Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas!!!!! (Week 42)


First of all Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone, hopefully everyone had a wonderful Christmas full of joy and thoughts about the Savior.

I can happily report that Christmas was/is amazing here in Poland. All my hopes and dreams of what a Polish Christmas would look like have come true, including having 60F weather.

We're Handing out Free Hot Chocolate
I guess I'll just work my way through all the fun activities that happened this week. We started out the week trying to set up with people for meetings, but everyone that we have been teaching is out of town/cant meet because of Christmas, so we started focusing a lot more on finding service type activities to do which have been amazing.

Our first big thing happened on Wednesday, which is the day before Christmas Eve. We went to this Retirement home and sang at their Wigilia (Christmas Eve) Party. We thought it was going to be a lot less of a big deal than it was, so we were kinda unprepared, but the old people loved it. They were singing along to all the Polish Christmas Carols, and liked our American songs as well. It was super cool. Then after we sang we got to sit down with them and eat a traditional Polish Wigilia meal, which was a miracle because we were convinced that we weren't going to be able to try it, and for Elders Cowley Jeffs and Burdick this was their last chance to get a Polish Wilgilia dinner because they didn't get one last year. It was awesome.

Gift from American Families at the Embassy
So after we sang, we went to go sit down and I sat next to these two old polish grandmas. They were super excited that I was eating everything for the first time and made sure I tried everything. It was really funny, I sat down and ate a little bit of the Cabbage stew but the old ladies took it away from me, even though it was really good, because they claimed it was terrible and not worth eating, so they wouldn't let me finish it. But later in the meal they had me try the Śledź, which is pretty much Carp inside a savory Jello with carrots and peas and stuff inside the Jello. It was pretty nasty to be completely honest... But they wouldn't let me stop eating it, they watched me eat the whole thing, I was the only missionary to be able to finish all their Śledź, because I had to.

Lots of good stuff
Then after the meal the two ladies asked me to help them carry their bags up to their room, so Elder Cowley and I went up with them. Then we talked to one of them for like 5 minutes and she asked about how we liked Warsaw and showed us around her room, then as we were leaving she shakes our hands and starts crying and said "I hope you will think the best of all of us here in Warsaw" then gave us a Polish blessing (ill explain what that is) and then the other lady came back from her room and put all these Chocolate bars into our hands. It was one of the coolest moments of my mission for sure.

So Polish blessings are really cool, people do it all the time around Christmas (and occasionally at other times) they basically hold you hand with both of their hands and wish you a big long list of blessings. For example you could say "I wish you everything the best, health, fortune in the new year, that your family ties will be strengthened, that you will be warm through the winter..." and it can go on for like 5 minutes. Definitely one of my favorite things Polish people do.

A guy brought a Christmas tree onto the train
After the Retirement home we went with the APs to go do our free hot chocolate stand. It was awesome, Elder Jeffs put on his Santa suit and we gave out free hot chocolate and talked to people about Christmas. Then towards the end of that we hear someone say "Hey look, its the missionaries" in English, so of course we talked to them. It was this American couple who have been here for about a month adopting these 3 super cool Polish kids. The kids were hilarious, they were running around yelling stuff in Polish that made no sense. Its funny because the parents understand 0 polish, but even after only 1 month with the kids they clearly had a really good relationship. Its amazing how loving little kids are.

Then on Christmas Eve in the afternoon we had a meal with all the missionaries and a couple other members who didn't have anywhere to go for the holidays. It was really special getting to spend time with everyone there.

In the Evening on Christmas Eve we went with Elders Jeffs, Burdick, Wynne, and Torres and ran around Centrum caroling to everyone. We went to the train station and sang carols for the people working there and also the people waiting for trains. It was super cool. There were tons of homeless people who came up to us and requested specific songs, which we played/sang for them. It was a really cool experience being able to make some people smile, especially the homeless people and the train station workers who couldn't be home for Christmas Eve.

That night we stayed over at the Assistant's apartment so that we could start caroling again the next morning. We all opened our presents there and hung out, we called a bunch of people and sang to them through the phone. We heard that Lublin was having a rough time (they are a 4 man city and apparently Christmas was pretty depressing down there) so we called them and sang them a bunch of Carols. Elder Connelly told us later that it helped them out a lot that we did that, so it was awesome. We also called Sister Edgren and sang to her and President.

In the morning we slept in until 8, which was President's Christmas present to the mission :) then we ate all our American Cereal and had studies. Then we continued our Caroling session, this time with Sisters Carlson and Craig instead of Elders Wynne and Torres. It was really fun, then we went and skyped our families, which was amazing.

And that was my Christmas in a nutshell. It truly was a magical time, I'm glad I got to spend it here in Poland, with the wonderful Polish people. I love the people here, and I love me mission.

Love you, and miss you all!
Elder Everett

PS... Also I am getting transferred back to Kraków where I will be District Leader to serve with Elder Wilcox as Zone leaders! Super excited for that!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas time is here! (Week 41)

Well, as transfers approach things have been getting kinda crazy. I was just flipping through my planner seeing what we did this week and it was pretty much a madhouse up here in Warsaw.

Elder Wilcox
Since Christmas is this Friday we have been doing a couple different things to get prepared for that, for example we have been going to all kinds of retirement homes, homeless shelters, and children's hospitals trying to find service/seeing if we can do caroling. Elder Cowley and I found a pretty good gig at this Retirement home. We went in and talked to the director and she was super excited that we were there and asked us to go on Wednesday and do a big old performance, we are basically their Christmas party. So we are going to do that and it's going to be awesome.

Other than that we have been doing caroling on the Rynek and handing out "A Savior is Born" passalong cards. We were actually just doing that last night, we invited some members and the other Warsaw district and we went and sang carols and talked to people. Elder Jeffs was given a Santa suit by President Edgren and little kids kept coming up to him and talking to him. It was pretty hilarious. He introduced himself as American Santa.

Old Town
Cool miracle that happened yesterday, in order to explain this I need to go back to All Saints Day at the beginning of the transfer. During the Open House on All Saints Day this guy Marek came in and started talking to Bogdan (Member). Bogdan is awesome, he has a lot of enthusiasm about the gospel, but he sometimes gets a little too excited and tells people a little too much. He talked to Marek for like and hour before we noticed and went and talked with them. At the end we gave Marek a Book of Mormon and got his phone number. Ever since then I have been calling him trying to set up a meeting and he always says that he will be in church and we can talk then. But he never came... Until yesterday. He came and he has read half the Book of Mormon already, he was super into Gospel Principles class and asked if he could borrow the book. Elder Cowley was talking to him and he said that he already feels like this church is true, so we will see where that goes. Also he really liked church, he said he felt the Spirit really strong. Super cool.

On Tuesday I had an Exchange with Elder Jeffs, because the Assistents do exchanges with all the Zone Leaders. It was awesome, he is super cool. We talked about being Assistent a little bit, he said that he was surprised at how involved they are in Transfers. To the extent that they decide some of the Transfers and President gives the okay. Elder Cowley and I tried our best to squeeze some information out of them about where we are going/what is happening next transfer but to no avail.

While we were on exchange we met with some cool guys, Michał is a former from like a year ago that got in contact with the sisters in Kraków somehow and asked to meet. He is awesome, he's about 28 years old, and is an entrepreneur. In high school he said he did Bible Competitions, which is a state sponsered sport apparently. And he even got extra points toward his college admissions when he won competitions.

We also met with Nazar, who is Ukrainian. He was really really cool, the sisters contacted him on a tram and he was mostly interested in English, but we slipped in a gospel lesson at the end. 

Other than that we are still meeting with Bogdan and Anatolii, Bogdan is going back to visit their family in Ukraine on Tuesday but Anatolii has to stay here because he is waiting on his Visa. We met with Anatolii on Saturday and it was a really good lesson. We talked a lot about Baptism, he wouldn't agree to a date to be baptized, but is going to pray about it. Bogdan has a huge test today so unfortunately he couldn't make it to the meeting.

Jessica asked about my French investigator. He is actually from Rhuonda, but he speaks French mainly, and medium English and Polish. If I spoke better french we could just teach him in French (its slow going trying to teach in English). He is busy through the holidays, so we are meeting with him again in January.

Sunday was fun, we had a Christmas Program put on by the Jones's in church. The missionaries sang a lot, and a lot of it was in English, but it was really good despite the amount of English that went on. But besides that there were a ton of non-members in Church. I think every companionship had at least one investigator in church. It was epic.

Then Sunday night we went around with the Jones's and drove to every missionary apartment in Warsaw I. They had to do cleaning checks, but they don't know how to work a GPS or find any of the apartments so we went with them. It was pretty fun. Also I got a big bag of Swedish Fish from the assistants so that was cool.

Alright, that's it for this week!

Love you and talk to you soon! 
-Elder Everett

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Nie płacz, Starszeczku!" - Barbara (Week 40)


Another great week in Warsaw! The weather is still warm, its about 7 degrees Celsius. It was even warmer earlier this week, so maybe we wont get a white Christmas this year... We will have to see. There are only 2 more weeks of this transfer, but President kinda hinted that Elder Cowley and I might be staying together for another transfer, and by hinted I mean he told us that we were probably going to stay together because next transfer is only 7 weeks anyway.

Elder Everett as King Herod
We had our Branch Christmas party on Saturday, which ate up a lot of our Friday and almost all our Sunday. We helped set everything up and make food, it was funny while we were cooking because Elder Cowley and I were cutting onions, but onions are a lot stronger here than in the States. I was completely weeping, I could barely keep my eyes open they were watering so bad. And Barbara (a member) kept making fun of me, "Nie płacz, Starszeczku!" "Don't cry, Elder (super diminutized form of Elder though, so it was more funny)." So yeah, that was fun, then on Saturday we had the actual party. I got enlisted to play the part of Herod in the Primary program, I am 100% sure that Sister Edgren took pictures of that, so if she didn't send them to you, you can probably find them on Facebook or her Instagram or something.

That was really fun, and Bogdan and Anatol came so it was really good. They got to meet the branch president and a couple other members, as well as all the other missionaries and President Edgren.

Something really funny, well funny for us, happened on Friday. During studies we got a call from Sister Carlson, we had planned a whiteboard with them for later that day so I picked up the phone and she was like "Hey, sorry the whiteboard's off... And... all the sisters have lice, so can you get us some lice shampoo." It was kinda hilarious, we spent all morning going around town finding Lice shampoo and bringing it to the sisters, because the sisters live way far away from us, the first set of them are on Wola which is kinda close, like 30 minutes away, but the other ones are on Bemowo, about an extra 45 minutes away from where the other sisters are, so we spent all morning doing that, then we went to the chapel to start helping the Branch President set up for the Christmas party. Fun!

Speaking of spending all day doing things, yesterday we went to Białystok again. We had a 7:30 train so we had to get up a little bit early, then we went to Białystok, where it is much colder than here, and it was raining all morning. Then after Church we were planning on going to visit Patrycja's Grandma, but she canceled on us, and we had a referral to visit out there, but he told us he wasn't going to be home, so we had planning on being there until 17, but at this point it was 12, and we had nothing to do out there. So we went to the Dworzec to try and find a way to switch our train time, but we couldn't switch it. Luckily Sister Jones is a lifesaver, and she let us buy another train ticket for earlier and we got to go home on a 13:30 train so we spent most of the night in Warsaw, instead of being stuck 3 hours away from home for the whole afternoon. 

We sat with a really cool guy on the way to Białystok on the train. His name was Adam, and he was a Pentecostal. Which is super cool because there are very very few Protestants in Poland. I asked him to share his conversion story with us because I have found the Pentecostals tend to have pretty cool stories to share, he told us about how some little girl cut off part of her hand (I didn't quite understand how that happened) then the whole Pentecostal congregation at this wedding prayed and her hand was miraculously healed. Goes to show that faith really can work miracles. I shared with him the Joseph Smith story, I have found that Pentecostals really like the First Vision story because they are totally into God appearing to people and Angels and things like that. He was really really nice.

I got to go on exchange with Elder Wilcox from Łódź, he came up here and we served in our area. It was really fun, we took dinner down on the Old Town and saw the massive Christmas tree they have set up there. We got to do some good missionary work too, we met with this man named Marcin. We are trying to work with him on getting his life in order, he is currently out of a job, and we are pretty sure he is homeless. He is really cool though, and love learning about the church. And he has been to church like 10 times so that is cool.

Funny story about the beginning of the Exchange. On Monday night we put Elder Cowley on the train, then I was hanging out with Elders Burdick and Jeffs. So we were driving away from the Dworzec and we get a call from Elder Wilcox, who had missed his train. And we realized a couple minutes later that I forgot to get the keys from Elder Cowley. So I got to sleep at the AP apartment for the night, without being able to go to my apartment for toiletries or a change of clothes or anything, it was pretty fun. It was actually really fun staying with the Assistants, they are both hilarious.

It all ended up working out though, because Elder Wilcox came in early the next morning (they woke up at 4:30 to make the train) with the keys, and I got to get in the shower and get everything in order without any problems.

Well, that's going to be it for this week.

-Elder Everett

Monday, December 7, 2015

"What even is the church in America" -Elder Jeffs (Week 39)


Unfortunately we are running extremely low on time right now, so I only have time for a short email!

We started the week off with an exchange with Elders Wynne and Torres, I was with Elder Wynne in our apartment which was really cool. It was strange being with him, because he was my trainer and everything. It felt like tables were turned a little bit haha.

Other than that, we are meeting with some cool people. A man named Emmanuel accepted a baptismal date for the 9th of January, so that will be cool. He is from Africa and his native language is French, I sure wish I had studied better in high school now! I might be able to actually communicate with him in french.

Since this email is so short I'll share a little bit of a spiritual though, along with the quote from Elder Jeffs that is my subject line. He said this during a conversation we were having about the church here. Its crazy because here the church is so small, and sometimes does not function very well, but the foundations of the gospel still hold strong. The church is built upon the rock of revelation, and because of that we know that everything in the church is inspired, and that it comes from a divine source. Even though surface level imperfections may arise, in the core we are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Love you tons!
-Elder Everett