Saturday, October 29, 2016

What a Year


From Sister Gunnell/ one of the couple missionaries serving in the mission:  "Our heroes for the day! They put our snow tires on the car while we were attending a baptism. On their P-day no less. You have a wonderful son! We served with Elder Brockbank in Jicin and love him to pieces!! Looking forward to getting to know your son better!!" 

As is commemorated in my email title, yesterday marked a year to the day since I entered the MTC. Crazy to think about. This week has been pretty crazy as well. Lots of interesting things and some fun, some not fun.

  • Last week we had baptisms of a married couple with 3 kids here in Prague. They are good friends of members who actually just went through the temple for the first time and were sealed (they got baptized a year and a half ago in April). The newly baptized family is super awesome and very solid. They have an excellent understanding of the gospel and how everything works, and we feel that they are a really solid addition to the ward. The husband actually was invited to bear his testimony on Sunday at Ward Conference. He is super awesome.
Our baptistery here in the Prague building. 
President P redid some carpeting and lighting and it looks really nice.

  • On Sunday evening I threw-up. And then again at about 3:30 in the morning. Not sure why, but seeing that a few other people from our district did as well, we think it might have been something that we ate. But we don't know. Elder Brockbank and I went out for the evening to go visit a few less-active members. We got on a tram and I wasn't feeling too great. We walked into the metro and I was still feeling pretty bad. We got to our stop and started walking and I had to sit down because I was feeling really bad. So we decided to go back so that I could go to bed. Well we took the metro back to the tram stop...And I didn't make it any further. I threw-up in a trashcan there, with an audience of 6-7 semi-drunk homeless people. They came over and asked me for cigarettes after. They probably thought I was drunk.  Needless to say a memorable experience. I am totally healthy now though, don't worry.
  • Monday I was feeling okay. I was kept on a diet of bread and fruit tea drunken very slowly for the day. And interesting day. We also got ready for training the next day, and I napped a bit. We have a convenient couch here in the office and I have used it a few times these past weeks.
  • Tuesday we had a really good zone training. We talked about baptism (a favorite of ours), successful missionary work, referrals, and promising blessings.  It is super great to work with President P, and I definitely will get a picture with him before transfers. It was a good training, and I got to really eat the lunch, so that was excellent. After that we changed some tires, and then practiced for our concert next week.
 From Elder Brockbank: "Here's a picture of me when I drove a car for the first time this week in Europe. Look at that cool, calm, and collected face with hands at 10 and 2.  Just think of Mario Kart full of lane changes, signs galore, trams to dodge, and if you crash, you can actually die."

  • Wednesday we had to prepare for the other zone conference, so that involved a lot of work in the office. Not much happened that day.  From Elder Brockbank: “I quickly redesigned a certificate for President P(aka made a new one) into something high-brow, edgy, classy, and still accessible to the average Mormon missionary serving in central Europe.” This mission is going to be CLASSY by the time Elder Brockbank leaves the office with his graphic design skills.
  • Thursday we had an exchange. I was with Elder Geier and we had fun being outside finally and talking to people. It was a great day.
 Prague is pretty in the Fall 

  • Friday we took a car in to get the tires changed professionally by someone and then also practiced for our concert. And my great companion paid for a yummy lunch (picture included!) for me to celebrate my mission birthday since I did pass my year mark yesterday. That was kind of crazy. I certainly hope that things slow down. That would be great. It was a good day. 

  •   (answering Scott back…) Teenage years are pretty critical for the youth and their testimonies, because it is when they start asking themselves if they really believe all of these things. When I talk to people I usually identify 15-16 as when I really started to gain a personal and defining testimony of the gospel. So they are right at that time. And real leadership experience with accountability and decision making is critical too. Learning how to solve problems and make things work. It is important.
  • We are going to Phantom of the Opera next week for our Culture Night. It is going to be really good. We are also having a concert and inviting lots of people to it to use it as a finding tool. We have a VERY musical district, so it is going to be pretty awesome. We just need to practice a little more to get ready for it. 
  • ·         Transfers happen a week from Monday. We will get calls next Saturday, so I know nothing. Except the fact that I am probably leaving. Almost certainly.  I am really excited to get the heck out of the office. Being cooped up in here is starting to really drive me crazy. We just have no time for other missionary work, and it gets frustrating and discouraging. But I am going to try to emphasize finding time to get out a lot during planning this week and try to make it happen. Somehow. This transfer is going really fast and I feel like I have run out of time for a lot of stuff here. But it is still good. 
My spiritual thought for the week is on mercy. The Savior is the perfect example of mercy and love. It is interesting that sometimes in life we think that everything that is happening is so lacking in mercy and that we are forced to suffer things that we should not. But I testify that God is merciful, that He uplifts and supports us during our trials, and that He will guide us. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is strong enough to undue any damage done to use during this life. Thank you for the support and prayers!

-Elder Pickett

 Food commentary & pictures from Elder Brockbank. 

 Our missionaries are DEFINITELY become foodies!  
Elder Brockbank: "This is Svičková. It is THE Czech dish. It is terribly delicious. Those bread things are called knedliky and are SUPER YUMMY with the vegetable sauce. This is an insanely yummy crepe that I ate stuffed with chicken, cream sauce, and mushrooms. Also a plus is that food in the Czech Republic is CRAZY cheap."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sickness, Stress, Service and a Baptism!

Prague District:  Elder Brockbank, Elder Smith, Elder Greier, Elder Petersen, Elder Tingey, Elder Pickett, Elder Andriarena and Sister Brown, Sister Heap, Sister Boza

I wanted to keep my alliteration going, but baptism was an important enough thing to include that it was worth breaking it up. I will just go straight into some updates, because we don't have a lot of time before we are going to practice for the concert that we are going to have on the 4th of November.
  • On Monday we were planning for the baptisms that were on plan for this weekend. Things got pretty hectic and a little crazy with that. The investigators were from different areas than ours, but because I am the District Leader I am involved in the process a lot. And we had some confusion and problems with communication with the ward, which made things more stressful.
  • After speaking with quite a few people I was still stressing and trying to figure out details for the baptisms. I also conducted 2 baptismal interviews for a married couple with 3 children. That was a great experience, and it was wonderful to see how prepared they were and how well they understood the doctrine. We also were able to teach an investigator after English (which I didn't go to because of the interviews) and he accepted a baptismal date. It is not super solid, but we will continue working with him regularly and we hope that he will progress well.
  • On Wednesday I woke up and was pretty sure that I was sick. But I took my temperature and I didn't have a fever, so we went ahead with our plans anyways. Our whole zone was here doing interviews with President, and we had an elaborate contacting group set-up, but Elder Brockbank and I had to do some work in the office and go to "far-away" post, so we were not able to participate. Also by lunchtime my body started to shut-down and I got the chills. The moral of the story is that by the afternoon I was lying on a couch in the office sleeping while Elder Brockbank and President did some things that they had to, and then Elder Brockbank and I went home and I went to bed.
(This was last week when Elder Greier and Elder Brockbank were sick, 
no pictures of Elder Pickett sick)

  • Thursday was better. I was still not at 100%, but 14 hours of sleep does miraculous things. I came to the office and did a lot of napping/relaxing in P-day clothes. It was not a normal day, but nothing much happened.
  • Friday was great. The couple were baptized, and they had friends (both members and not) who came to support them. The missionaries sang "Nearer My God to Thee" a capella and that was fun. It was a really great Friday and an especially wonderful evening.
  • Today we did service at the Bishop's house. He and his wife are so great. They are both really funny, and we had a great time. That was our week.
  • Elder Brockbank and I are doing really good. We get along very well, he is super easy to work with. He is really funny too which helps. He is kind of exploding out of his ears with office work, while I am virtually all out.
My spiritual thought for the week is about decisions. I have found on my mission that trying to become more like Christ really boils down to everyday little decisions that we make. Many of them are made "in the moment," which can sometimes lead us to make bad decisions, but I have found that sometimes all we need to do is think for a moment and recognize the option that will have the best impact for us in the long run, rather than the first idea that we want to follow. So my challenge to you this week is to look at decisions and to think a little bit about how each decision can help you to draw closer to Christ, and then actively choose to follow Him. Thank you for the support and prayers!

-Elder Pickett
Glad to hear also about the great farewells of Noah & Sarah and the news about marriages and school. Interesting BYU essay change, I think that is a great prompt though. Lots of potential for good essays from that. Next transfer will have some crazy news. That is for sure. It will be fun.

 Prague missionary apartment

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Week my Companion Drowned in Office Work and I Left Him Inside


                                                        Elders Pickett & Brockbank

Hello everyone! As you might have guessed by my title, this was an interesting week. Elder Brockbank's list of activities and requirements in the office keeps getting longer with cars and other duties. And mine keeps getting shorter and shorter. Which is fun for me, and not so fun for him. So this week, I did splits with the trio of elders in our district a few times, and Elder Brockbank stayed in the office and Elder Scott was his companion. I will highlight some of the missionary tracting and activities of the week.
  • On Tuesday I went with Elder Geier and we taught a family that is getting baptized next week! They are super awesome, and they are good friends of one of the members here, so we are super excited. It has been really great to see the progress they have made and their preparation. We also went out contacting together and had a few great conversations with people. Hopefully we can lead that into meeting with them.
Prague District 
 Elder Smith, Elder Petersen, Elder Andriarena, Sestra Brown, Sestra Heap, Sestra Boza, Elder Greier, Elder Tingey, Elder Brockbank, Elder Pickett. 
We just bought sweaters today so that we will have matching district sweaters (can't wait for that picture!).

  • On Wednesday we had district meeting and then sang and talked to people. And then we came back and dropped off Elder Brockbank in the office with Elder Scott and I went on a split with President, because he is starting to teach me how to drive stick shift. So that was a little fun and decently unexpected. I can now officially start driving, and change to second gear in a stick shift car. It was really hard at first, because we left the parking brake on, so the engine died twice in a row. But after that it got easier. I haven't really driven it much yet.  I will keep you informed with my progress. We also started an exchange, I went with Elder Tingey. It was a good exchange. 
  • Thursday I had my exchange. We met a few cool people and we contacted all together as a district. We set up a table and played some music and just started talking to people.
  • Friday we had cleaning checks and had a quick lunch and then almost ran to get to an appointment, which fell through. So that was really fun.
  • Hopefully our nation doesn't totally crumble while I am away. Nothing I can about it. I am plenty healthy and my legs look all normal again, don't worry.  
Us in front of the Lennon Wall

  • We listened to Elder Juan Uceda's General Conference talk about meaningful prayers in Czech, but I read it in English later. It was a really great talk. That is something that I have seen make a real difference on my mission, and something that has changed as well: how I pray. Thank you for the prayers.
  • It has been a while since I have gotten to scientifically geek out about something (referring to a recessive gene kidney disease that his new niece Sadie has been diagnosed with). I have to control myself, because a lot of strong atheists here try to use science to back-up their arguments. I have found that I can't get into any sort of discussion using science, because that's just never going to cut it for me, or for anyone else. Also, I have my spiritual and scientific knowledge tied together, and so there are some connections that make perfect sense in my brain that don't work for people without the spiritual background. It's tough sometimes. But good practice for me always keeping the spiritual things on a higher level than temporal/scientific.  Here’s an example of a street contact as told by Elder Brockbank:  “We started talking with a guy and found out that he is way into biology. We asked if he believed in God. He didn't. We asked why. He didn't know; he had just been raised this way. We told him we talk and discuss with people about how we can find out if God is there. He said he wasn't too interested and started to walk away. I ran after him and asked if we could meet with him once more. He stopped and said we could keep talking. He continued to explain that it was just the way he was raised. He had never learned about God so he has never believed in Him. He said it may have been different if he was born into a believing family. He said he wanted to believe but that it probably wasn't possible.”
  • Our APs are really good. They get along very well. Sometimes they are a little bit crazy, but I really enjoy working with them. We are working on that carry-over from a good street contact to someone to continue teaching. It is still a work in progress. But our numbers are certainly improving. 
  • I do like packages of Christmas cheer. I will keep my eye open for that one. I will get a nice nativity set. Actually two, one for me and one for you.
  • This morning we got up and as a District, ran through old town Prague and on Charles Bridge.

  • Blurry pictures of us running 

My spiritual thought is about perseverance. One of the things that I have gained a testimony of on my mission is that you keep going and keep going until you find the blessings. The Lord always follows through on His promises, but we have to meet the requirements. And one of those is that we continue on until we have done all that we can, and then the Lord makes up the rest. So my challenge to you is to keep going. Keep trying your best to be obedient, and I promise that the Lord will bless you for it. Thanks for the support and prayers!

-Elder Pickett 

 Love you lots too!

 We live on a pretty street

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Two Weeks in One!

Our Prague District of Elders watching the Priesthood Session of General Conference in the Mission Office-- right to left: Elder Smith, Elder Andiarena, Elder Brockbank, Elder Tingey, Elder Petersen, Elder Geier, me.
      Hello everyone. Sorry that I wasn't able to get to the big email last week. I got onto my email and I had a bajillion people to respond to, so I decided last week to email the fam individually instead of doing a big one.  I will give some good updates about last week and this week to make up for it.
  • ·         So two weeks ago most of our district got sick. Essentially 1 person from each companionship was totally wiped out. I didn't get it, but Elder Brockbank did. He was pretty tired and on Sunday came down with a fever. I didn't realize how bad he was until we got to church. President looked at him and told me to get him home after Sacrament Meeting. But in the end we send him home with a different Elder who was also sick. And so I ended bouncing around that afternoon and spent some time with both of the other Elders' companionships here in Prague.
  • ·         Two weeks ago we went and did service and some sort of insect bit me. I have some interesting reactions to insect bites sometimes, and this time it was really bad. I showed President and he ended up sending me to the emergency room just to get it checked out to be safe. And so commenced my second adventure wandering around a Czech hospital trying to figure out where to go. Except that the hospital here in Prague is a whole lot bigger than the one is C-Bud (first hospital trip was for a companion). But I got to talk to a lot of people in Czech and then find out that they actually spoke English as well later on. Oh well, just some good practice I guess. Not to worry, I am totally fine already and there is no lingering sign of a weird swelling and color changing that occurred last week.

  • Also some pictures of what my bites looked like in the initial stages, things definitely got bigger and worse.  
  • They put some paste on my legs and mummy-wrapped them. But it stopped the itching and by the time the paste fully washed off (5 days maybe) the rash was all gone.
  • This is a picture we took in the Hospital, because you can't go to a Czech hospital without taking a picture! The hospitals aren't particularly "user friendly." Signage in Czech makes things difficult too.
  • ·          As District Leader, I got to go on an exchange with Elder Smith, one of the Assistants. I learned a whole lot more from spending the day with him than he did. But it was a really enjoyable exchange.
  • ·         We also had an excellent Zone Training on Wednesday, where we learned a lot of good things about how we should teach, how to raise our vision, and how to better end contacts. So that was last week.
  • ·         This week was a lot of contacting and getting out of the office, which was good. We had a few lessons fall through, which was a bummer, but we are going to reschedule for next week. We got to meet a lot of interesting people, and do a lot of singing displays and finding together, which is really effective in a big district, because people feel like they should stop when 5-6 people are singing and 4-5 are talking with everyone around them.
  • ·         We had a good district meeting as well in which we talked about the importance of using our time most effectively, specifically with contacting on trams and metros. We set up a fake tram and had a few companionships try it out, and assigned everyone roles. We pretty much got the spectrum covered: the jerks who laugh at the missionaries, the guy who is offended that you are trying to talk to people, the nice but not interested guy, the interested guy, the guy who thinks you are wasting your time, the girl who is a little freaked out that you are talking to her, the girl who is from America and doesn't know Czech, and the person who speaks no English or Czech. Always fun.
  • ·         We also got to go have dinner at a members house. It was really tasty, and a fun dinner. It is a part member family, the mother is from Utah and married a Czech, and they live here with 3 daughters. The mom and the daughters all come to church, but the dad doesn't. He likes the missionaries though, and was plenty friendly with us, so that was fun.
  • ·         This has been a great LDS General Conference (weekend of talks from our Prophet and other leaders and singing broadcast from Salt Lake City Utah, happens 2x per year). That MTC choir was good, the MTC choir director is AWESOME. He does amazing stuff.  We watched the Priesthood session all together in the office today.
  • ·         Here is a picture to commemorate our epic search for a winter coat for Elder Brockbank. After 5 stores we found one that fit and was missionary approved! He is wearing it in the picture. I might actually wait until next year to buy a new one. I think mine will work for this year, and I can get a good one that will last me a long time (meaning after his mission but we don’t talk about that!) next year. Probably from the British store Mark's and Spencer's. It is really nice, and not bad prices, especially during sales.

·         Those are the main highlights of the week.

·         Spiritual thought: we also got to watch general conference, which was awesome! I especially loved President Uchtdorf's talk from the Saturday morning session. (here is a link)
·         He talked a little about how perfect God's plan is for each of us, and how he makes sure that all of the details work out. And I truly believe that it is perfect. My invitation for you all this is to study the Plan of Happiness that God prepared for us, so that you can better understand it an find new ways to apply it into your life. Thanks for all the prayers and support!

·         -Elder Pickett

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Out of Time

I am really sorry, but we have to go. I didn't have time for a weekly email this week, but I will write first thing next week an email for this coming week as well as last week. Love you lots!  Love,  Elder Pickett
 (Elder Brad answered lots of family emails including specific plans and needs for Christmas sending/ packages.   Blog consists of some answers to questions from our personal emails and his companion Elder Brockbank’s accounts of teaching a lesson.)

Lettering from many wonderful missionary talks today during LDS General Conference… 
by Lindsay Pickett Roper

That is a good story by President Uchtdorf about missionary work, and it is true, you just have to keep going. I talked about that briefly with one of the senior missionaries here in Prague on Tuesday. It is very true. You never know who it will be and how long you have to work, so you keep going until the end. From President Uchtdorf:  “How often have I lifted my heart in gratitude for the two missionaries who did not stop at the first floor! God “rewards those who earnestly seek him,” but that reward is not usually behind the first door. Dear friends, keep knocking on God’s door. Don’t give up. Seek God with all your heart. Exercise faith. Walk in righteousness, and have trust in our Heavenly Father.  I promise that if you will do this—even until the fourth floor, last door—you will receive the answers you seek. You will find faith. And one day you will be filled with light that grows “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”

Answering questions from Mom & Dad:
Q: I saw some pictures on the FB page of a zone conference.  I didn't see you in any pictures and I gathered that you might be having 2 zone conferences.  So I want to hear about the Zone Conference. 
A:  There are actually 4 zone conferences, because there are 4 zones in the mission. And then in October we will have a zone conference with 2 zones at each one. So then there are only 2. We follow that pattern basically every transfer.

Q:  Top 3 qualities you admire most in a missionary companion?
A:  1) Obedient
2) Focused on missionary work
3) Patient in all circumstances.
I try to have those same qualities as much as I possibly can.

Q:  Top 3 focuses that you have personally to come closer to Christ and serve with your whole heart?
A:  1) Contact on Public Transportation (that one is hard sometimes)
2) Spend as little time in the office as humanely possible
3) Be diligent and focused in missionary work, and keep on top of my different assignments (District Leader, office elder, missionary, etc).

Q:  Share your thoughts on having the boys (in the church young men’s program) lead and how it can help them with their mission preparation and to just grow spiritually?
A:  As far as some thoughts about the importance of having boys lead, that is critical for a mission. As a missionary you are given some big responsibilities and have to be accountable for them. This next week I might be conducting my first baptismal interview for a convert baptism. That's pretty weird to realize. It is important for boys to have opportunities to work in leadership positions, I think, for several reasons. 
1) You come to better understand thinking "big picture" about needs of individuals and the group collectively.
2) You learn how to take input from other people, make your own judgement calls when you need to, and balance different opinions and ideas
3) You learn how to work/interact with adult leaders, which is also important in missionary work.
4) You learn to be comfortable talking in front of groups, taking the lead in conversations and discussions, and in figuring out how to coordinate activities and plans. All of those are very important mission skills.

More lettering from talks today during LDS General Conference… by Lindsay Pickett Roper

Q:  I read a past email about last April LDS General Conference and how you handled it.  Looks like you waited a week for the Czech translation to come out and then you missionaries downloaded the English version and listened by ear buds to English at the same time your members were hearing Czech.  What are you doing this time? 
A:  We didn't watch General Conference live, we will watch it next week. I may read a few talks in the mean-time though, because we have computers in the office.

Q:   You must be decorated and festive.   I love you and I love Christmas and I obviously love the Lord or we couldn't let you be gone for Christmas.  Ha ha.  
A:  Don't worry, we will be decorated and festive, that is for sure. Not sure where I will be at Christmas, but it will be good. (transfers are in early November)   It will be really weird to have Christmas here and not see the great decorations at home, but I am where I am supposed to be. 

From Elder Brockbank reports about this week:   
“We had Zone Training with President and Sister Pohorelicka talking about the first lesson we teach. They talked about the importance of the first point "God is your Loving Heavenly Father" especially here in the Czech Republic.  Sister Pohorelicka talked about how it took THREE MONTHS before the missionaries who were teaching her could move on from talking about who God is.

We did a singing display on Dejvicka (a big roundabout near the University.) I stopped this one YSA student and we talked for a little bit. He doesn't believe in God at all. I told him that we would love to meet with him and talk more about what he believes and maybe share a little about why we believe what we do (a nice tactic learned from President.) I asked if he could meet the following day at the building. He said he had nothing better to do so he would try and come. I asked if we could get his number so we can confirm it. Negative. That is normally not a good sign. I gave him a card with our address and told him I was exciting for our meeting tomorrow. He said we would maybe come and then left.  The next day I was wiped out from being sick and was passed out on the couch in the front lobby. Elder Pickett looks out the window and says there are two YSA guys standing outside. I looked outside and sure enough, it's our appointment and he also had brought a friend with him. We had a really solid meeting that lasted an hour and a half. They said they had nothing better to do so they might as well come. They came in with pretty much no knowledge about Mormons except what little can be gained from indulging in South Park and they left with a much better understanding and maybe a little respect. We tried to set up again, but they are students and school was starting and they said they wouldn't have much time. Bummer! They were really great people though, and now we're friends. They even were going to take us out to beer until we told them that we don't drink.”