in the scriptures, from the apostasy between the dispensation of Elijah, in which the Pharisees and the Sadducees as well as Buddhism and Taoism were all founded, to the apostasy right after Adam, in which (according to the Liahona magazine, I'm not actually sure where they got this info), Hinduism was started with the followers of Cain and Satan "plotted with his followers from that time hereafter."-not an exact quote from Helaman 6:26-27. Love him to death, we're going into the Great Apostasy tomorrow.
M. is doing awesome, she's still completely on track to her baptism on the 14th, and she really is prepared. We were going through the baptismal questions with her, and we started and it went sort of like this:
Elder S: Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost?
M.: and I say, "Yes."
Elder B: Gooood....do you ACTUALLY belive that?
M.: Starsi Brousseau, why in the world would I be trying to get baptized if I didn't?
It was so spiritual.
J.P. is normal, still obsessed with ghosts, and doesn't really feel a need to pray or really do anything religious. He has some really cool ghost stories though, it's fun. We're planning on giving him the best ghost story ever next time: The one where a guy was brutally and illegally murdered, but came back from the dead.
L. survived a crazy car accident last week, and this week is still doing really well. He's in sort of the same situation as Z., where he's TOTALLY going to get baptized, and he has nothing holding him back except for a crazy complicated situation with Sister S. being best friends with his ex-girlfriend all the while still being sort of in love with his ex-wife, with which he has 2 kids. We're praying pretty hard that something in that situation will change quickly so that he no longer has a problem with Sister S., and it's going to take a miracle, but at the moment he's progressing quite well.
P.K. is totally on track! We had the lesson last time that like, "You realize we're not Catholics and we want to baptize you right?" and he was all like, "Yeah, I knew that from the start, I kind of want to know why." So cool! He's this sort of old guy, like early 50's, and he tries so very hard to do what he knows is right, it's great.
M. is doing pretty well too, last time we taught him with Sister S., and it went pretty well, we showed him the "Your potential, your privileges," video from President Uchtdorf, and talked to him about trying to find out exactly what his privileges are BEFORE he no longer has them. He still doesn't have a huge desire, but he's totally getting baptized as soon as he realizes what the church organization specifically can offer him, which is friends who care about you and would like help you in quite literally every country on the planet. Teaching M. has really improved my English again as well, because, while he doesn't really speak English, he always has super great questions about the differences between words, and which word is best to say in certain contexts, I really like him.
I got to teach the W. family!!! This is a way-cool young family the other Elders are teaching, and our district is doing well enough in both companionships, that we've started having to go on splits so that we can all teach all of our lessons that our scheduled, so great. Elder F. has been very inspired with how he has gone about teaching them, people (Zone Leaders) keep trying to push him into trying to speed things up, but having gone there and having taught them myself, I am convinced that he has been taking the spiritually correct path with them. They are so amazing.
R., ok, well, we found out this guy is apparently a "real" Jehovah's Witness...I asked him during our 2nd lesson if I could see his new world translation because he was using a rohacek translation, and that has tons of stuff missing, but doesn't have the little asterisks telling you that they're missing, and he was all like, "Pozor pan Bruso, real Jehovah's Witnesses don't even let that thing come into our hands!" and proceeded to rant about all this corruption with the bigger JW church in Brooklyn and denouncing all they're "abominable creeds" and stuff, I was torn between confusion and a strange desire to record everything he was saying. Turns out, there are 2 JW churches, and the mission of one of them is to entirely discredit the other, but they call themselves the exact same thing, so there's no way to distinguish between them. Kind of crazy, but he's a joy to teach, he knows the Bible pretty darn well, so when we use the Bible to reference things and explain our point of view, instead of not understanding and getting caught up in random little reference battles, he understands the bigger picture and it makes sense to him. I really love this guy.
L. has gotten so hard-core into Anti material, which he doesn't completely understand. He is not in an amazing position to join either, because he's a minister for another church, but he is interested as to why he doesn't have the sorts of feelings about our church when he's meeting with us, as he does when he's reading bad things about us. Interesting.
R. is great, he's this awesome 21 year old kid who does MMA, and he's had some really cool experiences with God. He says he already has a Book of Mormon, but we're going to give him a new one, just in case. I'm really excited to see where he goes, we've only had a couple of lessons so far, but he has in every single case showed that he has a very open heart, and a sincere desire to do right with God. He knows L., which is a little iffy, but as far as I can tell, he doesn't really listen to anything he says, so we'll hope and pray he doesn't get into the same kind of stuff.
Sunday we gave our demonstration on Music History, Music Theory, and Conducting, and it was a success. We were in the building that day from 9 in the morning until past 7 in the evening just because of Church and then the activity, and then we were teaching the rest of the time, which illustrates my point at the beginning, we didn't have time to go out and tract like we normally do. Such a great week, and such a great feeling.
Lots of love,