Monday, February 29, 2016

The New Transfer

Today was the beginning of my 2nd transfer here in C-Bud.  My first one was an amazing experience, I am already excited to see what the next one brings. Elder Galbraith is with us until Wednesday when his parents arrive. The C-Bud missionaries will have dinner with the Galbraiths on Thursday. My new companion arrived today. His name is Elder Dean and he is from Eagle Mountain, Utah. He has been in the country for 6 months. We are going to be having a lot of good times together and do lots of great things here. The Sister missionary who came to replace Sister Birkeland is Sister Manners. She has also been in the country for 6 months. Sister DeMann (from my MTC District) is still here also. (note- transfers are normally 6 weeks but they are 9 weeks in this mission)  

Elder Dean and Elder Pickett (deep thoughts?) with Sestras Manners, DeMann, and Birkeland.

And, as always, I have the weekly highlights:
  • First off. The weather here needs to make up its mind. Last week was warm. We went out on Monday without coats, just sweaters. Then it rained most of Tuesday. Then it snowed a little Tuesday night, but none stuck. Then it was cold and cloudy. Then it was sunny again. And today it has rained non-stop. We're not even sure what to think anymore. Every day is a new adventure with being outside all day long.
  • Also, we attended an excellent Zone Conference in Prague on Wednesday. This is something we do every month, and it's pretty fun. We get a lot of good instruction, and we get to see a lot of the missionaries who serve here in the Czech Republic as well. It's kind of like a little reunion of sorts. So I got to see 7 of my 9 MTC district friends. That was great. We also found out who our new mission president is: Jan Pohořelicky. As you can probably tell by the fun little addition to the r in his name, he is a native Czech! That is super awesome. It really is a huge step towards the Czech Republic becoming a self-sufficient country in terms of the church. We are all really excited. He already knows English well, but he is practicing over skype with a return missionary from the Czech Republic to learn some more.
I am buying postcards!  Cesky Krumlov (pday a few weeks ago)
  • To give an example of how ridiculous Czech is...I have explained already, I believe, about casing. It is when you change the ending of a word based on the ways, grammatically speaking, it is being used in the sentence. It is one of the most challenging parts of the entire language for English speakers, or anyone coming from a language that doesn't do it, to learn. Here is an example of just how hard it is. We were in a lesson on Saturday with a member who has lived his entire life in the Czech Republic. He is a grown man, married, with several children. He was trying to case a word, struggled for about 30 seconds with it, and then literally gave-up and just explained the meaning of the word instead. This is what I am dealing with here. It is great fun, but also absurdly difficult.
  • To follow-up on my challenge to myself to be fearless...Phone calls are so hard. I have done a lot more of them this week, and I have no idea what people are saying. But I go for it anyways. So I would say I did decently. Also, I tried to engage people in conversation in Czech at church. Also a little bit challenging. But some good times. I find that the more I open my mouth, the more that I can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost helping me to know what people are intending to say. Even when I don't understand any of their words, I can start to understand the emotion behind it. Every week I find more and more that I understand what people say. It is really fun to be able to look back and see the growth that I have been making.
  • The work is coming. Slowly but surely. We have so many pieces here in C-Bud, we just can't quite seem to get them to all fit together. But we'll get there. The language grows and grows every week. Really every day, it's just hard to measure language progress by the day. I am getting really comfortable here in C-Bud, which is good because I now have to lead my new companion around the city, and take a much bigger role is talking to people because I already at least know them.  Elder Dean has only been in the country for 6 months so his Czech is good but we are always learning.
  • It may seem to many of you that we have a District of very young missionaries here in C-Bud. Which is true. But it would be more accurate to say that we have a very young mission actually. We are not entirely sure why that is as missionaries, but we think it probably has to do with needing to prepare for the new mission president coming in this July. We want to have a lot of missionaries who are comfortable here already.
  • Since this has been Elder Galbraith's last week, it has been his last big opportunity to enjoy Czech delicacies. We have not eaten very healthily...But that's okay.
From Elder Galbraith:  "My final Game night as a real missionary... so strange. 
I love these people so much!"  Making visits to our members to say goodbye.

Spiritual thought: Today I want to talk about the Book of Mormon. Because it is the bomb. I have been trying to read from it more these past couple weeks, and I continue to learn new things every time I re-read a chapter. It is truly a book from God. I have a goal this week to read 3 chapters from the Book of Mormon every day during personal study. I know that as I do, I will better learn about Jesus Christ and I will feel the Spirit more. I invite you are to begin or continue reading the Book of Mormon. Make the commitment to dedicate at the very least, 5 minutes a day. Because no matter how busy life is, everyone has at least 5 minutes a day that they can read the Book of Mormon.  I know that as you do so, you will come to know it as the word of God. Thanks for all of the prayers and support!

-Elder Pickett

The entrance to our church building.

The chapel. Also, we move the chairs and put up ping-pong for Game Night on Friday.

 Primary room and game room on Friday. The Kitchen. These two rooms are where we have most of our lessons, as well as some downstairs.
A picture from Věra. It is the Angel Moroni visiting Joseph Smith. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

České Budějovice

This is final week of the transfer. Really hard for me to belive. It seems that time is just flying by. To be honest, I am not really a fan of time flying. I am enjoying myself far too much, and I still have far too much to learn to be comfortable with how fast these 9 weeks went by. Lots of great things happened this week. And last week, which I forgot/ran out of time to talk about. So here are the happenings of the České Budějovice Sever missionaries, brought to you by the extremely objective journalistic writings of Elder Pickett.
  • To start with, Valentine's Day. Is it a thing here? Kind of. Basically I would say there are 2 manifestations of Valentine's Day which I saw. 1) Milka, the absolutely divine chocolate brand every missionary here loves, was selling a special large box in the shape of a heart. Which I didn't buy because that would be an extremely un-frugal use of mission funds. 2) I did see one girl on a bus that had one of those giant stuffed bears with her. It seems that even when I fly across an ocean and 9 hours away from home, I am still powerless to escape the curse of those things.
  • On Monday last week we rented bikes from an English student of the Sisters, and went with him and a friend on a biking adventure to one of the most famous castles in the area. Super beautiful. Unfortunately, most things are closed here until April, so we couldn't go inside. Also, almost everything is closed on Mondays. Which we think is some sort of vast conspiracy to try to ruin missionaries P-Days. But we get over it. The interiors are generally more unique, from what I hear at least.
me in a tree on the way to Hluboka

  • This week we met some very cool people. Including a few who actually want to meet with us. I guess that I have not really talked a whole lot about the people we are teaching. We have a small investigator pool (about 3 really). One is a man who is really awesome, he really just needs to commit to pay tithing and then he can be baptized the next day. Not really, there has be an interview first and we have to plan it and what-not, but you understand my point. We also have someone we just met who is 18. Here in the Czech Republic, or at least CBud, people seem to graduate from high school at age 19. Basically, I still appear to be a junior in high school to most people. Which is interesting. But this guy we met we have started meeting with and teaching him. He is pretty cool. There are a few others, but we struggle to get regular meetings with a lot of people. We do a lot of contacting here. It is good times.
 So there are two words for "apartments" in Czech. Here is an example of a GIANT collection of apartments over by the University here in CBud. 
It's where an older lady in our branch lives that we visit

  • We contacted a gentleman the other day who told us he doesn't believe in God because his father suffered in an internment camp during WWII, not much we can say to that. It is sad to see how evil and full of hate people can be sometimes.
  • This upcoming week we have a Zone Training in Prague, which should be really good. Because they always are and also President McConkie will be there, which means it will be great. We also have a little event on Thursday. All 4 of us missionaries are going to do presentations about our states. Sestra Birkland: Idaho, Sestra DeMann: Utah, Me: California (surprising I know), and Elder Galbraith: Michigan. So that should be a lot of fun. We are not super prepared at the moment, but we will be...Hopefully. There is not a whole lot of spare time as a missionary, in case that isn't clear yet.
  • Also, today I experienced Czech ice cream for the first time. My life will never be the same again. Also my wallet. And fun language fact of the week, ice cream in Czech is "zmrzlina." Which I personally feel is superior to the phrase "ice cream" in every way except for ease of pronunciation.

Our District eating zmrzlina- Sestra Birkeland, Starsi Brad, Sestra DeMann, Starsi Galbraith
  • Finally, we went tracting yesterday, because all 3 of our planned lessons fell through. During tracting there were sporadic rain showers, a dog that was silent and well-behaved and the size of a bear, a dog that remembered our scent and once again tried to eat us through the fence, strangely warm temperatures, and strangest of all, people actually answered from their front door. That is a rare site to see here.
  • Also, you (Mom) will be thrilled to learn that we do transfer scrapbooks from the missionaries in our Districts here. So there will be a really fun, big collection to show you when I arrive home, with a whole lot of memories.
Apparently this is what RMs wear these days.... is this what I'm supposed to look like when I go home? (Elder Galbraith & Sestra Birkeland complete their missions next week)
pday souvenir shopping in CBud for the soon departing missionaries

My spiritual thought for the week comes from the Book of Mormon. Which I have been reading in a lot this past week. I have been reading a lot about Captain Moroni, who is an awesome dude. It is interesting that even though I am not even sort of in a situation like him (in command of armies and fortifying cities against invaders) I can still learn a lot from him and from his example. That is something that is so excellent about the Book of Mormon. The characters that are highlighted in it are either the worst of the worst, or the best of the best. Which means that if they are good, they are really good, and we can learn a lot from their examples. So my challenge this week is to find someone in the Book of Mormon who is a good example to you. And try to recognize a character trait that they have that you want to work on personally to develop in your life. Mine this week is Captain Moroni, and the character trait is fearlesness. I will report back to you all next week on how it went. Thank you all for your support and prayers. You all rock!
-Elder Pickett

Mom note:  Elder Galbraith has been an amazing trainer, what a great start for Brad's mission. This is the kind of Elder he is- I've given many trainings about all different kinds of missionary skills, but to close it all out I didn't want to do anything other than talk about Jesus.”

Branch chapel in CBud

Monday, February 15, 2016

What even is time? Where does it go?

I can already tell that serving a mission has been the greatest decision of my entire life. And I am only just beginning!  Working with Elder Galbraith is going really well!  He teaches me to use time efficiently. Spend as little time as possible doing things that aren't specifically for proselyting. Be bold in everything.. in testifying, in contacting, and in teaching. Be determined. If you need to find someone, and they aren't answering their phone, show up at their house. Work hard. Baptize. Fight to find something that applies to everyone in the gospel. Learn Czech.  Hard work is definitely not a problem. We kind of joke that a lazy missionary would literally die in our mission. It's just not an option. With our Mission President, mission culture, and missionaries, they couldn't last. And the work is hard. So that would kill you too. Honestly, I have never been so consistently exhausted in my life, but also so consistently full of joy.

I am almost done with my first transfer of my mission, I don't even want to think about how quickly that went. I have lots to talk about, and little time to do so. I'll just jump right in.

  • ·        ·         First off, I have been meaning to mention this literally for about 3-4 weeks, but in March the Czech Republic is officially getting the green LDS hymnbooks! Which is awesome. We are excited for that. Especially because our current hymnbooks have an "older" and "newer" section combined together, and are a little bit hard to navigate for newbies (meaning me my first couple weeks).
  • ·         Also. I gave a talk yesterday in church. In Czech. That was an adventure. Luckily it was on mercy, which is a topic that I knew most of the vocab to talk about. The members are really supportive of the missionaries and their struggles to learn Czech. I got lots of nice comments afterwards which I mostly understood!   Speaking of the language, update on that as well. It's coming. Slowly. But I find that as I open my mouth more, I can better understand what people are saying. Not even necessarily the words, just the meaning. The Holy Ghost and the Gift of Tongues are real. And they are helping me out in a big way. I have really been working on talking more. And on trying to talk to people alone. That's the scariest. Because in a lesson, I know that I can say anything and my companion can explain/correct/bring the topic back if I went somewhere weird. And if someone says something I don't understand, I just look at him. But trying to talk to people on my own, I don't really have that safety net. It's a pretty big leap of faith, but also yields miraculous results, so I am trying to do it more often.

The Czech English dictionary. We worship it. Not quite. Against the commandments. But it is awesome. We just call it after the author. It is the Fronek. We would die without it.

Our planners for this transfer. Quite an adventure putting the second one together.
  • We also had Culture Night this past week. This is something unique that President McConkie does in our mission that was around when he was serving here. Once every transfer (9 weeks) our District chooses a cultural event, gets permission from the Zone Leaders, and attends it. So this past week we went to "Singing in the Rain." A musical. In Czech. It was amazing! Great music and dancing. Not a musical I had seen, but luckily I can understand just enough (and musicals are pretty visual too) to get the plot. It was super good and super cool. It was so interesting to be in an international performance like that. During the song "Good Morning," they said good morning in a bunch of different European langauges. That was cool. It was pretty great stuff.
Companion picture during intermission of SINGING IN THE RAIN v cestine 
  • Also, we had cleaning checks this week. That happens about once a transfer. So there are young missionaries for the church, but there are also senior missionaries. Less of them, obviously, and they have slightly different rules and schedules. But they are the ones who come and conduct cleaning checks. So the Morgans came down from Prague. They also brought delicious lemon poppy-seed bread for us. So we appreciated that. And we passed! Also, as an important note of gender stereotype defiance, the Sisters had more issues that we did. I credit my mom for making me doing Saturday chores and clean things. Thanks Mom!
  • Food is very important for missionaries.  From Elder Galbraith:  "So basically my life revolves around food. I'm incredibly grateful that my mission has taught me how to cook. we had DELICIOUS burritos and I found some hot sauce that was actually spicy."(We found a restaurant in Sacramento that serves Italian & Czech food... so I sent the menu and asked for recommendations.)  As far as the restaurant, I have not tried anything on that menu. Goulash is a Hungarian dish, and I have heard it is really tasty. Schnitzel would probably be really good there. It is fun to see that I know a lot of those works in the Czech menu. They are missing all the fun accent marks though. That's unfortunate. The Knedliky are really good in dishes. They are tasty bread dumplings. They come in Svičková.
Elder Galbraith had Taco Bell seasoning. We had burritos. They were divine.

  • Also, we had some fun times tracting. On Thursday we went tracting, and we tried to go to an area we have already been to before. Somehow, we ended up in a random other Czech suburb. We still don't understand what happened. But the 2nd house we tried had a giant dog that wanted to eat us. Luckily there was a fence. And a man came out on the second-story balcony and started talking to us, and pretty quickly asked "Are you Americans?" Now, we get this question reasonably frequently, in 3 main situations. Situation 1) "Wow! And you speak Czech this well! That's crazy, how long have you been here?" 2) "And is America or the Czech Republic better?" (we pretty much just go with they're different, also we don't really have the right kinds of perspectives as missionaries to know) or 3) The people who hate us because we are American, and swear at us in Czech. Not that I understand them. I just know they seem upset. That 3rd one is the least common, but I have been in that situation about 3 times so far. So, mainly we were worried he was going to be kind number 3 and then try to kill us with his giant, angry dog. But also, we don't lie as missionaries, so we said yes very tentatively. Luckily, he was not the number 3 kind. So that was good. Also, we met a very nice street that night. No one who wanted the gospel, unfortunately, but all very nice about not being interested. We also went tracting on Sunday night. That was my first time having to run to a make a bus. We saw it pulling up as we were probably about 100 meters away. We made it. Barely.

We found a cool little tree with a big hole in it during our bike ride today- Elder Galbraith

 For P-day today we rode bikes to Hluboka. So worth the pain we are now feeling after a day of biking 30 km after starting our morning at 5:40 to go run for an hour with the district president

My spiritual thought is on mercy. When we recognize how merciful God is to us, it really makes perfect sense why he wants us to be merciful to others too. He is willing to forgive our sins, and give us blessings, despite his perfect knowledge of our imperfections and mistakes. So my challenge to you all this week is to try to be merciful. To forgive others. Even when you KNOW they have done something wrong. I know that it will be blessing in our lives, and will help to make the lives of others around us better too.
Thanks for all the support and prayers!
-Starší Pickett

Monday, February 8, 2016

C-Bud Feels Like Home

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or night! Or whenever you happen to read this email. I hope it finds you healthy and happy, and leaves you more entertained and more uplifted than before you read it! (Quite the ambitious goal there, isn't it?) This week was some good times. We had 2 whole days where we didn't need coats outside! That is significant. Here, as follows are some highlights of the week.
  • So. On Friday, the sisters in our area have exchanges (where other missionaries come spend a day with each other and learn and what-not from other more experienced missionaries). We do exchanges too, we did one a few weeks ago in Plzen (I may or may not have talked about that, I forget).  So with exchanges, we had 6 missionaries here in C-Bud, and we usually only have 4, we decided to do a singing display. Where 3 missionaries stand and sing hymns acapella, and their companions go out and contact alone. Which means I got to contact alone. In case you were wondering, since my last email I have not actually become fluent in Czech. So that was an adventure. Some dude told me religious people don't know how to live correctly. He also explained why, but I didn't catch that part. I just testified about Jesus Christ, and that was my major contribution to the conversation. Another lady talked and I was able to understand most of her questions to me, so I think she didn't realize that most of what she was saying was going several miles above my head (think of the height of Mount Everest for reference). There was something about singing and hands, and she recognized the word Mormon. Then she shook my hand for an awkward amount of time (Europeans are kind of more comfortable touching strangers than I am used to) and walked away. I really thought it was heading in the direction of a lesson/conversation, but then she left. I was a little confused. Also, I talked to a dude who had to repeat his questions about three times before I understood it, and then asked me if I had a lighter and left after I said no. Also, a fun Czech thing, in Czech there is a formal and casual way to address someone as "you" in verbs and pronouns. Like Spanish. Tykat is casual, Vykat is formal. (I don't know about that spelling). But you vykat strangers, unless they are little kids. But I have noticed that when people realize I don't speak Czech very well, they just slip into Tykating. I can't understand what they are saying, but I recognize the verb ending. So that is super fun and random.
Our C-Bud District

  Sestra Birkeland photobombing!
Here's our REAL picture in C-Bud town square at the fountain
Starsis Galbraith, Pickett and Sestra DeMann
  • Also, Elder Galbraith and I went bus contacting. That is so fun/awkward. Because some of the bus seats face each other. So someone watches you get totally shut down right in front of them, and then you turn to them and start talking to them. It's great. Basically missionaries just break so many social cues and we seem to create awkward situations literally everywhere we go. It's easier when you are doing it in a different language though, for some odd reason.
  • We are having Culture Night on Wednesday. We are going to a Czech performance of the musical “Singing in the Rain.” (Monthly mission experience to be part of the culture!)
  • From Elder Galbraith:  “Our branch is on the brink of being fantastic! I 100% believe it. The pieces are already there; we only need to bring together all the people that we already have and are still in decent contact with the church!”
  • We also did some service for the District President here. He lives here, we run with him in the mornings, and he is over the entire area of the Church in Bohemia (Western Czech Republic). We helped them paint a house. And got some paint on ourselves in the process. 

  • Also, our city is awesome. I don't think I have bragged about it nearly enough in my past emails, but I love it here. We go to other cities that are super pretty on P-days and for training, but it feels so awesome to get back to C-Bud at the end of the day. It just feels like we have come home. It's great to see how much the area I am serving has grown on me, and how I feel more and more comfortable and more and more attached to the city every day I am here. Being a missionary is so great.
 C-Bud is pretty. That's our town hall.

Samson and his pigeons.

Spiritual thought for the week comes from D&C 58:26-28. They talk about how the Lord doesn't give us commandments for literally every little thing in our lives. He has given us agency and the power to judge between good and evil, and he leaves a lot of it up to us. The gospel is not about following a prescribed list of rules and marking things off of a checklist to get a certain result. It is quite simply about using the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become better. That is the essence of the gospel. And I know that we can continue to improve, step-by-step as we use the Atonement in our lives every day. So that is my challenge! Go read those verses to get the perspective and then "be anxiously engaged in a good cause!" Love you all, thanks for the support, prayers, and encouragement!
-Elder Pickett

Český Krumlov, probably one of the most beautiful cities in the whole world. 
We went there last week.

Overlook of Český Krumlov

 The town square of Český Krumlov is above old town, 
which you have to cross over a bridge to get to.

 One perk of going to tourist places in the winter is that there aren't many other people there.

Cool sundial

Scenes in town- a creepy wax museum and and art stand

Elder Brad gave me a general daily schedule of the day in response to my request!
6:30am wake up and exercise: nothing special. Push-ups, we have a few weights, sit-ups, etc.
Then E. Galbraith showers at 7 while I eat breakfast (awesome Czech cereal). Then I shower.
At 8, we start personal study.
At 9 we start companion study. We sing, read from the white missionary handbook and then review what we studied personally/prep for lessons and then study anything we want to work on together.
Language study is usually me working on translations of the missionary pamphlets/lessons. Every paragraph I switch off from going English to Czech, and then Czech into English, using the giant dictionary to help with words.
Then we eat a big lunch from 11-12ish.
Then we go out to work. Takes probably 5ish mins to walk to the square. Most people we teach at the church building (right off of the main square).
There is not really such a thing as a "typical afternoon." We have few investigators, but also meet with a lot of less-actives/2 older ladies in the branch. We contact for lessons, or just contact around if we have none.
Evenings at 6pm:  Mondays are Family Home Evening (FHE). Tuesdays are English lessons. Fridays are Game night.
We go back home at 8 for dinner. We have small stuff on our own.
Then plan for the next day at 9.
10:30 is official bedtime, but depending on how exhausting the day has been, sometimes we go to bed earlier.