Called to serve in the Adriatic North Mission.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hi everyone.

Last Thursday we got to watch this broadcast from Salt Lake! Every single missionary in the world got to watch it live (except the ones for whom it was too late at night-- they had to wait till morning). We got to see Elder Oaks, Bednar, and Andersen speak, as well as a few members of the 70 and other auxiliaries. It was probably the most inspirational thing I've experienced in a while. I am so thankful to be a missionary. I know that this is the Lord's work. It's deathly hard sometimes, but that's just how good things are. And, as Dumbledore says, "what is easy is not always right." What a genius.

I also fainted on Saturday, for maybe the second time in my life! I hit my funny bone really hard during personal study (long story, don't ask), and it got to hurting real bad that I just thought "I'm going to put my head down to deal with the pain for a bit" and what felt like an hour later I was waking up like in the movies when the camera is from the person's perspective and it's all blurry and confusing at first and you don't know where you are. I then promptly told Sister Vukorepa what had happened. She said I was only down for about two seconds though. And also that I apparently gave her this 5-7 second long blank stare before I went down that I don't remember at all. She said it looked like my spirit left my body almost. No one home when she looked into my eyes. I think that's probably what the dementor's kiss is like. How cool is that?

Have a great week!

Monday, January 18, 2016

 I finally finished reading the grammar book they gave us at the MTC.

The sick shirt that Sister Vukorepa got me for Christmas! It's the famous Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic.

I think it's been two weeks since I've written a general email, which means that I haven't even told you all about Christmas yet! That was January 7th. We got to go to a Serbian Orthodox liturgy at midnight on Christmas Eve. It was fascinating. Completely and wildly different from your average LDS sacrament meeting. It was basically a huge prayer put to song. We were exhausted because it was the middle of the night and we're missionaries, but it was definitely worth it. I feel like I know these people a little better now since I am more familiar with their traditions.

Then Saturday the 9th was the anniversary of the Republic of Srpska! They celebrate it almost exactly the way we celebrate the 4th of July. Fireworks, cookouts, parades, helicopters, alcohol-- you name it, we saw it. And we completely were not expecting it. We were the only city in the mission that was affected by it, too, since there are no other missionaries serving in the boundaries of the Serbian Republic (it's a part of Bosnia). It was crazy and also kind of awesome.

The 13th was our Zone Conference, which took place here in Banja Luka. All the Bosnian missionaries came in, and we had a great time talking a LOT about repentance and God's Plan of Salvation. We've been focusing a lot on repentance this year already as a mission. It's amazing to me how much my understanding of it has deepened in the last few weeks. You guys! Repentance is not punishment -- it is how we become free from punishment. We all sin. Sorry but that's just how it is. We suffer. We do or say things we regret. The cool thing about repentance is that it means that Christ paid a price wherein he took upon himself all --ALL-- our sins. When we repent, we confess our sins to our Father in Heaven (not a paid minister) and we strive to change our behavior so that we don't have to go through that guilt process again. Repentance means change. It means turning to God and letting ourselves be cleansed. It means becoming better (a.k.a. happier). 

And then I went on this beautiful exchange to Sarajevo, where I served with a new missionary Sister Johnston for a few days. She's an amazing missionary and already owns this language. And Sarajevo is the coolest city. There are the cutest stray dogs absolutely everywhere! I don't know why my friend Will would be reading this, but if he is, I often thought about the fact that he took home one of those little guys a while back. Good times. 

I think that's gonna be it from me today. Don't forget to read your scriptures! Happy New Year.
 The view on the drive from BL to Sarajevo.

Sister Johnston and I on the top of a very high tower (it was crazy windy),

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I guess it's a good thing we decided this year to celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar (Jan. 7) because now our Christmas will actually be white! December 25th passed warm and sunny, but this past Sunday real winter began. It snowed all night and all day and actually just started back up again as I type on Monday afternoon. 

Now, I'm not yet an expert in the metric system, but if I had to wager an educated guess, I'd say the depth of snow is approximately 1,000,000 centimeters, give or take. But really, though, we got about 8 inches, I'd say. It made walking to church really fun. I'm used to Minnesota and it's immediate snow plow action on streets and sidewalks, whereas here, you kind of have to forge your own path for the first day. It was pretty fun. We still had 4 members come to church, too! It was a really good day. Everyone in the building bore their testimony during sacrament meeting! I was just so happy the whole meeting, too, and I really don't know why. I felt so much love for everyone. One of the best set of church meetings I've ever attended. 

Another fun thing: on Saturday afternoon, right before all the crazy weather started, Sister Vukorepa and I had the brilliant idea to eat lunch on this boat restaurant, which I have been dying to do since I got here 3 months ago. It was pretty fancy (remember, the price for fancy here is not nearly as much as in America), and had a great view of the river and the local fortress. 

The downside of things is that this weather has made it so our trip up to Zagreb scheduled for tomorrow for Mission Leadership Council has been postponed another two and a half weeks! I don't know that I can wait that long! We're thinking of just driving up to Zagreb anyway and showing up at President's doorstep. Wouldn't that be an uncomfortable situation.

So, I hope you all had a lovely new year! Have fun going back to work and school and stuff!

Sestra Watts

Sunday, January 3, 2016

    Sister Durfee and I rejoicing in our recent reunion.

How was everyone's Christmas? Good. 

I'll start at the beginning of the week. We did an exchange with the sisters in Tuzla! Sister Vukorepa left me and I stayed in Banja Luka with.... Sister Durfee! Remember her? My beautiful, tall companion from Zagreb? Yep that's her. Oh, how I love small missions. You get to see your friends all the time!

Here's an interesting thing that I'm not entirely sure is true, but it's my current theory: people in the Balkans respond better to tall people. I feel like in America, if two ladies over 5'11 were to stop you on the street, you'd either run and hide or you'd think you'd walked onto a beach volleyball court. But here, they just eat it up. That might be because the females are taller here (but the men typically aren't -- what's up with that?). In any case, we had a lot of fun! And we talked to some groovy people. 

Next: I'm still getting excited for Christmas! It was fun to Skype our families on Friday the 25th, but the rest of our festivities will not take place until January 7th. That means I'm still listening to Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas CDs and the halls are still decked. How neat is that?

Yesterday, Sunday, we put on a Christmas program for church service. Our district sang "Away in a Manger" (in the language, of course), other people sang, we read the Nativity, all that awesome stuff. And, of course, we invited everyone and their dog to come. The cool thing is, a ton of people really did come! I think we had more non-members there than members. Probably 50-50 (which, okay, isn't that hard if you only have 5 active members in the whole county). But we had a bunch of English class students and investigators there who loved it, and some more friends joined us for the luncheon that we put on afterward. One of our students makes desserts for a living, and she knows that cheesecake is in my heart (it's really rare here, and when they do make it it is NOT the same), so she showed up with a PHILADELPHIA style cheese cake. #Heaven.

It was a really good day. I love singing. I appreciate that a lot more now that I'm out here. There's nothing that gets me in the gospel mood more than singing a good hymn. Hallelujah!

Happy New Year!

We also ate at the FANCIEST restaurant ever (at which I paid about $13 for a meal
and dessert) on Friday. Definitely upscale. That red ball was a cheesecake.