Monday, October 29, 2012

Sretan Bajram! Happy Holiday from Sarajevo:)

Sretan Bajram! Beautiful Sarajevo all decorated for the holiday!
District Bajram party with our investigators Edina and Haris
The Elders love each other and playing Word of Wisdom Bingo!
Hello Everyone!

First off, I am feeling the same as you with the premature snowfall. TODAY IT IS SNOWING! And its no small snow, this is borderline a blizzard here. Im so glad that I get to use my new boots and coat in the right manner. Merry Christmas to all. :)

This week seems like it may have lasted about a year with all the things that happened, but I will just touch on a few of my favorites.

First, Zone Conference. Wednesday I got to attend my first Zone Conference with all of the missionaries and President Rowe coming into Sarajevo. It was incredible! I loved meeting the other missionaries that are serving here in Bosnia. There are only 6 others. Elder DeFraites and Elder West serve in Tusla with Brother & Sister Goodsell. Elder Adams and Elder Gibson serve in Banja Luka all by themselves! Its incredible to see the work that is being done all over this country! We talked a lot about faith and about using the Book of Mormon when we teach. It was everything that I needed to hear! At the end we got to hear testimonies from Elder Shillabeer (who is leaving in 2 weeks) and Elder Gibson (who is being transferred to the Adriatic South Mission). It was strengthening to me to see what these two missionaries have become through perserverance and hard work and to think that I can become like them someday! I was able to add my testimony to theirs by closing our conference by singing and playing --Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing--. The spirit was so strong the whole time we had all of the missionaries there, we hardly wanted to move! After the closing prayer we all just sat and drank in the spirit for a few minutes. It was an incredible feeling!

Our Beautiful Edina!
 In terms of our investigators things have become a little bit tough. We had two baptisms fall through this week and our other baptism on date called us and told us that she cant meet with us anymore. Satan is working hard here! We are keeping up our faith and are trying to resolve their concerns. Its hard to not just want to force my testimony on them sometimes. THEY KNOW ITS TRUE! It has been reminding me how important daily scripture study and prayer are. Every person we talk to that is having problems isnt reading the scriptures! Its not just investigators either, it can happen to life-long members too. READ THE SCRIPTURES PEOPLE! 

Beautiful Cathedral in downtown Sarajevo
One fun cultural experience I got to have this week was Bajram (Bye-rum). Bajram is a holiday in Islam that is similar to Christmas for Christians. Bajram started on Friday and went through Sunday this week. On Friday all the men go to Mosque and the women stay home and prepare a TON of food. When the men get back they go and find a lamb and slaughter it. Half of the lamb they keep for their meal and the other half they give to the poor and those who are less-fortunate that they know. Pretty cool huh? The idea of Bajram is great....just not when you're a missionary! We didnt have any lessons on Friday, Saturday or Sunday because everyone had Bajram, even if they werent practicing Musilms! haha It was cool to be out and about on Friday and see all the men and women in their --Sunday Best-- walking around town. It was like a Muslim version of Conference Sunday!

Boiling water for our showers, looking my best!
Another fun experience that Sestra Trumbo and I have had this week is bucket showers! The power went out on Wednesday night and for some reason when that happened it completely shut off all of our heat: water and apartment. We havent been too cold, but it definitely has been an adventure boiling water on the stove, getting it to be the exactly right temperature and then deciding how to use the precious water the best way possible. haha Oh Bosnia, you will forever have surprises in store! haha

One thing that President Rowe said in Zone Conference has really stuck with me this week. He said, --When prophets pray, they EXPECT an answer!-- Knowing that we will receive an answer when we pray is SO important. Exercising our faith to pray is incredible, but we can receive even more blessings when we pray EXPECTING an answer. I know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers and that we can each strive to expect answers from Him because He is our loving Heavenly Father.

Thank you for all your prayers and support. VOLIM VAS PUNO!
Sestra Giles
Love my weekly letters from Grandma:)
We love waiting for the bus!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Seeing With ONE Eye

English class challenge:)
Isaac the Branch President's son. So cute!!!
Barsarsia or Pigeon Square. One of my favorite places
 Hello Everyone!

Missionary work is AWESOME. I feel blessed every day to be able to be a missionary and work with such incredible people.
So many beautiful parks here!
 This week was one full of finding. We have been teaching a lot these past few weeks and haven't been able to contact as many people as usual so our pool of people to teach has gotten pretty small. This week we have really been dedicated in stopping every person we can wherever we are. It's been really fun and I have been able to grow my confidence in my ability to talk to people! Its also such a blessing to feel the spirit prompting us to talk to certain people. It's always fun to try my first approach of the day and have my mumbled Bosnian come out. I can say some really hilarious things at the beginning of the day when we are contacting. haha
Serbian Book of Mormon and my new Serbian nametag

As we were walking on the Wilson Walkway on Saturday, we had just finished making some calls and I saw a woman walking past us. We made eye contact and I had the most distinct impression that I needed to talk with her, so luckily I followed the prompting and began talking to her about the importance of families. She then told us that she believes that families are important and that she actually has a son who lives in Austria and gave her a book on Mormon temples! We had a really good conversation about temples and got her information and will be teaching her this week. I was so grateful that I exercized my faith in that moment and was able to find a woman that was open to the wonderful message we have to share and also had some prior knowledge of the gospel that we could build off of.

My name is Sestra Jailz in Serbian:)
I am continuing to be immersed in Bosnian culture here. I think I have a good idea what its all about until I meet a new person with a new idea about what being Bosnian is all about. haha This week it was Islam 101. We tracted into a man who is what we call a Wahabi. He is a very devout Muslim with a full beard and everything. As we began discussing religion with him he began talking about a lot of the beliefs in Islam (Islam is the religion, Muslims are the people who practice Islam, FYI. It took me a while to understand that. haha). One of them that I really loved discussing was his idea of the final Anti-Christ that will be on the earth before Christ returns to Earth. In Islam they believe that the anti-Christ will have one eye. Sestra Trumbo and I started to giggle about that a little, but then he started to describe what he thought ONE EYE really meant. He talked about how the world was so focused on worldly, immoral things. All people are focused on is being better than the person next to them, getting more money, or becoming more attractive: Thinking that this is what will make them truly happy. In his opinion, that is what ONE EYE really means. The anti-Christ isn't some man with one eye, its the attitude of the world.

I loved the way he described it! I have been pondering on that a lot and how it can be so easy to be focused on the wrong things, but as we continually strive to keep our focus on eternal things we can find true happiness! I know that as we study our scriptures, pray for the spirit and live worthy of its companionship that we can see with ONE eye, but with that eye towards the Lord.

I love you all! Keep being great examples.
Sestra Giles
We love writing letters:)      

Sometimes I get very excited to get in my bed:) haha

Monday, October 15, 2012

We Are Just Whistling While We Work!

Beautiful Sarajevo!
A cute little mosque (Jambia) by our apartment
Hello Everyone!

(Another email without apostrophes...kill me.)

Seriously sometimes I cant believe where the time has gone! I feel like yesterday was just P-day and here we are again. Luckily a lot has happened and I have SO much to tell you about!

First of all, SANDRA HAS A BAPTISMAL DATE! We went over and taught her more about the 10 commandments and the law of chastity and again, she is so prepared! She was teaching us about how important she thinks chastity is and keeping the commandments. I just love her too much. haha We challenged her to be baptized on October 27th, but she says she doesnt think she is ready and wants to be baptized on the 24th of November, so thats her date (for now)! She was ready for baptism 2 weeks ago so we are hopefully going to help her feel that she will be ready by the end of October. She is going to be a GREAT member of the church here. I keep being blown away by the idea that she heard about this gospel only about 2 months ago and she already knows so much about it! We gave her a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants 2 weeks ago and she is already 200 pages into it. She is so ready!

Elder Brown trying out our new podium:)
This week has been a little bit hard for us as a district. We set a big goal for us to accomplish and immediately saw blessings come from it, but this week its been a little stagnant. We didnt find any new investigators this week. We knocked door after door, but people just always say--You are both very cute girls, lets meet up for coffee sometime!-- Seriously, if one more person asks me out for coffee I might explode. They say that dating stops when youre on a mission....but it doesnt mean that people dont stop asking you out! haha Thats our biggest problem right now, though. People just want to be our friends! Were struggling with knowing how to get straight to the point without completely hurting their feelings. Weve tried being straightforward: that doesnt usually end up well, but thats what we are here for! We are going to continue to pray to be able to tell people that we just need to be the gospel. haha 

Very wet missionaries

We also learned that October is a weird weather month here! Weve been caught in the middle of a rain storm a few times without an umbrella, but luckily we both love the rain so we just come home looking like the happiest little wet doggy missionaries! haha Also, last Monday we looked outside and the sun was shining so we dressed for a day just like the others we have had here...but turns out it was about 40 degrees outside! We were getting quite the interesting looks as we were walking around the center of town in our short sleeves and sandals. I ended up finding my winter coat that day luckily and found boots later in the week so now I am prepared! haha 

Winter coat & sandals?:)
To wrap up, I want to talk about one of our investigators named Edina. She was paralyzed when she was 9 and has been a wheelchair since then. Sestra Trumbo has been teaching her for about 3 months now. She cant seem to understand the idea that the only way that she will find complete happiness and peace with her life is if she turns to Jesus Christ. We took her to conference last weekend and she LOVED it. She definitely felt the spirit and has been better at reading the Book of Mormon since then. Yesterday we went and picked her up for church, pushed her to the tram stop, got on the tram and were on our way. About halfway through our half-hour tram ride into town the tram turned off the route and dropped us off. We learned right after that the tram that we usually rode to church was not running. We were about 3 miles from the church so what did we do? Sestra Trumbo handed me her bag and we started walking to church. We only had about 10 minutes until church was supposed to start so we were almost at a jog the whole way there. Luckily the weather was perfect, Sestra Trumbo walks really fast and Edina was in such a good mood because we made it to church only 5 minutes late, and made it just in time for the sacrament! Elder Shillabeer was our speaker for sacrament meeting and delivered a sermon all about how we each need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ...and spoke straight to Edina. Since we were late we just sat in the back row and she wheeled her chair into the aisle, right in front of the podium. Within 3 minutes of Elder Shillabeers talk Edina was in tears. It was just what she needed to hear.

As I was talking to Elder Shillabeer after the meeting he told me that as he got up to the podium to give his talk, he looked right at Edina and didnt give a word of what he had prepared to say for the whole meeting. Heavenly Father directed him with the words which were exactly what Edina needed. I was so shocked. He looked like he had be preparing his whole life to give that talk...which I guess he has!

The two things I got out of this experience was that: 1. God knows each of us 2. We can be tools in His hands. 

Elder Shillabeer didnt know what Edina needed to hear, but Heavenly Father did, so he helped him give the words she needed.

Elder Shillabeer also didnt know that he was going to be changing his talk, but because of the way he is living his life and the person that he is he was in the right place, at the right time, in the right spirit to act on inspiration.

I know sometimes it is hard to act on the promptings we receive, and most of the time its hard to know if they are promptings or not, but just like Elder Bednar said, --STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!-- As long as we are doing all we can to follow our Savior Jesus Christ every thought we have can be and IS guided by the spirit. In D&C 11 it says, --Anything that leads us to do of the spirit. I am continually working on having enough trust and confidence to act on the promptings I feel and its hard! But I know that we will be blessed and we can bless others lives as we will do those hard things!

I love you all. Happy Autumn!

Volim vas,
Sestra Giles

Monday, October 8, 2012

Can You FEEL the Strength of the Church?!

One of our sweet investigators, Sandra:)
   Zdravo porodica moj!
I am so overwhelmed with gratitude reading the letters and emails that I have received from you. I am so lucky to have so many incredible people in my life! Thank you for the updates and the thoughts and prayers. I am the luckiest!

Our investigator, Jelena in Fojinica!
 A few fun things happened this week:
     1) We were able to take a 2-hour bus ride   to teach a referral, named Jelena, in the little town of Fojinica. It was literally a fairytale. The mountains are just like the mountains at home and the cottages looked like they were out of a picture book. Each house had a huge garden in the front yard where they grow their own food, there are HUGE beef cattle grazing all over and colorful clothes hanging on the line. I think I'm going to retire in Fojinica. haha

2) I got kissed by a little person (midget.)
I love Jelena's home and the perfect woodpile outside!
 3) I got the "opportunity" to use a standing up toilet this week! I will never be giving myself that opportunity again. :)

4) Funny Language Moment: I was having a good conversation with a woman we met about the problems in the world today and about the problems especially in Bosnia. She kept using this word that I didn't know that sounded like "Traoumau" or something like that. Around the 3rd time she used it I realized that I needed to know what the heck she was talking about. I asked what it meant and she couldn't really explain it so I turned to Elder Shillabeer just a few feet away and asked him what the word was. He informed me that the word she was using was TRAUMA, IN ENGLISH! The poor woman was using an english word that I couldn't even understand. Woof. 

Miracles are happening here in Sarajevo. Sestra Trumbo and I are continuing to find and teach all that will hear us and we are finding success! We are lucky enough to be meeting people who are prepared for us. It's an amazing experience as we begin teaching them about the Book of Mormon and asking them about their lives that the things I had studied in my scriptures that very morning were meant for this person. I love being able to feel the love that Heavenly Father has for each person we encounter. 

Some of our students:)
One of the biggest blessings we have in our work right now is English class! It has become our best finding tool. People first come to learn English, but most of them tell us that they keep coming back because "They like our positivity" or "They feel good when they are with us". It is a testimony to me of the Light of Christ that is given to all of us when we come to this earth. They spirits long for the peace and joy they feel when they are with servants of the Lord and are out of the way of all the drugs, immorality and violence of the outside world. I love every single one of our students. I can hardly keep myself on the ground I get so excited to see them every week! This week Elder Brown gave the spiritual thought at the end of our class about prayer and then invited them all to conference. He looked over the quiet room of 25 people and said, "I can see right now that you want to come and if you want to feel the way you are feeling right now again, you need to come". It was silent for about 30 seconds after and we could all see the spirit working on them. 
I love English class!
The real miracle came as we arrived at the church for Conference on Saturday night. We watched it live so it was 6:00pm on Saturday for us. We had pizza before conference and then we all went into the chapel and got ready to watch. Here's the miracle: There were 11 investigators there to watch General Conference! We had people from a Dad (TOTALLY future branch president material) and his two sons ages 15 and 9, an old woman with her son and some of our English students!!!! It was incredible for all of us who were actually members to be outnumbered. The Saturday session of conference was absolutely perfect for the people that were there, talking about the importance of teaching good morals starting in the home, the plan of salvation and the importance of missionary service. As we looked around the room to the different groups of people you could see how the things that were said may have been new to their ears, but to their hearts it was familiar. It was a great session.

Milk drinkers and mustache makers!!!
The announcement of the new ages for both Sisters and Elders almost turned me into a puddle, okay, let's be honest, it did! haha My heart was so full and it still is. As I am here in Bosnia I can see the impact this new knowledge is having on the people and WE NEED MORE MISSIONARIES! Last Monday our Zone Leader told us that President Rowe had just put in an "order" for 8 more sisters to be sent to our mission. What better timing than this? The first face that popped into my head was Maddie's. I think about the person she is and the example she is and I can understand why the age was changed. They have been prepared! GO MISSIONARIES!

I also loved Elder Holland's talk, another one for the record books. It is such a blessing to listen to their advice and be able to apply it as a missionary. As he was pounding the pulpit asking, "Do ye love me?" my heart was racing. Sometimes as we are contacting I get intimidated because I don't know what I am going to say, or how I am going to say it or even if the person wants or cares about what I am going to say etc. But as I listened to his talk I realized that if I REALLY loved Him I wouldn't let my fear of men get in the way of my love for His gospel, the love for the ability I have to wear His name on my chest. We each need to love him, by trusting in His power, His gospel and His will.
Thanks for all the love and support!

I love you all. Remember to step back and remember your blessings, we have a lot to be thankful for!

Volim vas,
Sestra Giles

Monday, October 1, 2012

You All Need to Come to Sarajevo!!!

The scary elevators that we ride up to the 18th floor:)
These are our favorite kinds of buildings to tract. Luckily they are everywhere!

Sestra Trumbo and I!!!
Wow, it is crazy to think that its already been another week! So much has been happening here in my beloved city of Sarajevo. We are tracting like CRAZY and loving every minute of it. Its funny because people are really taken aback when they open the door and see two smiling 21-year-old girls from America speaking to them in broken Bosnian. It usually takes us a few seconds to help them understand who we are and why we are knocking on their door. People are really nice here and listen to our introduction of the Book of Mormon without slamming the door in our faces, which is really kind of them! There are quite a few who we set up a follow-up appointment with from just knocking on their door! Thats probably my favorite part of missionary work is that I get the opportunity to bring the gospel, literally right into their homes. Right where it is the most needed and where it will help them the most. Sometimes its hard for me to not just burst into their front room and tell them that I love them and they should be baptized tomorrow. haha

We have met with a lot of potential investigators this week. It is INCREDIBLE how some people are just prepared for this gospel! They have an innate feeling that something is missing from their lives and when we start to teach them they really feel something. We have most recently been meeting with a woman who has cancer. She is Muslim, but since her prognosis isnt looking too bright she has begun investigating different ideas about the afterlife and religions, etc. When we visited her this week it was the second time Sestra Trumbo had taught her. We presented the plan of salvation (which the Muslims have a very similar idea of in their religion) so it wasnt anything she hadnt heard before until we started talking about General Conference. Sestra Trumbo and I both were able to bear solemn testimony that we have a prophet and apostles that are on earth to guide us and help us with the things that we struggle with in our lives today. She really took this to heart. It was cute because she had invited a friend over to hear our message as well (she sounds pretty prepared huh?!) and after we talked about General Conference and when and where it was her friend piped in and said, Okay and after you go to the meeting you need to call me and tell me everything they say! haha I loved her enthusiasm for the new guidance and advice that we will be able to hear from our prophet and shes not even a member! How many people do we know that would call their non-member friend and tell them all about General Conference because they wanted them to have that good advice in their lives?! 

I'm the Bosnian Betty Crocker!
Another new favorite part of my week is our English class! We hold english class on Wednesdays from 17:00- 18:00 and Saturdays from 14:00-15:00. We have about 30 students in each class. THEY ARE AWESOME! This week we set up an obstacle course/scavenger hunt for them to practice giving each other directions to different places in English. One partner was blindfolded and it was really really fun! They are very eager to learn. At the end of each lesson we have a spiritual thought and have gotten a lot of interest in the BOM through the ideas we have been able to share. We have 3 lessons this week from people in our class. This week I also baked Lorna's Chocolate Chip cookies and they LOVED them! (And so did the Elders. haha) They dont have cookies here so they were so excited to have something from America! Im going to try out pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for Wednesdays class. I have to subsitute some different ingredients, but it is so fun to play around with and see how they turn out! The best ingredient that we have to subsitute is the chocolate chips. They dont have chocolate chips here so we get to smash up a delicious Eurpoean-made chocolate bar and put it in the cookies instead. (Dont worry Dad, I will bring some home and make some for you!) If anyone has ideas for lessons or activites for teaching English to intermediate english-speakers I would love to hear them!!

Our District! Elders Brown, Shillabeer, Mecham & us!
The work is progressing so rapidly here we can hardly keep up. The Elders tracted into a family on Saturday, invited them to church on Sunday and right at 10:00 there was a Mom, Dad, 15-year-old son and 8-year-old son sitting in their seats ready to hear their first Mormon sacrament meeting. They were so precious and loved sacrament meeting. We already have 7 lessons set up for this next week and it hasnt even started. The Lord is really blessing us here.

On the cultural side of things: 1) I have been kissed on the hand probably 30 times since Ive been here and all by men age 70 and older. 2) There are wild dogs everywhere! The other night Sestra Trumbo and I were walking through the market on our way to our apartment and were lucky enough to have 4-legged, furry body guards all the way home! They didnt bother us at all, but just made a little circle around us and escorted us home! haha It may be the only time in my life I have actually liked a dog! 3) I am officially a regular on the public transportation system now. I have a bus pass and everything! haha There are a lot of friendly people on the busses and trams here, but also a few interesting ones. 

In my studies this week I have been studying a different Christlike Attribute from Preach My Gospel. As I am trying to be the best representative of Jesus Christ I am realizing how far I still have to go! One of the attributes I especially loved studying was obedience. In mosiah 15:7 it talks about the will of the Son being SWALLOWED UP in the will of the Father. As I am trying to live and be obedient I can feel the Lord more prevelantly in my life. I am able to speak Bosnian a little better, I can understand what people are saying during lessons, I have the courage to stop someone in the street, not knowing what I am going to say to them. With General Conference coming up, I think this is something that each of us can apply. Our leaders in this church are going to counsel us on how to lives our lives so that we can be the most happy. I know that as we listen to the spirit as they are speaking, stay humble and trust in the promises that we have been given for our obedience that we can become better people and better examples of our Savior Jesus Christ. We all can let our wills be SWALLOWED UP in the will of the Lord and become increasingly blessed in our lives. 

I love you all! Thank you for the emails and the mail and prayers and the love.
Volim vas,

 Sestra Giles