Sunday, August 2, 2015
Vazeni citatelia (Dear Readers), I hope that these letters please themselves to you! Here we are at the start of another amazing week in the life of a Slovak missionary, and I'm feeling that most important thing that I can write today to you is about the scriptures that have influenced my life and mission. But we'll get to that in a minute.
First, we have some sweet progressing investigators, first, M4...Haha, M4... He is the greatest of guys, he said a quote the other day that is just so him, I asked him what his childhood was like and he said, "I did not have a childhood, and so I am living it now." He really is such a child. But he had a really spiritual time talking to my companion the other day during a concert practice, and has decided to be baptized. We'll see what happens, but he put a deadline on it, that it needs to happen BEFORE September, so chances are I'll get to see it.
M1 is currently having a rough time, which has become pretty usual. She currently is wondering why the members gossip and keep secrets from each other if it's "Christ's church," which is fun because I think we all wonder the same thing at one time or another. The fact is, that no one is perfect, and we can't condemn a church because it let sinners come. He who hath no sin may cast the first stone, right? Worthiness does not require perfection, but honest and unceasing effort. She's doing really well, just not currently on a desirable path for us.
I. is awesome! She is so very honest, which is something I've come to value so much more here. Being honest is something where, when you're dealing with matters of a sensitive nature, for example, religion, is completely a must. Think about trying to lie directly to God. That's something which we all agree is less than appropriate e.g. Satan, Cain, etc. Anyway, back to the subject at hand, She doesn't believe in God STILL, however, we're trying something a little bit different with her. We just want her to talk to God, be as honest with him as she is with us. Like, if she hates him, tell him, if she doesn't believe in him, tell him, if she feels stupid about talking to him, let him know. The theory is, that no matter what she's saying, if she has a sincere heart and real intent, God will manifest himself to her. So now we just wait.
1.) Ok, now "to the nitty-gritty." I'd like to start with my mission plaque scripture: 1 Nephi 13:22. When you read that you might think I'm joking, but wait, there's more to it than just a sweet answer to JW's (they never want to read it, but you tell them they won't get an answer from God other than through the scriptures, it's so fun). So basically, imagine a slightly bigger but younger Elder Brousseau who's not an Elder yet. He is desperately scared to go on a mission. He has everything in life that he considers needed/good (e.g. Food, Parents, Piano, Girlfriend, Swimming, Xbox, Good High-Quality Friends), and doesn't see what he will gain going through two years without that stuff, talking about something he doesn't feel he understands. He tells his Mom he's scared, and she takes him to Apollo Burger during school (bloopbloopbloopbloop Level Up+1!) and she tells him that he doesn't really need anything other than a basis in testimony, and maybe it would be a good idea to read the Book that you're going to be talking about again. So I get there and realize something monumental: Nephi didn't understand the meaning of the [Bible]. Isn't that interesting? He was doing missionary work, essentially just trusting God that he would let him know what it was all about later. And God does! Really sweet. Fast forward a while. I'm so glad that I read that and allowed it to influence me the way it did, that is SO important to me. God hasn't revealed everything to me, in fact, the more I learn, the more I thirst to understand better, but I know that there is a sense to everything and that patience many times is more important than immediate results.
2.) 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 SOOO profound. I felt unsuccessful in much that I did as a missionary until I read this and realized what I was doing wrong. It's not wrong to be proud of being American, especially from Utah (I've never been more proud of that in my life), but it is wrong to be more proud of that than love the people of your mission. Missionary work changed for me when I started trying more than anything to be Slovak. People see, and people recognize your efforts. They feel your love more poignantly when you express it in their native way. You become more Christ-like trying to love people in the best way that they will understand. For me, being a consecrated missionary has been trying to be Slovak. Trying to be Slovak has deepened my love for God, and the scriptures, seeing them applied in the lives of more than just me and my family/friends. I love love love this application.
( 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.)
Hey, I don't have much time, so I'm going to just end, which is sorta awkward, but just know I'm so happy to be here, and I know the church is true. Be good!
Dang, well, I don't have much to say, I had a great week, and I am very tired. We're going to a BYU dance concert tonight, in which Cayel Tregagle is performing. I got to give him a tour of Blava earlier, and his group took first place in Praha last week, so that's cool. The dance group here is so full of life and energy, it is SO cool.
Monday: I already told you about Monday last week, but the fun thing is: in the last week, we've given 3 tours to big groups of Mormons in Blava, so I daresay I'm getting kind of good at it.
Tuesday: Nothing super big of note happened, other than our lesson with M1. We thought it was totally obvious that she prayed for us, but when I pointed it out during the lesson, it totally blew her mind. We'll hope that quickens her progress.
Wednesday: We had a really strange experience, where the lessons we thought were going to be absolutely terrible turned out amazing and the ones where we thought would be great turned out nasty. Haha, we taught a super flirty girl who we thought had bad expectations, but when we showed her the white handbook, she immediately took it as her mission to help us keep all of the rules. GREAT! We also taught a kid who we think might be a drug user, but he agreed to change and be baptized, we'll see what happens.
Thursday: Tried to contact the 2nd of the referrals Dad gave me. Turns out she moved a long time ago. Not sure what to do with that, but we got some great pizza. The first referral just sort of slammed their door in my face and yelled at me, then pretended like they weren't home, I'm not sure why, they just probably had a bad day.
Friday: We had a really fun day, the best part by far was heading up to the Batkovci to have dinner as a District. There's such a special spirit in the homes of the Branch Presidents here. They are all such elect men, I love it. Also, there's a return missionary who is staying with them while doing an internship here, in something that really interests me. Maybe I won't be majoring in computer science after all...
Saturday: We helped out S., and taught M1 again, then had a blow out at game night, there were 18 people there! So much fun, we almost didn't have enought activities!!!
Sunday: Wonderful as always, we taught W1 after church. The only hard thing is: M1 is still having a super rough time coping with the sacrament, and it's eating away at her resolve. Please pray for her, we know that if she doesn't take the step now, her life will go downhill really fast.
I'll tell you about today next week.
I love you guys, and I'm really proud of all of you.
Have a great week!
Well, in the words of an apostle, this week I think has been embodied by a phrase: "Go to the edge where miracles happen. Turn to the Lord in prayer, and go to the place where you will cry, "Without thy help I will fall. Help me fly." Welcome to the apostolic work." This week I feel like I appreciate the idea that the only Elders in the church are the apostles and the missionaries. Our mission president at training talked about how his job now for the church is to keep track of us for the rest of our lives, so we've been blessed/cursed with a young mission president who will live for quite a while, and one of my previous companions told me that, like it or not, coming to this mission in particular is training for us to be used later. Learning the things that we learn, seeing and feeling the culture and the church and the spirit here seem to be especially potent.
There's something special about serving a mission that really allows you to receive a deeper understanding of who you are, who you were, and who you're meant to be. I have found on my mission a real love for the gospel, and an appreciation for the connectivity of all things. I'll get to this more later.
So first in the week, I found out that I had been volunteered by my district to try and improve upon the gift of tongues. We had a "Meet the Mormons" night planned for Wednesday night, and previously in every other area, people who don't speak English have been presented with a paper that has a summary of the events in Slovak or whatever language they speak, just with main ideas so that they can continue to watch. In ours, they wanted something a little bit more, so I was volunteered to do a live translation into Slovak of the whole movie, so on Monday, we got ahold of a copy and watched it during language study and dinner so that I could write down the main ideas and remind myself of how to say certain things. It was one of the hardest things I've done on my whole mission, it was a lot more demanding than I thought it would be, but I got it done, and I'm really happy with the work I was able to do. I'm so grateful for the gift of tongues, and the abilities that the Lord has blessed the missionaries with throughout the world, this work would not be possible without his help and guidance. I really like a quote from a previous general authority, "If this church were not true, the missionaries would have destroyed it a long time ago."
We got to help out Brat V. last week, which is a special opportunity for us, he just barely moved into Bratislava, and he's not really one to ask for help, but it was really cool. We helped him clear a lot out behind his apartment.
We got to meed Elder Ferrell's family, who are really cool. I really like Elder Ferrell, he is a great man, and you can tell how much he loves his mission. I would greatly like to make a similar impression when I leave. His sister was really entertaining too, she had gone on her mission to San Antonio Texas right after the filming of the first District, so she got to tell us some funny stories about the missionaries we've been watching for our whole missions.
M1 has had a real roller-coaster of a week. She had her Birthday on the thirtieth, and on that day, her parents came to take her away and sever contact with us. Suffice it to say, she stayed, but she's pretty stressed. She was in fact, so stressed that she couldn't even answer the phone on Friday without crying, so she wouldn't even answer when we called. But Sunday was great, she came to church, where she had a pretty good experience, and tried to take the sacrament. The best though was teaching her with the entire Burton family. Uncle Ricky was really involved, making sure that she felt understood and comfortable, which he's really good at, and Johnny bore awesome testimony that she should be baptized. At the end of the meeting she was so happy, she has changed her attitude from No, I won't be baptized to, I want to be baptized. Isn't that a stark contrast?
The Burtons also helped out with M2. She has been kind of out of the loop the last little while, but this opened the door to keep talking to her, we're going to start trying to get her more integrated, specifically by making the decision to give her to the Sisters to teach. We hope that this will make her journey to baptism a whole lot shorter and more bearable.
On Thursday we had training, which was awesome, my favorite part was the AP's segment, where they went over extremely awkward contacting situations and how to deal with them. Mine was really great, I had to contact someone in a tram who would then yell at me to stop bothering everyone. It was so scary even in a practice, especially thinking of the memories I have of things like this happening before. It was a real spiritual builder to know there were other missionaries who have found ways to push through it and be truly fearless, and it's helped me to be better since then. The best part was, we were blessed to be put in cabins where there were people interested in the church who are often in Blava both to and from training, and we came out of it with a new investigator and an almost new investigator (she just needs to set up again).
On Friday we got to go with the Sisters to S's apartment, which was SWEET. She is an inactive member from really complicated reasons, because she is one of the most faithful people I've ever met. She just needs to come to church in BLAVA a little more often. She has a special talent of making everyone feel like they're the most important person in the world, which I am so jealous of, she's like Aunt Alisa and Aunt Karen.
We had a really cool fourth of July, where we celebrated in the building with sloppy joes and potatoe salad and soda and listened to traditional American music, super great. We also had a cool meeting with GM, a less active, who it seems doesn't really want to become active, but is slowly coming around. We'll continue to work with him. He came to church this week, so that's good.
Sunday was so special. After church, we tried to go out to Dlhe Diely to contact a referral, but the tramlines were closed that direction for some reason, so we ended up walking back to the building, and on that walk, I had a really bad feeling. It was HOT, I was not happy, I didn't think anyone would want to talk to us, and so of course, without us contacting anyone, a horde of people wanted to talk to us. Literally. It started with about 10 or 12 girls from Austria who came to Blava to as part of a dance group, then on the way back, a Tina Murphy from South Carolina who was part of a tour, and a couple of other women from the same tour group. Then a man stopped us in the heat of the sun on the main namestie where slowly a group gathered around us to talk to us. So cool. We almost missed the Burtons because we were talking to this group of people. Then we walked to Hviezdoslavovo, where we first saw Papa Johns and one of his daughters, and we got to talk to them for a little bit and the Cottles happened to walk by so we introduced them, and then the Burtons came up. I remember how absolutely surreal it was for a second, seeing my family in the place where I was serving, and not thinking it was real life, but that quickly went away. It was SO cool. We showed them a couple of cool little things here in Blava, and went to dinner at a really traditional Slovak place, it was cool, but the best part was sitting in the building for about an hour and teaching M1 with my family. Missionary work is by no means just for missionaries. Members are the best, if you're a member, help your missionaries, and if you're a missionary, put some trust in your members, they won't let you down.
Then today, just in time to practice for next week, we were taking a quick walking tour when of course out of the blue, about 12 people show up all happy to see the Elders. A couple of families in the Air Force stopped here in Blava on about a 4 hour lay-over, and we were able to show them around. Again, SO cool, I asked Sister Cottle after, why are Mormons just the best people ever? I don't know if I'll ever have an answer, but I think it's because of the gospel. I'm so excited as well, both families have oldest daughters about mission age, one of them has her call waiting for her right now while they travel, and the other one is trying to decide whether she should go. Elder Cahoon and I were able to help her get a little bit closer to the decided end of serving a mission, and that was cool. Also, I've been shown that missionaries have a much stronger taste for Halusky than normal people, about which I have mixed feelings.
Anyway, I'm so happy this week, it truly has been full of miracles. It's funny how the Lord works, on the weeks where you need absolutely no pick up, because you're working hard, and you feel good because you're working hard, he just sends you a whole lot of people just for kicks and giggles. So cool.
Lots of love,
Wow, I am so excited to still be able to write to you! This week has been quite bittersweet for me, but thankfully a lot more sweet than the former. We had the pleasure of entertaining Elder Cahoon (my new companion) and Elder Sherf (going home with Elder Ringger) in our apartment last Monday and Tuesday before they left for Prague, and we were all able to go teach M2 together. That meeting was kind of tough, it started out with her being super excited for baptism, like SUPER excited, we were planning everything out, and then we got to our lesson portion for the day: tithing. That was probably a poop decision, throughout the week she disappeared again, didn't show up for her baptismal interview and is being kind of hysterical, and I'm attributing it mostly to that bad timing. Too bad, now we're going to have to wait another month for her to calm down.
M1 is having a pretty hard time as well, her Mom when she went to Ziar nad Hronom left her standing on the doorstep at night, just because she hasn't completely split off contact with us. We love M1 so much, and she knows that, which is why she hasn't, after a year of meeting, she's finally starting to trust the missionaries, which means a lot to us, but now at this critical time (her date is on Tuesday) her parents have started to just kind of play with her feelings. Her mom sent her a letter saying that, "If you come back home and break off contact with the Mormons, then I will truly believe God is loving and good to us." She's an atheist, which can help us understand why that's hard for M1, who desperately wants her mom to believe in God, but at the same time wants to do what's right. Really interesting, but we're trying to be the best support we can be, and make sure she knows that we'll be her friends no matter what happens, but to listen to the Holy Ghost.
M4 is a little nutball. He just needs to be baptized. According to the things he says, he still doesn't completely understand what that means, and if he DID understand the cleansing and sanctifying power of christ manifest through baptism, he would have already been baptized a long time ago. He needs to let go of a lot of his pride, but that will come, no problem.
We randomly got like 9 referrals on Saturday night, and then I open my email, and what do you know? A couple more. It's like the Lord wants to make up for no referrals my whole mission here in my last little stretch. On a completely different note, M1 went to the hospital for a few days, but she still managed to pass her tests and is doing completely fine now. Also, suck it anti-material, we found out that part of the reason that W. decided to be baptized was watching the stupid temple video things online, and she's curious as to how it feels to actually go there. Instead of scaring her away, it made her want to join!
I'm doing great otherwise, things are going well with Elder Cahoon, and I'm having fun being a missionary. Thanks for your support and all you do. Steve, stop laughing.