Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28, 2015 - The Last Email - In which we're eye candy at the senior center and celebrate the Savior's birth

Dear family,

A lot has happened during this week! We had a wonderful Christmas week. It was all about giving, serving, and the Savior.

Tuesday after I wrote last we had a Christmas zone conference in Brno. A lot like last year, we met at the central square, where we all looked at the Christmas market for some goodies and then we sang a few carols in the middle of the square before heading off to the church building for training. We talked a lot about Czech and Slovak traditions and the Christmas story and why they're important. At the beginning the sister training leaders told us about one tradition that I particularly enjoyed, where Christmas dinner no one is allowed to get up from the table before everyone stands up together or the next year someone won't be there with them. Some families tie the chairs physically together to keep that from happening, and we tied all of the chairs in the chapel together during training. I liked it because it reminded me of how important families are to the Czechs and Slovaks and how the gospel offers eternal family relationships. (At Christmas Eve dinner on Thursday with our members we didn't tie our chairs together, but we make sure to wait before standing up.)

Thursday (and also Saturday) we spent the day out doing short visits at each of the members of our branch. We dropped by each of them and gave them a little ornament and card that we had made and showed the Church's Christmas campaign video to each of them off our portable DVD player. We focused on how though we're only missionaries and don't have much to give, the main thing that we have is our testimonies.

Between those two days we made it to every active member and few less-active members and investigators, and we even woke up our branch president's family at 9 am on Christmas Eve. He and his wife had been up all night doing the Czech equivalent of Santa's elves (getting Ježíšek's presents ready). We also had a great visit at a part member family. The mother is older and her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend live with her. The daughter's boyfriend is not a member, but he had lots of great questions about our missionary work and there was a great friendly atmosphere during the visit. We saw lots of miracles kind of like that actually, though I don't have time to mention them all! We were able to visit Christmas Eve and Boxing Day many people who seemed a little alone or discouraged. I felt like we were truly doing what Christ would be doing and it was wonderful to be able to truly reach out to our members and investigators.

Christmas Eve we had a tradition Christmas experience with a member family. We sat down to each carp and potato salad (yum!) and then at the end of dinner a bell rang announce the coming of Ježíšek, baby Jesus. (In the Czech Republic baby Jesus delivers the gifts after Christmas Eve dinner). We opened presents together (we even got some some socks and a tie!) and spent the evening showing each other photos.

Christmas day we were in a senior center singing carols. The center that we were at was pretty large, and they had groups of patients gathered on each of the five floors to sing to. Once again we felt like we were in the right spot singing to the sick and alone on Christmas day. I was so impressed by some of the workers there. I could tell by the way they treated the patients that they saw working there as some sort of a greater calling and they cared for the patients so attentively.

Some of the patients were very funny! A few of the older ladies were very taken that such "beautiful" young men would come to sing and were sure to let us know that they would be happy to see us again the next year. One particular older lady expressed the need to find us nice young ladies immediately and said, "I don't know which one to stare at longer!" It was a little strange to be old lady eye candy, but it was overall a great experience. Most of the nurses and other workers were also very grateful that we had come and told us to come back next year.

It's very difficult to come home. Last week I gave my departing testimony and both zone conference and yesterday in sacrament meeting. I've been saying goodbyes to many friends. Today the elder that will serve in Zlín with Elder Newman this transfer, Elder Rees, came. I've been blessed with experiences lately that have helped me to not be so terrified of coming home, and I'm excited to see you all there, but there will always be a part of me here and it hurts to leave.

I'm so grateful for my mission experience. I've seen on my mission that we are never alone and that the Lord truly walks with us during good times and bad. The most common question that I've ever received during my mission from people I've taught is "Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur?" It can be difficult for people to understand the answer to that question, but I know that good or bad, Jesus Christ is by our side during every moment. If we take a look around we'll notice Him. I know that He lives.

I love you a lot, and I'm grateful for your support during my mission. See you soon!

Elder Boyce

In Brno before training! (We gave this photo to all of our members in the Christmas card! )

Me with trainees (Elder Smith is missing) at zone conference (Elder Page is training a new missionary and district leader this transfer in Olomouc. This is another proud parent moment!)

Ježíšek came!!!!!!!!

Another pretty church we saw doing Christmas visits in Jasenná

Saw this doing Christmas visits in Kroměříž!

This morning I made a rash decision and decided to buy McDonald's with a Czech twist; this hamburger had a slab of deep-fried cheese in it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21, 2015 - In which we sing in UH

Dear family,

Last week was crazy! We were very busy getting ready for Christmas and everything connected with it. It was very hectic. Saturday night we had our concert in Uherské Hradiště, which was very nice. I sent a photo, but we were in a pretty space in the city bordering UH. There were 30 or 40 or so of us singing, the UH primary did a couple of numbers, and it was overall all very nice, especially since Elder Newman and I had only made it to rehearsals a couple of times. We sang some carols more familiar to us plus a few more traditional Czech ones. It was great fun, and it looked like some journalists or some sort of professional photographers were there, so we might be able to find better photos on the Internet of it all :) One of the photographers got a close-up of my name tag, so maybe that's floating around there somewhere!

We were also really busy looking for a service opportunity for Christmas Day. We had been looking for almost a month, but we still hadn't found a place that wouldn't us to help serve on Christmas Day. Thursday and Friday we spent a ton of time each day stopping by the nursing homes, etc. that we hadn't tried yet. Friday it was crunch time and in the last couple of hours we stopped by all the remaining places on our list before we had to get on a bus for the last concert rehearsal in UH. At the last place on our list they accepted us!! We're set up to go to a nursing home and sing from room to room Christmas morning. After we were set up with the activities director and were waiting for her to introduce us to someone that will be on the Christmas morning shift, we chatted with some of the residents that were sitting in the halls. We asked them how they were doing and immediately began to regale us how their great-grandchildren are our age, their children are also already in retirement, and they're waiting to leave this world. We're super excited to sing Christmas carols for them on Friday!!! :D

Tuesday night was also culture night in UH (we spent an obscene of time in UH last week; we went there three times total). We saw a very nice classical music concert that used some unique period instruments. It was a lot of fun. We stayed overnight with the other Elders and on Wednesday morning we had my last district meeting. The district leader Elder Suwyn asked me to share the sagely advice I gained during my mission. I was a little bit of an emotional train wreck, but it was still a good meeting. The Spirit was definitely there.

In other news yesterday was the Primary program! It was really cute. We only have two kids in our Primary, a brother and sister, but they did really well. I accompanied for them, but even though I practiced a lot I suddenly realized that I had play pretty quietly and listen really carefully to them sing because I didn't want to overpower them or get off track. It was still very nice, though :) Last week was a little frustrating because we had exactly one lesson during the whole week and people didn't really listen to us or stop when we were contacting, and on Tuesday I wasn't feeling well again, but last night we went caroling and had a wonderful time. We had a completely different experience a completely different experience then the rest of the week. Everyone was really friendly, and even though every person that we knocked was pretty confused by what we were doing caroling (going door to door hasn't been a tradition except out in the county for many many many years supposedly), they all warmed up and the Spirit was with us as we explained why we were singing about the Savior and why we were in the Czech Republic to teach about Him. We had some great moments talking to people about it. I love how Christmas and all of the Czech traditions seem to relate to their hopes and aspirations for a brighter future, and it was wonderful to talk during the Christmas season about how Christ can offer that.

I'm out of time (we just had some slight technical difficulties), but we're excited for our Christmas week. Tomorrow is zone conference in Brno, which will be great. It's sad, though, because I'll be giving my departing testimony. Time has really flown. It will be wonderful to spend Christmas with the Czechs, though. Christmas Eve we'll have dinner with a member family here in Zlín, then we'll have our singing Christmas morning. I'm super excited for everything!

Talk to you on Friday! Love,
Elder Boyce

P.S. Feel free to correct my grammar errors, also. English is really hard.

Tuesday night we had culture night in UH. We saw a trio of people that played Mozart and other classical music on very interesting clarinet-like instruments. I have no idea what the instruments are called in English, but in Czech they were called a basetový roh. It was a nice evening, and we stayed in UH overnight because we had district meeting there the next morning.

This was the outside of the place where we were. We also ended up meeting a bunch of UH members there!

We were intrigued by this fountain.

Selfie yay (I stole this from Elder Hymas). The red-eye is pretty severe in this photo; we look slightly devilish.

Christmas tree on the square in UH. Everything was already closed up after the concert.

This is the space where we had the Christmas concert in UH. We were waiting for everyone to arrive so we could warm up.

Elder Newman and I while waiting.

Elder Newman, Elder Hymas, and I. I don't know why Elder Hymas was feeling so sassy.

Instead of making cookies at Christmas, Czech people typically make these smaller treats called cukroví. They're sooooooo good. This morning we visited Sister Dwho gave us all these. We only made it through a few of them, so she threw the rest into two big tupperwares.

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14, 2015 - In which we have a proper run-in with the police

Dear family,

Last week was at once really good and also really difficult. I was feeling pretty sick for a lot of the week. Wednesday afternoon we were out working but I felt really strongly I was about to throw up, so we had to head back in for the night. I was out for a lot of Thursday, as well, unfortunately. I think a lot of it was mostly due to stress. Friday I got a blessing from Elder Newman, though, and I've been feeling so much less stressed, though my body still feels disgusting. The blessing helped because Elder Newman mentioned things that address specific concerns that I've only talked about with President. I've been feeling a lot more calm during the last couple of days, and I haven't been actively stressing. As I said my body still feels like it's falling apart, but I've been doing better at pushing through the physical discomfort.

Last week was a slower week for our area, but we still saw some miracles. We didn't have the greatest contact with the people in our teaching pool with everything that went on with me, but we still some some miracles, though. Friday night we found a great family in Otrokovice, a city at the edge of our proselyting area. They're really great, and it seems like the Lord has been preparing them. About a month ago the dad's brother suddenly died, but he was a big spiritual influence on the family that we're teaching and they seem to be looking for a stronger connection to God. They have LOTS of questions that are answered by the plan of salvation. Last night we had a return appointment, but they were sick so we went tracting instead.

While we were tracting I had my first (and hopefully only) proper encounter with the police! While we were out someone apparently filed a complaint after we knocked on their door and the officers went looking for us. It was slightly terrifying at the beginning, then got boring really fast. They basically told us that in Otrokovice it's against some sort of city code to go from door to door offering things, and then we had to wait for their partners to come from the national police for like 45 minutes (I'm not certain why the national people had to come; they didn't ask us almost anything at all). So we made small talk. They were really interested in us being Americans, but significantly less interested in religion :)

This week will be exciting. Yesterday we got rounded into the Uherské Hradiště branch's Christmas concert, which will be this Saturday. We had talked about taking part several weeks ago about taking part, but hadn't heard anything until the beginning of Sacrament Meeting yesterday in Zlín, when we found out that if we wanted to still take part there was a carload of Zlín members going to practice in UH right after sacrament meeting ends. So we practiced yesterday, and have another practice in about 25 minutes with other Zlín members, and the last rehearsal this Friday in UH. Even though we got roped in at the last second, it will be lots of the fun and the music is pretty familiar :)

That's about it for this week! Till next week!

Elder Boyce

This is the nativity that I bought last year.

The market keeps growing; there are twice as many stands as before!

They have a band every weekend and a projection of a children's cartoon every night.

Another view of the food vendors.

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7, 2015 - In which I eat volleyballs and turkey

Dear family,

Let me tell you what happened each day :)

Monday: Nothing much happened. I slept according to orders from President :)

Tuesday was a pretty normal day! We had English classes in the evening, and we met a few nice people while we were out working.

Wednesday: We had district meeting in Uherské Hradiště. It was a good district meeting, we talked about talking to everyone. It was just what we needed. Afterwards I had stayed in UH with Elder Chapple. We had a pretty good exchange. In the evening we had an appointment at someone's house that fell through and we decided to try tracting the neighboring houses. We met a REALLY nice mother of some cute little boys that we gave a Book of Mormon to and wants the UH elders to return sometime this week.

Thursday: We finished the exchange with Elder Chapple. We headed back to Zlín, where I was going to stay with Elder Suwyn while we sent Elder Chapple and Elder Newman (our companions) off to Prague together for visa work. Elder Chapple and I were already in the bus back to Zlín, and then I asked the fatal question: "Do you have everything that you need for visa work?" and then get the fatal response: "Wait, what do I need for visa work?" He hadn't been told that he needed his insurance card, so we had to get off the bus and walked back into UH. Fortunately we were still only at the outskirts. We had a good laugh about it (or at least I did!) and decided that that was one of the funny moments that I'll cherish looking back at my mission because we were quite the sight, each of us carrying all of the things we needed for two days in grocery bags. Everything worked out, though, and they eventually made it to Prague.

Once we got them on their way Elder Suwyn and I had a good exchange. It was one of the sort of evenings where everyone was willing to talk to us! :)

Friday: In the morning Elder Suwyn and I had a lesson with I. She had been met by missionaries a long time ago but hasn't been making much progress. She's so nice, but she's not looking for a change and so we probably won't see much of each other in the future. In the afternoon we went looking for a service project to do Christmas Morning and talked to a really nice lady at the hospital! We might be able to sing in the long-term care ward Christmas Morning. After that we went back to Elder Suwyn's area in UH and worked until our companions came back from Prague. We stayed in UH for the night.

Saturday: We had a huge volleyball tournament in UH! Members came from all over Moravia, and there were also quite a few missionaries there. There's always a missionary team, and we did pretty well! We got second place in our track, tied for third overall. My glasses broke, though. On the way back we had a huge delay, (we got stranded in a town where we were supposed to have made a connection), and by the time we got back we only had an hour to work in Zlín. We went out, though, and met someone that we're going to meet with tomorrow (M) and a nice mother that will meet with the sisters in Pardubice.

Sunday: Pretty normal. We went to church and had a nice time with the members. I'm going to be the accompanist for the Primary program on the 28th (we have two kids in our Primary but they're going all out still) and we got a couple of invitations from members to come over for Christmas.

Today: We finally had Thanksgiving! You can see the pictures on the blog, but everything was tasty!

I'm about out of time (I actually really have to run), but we had a good week. There were a few moments that could have been frustrating, but we hugged it and we focused on working hard.

Elder Boyce
Sticking herb butter under the turkey skin was fun :)

This is serious business.


DELICIOUS! My first turkey went really well. It also cooked extremely fast; the turkey weighed only eight pounds and it cooked up in about about an hour and forty-five minutes.

We didn't have much seating, so Elder Newman and I sat at our study desks. We had turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, salad, and crystal light. Simple Thanksgiving, but it was tasty! :) After we had chocolate pie (it turned out really runny again!), pumpkin pie, and ice cream.

A nice​ view of our study desks and our district.
You may have noticed that I'm not wearing my general authority glasses, wellllll that's because they're no more. Last Saturday we had a big volleyball tournament and at one point I was standing of to the side talking to another missionary and a member and a ball came flying from nowhere and hit my face. The glasses lost.
On the way back from the tournament we were supposed to transfer on to a different bus in this city, Uherský Brod. Our first bus, though, was late coming in and we missed our connection. We were stuck here for a little bit in still our sports clothes. Eventually we got a train back, but in the end it took about 3 hours for us to get back to Zlín from Uherské Hradiště instead of 45 minutes like it was supposed to! It was a funny time, because I couldn't see a thing :)

I was very sad about my glasses :[

Oh, my.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015 - In which Christmas comes!

Dear family,

Last week was interesting. Looking back I'm kind of struggling to pull too much together because I feel like I was in a fog for a lot of the week. We still did our best, though, and had some good experiences.

We weren't able to meet with our investigators or D (because of sickness and various scheduling issues) so we spent a lot of time finding :) One night during nightly planning we decided that the next day we were going to place a particular focus on finding YSA males and while we still talked to everyone those were the only people that stopped for us! Though we had some great lessons on the street together, they weren't interested in finding out more at that time, but it was still a good experience

We weren't able to meet to teach J and M, but we dropped by to give them a thank-you gift and note one night last week and it was we had a nice conversation. Neither D nor the J and M came to church because they were gone somewhere for the weekend, but we're hoping to see them this week.

Last week we had a nice visit with Sister D and helped her pick up firewood with her son-in-law who's not a member so that was also nice contact.

Christmas is in full swing in Zlín! In preparation for Christmas we brainstormed a lot of different finding ideas. We're trying to find new investigators to build up our teaching pool, and for Christmas we're going to try to set up caroling with our members, some building tours, and so on. We also tried tracting out in Otrokovice (a neighboring city that's in our area) last week, which led to some pretty good conversations. One very nice man tried really hard to get us some traditional Czech plum brandy, but we eventually convinced him that we wouldn't have any and he sent us on our way with a new carton of apple juice :)

Last week was kind of hard physically from getting back from getting sick last week. Also in President McConkie's words my body is falling apart at the end of my mission. Yesterday after church I kind of collapsed. Elder Newman was concerned so he called Sister McConkie, who ordered me to take a nap, and then President called me later and we chatted for a bit before he ordered me to stay inside and sleep literally all day except for emailing and grocery shopping so I can reboot for the upcoming week :) It's kind of frustrating because I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY AT CHRISTMASTIME and it's been a struggle to function normally, but this week I'm certain will be better. We're also really busy this week; we have two exchanges and Saturday is a huge regional volleyball tournament/Christmas shindig in UH.

We're going to work hard this week, but I'll make sure to not kill myself :) Thanks for everything and have a great week!

Elder Boyce

The Christmas market on the square.

Last night night was the Christmas tree lighting and the Christmas market opened.

A closer look at the market on the square.

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015 - In which I get sick, the first snow arrives, and we find an oven-ready turkey

Dear family,

Last week was peculiar! :D It really flew by, partly because I came down with a fever and spent two days of it sleeping. We also had zone conference in Brno, and a few other exciting adventures. I'm not quite certain how to organize my thoughts, but we'll give it a go.

Wednesday we had zone conference in Brno! It was great. It was all about hard work, and during the practice of the Sister Trainer Leader's section we surprised some of the younger missionaries by suddenly handing out envelopes with tram tickets about where to go to contacting for 30 minutes. Some of the older missionaries were in on it (for example President me with the district leaders and the during a reporting meeting before the conference started) but it was a fun training. We raced out, each with someone other than their normal companion, and had a really productive 30 minute session. I talked to some really great people in the tram.

Thursday after we came home I started to not feel too well. I made it through the day and did English at the autism center and had a good lesson with D, but then Friday and Saturday I kind of crashed and we didn't really leave the apartment. I was really touched because when the word got out to the branch Saturday night that I was sick I got a phone call from J and M who were very concerned for me because I don't have a mom in the Czech Republic :) They made sure I had enough medicine, that I was drinking enough tea with honey, and so on. They brought soup the next day at church, also. I was in contact with Sister McConkie a lot (she actually is our mom in the Czech Republic) and the McConkies were in Zlín Saturday night and Sunday for branch conference. When they got to Zlín they dropped by with some NyQuil, more tea, and candy and pizza :)

Sunday we had a huge turnout out church for branch conference! There were a ton of auxiliary leaders from other branches, a few less-active members, and even a former investigator from my English class that seems to be thinking more about faith came. It was a great meeting, all the speakers talked about things that I would want my members and investigators to hear about, the Spirit was there strongly, and I even had fun translating the meeting into English for Sister McConkie (I haven't needed to translate anything for months).

Even though I was sick and time is racing by (I feel like I'm racing against the clock) I've been having a great time and have just been doing my best to work hard. We have a saying in our mission: "Hug it." It means to embrace everything that happens, good or bad, as a part of the experience. It also ties back to cheerfully doing all things that lie in our power and letting God take care of the rest (see D&C 123:17), or to the saying "Come what may, and love it," (which is what Joseph B. Wirthlin's mother would say to him), but that idea has helped me a lot throughout my mission and especially during the last week while I was sick and couldn't go outside to talk to people. Sometimes the decisions that others make are also challenging to accept, but I'm so blessed to still be here in Zlín and that I have a whole month left to serve during Christmas!!!! Basically during the last week I've been hugging it.

There's lots more to say about this week. This week the first snow of the season came (nothing stuck, though), Christmas lights and the traditional Christmas market are going up on the square (they're lighting the city Christmas tree Sunday night!), and a tipsy lady got a little handsy with my companion and I (we ran away). Next p-day we'll have Thanksgiving dinner. I'm in charge of the turkey and the chocolate pie (we were really surprised today and found a proper American freezer turkey!!). I have no time to tell you about it, though :) For now, have a great week! Happy Thanksgiving! Be greatful! Hug it!!!

Elder Boyce

Last Tuesday was a state holiday celebrating the Velvet Revolution (the bloodless revolution which marked the change from socialism/communism to democracy in then-Czechoslovakia) and we while we were contacting about our English classes we found this very communist-looking statue. I, naturally, had to photograph myself mirroring its pose :)))

We walk over this bridge every day and last week we saw these crutches lying in the middle of the river. We pictured some man or woman, frustrated by the day-to-day struggles of life in crutches, throwing them over the bridge and striding away confidently in a new-crutches free life.

I tried to get a good photo of the clouds out my my window in the bus ride to zone conference but things kept on blurring up the photo. It's a pretty good likeness of the colors, though. We took an early bus so the sun wasn't up all the way yet.

This was later, when the sun had come up a little more.

A member surprised me with this

As you can see, we're going to starve this week. Actually definitely not. We cook a lot.

You can kind of see it in this photo, but it starting snowing today at lunchtime. I was shocked.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16, 2015 - In which I send a quick update

Dear family,

We had a pretty interesting week! I already don't have much time somehow but I'll make it quick.

We had a good lesson with a Sister K on Tuesday. She's about 30 years old and her mother was also at the lesson. She can't see very well but she as a machine that can read things aloud for her. We talked about the Restoration, and she told us that she wants to find out if the Book of Mormon is true or not. We should see her later this week :)

During the weekend we had district conference (like stake conference), which we watched through the Internet from the chapel in Zlín. It was held in Brno, where a lot of our members traveled to. It was nice to be able to see so many members that I've met during my mission speaking at the conference. This Wednesday we also have missionary zone conference with the missionaries from the eastern half of the Czech Republic and Sunday will be branch conference.

Don't have too much to update you with D or Sister D. We had a meeting with D last week but his work let him out really late and by the time he made it into Zlín he had to continue on again. Not his fault. We'll see him on Thursday when we'll have a lesson. Sister D seems to be doing well, though she didn't make it to district conference. We should her this upcoming Sunday at branch conference, though! We didn't really see the J this week either.

The last week the weather has been really wet and rainy; much more like the fall I was expecting but haven't really seen yet. The weather should be snapping to get pretty cold at the end of this week.

About out of time, but have a great week!

Elder Boyce