Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas Indeed!!!







MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY! Wow, I can't believe it's almost Christmas!!! Only a couple of days away!!! And what a Christmas it's been! Obviously you can tell why from the pictures. Zoeytsa's been baptized!!! And I got to do it!!! It was a really special experience for everyone. You can't imagine how cold the water was. It'd be about the same as walking out into the pacific about now on a rainy day. Brutal. I guess I can't complain though. There are people being baptized in much worse conditions. The Aegean sea is much warmer than Russia or Canada or somewhere like that where ice is floating in the water. I suppose I should start from the beginning now that I know the whole story. Zoeytsa is a greek lady who grew up in Albania, where at that time, religion was forbidden. Punishment awaited anyone who even spoke about the subject. So many people lost faith, and denied the existance of a God. Not Zoeytsa though. As a child her grandma always assured her that there is a God and that He's mindful of everyone of us, so though Zoeytsa couldn't talk about Him with anyone, she knew He was there because of her grandma and her personal prayers. She grew up with a deep passion for art, following the footsteps of her father, who was a very famous painter in his day. Instead of going out with her friends to play, she would stay home and paint, or watch her father paint. She grew up and study all styles in college. Once she gained a good amount of experience, she moved back to the land of her ancestors, to Thessaloniki. Once she had become established in greece, many of her friends and orthodox priests wanted her to get baptized into the orthodox church. She felt something hold her back, however. Something didn't seem right about it, so she declared herself not ready for baptism. She's become quite well known for her work here in Thessaloniki. During the summers, she spends her evenings in front of the white tower painting and selling her works. One night while at the white tower, she spotted four kids in shirts, ties, and tags, who had set up a white board and were talking with the people who would pass. She saw something different about them. She describes it as a light. For the first time ever, she left her canvas and came over to the white board to see what was going on. She read about the "Questions of the Soul" and was approached by one of the kids who gave her a book and told her that God has called a prophet today. Being an artist, she can read faces very well and can almost tell what a person is thinking from the expression on their face. She could tell that he was being sincere. So that's how Zoeytsa and I met. She told me that I could find her on the plateia selling her paintings. I went there twice and couldn't find her, but he last time I did and bought a painting from her and set up an appointment to sit down and talk. We went to her studion and taught her about the restoration and the Book of Mormon. That night she went home and told her 25 year old daughter, Petrina, that she wanted to be baptized into this church. "Mama, for 20 years people have been trying to get you baptized and you say now that you want to?" She felt the spirit during the lesson. Something had reminded her of her grandma's words. We continued to teach her with the senior couple, Elder and Sister Johnson, even though her work load had come to be nearly impossible to bare. We came to be really good friends and she even expressed how she felt like we were her own children. Smoking was the only thing that was in her way from being baptised. She even paid her tithing the day after we taught it, and it was more than 10 percent. Elder Stephenson and I translated and started her on a stop smoking program and I created a scripture chain, and sent a message everyday with an assignment to read a passage that I had chosen of some of the best scriptures in the Book of Mormon. It was a real strength builder for her and helped her out of temptation more than once. Finally, after having to postpone the baptism a week because of her addiction, she became smoke-free and was baptized on December 19th, 2009 in the cold waters of the Aegean sea. What's so amazing about this is that she has problems with her kidneys and the doctor told her to stay away from the cold as much as possible. That didn't matter to her though. She told me over the phone that she was going to be baptized even if it snowed. The program was really nice. Elder Johnson and I spoke, Elder Stephenson and I sang "I am a Child of God" and we played a slideshow of church paintings of Christ while the pianist played an interlude. We all drove to the sea, which we had cleaned and dedicated that morning. We linked arms and walked out into the water. Everystep got harder and harder as small waves would splash up against us. Then when we got far enough I felt something pinch my foot. I think it was a crab because he didn't let go until I kicked him off, haha. When we got out, she and everyone else seemed to be more concerned about me than her. It was pretty cold. We then went back to the church and changed and headed over to her house, where she and her daughter, Petrina ( the younger looking girl in the pictures) had cooked something that looked like it could be for a Greek Thanksgiving. So much food! greek salad, russian salad, a carrot salad that was really amazing, baked chicken, rice, Mousaka which is a casserole of layered potatoes, eggplant, and ground beef and baked, and pastitsio that rivaled that of Olgas, hawhawhaw. On top of that they brought out cakes, cookies, and filo pastries soaked in honey for dessert. So much food, it was ridiculous. It must have been really expensive. So she had over all the missionaries, the senior, couple, and some of the members that had come to the baptism and we laughed and talked through the evening. The next day she was confirmed a member of the church by one of the members, received the gift of the holy ghost, and bore her testimony in sacrament meeting. I'm really proud of her and the choices that she's made. She's going to give me a gift today. She's spent the last week working on a portrait of me to say thank you. It's amazing to see the happiness and hope that people receive as a result of following he gospel of Jesus Christ. Zoeytsa is going to do amazing things.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fall (two ways) in Thess!!



" I had another awesome experience doing a white board in front of the White Tower. We set it up there on the promenade and wrote on it "Questions of the Soul" such as "Does God exist, Did we exist before this life?, what is the purpose of this life?, and where will we go after death?" within ten minutes a crowd had started to gather in front of the board, just staring at it. We started talking to as many people as we could, then this old Greek guy walked into the middle of the crowd and said in a loud voice, "What group are you from?!" I told him that we were Mormons and then he said, in the same booming voice "ahh! the Mormons! Let me tell you something about the Mormons!" He turned to the crowd which was getting bigger by the second (greeks are really really curious) and he says "Mormons are the most loving, most christian group in all the world! They make the finest, most intelligent people! They don't drink, they don't smoke! They've created one of the finest universities in all the world! They live by the highest standards of conduct! Are they not Christians?" The crowd was eating up all his words. One lady even started saying out loud, "They're Christians! They're Christians!" Coming from someone who is Greek orthodox who believes that you must be orthodox in order to be a christian, that's a big compliment. He further explained that he had been to Utah several times on business as an engineer and has been to temple square and knows our doctrines quite extensively and just laid it all out. Apparently he had lived next to a Mormon family who had shown him a lot of kindness and had explained clearly the restored gospel. I stepped in and began to relate the message that we had to share and he testified to everything that I had too say. We met some really great people that night who had a real desire to learn more and an really deep impression was left on a crowd by one of their own. So cool!!! I'll definitely never forget that experience."





The Fall:

Well you guys, I have some bad news. Mom, don't freak out. haha Our zone leaders moved apartments this last week and we helped them do it. They lived five stories up, and while carrying some boards down the slick marble stairs, my left foot slipped out in front of me and I landed with my right leg bent behind me.(That's my bad knee) Slid down a couple of stairs. I didn't do anymore work. It's my knee that hurts, considerably weaker. I have my knee brace on now which helps a bunch. I decided to wait a week to see how it feels before deciding whether or not to go to the doctor. On a positive note, it feels a lot better than it did. I'm hoping that it's just bruised or something. It doesn't hurt so much anymore. It just feels weaker. I can walk fine, and just as much as before I fell, so that's not a problem. I just thought you guys should know, don't worry though!!!

Teaching in the Square:

I don't have much time, so I'll quickly tell you the highlight experiences of my week. This last Thursday, Elder Lohman and I were on an exchange with Elder Middleton, one of our zone leaders. We went to a place called Kamara, a square in the center of the city that runs from the university to the sea, to do a survey asking various questions about what people believe. I wasn't having too much success. I talked to a man who wasn't watching where he was going because he was staring at my name tag so intensely. I asked him if he would like to do the survey and he just went off about something. I couldn't even tell if it was greek at first; I guess I wouldn't know if he was cursing me out. Anyway, he made some pretty intense gestures and walked away. Crazies. So I turned around to find a guy in his twenties staring up at me, laughing. "Not too Christian is he?" he said in an English accent. I responded, "What can you do?" So I asked him if I could do the survey with him. He waited for a second and then gave and had me sit down next to him. "Alright" he said, " but I'm going to be the worst person you've ever talked to." I laughed and said, "We'll see" We did the survey and I was suprised at the answers he gave. He said that he believed in a greater power, and that that power governed all things; that it was selfish for us to think that we are the only world to contain life, and that that power governs all life, in all other worlds as well. He said that we can communicate with that power and that we can receive answers. He said that he believes Christ was the maker of Mary, that he made her famous, basically denouncing the divinity of Mary which is such a popular belief in Orthodoxy (sometimes Mary, or "Panayia" which means "the highest of all women saints", is worshiped more than even Christ himself). He said that he's had a very hard life; that in one year, his wife left him for his best friend, taking his daughter and all of his money, he lost his job, his father died, his dog died, his cat died, he moved to greece for a girl who dumped him, leaving him totally alone in Thessaloniki with no home. "I believe in work", he said "work, work, work, the power of the individual. I told you I was going to be the worst person you ever talked to. Alright, give me your speel, sell me God." I felt pity for him and thought it almost funny that he thought we were so different, when in reality our believes matched pretty closely. I told him that he'd be surprised at how similar his beliefs were to our church's doctrine. I told him that a great power does exist, and that I call Him God, and that He is the governor of not only this world, but of all the many worlds which He has created. I told him that we can communicate to Him through prayer and that He does respond. I told him that Christ is our savior, not Mary, and that He has called a prophet today, whose highlight message has been that there is no substitute to hard work. I guess he was kind of thrown off by this; he had expected me to start yelling at him preaching damnation or something. I guess that goes to show you how unorthodox we are. haha I told him that I wanted him to do something, pulling the Book of Mormon out of my bag. I told him that if that power really is God and that He is literally our Heavenly Father, then there would be nothing stopping Him from answering a prayer from one of His children. I asked him if he'd read and pray and that, for sure, he'd receive an answer, and that he's know that someone is watching out for him. He then said, "I've talked to Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, and Mormons before; but none of them were able to impress me like you just did. Where's your church? I'm coming this Sunday, if I don't have work." He caught me off guard. At no point in the conversation did he seem to show much interest. "Yeah, I don't know how you did it, but you have my attention." It's amazing what the spirit can do. I know, for sure, that there was nothing I did to impress him. It was the spirit working with someone who had been sufficiently humbled to where his heart could be opened. Unfortunately, he had work this last Sunday (he works on boats in the marina close to the church), so hopefully he'll be able to make it next Sunday. His name is Kallos by the way, Cal in English. I hope he makes it all the way!

One Year In Greece!!

YEIA SAS OLY!

This week is the week that I hit my one year mark! Can you believe it? I can't. By the way, I hit one year on the 8th of October, not the 10th, so Thursday!!! It's a pretty big deal among the missionaries I guess. We're going to celebrate by going to a traditional Greek taverna Thursday afternoon for lunch. Something to look forward to I think! I'll be sure to take a lot of pictures! The end of the transfer is also coming up. President was up here last week and gave us some info. He said that there will be more changes this transfer than the last transfer, which is surprising because not one companionship stayed together last transfer. I think it's most likely I'll stay in Thessaloniki, possibly training! That'd be challenging. Training means that I would be companions with one of the seven newbies coming in this next transfer. Cyprus still won't accept Americans, so that option is out. We'll see what happens!

The past two weeks have been so crazy it's kind of desensitized transfers. I'm staying in Sikies in Thessaloniki! Woo hoo. I expected it. I got a new companion though! It's funny how I haven't kept the same companion for over one transfer. His name is Elder Stephanson from Texas. What to say about him... he's wayyyyy tall, about a head taller than me and his humor is really similar to Ken's. haha Elder Harris will be coming back up today with his new companion, Elder Foerster from Germany, and we'll be living together. Elder Lohman flew off to Cyprus yesterday. He was really excited to be going back. I told him he'd have to come to California for Thanksgiving next year because he's never experienced it, and he's pretty serious about it now, so be expecting one more!

One year celebration at the Traverna

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Transfer to Thessaloniki !!!




The new threesome: Elder Harris, Elder Lohman and Elder Mortensen

YEIA SAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSS!!!!!

You guys!!!! I'm soooo excited!!! There was a reason I didn't send you an e-mail yesterday...know why? Because I was traveling... YES, I've been transferred to Thessaloniki!!!!!!! You called it dad! Oh my gosh it's such a cool city and our apartment is insane! We got our calls last Friday and traveled yesterday by train. I had to be at Athens' train station by nine in the morning for a 7 hour train ride. We got to the apartment around 5. It's so cool!!! It's all blue and white with tiled floors. The kitchen is open, connected to the living room. The living room has surround sound speakers with subwoofer and reclinable leather coaches with foot rests that pop out. Off of the living room and study room is double glass doors that lead to the balcony that has 4 lounge chairs and a charcol barbeque grill. The study and living room both get tons of natural light from the windows. The study has two massive wooden desks for personal study. But the BEST part, is our blue and white painted roof patio with an unobstructed ocean view, so nice! Our area is called Seekayus. We live up on the hill, hence the amazing ocean view. We can see the ocean through our glass windows as well. The city is amazing too! I love Athens, but Thessaloniki is soooo much cleaner. It has more of a village feel to it. Athens attracts all the foreigners and refugees which make it kind of slummy in some areas, but you don't see that in Thes; just Greeks. Athens also has a lot of graffiti; not so much here. In case you don't know, Thassaloniki is in northern Greece and is an ampitheater shaped city that hugs the Aegean sea and slopes up the mountains. It's the second largest city in Greece. This morning we took a walk to get familiar with the area. We started walking and found ourselves in this tight street market selling everything you could imagine; exotic fruits and veggies, meats, fish, spices. Thessaloniki is actually one of the biggest ports in all of southern Europe. Turning a corner while coming out of the market, we discovered Thess' shopping district; two gigantic columned porches that led down to the water front. The water is lined with a promenade that spans the entire length of the city. It's so cool!!! Exciting times! There's five elders total in Thessaloniki and two sisters.
Oh I forgot to tell you; I'm in a threesome. My companions are Elders Lohman(pronounced like Looman) from Sweden and Elder Harris from Utah. They're way funny. Elder Lohman is just 2 months farther along than I am, and Elder Harris is four months further.Transfers were intense this time. Not one companionship stayed together and almost everyone changed areas.

So much to say and so little time! I was actually supposed to be the senior companion, but President kind of messed things up and gave Elder Harris the responsibility. That's alright with me. Less pressure I think. Last night we had a pretty funny experience as well. We left the apartment to find a grocery store and got lost. We found a big church and called our zone leaders to ask them how to get home from the church. They thought they knew where we were, but it turns out we had walked to the farthest reaches of the universe and were in some neighborhood clear up the mountain. We were running all over the place trying to find something familiar and just kept ending up back at the church. Our ZL eventually figured out where we and told us to take the bus in front of the church, but we took the bus going the wrong way, so we made this big loop through the neighborhood and ended up back at the church. We had to laugh at ourselves. Eventually it took us home though.

Well you guys, I don't have to much time left. I hope you all have a great week! Until next time!
From Thessaloniki!
Love,
Eric (:



Ancient City of Corinth
Yeia Sas styn oly tyn eekoyenia mou!

Thelo na mono milaw styn ellinyka, y'afto boreete na deete pos fenete. I'm kindof in a greek speaking mood right now. It's great! I feel like I'm getting comfortable speaking and understanding the language! Before I didn't understand everything, just bits and pieces; but now, ola kala! (everything's good)
Whew, I'm tired. We went on our zone trip today to the ancient city of Korinthos (Corinth). It was way fun!!! Last night we slept over at another companionship's house and woke up early (6:30) to make pancakes. yum. We took a bus along the coast (an amazing ride). We first saw the city and then checked out the castle above. It was way fun.

Transfers will be coming up here soon, where could I be going? I think I'll stay in the center. Some missionaries think I'm going to Thessaloniki. That would be tight.
Well I'm literally out of time. Have a great week!
Love,
Eric (:


New Project:

One of our AP's is launching a new program called the Athens Visitor's Center. He wants to turn downtown Ancient Athens into something like temple square; Temple Square being the heart of the latter-day church, and Athens being one of the major centers of early christianity due to Paul's travels. Like temple square has sister missionaries from all over the world who give tours, so would Athens, only with Elders instead of Sisters. They would give tours of Ancient Athens, talking about ancient religion, politics, language, and life-style as they go. The tour would wind around the acropolis and ascend Mars Hill. A copy of Acts 17 would be given to everyone and the tour would end discussing Paul's influence on the greek society and how that lead to the restoration. This idea has caused some debates among the missionaries, but President is behind it. We'll see how it tastes after trying it. I'm excited because one of my favorite subjects in school was history. Obviously the missionaries don't know anything about greek history, so Elder Meister(the AP who's leading it) will hold two classes this week teaching everything he knows about ancient Greek civilization, including a little bit of the ancient language! He knows a lot because that was his study in college. Of course it will be a free tour provided in pretty much any language you can think of seeing as how the missionaries are from all over the world. Everything has been checked with the church lawyers and Frankfurt gave the ok to give it a try. We'll see what happens!


New Mission President: President Christopher Charles

So, the new President is awesome!!! I think I've told you a little bit about him. Yesterday, he gathered all the missionaries in the North Chapel to go over the missionary handbook and then after wards, we had our General Priesthood meeting. He's really stressing exact obedience, so he stated all the rules right then and there, but in a nice way. Then, he gave an amazing talk at the Priesthood Meeting. He said that he had something on his mind since the beginning of his mission, something he needed to address. He said that he didn't want to see any contention within the church in Greece, and that as we obeyed that ideal, we would be promised a temple in Greece. Pretty cool huh? He even had the zeal to ask Elder Perry if he could begin a search for land to build a temple in Greece. He said it was laughed at, but Elder Perry gave him permission. He said it may not happen in the immediate years, but that it would surely happen, a Greece Athens Temple. He's quite an inspirational speaker. I think Greeks in general have that ability: a booming voice, hands flying everywhere. hahaha. He speaks with a lot of passion, as Greeks/Cypriots do. He's Cypriate by the way. His Greek is at a very low level right now, because he's spoken English most of his life, but he and his wife are picking it up very quickly. President Galanos is an excellent speaker. He was a great president. It was great to serve with him.

Teaching an old friend:

Here's some more exciting news!!! We went to Olga's house to say goodbye. We had an awesome dinner, pasta soup with Greek salad and bread. We've tried to teach Olga every transfer I was in Aigaleo, but it always seemed like she was uninterested and would try to change the subject. This time she seemed frustrated about something. She asked "Why are you so busy?! What do you do all day long?!! I told her that we teach people the gospel. Then she said " Don't give me that! What do you do?!! Why have you kids come here?!! What do you have to offer people?" I think it's kind of tortured her inside because we always tell her how busy we are she's never known exactly what we teach. So I told her "Alright, Olga, I tell you exactly what we teach people." and she said "I'm listening to you" We taught a very powerful first lesson. At times she tried to change the subject, but we didn't let her. She listened to Joseph Smith's story and accepted everything without an objection. At the end we bore powerful testimony of prayer and she ended the lesson by saying one herself. After 8 months of contact, Olga has finally made it to investigator status. She told us after wards that she's wanted to come to church with us. She said that she knows the Orthodox church thoroughly, she's been, but she wants to see ours because we're different somehow. Luckily Elder Southwick is taking my place in Alexandras and he'll be able to take her. The gospel brings joy into people's lives, and it lasts as long as you want it to; that's what it was created for; that's why we were created. That joy comes in no other way than by following the commandments of God. It's real and people can see it.


A spiritual thought:


Just to close on a spiritual thought. I was reading yesterday in Proverbs 3:5-6 (scripture mastery Neil) that talks about a little bit about faith. It says "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." So, it's pretty straight forward. A lot of the time we don't understand why we have to do something, or understand why things are the way they are; but as we put our trust in God, it doesn't really matter, because we know he'll direct our lives for good and make us prosper, and then as we grow in experience, the understanding comes. That's how faith works, it's a test!
Alrighty, have a great week!!!

Love,
Presvyteros Eric (:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

καλοκαίρι (Summer)


Eric's Trip to Delphi


Hey Everybody!!!
Well, I'm sure you're all anxious to hear what happened with transfers. You would think that I would leave Aigaleo by now right? well...... I am! I've been transfered to the center of Athens in the Alexandras area. My new companion's name is Elder Hanke from Sweden. He's a really cool guy. This will be his last transfer as well! There's going to be a big drop in missionaries in about two months. I guess they're cutting back all over Europe. Elder Hanke and I will be in an appartment with two other missionaries who are working in the Akropoli area. One is Elder Grossman from germany and the other will be one of the two new kids that are coming in. I'm no longer the newest missionary! It's about time huh? His name is Elder King. It'll be really interesting/funny to see what I must have looked like when I first arrived. Elder Southwick has been transferred to the North of Athens as the zone leader there. Luckily he's not going too far.


Beautiful Ancient Greece



Lamb's Head Meal at Olga's

Ok, so, I'm NEVER going to be able to top this next paragraph. I had an experience that I will never be able to forget. Get ready to be totally grossed out. Ready? Ok, so this last week, we went over to Olga's for lunch. We were way excited because Olga is the best greek cook we know. You know what she made? Heads. Lamb Heads. She brought it in and I didn't know what to do. We all had individual heads. I didn't see much meat on it, just on the jaw, so I ate that, and stopped there; but Olga wouldn't have it. She took my head and broke the jaw and had me eat the tongue. The tongue wasn't so bad, but it gets worse. After the tongue, she cracked open the skull and pulled out the brain. I had a really hard time with the brain. Olga started to get a little frustrated with us because we wern't eating, so we had to eat all of it. The brain was...disgusting? yeah, that's a good word for it. Remember that animal you disected in high school? Yeah, imagine eating it after you disected it. Gross right? It gets worse. I was able to handle the brain by engulfing it in bread and cheese. Luckily, Olga made a greek salad as well, so that helped take away the taste. After the brain, I thought I was done. Not according to Olga. She told us to eat the eyeballs next. There was no possible way that I was going to eat lamb eyeballs. The whole time I was thinking about how this experience could've been on fear factor or something. My companion had no problem with anything. He went down on those eyeballs. I couldn't even think about doing it without gaging, so when Olga's back was turned, I threw my eyeballs out the open window. Dodged that bullet. I guess Olga just doesn't get the concept of how disgusting it is for foreigners to eat that kindof stuff. Or maybe she does, and was just getting a laugh out of it? hmmm. I think I prefer the lamb heart, kidney, and lungs.




Eric and Manolis

To baptisma etan poly oraia!!! In other words, Manolis is baptized and happier than ever before. I remember how two weeks ago he didn't even want to be baptized. The baptismal service took place on Saturday at 6 o'clock. Not that many people came, but Manolis didn't care, the spirit was the same. There were two speakers: a recent convert and a sister missionary, both of which delivered powerful sermons about baptism and the Holy Ghost. I sang a special musical number: "This is the Christ". It was a surprise for Manolis. haha. He didn't know that I was going to sing.

Manolis's Conversion:

Well, all I can think about right now is the good news, so I think I'll let it out now. Manolis has progressed a lot since I last talked to you about him, insomuch that he will be baptized this saturday!!! He's never been happier in his life. He descibes himself as a "child who's just been given a present. It wasn't always that way. One day he just showed up at church and nobody knew who he was. Elder Monks started talking to him and found out that a missionary had told him about the church a long time ago, but had never met with him to teach him. So Elder Monks invited him to be taught and he accepted. At first he had concerns. After our first meeting, he must have talked to someone who convinced him we were Jehovah's Witness because when we called him to set up our second appointment, he told us "I don't want any of that Jehovah stuff!!!" We told him we weren't JW's and wanted to meet again. Then Elder Monks was moved to Kavala and Elder Southwick took his place. We taught the second lesson about the Plan of Salvation and everything. He told us afterward that the story about Adam and Eve hadn't made sense to him for 40 years up until we taught it to him. Afterwards we built up our courage and asked him to be baptized. He kindof paniced a little bit. haha. He said that he takes good from all the churches. We told him to think about it and to continue to read and pray. We taught him again. This time the lesson was about what happens after death, and we asked him to be baptized again. He paused for a moment, then said "nobody in my family would understand". A real test of faith I think. What a hard decision. We told him to continue reading and praying. The problem with Manolis is that he can't read very well, so it was hard to get him to keep commitments. He said that he'd come to church that week, but didn't show up. We called him that week and were able to set up another appointment with him. His concerns matched up perfectly with our lesson. After teaching him about The Gift of the Holy Ghost, Manolis expressed how he felt good and inspired when he would meet with us, and then the second we departed, something started to pull him away, and at times, he even contemplated not coming back. We told him why he was having those feelings, because the Holy Ghost couldn't be with him at all times, and without that defence, Satan could steer him. The Gift of the Holy Ghost became a reality to him. An actual gift from God that he wanted. We again asked him if he would be baptized. He said, "I'm about one step from saying yes." He truly commited then to read and pray, and that night, he got his answer. He called us first thing the next morning to tell us the good news. Remember that Manolis can't read as I recall our conversation. He said " You won't believe it! I prayed and read like you told me to, and a miracle happened!!! It was like a dream! I opened the Book of Mormon and I was able to read like a normal person! We need to meet as soon as possible! Tomorrow morning? 9:00? OK, I'll be there early and waiting for you!" That was his final step to baptism. When we met, we set his baptism date for the 30th of May and planned out the baptismal program. We also taught him about the commandments, including tithing and started a fast with him. That sunday, he beat everyone to church, including the missionaries who get there an hour early. Not only did he bring himself, but also his tithing (even though he's not a member) and his fast offerings. Manolis is out of work right now, so for his tithing, he brought plastic cups, plates, and utensils to stock the church. In sacrament meeting, President Sanko announced there would be a baptism without asking Manolis to stand up. Manolis stood up proudly anyway, and everyone looked back to find him smiling widely, returning their own smiles. Isn't that so cool!?! The gospel changes people, for the better. He asked President Sanko if he would do the baptism, and asked me to confirm the Holy Ghost upon him. It's a humbling feeling. He'll finally have that constant conpanionship that he's been craving. Manolis has never been happier in his entire life. So, Manolis was the highlight of the week for sure. He'll be the first person to be baptized in Athens since January, and the second in all of Greece.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring in Greece!


Eric's Birthday(March 14): Heyyyy everybody!!!!!!

Hmmm, what happened this week that you would want to hear about... oh yeah, I turned 20 on Saturday!!! And what a day it was! To start off, in the morning I was woken up by a call from Elder Enslin, my first companion. He sang happy birthday to me over the loud speaker. We had an appointment up in the hills of Ayia Varvara early in the morning, but when we got there, we learned that the mom (our main investigator for the family) was in Thessaloniki for a couple of days. We didn't have anything else planned so we decided to hike further up to check out the view. We were crossing a plateia (square) and three old men called us over from a bench. They asked us where we were from and all that, and we had a good conversation. They told us that if we wanted to get a good view, we should hike up to a cafe that was higher up the mountain side. So, we did, and it turned out to be AWESOME!!
The view was amazing, amazing! and it was the perfect weather. Elder Monks and I had both skipped breakfast to make the appointment, so it was a good opportunity to enjoy what we found. We both got the nutella covered waffles with cream and strawberry milkshakes. It was a little pricey, but whatever, it was my birthday!!! So we took plenty of pictures, and videos, so I can show you what it was like! I liked it because it was nice and quiet up there, the sun was shining, and we were surrounded by pine trees, out of the city. It was very relaxing. So the waffles were kinda like my cake, they were massive!!! That was definitely a highlight of my day.From there we headed to the Acropoli building for a choir practice for the celebration. It went very well! The elders can pick up on the music fast. Most of them didn't know it was my birthday, but that changed quickly. They all sang happy birthday at the end of the practice.From there we headed home to get some lunch before heading out again. Nothing special, just Pasta Bolegnese and Bruscetta with a Balsamic reduction. haha, I made it by the way. From there we went over to Xristos' house to pick him up to go to Outreach. Do you know what Outreach is? Every Saturday night, young single adult members and non-members alike come and play games, listen to a lesson taught from the Book of Mormon, have a pancake dinner, and then dance until the morning. So we brought Xristos last Saturday and he loved it.We then feasted on pancakes made by the American senior couples. Oh my word!!! They were so good! I hadn't had anything really American up until that point, and you can't get much more American than pancakes and syrup. Yes! Yeeeees!!! So I obviously enjoyed the pancakes, but what made it even better was that I was with all my favorite missonaries and Xristos, the tightest greek dude ever. He didn't know it was my birthday either until Elder Monks told him while we were eating pancakes. He starting singing happy birthday in english. hahaha. It's funny because he can't speak english, and greeks have really funny accents.
Once we were home, I opened the dear elder package and the letter that Glenna and Larry sent. The M&M's were most enjoyable! I went to bed a happy elder. It was a great day!!! And what made it even better was knowing that on the other side of the world, there were others celebrating my birthday as well. Thanks guys!

Hang'n with Flat Stanley:I got a letter this last week from a Hayley Johnson. It didn't register at first who it was, but then I remembered shes my cousin. She sent a paper doll named Flat Stanley, who can travel anywhere in the world because he's flat. It's for school. The kids color their own flat Stanley's and send them as far in the world as they can. I'm supposed to take him around on one of my days now and e-mail back what Stanley and I did, send pictures, and other memorabilia if I'd like. I'm going to try to take Stanley up on the Acropolis and maybe take some pictures in front of the Parthenon. Maybe I'll stick him somewhere in the choir for the musical celebration too. They'll like that I think. Don't tell them though! It'll be a surprise.
So, Stanley and I are having a rockin time touring around Athens, Greece! We took a bunch of pictures and videos this last weekend showing what we saw and did: took a tour around Zeus' Temple and Hadrian's Arch, played some basketball, celebrated my birthday, taught some lessons, and sang in the choir. We didn't get the chance to go up on the Acropolis, but we got some pictures in front of it. I hope she likes it! It was definitely a lot of fun helping her out. So Sydney's doing the same kinda deal huh? Send him on over! We'll have a blast.
Yeah, I got Sydney's Stanley now and I took him with me to Delphi. It was a lot of fun doing Hayley's, and the other Elder's had fun too!

Zone Trip:

Yeia Sas everybody!!!

So today was a very good day. I forgot to tell you last week, but today was the zone trip day for the transfer. We got to go to one of the most beautiful places in greece, the ancient sanctuary of Delphi. It was an important place for all the rivaling greek city-states of the time: Athens, Sparta, Thebes. It was a place of neutrality. The most important aspect to the ancient greeks was that Delphi was the home of "The Oracle", a priestess who would predict the future and advise city-states on what coarse of action to take. No wonder it was destroyed. It's an amazing sight sitting high up on a mountain slope. We started out by going to check out the Tholos, a round columned building where the oracle may have made her prophesies.
. We then checked out the gynasium where you can still see the running track still partly lined with ancient columns. The Castilian Spring still runs though Delphi, once filling baths for the athletes. I got to sit in an ancient and massive jacuzzi. It was dry of coarse because the spring has been redirected. The greeks were genious! You can see how the baths were fed by small canals edged in the rock. From there we headed further up the slope, taking time to drink from the Castilian Spring, pure water just pouring out of the mountain side. The spring had a lot of significance to the ancient greeks too. Anyone who wanted to enter the sactuary had to first cleanse themselves in the pure water because Delphi was very sacred to them. We then saw the once grand temple of Apollo, the ancient ampitheatre, and the stadium where sporting competitions like that of the olympics were held.After Delphi, we drove about 20 minutes further to the 4th largest Byzantine monastery in greece, Osios Lukas. It too had amazing views and the architecture of the complex was amazing. Greek Orthodox churches are very impressive in general, but this one blows them all away. Vaulted ceilings supported by pillars, and ancient fading frescoes painted everywhere, the most impressive being of Christ and His apostles painted on the dome of the ceiling. Oh yeah, and there was a dead Poppas (Orthodox Priest) laying snow white style in a glass box. Most of him was covered, but it was still way gross.
At the very end, I had the chance to spend 5 minutes lying in the flowers soaking up the sun. It was much needed. So, really, I got to see what greece looks like beyond the borders of Athens. It is spectacular!!!! No, really, it's AMAZING!!! Rolling green hills with shepherds and their flocks resting on them, olive groves with spring flowers blooming everywhere, lakes, small red tile-roofed villages nestled in valleys and against the slopes of snow-capped mountains. INCREDIBLE!!! I literally felt like I was in a movie or something, like Frodo making my way to Mordor. haha. It was definitely Europe, the real deal, untouched and perfect. haaaa. So today was a very good day.

Six Months!:

I miss California!!! But, I'm far from ready to come home. I had another bad dream last night. My mission was over and I really wished that I could go back. I can't believe it's been 6 months already. My mission is 1/4 over! That's insane how quickly it's all gone by. My mission has kind of gone through chapters so to say. I guess every time I get a new companion another chapter begins.
Again the transfer is coming to a close and the possibility of me leaving Aigaleo is visible. I don't really want to leave, and I don't want Elder Monks to leave either. We've got a good thing going here.
So, I bet you're all anxious to hear where I'll be serving for the next two months. The answer is: Aigaleo! I get to stay in Aigaleo making it a full 6 months I'll have been there. It's pretty safe to say now that after these next two months I will most definitely be moving. I wish I could say that Elder Monks is staying too, but he's not. He's being set to kavala, a village on Greece's Northern coast. He doesn't seem too excited. I know he'll have a great time though. He'll make it happen. My new companion is an American from Idaho by the name of Elder Southwick. I hear he's a very hard worker. That's good! Aigaleo needs him right now. I don't know what to expect because I've never met him before, but I'm sure we'll get along swimmingly. haha. Today is our final hours together, Elder Monks and I. Today at around 3 p.m. we'll drop him off at the train station and I'll go and stay with Elder Enslin in Pangrati for the night, then tomorrow we'll meet Elder Southwick (coming from Kavala).

Paska(Easter):
Hey!!!! KALO PASKA!!!!! (Happy Easter!!)

Hey everybody! How's it going? I'm doing very well. We just experienced Greek culture at it's best. It was Paska this last weekend. Here, they follow what happened on the last week of the Savior's life. Friday night was Epitafiou. We gathered with hundreds of Greeks at a Greek Orthodox Church. There they sung dirges and everyone lit there own candles. They made a big funeral bed out of flowers (symbolizing the death of Christ) and at the end they marched with it through the streets in silence, except for one bell ringing in the church bellfree. The next day is known as the Anastasy (the Resurrection) and that night, To Ayio Fos (The Holy Light). We were allowed to go to Ayio Fos (it takes place at midnight) and it was awesome!!! We went to the biggest church in Athens which is called Metropoli. This is the highlight of the whole celebration. Everyone brings candles. A flame is lit within the church and lights every candle spreading through the square in the front of the church. A Papas comes out and sings until midnight, when all the church bells break out, everyone shouts "Christ is resurrected!!!" and they all kiss each other on the cheeks. It was pretty cool. I've become a pro at that by the way, the whole cheek kiss thing. I've gotten a lot of practice on Olga, a 70 year old woman. Hahaha. Anyway, the whole celebration represents the light, or life, that comes from the tomb in Jerusalem. Everyone then walks home with their Ayio Fos still burning and scourches a cross in the threshold of their front door. The next day (Sunday) we walked to church passing families with massive rotisseries out in front of their homes getting ready to roast whole lambs. We had a great sacrament meeting focused on the resurrection of the Savior.
That night, we were supposed to have dinner with Olga and Yianni, but they were invited to another family's celebration, so we went contacting in the Park. Not having much success, we decided to sit down for a bit. An older man walked up to us and asked if he could sit with us. I don't know why, usually people turn and run when they see us coming. He was very upset about something, throwing out comments about how the world doesn't contain good people anymore. We were able to share a very good message about how if we want to find good in other people, we have to be good ourselves by helping those around us and bearing them up. He agreed with us in the end and we left him with a pamphlet and a flier for the musical presentation. He said he'd like to come to church sometime. I hope he comes. So that night, we made our own greek feast. We bought some rotisserie lamb the day before and made Pastitsio with it (layered noodles, meat sauce, cream mixture, and cheese, baked), with Greek salad and rouille dip and bread on the side. It was suprisingly really, really good! We could here from our appartment the parties happening around us. Greeks throw the best parties. They put on Greek music with Bazouki's (guitars with thin strings) and drums. Oh my word, Greek music is tight! And they gather around in a circle and do these cool dances, everyone shouting, laughing, clapping in unison. I LOVE GREECE!!! The culture feels like a mixture of European and Pacific Islander. It's so cool what they do! So, today, since we didn't get to see Olga yesterday, we had a PHAT Paska afternoon meal with her. She always makes twice as much as we can eat: Lamb, orzo pasta, greek salad, bread with feta cheese and tzatziki, boiled eggs all dyed red... and then the main dish: It looked like artichoke hearts in spinach at first, so, very contently, I shoved a chunk of lamb heart into my mouth! SICK!!! It was a mixture of lamb heart, lung, and kindney, sat there all served up on my plate, in a particularly large portion might I add! It wasn't so disgusting that I couldn't eat it, but it still felt very wrong. They dont waste any part of the lamb, that's the way way things go in Greece I guess. But besides the lamb guts, Paska is the best!!! I don't think anywhere else in the world do they celebrate Christ's resurrection more than his birth, and really, Paska is bigger than even Christmas. The symbolism is intense and it all points right back to Christ. Seeing all these traditions has really reminded me of what Christ has done for us all. The deepest symbol I saw, that many might not have, was the fact that the light from the church, or the tomb at Jerusalem, lit every individual's candle. The fact that Christ was resurrected means that everyone will be resurrected one day. The power of the atonement has broken the bands of death like it says in The Book of Mormon, giving life, immortal life, to all men. What would be the point of life if we were to spend our time here and then just pass away? No, God has a plan, and that plan includes life after death. How that life will be, however, is up to us.
Well, I guess I'll wrap things up. From Athens, Greece: Elder Mortensen signing out!
Have a great week!

Love,
Presvyteros Eric (:




Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fantastic February


New Companion:

Hello from Aigaleo!!!

So, obviously, I get to stay in Aigaleo!!! We got our calls on Friday evening. However, Elder Enslin is no longer my companion. Kinda sad. My new companion's name is Elder Monks from Manchester England. He's a way cool dude. We met a couple of times cause he's a really good friend of Enslin. He was actually his companion just before I got there. Enslin by the way, will be in Pangrati, a place in the center of Athens. It's way close so we'll be seeing each other a lot and we're in the same branch still so I'll see him at least every Sunday. Getting a new companion is always kind of awkward, but it goes away after a while. I can tell it's going to be a really good transfer.

Investigator Up-date:

We went to go see Xristos a couple of times last week. It's a miracle! He's completely changed. Before he came to church he seemed kindof depressed and reserved, and wouldn't smile very much. But now, wow, he's the vision of happiness. He's always smiling, always laughing, more freely expresses himself. What a cool guy. There's still some things that are holding him back though. He didn't come to church yesterday, so we saw him last night, not as happy as he had been that week. At the end of the lesson he said that he had repented for not coming to church, and truly looked sorry. He says that everywhere he goes, God gives him signs, as though he is talking to him. Before we left, he said he wanted to ask us something. He said that he had made a covenant with God that he would be baptized if he could be taught the gospel. So we set up a baptismal calendar with him. We'll start from the 1st lesson tomorrow and will have two lessons a week, a movie a week, and outreach and church on the weekend. We set a baptismal date for him for the 14th of March. What a birthday that'll be huh? He's ready. He can get himself out of this stuff he's dealing with. He's got great things ahead for him! How cool is that! His life is going to turn around for the better, and he's going to notice that.

We went to Olga's last week too. She seemed much less stressed out and was smiling a lot more. She's setting up a big dinner for us the next week. Me, Enslin, Monks, and Okazaki are going and she's making Pastitsio. mmmmmm pastitsio. We're going to take the movie Finding Faith in Christ. She's really going to appreciate it. I gave her that Christ calendar that you sent in my Christmas package. She loves the picture by Simon Dewey of Christ and the woman at the well. She's put it on display in the most noticeable place. Monks and I are going to try to teach her this transfer. She said before that she wanted to come to church with us when Yianny starts to get better. Hopefully she'll accept it.
We were able to watch Finding Faith in Christ with her. Good movie. She loved it, but it was hard for her to read the subtitles. She showed us pictures too. It made me realize how old she is. It was kind of a wake up for me because I've seen her family and the roots that they have in the Orthodox church. To ask her to change would be like asking Grammy or Granny to change. It's going to be difficult.
Her husband Yiannees (John), just got out of the hospital and is feeling better everyday. We haven't started too much into the lessons yet. We taught them some of the first lesson (The Restoration) and have shared messages from the Book of Mormon dealing with Yiannees' condition. We had the chance to go visit them at the hospital a couple of times. The first time we went was Yiannees' birthday. So we brought him a cake and talked for a bit and when we were about to leave, we sang to him "Happy Birthday" in Greek. When we finished, Olga was crying. She gave us two big kisses on the cheek, then turned to the other patients in the room and said "These are apostles". The 3 other patients got out of their beds to shake our hands. One of them who could speak English, and had previous experience with the church told us, "You have no idea what kind of an impression you've left on me." So this is what a mission is like? The best! And what did we do to deserve it? It was really no big deal to go sing a song and talk to someone. It just proves how much of an influence we have on eachother. Even the small things we do are big in the eyes of those who are effected. I love this mission.

We found some new people as well! We do soccer contacting on Friday nights. Last Friday there was a middle-aged Greek man who stopped to watch the matches. He started asking us where we were from and the conversation eventually turned to religion. It was time for us to start playing, so somebody subbed for me so that I could talk with him. He had his opinions, which Greeks are so famous for, but he had never heard of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon, so I shared it with him. He didn't believe in the Bible because it has been passed down through generations and changed, which is true. That's why we have the Book of Mormon. It's the gospel preserved for our day. It fills the holes that the Bible has and testifies that the Bible is true. He also didn't believe that God would give us rules. But rules make you happier, and free. They guide you around the bad things in life. We then got to talking about Joseph Smith. Actually, I got to talking about Joseph Smith, he didn't have anything to say, just seemed to be taking it in (rare for a Greek). I told him the first vision in greek. He said he loved hearing his language spoken by someone who comes from somewhere like America. We would have kept speaking, but he had to go, so we swapped numbers and will meet again someday.

Eric's Choir:

So it's been a crazy week! Probably the most stressful so far.We had the choir practices on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'm glad that I was working with missionaries because they were so ready to participate. The first practice wasn't the best. I was making the big french dinner that same day, so it was kind of hard to do both at once. It was hard to get the missionaries focused. But they got better and more focused as the other practices came. They became really excited and anxious when Saturday rolled around. The song was "I Love the Lord" translated into Greek to become "O Thee mou". We wrote it with Xristos in mind (our investigator). He's always talking about how he doesn't know how he could be forgiven for what he's done. The song talks a lot about how we are so easily subject to sin, and yet, we can have hope because of what God has done for us.
We wanted him to be in church to hear that song so we set it up with him a week in advanced.
We told him that going to church could only help him get better. After about 20 minutes, he decided to come. We got there and the choir had already started practicing. Enslin sat with him and watched as I took over the rehearsal. They sounded great! During the rehearsal, Xristos said to Enslin that it was worth it that he came. Sacrament meeting was perfect. The first talk was about overcoming temptations and the second about how coming to church is for the sick, not the perfect. We got up and performed O Thee Mou. During the song, Xristos leaned over and asked Enslin "Did you guys really write that for me?" He was really touched by the whole experience.

We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet:

Greeks tend to let the news get to them. It's true, the world is in a downward spiral, and it's not going to get better. A new president won't be able to stop the terrorism, the natural disasters, the economic depression, or corruption in government. That's why it's so important that we have a prophet to tell us what we need to do in troubled times so that we don't have to fear when the worst hits; and it will hit. President Galanos spoke in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. He said that "if we are prepared, we shall not fear". The prophets have told us what to do to prepare for the economic crash, and President Monson continues to tell us what to do to be prepared for other events that will happen. The man we taught says he doesn't like someone telling him what to do, but why wouldn't you want some guidance when it comes to something like this? Who wants to be left in the dark without any hope of knowing how to prepare for whats coming?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Last Week In Aigaleo?

Dreaming of YV-

Ti Kanete tyn Oikoyenia mou?
Hello from Athens! From the e-mails it sounds like all is right in California. Greece is still amazing to me. I'm having an awesome time! This last week I had a dream. I was in a classroom at YV and all my friends were there, even Tim having just returned from Uruguay. I was a little confused because I thought I was still a missionary. I asked a friend what year it was and he said it was 2010. I couldn't believe that I was a returned missionary. I didn't want to believe it either. It was a horrible feeling to know that my mission was over. I woke up and looked around the room making sure that I was still in Athens. I definitely want to make the most of this mission, cause I'll probably feel the same way when I leave. I miss all my family and friends a lot, but I'll miss this mission when I leave.

New happenings:

What new happened this week? We taught a ton of people, found a couple of new contacts, and helped a member family move. Oh yeah! I got to teach a lesson about faith in French too. A member by the name of William from the Ivory Coast who can't speak greek or English. It went really well and it was fun to get to exercise my French a little bit. It's way weird speaking it now. I would often mix greek in with by mistake. What would you call that? Grench, or Freek...hahaha. William is in Paris now looking for work. I guess Greece is being affected by this crisis too.

New friend:

Have I told you about Xristos yet? He's one of our investigators and he's golden!!! We met him on the bus in Aigaleo. Kinda weird how it happened. We were standing in the middle of the bus and he was sitting in the front. All of a sudden he turned around and said "What are you, a couple of lawyers?" We walked to the front and explained who we were. He said he'd like to talk to us more about Christ and the scriptures. He was once part of an Evangelical youth group and enjoyed it, but then got involved with bad friends and some very heavy drugs. We've been back to his house several times since. Each time we teach a lesson he has perfect answers. The drugs messed him up big time. He couldn't sleep at night, so had to sleep in the day, and when he got up, he would need to go take some more and that was the cycle, so we gave him a blessing. The next time we saw him, he was changed. He was way happy, his mom was way happy, his grandma was way happy. The whole family was happier. He told us that our blessing helped guide him to know what to do. Apprently after we left he asked his mom what he should do and she told him to go see the doctor. The doctor was able to filter out blood so that he wouldn't have the bodily need anymore. He told us that he has to come to church. We're going to do everything we can to help him get out of his addiction, cause now it's all mental. The first time we went to his house his mom was in tears and he had left to go buy the drugs, she thought there was no hope for him. Now their family is so much happier and they have hope. He told us that he has been looking for a way out. Just before we met, he said he would pray and then cry, and pray and cry, and then he saw us on the bus and knew that he got his answer. I know now why they call it the best two years. It seems as though we're making a sacrifice, but really, it's the greatest blessing to be here. Seeing the change in his family makes me happy, to know that I played a role in helping them to reach that happiness. It's the best.

New transfer?

Well, the transfer is coming to an end. This could be our last week in Aigaleo... nooooo!!! we just got here! There are many possible places I could go: Anywhere in Athens, Thessaloniki, Kavala, Patra, or Cyprus. I would like to stay in Aigaleo because of all the awesome people we've met. They don't give you much time to say good-bye either. You get your call friday and you're off to wherever your going on monday. I'm willing to accept wherever I'm called though.

New foods:

This week flew by way too fast. We were fed a lot too! I've never been so full so frequently in my life. It never got to the point where I had to lay on two chairs though. haha. Greeks LOVE to eat and talk. We went to an older lady's house and she fed us these potato omelettes, greek salads, bread with cheese, and fruit afterwards. The worst is when you have two appointments one right after another and they both have food waiting. It's way tasty, but it's going to make me fat. Good thing we walk everywhere.

New choir:

This week is going to be a crazy one! Elder Enslin and I translated the song "I Love the Lord" into greek. So we translated it and a missionary choir is going to perform it next week in Sacrament meeting. We're having practices on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. I really hope they'll be able to pick it up well. I'll make a video during one of the rehearsals and will send it over. By the way, I've made a couple of videos that I need to send. Know that I feel way awkward making them.

New scripture:

Matthew 7:7-8 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth."I have studied, and prayed, and done everything the prophets said you need to do to know what's true and the answer came, many times, and continues to come. And does it really take that much effort to get on your knees and ask God what's true? no. The real effort comes in your willingness to change when you receive that answer. I don't mean to sound preachy, but being a missionary and teaching people all the time gives you a different perspective when it comes to religion.

Love,
Presvyteros Eric

Friday, January 30, 2009

Elder Eric Pavlos (Paul) Mortensen on Mars Hill


Note from Eric's Mission President, John Galanos

"At long last, the riots have abated, and we were able to take Elder Mortensen to Mars Hill to read together the Apostle Paul’s great oration to the Athenians regarding the UNKNOWN GOD as recorded in Acts 17. For the first time ever since we have been here, the heavens opened wide and the rains descended continuously. Elder Mortensen, his companion Elder Enslin, my two Assistants, Elders Kendrick and Ruckauer, and I made the ascent like drowned men. Nevertheless, we gathered there; there was no one else there and so we were quite alone; a heavy mist of water hung over the city panorama; the sun was not to be seen; and the rain continued to descend.

We were all soaked through. We opened in prayer and then we started to each take a turn reading Paul’s words from Acts 17. We don’t know which month Paul was in Athens. Perhaps it was a day like this when the heavens opened and not only the rain but the Spirit of the Lord descended upon the hearers of Paul. We all then descended the hill….and the rain stopped, but were still soaked to the skin!

I guarantee you, Elder Mortensen will never forget that damp Sunday afternoon on 25 January 2009."

Note from Elder Eric Mortensen

" I also got to have my Mars Hill experience last week! It was way cool, and way wet. It was pouring rain, so we were soaked by the time we got there. We had an umbrella, but it had to hold me and my companion. We got up there and I made a video on my camera that I will try to send. With president and the assistants, we read Paul's sermon to the unknown God in greek. After that we were all asked to bear testimony in Greek. It was a very special experience, to stand where Paul stood, and read what he taught. It's something I won't soon forget and look forward to getting to do it again as I leave. Did I tell you? When a missionary leaves, all the missionaries in Athens go to the top of Mars Hill along with anyone else who wants to go and the departing missionary bears his testimony in greek and good-byes are said."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eric's New Year in Greece

Current Area: Aigaleo

New Food Experience:

"Hello everyone!!!
Another week in the life of a missionary!!! This week has been chalked full of the out of the ordinary. First of all, we met the nicest lady on the planet. Actually, she found us. Her name is Olga and she just stopped us in the street. Things are really hard for her lately. Her husband had some kind of heart surgery. We talked for a while about why we're given challenges. She invited us to come to her house at anytime, so we visited her the next day and met her husband and her best friend. Truly genuine greeks, nicest people ever! They then invited us over for New Year's dinner and became really excited and started planning the meal. When we had dinner there were 4 missionaries and Olga and Constantina (her friend). They had made Pastitsio...oohhhhhhhh, pastitsio einai para poli kala. It's kindof like a casserole. They layer beef, macaroni, and cheese, then pour over it some kindof cream mixture, more cheese on top and then bake it so the top is crusted. Now I'm hungry. Anyway we had pastitsio, turkey, mashed potatoes, and this special New Year's cake with 2 coins bake inside, greek tradition."

Another favorite scripture:

"One of my favorite scriptures in 2 Nephi Chapter 4:

It's the lyrics to "I Love the Lord." It expresses the way we as humans often feel: oppressed because of our iniquities and sins, our imperfections. But we know in whom we have put our trust. We can be happy because the Lord has lifted us out of our imperfect state as long as we trust him. I Love the Lord: In Him my soul delights. Greek is really hard, to put it simply. But that's ok, because I know in whom I have trusted, and He has borne me up. Hope all is well!"

Elder Eric Mortensen

New Year's Day:

Greeks are weird. They have tons of strange traditions. My companion told me that when someone moves into a new house, anyone who comes to the house has to throw candy all over the front yard. So we go and buy candy cause Olga had just moved into a new house. After she comes to the door we start to throw the candy. haha She had no clue what we were doing. hahaha Just imagine two foreign missionaries coming to your house and start throwing candy all over the place. She then invited us in. When she opened the door, there was a big key on the tresh-hold. She gasped, grabbed my arm and started whispering something to me. We had to step on the key with our right foot to enter, greek traditions... oh! and then there's the whole cheek kiss thing! Way awkward, my first one was at that New Year's Eve dinner when Constantina greeted us. Just grabbed my arms and went for it. She calls me her doll, To koukla mou. Like I said, way nice people.

Neat Story

Wednesday night was New Year's Eve I think. We decided to go street contacting. We started walking with this guy who wasn't really interested in what we had to say. We had walked deep into a large park in Aigaleo and by now it had got really dark. We started walking hoping we would find someone to talk to. While walking we smelled smoke and heard laughing and talking coming from a gazebo about 50 yards off the path hidden in the trees. It was a bunch of kids 20-25 years old. We decided to avoid them seeing as how it was nightime in the park. Having walked further on, we realized that there was nobody else in the park. We decided to leave so we turned around and headed for the entrance, passing the kids again. We reached the entrance and I had seen nobody there either. I then had an impression. "Let's go talk to them" I said with a sigh. So we turned around and hestated before we left the path. Built up the courage and just went for it. It was 2 guys and a girl. We came up to them and greeted them and surprisingly, they were way friendly and attentive. We taught them about the restoration and bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. It was funny because when I started speaking in greek they all crowded really close to listen because they could tell I was trying hard to speak their language. We taught them from the Book of Mormon and told them that they could know the truth if they would pray and ask God. The girl, saying that she respected my opinion, said we could not know truth from a feeling. But it's a lot more than a feeling, it's a power. I couldn't even describe it to her, because it's real. That same spirit had just barely lead us to them. I testified to her that we could know the truth. All we have to do is ask God, and watch Him work miracles. I then asked her to pray that night. She was a little hesitant at first, but then said that she would try. You know when you can see when the spirit is just working on someone? I saw that. We gave them Book of Mormons and they told us which way to go to get out of the park. That experience was a testimony to me of how valuable everyone is to God. Those kids were the best contacts I have ever had. God's elect are everywhere, and can be found anywhere, even in the worst of places. We just need to rely on the spirit to take us to them and not be afraid to open our mouths when our chance comes.

New Year's Eve

That night we went back to the appartment and made a bunch of food: pasta with meat sauce, margharita pizza, fries, and tiropita (greek pastry). Real healthy, I know. Then we played scrabble until about 11:45p.m. and then realized that we were in one of the largest cities in the world, what were the odds that there'd be a massive firework show? So we climbed the spiral fire-escape to the roof (we're on a hill so we can see all of Athens) and watched as fireworks shot up throughout the valley, the biggest ones being over the Acropolis. It's been a really good week.

Happy 2009, Eric!



Thursday, January 1, 2009