Monday, January 30, 2017

I am Pressed For Time...

I am really pressed for time, so Mom I will email you and do my weekly email in one.  Pictures next week.
  • We don't have many youth for mutual, but the missionaries run a FHE and Game Night every week. The turnout depends on the week. And then we have sports night about every other week, and usually have a decent turnout for that. We go to a gym and play soccer.
  • The biggest news of the week is that we have someone who accepted a baptismal date.  P. has come to church twice already, and he really gets the gospel and what it does for people. He has had some rough experiences in the past, and he wants to find the right path for him. He is super awesome and we love teaching him. From Elder Tingey: “He said that church was amazing and that he came and forgot all of the worldly worries he had and felt peace. He asked us how he could have that feeling always.”
  • The schedule changes that have come from the First Presidency are pretty significant for us. It changes how we count numbers and measure our work, it really simplified it and is aimed to help us really focus on only the most important things. It is really cool. The schedule change is really interesting too. We already modified our schedule here in our mission to have more flexibility with things because mission Presidents can adjust it as they need to) and the new schedule is all about that as well. It tries to make our days a little more flexible ( so that we can use the maximum amount of time in the most effective ways possible. It is really good.
  • We had a MLC last week in Prague. Then we did zone training and shared the importance of the Holy Ghost in missionary work, and how to make him a more active part of our work. We emphasized taking time to stop and listen to the Spirit. It went well. We talked about numbers and practices and other important things there and also watched the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast, which is where they announced the new changes. It has been interesting to experience.
  • Boldness in missionary work can sometimes be a challenge for me, I am not usually a "let's get up in people's faces who we don't know" kind of guy.  I am learning to do it well and enjoy it. Love really is the way to motivate myself to do it.
  • We do teach English. Every Tuesday at 6-7. We get a good turnout here in Pilsen, and have 3 classes with a good amount of students.
  • Yes Dad, complaining about your “cold” weather would be pretty wimpy. I have decided that if I can't see my breath all day long, it isn't a cold day at all. I think we have had 1 or 2 days like that in the past couple of weeks.
The rest of our District- Sister Andersen, Sister Valentine, 
Elder Terry, Elder Brockbank

  • Our District works well together, Sister Andersen and Sister Valentine are great and doing good work together. Elder Brockbank and Elder Terry are working hard, finishing out Elder Terry’s last transfer.  I think Elder Terry is excited about his family coming to pick him up at the end of this transfer.

My spiritual thought relates to the different aspects of what  leadership entails. There is a really good section in the White Missionary Handbook where it talks about the difference between ministering and administering. It says that you have to be a good administrator as a leader and be organized and whatnot, but that the most important work that you will ever do will be in ministering to people. I have really found that to be true. I love giving trainings and planning things for the mission with the other mission leaders, but the most profound impacts I feel like I have had have mostly come from interviews with missionaries on exchanges, and especially from the priesthood blessings I have been asked to give. So in all you are doing in any leadership capacity, remember the people you serve.  Minister to them. Thanks for you continued thoughts, prayers, and encouragement, you rock. Love you lots!

-Elder Pickett

(thanks to Elder Tingey for the pictures!)
People ice skating on the river here

Path to the library where we email 

Answering a Mom question. Sometimes families are able to go pick up their missionaries.  We really want to go to Prague but Brad will finish late November (TOO COLD for us Californians...) Definitely I will want to come back later rather than have you guys come out. That is way too much of a "2 worlds colliding" kind of experience. When I tour around with you guys, I just want to do it as a tourist. Any other way would be too weird for me.  Good thing that is what we want to make happen!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Week of Cold

Pilsen (or Plzen)

You can probably guess how the weather was this week based on the title of my email. We have had snow on the ground that hasn't melted since last Sunday. So it hasn't exactly been warm. This week was good. A little odd, but still good.
  • Tuesday we left for Prague at 12:30ish and were there for MLC until Wednesday afternoon. We had lots of good discussions and talked a lot about what we can do this year to improve as missionaries. We are going to be focusing a lot on working with members, which is the best way to be successful in missionary work. We slept over at the Assistants apartment, and that was a good time. Elder Page is from Elder Tingey's MTC group, and Elder Belshe and I know almost all the same people in the country, so we had a fun time there.  After we got home on Wednesday we went tracting. It was pretty cold.
  • Thursday we had district meeting, and then a few lessons. We are also working on preparing a training, which we will give next week at Zone Training. We are excited about the stuff we have found and hope that it will really help the missionaries in our zone. It is already helping us.
  • Other than that we have been looking for new people and meeting with a few others as well. We haven't seen a whole lot of progress this week, but we are looking forward to better things, and we found someone who came to church, so we are excited to start working with him.
  • Plzen is a ward that is familiar with opposition and still going strong. The members here are awesome.
  • We didn't end up having any exchanges, which was a bummer. It was a bit of an unorthodox missionary week. I have a lot of respect for Bishops after Thursday. We had a meeting with an awesome member who just needed a bit of spiritual up boost. Then a meeting with a member with challenging medical issues and that was an emotionally exhausting hour.  That was an emotionally draining day, we went contacting afterwards and our brains were pretty fried already. But it was good.
  • I think that the "going all in" part of the gospel is what enduring to the end is all about. Sometimes it is really tough, but we can rely on the enabling power of Christ's Atonement to help us. That's a lesson I have learned on my mission.
Elder Tingey & Elder Pickett (this is a repeat picture)

  • Elder Tingey and I are doing a good job of cleaning things up in our apartment and we are doing well. We get each other pretty well, and don't have any problems. We also can give each other a bit of a hard time, so that's been fun.
  • Today for pday we are going to lunch together as a district and then we will look around the city some more and talk to some people. It should be good.
  • Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge (ASK) is such a great seminary topic. People have an endless supply or questions, but if they don't look for answers in the right places they will never find them.
My spiritual thought this week is about the scriptures. There are sometimes when we read the scriptures just to check it off that we have done it. When we do this, we sometimes fall asleep reading, zone out and read a page without actually taking in a word, or just speed through it without gaining anything from it (I know all of these things from experience). I have found that the best way for me to study the scriptures is to get excited about a questions, or a topic, so that I am really studying with a purpose, not just reading to se that I have read. I challenge you all to prepare adequetely for your scripture study this week by figuring out what you want to study and why it is important to you. You'll have some great experiences. Thanks for the prayers and support!

-Elder Pickett

A delicious lunch. The nickname for the dish is a Moravian Sparrow, 
but there is actually no bird there at all.

This is a beautiful panini we made. We found out why the griller was left though. 
Because after our first use it died. But those were two really good sandwiches.

To Caroline:  They do have good hot chocolate in the Czech Republic, but not the good drink kind. Their hot chocolate is kind of like hot chocolate pudding. A good dessert, but not a good drink.

Monday, January 16, 2017

So it gets pretty cold here...

The Czech/ Slovak Missionaries!

This last week we have seen winter. There is plenty of snow on the ground, and we have had several memorable experiences of blue skies, snow, and freezing cold all in the same day.

  • Elder Tingey and I sent off Elder Croney on Wednesday morning. That's really when our transfer together started. We already served around each other, and we had the same assignment in the office at different times, so it still kind of feels like we are on a weird, super long exchange rather than actually being permanent companions. But it has been good. Every new companionship is an adjustment.  Elder Tingey is really different from Elder Croney but he is really good. We work well together, our minds think in a  similar way. We both are here to work, we actually did the same job in the mission office, and we like speaking a lot of Czech.

Plzen is also home to the tallest kostel (cathedral) in the Czech Republic 
(photos from Elders Tingey & Brockbank)

  • We weren't able to meet with too many people this week, we had a lot of things set-up that fell-through at the last minute, but we did have some good finding, and a good visit to one of our investigators from Slovakia. He is a really nice guy with a strong testimony of Jesus Christ. He is very sincere in his beliefs, which is great to see. We will see with J, he has some other concerns right now. No luck with the other three possibilities that I told you about last week, unfortunately.
  • We are working well with members. They are willing to teach, the main problem is finding a time that works for them. And some of our strongest members live outside of the actually city in little suburb areas around, so it can be tough. We have an awesome ward mission leader. He is pretty quiet, but is really good at helping us focus on doing all that we can control and leaving the rest of God and the individuals. I really like and admire him.
  • We have walked around a lot of Plzen this week and frozen, but it's been really good. I have lost count of the amount of times my feet and fingers have gone numb, despite my layers and striving to stay warm. I am still undecided on my opinion of snow. I kind of like it, but I feel that it sticks around too long and once it does it just gets slushy and nasty. But when it is falling it looks nice at least.
We went on a bit of a P-day hike this morning. We live in a beautiful city!

These are little Czech cottages. They have these as a place to go with a garden because they love nature so much. They are right on the outskirts of the city.

  • We also are finally in contact with a recent convert again. His phone has been broken, so we saw him only a few times last transfer and couldn't set-up with him at all, but we are finally able to communicate again. He is doing well, and practice taught us a lesson about who God is. He did awesome. It was surprising in a super cool way. He is really cool.
  • We went tracting a few times this week in the snow, and are looking forward to the two day MLC we will be having tomorrow and Wednesday in Prague. It should be great.
 Here is our Christmas present from President P, a new temple recommend holder 
(designed by Elder Brockbank)

  • We actually will probably bring the Elders to our area this transfer for exchanges. After this transfer when Elder Tingey goes home, I will probably stay here, because Zone Leaders don't usually both leave at the same time, but President took two out and switched their cities last time, so you never really know. Maybe I will leave, maybe I won't. We will see.
  • Seeing the potential in others is super important, although it is sometimes really frustrating when they don't rise up to that potential. Really frustrating. But that's agency. Everyone has a right to choose for themselves.
  • I didn't have all the right package sending materials to prepare the box, so I will send your Christmas presents next week (sorry I am lame, but we have no good tape at home!).
My spiritual thought for this week actually comes from the practice lesson that our recent convert taught us. He talked about how God knows everything about us, all of our secrets, all our thoughts, and all of our actions. He knows the things about us that we don't like to tell anyone else, and through everything He still loves us perfectly and wants us to be happy. That is pretty incredible to fully realize. I think that can really change the way that we think about prayer and about our relationship with Him. We have no secrets from Him. And when we pray in that way, our prayers become full of the Spirit, and incredibly sincere. I would like to challenge you all to try to pray like that this week. Thanks for the prayers and support! I am glad I am where I am!

-Elder Pickett

To Caroline: Thank you for sharing that powerful quote about the Atonement. The Atonement is something that I have a strong testimony of. Whenever we feel totally alone, Jesus knows how we feel too.
I wish I could say that I am trying really hard to eat super healthy too, but that would be lying...We have tasty food here.  From Elder Tingey:  “The members are great. And they like to stuff us with food. Literally, it is eat until you drop, then put two more dumplings on your plate.”  

(Scenery pictures from Elder Brockbank)

 Buildings on the namesti (main square)

Trams that run throughout the city

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Beginnings

Elder Croney and Elder Pickett at the church building & at the Mission Conference

Hello everyone! This last week has been filled with snow, contacting on public transportation, transfer calls, and some fun lessons!

  • We'll see what happens, but our area is doing pretty good and I am excited about the potential of some of our investigators. J. we teach today, he is the dancer. O. we are not in contact with right now, no idea what's going on there. L. is a super sassy Czech man and we'll see how J. and I. pan out. They both expressed interest, but then haven't responded to our invitations to set-up.
A house I drew during English class to help our students practice new words.

  • We visited one of our investigators this week twice and had good lessons about faith and coming to find spiritual answers. He made us some food and tried to offer us alcohol, which we refused. It was good practice for refusing temptation and peer pressure. Actually he was just joking, and it was pretty entertaining.
  • We had our last District Meeting of the transfer, which was a good testimony meeting together.
  • We also good food together for lunch on Saturday, had a lesson with someone new, and had a really fun sports night, although very few people came.
  •  This transfer I will be with Elder Tingey. He is in Elder Terry's group, so this is his final transfer (2 in a row for me!). It is interesting to be serving with a final transfer companion. In Plzen will be me with Elder Tingey, Elder Brockbank with Elder Terry, and Sister Andersen with Sister Valentine.
Elder Tingey (new companion) and me outside of the church building. Elder Tingey actually served with Elder Croney in Brno about 8 months ago or so.

  • Church was interesting, we had lots of people wish the missionaries the best and they were sad to see people go. Elder Croney has been here for a while and the member really like him, so they are sad he is leaving.
Elder Croney and I this morning on transfer day. 
We had breakfast as a district with some friends before people left.

  •  Inactive vs. active here in the Czech Republic varies widely depending on the city, but usually we have a whole lot more people on the role than actually ever come. Prague is the worst, because there are a lot of international people and no one knows if they have moved or not. We tried to help a little with that, but there is a whole ton of work to do
  • Snow driving? We are doing a bit of that as well. Elder Croney is from Utah, so he knows how, but Elder Tingey is from Washington... We've had some good snow as well. I used hot hands for tracting the other night, and that was a great choice. It gets pretty cold here, although hasn't gotten to -17 F or anything like that. Luckily we are at low elevation, so we are a bit luckier in that respect.
So this great spiritual thought from my Dad is about judging righteously and is something that I have been thinking about recently actually. From my Dad:  “There are many times that we judge something or someone. As a result, we often don't see the potential in someone, or we don't see what the Lord has in store for that person. If we do judge then we sometimes miss seeing what their potential is or what they really can become. Only the Lord is one who can judge justly or righteously. So as you are out talking to people, deciding whom to approach and who not, remember to approach or talk to whomever you can. Don't just decide who, because you never know what they might be or what their potential to become is. Only the Lord knows that.”  It is sometimes difficult for us to predict how people will connect with the gospel, or how they will respond to the promptings of the Spirit, that's why we talk to everyone we can!  So remember, we don’t know people’s potential by their outward appearance. 
Thanks for the support and prayers!

-Elder Pickett

Christmas present opening!

 The view from the hotel we went to for our 3 day Missionwide Conference that I talked about last week. It didn't snow, but the dew froze into frost, and the whole countryside was covered in frost, it was amazing.

My MTC group! All of the Czechs in the mission, and we were all together at a training. 1st time so far in my mission! 
Back row Elder Paxton, Elder Anderson/ Middle row Elder Smith, Sister Heap, Sister DeMann, Sister Humphries, Sister Andersen, Elder Pickett/ Model pose Elder Chadwick

                          A goofy picture of Elder Smith and Elder Chadwick from training

A very unhealthy burger from McDonald's that is a special here. It is a regular hamburger, but also has a patty of deep-fried cheese on it (deep-fried cheese is actually a common thing here)

Monday, January 2, 2017

It’s a New Year

Czech/ Slovak Missionwide Conference gathering- if you look really close, edge of the 3rd window back on the right side of the picture, you can see Elder Brad’s profile

Hello everyone, it's been a little while since I have been able to send one of these properly! These past two weeks have been really abnormal for us, and really awesome at the same time. We are really grateful for all the great experiences we had, and also excited to get back into the normal flow of things.   I will give some quick updates.

  • First things first, it is really hard to set up meetings with people around Christmas time. A lot of the people we are working with right now are young adults, so they all go back home because they just study here. Either that or people have Christmas preparations, or just a lot going on. So we got to visit some members, went caroling, and spent a good amount of time on trams and buses (because when it is cold and not too busy outside that is the best place to find people)
  • Christmas here is a really big deal. We were asked by our mission president and wife to not go tracting (knocking on doors and talking to people in their homes) between the 24th and 26th because that is kind of considered almost sacred time as a family together, and people don't want any unexpected visitors. This year I also got to learn about a bunch of Christmas traditions here, and they are great. And I got to here Czech Christmas Carols, which might be the greatest part of Christmas. They have some really fun melodies, and Czechs love them all. They were forbidden to listen to them during Communism, because they are all religious in focus and origin, and after Communism fell they because incredibly popular, and everyone knows them.
  • Christmas Eve was spent with a wonderful Grandma in our ward who takes it as her responsibility to be our substitute grandmother here. She is great. After we had lunch at her house at 12, we went to the church building as a district and played some games, had a good group study, and chatted. Then we made halusky for 6.
  • It was fun to skype home and talk to my family. The weirdest part was probably walking out of the room in our Bishop's house (who was kind enough to invited us over so we could skype) and hearing Czech again. I forgot that I was still in a totally foreign country. Christmas day we had church, and the missionaries sang "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" in Czech during Sacrament meeting. After that we made crepes and opened our Secret Santa presents from each other. Then we ate the crepes. Then went to Bishops, he fed us lunch, we skyped, then we played a few games and had a spiritual thought, then went home. Sounds like you guys have had a great Christmas together, which is super great to hear!
  • We had a 3 day mission conference at a hotel in the Czech countryside outside of Prague. It was  filled with great spiritual things, great fun things, and plenty of good food.  I didn't get called up for Fear Factor where other missionaries got to eat some interesting Czech delicacies.  I watched the talent show, which was fabulous. There were some good songs including Elder Merrill from my district, a few really good piano numbers, a few funny skits and whatnot. It was really fun to meet some of the missionaries in Slovakia, who for the most part I have never interacted with before, and to see everyone. On the last day we had testimonies from the departing missionaries and it was a great spiritual experience. This is the first group that's left that I felt like I really know most of them well, and we are sad to see them leave. Elder Croney gave a great testimony, he has been a great companion for me.
Hotel outside of Prague for the Missionwide Conference

President P talking to missionaries
 (we will have to wait until next week for pictures from Brad thanks to pictures from others!)

Views of Prague in the Winter

  • Czech people celebrate the New Year with a few tons worth of fireworks and alcohol. So we ended missionary work at 4pm and had to be home by 6 pm. The fireworks and everything were really loud. At least that's what everyone tells me. I slept right through it, with an opened window and everything by my bed.
  • I got a normal picture with Elder Croney with the coolest background of all time. (picture taking at Mom’s request!)  Don't have pictures of our apartment, but I can do that next week. Also, next week I will be sending the Christmas package. I will send a large multitude of pictures next week! 
  •  I am still not sure if I got a bug, or just ate something that my body really badly rejected. Hard to say.  But all day. I just slept, went to the store real quick, threw-up a few times, and slept some more. And got a blessing. Even though I didn’t get to email last week, I did get to read your emails to me. Sister Scott printed them out for me and brought them to the mission conference, thanks.
  • I have been thinking a lot about the Lord's timing. It is funny, I think the Lord just waits until the right time. And that doesn't matter if it is in 1 hour, 3 days, or 7 years. We are the ones trying to control time and makes things happen when we want them to. I also really liked your thought  Dad from last week about being fearless. That is one of my goals for the New Year actually.

Other than that we have a new year ahead of us, filled with a lot of possibilities and great opportunities. I wanted to share an idea from Elder Holland's talk "Remember Lot's Wife: Faith is for the Future." It is a talk which was given at BYU and it talks about new beginnings, and focuses on the fact that faith always motivates us to look forward towards what can be, instead of focusing so much on what might have been. I would encourage you to read it, but would like to highlight the main idea that we should take the lessons we have learned from the past, and then leave everything else there. Thanks to Jesus Christ we don't have to keep living in our mistakes, we can leave them behind and move on forward. Thanks for all the support and prayers!

-Elder Pickett