Monday, October 31, 2016

Members Play An Important Role in Missionary Work

Elder Shirley with Elder Cardon, who is from Duvall, WA and from the same ward as Elder Shirley's uncle and aunt Bostron

Elder Shirley and Elder Carlson

One of the town squares of Brno

A cool statue in the Brno town square

Elder Shirley's companion Elder Hymas

Elder Shirley says this was a "pretty good dish" that he ate this week.  He didn't elaborate on what is in it.

An iconic picture of Brno

October 31, 2016


My testimony of member work has grown this week. We had testimony meeting yesterday and I love hearing about how the members support us as missionaries. I know that we are supported and I also know that the work will be hastened as members work to bring their friends to the gospel. 

Our ward mission leader has got to be one of the best out there. He is a returned missionary and a really cool guy. After our correlation meeting with him this last week, he actually contacted on the street a little bit with us. That was a cool experience for us to know that he is behind us and willing to work with us. Members help the work so much!

We have 2 new investigators this week! We met with both of them this last Friday. They both say that they are "atheists", but they are willing to at least talk about God. I think that the problem here is finding people that are willing to sit down with us and meet the first time. The public’s perception of people that believe in God here isn't very good. But if people just give us a chance to explain a little, I think that they realize how faith and how the idea of God isn't too weird, but is actually beneficial for them individually. Our new investigators are both YSA (young single adult) college student-aged guys and are really cool. I'm excited to see them progress and at least think about and try believing.

One day this week we did a chalk display in the middle of the city. We drew the plan of salvation on the ground and had contacted people about it. I met a really cool guy from Brazil that might have interest in the future. We had a nice drawing on the ground and everything was going well, and then some little kids ran up, grabbed some chalk, and started scribbling all over our picture. Then they started drawing on the buildings. We couldn't do a whole lot to stop them because they wouldn't listen, so we just had to run and grab some water and erase everything.

We had a great training day and correlation meeting with our ward mission leader. We also had another big service day on Saturday. We dug a big hole in this one guy's garden and also ripped another tree out of the ground. That seems to be the favorite activity for the missionaries to do. 

Church was great yesterday. Bishop invited us over to have dinner with his family after church. That was really fun. A meal from the members is always a great opportunity for us to get to know them and have a good meal. 

Zone conference was awesome! The focus was on baptism. Our last training was about the importance of God and about how people can't progress in the gospel without a good foundation. This training was about baptism to let us know that we still need to talk about baptism with people early and often. Baptism is our purpose! Three things that someone needs to have in order to be baptized: 1) desire; 2) trust in the missionaries/members; 3) a personal testimony. 

Here are some responses/reactions to questions that we asked Elder Shirley and information we told him in our emails this week.

Good to hear that Sugar is still winning! (We told him about Sugar’s state championships in both volleyball and boys’ cross-country this week). I hope basketball tryouts go well for Abrea! Sitting the bench would be hard but getting cut would be harder, I think. Sitting the bench would at least push her to be better! 

Abrea is already going to be taking Drivers Ed? When can she have her license? Before I get back? 

Tell Joe (Andreason) hi for me as well! It’s crazy to think that all of them are home already. A few missionaries here did a similar fireside about their missions as well. Those seem to be good experiences! 

Transfers are next week! It is so up in the air as to what is happening. So I can't even expect to stay. We'll see! This week should be a little crazy and I'm sure it will fly by. Hope you have a great week as well!

Love you lots!
-Elder Shirley

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Happiness Is Found In The Family

Enjoying lunch at a zone meeting

Elders Shirley, Hanis, Carlson, Hymas

October 24, 2016


This week was great! We have our free English classes on Tuesdays here in Brno. The other two Elders were sick and at home so I covered their class this week. It was conversation class and so we just kind of talk together. They started off talking about politics and money and then with time the conversation turned into how we can find happiness. I asked everyone in the class how they find happiness. Keep in mind that none of these people are members of the church. We went around the room and it was interesting to hear from all of them that real happiness is found in relationships and in the family. I had to pause and stop them. I told them that that was the real purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It strengthens relationships here and allows those relationships to continue on. The gospel applies to everyone because everyone has loved ones. We know that knowledge of the plan of happiness allows us to have joy. It was a really cool discussion with them.

We went tracting this week without a whole lot of success on Wednesday and Sunday. And our family that we found last week appears to not have a whole lot of interest, unfortunately. They said they will call us and let us know when they can meet. That is a line that we don't like to hear from people haha. Sometime I'm sure somebody will actually call back and have interest.

I had an exchange with Elder Hanis this last week. We went through the MTC together and are pretty good friends so it was a good time. We taught one girl in the evening in a tea shop. She had the wrong idea of why we wanted to meet, I think, but we ended up teaching a good lesson and I think she has interest. I love talking to people that are open to learn more and that have questions. I have realized recently how much I love teaching first lessons! 

We had service on Saturday. We ripped a massive tree out of the ground. It took 3 hours to dig it out and cut all the roots. But the lady was so happy that we could do it and we had a good gospel discussion afterwards. 

{Below, Elder Shirley  responds to some info and questions that we had sent him}
I was looking forward to hearing about state soccer all week! Sad to hear how it ended up, but I'm sure it was a fun and exciting tournament. That actually hurts a little to read the recap of the games. That's hard to get scored on only by PK's. And then the fact that Teton won it all....that's too bad haha. But I'm sure Dan's team played great! I'm honestly really excited to see Dan's senior year of sports. I think I'm looking forward to that almost more than anything else haha. I just need to re-live high school sports again through him. Basketball season is awesome, I'm excited to hear about it. I'm sure Abrea will make the team! She sounds like she has turned into quite the athlete since I have been gone.
Hey, sounds like it should be a fun Thanksgiving! Tell everyone I love them! 

Wow, that is big news that you got the bathroom textured! I remember taking all that wallpaper off! It sounds like you guys have done good work on the house since I have been gone.

I am feeling totally better this week! Elder Carlson, one of the missionaries in our apartment got super sick this week though.

Free time? I don't really have any honestly. I guess in the evening from 9:30 to 10:30, we usually just end up talking. Having 4 missionaries can be pretty distracting haha. We still exercise every day, but I'm sure I'll definitely have to exercise back into good shape when I get back home. I played a little basketball the other day on the hoop behind the church building here and I'm not too good haha. And it even hurt my back a little. My body is not at all used to that anymore.

Best thing about Brno? I don't know. There are always people to talk to here because it is such a big city. That has been nice. It’s great to not go and walk the same streets every single day. The ward is also awesome here. We had the Primary program yesterday and it was cute. The ward here is also singing at stake conference in Prague on the 6th of November and they asked us, the missionaries, to sing with them. So I am a member of the choir. That was fun! 

I'll be watching for the packages! Tell everyone thanks! I have a journal big enough and I also have clothes. I appreciate anything!

It was a great week all in all. I know the church is true! It blesses the lives of people. Love you lots! Have a great week!

-Elder Shirley

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Faith Requires Us to Have Patience

P-Day bike ride

Bike ride selfies

Elder Shirley says "Sorry about the inappropriate statues"

At a mansion/chateau along the bike path

October 17, 2016


As for me this week, I got sick at the start of the week. It has gotten really cold and on Tuesday we were outside for about 5 hours or so in the rain. That evening I was really cold and couldn't stop shivering. I ended up with a fever and a sore throat. So I spent half the day on Wednesday sleeping. That was my first time sick on the mission. 

We did a little bit of less-active finding this last week. This ward is bigger here so there are quite a few less actives to contact. We split up the ward list and we are trying to visit them all. It actually takes quite a long time to find some of these addresses and then quite often the person either doesn't live there or isn't home. We are seeing new parts of the city though and finding people in new areas of the city as we travel. 

On Saturday we had service at a lady’s garden that we tracted into the other week. We ripped a few big trees out of the ground. It was some good hard work. And then we shared a spiritual thought with her at the end and she sounded pretty interested. Service is a successful and effective way to find people who are waiting to hear the gospel.

The coolest thing this past week was probably today. It's P-day so we decided to do something pretty awesome. We took a train to a nearby city, Breclav, rented some bikes, and then biked for a while and saw a castle, a chateau, and a few other cool sites. We ended up biking 18 miles or so. My body isn't used to all that biking so I'm sure we'll be sore tomorrow. But it was probably the coolest P-day I have had on my mission. I'll send lots of pics. 

Overall, it was a pretty slow week with the sick day. We're hoping this week to have a few more lessons. We'll see.

We talked this last week about urgency and a better attitude. With a better attitude and a little more “skip in the step" or urgency to get out and talk with people, we show our faith to God that we are here to work and find people. It can be hard sometimes to work without immediate results, but I've definitely learned something out here about that: faith requires us to have the patience to wait and work for the promised blessings. We may not know when, but we can be certain that the blessings are there for us.

You and Dad are both asking about journal writing haha. I actually have been pretty bad this transfer. For the most part, I would write at least every other day, but this last month has been pretty bad. I'm averaging about once a week right now. But I'll get better! I still haven't received any packages. Training is on the 27th so I will get then then. There really hasn't been any investigators to teach this week. Potentials come and go pretty quick. But we are still working hard to find the one solid one. The 4 of us living together is still great. We're enjoying it. This transfer has definitely gone by super fast. Time really does go faster the longer you are out. Yep, I'm the chef here haha. I don't make anything too special. We had mashed potatoes and gravy this last week though. Elder Hanis got gravy packets in a package and it was so good. My white shirts are still in great shape! I don't think I'll have to buy any of those out here. Shoes are going strong as well. But I'm planning on buying European shoes at some point. You are correct, I haven't really worn my glasses this transfer. I just wanted a change. And I've also heard from other people that I look better without them. Not that I really need to look good right now, but you know haha.

Love you all!
-Elder Shirley

Here are some more pictures taken during the P-day bike ride:

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Plan of Happiness Brings Us Joy

A "hug" from the Sugar 6th ward Primary kids

Elder Shirley and 3 of the other elders in Brno

On an empty tram in Brno
Eating a meal called tatarak again - raw meat with a raw egg

Elder Shirley has obviously gained an appreciation for tatarak!

Playing darts on P-day

Bowling on P-day

October 10, 2016


A few experiences from this last week. Last night we went tracting out in a little city. After only about 6 houses or so, we tracted into a young family. Two kids, 6 and 3. The wife answered the door and said she really didn't have interest. The husband then came to the door and also said he didn't really have interest. We talked a little longer and then they looked at each other and said, 'Alright, you can come in." I don't even know why they let us in, but they fed us and we had ice cream as well. We taught a little about the plan of salvation and how the gospel blesses families. They said for now, they don't have interest, but they would love if we came back. So we will see this week when we drop by again.

We were contacting this week on the street next to our house when all of the sudden, a guy opened the door to his house. He asked if we had time to come inside and have a drink with him. We were caught off guard but we followed him in. He talked to us about the Bible and about his hard family situation. It wasn't too long of a visit, but he said he would be happy if we came back. 

This last week, our district went to lunch together. We decided to order tatarak. I've already talked a little bit about this Czech dish, but this time, I ate a whole plate. It is a whole raw patty of meat with a raw egg cracked on top. You mix it with some seasoning and then use it as a spread on bread. It was surprisingly pretty good. Really nasty when you think about it, but not too bad.

We went last P-day bowling with a less-active member. He took us for free and when had a good time. It's been a while, but I still haven't lost my touch haha. 

The members are starting to get to know us I feel at this point. We had 3 member meals this last week and they were great. Member visits are always good experiences for the missionaries.

We had a lesson with a new investigator this last week. It was pretty weird. This guy believed in some sort of Native American or Indian thing. Basically, we started off the lesson and he started talking about how when he smokes marijuana, he feels closer to God. It was one of the more interesting lessons that I have taught and I honestly wasn't sure how to teach the guy. But in the end, the member that had come with us brought it back around and we might meet with him again this week. 

General Conference was great! I especially enjoyed Elder Bednar's talk and Elder Ballard's. I also felt that a lot of talks were geared toward the topic of joy. Just like President Utchdorf said, the knowledge of the plan of happiness brings us joy. 

Good week all around. We are blessed here in Brno. It's a great city! 

-Elder Shirley

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Don't All Things Denote That God Exists?

Elder Shirley and Elder Carlson

An Elder Shirley selfie

Elder Shirley's companion after a hard day's work

A view from the streets of Brno

The church building in Brno. Currently the only church-built building in the Czech Republic.

October 3, 2016


I bet General Conference was great! We'll be watching it next week and we're pretty excited! 
Instead of conference, we had regular church yesterday. It was fast and testimony meeting. And what was really cool was that between the 6 of us missionaries here in Brno, we had 8 investigators show up. 4 of them just came in off the street because of a card that we had given them during the week. It was really cool. We set up a meeting with them and we'll see how that goes.

I had an exchange with the zone leaders on Tuesday last week. But because we live with the zone leaders, it wasn't too different of a day haha. But just like usual, exchanges are successful. Elder Carslon and I, one of the zone leaders, found multiple people who said they could meet this week. So, we'll see how that goes. We actually met with one guy yesterday who was found on the exchange on Tuesday. We sat down with him in the park and taught the Restoration. He is searching and has a lot of good questions. And he is just a good guy who would definitely help the branch here. The only thing is, is that he can't meet for 2 weeks because of work.

We also did service this last Saturday. Everyone here has their house in the city, but they buy small plots of land and have gardens outside the city. So we went and helped an old guy out in his garden. We mowed the grass, moved some stuff around in his cottage, and picked up some branches in his yard. At the end of service, he fed us the usual, Spekačky. Spekačky are kind of like hot dogs, but quite a bit better. And we get fed them pretty often. Czechs are nice people! One grandma this week, when we talked to her on one of the city buses, gave us some cake and some bread. 

You know, when I look at the day I have ahead of me and see that I have 5 or 6 hours to spend on the street talking to people, I sometimes dread that. But then when I look back and remember all the good things that come out of it and realize how fast times actually goes, I dread it less and less and look forward to it more and more. I feel like I am finally becoming the missionary that I want to be, and time is running out so fast. Pretty crazy! But I love it! I just need to work as hard as I can in the here and now.

We went tracting this last week a few times and met some interesting people. Most of the time, we just stick to buses and trams though. Contacting on public transportation becomes easier and easier with practice. It is amazing to me sometimes how atheist some people are here. We run into those people a lot and it is pretty crazy to me that they can deny the existence of God. Just like Alma wrote, don't all things denote that God exists? And of course we know that God is, because when we live by his gospel, we are blessed. I notice that I constantly promise that to people because I know that it is true. God blesses us when we do what he asks. He loves us.

Love you lots!
-Elder Shirley

I didn't get Elder Shirley's letter from last week posted - here it is:

September 26, 2016

We had training this past week and it was really good! President talked about how foundational the doctrine of God is. People won't understand what the commitment and promise of baptism is if they don't even know who they are making the covenant with. Right after training, Elder Hymas and I had some finding on plan and so we contacted people about God and about why that relationship and knowledge about God is so important. We found an investigator that day and met with her the day after. We also did service for a member this past week. We dug some trees out of the ground. It’s just been a pretty good week all around. 

The most important lesson that I have learned so far in Brno is probably that people can be found anywhere and that we need to take advantage of every opportunity to talk to people about the gospel. Because we are in a big city, we constantly are riding on transportation. Sometimes I still feel a bit hesitant to talk to people in a tram when I know 20 other people can hear me, but that is what is required of us and that is what will help us find people. It is funny how sometimes, we go tram contacting and literally you try and contact everyone on the tram and nobody has interest. Sometimes people get mad and it is like the whole tram car of people are against you. Oh, the joys of being a missionary haha :)

You already celebrated Marissa's birthday? I can't believe I have already been gone for 2 of them. It sounds like you had a meal to die for! It's been a while since I've had a home cooked meal from mom. I have been designated as chef of the 4 of us missionaries so I cook pretty frequently. I wouldn't say that I am that great of a cook, but I'm definitely better than I was when I left. 

We write our emails from an Internet place in the center of town. It is a pretty interesting place with a bunch of guys that like computer games, but it works! The weather has gotten fairly cold here. We've started wearing sweaters and long sleeve shirts again. I don't know if I'm excited for the cold to settle in again. I can't say that there is anything in particular that I miss about home. Mission life has kind of just become normal life. I miss you guys of course! We have 4 elders in our apartment right now, and for this mission, that is a really rare experience. I feel like we have it pretty good here. We are living at a member’s house right now on the bottom floor. He lives above us. He actually is the son of the man that started the church here in the Czech Republic. It's pretty cool. Between the 4 of us here in Brno, we try to just speak Czech. We are all fairly old in the mission and we are all able too. It helps a lot to just speak Czech. There are currently no native missionaries here, most of us are from the US and there are a few from Canada. 

Have a great week!

-Elder Shirley