Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29, 2014 - In which we have our concert

Dear family,

Last week was pretty interesting! Last night we had our concert. The theme was what sort of characteristics God has, and so each hymn that we selected had something to who He is, from "Our Savior's Love" to "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" to "A Child's Prayer". (Mom should get a kick out of the fact that women sang and I accompanied "O, My Father"!) It turned out really well. A lot of members came and a couple of the sister's investigators, as well. We were really hoping that a lot of brand new people that we had contacted on the concert (we handed out several hundred flyers) would come, but no one came that we didn't already have contact with. It still went really well, though :)

We didn't have the chance to teach a lot of people last week; of our investigators we were only able to meet with P P. This is mostly because Elder Jaynes got sick and we had to spend 42 hours inside the apartment... and during these 42 hours was when were scheduled to meet with half our other investigators and a couple of other members :) Exciting sutff. I went a little insane from staying in our apartment. I failed the quiet patience test there :)

Our lesson with P P went pretty well. We taught the Word of Wisdom to her. I don't know where our communication barrier broke down, but for some reason during the lesson it wasn't immediately apparent that not drinking any alcoholic beverages at all didn't rule out drinking socially. I'm still trying to figure out how that one happened, but we should be meeting again on Wednesday. We still have a lot to teach her before her new baptismal date on the 11th.

Frankly I don't have too much additional news to relate! The weather here is still changing in fits and starts. When we were out running with a member this morning, he pointed out that some of the trees' outer leaves are turning yellow, which means that soon fall colors will be arriving. I've never seen fall colors before so that will be exciting.

Suzie asked me to share an experience when my faith had been strenghtened and when it had been tested; Mom and Dad mentioned to me in each of their letters, also, that they had been noticing situations or experiences. This is funny, because I've been thinking and studying a lot about faith since Elder Jaynes got sick on Friday, too, because in many ways that experience when we had to stay in both tested my faith and strengthened it.

I'd like to share what I learned about faith recently. In a BYU Devotional talk that I have ("Remember Lot's Wife"), Elder Jeffrey R. Holland described faith this way: " is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives." I love this description so much. The Lord has promised great things. He has promised us His Spirit, He has promised us the strenghtening blessings of the Atonement if we live faithful to the promises we've made to Him, He's promised us that He is hastening His work (which is difficult to believe when you have to sit in the apartment for 42 hours while your companion is sleeping off the flu), He's promised us eternal life (again based on our obedience) and on and on and on.

He has promised us these things. He cannot retract His word. However, He always sends us promised blessings after we are patient for them. We have to wait for "blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives." I've seen how that's true because of how missionary work works, because at one instant it will feel like we have no success and the next it will seem like everything is going unbelievably well.

I'm all of a sudden out of time and I don't know how to finish my thought quickly, but I know that the Lord loves us and He helps us. What I was getting at was that we have to wait, and we have to learn how to see blessings in the way that the Lord has actually sent them, not in the way we expected to see them.

Enjoy General Conference!

Elder Boyce

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22, 2014 - In which we have training and an exchange

Dear family,

Last week went pretty well! I don't think I mentioned last week, but we had to go to Prague again last Monday. I had even more visa work. I think that I have one more appointment on the first Monday of October, but that should hopefully be the last appointment for my visa work! I'm sure that that just means that I'll serve with a younger missionary next transfer and have to go for all of his visa stuff :)

Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty good days. Tuesday night we had our normal English classes and afterwards many English students stayed for our Intro to Mormonism presentation. We had a great discussion about the Great Apostasy and teased the Restoration a little bit. One of the Sisters' students even started to meet with them last week and came to church on Sunday.

On Wednesday we also met with P P. We had a reasonably good meeting. We moved her baptismal date back a couple of weeks because we haven't been meeting enough to teach everything. We didn't get to meet with E last week, either, and so we're going to have to move her baptismal date back, at the next meeting that we have with her.

Thursday we had a great training in Prague. There was a great section on finding where President McConkie talked a lot about how the Lord is gathering His people. It was a great testimony builder! I love going to trainings because it helps me stay out of a rut and keeps me improving.

I had a great exchange with Elder McOmber Thursday after training. He's super excited to talk to everyone and a great example. Elder Jaynes and I had been struggling to get to people to stop for us, but after our exchanges and training we were able to a lot better. The difference that we noticed was that when we had the expectation that people were going to stop and talk to us, they actually will! I don't if that's a product of faith or what, but contacting is more fun because we're able to talk to more interesting people that way!

Thursday night during the exchange we met with P again. We had a pretty good lesson at his restaurant. He's so great!

Meanwhile we are getting a concert ready for next Sunday as a creative finding tool. We're hoping that that will be really good!

Thanks for all the support and love. Until next week!

Elder Boyce

Note: The Elder McOmber that Daniel talks about is my sister-in-law's nephew so Daniel's 1st cousin by marriage.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15, 2014 - In which we have District Conference

Dear family,

There were a couple of really exciting things that happened last week here! We met a man, P, who would be perfect for this branch. He is a family man with business experience, a car, and would be able to fill a leadership position in the branch. Friday night we were able to visit him at the pizzeria which he owns, where he told us most of his life story. He's very considerate and hard-working, and he would just be great. We weren't able to share much of a message then, but he's really excited for us to return to talk more about what we believe!

We also had a couple of exciting lessons with some less-active members. Sister Ř, one of them, opened up to us really well when we were over for lunch. She talked a lot about her concerns and her and her family's story about how they met the church, their missionaries, and why they're not going right now. She was was very open with us, which is fantastic because that means that we can help! With another less-active member, O, we've been talking for the past several weeks about the Temple and the "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple" pamphlet. Yesterday we made a list of things that are between her and the Temple. She's excited to plan with us on how we can overcome them. It was really positive!

Last month at our training, President McConkie gave a section on perfectionism that was truly just inspired! It feels like almost everything that I've been learning since then has basically been in relation to that. As we all know I am a huge perfectionist, but I think the Lord sent me to České Budějovice to burn that out of me :) I've been working to hard to be more patient and forgiving, and I think each experience has made me more Christlike.

Saturday we had just the funniest day. We had planned to go out to serve one of our member's friends at their cottage. (As a little bit of background, many, many Czechs own apartments in the city and very tiny, old cottages in the country. As a little more background, Czechs HATE being out in the rain.) We were planning to only be out there for three hours maximum, serve a lot out in the yard, and then continue home to work for the remainder of the normal day. Unfortunately, however, it was raining. Our hosts forced us to stop working and then we proceeded to experience Czech cottage eating. Instead of working outside, we were set to work in the kitchen, where we took about an hour and a half to slice up fresh forest mushrooms that the Sisters collected. We then took another hour and half to eat, and another hour and a half for all four missionaries to clean. It wasn't ideal, but it was very Czech! Then we went home and went to District Conference, which was wonderful!

I'm about out of time, but lots of love from over here.

Elder Boyce

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 8, 2014 - In which we serve at the Wallace Toronto Project

Dear family,

We had quite an interesting week last week! There were a couple of really exciting things that went on, first of all probably the Wallace Toronto Project, which was in Plzeň. It was put on by the Wallace Toronto Foundation, a foundation started by returned Czech/Slovak missionaries which performs service in the Czech or Slovak Republics every year. Wallace Toronto, in whose memory the foundation is named, was the president of the Czechoslovak Mission for more than twenty years starting from after WWI ended to his death during the Communist era. He has a terribly interesting, inspiring story that I'll have to tell you another time. Google it! (Also his wife Martha Toronto Anderson wrote an autobiography The Cherry Tree Behind the Iron Curtain).

For the project we left our area to go to Plzeň Friday afternoon for the fireside Friday night, served all day on Saturday, and then didn't arrive back until 8pm Saturday night. For the project about 100 members from all over the mission spent all day serving at a variety of locations. My group was a home for disabled people and we lacquered a very, very, very, long fence. Everyone smelled like turpentine afterward, because we had to clean up with paint thinner and I'll leave it at that :)

Other exciting things! We met with both P and finally E this week and had good meetings. We're not sure about meeting their dates of the 27th, but both should be ready to be baptized sometime this transfer. Unfortunately H says she's too busy to meet, but hopefully with time she'll be able to again.

Dad had a question about both the fish and the America monument in Plzeň (in the pictures that I sent). There's not too much to tell about those other than what I had said... :) The America monument is just something that we walked by in Plzeň Plzeň and I thought that the Czech on it was really funny because it was really informal! The fish was a pretty funny coincidence :)

As for how I'm doing personally, I've mentioned that this area has very particular challenges. That's still true and I believe I've been sent here at this time in my life and mission for a particular reason to learn from them. I'd love to go into details, but I already have no time to :) Just know that I'm really needing to learn how to pray, receive answers, and recover from mistakes and errors more than ever before! It's very difficult and sometimes frustrating, but I'm learning how to rely on the Lord and that's hard work! I'm still glad to be here, though.

That's about all the time I have.

Lots of love,
Elder Boyce

These are the young missionaries of our district at the Toronto Project fireside (plus the Elder on the right)
Sister Scerra, Sister DuBois, Elder Jaynes, me, and Elder Pearce

A few pictures of the Toronto Project

A street scene in Plzeň
This monument is just endlessly amusing. It commemorates how the American Army liberated Plzeň and the Czech Republic at the end of WWII, and is dual-lingual, but the Czech just sounds sooooooo informal. It's hilarious.
A fish with a story: One day last week we were walking along the river and we suddenly ran into a potential investigator as he was catching this fish. This was also really funny :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1, 2014 - In which we walk all over Prague and we have training

Dear family,

We had a great week last week!

Last Monday, as I mentioned, we were in Prague for my visa work, but I didn't mention much of what we were going to do. Immediately after emailing we tried to go to another Alfons Mucha exhibit at the National Gallery that President McConkie recommended to us, but unfortunately it's closed on Mondays so we basically just wandered around Prague the rest of the day! From the National Gallery we got on a random tram and asked one of the locals how far it would be to "something nice". She told us to get of at the second stop, and we get off there right at the old part of Prague. We walked around from there across Charles's Bridge and just everywhere we could. Then we went to the Prague Single Adult Family Home Evening and went home with the Elders that we stayed with.

Tuesday's training was great! President McConkie invited one of the members that helped keep the Church alive (and growing) during communism to come and speak to us, Sister Olga Kampora. She told us about her baptism, which they had to perform secretly in the dead of night. She said that this was probably one of the first miracles that she saw in her life, because when she and the small group of Czech members arrived at the pond where she was to be baptized, there were a ton of fishermen late-night fishing there. They waited and waited, but none of the fishermen even moved. Eventually she and the members prayed so that the baptism could happen, and within about ten minutes all of the fishermen were gone and she was able to get baptized.

After her baptism, Sister Kampora felt strongly that she needed to share the gospel, even though she could be taken away if she made it known to that she was a member. During most of the time of communism, the gospel was mainly spread through, believe it or not, yoga classes. Some of the key members of the Church became yoga teachers during communism, because they were able to teach gospel and spiritual principles to large groups of people without talking about God or Jesus Christ or getting caught by the secret police (an agent of which was in every class, apparently). Immediately after her baptism, Sister Kampora became a yoga teacher and starting to discreetly teach people gospel principles.

Sister Kampora told us also about the yoga camps that they held each summer. All of these member-yoga teachers gathered their students each summer and each day for a week they taught these people a spiritual "vitamin". (For example, admiration for life, respect, interest, love, enthusiasm, etc.) This was one of the biggest opportunities for them to teach, because they would also take some people aside and tell them about Christ.

She had such an inspiring story! Training was great just overall.

Other things that happened last week: T has decided to no longer meet with us or prepare for baptism. E, P P, and H were unable to meet with us.

On Sunday we had a great Sacrament Meeting! President McConkie, the Bells, and the church public relations specialist came and spoke. It was really spiritual and a great meeting about seeing others for their strengths and how the Savior would see them. The missionaries also sang (I had a solo).

I'm learning a lot! The work is doing well! I'm out of time :)

Elder Boyce

The National Gallery with the Alfons Mucha exhibit --- closed on Mondays...we were so disappointed!
So we went on a walking tour of old town Prague.  I don't know what most of these places are called, Prague is just full of cool buildings and churches.

Prague Castle in the distance.

One of the towers at the end of  Charles Bridge.
A statue in the middle of Charles Bridge.

A cool island park in the middle of the Vltava River which flows through Prague.  Picture taken from the middle of Charles Bridge.
Panoramic view of the Vltava River.
I haven't told you too much about Czech food, but this is smažený sýr (fried cheese) with boiled potatoes and tartar sauce. Disgusting and tasty at the same time! Extremely Czech. I had this for lunch today.
There was a double rainbow on the train ride home from Prague. :)