Well Im in Tuzla today! Surprise! Weird thing happened with Sister Mahabier and her visa. She needed to return to Holland to resolve it, so I am here with Sister Washburn for a few days until she returns. In the mean time, President got Sister Vasica to go back to Banja Luka for a few days with Sister Berrett, while Im here. Anyway. Its been a crazy couple of days, and yesterday I spent most of my time in Sremska Mitrovica, in Serbia, for the Sremska Branch conference. (because that was kind of a middle point for all of us to exchange. belgrade, tuzla, and banja luka, and I needed to hitch a ride from President and Sister Grant, who were going to Sremska anyway... its complicated and everyone was confused why I was there). But I got to spend the day with the sisters in Sremska, who are awesome, and I got to meet these two (biological) sisters named Adda and Milica. They are sisters, who sing... I may have nosed my way into their business after they sang at the conference, and casually mentioned that I also sing... and I may have convinced them to sing with me... The closest thing I have had to the Chauncey sisters in 13 months. They were so talented. You know, sisterly blend and all. And as they sang their parts, I would make up another alto part to it. It sounded pretty stinking good :) I was happy I made some friends. They were really cool. They are pretty famous in the mission for their voices. It was SUCH a treat.
Last week!! We had a cool experience after English class on Thursday. We have been wondering how we could casually invite people to learn about the gospel, so we set up a "class" after english class, that lasted about 15 minutes, and have decided we will teach them every week as an intro to Mormonism class, kind of thing. Not only did all of our students voluntarily stay to listen, but they all took copies of the Book of Mormon. It was so awesome. Sister Berrett and I are trying to figure out ways we can have more lessons in that kind of a setting. It was non threatening and really succesful. It was great.
We also had a fabulous lesson with Milica on Saturday. We taught about the Priesthood of God and baptism. She had so many good questions and I told her I appreciated that she cared enough to ask questions and to want to understand. She said that she had never learned about God as a kid because her parents were not ones to go to church. She loves the church and coming to church, but she is also still new to the whole idea. So she loves to ask questions. She said "I have found a peace here. Sincerely, I have found it. I have felt a feeling and a peace I have never felt before. And I am not going to lose it. At least, I hope I never do." Amen, Milica. She inspires me.
During English class on Thursday, Sister Peterson (My former companion, who is now back in the states at BYU-Idaho) called Marija, our church member, and I got to talk to her for a minute. That made me laugh SOOOO hard. I forgot how funny she is. Phrases like "wack attack" and "ouuuhhh mah gash" were prevalent, in her serious Texas accent. I died laughing. It was a tender mercy to talk to her.
It was also a tender mercy to get to spend some one on one time with the Grants, as they drove me from the edge of Gradiška (a city here) to Sremska. I love my mission president and wife. We talked the whole time. I forget how much I just love spending time with people. And they remind me so much of you guys, mom and dad. It was fun to spend that time with them.
I have had a lot of ups and downs this week. Probably the biggest down, and afterwards the biggest up. They were truly my hardest days on the mission so far. Sister Berrett, ever the optimist, just said "well... come on, why don't we just go tracting". I dont even know how my feet left the door, but they did, and we had a wonderful night. The Lord has really blessed me and has brought such an incredible missionary spirit into my life, just from those few seconds of trying, and a companion to help me there. We met so many nice people, and even a few potential investigators. I havent been down from the cloud since. I am so much more optimistic. I read a quote this morning in a Liahona from 2013 that I think has helped explain what my feelings have been:
"However many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”
Im very grateful for the light that I feel now. A hopeful, happy light. I feel like singing that there IS sunshine in my soul, because thats how it feels.
I love you all.
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This week we had a bit of a surprise exchange with Sarajevo. I went to Sarajevo with Sestra Kropushek. OH MAN! Was that a brilliant reunion. It was so fun to be her companion again for a couple of days. We had a great time, (I mean great as in productive and really fun. It can be both).
One thing we tried out was "shopping contacting" which was to go into a store, look around at the merchandise, and start conversations with the workers there. If we want to baptize people who are normal and have steady jobs and a family, what better place to look than at their work while their working? That way they have to be nice to you. :) We had a great conversation with one woman for about 30 minutes. It was awesome. She was really kind and really open. We gave her a pamphlet and said we would back and ask if she had questions. It was awesome and really natural. I am sold on the idea.
Milica officially decided on a baptismal date on the 21st of March, because, as she said, it was the first day of spring. Very symbolic. We were making a baptismal calendar with her yesterday and the time looked tight to teach her all the lessons before the 14th, and she asked if we could do it the weekend after, which was the 21st. She got so excited about it, we could NOT say no! It will be great to prepare her for that.
Also for Valentines day we decided to do a kind of "tract our own building" idea. We made chocolate chip cookies and Jesus Valentines Day cards with John 3:16 on the back and knocked on our neighbors doors to give them a Valentines Day treat and to get to know them. It would have worked better if people had actually been HOME that evening... but, alas, we only met a few people. But it was okay! We actually got let in and people were super nice to us. It was successful enough. So, Happy Valentines Day to us! Remember Valentines Day last year when I was at the dentist getting a root canal? And the one before that, when we were having a cookie party at the Oak Ave house? Good times :)
Its a really gorgeous day today and we are going to spend it outside painting. Yes. Painting. And no, we dont know how to paint. But we found paints in our apartment and we are going to paint with them. Cant wait to show you the results.
OKAY Everyone and their mom wrote me an email today so thats about all I have time for. Love you so much!!