Sunday, 26 October 2014

An Odd Little Encounter

Our District Elders Jourdan and Wolfley and Sis Montesinos and I

This super blurry one is of my companion and I, and the senior sister missionary, Sister Shaw in the lift on the way up to the chapel in Gdansk

Me on the DÅ‚uga (the main tourist street in Gdansk)

I'm a tad sick today, so please excuse me for this week's email if it's really boring!

On Monday we had a Family Home Evening at the chapel, and a couple of different members (and a nonmember) came which was really nice. We got to talk together and played a card game called 'golf' (it's super fun, you should look it up if you have time!). The senior missionary couple (Elder and Sister Shaw) run the FHE every week, so normally everything's in English, but one older member came last week who can't speak English, so it was actually pretty cool for me to try and translate for her. My Polish is still quite terrible, but it really helped us bond together with me trying to speak in Polish with her, explaining the rules of the game and what not. This lady also won the game, which made her super happy and she kept hugging me heheh so that made me feel special. It reminds me of the good ol' days ;) back in Germany, when I just somehow made friends with people, even only being able to speak my broken German. This language is still frustrating, and every day I'm learning more, but I know it will take some time until my understanding skills (in particular) will start to pick up.

This week we went tracting a few times (our mission president has been pushing for us to do more) so that's been very interesting! We haven't been let in anyone's home yet, although we have hope! One day (I think it was last Tuesday) we were ringing the domophone of an apartment building (it's not so common for people to live in houses on one block of land per family like is common back in Oz- so our tracting normally consists of speaking to people over the domophone of big apartment blocks, and hoping they'll buzz us in) when the light from within the main staircase came on. We had just finished talking with a super sarcastic man and it was time for us to head back home so we moved a couple of steps away from the main entrance while my companion wrote some things in her planner. Then as we're about to go, this elderly lady comes out of the block and tells my companion to go walk down a certain direction. At first my companion thought she was showing us the way to go back to the main road, so she heads down that way, but I'm like "Hey Sister, it's this way" (the opposite direction). Then the lady looked really angry and was just staring at us and then said something (I didn't really understand) and my companion is like "just go this way" but I was really confused because it was a really round-about way of getting back to the main road. So then my companion was like "Come on, she's angry with us" so I went down the other way (still wasn't sure what was going on) and I look at my companion all confused, and she says quietly "The lady's angry with us and wants us to leave and now she's following us". We went down some stairs (this is out in public mind you, not on anyone's private property or anything) and the lady mumbles something else and stares at us as we walk away. I look back, and she's still sort of following us with her arms crossed.

So that was an odd little encounter. I asked my companion what was going on (I couldn't understand anything the lady had said), and she had apparently said something about how we're terrible people for bothering people at this time of night (it was 7-8pm...) and that we need to go away. It made me really sad to think about why this lady felt it necessary to be so mean and rude to us. We weren't being noisy, we weren't rude or abrupt or unfriendly on the domophone (we only ring the bell for an apartment once, and simply state something like "we're missionaries etc, do you have some time for us to teach more..."), we speak kindly and with manners, we're dressed conservatively, and aren't nagging or pushy in our words. I can't see anything that would be threatening about us- and yet some people unfortunately see the need to be so unkind to us. This bothered me for a little while and I was still thinking about it as we went to bed.

The next morning for personal study, I was thinking about why there's so much opposition and ill-feelings towards missionaries. I started reading from the Book of Mormon about Alma and Amulek (around Alma 14). These missionaries had so much opposition, simply from sharing the gospel.They had not done anything wrong, in fact they were doing the best thing for these people who needed the blessings of the Gospel in their lives. Many people even accepted their teachings, and repented, or turned their lives around for the better. Yet for some reason (and we know that reason is Satan), Alma, Amulek and all the believers, were mocked, persecuted harshly and all but Alma and Amulek were killed for their beliefs in a most horrific way. I then thought about our very Saviour, the one perfect man to ever live on this mortal earth- even Jesus Christ. His life was never easy. He was persecuted by so many, even when He was performing miracles in plain view. There were still people that used their agency, to mock Him, and try to put Him down- try to make Him feel bad for doing so much good. I love the scripture in Luke 23: "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." I can't ever imagine the pain and trials that my Redeemer went through on earth, and yet He had so much love, and truly was so perfect, that He was able to forgive His very persecutors in the act of their wrongdoing.

I know that missionary work is not often easy, and why should it be, when Christ truly is at the head of this Church. I have such a strong testimony that "it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things", but that doesn't mean that we can't have so much joy from this work- even amongst the opposition. I'm so grateful for the 3 hours of study we get to have as missionaries every day. It's really been bringing me closer to my Heavenly Father and my brother and Saviour Jesus Christ. I know that they love me, even when others may look down on me for being a missionary. I try hard every day to go about with a smile, because I know this work is important, and I know that I have a clear conscience before God. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have to be serving in Poland among such beautiful, hard-working people. I'm so grateful for the trials in my life, that are only making me stronger, and I pray that God will continue to make my weaknesses become my strengths. I pray that you are all happy and well, and remember that even when others around you may put you down, you are nothing less than a daughter or son of God, and He knows your divine worth and potential for greatness.

Love you so much,
Siostra Grgich

Friday, 24 October 2014

Serving in Hel!

Sister Kuchar and I reunited at Zone Conference in Poznan

My companion Sister Montesinos, myself and Elder Jourdan at a restaurant in Hel

My companion and I at Port Hel

We're in Hel (beautiful little town on a peninsula an hour or so from Gdansk by car) And that's a member in Gdansk Branch who took us out there for our culture day. Waldyk (I think that's how to spell it)

This past week has been filled with a lot of new experiences! I'll start of with yesterday (while it's fresh in my memory). So yesterday we had District Conference in Bydgoszcz (instead of the normal Sacrament Meeting at Gdansk chapel). So we woke up early (as usual) and took an approx 2-hour train ride and 4 of us Gdansk missionaries walked from the station to the Bydgoszcz chapel. It was really nice seeing some of the members and other missionaries from Gdansk, Bydgoszcz and Poznan (and maybe someone from Szczecin came too?) and then an Austrian guy walked in the chapel (he's currently being taught by some Elders in Bydgoszcz). So I was of course super excited to speak German, so we were talking for a while but then the conference was starting so we all sat down. The conference was super spiritual for me, and I just love being able to see Polish people bearing their testimonies and uplifting eachother as members in this relatively small district. I was thinking about how many people come to stake conference back in Hebersham (a crazy amount in comparison to the maybe 50 people that came yesterday) and how I would love to see Poland have stakes of that size one day. Poland doesn't have any stakes yet, but I have a lot of hope to one day see a temple here :) I would do anything to be at the opening day for that! So after the conference, I found the Austrian man again, and we had a pretty cool conversation just about what he's doing in Poland, and what Austria is like (and he complimented me on my German which was nice!), so then after our conversation, I went to some other members and tried to speak Polish with them and it was so bad! Oh man, I forgot how to say the simplest of things in Polish and it was so embarrassing! Well I managed to speak to one member who knows the Irelands in Sydney, and she was so excited that I know them. She said she loves them a lot, and it made me so happy to think that this couple who were here a few years ago, are still making an impact on people's lives, and I'm grateful that they were able to be such an obvious help to the members here in Poland.

This past week we also had Zone Conference (for the missionaries). We went down to Poznan (a beautiful city!) and received training from our Mission President and his assistants. It was so cool to see Sister Kuchar again (she was in my MTC group and is now serving in Szczecin) and we just had the most awesome time catching up and discussing our common problems being new missionaries in the field haha. It's nice to have someone who just understands and especially when they're such a great friend! Oh, the train ride over to the conference was pretty cool too- I was playing my guitar for a lot of the way (I made sure not to be annoying I promise!) and I played a Polish patriotic song called "Zeby Polska byla Polska" and there was one other man in our carriage (with us 4 missionaries) and he was singing and tapping his foot as I played that song, so that was super cool!
On Saturday, we decided to take our "culture night" (which was sort of more of a "culture day" in our case), which is when once every transfer (9 weeks), we get to do something culture-y for a few hours and have fun :). So our district got an invitation from Waldyk, a member in Gdansk, to come with him to Hel (a really pretty coastal town a couple of hours drive away). So that was a great experience, and he even bought us lunch (very nice of him!) and we got to walk alongside the coast and look out at all the boats and just have good conversations with each other. The members here are so awesome. It was also pretty funny going to Hel, just because of it's name I've got to say! haha, and it's probably even more funny, because it's sometimes a curse word for Americans (I have to keep refraining from using certain words that are totally fine in Australia but that are NOT in America hahah you know what I mean!) all good, so we had a blast!

Well, I've got to go now, man there's so much more I could tell you about but I've run out of time! I guess I can tell you all funny stories when I come home in 15 months (ah I've been here for a month already!) but thanks for reading my nonsense today ;) I love you so much :)

Siostra Grgich

Thursday, 16 October 2014

New Experiences

Just Claiming My Territory

Sister Montesinos and I outside of our apartment building
Dearest Family!
How are you all? Hope you're doing splendid :) Is it cold there? I've had the longest Summer this year- from January to now it's still quite warm, so for one of the first times in my life I think I'm ready for Winter! Anyway, this week was filled with a lot of new experiences for me! So my companion and I aren't super pumped about going tracting and it's generally a 'last-resort' type of thing, but we went this last week, and got quite a few door slams, but finally I mustered up the courage to do the initial greeting at the door (instead of my companion doing the talking) and so I did it all in Polish and all by myself! Mind you, we got scoffed at, rolled-eyes and a slammed door before I was even able to say "...Latter-day Saints" but hey, I did it myself! It gets hard sometimes having to deal with the rejection, but I've been carrying around a big picture of Jesus Christ in my Ksiega Mormona (Book of Mormon) and my companion always reminds me that He's with us always as long as we are doing his work and trying our best. I love all the time that we get for spiritual studies in the morning, because it means I get to learn more about what Jesus Christ is like and what His disciples are like, and that consequently has been helping me a lot with loving people and seeing their worth the way that He does.

This week I also had a pretty good experience with speaking to a man sitting on a park bench. I've been praying so hard for courage these past few weeks, and God has definitely been helping me out. So I went and made the initial contact, I explained who we were and then he said "Please sit down" (in Polish). I was so taken aback at the invitation I almost didn't believe I had heard him correctly! We were able to teach a short lesson and hopefully give this man hope about having purpose in life (he said he didn't believe in God and had accepted the fact that his life doesn't have a purpose). While I didn't understand much of what he saying, I was able to bear simple testimony about how I know that God exists and has a purpose for me, and knows everyone on the Earth individually and loves them. My companion did a really great job of teaching some other basic restored truths of the gospel, and even though we probably won't see that man again, I have hope that he was left with a better understanding of his own great worth, and I'm glad that the Lord let me be led to that encounter.
Yesterday at church was really great. My listening skills are slowly picking up, which is helping me build more meaningful relationships with the members of the ward. It's also giving me more courage to just speak for the sake of trying, because I know that's how I'm going to learn best.

The other day, the Elders and us went to a park and set up a 'free table', where we have DVDs, pamphlets and Ksiega Mormonas free for people to take. One man came up to our table and said he's heard about us before when he was in the States, and he satyed in a Marriot Hotel and got a Book of Mormon there. We were like great, what do you know about the church? He said he knows everything already but wished us good luck and was quite friendly. He walked away and the Elder and I were a little sad because one of our least favourite responses as missionaries, is "I know everything already". It's such a shame to hear that, because we know that really, if they knew everything already, they would give our message a chance, pray about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, read Moroni's promise about knowing the truth of the Book of Mormon, and find out for themselves about why our message truly is so important. It's also a principle that we as members should always remember- we never know everything. I seriously love reading the scriptures (I've been reading a lot from the New Testament lately) because every time I read through, I learn something different, and I feel closer to Christ. It's super important to remember that Christ's gospel as told by Himself, includes the final principle of enduring to the end. We need to constantly improve and learn, and none of us can ever reach a limit of knowledge or spiritual understanding on this earth. Well back to the park, a few minutes later, the same man came back to us at the table. He was curious about why we were in Poland and asked us if we have Polish backgrounds. He was super surprised when we said that we didn't, and he seemed a little confused as to why we would be doing missionary work in Poland. (I've noticed that we get this question quite a bit). Well it's a good opportunity to bear testimony, and I hope that this man could feel of our sincerity when we told him that we truly believe that Christ's true church has been restored with His authority on the earth.

I love being a missionary in Poland, and I truly wouldn't be out here telling people the things I do, if I wasn't 100% sure of it. I know more than anything, that the things we teach honestly matter more than any material thing in this world. "Men are that they might have joy". I love life, and I love you all so much I can't explain :)

Be happy and have a super awesome week,

love Siostra Grgich

Thursday, 9 October 2014

English Class!

Hey family- I love you! This week we had our first English class of the transfer! So since I've been here, we've been handing out flyers for free english classes, and posting up advertisements for it on noticeboards like crazy. We finally had our first class on Wednesday and we were so excited to have about 10-15 people show up (flyers do work)! My companion and I will be teaching Intermediate English for the duration of the course (the Elders teach Beginner, and the senior couple teach Advanced).

I love being able to interact with Polish people and be of a service to them in some small way. It was really cool, we had one girl in our class who asked who we were, and we explained that we're missionaries. Then she was confused because she asked why we're doing this (teaching English) and we said our primary purpose is to teach others about Jesus Christ, and our English class is one of the free services we offer to the public around here. She asked "Does your church pay you?" and we say no, we're volunteers. And it actually kept going back and forth a bit because she couldn't believe why we would do this and pay our own money to be out here to talk to people about religion, and then to teach English for free haha. It was a great opportunity for us to bear our testimonies of why we actually are here, so I was grateful that she asked! Anyway, I hope that we get some more people coming to our class in the coming weeks, because teaching English is one of my favourite things (not just about being a missionary here, but in life in general). SO yeah, it's the best! (in a Nacho Libre voice)

OH, I bought a guitar last week! It makes me so happy to play after like 11 weeks of not playing any guitar! It's just a little one (you can see in the photo I've sent) but it's super easy and smooth to play, and it's light, so it's perfect for when I have to transfer and lug my bags around on trains. I've been writing down guitar chords in my Polish hymn book, so that I can hopefully go on the streets and sing songs in Polish to the public :D haha, well, we'll see if I can make that work! I play it at lunch time when we're back in the flat, and my companion and I will just sing and relax- it's so nice :) I miss dad's playing though, and everytime I listen to Barrios (I brought some of his music with me to Poland) I think of dad playing it and all us sitting in the living room as a family and just having good times. I love our family so much!

Yesterday it was fast and testimony in Sacrament meeting, and I was sitting next to a member, and she nudged me to go up and bear my testimony haha. So I did (and I'm very grateful for the patience of the members and others in the congregation who had to put up with my slow and terrible Polish) and one of the first things I said was something about how I'm so grateful for my family back in Australia. Then I had to pause for a bit to stop myself from crying! Ah I'm an emotional wreck haha. I was thinking about my amazing sisters, and my nieces and my parents who I owe so much of my happiness and talents to. I know that God has given me everything that I have, but you are all definitely such a big part of who I am, and God put you all in my life for a reason. I'm not homesick, but I definitely appreciate you all so much and can't wait til I can hug you all and see how you've grown (especially Stevie and Madison!). 

Ok, before I go I will just leave you with an awesome scripture that we used in a lesson with a member and his non-member wife last week. It was super awesome and we had a great discussion about why it's important to pray as a family! It's pretty simple, but it's powerful and true. This is Jesus Christ himself speaking to the Nephites:

3 Nephi 18:21
"Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed."

Mum and dad, I really have been blessed so much by your constant care and love for me, and in bringing me up with a knowledge of Heavenly Father's perfect plan of happiness.

Love you all!
Sister Grgich

My companion and I, and then our little Gdansk district at the beach on the Baltic Sea playing beach volleyball last Monday

Me and my super little guitar (bought it last week and it's the bestest travel guitar!) out on our balcony

My companion and I walking around Gdansk on our way to email home!

Gdansk Streetlight

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

This Week In Gdansk

This week was pretty tough I've gotta admit, but I just love trials because they make us stronger! So it's a pretty common thing for people to say that any problems you've had pre-mission, will magnify and really manifest themselves once you're out serving. And I certainly can testify to that! (don't worry though, I'm dealing!) I guess it's mostly my fault, because I've been praying a lot for ways to improve and be a better missionary, and I know that if we always stay the same and never fix our problems, then we will never grow and then there would be no point to life, because we wouldn't ever improve. SO trials=growth and are therfore, necessary. ANYWAY, I'm sure I've got plenty more trials to come, but this week, probably the hardest thing for me has been talking to people. I know you would probably think "What? Sonya having a hard time talking to people?" but yeah, it's apparently a problem! So this week, I've been studying a lot about courage and confidence, and I've found some really interesting stories in the scriptures. I particularly love in Alma 26:27, when he says

"Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success."

I know that God has many a time in the past, blessed me with an ability to talk to people (even strangers) and have uplifting conversations with them. So why should I give up now, just because I'm struggling for a time with talking to people about such a beautiful message of the Gospel? I shouldn't. Sometimes yes, it is super hard, when day after day, you try to talk to people whom you love, and they turn you away immediately, just because you're wearing a nametag. The hardest part really isn't anything about feeling personally offended, but knowing that these people could learn something so special, and won't give it the chance. I'm so grateful for my amazing companion who is always encouraging me and giving me tips on how to keep the faith and stay strong, even when it's hard to see the fruits of your efforts right away.

I'm so grateful for our branch here too! I've been getting to know the members better, and they are just the coolest bunch of people. It definitely gives me motivation to invite more people to come to the branch, and I keep joking with Sister Montesinos (my companion) that one day there'll be a Gdansk Temple because of all the members that will be here :) We're actually pretty multicultural which is super cool. We also get a lot of tourists around here, so we get to meet members from all over the world, and I love it!

Ok, well we're going to head out with the Elders and Senior Missionaries today to play beach volleyball so I gotta go. I love you so much and can't wait to hear from you next week!
In Front Of Stalin's Tower

The Missionaries in my District (apart from the Shaws a senior Couple)

My Companion and I In Front of an Old Gate That Used To Be The Entrance To Gdansk

Sister Bak and I Being Crazy In Warsaw Waiting For Visas