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.

Presvyteros Eric