Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 19, 2013 - Kosice

Hello my lovelies!!

      Well this week was velmi (very) interesting... Pretty much the same as normal-get up, studies, contact, and teach but a few out of the ordinary things happened. The week started a bit rough, we haven't been teaching very much or getting many numbers while contacting but the morning contacting was nice for a change. We've gone back to normal schedule except for once a week, we'll contact in the morning.

     The first new thing (and my biggest news) is about M. He was having an issue with a gospel principle but this past week he contacted us and said he'd "live by all our precepts". So we met with him, determined his sincerity, and yesterday Elder Barber (my district leader) interviewed him. M is getting baptized this Saturday!!! We're sooo glad. He's so great, knows the gospel very well and is a wonderful addition to the Saints. So we're in high spirits. Sadly M won't be staying in Kosice (he lives closer to Bratislava or Nitra) but I know he'll bless lives in his home branch.

     My next news is about service. In our efforts to branch out and find more people to teach, President McConkie gave us permission to give private English lessons to a girl named N. She's real cool and is pretty much fluent in English, she just needs some help with grammar and sounding native. We hope she will also have an interest in our message. 
     Okay now this past Saturday was CRAZY!!! First, some background...So Sister Jones is from Wales and her family has some friends there who are named E and L. L is from the Czech Republic and E is from the Slovak Republic. They were on holiday visiting family here and we met with them briefly on Saturday. They aren't members and Sestra Jones gave them a KM (Kniha Mormonova) with her testimony written inside (in Slovak of course!). They were so nice and just an adorable family. E and L also had a package from the Jones Family containing peanut butter and marshmallows (Impossible things to find here!)!! (Brother Jones- Please pass along my thanks to your lovely wife and family! It made our day! THANK YOU SO MUCH!) 
     Then we went to the Branch BBQ. It was really fun especially because some of our investigators came! We ate a lot, played a lot and I got really sunburned! I need to invest in some sunscreen. But in about a week, I'll just be really tan...  I have pictures for you too!  Also there was a lot of food left over which the branch gave us so we missionaries ate like kings on Sunday!
Okay so answers to a couple of questions:

1.  Are you still doing the cooking or is it a shared event?  Is it easy to find the ingredients for the foods you like to eat?
A. Sestra Jones and I cook together. We eat a lot of salads (this is the healthiest I've eaten so far). We tried to do South Beach but it wasn't really working for us but we're still trying to stay away from lots of starches. Ingredients aren't too hard to find for most the things I want to make, plus I've had a few tips from other missionaries. This week we'll try Hawaiian Haystacks. I'll let you know how it goes.

2. What do you think has been the biggest adjustment to a foreign country?
A. Well I miss some of the American conveniences (such as chocolate chips and dryers and free grocery bags). There are just certain things that I have to be aware of that I never thought about at home. For instance, bus times. If I miss my bus, I might have to wait another 10 to 30 minutes depending on which bus I'm taking and where I'm going. Missing my bus might make me late for a meeting so it's very important!
I need to upload some pics now soooo.....
I love you all so much! Thanks for your support and encouragement!
S Laskou,
Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3

August 2013 - Kosice - pictures of daily life

Whitney sent pictures of their apartment (it is really nice)!

Looks like Sister Jones is inviting us in for a virtual tour...

Here is part of the living room - one of the  earlier post shows a view from the balcony of the room.

The missionaries share a bedroom....

 ...glad to see Avery is still with her!  Also, Whitney has a new can read all that adventure in another post.

The all important kitchen--because many of us know how much Whitney loves food (especially sweets) and she loves to cook.  (yes, that is her refrigerator beside the table)


                     And the bathroom...

along with the washer (that's right, there is no dryer)

And, lastly, my favorite missionary - you are seeing a reflection in part of the picture - she is learning part of her lesson by writing in Slovak with dry erase markers on a mirror!

August 12, 2013 - Kosice

Hello everyone!

     Well this week was a little dull, a little crazy, and a little exciting. It started off like any other week and quite frankly seemed to be going downhill. Its crazy hot here which is a bit of a problem for us. Our members we normally teach with took a couple of days to go to the caves and we just couldn't get anyone to set up with us! Which means we had lots of contacting on plan. It's not a bad thing but we were out in the hottest part of the day, normally between 1 to 6. And I've been told the weather got up to 36 degrees (in Celsius of course! but I have no idea how hot that is in Fahrenheit.).

     Sestra Jones and I have been feeling like we've been in a rut. We aren't getting many meetings set up nor getting many numbers during contacting.  We know Kosice has LOTS of potential so we were slightly (okay maybe more than slightly) discouraged. Also we have a lot of less actives and were a little baffled at how to really work to bring them back. (As a little bit of backgound we normally contact on the namestie or town square. We've been trying to find "Kingdom Builders" while contacting or those who can support and lift the branch because they are all ready stable in their lives.) President had called us about something and while talking with him we'd made a comment about our thoughts on the less actives and he told us he had some ideas for us and to call him the next day. So of course we followed our mission president's instructions and called him the next day. He said he'd been having similar thoughts on how to find Kingdom Builders and use our time/energy most effectively when trying to contact less actives. He gave us so much wonderful advice and helps. Then he asked us to be his guinea pigs... Traditionally missionaries have studies from 8 in the morning till lunchtime or so. This means our work out and about starts around lunch and goes until 7 or so. If we have meetings, they are normally scheduled after 4, so our contacting blocks are between the hours of 1 and 4 (more or less). President pointed out that the people we want to contact, those who are financially stable with families are normally at work during this time. So we received permission to contact at a different time...early morning. On Friday, August 9, we contacted early in the morning. It was a little weird to be on the namestie that early but the people we met were amazing! Nearly everyone we met told us they were hurrying to work but we were able to get a few numbers. The type of people we met were different. For instance, one woman we met was on her way to work but pause to speak with us. When we asked her what was important to her, she answered "my child." We are finding the people we want-Kingdom builders. We tried again this morning and again have had success. One thing we noticed this morning, is right around 9 there is a huge influx of people due to the fact that most of the shops open at 9. It's great to try to streamline our operations and make the work flow more smoothly. Plus as a bonus, during the hottest part of the day, we are inside doing our studies. Also if we meet someone one their way to work, we can set up a meeting with them after work and we as missionaries will have time to plan a lesson for that person. I really enjoy this creativity and thinking outside the box.

      So another piece of interesting news...Mom, you're finally getting your moneys worth out of piano lessons. For the last 2 Sundays, I've played in church. I do enjoy playing the piano but my hands always get super shaky after I'm done, which makes taking the sacrament a little hard. I'm the only missionary who's "fluent" in piano so it looks like I'm a permanent pianist this transfer.

      Also we got a new missionary!! His name is Elder Ferrell. He is sooo good at the language (he might be better than me quite frankly) and really cool too. He arrived a week behind his group b/c he broke his foot playing basketball. But he's here now and I just want to say my district is the very best!!

      I have more to say but sadly have run out of time. Mom, sorry I didn't get your questions answered from last week. Also I have pics but no time to load them. :(  Furthermore I'm super jelly you all were in Wyoming! But, I'm in I think I win. ;)
Love,  Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 5, 2013 - Kosice

Hello Everyone!
     I'm in Kosice and it is just grand! My companion is Sister Jones. She is from Wales and came out a transfer before me. Our district is probably the youngest in the mission (well maybe not. Bratislava is pretty young too). There's me (on my second transfer), Sister Jones (on her 3rd transfer), and a new missionary (I actually haven't met him yet, but he's coming this week), and Elder Barber (He's been out a while more than a year) and Elder Fredrickson (I'm not sure how long he's been out. More than 4 transfers I think though). I have a great comp and a great district.

      Well this week was hard. The weather is ridiculously hot and humid. I feel like I'm in a Kansas summer. And we've had a few set backs with the work. We had three people on date for baptism and now we have zero. One of them is sooo close and has progressed so much. He only needs to make a leap of faith. Also we've had a few people drop meetings with us. It's really sad to have something that will make people happy and bring so many blessings and they just aren't willing to read the Book of Mormon or even pray about it. All they have to do is reach out and grab it and we'll be there to help them along but sadly they won't put in the effort. On the plus side, we taught a beautiful family in their home on Wednesday. We contacted them on eternal families and at our meeting the first thing H (the father) asked was if we would reference the scripture about what is bound on Earth can be bound in Heaven. They accepted a Book of Mormon and agreed to meet again. Plus they fed us some yummy lemon cake. (And K (his wife) said she'd give me the recipe!)

       The language is still a struggle.....

       I am just so blessed and grateful to be here though....I know I'm where the Lord wants me for the time being and even though it's difficult sometimes He's on my side and He will help me.

       Well that's all for now I suppose. Send me news from home, keep my blog/FB page updated, and BE HAPPY!! I love you all bunches!
Love, Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3

July 29, 2013 - Kosice

Hello Everyone!!

     So this week was transfers and guess what!?! I'm still in the beautiful city of Kosice!! My new companion is Sister Jones. She's been out one transfer longer than me and she is such an amazing missionary! We were both trained by Sister Pysnakova. I don't really feel like to much happened this week...

     We have a huge teaching pool and its frankly quite amazing. President McConkie thanked us the other day because we've put in hard work (and lots of prayers) and had a lot of success. He said that we have set the example and that anything is possible for Slovakia.
     I think one reason we've had so much success is because we count on miracles. At our last training President McConkie told us missionaries that the missionary work in Slovakia relies on miracles. As a companionship, we started to count the miracles we saw everyday. When we missed our bus, it was okay because we talked with someone else and setan appointment up with them. When our next appointment cancels, it's okay because that means we contact some awesome people who want a Book of Mormon. And now as we've been doing this, we've come to expect miracles. We know that Heavenly Father has prepared this area and these people to hear the Gospel. We just need to rely on Him and go the extra mile to find those people
         I don't really feel like I've been here for 9 whole weeks but I guess time flies when you're having fun (or working hard).
    Right now it's crazy hot here and humid too. Just like Kansas. Sometimes I'm amazed that I'm in Europe...the weather is just like home!
    I love you all so very much!!

S Laskou,
Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3

July pictures - traveling

Modes of transportation...

By feet..

         By bus...

                   And, by train.....

July 22, 2013 - Kosice (pictures)

    Last P-day(preparation day) I went on a walking tour of Kosice with the other missionaries and President van Dalen. It was really cool to tour Kosice and hear some of the history.
 Plus President bought us ice cream afterward which made me super happy. ;)

President van Dalen

Ice Cream!

July 2013 - Kosice - Alzbety Cathedral

Whitney had mentioned her district was able to go to the Alzbety (St. Elizabeth Cathedral) in Kosice. 
They climbed the tower to the top for a gorgeous view of the city.

July 22, 2013 - Kosice

Good afternoon everyone!!

      Last Sunday, my sisters and I sang in sacrament meeting. We sang Savior, Redeemer Of My Soul and I had the wonderful opportunity to write harmony and arrange it. Elder Simcock played the piano for us (he's EXCELLENT!) and I sang harmony. I've sung more harmony on my mission than I have in my entire life! Also that day we had 5 investigators at Church!! 2 of them were a complete surprise. We'd handed one of them a card on the street that week and he just decided to come because he lived near and he brought his friend.

        Last week I also got a super yummy dessert recipe! I hope to have an entire notebook of Slovak recipes by the end. The dessert is called Bublanina and is delish!
      I also had quite an adventure... So here's how is goes. I took my sheets off to wash and was just using my extra sheet but I didn't really tuck it in. The next couple nights I kept getting bug bites. So yeah, I had bed bugs!! It was awful. I called the mission president and we worked out a solution. The elders came and took our mattress out (I'm actually not sure why the Mission Prez wanted the elders to do it...maybe he didn't think the three of us could handle it) and threw it away--including my sheets. :(  We went and ordered a new mattress which will actually come in this week so I've been sleeping on a couch for about a week. It was no fun at all to loose proselyting time to go mattress shopping but the Lord blessed us sooo much because even with that fiasco, we taught 26 lessons!!! We've been so busy that Sister Pysnakova is stressed because we barely have time to fit in all of our lessons and studies.
     Another adventure I had last week was I did something I regret ever so slightly. I got layers. It doesn't look bad but its hard to braid and just stresses me out a little sometimes. I kinda want to chop it so it will all be the same length again but then it would be a little past my shoulders... Well we will see.

      We've been preparing for a baptism this week. M is getting baptized on Saturday.  We met him 5 weeks ago and he's progressed rapidly. He struggled a little with accepting the Word of Wisdom but in the end he agreed that the Lord wants him to live by it. Sometimes its difficult to teach him...he's very smart and if we don't watch every phrase we say, he catches us on our words. We teach him in English b/c he moved to England at a very young age so it's easier for him than Slovak. We're working on getting him a Doctrine & Covenants right now b/c he read the Book of Mormon at a  rapid pace and just wants to know more. Plus when we teach commandments (such as the word of wisdom and tithing) he wants to see and read about it on his own. He's amazing and a blessing. M really tests us and helps us become better teachers and we always need to KNOW the material we'll be teaching.

      Okay Mom, you asked about the language. Quite frankly, I don't think I've improved. I'm trying not to let it get me down. I get frustrated sometimes b/c I don't know where the failure is...if I'm not studying effectively or what. I know that learning, understanding and becoming fluent will take time but I also realize that in the next transfer or two, I could be with someone who's been out as long as I have. So mostly I'm just praying a bunch.

      And about transfers. Transfers are 9 weeks long so next week is transfer week. I'll know where I'm going (or if I'm staying) this weekend. I won't be in a threesome (probably) but there is a chance I will be with someone who was in my group. And the other 2 sisters have only been out a transfer longer than me. (Granted those 2 are AMAZING!! pretty much ninjas at this language.)

     Today President van Dalen took us (all 5 of us missionaries) on a tour of Kosice. It was wonderful!! Then he bought us ice cream. This city is so gorgeous! I took some pics and have some from last week too.

      I think that's all for now. I love you all to bits!! I'm going to try to send pictures...we'll see how well that goes.

S Laskou,
Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3