Saturday, May 28, 2016

Where Did May Go?

Elder Terry and I.. at a fancy palace across from the zoo. 

In case there was confusion from the title, this transfer is flying by. And just getting crazier and crazier. Luckily this Saturday I actually have an opportunity to breathe, so I can include some more general details about Prague, and missionary work, and the language, and all of those other important details that general inform you on how my life is. So, here is the what, the who, the where, the why, the when, the whatnots, the wherefores, and everything else.
  • First off, my job here in the Office is over Visa Work. That is the main thing I do. It is stressful, important, terrifying, and one-of-a-kind. I don't know if I have already talked about this or not. But basically there are several main phases of the visa process here. So for the first one, I do that right when the new missionaries come in, and it is not too difficult, as long as I am careful and double check things. Then phase two, which involves a lot of paperwork I have to do for them, and them coming down to visit the Foreign Police office here in Prague. I have that next month. It won't be fun, but hopefully will also not be a complete nightmare. That is usually the best I can hope for. Then we have Biometrics after the paperwork all goes through. And finally, an appointment to pick up the card. The last three all involve the missionaries coming down to Prague and going to the Foreign Police office. It's a really fun building. I have only had one nightmare about it so far this transfer.
  • So this week, on Friday, I had a group of 9, including myself, for Biometrics. Well, the GPS didn't take us the right way to go, so we ended up slightly confused and lost, with time running out before the appointment. Luckily I was able to phone a friend for directions, (my companion, on splits back in the office) and he was able to direct us to safety. We all made it in time, and we all passed! So yay for that.
  • On Thursday we had zone conference, which is basically the highlight of my month, every month. We got several excellent trainings about such things as: recognizing the Spirit, a modern day parable about boats, sleeping bags, and saving people, and helping people to overcome concerns and come to church. It was quite wonderful.
Companions- Elders Pickett & Terry
  • Thursday night we also had an opportunity to meet with the Ukrainian couple we are teaching. They have been together for 18 years, but are not officially married. So we have been encouraging that. Because after that they are virtually completely ready for baptism. We met with them on the island of the same place where we created a stake. So that was fun. We read from the Book of Mormon, Alma 32 about faith. It was a good lesson.
  • Also, Czech is coming along for me. I am having fun trying to understand what is happening, and trying to carry on conversations. It is an adventure. Every time I have a problem with the visa work, I have to call the Foreign Police and ask for help/explain what is happening in Czech. It is really odd, and quite a unique challenge. I am learning all sorts of random words about passports, appointments, and whatnot. (See, I said I would talk about the whatnot)
  • Within the last two-three transfers, the Office Elders also baptized two really fantastic young single adults, so we are working with them and meeting with them still. They are incredible, and an example to me every time we talk with them. One of them is from Spain, and when she says things in Spanish, I remember just how thoroughly I have forgotten everything I learned in Spanish for those 3 years in high school. The moral of the story is that I am not at all tri-lingual
  • Also, the new stake presidency is rather amazing. I don't really know them well personally, but President Pilka has been a member since during communism rule in Czechoslovakia. President McConkie showed us a picture of one of their secret Sacrament Meetings, and President Pilka is sitting on the first row. He is awesome.
  •  Keep working on Duty to God (LDS Personal Gospel study program for teenage boys) with people! That really is an amazing program. That is where my decision to start really personally diving into the scriptures came from, which then, quite simply, changed my life and relationship with the Lord. I was reading about Personal Study and whatnot with Duty to God, and I decided to set the goal to read the scriptures three times a day, for a total of 30 minutes. And I kept at it, and my testimony and desire to follow the Lord grew so much as I did. This is why the scriptures and these programs are so important. As well as our agency to decide to do things personally.  
My spiritual thought for today is about being together. I shared a similar thought during the Sacrament Meeting "Missionary Moment" last Sunday I was asked to give. We do district finding, where all of the missionaries in Prague come together and talk to people and do a chalk display or a singing display. And every time we do, it is more successful than just contacting. I testify that we are more powerful together than we are separately. And when we are together with God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, we are unstoppable! Thanks for the support and prayers!

-Elder Pickett

 Me and Vasyl at the Czech Stake Conference. I sat next to him during the conference, and then forced him to take pictures with me after. (this is a member from the CBud branch)

 Elder Pickett and Vasyl (from CBud) are on the left edge as you look at the picture, 3rd row from the back.  (Vasyl in a white shirt and Elder Pickett in a suit next to him)

President Uchtdorf and President McConkie

Our apartment is really fancy. And cool. And hot, because it is at the top of the building.

Our kitchen, and view from our awesome balcony.

Preparation Day (pday) fun in Prague:

 The view at the park next to church. Also the scene for the beginning of the Prague Walk. When missionaries first arrive, President McConkie takes you up here and tells the story of the Velvet Revolution, pointing out the buildings and the places.

Vyšehrad, the cemetery where the students gathered to begin their march on Wenceslas Square. Essentially the beginning of the Velvet Revolution.

 We visited the Prague Zoo last week with our District. 

Here's an Elks Lodge at the Zoo.

This is one of the views from the Zoo. Supposedly number 3 in the world in terms of zoos. How you measure that is unknown.

And me being sophisticated and European with my McDonalds. The only thing that kept its flavoral integrity in Europe. Unfortunately. (this whole caption seems to be an oxymoron...)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Czech Pronunciation Guide For Beginners

Elder Brad Pickett loves the Czech language... he gives us a little glimpse!

A as in father
B as in book
C as in oats
Č as in check, Czech
D as in disco
Ďď soft “d”… no real English equivalent, close to a “dj” sound together
E as in bed
F as in father
G as in gas
H as in help
Ch as in “h” sound with a restricted airflow, honestly really hard to hear the difference between H & Ch (duch= spirit and duh= rainbow)
I as in me
Í as in same “me” but longer
J as in yet
K as in kick
L as in less
M as in men
N as in not
Ň as in soft “n” exactly like ñ
O as in core
Ó same as “core” but longer
P as in pet
R roll the “r”… all of them
Ř good luck with this one, impossible to perfectly describe.  This sound is completely unique to the Czech language!  Woo- hoo!
S as in surf
Š as in shell

T as in ten
Ťť soft “t” also not really a sound in English, kind of like a “Tj” sound
U as in school
Ú same as “school” but longer
Ů same as “school” but longer
V as in very
W as in very
X as in exist
Y as in me
Ý same as “me” only longer
Z as in puzzle

Ž as in pleasure

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Prague Has an LDS Stake

I am almost out of time today, sorry!  This will be short and packed with details and information.

  • We are a stake! We had a most amazing conference last Sunday, in the Zofin Palace on an island by the River. So I guess you could say it was a decent setting. President Uchtdorf was there! It was an incredibly event, and the Spirit was there in abundance. I feel so blessed and grateful to have been a part of it! We got to make and set out the programs, and I got hugged on Saturday morning by Elder Adler, a General Authority. So that was a fun bonus. I didn't get to shake Pres Uchtdorf’s  hand, unfortunately. But I got pretty close to him. I don't have my journal with me, or what I wrote about Sunday right now. Sunday I didn't write a lot of what was said, I wrote down promptings about what I needed to learn. It was good
  •  this is a short video about this event!  Copy this address and spend 3 minutes watching this historic church event that I got to witness.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of 
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 
 President and Harriet Uchtdor and Elder Timothy & Jill Dykes

All in favor! 

  • In the new stake, the new wards are Prague, Plzen, Hradec Kralove, Jicin, Ostrava, and Brno. Others will remain as branches.
  • We had Elders Shirley, Hudson, Lanham, Swink, and at the last minute, Dean and Marcucci at our apartment last weekend for the Stake Conference. . It was complete madness last Saturday. We ran out of time last week to put in any pictures. But I have some. (which someone ran out of time AGAIN to email them…)
  • We had a great week, getting ready for training next week. In the office, Elder Terry is in charge of receiving "orders" from all of the missionaries, and we send out what the missionaries need. We get orders  for more papers, contacting cards, and other various and random items necessary, or unnecessary for missionary work (one companionship asked for Dr. Pepper)
  • We do at least an hour of finding (typical missionary work) every day, along with our lessons and appointments. Our schedule really depends on what's going on in the office. Sometimes we spend 1 hour here, sometimes none, sometimes 4. Depends on what's happening and when it needs to be done.
 Mission Office

Elder Terry and the office elder desks- photo credit Elder Belshe

  • This week I also had fun with the Foreign Police, capitalized by a lady who was extremely unhelpful on the phone (in Czech) and an email reply that made my morning. It literally fixed my every problem. I would like to find the person who sent that email, and give them a large amount of chocolate.
  • On Tuesday, Elder Terry and I received a call from a BYU study abroad group here in Prague. We went over to the hospital to give a blessing to a student who ate some Czech food with nuts. She does not do nuts. But luckily she had an Epipen with her, so she made a full recovery and went off to Berlin the next day. The highlight of the night however, was driving one of the leadership groups around Prague late at night to the pharmacy, and then to their hotel. Never been driving around at 10:30 before. (Don't worry we had permission to be out past curfew)
  •   The cops don't pull people over for speeding in the Czech Republic. They just rely on speed cameras for tickets. And basically you just memorize where those are, and then drive as fast as you want until you reach them. We drove with a member in his stick-shift VW mini-van, and he was flying. It was good times.
  • Our District is made up of 1)Elder Terry and me  2) Elder Beazer and Elder Nick Trythall 3) Elder Needham and Elder Peterson (The Assistants) 4) Sisters Hale, Fredrickson, and Cade, the sisters also have another area they are covering, so they travel back and forth by car a few times every week (how they are still alive, none of us know) 5) Elder and Sister Holt in the office with us. And 6) The Morgans, over YSA. We skyped at their apartment on Mother's Day.
  • We had exchanges with the Assistants, and many fun things happened. Such as an angry Ukrainian gentleman who ranted about WWII when we asked him to get baptized, and a chalk display.
Overall, a great week was had!  Spiritual thought: I really enjoyed my Dad’s spiritual thought this week reminding me to find joy in the journey and finding the good and fun in what I do. From my Dad:  “Joy comes in trials as you recognize them for what they are, opportunities to grow. Study it out in your mind, seek spiritual guidance, and then go for it. If things don't work out, it is not the end of the world, but just another chance to learn and grow. Life is really a lot like that even in adulthood. There are always challenges and trials around every turn, so it's ok to get used to them now.”  That is something that I have been working really hard to do, especially this week with contacting. It's been an interesting adventure, but I am enjoying it a lot. I am working on finding the good things in every situation. Which is good, and thankfully humor and sarcasm can help lighten the load! So this week, be sure that you find the joy as you go along each day.

-Elder Pickett

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Prague Cranks it up a Notch

Thank you for the picture (from Brad's new companion Elder Terry)!

Not sure if this is a phrase most people use, or if I just stole it from my dad. Regardless, it is the title of my email. This past week has been great, and more than a little bit crazy. Tomorrow we are officially changing the organization of the Church here in the Czech Republic, and we will be having a Stake. Also, President Uchtdorf of the First Presidency will be here to do that. Things are rather busy, and we are all just a little bit excited about it. Our week has been utter madness. I think the last three days have felt like forever, and the first three felt like no time at all. Here are a few highlights of this last week.
Where the special conference is being held

Elder Terry (Brad's new compananion on the right) ... where is Elder Pickett?
Only sighting from Sunday's round of pictures is the back of his head at the left of the picture

And then FB has this great picture!  Elder Pickett and Elder Andersen (MTC District friends) along with Sestras from his MTC district too!
  • First off, people speak English here in Prague. And that throws me off a whole lot. I am really not used to hearing Americans behind me on the street, unless they are another missionary. I met some people this last week who do not know any Czech, which makes me feel slightly accomplished, because I can at least hold something that resembles a conversation with people that I meet. So that was fun.
  • We met a couple who was asking for directions, and as we were trying to explain/understand how in the world they ended up on the opposite side of the city from their intended destination, they noticed our nametags. Now, sometimes people get upset that we are missionaries. Other times they are curious. Other times they think we are doing a great thing. But this was a first. They read the nametags, and as they got to the words "Jesus Christ" they literally hurried away in fear. That was a new one. We also met a woman who spoke quickly and used words we didn't understand, basically completely rejected us, and then asked us why we weren't more pushy. It was an odd conversation.
  • On Sunday, I got to Skype home for Mother's Day! That was awesome. I got to see and talk to my family in person. It was great fun! It was weird to see the family room again. And weird to see that it hasn't changed.  And we also got to have dinner with a senior couple here in Prague. That was delicious.
Mother's Day Skype- California, Utah, Prague!
  • I did enjoy my birthday package! It is fabulous! The candy, flashdrive, letters, stickers, ninja erasers (that was fun and random) and whatnot were just what I was hoping for. I may or may not have already eaten all of the Sour Patch Kids. I tried to pace myself...It kind of worked.  (Brad requested fruity candy for his birthday package!)
  • On Saturday, my birthday we had sports night. And the only place that we could find to play soccer was outside of a "legalize marijuana" rally. It was an odd environment. That led to me getting jumped on/hugged by a drunk shirtless man. I think I can, with complete honesty, say that is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me on my birthday. People sang to me multiple times for my birthday. Including at FHE on Monday. That was fun. Also, all Czechs know the happy birthday song in English. That's a bit random.   
  • Also, the amount of people who live here in Prague and are members is crazy. I basically went into shock on Sunday when I saw the ward.  Over 100 members attend compared to 15 or so in our CBud branch. We have members in our Prague ward that don’t speak Czech, so the missionaries translate the Czech church meetings into English.  I turn that over to my companion, Elder Terry. Even more church members will be here this weekend for the conference. It is going to be quite an event. We will have 6 other missionaries staying in our apartment. 
  • In the Book of Mormon, I love Alma chapter 5. I think the idea of a change of heart is the principle of true conversion, versus just a testimony. As we recognize the principles of the gospel, we recognize that God's way is better, and that an important part of learning of Him and growing closer to Him is through repentance, and through changing. I also really love the verses, maybe starting with 45 where it talks about how Alma the Younger gained his testimony. I think it is so interesting that he doesn't identify the experience of seeing an angel as his testimony, but prayer, fasting, and study. Those are all things that anyone of us can do on our own. We don't have to wait for an angel to tell us we are doing things wrong before we can understand the better way.
  • We see Elder Trythall (another missionary from our Roseville Stake) and Elder Beazer, his companion, all the time. At various events at the church, when they are teaching lessons, during district meeting and district contacting, and sometimes randomly around the city (not often though, Prague is HUGE). 
Much more happened, but I don't have time for it all.
Spiritual thought: We often think that before we act on something, we have to receive a clear path from God to follow. Elder Bednar, and my own experience teach that often, we just have to go for it. We have to follow the direction we have received (however much it is) and we have to trust that God will illuminate, and provide the rest of the way. It can often be terrifying, but we receive great blessings as we do it, and we will see the amazing growth that comes from it. So act! Follow what you know, and watch as your trust in God leads to miracles. Have a great week!

-Elder Pickett 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Greetings From a Land Far Away

I decided to be a bit more creative in my title this week. As you can probably tell, I didn't really try all that hard. This week has been madness. Absolute, amazing, slightly-stressful, fun, inspiring madness. Great, with a side of overwhelming. I'll just get right to it and talk about why.
  • President Uchtdorf is coming to make the Czech Republic a stake. A very historic conference of the Church in the Czech Republic happening May 14-15 in Prague with all Church members from throughout the country invited to attend!
  • I am in the office of the mission, and I am over the visa work for the missionaries. Basically, if I do something wrong, I could get people kicked out of the country. One of my goals this transfer is to not get anyone kicked out of the country. Because I am over that I get to do lots of fun things. For example, on Wednesday, the day after the new missionaries came in, I got to take them to the Notary to get a notarized form granting President McConkie power of Attorney. That was probably about the most stressful 30ish minutes of my entire life. Also, on Tuesday, while I was trying to get them into the online Visa system, something went wrong. And the previous office elder (Elder Belshe, who is basically my panic line) had no idea what the problem was. So, I got to call the Foreign Police and try to ask for IT support in Czech on a form I got trained to fill out the day before. Let's just say, it was an adventure. Luckily, after about he explained it to me in 3-4 different ways and I misunderstood him and did several things wrong, I was finally able to figure out how to do what he was telling me to do, and it all worked out well. It was quite fun.
  • My new companion is Elder Terry, from Vallejo, CA. He is really good at working here in the office. He has been here for 2 transfers already, and he is good at balancing time. He loves the branch too. In our district we have 9 young missionaries, and two senior couples. Elder Nick Trythall (also from Roseville) is here, he is serving with our District Leader. 
  • We also had lessons with several recent converts who are members here in Prague. They are super awesome. And we attended the YSA FHE here. Which contained about as many people as our entire branch in C-Bud. That was an odd site to see. We have several recent converts and less actives we are working with, but only two real investigators. Something about baptizing investigators kind of makes the investigator pool smaller. Weird concept, I know. So we have been contacting a lot this week! And I have learned that interesting people are not just limited to C-Bud. Prague has them too! We met 1) A very grumpy young man who was upset that we are here and not in Afghanistan of Africa trying to teach them about Christ. 2) An angry man who lived in an apartment building and came onto the balcony in the rain to yell at us for tracting there, and told us to go away (But you've got to admire his dedication to be out in the rain, right?) 3) An English-speaking mathematician who enjoys meditation 4) Lots of people who speak neither Czech nor English (unfortunately I don't know Bulgarian or Russian) 5) A man who I met at 1 in the afternoon, and after a 10 minute conversation, still couldn't tell if he was drunk or not and finally 6) A man wearing teal sweatpants, a beanie, dress shoes, and with a sweet beard who told me he doesn't like money, because he prefers to live in the forest and talk to God. As you can see, I have had some good times this week.
  • Also, today I'm 19. And oddly enough, it feels no different. So that's fun. But we have sports night tonight, and we get to play soccer, so I am excited for that. People do know it's my birthday here, the APs sang happy birthday to me a few minutes ago. And Elder Terry bought me a chocolate bar last night.
  • Final thing: Prague is huge. I don't even know what to do with all of this space and all of these people. It's wonderful. We travel by metro, by streetcars, by bus and by foot everywhere. It is significantly larger than C-Bud. Multiplied by about 10. I am so happy to be here, but I do miss C-Bud. That little city will always have a place in my heart as my mission birth-city.
Our favorite stop for a late night meal in C-Bud. Hladovy Vokno. (means Hungry Window)

 President Chrdle- District President of Bohemia
He and his wife are converts but all 3 of his kids have been raised in the Gospel

Me and President Ambrož outside the church building
Our Branch President: he is our rock. He is fantastic.  His is a covert of 4 years

Br Rybak , me, Br Maška 
These are 2 members of the branch that we teach with the most, they are great, 
always willing to help out the missionaries.

Brother Rybak and one of our investigators, A.

The spiritual thought for the week comes from the fact that Mother's Day is tomorrow! Moms are the best. My commitment is two-fold. 1) Go to the homepage and watch the tribute to mothers. And 2) Tell your mother, or a mother that you love and care about them, and appreciate the work that they do. Love you Mom!

Thanks for all the prayers and support from everyone! See you tomorrow for our Mother’s Day skype! 

-Elder Pickett

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Final Week/ A New Beginning

Ahoj everyone! Hope you are all healthy, happy, and having a terrific Monday. I know I certainly am. First things first, I realized that I have been titling my emails wrong this whole time. I should be titling them according to the week I am writing ABOUT. I am just so excited that I get ahead of myself. Sorry about that. So, first I will talk about last week, then I will talk about some of the big changes this week.  (Brad forgot his card reader... we wait until Saturday for pictures...)
  • First off, this last week we had training in Prague. It was phenomenal! We had 3 different trainings, along with lunch, and a great thought by President McConkie about the Velvet Revolution. If you don't know about that one, go look it up. Because it is awesome stuff. The training we had we from President McConkie, Sister McConkie, and the Assistants to the President. President taught us about how to teach better. He talked about a whole lot of great things, and helped us to feel more confident and we invite people and expound the scriptures. Sister McConkie used three different examples to explain about the importance of remembering potential, and seeing potential through God's eyes. The potential of ourselves, of our investigators, and of our members. And then the Assistants talked about the importance of serving with "all of [our] heart, might, mind, and strength" from D&C 4. It was all excellent.
  • We had a lot of cool experiences this past week as we went out looking for Less Active members. While we were not successful, we found several investigators along the way. We have been seeing a lot of miracles this past week.
  • We're just doing our best, and then we let God do the rest. We like to talk about Enos as a model of prayer, and the importance of praying with "real intent" as Moroni says. I have been adding contacting into my personal prayers, and I have seen a difference. I have found that the first contact is the hardest. It's kind of like that idea that an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest. You have to muster a lot energy at first to try to get started, but once you do, it's a whole lot easier to continue. That's especially important for me right now. I am working on personally looking for contacting time, and to put in the effort to contact while we are traveling. I had a specific experience Saturday morning with bus contacting. I had studied about the Atonement of Christ during personal study that morning, and then I was praying for the desire and ability to contact. Then we got on the bus, and I just immediately started into it. And I had a really enjoyable time, trying to talk to people, actually talking to people, and giving someone a commitment to do a small act of service when he wasn't interested in meeting with us. It was really cool.
  • On Saturday, we got transfer calls! Which leads to the new beginning. I am writing this email from Prague, where I am serving in the Mission Office with Elder Terry! I have a lot of new and unique responsibilities, including being in charge of Visa work for the missionaries who are here. That is a little bit terrifying to be honest. I am hoping that I am up to the task. From my old District, Elder Dean is staying in C-Bud, serving with Elder Marcucci (from Brad’s MTC District), whose uncle served there 20 years ago. And the members remember him! And Sister Manners is training in C-Bud! And then Sister DeMann is off to Brno, where she is serving with Sister Humphries, from our MTC group.
All packed and ready to go!

  • We traveled into Prague on Sunday night, so that Elder Belshe could train me this morning before he left for Plzeň this afternoon. It's going to be quite and adventure, and quite a change here. I am very excited and I am looking forward to a great transfer.
  • Elder Terry is in his 3rd transfer in the Office. He is the Office Manager, and I am the Office Computers guy. Which doesn't actually mean I know anything about computers, it's just my title.
My spiritual thought this week is on the idea of New Beginnings. Weird. Change can be exciting. And also very tough. I am both excited and nervous to be here. But, change brings a great opportunity for growth and learning. The Lord is in the details of our life, and He wants us to keep progressing. He has more in store for us than we can realize on our own, and as we trust Him, we can see our lives improve, and our learning increase. So trust in God, and know that he is in the details! Thanks for the prayers and support! 

Gots to go for now, lots of work to do, but I will email and send pictures on Saturday (pday for missionaries in Prague) as well! Sorry I only had time to respond to our family today, I will get back to other people Saturday.  Love you lots! We do get to skype for Mother’s Day so I will be SEEING you soon!
-Elder Pickett