Monday, August 31, 2015

My First Week in the Field

Elder Shirley & Elder Bitner on a hill outside of Jicin (pronounced Yeecheen)

Elder Shirley with his first companion Elder Bitner (Bear River, UT)

A view of Charles Bridge in Prague

Elder Shirley & the group of new missionaries on first day in Prague

A view of Prague

Elder Shirley in front of Prague Castle

Prague Castle. Elder Shirley had a tour of the castle on first day in Prague.

Another view of Prague Castle

Elder Shirley's first Czech meal:  Svíčkova

August 31, 2015

Hey Everyone!

This past week and a half have been pretty crazy! I'll try to tell you everything that happened.

So the last couple days in the MTC felt pretty long. We said good-bye to our teachers, bought anything extra that  we needed, and packed everything up! On Monday morning, we woke up at 1:30 a.m. to leave the MTC. We got our passports and our visa and then traveled by bus to the airport. My group and I all got to the airport at sround 4:30 and our flight left at 6:55. We flew to Chicago and had a 7 hour layover there. I got to call my family which was awesome! After a lot of waiting around, we got on the plane and flew over the Atlantic to London. We got to London at 8 in the morning and then flew to Prague and I finally arrived in the Czech Republic at 1 o'clock this past Tuesday.

My mission president, President McConkie, met us at the airport. We drove to the mission home from there and dropped off all of our bags and suitcases. President McConkie then took the group of us 11 to a hill that overlooked all of Prague. He told us the story of how our mission was opened as we overlooked the city. After his story, we were taken on a walk around Prague. I got to see and go into the Prague Castle, walk across Charles Bridge, and see some of the other sites in Prague. For dinner, we had a traditional Czech dish called Svíčkova. It was pretty good. All the Czech food is heavy and it all tastes great. We slept in a small hotel that night.

Last Wednesday, we were assigned our trainers and our areas. The missionary that is training me is Starší Bitner. He is from Bear River Utah. My area is in Jičín (pronounced yeecheen). We left the mission home in Prague right after we were assigned our trainer and our area. It took about an hour and a half to get to Jičín from Prague. This transfer is my trainers last transfer in the mission field. His last and my first. I am learning a lot from him and I am glad I have him as my trainer. 

In the past week, we have done a lot of street contacting here. We teach a few people a short lesson everyday, but most people don't listen. I've already gotten used to being looked at weird and being rejected. This work is definitely something that I am not used to, but it'll be something that I'm learning to love.

My disttrict here is Elder Bitner and I and two Sister missionaries, Sister Angerhofer and Sister Stokes. They've both been here a while too, so I'm quite a bit younger than them. But they are a fun group and we all get along well.

On Friday we had a cool experience. I went tracting for the first time in a city next to Jičín called Sobotka. We had been knocking on people's doors for a good 2 hours and didn't have much success. We finally found a house that let us in. It was 3 siblings, all around the age of 30, and their father. One of the siblings said she had heard of a church and tried contacting us about a month earlier. She couldn't find the right number so she prayed that she could find our church. We were the answer to her prayer which was pretty cool. They have quite a few questions but they have agreed with everything that we have taught them so far.

The Czech language sounds much different here than I thought it sounded. The people speak super fast and it is hard to get used to. Honestly, I can't understand much of what is being said, but luckily my trainer knows the language and helps me out. Even though I can't speak that well yet, it's cool to see that the people here will still listen to what I am trying to say.

Church yesterday was a cool experience, one that I'm definitely not used to. There are about 40 members in our branch, which is the smallest church meeting that I have ever attended. The people that are members here are strong in the church though. Because I am new to the area, the had me introduce myself at the pulpit and bear my testimony. I struggled through it but everyone seemed to understand and enjoy it. 

That's about it for this week. The Czech Republic is awesome and serving as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is an amazing experience. Talk to you all next week! 

-Starší Shirley 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Welcome to the Czech Republic!

A member of the Church took a picture with Elder Shirley's traveling group in the Chicago airport and texted this picture to us.

First picture of Elder Shirley in Prague: with mission president James McConkie and his wife Laurel McConkie
All of the new arrivals to the Czech/Slovak mission with the mission president and his wife

August 25, 2015

**This entry is written by Elder Shirley's dad to report the details as we know them of his travels from the MTC to the Czech/Slovak mission home in Prague. We will receive an email from him on his next P-day, which will be either Saturday or Monday, depending on the area that he is assigned to.

Elder Shirley departed from the MTC yesterday (8/24) at 2:30am to begin the journey to Prague, Czech Republic. We had the opportunity to talk to him on the phone during his layover in Chicago, which was the first time we've heard his voice since he started his mission in June. He sounded so good and was so excited and ready to get to the Czech Republic and begin his service there. It was a precious hour that we were able to spend talking with him about his experiences in the MTC and his hopes and thoughts about this next stage of his mission. He was traveling as part of a group of 11 missionaries who were all headed to the Czech/Slovak mission so he was in good company. We were pleasantly surprised a couple of hours after our phone call with him to receive a text from a church member who was in the airport and had stopped to talk with Elder Shirley and the other missionaries and took a picture of them to send to us.

We thought of him often throughout the day yesterday and into the night last night as we mentally plotted out where in his journey he was at that particular time. Elder Shirley's itinerary was to fly from Salt Lake City to Chicago, from Chicago to London, England and then from London to Prague, with an arrival time in Prague of 12:50pm local time (4:50am Mountain time).

This morning we received an email from his mission president, informing us that he had arrived safely. Along with the email were two pictures: one showing Elder Shirley with the mission president (President James McConkie) and his wife and the other showing the full travel group of missionaries with the mission president and his wife.

President McConkie included the following letter:

Elder Joshua Brian Shirley has safely arrived in the Czech/Slovak Mission. Sister McConkie and I are impressed with your son and want to thank you for all that you have done in preparing this wonderful young man for his mission. In our estimation he is prepared and ready to ". preach the gospel to every creature that cometh under the sound of .(his) voice." D&C 80:1.

Attached is a photograph of Elder Shirley which was taken today just after he arrived in Prague. Tomorrow, after a good night's rest, he will be assigned a companion and an area in which to work. You should receive an e-mail from your missionary on P-day (Saturday in Prague and Monday everywhere else). We are confident that the Lord will stand with and bless him as he serves.

Your son has accepted a call that will change his life and the lives of those with whom he is serving. These first few months will be full of new and challenging experiences, and your support in the form of encouraging and uplifting letters will help him greatly. Our greatest hope is that each missionary with whom we serve has the kind of mission experience that will establish the foundation for a lifetime of service and discipleship.

With warmest regards,

James W. McConkie
Prezident Česká/Slovenská misie
Sister Laurel S. McConkie

Friday, August 21, 2015

Last Post from the MTC

The long awaited travel itinerary!

August 20, 2015

Hello friends and family!

Big news of this week was that I got my flight plans to Prague! I will be leaving Monday, the 24th, at 2:30 in the morning. I fly to Chicago and then have a 7 hour layover there. I'm not really looking forward to the 7 hour layover! We leave Chicago and fly through the night over the Atlantic to London, England. We have a 2 hour layover in London and then fly to the Czech Republic! I'm super excited to finally be going there after a whole summer in the MTC! 

When we got our flight plans though, I realized how close it was until we actually left. This last week has been full of lots and lots of language study. I've been memorizing as much vocabulary as possible as well as memorizing all the case charts for nouns, possessive pronouns, and personal pronouns. Czech has 7 different cases so its been pretty tough to get those down. I'm sure the last few days here will be packed with studying too, and even though I might not be ready to actually speak the language, I know that I just want to be there and learn as I preach the gospel. 

Every Sunday here, we have an assigned topic that is talked about in sacrament meeting, priesthood, and in our district meeting.This past week, it was on the Atonement. There are a few really good chapters on the Atonement including: 2 Nephi 2, Alma 7, and Alma 34. There is also a quote in Preach My Gospel that says "All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Christ." I know that our Savior suffered for each one of us individually and that through him, we can change and become better people. 
On Sunday for devotional, we had to opportunity to listen to the Nashville Tribute band. in, the choir we actually got to sing with them on 2 of their songs too. The Nashville Tribute band is a band that sings about the Restoration of the gospel, and they also have a few other CD's about the gospel. I knew all of their songs because we used to listen to them all of the time at home. I also got to shake Jason Deere's hand, the lead singer of the band.

Tuesday night devotional was by Elder Echo Hawk of the Seventy. He talked about how much of a difference one missionary can make by just opening their mouth and sharing the gospel. He also said that our choices as missionaries will have eternal consequences for all that we come in contact with. I know that the same is true for any member of the church. We can make a huge difference by just opening our mouths.

One of our teachers is getting married this weekend so we said good-bye to her and we also said good-bye to another one of our teachers. They've have helped us so much on learning the language and in learning how to teach that it was hard to say bye. As the time winds down here, I get more and more excited as well as nervous and scared. I should also mention that I have actually really enjoyed the MTC food, but I'm sad to say that I'm up 12 pounds now!

Well, after being here 8 and a half weeks, and seeing thousands of missionaries come through and leave, and seeing lots of friends from school come and go, it is finally my turn! I'm excited to go meet the Czech people and share the message of the gospel with them! Next time you hear from me, I will be on the other side of the world! Have a great week everyone!

-Starší Shirley  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

11 Days to the Czech Republic

Elder Shirley & his companion Elder Newman, who he says "can't keep his eyes open"

Sister missionaries in Elder Shirley's district:  Sister Boza (Guatemala), Sister Manners (England)

Some of the missionaries in Elder Shirley's district: Sister Boza, Elder Chappel, Elder Belshe, Elder Newman

August 13, 2015

Hello everyone!

This is week 8 as a missionary, and because it is week 8 in the MTC, I don't have much to talk about! I feel like I say that all the time, but I'll try to say something interesting!

I just remembered that I failed to mention that I received a calling 3 weeks ago. I was called to serve as the zone music coordinator. That's something I would have never guessed that I would have been called to do, but I had fun with the calling. All I really did was choose songs for the zone meetings and teach people how to lead music. I am released now from that calling but I did find that I love singing hymns and the Spirit that can be felt through song.

Devotional on Sunday night was by Brother Heaton, the administrative director at the MTC. He talked about the three most vital steps that our investigators need to do to gain a testimony and become members. They were: Pray on their own, receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and attend church. Brother Heaton talked a lot about the Sabbath Day and how important of a day it is. The Sabbath day should be a day consecrated to the Lord. 
Also, on Sunday during sacrament meeting, I was called on to give the talk. Every week, the branch presidency randomly selects 2 people to speak, and I just happened to be one of them. Lucky me! The talk was on the Book of Mormon. I wasn't that prepared for my talk, but I still think I got my message across. It was that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and that it contains a witness of Christ, the fulness of doctrine, and the foundation of testimony.

Elder C. Scott Grow of the Quorum of the Seventy spoke to us on Tuesday night for devotional. He told us that we need to consecrate ourselves to our missions and that we need to serve with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength as it says in Doctrine and Covenants chapter 4. 

Czech is feeling better and better, but knowing that I will be in the country in 11 days makes me question if I really know enough of the language. We Skyped native Czech people again yesterday and even though I understand some, I realize how much further I have to go! As the time is starting to wind down here at the MTC, I am feeling nervous, scared, and super excited all at the same time. But because I have been called to serve to Lord and preach his gospel, I know that he will strengthen me. I am thankful for this gospel in my life and I can't wait to share my message with the Czech people! Have a great week everyone!

-Starší Shirley

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Learning To Be a Powerful Missionary

With Elder McKee, one of Elder Shirley's zone leaders

Elder Newman, Elder Isaacson (one of the Bulgarian Elders), and Elder Shirley

Elder Shirley and two of the Turkish Elders: Elder Brady and Elder Blair

Elder Muir, Elder Shirley and Elder Hall-Brown

Elder Bednar and Elder Shirley. His great uncle is the actual Elder Bednar

Trying on some Krispy Kreme hats from the donuts that Elder Shirley's mom had delivered

Elder Shirley's district in Krispy Kreme hats

August 6, 2015

Ahoj everyone!

This week was an especially good one! Here is why:

For Tuesday night general authority devotional, we got to hear from an apostle of the Lord. The devotional was given by President Russell M. Nelson. From what I heard, this is his first time speaking after being called as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. So even though I've been at the MTC a long time, I am blessed to hear messages from apostles. As a group of over 2,000 missionaries gathered while waiting for President Nelson to come into the room, all of the sudden, everyone in the room went silent. I think we all felt that President Nelson had arrived and we felt the Spirit that he carried. It was a cool experience. His talk was focused mainly on the eternal perspective and how important the temple is in our lives and in the lives of our investigators. He also gave us three eternal goals which are: Help gather scattered Israel, Families of Israel shall be sealed in temples of the Lord, and Prepare the world for the second coming. He also said something that I really liked. It was "Have the doctrine of Christ engraved in our hearts." I know that as we do that, we can become great missionaries and great disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our Sunday night devotional was given by Sheri Dew. She had a really good message to share also. Hers was on receiving answers to our prayers and how to understand the Spirit. I liked that she said we must be willing to spiritually "wrestle" in our prayers and having meaningful prayers to feel the Holy Ghost and receive revelation.
One other cool thing that happened this past week was that we got the opportunity to teach some members of the church from the Czech Republic over Skype. We prepared a lesson and got to skype them and teach it to them. It was a good experience to hear what native Czech people sound like and it was awesome to actually understand some of what they are saying and be able to teach in a different language and have them understand. The language is still moving along. Some of the grammar principles are different and hard to get used to, but the knowledge will come with time and with faith.

This week, about half of my zone left to go to the field. The ones that left were the Turkish Elders, the Bulgarians, and the Slovenes. It was hard to see them go because I have gotten close to them in the 6 weeks that I have been here. And it is also weird now being the most experienced Elders in the zone and knowing that I'll be the next group of people that leaves.

That is it for this week! I'll leave you with a thought from one of my awesome teachers. He said, "Don't just be a good missionary, or a fun missionary, but be a powerful missionary because that is what the mission requires." And I know the same applies to all members in the gospel. We can't just be good or great. We need to be powerful because that is what the world requires of us. 

Love and miss you all! 

-Starší Shirley