Monday, December 29, 2014

December 28, 2014 - In which we celebrate Christmas

The group photo at the T's Christmas Eve. It was a lot of fun!
Dear family,

We had a pretty great week! I mentioned how wonderful training was, but the week after that continued to move forward. We spent all day on Christmas Eve running all over Brno. We only ended seeing a couple of the people that we had wanted to see, but we had a couple of great visits inviting the Christmas spirit. Christmas Eve the T invited us over to their home for dinner and an evening together. They really put on a show for us! We discussed the Christmas story, cut apples, had carp and potato salad (I liked the carp), acted out Luke 1 and 2, opened gifts that they gave us, sang Czech Christmas carols, learned some Czech folk dance steps, and learned some Czech children's rhymes. It was really great! They really prepared a wonderful Christmas and made us feel like a part of their family.

Christmas morning and early afternoon we spent at a nursing home. Immediately when we arrived the woman in charge began to apologize because there weren't going to be a lot of people coming to hear us sing. She said that many people had gone home for the holidays to be with their families. After we arrived at the space where we were to sing, a group of almost a dozen people filed in to hear us. The woman continued to apologize for the small group! We had a wonderful singing and then visiting with them afterwards. I was frankly really glad that we were able to be with the people that had no family to be with over Christmas, because I figured that those were the people that needed us the most.

Boxing Day we didn't sing together as a district, but the Y family invited us out to help them move their piano. When we arrived they informed us that the program would also involve a small soccer game and soup, but we had a good time and helped them to move their piano into a trailer. After we continued to try to visit some members, but like Christmas Eve we didn't end up seeing most of the people that we stopped at. We did have a good experience with an elderly part-member family, though. The husband is losing his health, and we hadn't had much contact with the wife in the past. From what I understand she would never take part in meetings. We had a great visit with her, though, after we tried (and failed) to change a lightbulb, and she seems to really like us now. We made a great bond with her.

Sunday night we went over to an active member's home. The Sisters had tried to visit him on Christmas Eve, but he said to come back on Sunday. We ended up going because he lives alone. He is a yoga baptism, and he wanted to tell us all about how he found the church (like most yoga baptisms, he was looking for truth). He is the only member in his family, and he told us how for twenty years his wife gave him anti information and berated him for being a member. She died just a couple of years ago, and I was really touched when he told us how he felt when he went to the temple and saw her proxy ordinances performed. He really hopes that she accepted them! He's had a difficult life being the only member in his family, but he is VERY committed to the gospel. I was impressed by how strong he's been for the past twenty-five years.

I'm just about out of time, but lots of love and Happy New Year!
Elder Boyce

This is our fried carp with potato salad. It was tasty! There were a lot of little bones, so you can see the flaking method in action there.
After dinner we had spicy peppers. Most of us just had a tiny, tiny piece (and almost died from it), but Elder Esser and the member's son Petr had two whole ones each. I got video of the whole experience, but I can't email it!

After dinner we acted out Luke 1 and 2. Here's Elizabeth with the imaginary baby John the Baptist (Sister DuBois) and the expectant Mary (Sister Stokes).

The shepherds greeting the Christ child (I was Joseph, but I don't have a photo of myself)
They even gave us presents!!
They made us t-shirts that say "I am a child of God" in Czech. Classic.

Then we sang Czech carols and learned some Czech folk dances (the kind that you don't need a partner for!)

Christmas night we had a gift exchange and white elephant with the other missionaries. This was the favorite white elephant!

It's our beautiful central tram stop.

It started to snow Friday night (I was going to put an exclamation point there but I'm really sure how I feel about the snow)
Walking to the tram stop to get to church Sunday. It has snowed pretty much all day today, also.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

December 23, 2014 - In which we get ready for Christmas!!

Dear family,

So many things have happened! We had a packed week last week. I think I'll have to save some of the less exciting stuff for Thursday when we Skype, but I'll tell you a bit more about the branch here in Brno and the WONDERFUL Christmas conference we had yesterday.

The Brno Branch is much different than in ČB. There are at least 30 active member families here in Brno, so there are a lot of people every week. Though Prague is a little bigger, the Brno branch is probably the best organized. Missionaries have no callings other than missionaries (other than official translators). The Branch President, President S, is a great man. He's very focused on missionary work and even manages the Branch Choir director (and the Branch Choir here means business; they probably have even more members than we have in the Camarillo Third Ward). The branch is great.

On Sunday I had the assignment to translate Sacrament Meeting live! There are enough foreign members of one sort or another that we have headsets. It was quite the experience. I'll be translating every other week while I'm here in Brno.

We had a lot of success last using Christmas approaches to find people. We've been contacting, tracting, and even caroling to find. Caroling was really effective last week! The first evening that we caroled we set up a return appointment, and someone turned into a new investigator from that. Last night we went caroling for the second time and found another really solid potential investigator. I would say that we should be meeting again later this week or the beginning of next week.

Training, like I said, was wonderful. I have only 50 seconds left of time before I get locked out, so I'll tell you about it Thursday!!!!!!


Elder Boyce

A Czech Christmas tradition that we did at training! After a traditional Christmas Eve dinner, Czech and Slovaks all cut an apple in half to see what their upcoming year will be like. If it's a star (like mine was), you'll have a blessed year. If it's something else, a bad year is coming your way :)

Another one! Everyone in the family sticks a tiny candle into half of a walnut shell, and then lets it float in a pond (or bowl). The patterns they make say what your year is going to be like.

Me and a tiny boat (loďiček!)
A traditional. You take a wafer (I think it's like a Eucharist wafer but even thinner), and put chopped garlic and honey on it.
Delicious!!!! (And I wanted to say "A traditional food.")

We had a very nice lunch catered by a restaurant. Normally we order pizzas at trainings, but we had a catered lunch. Here our lovely senior missionaries serve it.

This is traditional Christmas food of the traditional food of the Czech Republic. CARP! They fry it and serve it with potato salad. Beware of tiny bones.
The week before Christmas, these tubs show up everywhere.

You can order it live... or they'll kill it for you for 10 crowns! (50 cents)
The Brno Christmas market, set up on the square.
I didn't get the greatest photos of the market in ČB, unfortunately, but this is it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 14, 2014 - In which I depart České Budějovice

Dear family,

Big changes are afoot! I've been transferred from ČB and am now serving in Brno, which is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. The branch here is the largest in the mission and functions most like a ward would. In fact, this branch will probably be reorganized as a ward as soon as a stake is established here.

I'm really excited to be serving here. My new companion is Elder Yentes, who is also from California near Fresno. We live in an apartment below one of the members, who was instrumental in keeping the Church alive during Communism and our apartment is where they held Sacrament meeting during Communism!

I don't know too much about how the work in this area is going right now, but I know that one investigator, B, should be getting baptized on January 13th. I haven't met very many people yet, but I should be meeting all of the YSA tonight at FHE. There are a lot of missionaries serving in this branch, also. There are two companionships of Elders, a companionship of Sisters (Sister DuBois is serving here), and three senior couples. Two of senior couples work specifically on Family History and are in the archives every day.

I don't have a lot to update about the work in České Budějovice. The main one is that yesterday after church we had a meeting with E. She's still doing fairly well, but she truly has bad connections to get to church. Starting on the 21st Sacrament Meeting in ČB will begin at 10:00 am, but the first train doesn't arrive in ČB until 10:15, and yesterday she wasn't able to arrive at church until 10:45 or so. She needs to get to church on time somehow, but how she can isn't clear. There's not much that I can do to address that now since I've been transferred, but I'll keep praying that they find a way. Elder Cowley and Elder Pruden (who replaced me) will probably need to do a lot of praying, also! I'm confident that Elder Cowley and Elder Pruden will take good care of the area.

I'm excited to be here in Brno! I've never served in such a large city before, but I'm excited to be here. I was really stressed out leaving České Budějovice, but once I arrived I felt strongly that I am supposed to be serving here. I'm excited to try to face the challenges of working in this area/during this transfer.

I don't have a lot more to say, and my computer is about to run out of time, but I'll talk to you more later!

Elder Boyce

Our favorite missionary!
Saturday we had the branch Christmas party...we decorated!


We made tasty gulash and dumplings and cabbage!
This morning the bus from České Budějovice to Brno stopped in Třebíč!!!! I was really excited!! I could only see it from the bus, but I talked Sister Fredrickson's ear off about Třebíč since she was traveling with me (to get to her new area she traveled with me from České Budějovice to Brno and then connected in Brno).

The Třebíč clock tower!! I drove practically right past the missionary apartment.
 I was really excited.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 12, 2014 - In which there are three baptisms in our branch and České Budějovice goes Christmas

Dear family,

I haven't written in a while! We haven't had a P-day in eleven days. We moved this week's P-day to today because we were hoping to go to Brno so Elder Cowley could baptize one of the investigators that he taught there, but it was suddenly cancelled.

We have had a whirlwind of a month so far! We've had a lot of changes so far: three baptisms into the branch! Last Saturday we were in Prague for V's baptism. He's the Sisters' investigator that walked into the building at the end of last transfer the day before general conference. This Wednesday we baptized J and L, the mother and niece of one of the Sisters' recent converts. Elder Cowley baptized J and I baptized L. Both of the baptismal services, the one on Saturday, and the one on Wednesday, were very nice. I especially liked the one Wednesday, and not just because I baptized someone. It was a very spiritual meeting, and J has made a lot of changes to get baptized. Both baptisms were great because we were baptizing more members of part-member families. I loved it because the end goal of the gospel is us being together in our families forever!

Unfortunately E and J won't be getting baptized tomorrow. E is doing reasonably well. We essentially ran into a speed bump with the law of chastity. She has a boyfriend, with whom she doesn't live, but we found out last week that living according to the law of chastity would change their relationship. We were a little worried about it, but on Sunday we had a good discussion with her. She is at peace with living according to the law of chastity and believes that it's from God, but she wants to have some time still before her baptism to try to explain her situation to her boyfriend. We agree with her, and will still help her prepare. She should be baptized during the month of January.

We haven't been able to meet with J this month. He has been really sick with a strong strain of tonsillitis (the first round of drugs that he was prescribed did absolutely absolutely nothing for him). We haven't been able to keep the greatest contact with him just because he has been so out of it, but he is starting to feel better again. We hope that he'll make to church Sunday. Unfortunately for now his baptismal date is kind of in limbo because we don't know for sure when he'll be well again, but it should be in the next week or two (depending on his health).

České Budějovice has been making some big changes this month for Christmas! There are decorations everywhere done by the city and there's a great big market built up on the town square with an enormous Christmas tree in front of town hall. They've had a big Christmas tree lighting, "angel visits" (a tradition unique to České Budějovice), little Christmas plays, and on and on. It's really beautiful, but I'll have to send some photos of the square on Monday, my next P-day.

Last Thursday we also went and saw the Jihočeská filharmonie (Southern Bohemian Philharmonic orchestra) here in České Budějovice. Once every transfer President McConkie wants us to see some sort of similar concert because it's a big part of Czech culture. It was a great performace. My favourite piece was the "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

I've had a number of great growing of experiences during this month. As you recall I was pretty sick towards the end of November, but I'm doing much better and am much happier again than when I was sick. I've been enjoying doing missionary work a lot more again. I've had a stronger sense of commitment to doing the work and trying to talk to more and more people.

I've been seeing the hand of the Lord in the work over the past couple of weeks. I feel like I've made big strides in learning how to receive revelation for my investigators. In general I think the Lord has been blessing me to recognize the needs of my investigators much clearly than I have in the past. I'm very grateful for the gift, and we've been trying to use the Spirit to plan for spiritual changes in our investigators. It has been wonderful.

I'm just about out of time,  my next P-day will be Monday. I will write more then. That will also be transfer day. We have no idea what's going to happen!!!


Elder Boyce

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 1, 2014 - In which we have a Christmas concert

Dear family,

I'll have to send just a quick update today! I kind of ran out of time.

Last night we had a really great concert. We had about 30 people in attendance, and we counted 13 adult non-members there. We had a some people from our family history class (who brought a friend), a very nice couple that Elder Jaynes and I contacted last transfer who accepted a Book of Mormon at the end of the concert and would like us to come to their Bible study group, J (our baptismal date), an investigator that is now progressing a lot better than before and was able to meet a lot of members, and quite a few members. It was a really nice success.

I have been sick off and on since Thursday. I haven't missed a full day of proselyting yet, but I keep on feeling better then doing too much and then getting sick. Today was the worst; I crashed for about four hours today. We didn't get a lot of our p-day things done, but we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner today with the district. I made chocolate pie.

J and E are both doing quite well. They are accepting and living according to the commandments as we are teaching them, and we are wrapping up with the missionary lessons. They are both progressing towards their baptismal date of the 13th of December, which we are excited.

(Speaking of baptisms, the sisters didn't have a baptism last week. V is still preparing.)

Not too much more time, but lots of love from here!
Elder Boyce

Making a chocolate pie this morning for our district Thanksgiving Day feast.

My finished pie!

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014 - In which we stumble into the people that we needed to meet

Dear family,

Last week was an improvement over the week before. This week we had a a really difficult time staying organized because we had run out of time to have weekly planning the week before, but we still managed to make a recovery and even saw some more miracles last week.

J and E are both doing well. We met with J a couple of times last week and have started teaching the commandments. He is accepting them really easily; so far we've taught the law of chastity and the Word of Wisdom and we haven't run into any problems. He's still excited to get baptized on the thirteenth, and he also came to church for the first time yesterday! (He lives about an hour away, but we found some steady transport for him to get here on time every week.) He seemed to really enjoy Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School; he got out his laptop and started taking notes!

We were only able to meet E once last week because she was out of town for a work conference. We had a nice meeting in her home with Elder Žmolek and another member. There wasn't too much out of the ordinary with that lesson. Right now our main concern is her travel arrangements to church on Sundays. The first train into ČB from her village doesn't get her into church until 10:15 so she is not able to partake of the Sacrament and comes in late every week to the second hour (and we only have two hours in hour branch). The public transportation schedule has it's yearly adjustment in three weeks so we're praying that there will be some miracle and she'll be able to come into church every week on time.

We were blessed with some great finding experiences last week. On Wednesday we prayed just before we left the building to go contacting again to find someone that needed our help. We left our building and the second or third person we stopped was M. It was a pretty typical contact until she started crying randomly! She had apparently just left some of her friends who told her in a pretty vicious way that she wasn't cut out to study the piano (which is her dream), and two random foreigners being polite to her was too much. She soon collected herself, though, and asked us more about why we're here and what sort of message we have as missionaries. We sat in the entrance area of our building, and very soon J walked in. They (of course) knew each other from school and J started telling her how great it is that she met the missionaries. In short order after he walked in the Sisters, a member couple, and another member all walked into the building. I'm sure that it took Heavenly Father a lot of orchestrating to put this miracle together where M to be able to meet us, some of our most welcoming members, and J all at once!

We also had a miracle tracting out in a suburb of České Budějovice yesterday. We knocked on the door of this tiny tucked-away cottage on the outskirts and met J, who was outside getting his yard ready for winter. He invited us into his home, where he introduced us to his girlfriend J. They were very nice people, very interested in the gospel, and are excited for us to come back on Wednesday. I've never found a new investigator tracting ever before, but they were very pleased to meet us and will be great for the branch.

We are moving forward at a breakneck pace here in České Budějovice! V (the Ukrainian youth that walked into our building just before General Conference) has his baptism on this Saturday, our Christmas concert is Sunday, and we are already pretty packed with lessons this week. We are all really tired (and sometimes a little cranky) but we're doing well.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving this week! Saturday marks a year since I left Camarillo! That's really difficult to believe. IT HAS FLOWN!!!!!!!!

Enjoy the chocolate pie!

Elder Boyce

Note: Chocolate pie is our family's traditional Thanksgiving Day pie.  Daniel has asked for me to send him the recipe as he is planning on making it for a dessert for their concert on Sunday.

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014 - In which the Czechs celebrate the Velvet Revolution

Dear family,

Last week was interesting, as always! We had some great meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday with the Ř and with the Š last week, who are both less actives. Sister Ř has a smoking problem that we were able to talk to her about (she's been working on this for about two months now). She and brother Ř are raising their grandchildren, none of whom are baptized. Last week was the first time that we had a conversation about helping them to prepare to be baptized. They weren't very anxious to have the oldest baptized, but he is enjoying primary when he comes and also praying with us. I think he would be excited to prepare for baptism.

We had a great day on Wednesday visiting the Š. They are an older couple that that were active in Prague for many years. They moved to a village that's an hour away from ČB and they've essentially been less-active since. They haven't had missionaries out there in a while until a couple of weeks ago, and have been slipping on some of the basic scripture study that they need. They were very strong members, and they've had some great spiritual experiences that they've told us about and so it has been great to meet with them and talk about what they can do to make that brighter in their lives again.

On the way home from the Š we stopped at a referral that we received. We met a mother (whose daughter referred us to them) and a grandmother who are both very spiritual people who seem like the type that do the best that they can with the light they have. We had a great first meeting and are excited to return later this week!

(I don't have anything firsthand to update you with concerning E and J. Our lessons with E and J were when I was on exchanges, but J still hasn't come to church and E seems to be doing well.)

We had great exchanges on Thursday night and Friday. I was in Plzeň with Elder Romrell. Plzeň is a great city. I got to see quite a lot of the members there, who were all really nice and welcoming. Pretty much everyone cancelled on us, but it was still a good exchange.

Today is a state holiday celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and the fall of Communism. Everything has been closed (including the library), except for the castle in Hluboká nad Vltavou :) We went to today to finally take a tour of the castle with the sisters. It was fabulous, but unfortunately photography was forbidden :) I don't really have photos to send! After the tour we had some Czech food (svičková) and Czech cola (Kofola) so we've had just a really Czech day.

I don't really have additional time since we are a little crunched, but love you and I'll try and catch up on writing others next week :)

Elder Boyce

November 10, 2014 - In which I have no time

Dear family,

Last week was good. Things have been going well with our investigators overall. J, our YSA, is still excited about his baptism. During one lesson last week we asked him what we should do to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. The way he answered shows about how he's doing; he thought for a moment then said, "We should probably pray, definitely keep the commandments, and probably read the scriptures, also." The current concern with him is that he still hasn't made it to church. Another YSA, K, that we've met has also started to progress pretty well. He prayed probably the first in his life during our lesson this week and came to church on Sunday. We met with P P twice last week. She's not hysterical anymore, but she's repeating herself at every lesson with her same problems, and she can't seem to quite grasp that the gospel only works if she lives it. R and A have been dropped. They're not actually too interested in the gospel. E was sick last week so she couldn't meet or come to church. H was in Sweden, P has been unavailable, and we couldn't visit J and T (the couple in the littlest village in the world), so nothing to say about them.

The sisters had a baptism that went really well! There were a lot of things that went awry during the baptismal service, but the baptism itself was perfect and the sisters' investigator, R, is really well prepared to be a new member and she'll be amazing. She's a mom and some of her family is interested in the gospel, also.

I'm a little over time, but I wanted to send a quick update.

Lots of love,

Elder Boyce

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014 - In which we are inspired to find families

Dear family,

Last week was great! Elder Cowley and I both worked really hard and a lot of things went on. We had a really inspiring training on Tuesday. I loved pretty much everything about it, and we've been working hard this week to implement things from it, particularly about finding families.

We've had huge success this past week with putting a bigger focus on finding families and I'd say it's shown a different face to this area. I can hardly tell you all of the things that have had an impact but we have been having a lot of success! We were able to teach a less-active member's grandchildren, we have a return appointment at a family's home later this week, we were able to visit another less-active family, we've been inviting the Spirit into our contacts by talking to people about their families and our families, and on and on and it's been so wonderful! I think what really sums up our experiences with families this week is what one of the assistants to the president said at training that we are not trying to split up families (teach individuals and just hope that the family will be okay with it), but we are trying to seal them with restored priesthood power. Trying to find families opens opportunities for helping so many more people than just one individual at a time.

We were able to teach some really great lessons last, week, also. One YSA, J, was really great. He (somehow) found out about English a couple of weeks ago, came to our Intro to Mormonism class, was interested to find out more about the Plan of Salvation, and set up. We met with him twice last week, and he is excited to get baptized on the 20th of December! He just absorbs every minute detail of what we teach (or what he reads) and he (to borrow how Elder Cowley says it) glows during our meetings. He's very prepared to accept the gospel.

The miracle people from last week, R, A, and T, are doing alright. I'm not sure how R and T are related (and A isn't related by blood), but they introduce themselves as all being part of the same family. They have different levels of interest; R and A the most and T the least. R and A are very interesting because they are interested enough, but learn very simply and it's a big adjustment in our teaching style.

Last week we went really crazy and worked hard to try and teach twenty lessons. We had all of them set up, but at 5pm on Sunday the 20th lesson fell through and we were unable to find another. I feel pretty satisfied, though, because we worked until the very last second to try and find the last one.

I feel like in general I was quite a bit more diligent and excited last week, which I am glad about. I felt like I was keeping up with Elder Cowley much better, at least, and sometimes I was even able to be a good example.

I have lots more that I could talk to you about, because we saw even more miracles last week than I really have the chance to talk to you about. I had some great studies and I really felt my testimony grow over the past week. To make a long story short, I grew a lot this week and families are really great.

Elder Boyce

PS Today for P-day Elder Cowley and I visited Hluboká nad Vltavou! (I visited there last transfer with T and Elder Jaynes to see the Alphonse Mucha exhibit). The castle was closed today, but we didn't have a lot of time, anyway, and the fall colours and weather were great! There should be a lot of photos on the blog.

Views in town

Looking down on the back of the church above.
The next pictures are from the castle Hluboká nad Vltavou.

Elder Cowley and Daniel

The gardens of the castle

No, vengeance hasn't quite arrived! It's supposedly coming though.

Staircase on the porch of the castle.

I really like the above photo :) That's the porch on the castle.

I was really excited about the fall colours!! (True Southern CA boy having never really seen fall colours!)