Sunday, August 8, 2010
Elder Eric Paul-standing on the site where the Apostle Paul taught.
I just thought I'd update you on the latest news. First of all, I'm no longer in Thessaloniki, I'm sitting in the Mission Office in Athens. Second of all, I've been called to be the new AP!(assistant to the president) Cool huh? Zoitsa was pretty sad, but I'll be going up to Thessaloniki in about three weeks with President for zone conference, so it's not goodbye for good. President told me when he gave me permission to call you guys that he'd call the next day to see what would happen. He did and told me that it'd be fine if I went home on my two year mark: I fly home on Monday, October 11th.
AP work is just really time consuming. I feel like I've hit the ground going 100 miles an hour. There's so much to do. As the Greeks would say "Poli Treximo" A lot of running. I'll be leaving in about 2 hours to jump on a plane to Cyprus for zone conference and also for exchanges. We'll get back Sunday night. Then, that next Wednesday we'll be taking the train up to Thessaloniki for that zone conference. We'll drive back that Sunday and then that next week we have the Athens zone conference. In our spare time we have to do other mission work; record the numbers, translation, transfers. This last Monday we went to a concert at the church, a musical fireside presented by world renowned piano artist David Glen Hatch. He and his students all played variations on hymns. It was absolutely amazing! They're some of the best in the world. There was a man there who I started talking to who really enjoyed the concert and wanted to learn more about the church. Brother Hatch mentioned the prophet in the fireside and the guy flipped. His name is Mari Glen, or Marios. He's from Albania and came with a member friend to the concert. We just met with him today in the center (now a 2 hour journey from where I live by train) He's really a great guy and has a burning desire to learn. He had so many questions which seemed to line up perfectly with the missionary lessons. He has a lot of potential. So, even with all this office work and traveling, we have a solid investigator! Cool huh?
Alright you guys, I need to go and pack. Have a good rest of the week and I'll write you on Monday!
Yeia Sas everyone!!!
Whew. Wow, what a busy week! We just got back from Cyprus last night at about midnight. It was great!!! I got to stay in my old apartment for a couple of nights with some elders that are really good friends. We sorted out a bunch of problems and got a better feel for what Cyprus needs right now. A general authority, Elder Kerr recently visited Cyprus and told them that if the church was to be established in Cyprus, then it needs to become a Cypriot church. It's mainly all foreigners right now. So that's a big project that we're undertaking right now.
We had an amazing zone conference. By the way, Dad, I do have a companion. His name is Elder Grow from Hollister, California. He's a really smart kid, very organized and has amazing language skills. He'll be going home in about 3 weeks, so he's training me now and then I'll become the senior AP when he leaves. Anyway, we gave our presentation on the apostle Paul. Paul had incredible success throughout Greece and Cyprus, among a people worshiping false gods. We went through his attributes and showed why he was so successful among the Greeks. First of all, he was obedient to exactness. Before he was converted, he was a Pharisee, so after his baptism, he knew how to live the new law with rigorous discipline. He had amazing teaching skills, he maintained incredible diligence in trials, and, most importantly, he loved God and the people. All the above hang on this one principle. Love is one of three motivations: Fear, Duty, and Love; and it's also the most powerful. As Paul says in Corinthians 13: without love, everything that we do is nothing. Without love, we are nothing. It's easy to apply that in our lives. Anything that we do should be fueled by our own love for that thing, otherwise, it's not going to profit us in the long-run. So, if the missionaries aren't fueled by a love for the people, then they're going to burn out, and quickly. Overall, it was a really good presentation, really inspirational I thought.
So, on Wednesday we're off to Thessaloniki by train. Zoitsa's going to be happy about that. I plan on seeing Takis as well, to see if he's progressed at all. Then it's back to Athens for the Athenian Zone Conference.
Well, happy 4th of July everybody.
I didn't really celebrate. The senior couple made a discourse on the American Revolution for his testimony. That was interesting... but that's about it. Tomorrow an American clogging team is coming to Athens and Elder Grow and I will be hosting them throughout the day. They're supposed to be really good. We haven't met them yet, but supposedly they went up onto Mars Hill today.
Have a great week and the next time we speak, I'll have stories of Thessaloniki to tell!
Well, I'm back in Athens afters a long road trip back from Thessaloniki. Zone Conference was wonderful! It had the same impact that the Cypriot conference had. It was really nice to see Thessaloniki again. Zoitsa, of course, was very happy to see me. She had us over for dinner along with the Dracocardos's, the new senior couple from England (he's Greek, from Rhodes). They really hit it off wonderfully. Zoitsa's dinners are always very impressing because of the presentation. We had Greek salad, bread with tyrokafteri (spicy cheese spread from Thess), Soutsoukaki, which are like oval shaped meat balls, greek sausage, rice with carrots and veggies, and a Mediterranean stew, similar to Ratatoille. It was so good... oh yeah and then cake and watermelon for dessert. We had a great time, and Elder Dracocardos (which means "Dragon Heart" in Greek) shared his conversion experience, as did Zoitsa with them. We had planned teaching her about the temple, but we didn't have a lot of time. We were able to find some new investigators while we were there as well. The second day we were there, we did a white board on the Paralia and I talked with a man from Nigeria, named Wisdom, and a man from Algeria, Fwed. hahaha, yeah you pronounce it like it looks. Wisdom seemed to stand out to me when he was walking by. I stopped and was able to tell him about the restoration. He recognized that God had led him to us. He asked if he could have a Book of Mormon and if he could come to church! So we exchanged phone numbers. He's a really great guy. And then I stopped Fwed as he was walking with a friend from Italy. I talked to Fwed and found out that he was a Muslim from Algeria. He's studying in Thess to become a scientist of some sort, and yet he believes in God. Which is really interesting. I told him about the Book of Mormon and how God has called a prophet today as he has always called prophets. He said that it made a lot of sense and that he'd like to learn more. I had given my last English Book of Mormon to Wisdom, so we exchanged phone numbers and set up a time to meet. Unfortunately, it fell through, so the other Elders are going to meet up with him. Another great guy.
I had the chance to go see Takis and Beatrice as well. I came walking down his lane and he shouted for joy when he saw me and went around looking for his wife to tell her about the surprise that just walked in. He had to go into town for a while, so we worked in the garden with Beatrice. She started asking questions about how we know things to be true, about priesthood blessings (because we gave him one a while ago), and about the Holy Ghost. It was a great conversation. Then, when we had finished working, we sat down with Takis and discussed baptism. He just started asking a bunch of questions about baptism. He told us about something he had been thinking about lately. He said, "If Christ, who was perfect, got baptized, how much more need do we have to be baptized." He thinks it's interesting as well that Christ chose to start his ministry at his baptism, saying that he must have received something at baptism to help him with his mortal mission and ministry. It was a pretty profound thought from my perspective. We then read a chapter from the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 18, where it talks about how the people had the desire to be witnesses of God and be cleansed from their sins, and so were baptized. I especially like verse 30: And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever. Takis really enjoys our gospel discussions and has desired a relief from pain and fear that can come only through repentance for a long time. We asked him if he wanted to be baptized. He didn't say anything for a while and then said that he wants his baptism to be authentic. He wants to have a spiritual confirmation and to be ready for the responsibility. He knows it's true, and he will get baptized some day. It'll just take some time. He asked us if we could give him something to read about prayer, so I gave him the Book of Enos in the Book of Mormon to read. When we left he gave me filakia (kisses) and a hug and said thank you with tears in his eyes. A mission is an invaluable experience.
Have a great week everyone!!!
The farmer Takis
Hello from Greece! Today, Elder Grow and I went to the center to buy some souvenirs for him and his family. This is his last week in Greece. He's pretty sad about that. He lives in Hollister, so we're going to be doing a lot of stuff together when I get back.
I don't know if I have too much to tell you guys about this week. I taught the Greek Sunday school class yesterday on Rehoboam and Jehoshafat. Can you imagine trying to teach the Old Testimant in Greek? yeah. It went well though, I thought. I was super nervous because I had to teach a bunch of Greeks. It's one thing to teach one of them, it's another to teach a whole room full of them. But like I said, I think it went fine. Other than that nothing else that's interesting really happened.
We know a family that go to the center branch, named the Dufaie family; they're Persian; and the husband has terminal cancer. They found out about 3 months ago. Back then they weren't in a very good emotional state, but his physical state has deteriorated extremely. Now they seem to be doing much, much better. We passed by their home yesterday for a chat and everyone was laughing. They have four daughters, all of which are married. One lives in America and the other in Brazil. They hope to come here before he passes. They've invited us over for dinner this next week. I'll get a picture and send it to you guys so you can see. Even through this extreme hardship they're experiencing, they have never waiverd in their faith. In fact, they've grown closer to God because of it, and have discovered a sweet hope and a promise of eternal families. That's what made the difference in their emotions from the time I left to now. They know that death is not the end. It was really great to see them that way, and I couldn't help but think to myself that that's how it's supposed to be.
I have to tell you guys, I looked at my pictures from home on the computer for the first time in a long time. It feels like I've been gone for a very long time. Elder Grow is really sad to go home.
I'm not trunky anymore. I've always found that those that are the trunkyist on the mission are those that miss Greece more than anyone else. Funny huh? It's because they realize that they didn't reach their potential; they didn't live their mission by the day, and they yearn for another chance. So, I'm just going to work and come home when the time is right.
Alright you guys, I hope you have a great week!
με αγάπη, Eric
Starting today I'm the oldest missionary in the Greece Athens Mission, including senior couples and the President and his wife. The group just before me left this morning. Elder Grow was one of them. He'll be landing in San Jose in about 14 hours. Blah. That's the downside of living in California I guess, you're so far from Greece! They're lucky to have made it out. There was a transportation strike yesterday, including the airport. I guess there's going to be a port strike coming up soon, meaning that all the gas stations will closed down, and it's supposed to be a long one as well.
I got a call from Thessaloniki a couple of days ago. Apparently, Takis came to church! All spiffed out in a suit and everything! He really enjoyed it, and Zoitsa was excellent at making him feel like he's part of the Thess branch family. The missionaries gave him the new Gospel Principles Book (which we just got in Greek!). When they returned to the farm the next week, he had read the whole thing! He said that he really enjoyed it and agreed with everything that he said. The missionaries asked him if he had prayed about the things we taught. He said no, because he felt good when he heard it, he agreed with everything we said, so praying would be offensive to God if it already feels good about it. They told him that wasn't true and that we need to pray for everything we need and want in our lives. He was surprised by that. He didn't realize that that's how prayer works. If we want to know the truth of something, we need to test and see if it's good or bad. That principle is true for any situation. So if we want to know if God's there, then we pray and wait for the results. He's doing really well. I'm really proud of the progress that he's made.
Well, today is a big day. In about 20 minutes we have a zone council that we have to be at and then, directly after wards, we fly to Cyprus! There's a new missionary training program that the church as instituted around the world. It's going to take 4 days, so we'll be back on Sunday night. Pretty intense!
We've got to run!
Love you guys! -Eric