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

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9, 2015 - In which we do some teaching and know the Word of Wisdom is true

Dear family,

We had quite the week! We were working hard, and had some really funny experiences, and some really spiritual teaching moments. Lately it's been feeling like a lot of our current investigators haven't been able to meet, so we've been looking for others. Last week we had some particular showing a brand-new Mormon Message that's only in Czech, and all the footage is with members in the Czech Republic. It introduces the Church and our beliefs and we show it on our portable DVD player we have to watch the District. We left some letters explaining who we are and that we want to show this video at x time in this a part of town that, while still on the city bus lines and in city limits, feels strongly like a village. We taught quite a few people on their doorsteps and one older lady let us in. Her husband is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's, and she takes care of him. He's very weak and doesn't seem to take much in or remember much anymore. It places a great burden on her and she feels trapped taking care of her husband who doesn't know her anymore day and night. When we first visited in the middle of last week we showed her the video, and we talked about the plan of salvation. It was a curious meeting, because when we turned on the video the Spirit entered the room powerfully, probably more than I had ever felt while teaching before. We weren't there long (we say on the letter that we leave that we only want to be there for 10 minutes), but she agreed to pray about our teachings (she didn't pray much before) and we set up to come back.

We went back last night. The lesson started pretty well. We were going through the plan of salvation, and she seemed to understand, and the Spirit was there. All of a sudden, a huge amount of bitterness came out of her, and she was sad and upset and angry about the situation that she has with her husband. The strange thing was that I never felt the Spirit leave. In fact, it was at least as strong as the first time we were there. We listened to her, and bore testimony about how God actually does care, how He does know her and her husband, and how His teachings could give her a new beginning that she so desperately seemed to want. She chose to terminate the lessons, but deep down I know that she knows that God loves her. It was one of the most interesting experiences I've had teaching so far on my mission, because even though she choose to terminate the lessons, it was one of the most spiritually strong experiences I've had while teaching.

In other news, D came to church yesterday for both hours! We weren't able to meet with him last week, but he surprised us by coming. He was the first one at church after us, and came in a nice suit. It was the first time that he had come in a long time. Sister D was also at church still, but we won't be able to visit her for the next couple of weeks. Her daughter is going through a delicate health situation, and so she's helping her daughter. She says we'll see each other at church, though :)

Last Saturday we had a great correlation meeting! A couple of weeks ago a regional leader was here and he encouraged our branch mission leader to involve some of the other branch leaders at correlation. Saturday we had at correlation our branch mission leader, the elders' quorum president, and a member of the Relief Society presidency. It was great! It felt like we really strengthened our unity with the branch.

I've been feeling overall pretty good during the last week. I've been thinking a lot about the difference between weakness and sin, and it's helped me to have a more honest look about my own struggles, and it's helped me to rely more on the Savior. At the moment I'm truly trying to just stay focused on Zlín's needs and help my new missionary! :)

Thanks for all you do!

Elder Boyce

P.S. I completely forgot to tell you about this funny experience we had! We were waiting for a bus one night last week at the end of the night and across the street we saw a few drunk people come out of a pub. They were throwing up and a little rowdy so we kept our distance. We kept waiting for the bus to come, and then we saw the most curious thing. A group of three people wearing matching blue T-shirts were jogging towards the same pub, and when they came close the drunk people that were already there started to cheer them on. That's when we realized that the first group was also made of three people who were wearing matching black T-shirts. When the blue group ran in the black group high-fived them and (rather loudly) said, "YEAH GOOD JOB HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU THROWN UP ALREADY?" "SIX TIMES!" "YEAH WE HAVE FIVE TIMES!!" then the blue group jogged into the bar, and a few moments later walked out with beers. They were literally taking part of a sponsored event to run from pub to pub. Don't run and drink at the same time! The word of wisdom is true :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November 2, 2015 - In which the first freeze comes

Dear family,

This week has been really interesting. I'm not certain what I really have to update on from our area because we weren't able to meet with many of our investigators :) J and M ended up not being able meet, and our other newer people were also unable to meet with us. We were able to have a good visit with Sister D, though. A member came with us. She continues to do well.

We've done a lot of finding during the last week! Working with Elder Newman has been good. He's more soft-spoken than Elder Dean, but he has a powerful testimony and when he gets it out you know that he means it. It's not complicated and he doesn't a lot of words or anything, but you can feel the Spirit behind his words. I'm hoping that I can be a good example for him.

We've met some really interesting people. Most of them have been really nice! We've taught a lot of first lessons during the last week, but the people we've taught haven't shared much interest in having a second lesson. Such is missionary life sometimes. It's been a little disheartening, but I can still feel it in my heart that something is going to change in the Czech Republic. I didn't mention it last week, but we started last Sunday (a week ago) as a mission to read the whole Book of Mormon before Christmas. Not only are the current missionaries reading, but President managed to challenge all of the missionaries that have served here since the fall of communism, as well. We're really close to a Stake, and we're working hard to get as much done during the last two months of the year as possible. I'm not certain what will happen during the next couple of months, but I feel like something is coming :)

During the last week, but I've been finding a lot of strength in the things that I've learned throughout my mission. Even though I've had the feeling this week like I'm perhaps performing below my personal average, I've seen how much strength I've gained already from the Savior and it helps me to see that I'll do better in the long run. Using my agency to exercise faith when faced with opposition has pushed me through everything else so far in my mission, and the past experiences have been giving me a lot of strength now.. I've written probably more than 700 pages in my study journals where I've been studying and seeking answers to other questions and fears and concerns that I and my investigators have had throughout my mission, and as I've been looking through them throughout the last week it's been helping. It's been great!

I don't have too much more to say for now (and I'm about out of time), but till next week we're going to keep working hard and doing our best here in Zlín.

Elder Boyce

PS It's getting cold now. This morning when we went running the ground was still covered with frost!