Called to serve in the Adriatic North Mission.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sorry I missed writing last week! I happened to be... busy...of course...
No, but seriously, these past two weeks have been haos (that means "chaos" in Serbian. Neat, huh?). Two weeks ago Sister Hertz and I had a jolly good time together in Novi Sad for two days. I was with her till Wednesday morning, which also happened to be her birthday, so I cleverly schemed with the elders in her district and made her a cool picture collage thing of our friendship (which consists of the MTC and our random exchanges together-- our friendship has been short, but altogether magical). She loved it, of course. Then when our real companions came to pick us up we had a delightful lunch of homemade tacos with random, year-old Taco Bell taco seasoning that we found in their pantry. Hence our domestic photo-op. What a day.
Other big event of the fortnight; our two day zone conference in Zagreb was a raging success. I don't know if I mentioned that in my last. President brought all the zones to Zagreb (at different times, naturally) for zone conference this month as a rare treat. It followed a similar format to MLC, in which the first day was p-day, so we were allowed to come up early and do all sorts of activities, like volleyball, basketball, tennis, and your general assortment of card/board games. We enjoyed ourselves and partied immensely, and then had a wonderful, spiritual party during the meetings. And by party, I mean that we talked and shared and laughed and cried and learned a lot, but we didn't scream or yell or dance, or whatever else you do at real parties. Everyone had good things to say, and we all came out of there with renewed energy and desire to work harder and more effectively. At least, I'm assuming everyone else felt that way. I sure did.
Did you know that last Wednesday, June 24th was exactly 9 months to the day that I entered the Missionary Training Center? That means I am basically halfway through this miraculous journey that they call a mission, but which I'm more inclined to call "intensive life skills training" because I have learned more in the past 9 months about what and who I want to be than at any other time in my life.
Alright. That's enough from me. Uzivajte (enjoy)!
Sestra Watts

(Here is an excerpt from Rina's email to her family. It has some interesting information about her actual mission work. Having served a mission in Finland, I can totally relate to the slowness of the work and the lack of people to teach. In some countries people get baptized every week or every month, but in some you might have one or two of the people you are teaching get baptized your whole mission, or maybe even no one. But you still are serving people and teaching them good things and learning a lot yourself.  --Tiina)

It has been a good few days since I last emailed you all. Zone conference, as you might have already heard from my mass email, was fantastic. I don't know if I told you this, but we are not teaching anyone here in Beograd right now, at least not seriously. It was like that when I came, so we have been working really hard to try to build up a teaching pool, but so far our efforts haven't yielded much fruit. I am used to coming into areas with no investigators (it's what I've done in both of the other cities, too), but still, the first little while before things pick up are extremely difficult, and for some reason, this time the empty period has lasted longer than I'm used to. It has really been a growth experience and continues to be. I have never contacted so much in a single day. There were a few days this week where our entire day was filled with finding, be it tracting, contacting, or a few other attempts to shake things up in our search for the elect. At one point we went and read the Serbian Book of Mormon by the river out loud and then waited to see if anyone would stare at us, with the idea that when they did, we would invite them to learn more. There weren't many people out that day. Another time we took off our watches and called it our "tract till we drop" time, with the idea that we could tract for hours on end since we had so much time to fill. It was a good time of the day, but for some reason no one was home. So we contacted instead. 

The strange thing about all of this is that even though I've never spent this much time doing the nitty gritty, I don't hate it. I've come to enjoy contacting, and I've come to realize that the more people I talk to and have a good conversation with about the gospel, the happier I am. And I am learning more about the worth of souls, too. It's easy in a mission like this to make excuses for not having baptisms by saying things like, "the people are colder here" or "tradition is so deep that no one will listen to us," but in reality, I have never met kinder people than the ones I have met on my mission. Balkan people look out and care for each other in a way that I still don't fully comprehend. There is an endless amount of love beneath their battle-worn skin. What could be stopping me from finding the ones who will listen is that I don't rely on the Lord enough to help me get through, past the cultural boundaries and into their hearts. In reality, all humanity is the same in that we all seek happiness and love. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the epitome of both of those things. So I am really working to develop that Christ-like love for all of God's children and figuring out how to share that with others. It requires a lot of prayer and focus on my studies. I am thankful and happy, despite the fact that sometimes I am also really sad and disappointed. 

Tell the family that I love them, and it was good to see everyone last week! Thank you for your prayers.
I love you! Bog s tobom!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cao, friends!
It's blazin' hot out there! I think I've lost more weight from sweat than an Atkins diet could ever do for a person.
Belgrade continues to be an adventure. We've taken to contacting sometimes in the center of town, and at certain points during the day you can barely breathe there are so many people, most of them tourists. We don't spend a whole ton of time there though because if you stop walking you get trampled. No bueno.
Also, Mission Leader Council was inTENSE, and that's putting it lightly. You ever go to a meeting and feel completely chastised and imperfect, but also 100% inspired to do better and work harder? That was MLC. I can't even put it into words.
Today for our free day, the sisters from Novi Sad are coming to chill with us, and we're going to do everything Beograd has to offer! And, in case you were wondering, the sisters in Novi Sad are Sisters Hertz and Washburn, who happen to be two of my favorite people in the world. Sister Washburn and I were companions in the MTC and we roomed with Sister Hertz and her comp, and we all got along famously well, so let's just say I am a little bit excited. And then at day's end I got back to Novi Sad to be on an exchange with Sister Hertz (this is actually my second one -- remember? #tbt to when I was in Karlovac and she in Rijeka), and it will be glorious and we will work our hind ends off.
So yep. Things are good here. Y'all stay wonderful. God be with you.
Sestra Watts

Last week before district conference, President called us and asked for a favor. We were told to go to the church, grab a chair for each of us, and sit in an empty parking space out front until Elder Boom from the 70 got there. Parking is really scarce in front of our church, so it made some sense, but we still felt a little foolish when people would pass by and obviously wonder why two nicely dressed people were on the street in comfy relief society chairs. Just another day in the #ANM
Sister Chauncey, one of the other sisters serving in Belgrade (we go way back-- she was in my last zone and I'm friends with her sister) knows me INCREDIBLY well and bought these tissues for me on a whim. I have yet to use one.

Friday, June 12, 2015

What!? I am in Serbia! How neat is that!
So two weeks ago, president called and told me I was getting transferred early to Belgrade, Serbia, and that I would leave the next day! So I packed my bags and said goodbye to my dear, beloved Zagreb and hitched a ride (a.k.a. drove a mission-owned vehicle) to Beograd, Srbija, population 2.5 million (about 3 times as much as Zagreb). Big city means big changes. We have a big, beautiful apartment and a big, beautiful branch of members here (although not that many more than in Zagreb) and we meet in a big, beautiful rented apartment building for our meetings. The members here are lovely and the other missionaries I'm working with are stellar. I miss Zagreb with all of my heart, but I wouldn't have chosen any other city besides Beograd to be next. I'm pretty happy here.
In case you're wondering, I still have not figured out the bus system completely. But don't worry, that will come with time. Sometimes I have to resort to the baby duck method, waddling behind Sister Kawai, nipping her heels as she navigates the steep hills and complex metro transport, panting with exertion as I go. It's hot, okay?
Yesterday was district conference, with means that all of Serbia either gathered here or watched a broadcast of our special church service. We had a guest from the 70 (meaning he's a regional leader of our church, like a cardinal or something, if I'm trying to relate it to Catholicism. I think that's a good equivalent.) named Elder Boom from the Netherlands. That was fantastic. The whole conference had a focus on keeping the Sabbath Day holy (see Exodus 20, The Holy Bible), and it was impressed on my mind that dedicating our entire Sabbath to the Lord is crucial. God has set apart that day for us to rest and to worship, and that does not just mean going to church. It means that our entire day must be focused on Him. I don't shop, I don't play sports, watch TV, etc. because I want to focus on things that are important to Him that day. Elder Boom had a really good analogy. He said that when we get an ice cream sundae, we don't put pickles and cheese on it. There's a time and a place for those, and that time is not sundae. Or Sunday. Get it? I thought it was cool. We spend our Sundays doing things that will bring us closer to our families and to the Lord, like having family dinner and doing genealogy, playing games as a family, reading scriptures and other good book, etc. And the Lord has promised us that we will be happier because of it.
Alright, friends. It's been a good week. I'm headed back up to Zagreb today for the monthly Mission Leader Council. I can't wait to see everything/everyone again!
Have a good week!
Fraza Dana:
Bre (bray) -- no translation. It's a word used for emphasis, mostly by the young people, and specifically in Serbia. Kind of like how we would use bro, but it is not the same meaning. Like "come at me bro!" But remember, it does NOT mean bro.
Love y'all!
Sestra Watts

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hey... don't freak out, but I definitely am on my personal email account right now. My myldsmail account is on the fritz, so president gave me permission to shoot you a quick email just telling you I'm alive. Hopefully my email will start working..eventually. 

Oh yeah, also I am in Beograd!! Surprise! I got transferred here with a day's notice last Wednesday, about a week before real transfers. I don't exactly know why it happened, but here I am! Beograd is HUGE. About 3 times as many people as Zagreb, so like 2.5 mil. Our apartment is also huge. And the branch is really nice. About the same size as Zagreb's, but this time, I don't have to play the piano, thank heavens (literally)! 

I'm serving with Sister Kawai, a sister who's been out 4 months longer than me. We were together for that random week I was in Zadar, remember? It's been great.

Okay, well, hope you all are well. I wish I could have read what you actually sent to me on myldsmail, but oh well. What'll you do. 

Love you all! Have a great week!

Tvoja prekrasna kci