Sunday, January 23, 2011

Athens Zone - Jan 18

Athens Zone Conf. at Halandri Chapel for training in The Fundamentals of Preach My Gospel. This was a day of scripture study, learning together and sharing our thoughts on this great work.

Role playing gives us a wonderful opportunity to use the language skills that we have acquired. They are also a way of getting as close as possible to real life situations. So many times as we work together in role play, we feel the Holy Ghost testifying of the truths that we share.

Training in Cyprus - Jan 16

As for this week, we had a quite humerus adventure in Cyprus this week. On a side note we did give an epic presentation while we were there. My companion gave some nice quotes on obedience then I just hammered down and made the rules unquestionable. It was very powerful. But the story I want to tell you is about a sign. For the past year or so we have been trying to get good signs for all of our buildings in Cyprus. Well finally about two days before we got there they arrived and were installed. On the day we got there, a nice Cypriot man came up to us and started yelling at President because our sign looks like a tomb stone and is driving away business to his medical clinic. A fair statement as the Cypriots are highly superstitious and also it did look like a tomb stone. So after my presentation, president calls me over to go take pictures with him of the sign. We go outside only to find out, someone stole our sign! It did solve a problem for us as we were going to have to take it down. But we don't know where it is now. We also had it attached to a wall that wasn't ours which didn't help the situation.

This is at the start of the second day of training. President resists getting an icecream from McDonalds.

This time we are with the missionaries in Cyprus, here are some of their comments. " We look at everything through a lens-that lens is attitude." " My desire is pure" "Allow spirit to speak to spirit" " You will never see the benefits of living worthily without living worthily" "We are not here to blend in".

Training in Thessaloniki.

Role playing is such an important part of the day. It gives us all the opportunity to practice our language skills and answer concerns that people may have. Elder Antonopoulos shared this from his Seminary teacher. "In stopping to talk to people we don't lose anything, but they may gain Eternal life."

We drove to be with the missionaries in Thessaloniki for training in the Fundamentals of Preach My Gospel.

Jan 9th - letter home

This week, on the drive to Thessaloniki, my companion and I stopped at a place called Thermopylae. If any of you are familiar with Ancient history you know this to be the place where King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans fought off the Persian army of millions of soldiers just long enough to allow the Greek army to assemble and save Greece. In the battle every one of the 300 died but they were able to defeat nearly half of the Persian army. But what we can take from the Spartans isn't that they were just the best fighters but what made them the best. When a spartan fights he doesn't defend himself. He defends the person to his left. The Spartans were always looking out for each other. And that is what made them effective. They were not fighting the battle in front of them but instead for those around them. Now to apply that to us, we must always be surrounded by those people that will fight for us and not just for themselves. We must choose good friends that aren't going to leave us to fight for ourselves against the dangers of these days. When we have these good people surrounding us we can survive the toughest of circumstances and come out the conqueror.

New elders means a new companion.

Elder Jentzsch joins me working with President Charles as his Assistants. He is from Germany. He is from my MTC group. He is pretty relaxed which is nice. He is like my 14th companion. I have secured my fate as the Elder with the most companions in mission history.

A trip to Mars Hill, testimonies and scriptures.

Elders Baret and Greciano Arrive from the MTC

Jan 2nd - letter home

So for this week, my life got interesting. I moved an apartment, finalized the transfers that started yesterday, then began the nightmare of trying to organize how to move everyone. Basically I spent all of yesterday driving from one place to the next. We also had New Years. We got to watch Forever Strong. Its a rugby movie that takes place in a high school and Juvenile center in Utah. It has a good gospel message. It was a nice moment to relax. Then back to 100mph. Sadly, after all my planning, the curse of humanity set in and free agency took place. A couple missionaries decided not to get on a plane because they thought it was going to the wrong place and the senior couple decided not to instruct them correctly so they missed their flight. But we got it fixed and its all good now. Too much stress. Anyways, then on Sunday it was decided for me that I will drive to Thessaloniki on Thursday. Then drive back and fly to Cyprus so life is an adventure.

Boxing Day - Dec 26th

Boxing Day strictly speaking was the first week day after Christmas. Today it is the following day after Christmas. The 26th of December was the day to open the Christmas Box and share the contents with the poor. The box was a wooden or clay container where people placed gifts. Boxes would be placed in churches the Sunday before Christmas, and the gifts would be distributed to the poor in the Parish on Boxing Day.This was also a day when servants could visit their families. Their employers would have prepared boxes of leftover food for them to take and share.

Sunday Dec 26th - letter home

This week, I got to attend 4 Christmas Parties and 2 Zone Conferences. I also got 2 new apartments for the missionaries. Right now most of our apartments are really old so we are trying to modernize them to get rid of the problems that the old buildings have. For example, the apartment I live in when I first got here has a wall that has changed color due to it being covered in mold. It is disgusting, mostly due to the missionaries neglecting it. But we have decided to move rather than risk anything. So this week I am moving 2 apartments and maybe a 3rd if we can get it. Big week. And transfers. Life is never boring anymore. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas eve at the Acropolis

This was my Christmas breakfast - YUM!

The following pictures are from my trip to Thessaloniki.

Mission Home Open House

Sis. Charles calls this my "please don't get in the way of the food" pose.

Athens Missionary Christmas Party 2010 - Dec 25

We enjoyed an evening together that was truly satisfying to the soul. We ate well, we exchanged gifts, we sang carols. One of the highlights of the evening was watching excerpts from the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Presentation. This was the one with bells as the theme. What music, what visual beauty the whole thing was amazing. Sister Ollerton told us the origins of the hymn Silent Night and then we sang this beautiful song. A perfect evening.

No pets!

What would a Christmas party be without the white elephant game??

First we had food, wonderful food!

Athens Zone Conference 23 December 2010

Athens Zone Conference, Elder Ollerton reminded us about the importance of having a daily multi vitamin and mineral supplement. They are crucial to helping our missionaries maintain good physical and mental health. We have been taught well and have much to do with the many invitations to improve. We had a great deal of good instruction.

Dec 20th - 2nd Christmas Party & Zone Conf.

We were taking a break during Zone Conf. where we swapped area books and then looked to see what was good and what could be improved upon.

We watched Narnia which at times had Elder Deeley on the edge of his seat. President Charles said he was meditating on the deeper levels of this film!!

Don't I looked thrilled with my white elephant gift. I stole it from Elder King who was driving me crazy with the incessant playing.

We held the Thessalonian Christmas Party at the home of Elder and Sister Shute.

Dec 15 - 1st Christmas Party

Cyprus Christmas Party

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dec 13th - Cyprus zone conf

As for this week, I flew to Cyprus on Friday morning around 6AM. (had to get up at 3:30) Then we made out way to Limessol for an exchange. While there I got to have a lesson with a man named Jonny. He is middle eastern but Christian. So we wanted to figure out why he hasnt been coming to church and how much interest he has. So I listened for a while as the other Elder taught and tried to help him. then as he was beginning to see that he wasnt making progress, I decided to just start asking questions. It totally turned things around. We got him to fully see the importance of everything and committed him to baptism and to come to church. It was a great lesson and the spirit was really strong. Its amazing how much a few simple questions can help you to get to the source of the problem.

Elders Kennedy, Fairbanks, Woodger, Cook and not forgetting Elder Loynes had the birthday song and treat this Zone Conference. Thank you Elder Loynes for that very 'special' pose. Well done Elder Lauener you almost made it into every picture!

Letter to parents from Pres Charles

Our Dear Parents,

Our major reason for writing this letter is to thank you for giving us stewardship over your children, our wonderful missionaries, whilst we all serve in the Greece Athens Mission.

This mission is generally accepted as one of the most challenging in the world and yet all we can see is missionaries united in a great cause, willing to accept the disappointment of being turned away by children of God who once accepted the plan in a pre-earth life existence.

These same missionaries continue, day after day, week after week, to stand up and be counted. They bear testimony of how much they love the Greek and Cypriot people despite, at best, the indifferent attitude demonstrated by these people.

Your children are walking miracles and as a result of this mission, they are preparing to walk back into the presence of the Father through their faith, obedience and works.

We are constantly in awe of these youngsters and what they have taught us. Thank you for allowing them to serve and thank you for your example which they have quite obviously taken from you. Know that we love them and that they are in safe hands on the Lord’s errand.

With our best wishes this Christmas season.

With love, thanks and appreciation,
President and Sister Charles
Greece Athens Mission

December 6th

This week, I started driving. I don't think that you can comprehend the amount of nerve that takes. If you have ever seen a clip of driving in Greece or Italy (roughly the same), they are the worst drivers you have ever seen. Speed limits do not exist. Stop lights are optional if you flash your head lights to make sure you wont get hit. One way streets are only the direction you want to go. Streets do not have to be 2 car widths wide to drive 2 cars down them at the same a time while having a 3rd parked on the side walk. Side walks are for cars, not people. Hazard lights can be renamed, do whatever-i-want lights. Because you can, do whatever you want as long as they are on. Including stopping in the middle of the road. The little car that I drive is absolutely tiny. There is basically no back seat and the trunk is nonexistent. It is an automatic so its basically the equivalent of a 4 man go cart. Then comes the van. The van is roughly the size of my old pickup truck. Its a stick, and lucky for me I still remember how to drive it. We had to take a washing machine to the sisters apartment this week. Driving the van where I live isn't so bad. The streets are wide and not much traffic. But it was a miracle that I got that van down some of those streets. Its like the magic car from Harry Potter. It can fly and it can magically change sizes. I say it can fly because it is a 6 speed with turbo. It is much too fast for a van. But it is terrifying as the motorcycles zoom past you as you sit in traffic. They believe the dotted line is a lane specially for motorcycles and that the shoulder is also a lane used to relieve traffic. I can only hope that i will be the first driver in the mission to never have an accident. So far the odds are against me.

Working with the President at the office.

Nov 29, 2010

So this weeks story comes from my thanksgiving. I was fortunate enough to be invited to two thanksgivings. One for all the missionaries and one at a members home. So I went to the first one and made some turkeys out of truffles and icing and cookies. They were cool but I didn't get a picture. Sadly everyone got there an hour late. So by the time we started I had to leave because of a transportation strike and I needed to get to the members house. So I left without eating. I know it was sad for me too. But we arrived at the other on time miraculously catching every metro, train, and bus we needed to get there on time. On arriving, we talk and then other guests start to arrive. We talk to them and had a great evening. None of the guests were members and sadly we never got to bring up the gospel. We left full and a little sad we hadn't gotten to talk much. So the next day comes around and we are at our district meeting and its time to go home. We knew a few ways to get the hour and a half back but couldn't decide which way to go. One of the senior couples told us of a bus that would work. So we walk over and get on after a short wait. About 2-3 stops later a man gets on the bus. We recognize him as the man from the night before. We start talking to him and about 30 min into the bus ride we finally get on to the gospel and have an amazing lesson with him there on the bus. We gave him a book of Mormon and we are going to use the member family to track him. It was one of those moments you knew you were put in the right place at the right time. We are really excited to see were things go with him.

The time has come to say goodbye to our Sister Lelle. It was wonderful to have Elder Fingerle of the Area 70 join with us.

Our group on Mars Hill for testimonies.

Time to say goodbye! We do so with confidence in Sister Lelle for she is a young woman of great faith and courage.

Welcome Elder Antonopoulos

While we read and bore testimonies to one another a flock of birds flew overhead and swirled about the sky. Not to be forgotten, our trip to Souvlaki Kiffisia for some Greek food.

Pictured are Elder Antonopoulos with his companion and trainer Elder Rodriguez along with the two Assistants, Elder Steeby who is now joined by Elder King.

Tuesday 23rd November we joyfully go to the airport to meet Elder Antonopoulos newly arrived from the MTC.

Nov 21 Conf

As for this week, we had a fun week. We decided transfers with President. My former companion will train the new Greek Elder and I am getting another companion. His name is Elder King from Maryland. But this week we had an Area 70 in town and a representative from the EFY committee from Europe. And also the mission president of Albania. So we made several trips to the airport. We also had all the going home things for the sister. That was really sad. Then we had a Mission Conference, like a stake conference but smaller. It was really good. We had 100 people there. Our small little chapel was packed! It was very exciting. Then we had a testimony meeting on Mars Hill for the sister going home and I was asked to conduct. I was not expecting to do it so it caught me off guard. But it went well. I also am getting a Greek quad made this week. It is going to be epic looking.

Sunday 21st November 2010 Acropoli Branch and Halandri Branch met together for a conference presided over by Elder Fingerle our Area 70. There was a sweet spirit in attendance and Elder Fingerle's message seemed to speak to each of us personally.

November 15, 2010

This week, we had some interesting news. We have a missionary from Austria that is a native Greek speaker in the MTC right now. We found out on Sunday that because he was a native speaker he only went to the mtc for 3 weeks instead of 9. Which means he is coming here next Tuesday. So that meant we had a week to plan what will happen to him and who will train him now that we are mid transfer. It looks like it might be my current companion. Which means that we need another AP and also a place to put them. We have a ton of planning to do. We also have a sister going home this week and an Area mission presidency meeting with Albanian that will take place in Athens this weekend. It is going to be crazy. But when my comp leaves, we won't be able to drive till I get my permit again. That won't be fun. Its a 2 hour ride to get to the center of Athens on the public transit. So next week will be even more fun than this one.