Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014 - In which I send greetings from Prague

Dear family,

Today I am in Prague! This morning I had some visa work, another step in the (apparently) complicated process to get a long-term residence permit with biometric identity card.... Terribly fun and each time I have something to do it's necessary to sit in a room a lot like a DMV here in Prague. Normally we would have returned to our area immediately after visa work, but we get to spend P-day here and then spend the night with some other Elders because we have training early tomorrow morning. It should be a nice P-day, though, right after we finish emailing we're running off to a museum that President recommended.

This past week was pretty interesting! I think that I've already mentioned this, but České Budějovice has a different feel than the other areas that I've served in. Our responsibilities feel quite a bit more complicated here and I'm less sure how to address them. There aren't as many priesthood brethren here as in many of the other branches, so our responsibilities include much more leadership in the branch. A Czech member presides over the branch, but Elder Žmolek (one of the senior missionaries here) is the first counselor in the branch presidency and Elder Jaynes (my companion, as you remember) is the second counselor.

Our load here is a bit more technically difficult or awkward to carry, but we're still seeing a lot of miracles! Last week we the Lord blessed us with specific answers to specific challenges and questions concerning the work, and we committed another investigator to baptism (H, whom we met last week). We've also made some pretty specific plans on how to carry out the work of strengthening the members, and we're really excited.

As for updates with people we're teaching, Paní (which means Mrs.) P was at church and is doing quite well. T still has a lot of questions, and she seems to be very frustrated by them. I still haven't met E, our other baptismal date, but hopefully she'll be back from Slovakia soon. We had a good lesson with H and her family (still haven't met the husband), and as I mentioned H accepted a baptismal date :) She was sick so she couldn't come to church.

I'm doing well. This area is definitely stretching me a lot, but I'm glad to be here because it's teaching me how to rely on the Lord already.

Elder Boyce

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 18, 2014 - In which we are very busy in České Budějovice

Dear family,

We are so busy! Everything last week just flew by!

Impressions of České Budějovice after a week:
  • It is already extremely chilly and rainy here (I have a feeling that's all over the area now, though).
  • The official beer of every restaurant here is Budweiser, because Budweiser is actually a Czech beer called Budvar and is brewed here in České Budějovice. That doesn't interest me much but it means that I see Budweiser signs many times each day.
  • There is a lot of work to do here. At one time, the České Budějovice branch was one of the largest branches of the Church in the Czech Republic. (There were 30 children in the primary!) Now on a good day there are 20 members at church each week, including 6 missionaries. We have no idea where all of this membership went, which is part of what we're trying to figure out. We really don't know what happened to this branch.
There is a lot to do. Last week we were able to meet with T a couple of times, which was really great. She's funny. She knows a lot about the church and has a lot of questions that we really don't know the answers to (probably her favourite at the moment is if the Book of Mormon contains "the fullness of the everlasting gospel" then why does it say nothing about temple ordinances, the doctrine of eternal progression, etc.) Last week we went on a výlet with her out to Hluboká nad Vltavou to see an exhibit of Alfons Mucha, a famous Czech painter. That was a great exhibit and the castle nearby was great.

Unfortunately we weren't able to meet with our other two baptismal dates last week, but we found a family last week through one of the less-active members that we meet with that came to church on Sunday! We are excited about them! The mom's name is H, and we haven't met her husband yet. We're not sure if he's interested in the gospel or not.

I'm out of time already, unfortunately. I'm doing well still and the work here is doing well overall. It is just somehow much more complicated here than in HK or Třebíč! Which will make me a better missionary :)

The Church is true!

Elder Boyce

The main square of České Budějovice.

The fountain and the blue building is where the city offices are.

We had a výlet last Saturday to Hluboké nad Vltavou, to see an Alfons Mucha exhibit (which was really cool). It was right next to this castle! We want to plan another výlet so we can tour it.

Exterior staircase at the castle.

Closeup of the castle exterior.

Blue teeth from a yummy slushy!
The following pictures are from the výlet Daniel took to Kutna Hora before he was transferred.  They are from the Sedlec Ossuary or "Bone Chapel."  The history behind the bone chapel is that in 1278 the abbot of the monastery near the chapel was sent to the Holy Land and came back with a small amount of earth he removed from Golgotha.  He sprinkled the earth over the abbey cemetery and soon the abbey cemetery became the most desired burial site in Eastern Europe.  The the Black Death and other wars added many more graves to the cemetery; an estimated 40,000 - 70,000 graves.  In 1400 the Gothic style church was built and many of theses graves were exhumed to make room for the chapel.  The exhumed skeletons were stacked in the lower chapel.  As the cemetery became full the monks exhumed more skeletons to make room for the new burials.  In 1879 the ruling family over the abbey hired a woodcarver to put the bone heaps in  some kind of order.  The photos below are the macabre results:

This place didn't even feel real but every bone is 100% human!

Daniel and the other elders in the Bone Chapel
This chandelier is reported to have every bone in the human body in it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014 - In which we have a baptism and a výlet and I get transferred to České Budějovice!

Dear family,

We just had a great week last week! P's baptism went through, and it was awesome. We had a let of prep work to do to get everything set up, but against all odds, almost everything went perfectly. We had it at the same place as P's baptism at the beginning of May, and it wasn't too fancy, but it was still very nice. One of our recent converts brought a friend to the baptism, and he told us afterwards that he also wants to get baptized! We taught him after church on Sunday, and we set a date for him on the sixth of September!

On Saturday we planned a výlet (day trip) to Kutná Hora, which is a really big tourist town about halfway in between Prague and Hradec Králové. The three biggest sights there are the kostnice (the bone church), which is a church with giant stacks of bones in it, at St. Mary's and St. Barbora's cathedrals, which are both UNESCO sites and amazingly beautiful.

We had planned this výlet as a branch-building activity, but unfortunately the only people that came were P and one of the other Elder's investigators. We still had a great time, though! I won't be able to send all of the photos I want to home at once, but you've got a couple headed your way.

Probably the biggest bit of news, though, is that I got transferred! I'm now in České Budějovice, and my companion is Elder Jaynes, who was in my district my first transfer in HK. The branch here is quite small, but we're excited to get it pumped about missionary work! :)

I still don't know too much about the area or anything, but we have three investigators, all of whom have a baptismal date for the 27th of September. We just taught one, T, and she's very nice. It sounds as though we're trying to do a lot of work with less-active members. České Budějovice itself seems like a great city. When I told the everyone in Hradec yesterday and Saturday that I was coming here, they all said that it's a wonderful place. It's rained most of today, so I don't have any good pictures of it to send home, but it's very picturesque.

I am SO EXCITED to be in C-Bud! At first I was a little sad to be leaving HK, but this will be a great transfer and I'm excited for the new opportunities that I have to share the opportunities that the gospel brings with others.

Until next week, love,
Elder Boyce

Kutna Hora

The front entrance to the Cathedral of St. Mary's.  
Exterior of the Cathedral of St. Mary

Interior of the Cathedral of St. Mary's.  It is a world UNESCO site and is just beautiful!

Inside the chapel of the Cathedral of St. Mary's
Interior of the Cathedral of St. Mary's.  
This is St. Barbora's Cathedral. It was closed on the inside for weddings, unfortunately (and we didn't get a refund!) but we hear it's even prettier than St. Mary's
St. Barbora's

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 4, 2014

Dear family,

We had another good week! We had a couple of unusual experiences that allowed us to have good conversations with people that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to talk to. We had a couple of cool displays last week about the plan of salvation that got quite a few people talking to us. (One day we even met a Czech lady that lived in Thousand Oaks for 50 years and wants to retire in Leisure Village in Camarillo!)

P is doing really well! All of sudden the quite commitments that he was struggling with are going quite well for him. It's a miracle! His baptismal date for this Friday is looking quite solid! We're so excited! :)

We had a great lesson with J last week. We taught about the plan of salvation (and drew it all out on the board) and it went really well. We're not positive how excited he is to keep learning about the gospel, but he's really great!

I'm not quite sure what else to tell you about from this past week! We've been having a lot of thunderstorms here in Hradec, which has cooled things down so nicely. We're hoping that the rain and thunder stay awhile.

I'm doing really well! I'm sure you all know by now that missionary work is extremely difficult, but if I ever feel negative for a moment I try to find someone else to help. I know that God is working right along with us, and that's what makes me happiest!

Thank you for your support.

Elder Boyce