Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015 - In which I arrive in Olomouc

Dear family,

I finally arrived in Olomouc! :) I really like it here so far! Like I said I'm serving here with Elder Prohaska (who's my Swiss companion from the MTC). We're doing well. Olomouc is pretty small, but there's lots of beautiful architecture and it's very nice. This week I'll also be serving with Elder Foster in a "tripanionship"... Elder Foster is also serving here in Olomouc but is waiting for his new missionary with visa problems to come in.

With this new transfer I was called to be a district leader. That means that I'm responsible for leading the missionaries here in Olomouc. I'm definitely feeling the responsibility! I'm spending a lot of time thinking and pondering about what I should do to train the missionaries in my district, what I can to lift and help them, etc. It's really interesting, because it almost feels like I'm carrying a literal weight to be leading the district here! Last Wednesday I had my first district meeting and it went pretty well. We had a good discussion about the people that are on our vision and some creative ideas for going to find them. We also had a good discussion about the sort of people that are prepared for baptism. It was a spiritual meeting, and I think it went well overall. I'm trying to stay on top of all the different responsibilities and planning everything and working with the branch, but I'm also trying to keep the focus on loving my missionaries.

I'm starting to get to know the branch and our investigators pretty well already! I really like the branch here. I've decided that I really like serving in little branches because it's much easier to get to know the whole branch quickly. Yesterday at church I was also able to talk to everyone. I love the spirit in this branch. Everyone was very friendly, and they helped me to feel very welcome without being asked. They did the same for the investigators and the people that hadn't been to church in a while. I was particularly impressed by a tradition that they have here: every Sunday before Fast Sunday after the three-hour block the whole branch meets together to plan who they could fast for the next week. I could feel the love that the members had for the short, focused list that they came up with together (one of the members even suggested fasting for Elder Foster's companion to come quickly!). This branch seems to me to understand their baptismal covenant to lift one another, and I think it will be a joy to serve here in Olomouc!

We met a couple of times last week with our baptismal date, H. He's making great progress in the gospel. H has a baptismal date for the 21st of March. He's working very diligently to try to learn and apply the gospel, and takes a lot of initiative. At one meeting last week we reviewed the baptismal interview questions, and he told us when talking about the Word of Wisdom that he's set up with his roommates to practice rejecting alcohol, cigarettes, and similar things so that when he's in a real situation he won't be tempted to break the commandments. Elder Prohaska and I are both really excited for him!

I haven't been here too long, but I already love serving in Olomouc. Serving with Elder Prohaska is good, and adding Elder Foster to the mix has been exciting, in a word. (Having two companions just makes things chaotic) There's lots of room for us to grow still, but I'm hoping that we do well!

Thanks for the kind birthday wishes! I still haven't quite accepted that I'm not "young and sweet, only seventeen" anymore, but I guess that being twenty will be good.

Elder Boyce

PS Have a photo!

The following pictures were sent to me by one of the senior missionary sisters, Sister Archibald that serves in Brno.

Working on the tram in Brno

Beautiful Brno!

Another view of Brno

At the castle for the "knighting"

Another view at the castle

Just a cute picture of our missionary!

Transfer day

Another transfer day photo

Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16, 2016 - In which transfers give us all a surprise

Dear family,

Last week was great! A lot of things happened! There was something worth mentioning almost every single day of last week, so I'll give you the day-by-day breakdown :)

Tuesday we scraped paint all morning! One of the members is redoing their apartment, so we helped to scrape paint from the wall. The paint that Czechs use on their walls is water-based, so we spent the morning spraying the walls with water and essentially scooping off goo that use to be paint. It was an experience!

During the afternoon on Tuesday we went and followed up with someone that we met tracting near our house. We didn't talk very long when we first met last Sunday, just that he wasn't a believer and that we'd still love to talk to him, and he invited us back. When we returned we found that he has a lot of questions of the soul and had a great meeting. He was really eager to have us back, and so missionaries will be going by later this week.

Wednesday we had the last district meeting of the transfer, which was really good, and we took part in the Brno Knighting tradition. One of the members here every transfer invites all of the missionaries to the city castle, Špillberk, and we are knighted as official Brňaks. We get a little medal and certificate and everything.

Thursday I was on exchanges with Elder Sylvester in Bohunice. Our exchange went really well. At the very end we went tracting. The first door that we knocked on let us in and we were able to teach a lesson!

Friday was T's baptism! That was a great day. Missionaries that taught her came from all ends of the mission, and for a couple of them it was their last weekend as missionaries.

Saturday was a roller coaster. We had a great lesson with L (B taught with us), then for our transfer culture night we went to the Brno National Theatre. The whole Brno district plus a few members went to see a series of three one-act ballets. It was really good, but everyone agreed that T was the star. She is an excellent violinist and during the third ballet she was the soloist. We all sat on the front two rows, and though the ballet was pretty good, during that act we were all more focused on how fast she was playing the violin!

After the ballet we got our transfer calls. It felt to me like we had all sort of forgotten about the upcoming transfers, but we weren't at all expecting what happened! Elder Yentes and I are both being transferred away. I'm going to Olomouc with Elder Prohaska and Elder Yentes went to Zlín with Elder Earl. I'll be the district leader in Olomouc. Meanwhile our proselyting area in Brno is being suspended because there aren't enough missionaries to go around in our mission, and there will only be four proselyting missionaries in Brno.

We were pretty shocked and yesterday was a strange day. We spent most of the day working on handing our investigators and other contacts over to the Bohunice Elders and the Sisters and packing. Brno will be in good hands but it's strange to be leaving so soon in this way. I'm excited to be serving in Olomouc, though! I've never been a district leader before and I'm excited to serve with Elder Prohaska again. He was one of my companions in the MTC.

I don't have much more time, but lots of love!

Elder Boyce

Elder Yentes and I with St Peter's Cathedral in the background

The tallest building in the Czech Republic (this also helps you to be able to see how very high up on a hill the castle Spillberk is)



Špillberk Castle

Last sunset in Brno, just around the corner from our house.

Monday, February 9, 2015

February 9, 2015 - In which Brno becomes a windy icicle

Dear family,

Last week we had some crazy weather! The beginning of the week we had pretty nice, warm days, but last Friday a crazy windstorm arrived. The winds were about as strong as the Santa Ana winds ever get back home, but freezing cold. Saturday was a nicer day (cold but not windy), but Saturday night while we were sleeping a huge snow storm arrived, and the wind returned. When we woke up, we could barely make the houses across the street from us! We made it to church, where we all stared out the windows during Sacrament Meeting at the swirling snow. The storm let up a bit before lunch, which was good because we spent most of the day outside.

Last week we found a couple of new investigators. S and K are both YSA, and they have really interesting opinions. S is from Serbia and believes that Christianity is a strong force for good and grew up in a Christian home, but doesn't believe that God actually exists. K doesn't have a strong religious background, but considers himself spiritual and takes different ideas from different world philosophies and ideas that he likes. We're excited for them to make progress.

I don't have much more time, but I'm doing well! We're trying to press forward on, and have been spending a lot of time out talking, tracting, etc.

Elder Boyce

This doesn't give you the full scope of the storm the we had (I had a video of it but it's too big to send) but it was snowing really hard and really windy over the weekend!

​The storm suddenly stopped just before this photo, but this was from walking from church to lunch with some members

Monday, February 2, 2015

February 2, 2015 - In which I can't make up a title

Dear family,

Like always, we've had quite the week! I'm feeling healthier than last week. We ended up only being grounded on Sunday, though Sister McConkie ordered (both of) us to take naps a couple of times. Brno is pretty cold and it's been snowing most of the last week, but I'm feeling better and not coughing so much, etc.

Our whole district is really excited because the Sisters' investigator, T, has finally decided to get baptized. I taught T in České Budějovice months ago with Elder Jaynes, but she decided to stop investigating the Church. At the beginning of the school year she moved here to Brno and Sister DuBois, who knew T in České Budějovice when she was served there at the same time as I did, started to teach her. They've been meeting again for a couple of months, and two weeks ago our whole district fasted for her so that she would accept a new baptismal date. She accepted a date that day for March 6th, but last Tuesday she received an answer to prayer and knew that she had been prepared for baptism for some time already. She told the Sisters that she wanted to move to February 14th! We're so excited because she seems so different from before she moved up her date. She's happier than we've ever seen her, and is really excited to be baptized. It's been quite miraculous to see.

Last week was at once really difficult but I'm also feeling really blessed. We taught a little more than the week before, and met some good people. It's kind of difficult to explain how I'm feeling here. I had some of the most difficult days of my mission so far, where I felt like I was essentially wandering aimlessly and nothing that came out of my mouth made any sense, but I'm also feeling that I'm learning a lot about missionary work and relying on the Lord. Despite how difficult it was to keep walking through the snow sometimes, I feel like I've been truly supported and the Lord is teaching me to do hard things that I haven't been able to do before. We've had a couple of miracles and met some people that we think that the branch really needs here in Brno.

One that we were able to teach was M. He told us almost right off the bat the dirt on us among Christians is that we're heretics because we believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, but he said that he couldn't say because he hasn't read the Book of Mormon. We met him on Friday and we had another meeting yesterday. It went pretty well, but he wants some time to read the Book of Mormon. He didn't want us to come back at first for two months, but he eventually said that he wanted us to say what every single person needs in life we could come back in a week! :) He seems to really think and ponder about spiritual things and doesn't seem to be afraid to work to find his answers. We need him in the branch!

I don't have too many other people to talk about, but B is doing well. She received a calling yesterday to be a Sunday School teacher. We've met a couple of times now with L, who's a nice, honest guy. Last week when we met with him we invited him to pray about whether or not our message was true, but he said he could already feel that it was! We have to teach pretty slowly, but he's doing well.

Thank you for your prayers and letters!

Elder Boyce