Monday, 17 November 2014

Stutthof Concentration Camp

Me at a cafe with hot chocolate and an oreo cookie pie mmm so good

Me with Jadwiga at her home (super awesome church member)

On the Gdansk main tourist street in front of the "Green Gate" (Zielona Brama)

Cool-looking boat on the Motława River in Gdansk

A coblestone alleyway in the Old Town (Stare Miasto)

Me, my companion Sister Wood and Elder Kimball with Autumn leaves

Me and Siostra Wood at Concentration Camp

At Stutthof Concentration Camp

A memorial at the museum/concentration camp grounds

A dog at Sopot beach that decided to be our friend (ok so maybe Elder Kimball wouldn't consider him a 'friend')

Last pday we (the district in Gdansk) went to the beach at Sopot (one of the tricities here)

On our way to Stutthof- just hanging out on railway tracks as you do

My companion Sister Wood and I on the bus back to Gdansk
So on pday last week we went to the beach at Sopot and it was really chilly! But it was super pretty too, and I brought along my guitar and we just sat on the (very cold) sand and enjoyed nature and music :) At one point, an enthusiastic dog came up to us as we were eating and tried to eat my companion's food hahaha she got a pretty funny photo of it.

Today for pday we went out to a place called Sztutowo (or Stutthof in German). It's about half-way from here in Gdańsk to Kalingrad (a russian country/state/i'm not sure? above Poland) and took just over an hour to get to by bus. I'd heard about a concentration camp being near Gdansk and I'd wanted to visit it for a while, but we didn't get the chance to go last transfer. So yesterday we all decided that we'd go there today as a district, and I'm so glad we did. It was a very solemn occasion and it was of great interest to me after having been to World War 2 museums in Germany last year and the Sydney Jewish Museum earlier this year. It's certainly a different experience, from hearing/reading about all the atrocities that happened, and then actually being in the place where much of it took place. The first thing we did when we got there was watch an introductory film (I think we were the first ones to arrive, so the theatre was empty). It spoke about the history of the camp, and showed footage from a trial that happened after the camp's liberation, with many of the workers and commanders of the camp- who, as I remember, most or all of them plead non-guilty. We then walked around different buildings that had exhibitions within- quotes from prisoners, personal belongings, artworks and homemade toys, a large pile of men's, women's and children's shoes confiscated upon entry of the camp. We saw the different areas they slept, worked, ate, and were killed, including crematoriums and "surgeries". There was a large memorial (the museum itself is a memorial already) to all the victims of this heinous crime at the back/side of the museum. I can really only say when I study or learn about the terrible things that happened during this time, I can't help but think how this was all possible? How is it, that so many people could do so much evil? I must say that I have no real answer.
Near the end of the museum, there's a room that mentions the different legal trials that took place after the war, and many of these perpertrators got small jail sentences or even some were let off. It's not hard to think of how unjust and wicked this all was. I do know that there is a higher being, who knows all things, and has prepared a life for us after this mortal earth. All the pains and injustices of this world, will be no more after this life on earth is done. Jesus Christ has suffered for us all, that we may live again, and all will be accountable for his or her own sins. People will have the chance to live with their families once again, and never more to be seperated. I really can't fathom how it's possible for such horrific things to happen. I don't know why so many people had to suffer. I know that God does not wish for any of His children to suffer. But I do know that God is real and knows us all. The afflictions we go through on this earth, are not eternal. There is a lifer after this, and good will always prevail over evil.

This past week, my companion and I have continued to grow closer to each other, as we've continued to persevere in hastening the Lord's work. We had some interesting conversations with contacting people on the street, and I really can say that I've felt the Holy Ghost work through me to say the right things at the right time. Polish is still taking me some time to learn, but the Holy Ghost is always there for me and I couldn't be more thankful :) I'm so grateful for the members here, who are such great examples to me. I'm so grateful for the amazing experiences we've had with meeting new people, being strengthened by people that I've known for a while, and learning from my own personal studies of the scriptures and in talking to my fellow missionaries. I know that Heavenly Father knows all of His children, and has no greater desire than to see them succeed and reach eternal happiness. I'm so grateful for the comfort that comes from my knowledge of God's great Plan of Salvation. I would not trade the experiences I've been having on my mission for anything in the world. I am so grateful for the support I have from a loving family. You keep me going when the times are tough. I hope you can feel my love for all of you!! (say hi to Stevie and Madison and Kate and Mandy!!)
With love,
Siostra Grgich

Sunday, 16 November 2014

All Saints Day

Singing Polish hymns together around the graves.

An incredible sea of light, something quite special!

Cleaning the graves and decorating them with flowers, candles and lanterns

A social sciences class to whom we gave a presentation about our church! :)

Sister Wood and I on the Ulica Długa (long street)- a big tourist attraction in Gdansk. It's filled with Dutch-looking architecture and is such a pleasure to walk along!
Dear Family,
This week I'm just going to send a short one because we're going to the beach again today eeeh I'm so lucky to be up here in Gdansk! 

Anyway, I want to tell you about something incredible that happened just yesterday. So my companion and I went to the senior missionary couple's home for Fast Sunday dinner, then afterwards we had planned to tract around their area until the end of our night. So we found a really big apartment building and only about 15 minutes after starting, a man let us into his home to talk! He actually spoke amazing English, so we ended up having the whole conversation in English (he had some incredible spiritual inisghts which blew my mind of how deep some of his thoughts were)- we were able to leave him with a Book of Mormon and although he wasn't totally interested, it was such a tender mercy to have someone let us in and talk (and I really felt uplifted by some of the points that were brought up in our conversation). Polish people truly are so friendly (once they warm up to you, that is!) :) Then, only 5 minutes later, another person lets us in their home and we end up teaching a super awesome girl about the restoration of the church and we leave her with a Book of Mormon as well. So two people let us in their homes in one night! I have definitely learned to love tracting in this transfer. My companion has been a great example to me of how to be light-hearted and yet purposeful at the same time. It's really helped me with being more courageous and trusting that Heavenly Father is with us all the way, and He will lead us to people in His timing.

One more thing I just want to say about this past week- so in Poland they have a holiday called All Saints Day (Wszystkich Świętych) where they remember their ancestors and other deceased people (such as soldiers) by cleaning the graves and decorating them with flowers, candles and lanterns. With all the candles lit (literally on every grave) it looks like an incredible sea of light and is something quite special! So on Saturday evening we went to 2 different cemetaries in Gdansk. The first was smaller but they had a ceremony happening where someone was playing guitar and they were all singing Polish hymns together around the graves. It was so nice to see how Polish people appreciate their history and remember those people who have lived and died for Poland to be the great country it is. 

The second cemetary we went to was HUGE- we were with the elders and and a friend who took us around to the graves of his family members, so that was really special to see a more personal commemoration on this holiday. It really made me think about how wonderful it is that we have knowledge about the Plan of Salvation, and how God is aware of every individual. It was also a little mind-blowing to think about all the people who have ever lived on this earth and who are still yet to be born. It's almost unfathomable to me to think that Jesus Christ loves and knows all of us, and suffered for us all. All those people. I think about how I could ever possibly give my thanks in return, and I know that all He wants of us is to live as He did- that is the best way we can say thank you. By living our lives in accordance with His teachings, we're showing Him that we value our lives and appreciate this precious time we have, and that makes Him happy because He loves us. He knows that when we live as He asks, we're only making life happier for ourselves. I've seen that time and time again, and I'm so grateful that I've been meeting more and more people who understand that and act as such great examples to me of how I can make life more meaningful.

Also I just want to say, I read 2 Nephi 4 today and it blew my mind of the awesomeness of it!! ;) For reals though! Nephi is a poet. Anyway, love you lots, have an awesome week, be meaningful and have fun!

Love you so much,
Sister Grgich

Friday, 14 November 2014

We Got LET IN!

And the card was super cute aww my little nieces :D Pinch their cheeks for me ;)

I got my Christmas package and opened it haha ok so I've only eaten half a Tim-Tam packet, and I haven't opened the starbursts yet- I'll see if I can hold out til Christmas ;)

We went tracting in this bulding with the steepest staircase ever! It's hard to see from the photo, but yeah, it was crazy!

Ringing some doorbells

Really cool view of the Solidarity (Solidarność) Museum in Gdańsk

Hey Family!
I don't have a lot of time, but I'll tell you some highlights!

Well on Tuesday night we went tracting again (we pretty much go every evening now) and we got let in! It's apparently not the most common thing ever, haha so we're trying to change that! So yeah, we were at a place not too far from our apartment, it was super cold outside (maybe 5 degrees celcius) and we were in a big apartment complex trying all the doors from top to bottom, hoping that someone might let us talk to them. Then we get to a door and a youngish man answers- and he's wearing an Australian T-shirt! Coincidence? I think not ;) So my companion introduces us, and I'm like "Hey I really like your t-shirt! I'm from Australia" and he's like "Please, come on in!" (this was in Polish by the way) and my companion and I look at eachother like "whaaaatt??" haha we were a little bit shocked to say the least. So he was looking after his young daughter, who, get this, was watching Bible Videos on the TV!! Super cool family! So anyway, we were able to have a little lesson, and we found out that he had actually met missionaries before and had a Book of Mormon but had never read it. Anyway, unfortunately since then, we haven't been able to meet again because they're not really interested, but nonetheless it was still a really cool experience for us both! Oh, then that night we came home and Sister Wood had her first Tim-Tam Slam and it was so delicious! Mmm I miss Australian chocolate- thanks family you're the best!

On Thursday we decided to try finding some people out in Sopot (one of the 3 cities in the "tricity area" which includes Gdansk and Gdynia) and it was so freezing cold and windy! We had a few interesting responses from people, but unfortunately didn't get any potentials to teach, so we'll keep trying and maybe stay closer to Gdansk. We did however get to take a nice lunch break with a view of the Baltic Sea, so that was really great! Oh yeah, and then there was also a little crazy moment with us tracting in Sopot in the evening; we got let into a house (via the domophone) but when we were finished, we couldn't get out and the gate was locked. So we had to go to the side and jump over the fence via a drainpipe :/ haha it was sort of awkward but we and the fence and drainpipe are ok!

On Friday we (our district) planned for a presention that we're going to give this Wednesday to a social sciences university class! We've been invited by a professor at the Gdansk University, and so we're very grateful to have such an opportunity of sharing our message first-hand with others. We're planning on using some videos from the church (there's one by Elder Holland explaining what the Book of Mormon is, and then we'll probably show an I'm A Mormon video). We're also going to be speaking in Polish, so I'll be sure to let you know how it all goes in my next week's email! 

One of the things I'm most grateful for on my mission, is all the time I get for studying! We get 3 hours every morning (1 hour for personal study, 1 as a companionship and 1 for learning Polish) and I really try and milk out that time as effectively as possible. For the past couple of days I've been studying about baptism (particularly about need for authority, what baptism means, why we should do it, and what difference it makes in our lives). It's been so cool to see how my own understanding has deepened, and I've discovered that I absolutely love the Bible Dictionary and footnotes in the LDS version of the scriptures. We are so blessed to have those study helps!

Today my companion and I are going to the shops to buy some winter stuff (it's so cold here mum!!)- I already bought some boots a couple of weeks ago, but I think I need another sweater. Then I have a bit of letter writing to do because I got 3 letters from friends in my German ward (Solingen yay :D) and one awesome girl in Winston Hills ward- so I feel very loved right now with all my letters! It's also an elder's birthday today, so we'll probably play some games later at the chapel. I'm excited for another great week, and I hope you are all doing well and settling into the new home nicely! Say kako si to baba for me, and tell her I love her very much :)

Kocham was,
Siostra Grgić

Tim-tam slamming

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

"Are You Guys Mormons?"

Some of the members from our Gdansk Branch on Sunday

My companion Sister Wood and I taking a selfie at the library

Here's a photo with me and a card tower that I made :D (One of the elders in our district is really awesome with doing magic card tricks, and he carries a deck around with him all the time) 

This week I've had so many great experiences with my new companion Sister Wood (plays piano beautifully, speaks ein ganz kleines bisschen auf Deutsch, and comes from California). It was sad to see Sister Montesinos go, but I'm very grateful to have this new opportunity to learn from being in a different situation.

On Wednesday, I had to wait for over an hour at the dworzec (station) for Sister Wood to come in from Szczecin (a Polish city near Berlin) and while I was waiting, I had the mobile phone for the Gdańsk sisters (normally the senior companion takes the phone responsibilties, but as I had no companion, I was holding on to it until Sister Wood got in). So then I got a call from a member in our branch, who doesn't speak English! I answered, and it didn't take long for the member to realise that this would be a difficult conversation haha, but in time and with her patience, I was able to speak and understand her (we set up to go have dinner with her that night). It was so cool that I was able to understand her by myself (I've never spoken in Polish on the phone before, and it's a lot harder when you can't use body language to get a point across)- so yeah that was a milestone for me :)

A couple of days later, the district decided to go out in the town and try finding some people to teach who might be interested in our message. So we went to a pretty busy area near the station, set up a table with materials, and started talking to people. I'm normally a big chicken when it comes to talking to people, but I was somehow able to get over that hurdle, and we managed to find someone who the elders are now set up to meet with later this week. My companion and the elders were able to have some good conversations with people too, (I started to have a conversation with one lady, and then she touched my face and hair and was sort of treating me like a 5-year-old before walking away...haha it was pretty weird!). There were also these 2 American ladies that came up to us, and were like "Are you guys Mormons?" and we're like "Yes we are!". So then we were talking for a while and they were super loud and speaking English so it was probably a funny site for some of the locals. The ladies weren't members of our church, but they were super friendly and wished us luck on our missions.

Later that day, my companion and I decided to go tracting at some apartment blocks around our place (normally something that I'm also a big chicken at). So normally the routine goes like this: We ring a random number at the domophone, say we're missionaries, be lucky and someone will let us in, we start at the top floor and try all the doors, people answer and tell us they're not interested (in many colourful ways), we work our way down and then it's time to go home. But this time was different! Well, sort of! We actually were able to find 2 people (from 2 different households) that let us speak to them, and we were able to leave them with pass-along cards (with on it and our number and church address). We're hoping to visit these people again tomorrow and see where it goes and we're very excited about the potential of getting to know these people better and being able to actually teach them lessons. This was the first time I've ever had anyone let us do that, and we had 2 in one night! It was a super cool experience, and I actually maybe just slightly might enjoy tracting now ;) (My companion also helped with that- she would tell me funny stories while we were going from door to door and we were still in the 'getting to know you' stage so we had a lot to talk about). Then 2 days later we went tracting again, and found another guy who actually let us teach him a mini lesson at the door and he accepted a Księga Mormona (Book of Mormon)! It was a pretty cool experience.

Last week we went to Sopot to visit with a less-active member. I wasn't sure how long it would take to get to her house, so we ended up getting there about 20 minutes early. While approaching her building, we saw an apple tree (just growing in a public place) and my companion loves apples, so I suggested she eat one. Apple trees are everywhere in Poland, but I've never actually tried a fresh apple from the tree before. So we both picked one each, cleaned them off a little on our skirts, and gave it a shot. We were both expecting them to taste funny, but to our surprise, after biting into them, we realised they were super juicy and fresh and full of apple-y goodness. So then we decided to pick a few, and put them in Sister Wood's backpack. We had a good catch-up with the member, and then when we got home, we washed all the apples and we had 15! I didn't realise that we had so many haha. So anyway, I found out I have a new hobby- apple picking! (just kidding, but actually I wouldn't mind doing it again).

Today we're probably going to walk around the old town here (if the rain holds off) and then play some board games at the chapel before p-day finishes. I'm super excited for this transfer and all the things I'm yet to learn. I love being here in Gdańsk, and I feel so blessed to be a missionary here amongst the beautiful Polish people. I think about you guys all the time, and I love you dearly!

Til next week,
Sister Grgich

Monday, 10 November 2014

I Really Do Love This Place!

Saying goodbye to Siostra Montesinos at the Dworzec Główny (Main Station) in Gdańsk.
Saying goodbye to Starszy (Elder) Wolfley at the Dworzec Główny (Main Station) in Gdańsk.
Myself, Stanisław, Sister Monte and Elder Jourdan taking a photo of us haha

This is myself with Sister Monte, and a member Wioleta (it was her birthday yesterday!)

My companion and I with 3 awesome little ones in our branch, Kasia, Ania and Tomek

And myself with a newly-wed couple in our branch (they're so awesome!) Gosia and Marcin. They're getting married in the Stockholm Temple tomorrow :D

My companion and I with 2 members Irena and Józef

The senior couple here the Shaw's (from Idaho) with my companion and I

Sister Montesinos, myself, and 2 Polish members from our branch Marinela and Jadwiga, and a Hawaiian member Sister Harker.
This week we got to finish watching General Conference, and I absolutely loved it! There was one from Elder David A. Bednar about why we do missionary work, and it was so awesome! It made us all laugh at some points too, I hope you got to hear/watch it!

So this week is transfer week! And I'm staying in Danzig! (That's the German word for Gdańsk haha) It's super exciting to get to stay here, because I really do love this place. Unfortunately my companion is leaving to a different city, and so are both of the elders, and I will truly miss them, but I'm also super excited to get to meet 3 new missionaries, and work with them to help build up our assigned area. I'm probably getting ahead of myself here, but I'm actually especially excited to get some type of musical fireside/talent show organised for the branch, because I've heard that at least 2 of the 3 new missionaries coming here are musical, and that makes me SO happy! :D So, I'll keep you updated on what happens there! I thank Heavenly Father every day for giving me an amazing musical family who fostered my own love for music and the chance to develop my talents to bless the lives of myself and others.

On Wednesday during English class, we had a new guy come to our class, and when we introduced ourselves as missionaries and said that our main purpose is to teach others about Jesus Christ, he said he really respects that and was grateful to be in our class, and it was just such a tender mercy to have a friendly person say that to us! We also had a lady come up to us at a park the other day, and after taking a few pamphlets (she asked for them! super cool) I invited her to come to church on Sunday, but even though she said she can't because she has her own church to attend, she told us she was proud of what we're doing and wished us well. It's so nice when people say such nice things to us. Never underestimate the power of words and honest compliments!
Oh, a pretty funny thing during English- we asked if anyone had done their homework from the week before, and Stanisław (a non-member friend) pulls out a piece of paper with burnt edges, with "My Homework" and scribble written on it. It was so funny! So then my companion asked if she could keep the piece of paper, and now she's got it as a memoir! Hehehe

Yesterday we went to an American member couple's house in Sopot (a super pretty and posh city in our area) and we had two awesome other ladies (one Polish and one Russian) from our branch there as well and we had an awesome dinner together! It was so nice just getting to chat with them and it's so awesome that Sister Harker (the American member) is so willing to help out with strengthening our little branch here, and just be a good friend to the other members here. We got to learn a lot about each other and it was so nice to hear from Jadwiga and Irena's lives. It's crazy listening to all the stories from War and Communism times and it makes me so grateful that I grew up in such a peaceful country. I especially loved hearing from Jadwiga who told us of how she would play pranks on her late husband during communism time (I'll have to tell you her funny stories one day!), and it's so good to be acquainted with such strong people like her who still kept hope and had a sense of humour, even in such dire circumstances. Sister Harker also showed us a video from a couple years back, and it's got Jayden (Elder Zelezniak) doing the Haka in it hahah that was cool to see.

Well I feel like my Polish is slowly coming along! Yesterday at church, I went into Primary and translated (or tried!) for Sister Shaw (the American senior missionary who is also the Primary President in our branch, but doesn't speak Polish), and it was amazing how much I was able to say and understand! I made a lot of mistakes, but I'm getting better haha. I hope I get to do this translating in Primary more often! I also found myself understanding a lot more of conversations that I had with the members, so I'm excited to continue to make progress and get to know the members more in depth.

Well, know that I love you so much, and I'm excited to hear how things continue to progress at home!
Lots of love,
Siostra Grgich

Monday, 3 November 2014

Happy New Week!

The Courtyard of Malbork Castle

My companion and I chilling with some Teutonic knights, you know the deal

Old Gothic Well (There's No Water In It Anymore, I Know We Checked)

Super Cool Roof (I Wish You Could See It Better)

Me and a Small Window

Sister Monte, Starzy Wolfley and Stan Being Awesome as Usual

Stainsław and I Inside the Castle
This week was sort of boring because I've had a cold- but it's also been super awesome because of General Conference and today! So it all worked out :D

I'll start with today while it's fresh in my memory! So right after studies, instead of emailing, we (the Elders and Sisters) went with a friend Stanisław to the Malbork Castle (about an hours drive from Gdansk). It's actually a German-built castle, and a lot of it was destroyed in WW2, but it's been rebuilt and is a pretty popular tourist place. It was cool to walk around and enjoy eachother's company, and I especially liked hearing all the German tourists walking around haha :) Unfortunately, only some of the castle was open to see (a lot of museums and stuff are closed or part-closed on Mondays), but we still got to listen to an audioguide, and have our own 'tour-guide' Stan tell us some Polish history, so it was way cool.

Have you heard any of General Conference yet, or the Women's Conference? Yesterday for church, we were going to watch a Saturday session, but it wasn't up yet in Polish. So we ended up showing the General Women's Conference, and in a room next door to the main chapel, we set up the computer to show it in German for a man Karl (non-member from Germany) who doesn't speak Polish. So I got to go and watch it in German (I'm definitely able to understand way more of that than Polish unfortunately- I'm still working on my Polish of course!). It was a really awesome experience for me, and I felt the Spirit very strongly in the room, testifying to Karl and I that what we were hearing from our leaders was true (a lot was spoken about temples, and it made me really miss going to the temple! I can't wait to have that opportunity again in Sydney). I hope you get to watch all of the sessions if you haven't already (we still actually need to watch both Sunday sessions)- I can't wait til all these talks come out in the next Ensign so I can study them and read them over again. I've had some amazing, clear answers to my prayers already, and I'm excited to see Sunday's sessions to get even more inspiration and insight. How blessed are we to be able to hear such powerful words and recieve so much guidance from our apostles and prophets every 6 months-I love conference so much!

This week we also restocked our 72-hour kits (with the help of the senior missionary couple the Shaw's). I was really drained getting all the stuff actually, (because of my cold) but the awesome thing is that we rotate the food from the kit, which means we get to eat all the old stuff (which is practically non-perishable anyway)- so yay, more Nutella for me! ;) In all seriousness though, I've actually really been trying to eat healthier, because I hate the feeling of being sick and I want to prevent it as much as possible from happening again. I haven't enjoyed this time very much, but I guess it has forced me to drink more fluids and be careful about what I'm putting in my body. Yet another trial for me to learn from, I'm sure! The Word of Wisdom is important, and it's not just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol! I'm really trying to eat less chocolate now, and more fruits and vegetables. It's a little bit hard for me to adjust to the fruits and vegetables here, because they don't have the same type of fresh produce that I'm used to back home, but I'm trying to teach myself to like the canned stuff, and buy things in season! I'll get there- hopefully the next time you see me, I won't be a chocolate addict anymore ;) fingers crossed

Okie doke, it's so cool hearing about everything that's happening at home and I hope the transitions you're making aren't too stressful. Give all my love to the nieces and my sisters (and everyone really!) :)

Kocham was,
Siostra Grgich