Monday, November 28, 2011

Living in BRNO

Ahh, Family! Those pictures were the best! Thank you for sending them. Looks like Scooter had a good Thanksgiving, and the Christmas tree looks fantastic, as usual. I can't believe my siblings taking advantage of the one year I'm not home, and putting my ornaments in the back. We all know my preschool ornaments are the best in the bunch.. :)

Alright, Mother, I'll begin with your questions today. I think you ask me about my living conditions every email you write, haha! The sisters' aparment in Brno is probably the best apartment I'll every be in. It's super, duper nice, with plenty of space, modern appliances, and everything. I even have a dishwasher. WAY nicer than anything I stayed in at college. I'm very happy here. The Francis couple lives just down the hall, and they are from Salem, Utah. They're a fantastic couple, and I love being around them and serving around them. We don't all live in the same building, all four companionships are spread all across the city, except for the sisters and the Fancis's. Being a senior companion - well, I don't know. If I didn't serve with Sister White last transfer, who was my same "age," I'm sure it would be a lot more intimidating or difficult. However, when Sister White and I were assigned to serve together, each one of us had to be a full-blown missionary, and every skill or missionary secret there is to figure out, we found some way to figure it out. Thus, serving with Sister Izatt, a younger missionary, hasn't felt too different. She's only two months younger than me, and so we're partners in everything we do. All in all, Sister Izatt is fantastic, and we're working hard to do the Lord's work! The people in Brno - they're great! I LOVE contacting in Brno. There's so many people here! I know what you're asking - what's the general attitude here... well, it was only until I got to this city that I came across people who wanted to really Bible bash with me. It's a goal of mine to never argue with a single soul on my mission. It's definitely a temptation, when you want so much for people to understand, and you don't want them to paint an inaccurate picture of you, or the church, or what we believe. However, as long as we don't dismiss the Spirit, things go okay, and we're able to deal with those conversations the way Christ would have us. It's a generally more intellectual city, more in touch with the world than Ceske Budjeovice was; thus, we're talking to people who think a bit more about what we're saying, and the implications of what we believe. I actually really enjoy it. It's just thrilling to talk to people all day, teaching and testifying of what I know to be true. I just can't get enough of it. I already know I'll miss it a lot. You asked last week if we face the kind of persecution we sometimes hear of with our missionaries in Russia or other countries. No. Never. People are very kind in the Czech Republic, and actually extremely non-confrontational. A Czech is more likely to ignore you, than to argue with you, but there are many who are willing to engage in conversation with us, and learn more. How big is the branch? I don't know, haha. There are probably about 100 or so members that come every week. Lots of children and beautiful families. It's wonderful, and a little overwhelming, as you want to get to know everyone. However, it will come with time. I love it here in Brno.

Ok, we had some fantastic moments over the weekend since I last wrote! On Thanksgiving night, one of the youth in our branch brought a friend to our weekly game night. He had found out that I was deaf in one ear, and that I knew sign language, and so he decided to get in touch with a friend of his who is also deaf in one ear. He invited his friend that night, and I was able to meet him. Turns out this young man goes to a school for the deaf which is just one stop away from the church building in Brno! Unfortunately, I think both of them thought that sign language was the same all across the world, and were disappointed to find out that even the alphabet is completely different, ha ha. However, since he only has hearing loss in one ear, he actually hears quite well, and we were able to just communicate in spoken Czech. Sister Izatt and I taught him that night about how God is our loving Heavenly Father and that we can communicate with Him through prayer. He's never had any exposure to religion or faith, and so everything is new for him. He actually lives on the complete other side of the country, and travels home (6 hours by train, one-way) every weekend to be with his family. He lives here throughout the week, so that he can go to this school for the deaf, and he's been doing that for about 4 years. He's such a sweet kid, and we're teaching him again tonight. I'm super excited to start learning some Czech sign language! He taught me a few things the first time we met, and I practice every night after Sister Izatt turns the lights out :) When I met him, I couldn't help but laugh at the situation, as I remember Abby telling me to find all the deaf people in the country and teach them! I guess I'll have to ask this young man for referrals! (Just so you know, Abby, the alphabet is pretty similar to British or Australian sign language (2-handed), but still has some slight differences)

Out of time, but hopefully next week I'll have to tell you about a miracle investigator we found. This weekend Sister Izatt and I had a lesson with a young man, where the Spirit was there in such abundance, that I felt cleansed from my head to my toes. It was my most favorite lesson of my mission so far. I know that Heavenly Father prepares people. I know that He loves each one of us. I know that even though tragedy surrounds us, and uncertainty of the future often weighs on our souls, that through the gospel of Jesus Christ we can find joy, peace, and most of all, hope.

I love you all.
S laskou,
Sestra Lucy Brimhall

P.S. The Christmas markets have come! Brno is DECKED out for Christmas already. You wouldn't believe the sight. It's absolutely beautiful - lights stringing the buildings, and all the streets, little wooden houses covering the city center, selling Czech food, pottery, trinkets, and more. Live music is out on a stage every night, with a huge nativity scene set up in the middle of the square. It's beautiful, absolutley beautiful. I will try my best to take pictures and to send them, like you asked

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from the Czech!

Wonderful Family and Friends!

I wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings! My whole district is sitting in an internet cafe right now, emailing our families, before we head over to the Francis missionary couple's apartment to have our own little, American Thanksgiving. Sister Izatt and I made a whopping pot of mashed potatoes this morning, and a departing missionary's parents was thoughtful enough to bring us some pumpkin filling a few weeks ago, so we can have pumpkin pie today! I've been thinking all morning about what you all will say today when you go around the table and say what you're grateful for. I'll be sure to add my thoughts in today's email, all the way from the Czech Republic!

This last week and a half was just fantastic! Sister Izatt and I worked our tails off, and have found so many new, and incredible people here in this city. On Sunday, I had my first Sunday in the Brno branch with regular meetings, and I was so impressed with the beauty of that branch, and the desire of each one of those members to fulfill their callings and work to strengthen the Lord's kingdom here in the Czech. My favorite part about church was when our amazing Relief Society president gave a lesson on the responsibility each of us have to spread the gospel, to share the good news, to recognize our blessings, and to share them with all those that we love. She held up the Book of Mormon, and bore a powerful testimony of the witness that it is of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Restoration of his gospel in the latter days. She gave our women and young women a vision for flourishing wards, a stake, and even a temple in this country. It was a touching lesson for me - I just sat there and beamed. She was right. We each have a great duty to spread the good news, to be a witness, to be representatives of the Savior. May we all press on in so great a cause!

I've been pondering a lot lately on the meaning that the gospel of Jesus Christ has in my life. Why does it add to my life? What blessings do I see from it? Every day people ask me, "Why isn't it enough just to try our best, and be good people? Why do we need faith in Christ or a God? What does it ADD to a life that already seems to be doing alright?" I read Elder Ballard's "Our Search for Happiness" this last week, and I found a quote that I really loved: "The best thing about living a Christ-centered life, however, is how it makes you feel. It's hard to have a negative attitude about things if and when your life is focused on the Prince of Peace. There will still be problems. Everyone has them. But faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a power to be reckoned with in the universe and in individual lives. It can be a causative force through which miracles are wrought. It can also be a source of inner strength through which we find self-esteem, peace of mind, contentment, and the courage to cope. I have seen marriages saved, families strengthened, tragedies overcome, careers energized, and the will to go on living rekindled as people humble themselves before the Lord and accept His will in their lives. Heartache, tragedy, and trauma of all kinds can be focused and managed when the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ are understood and applied."

I echo his testimony in every word. Just in the last few months, I have seen a marriage saved, a family strengthened, multiple tragedies overcome, careers energized, and especially in the lives of those suffering in pits of sin or financial strain or extreme health concerns, I have seen the will to go on rekindled by the fire of faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior. I have seen in my own family the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ applied. While the world has grabbed ahold of each one of us at different times, in different ways, trying to pull us apart, look at what the gospel principles of forgiveness, love, compassion, repentance, patience, and others have done for us? We are a strong family, standing together in the faith, and we love each other, despite how much the world would break us and pull us apart. This is what I would like to say at the dinner table today! I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for it's unifying power in my family. I am grateful for a family that seeks to live the gospel, and take every step of life with faith and reliance on our Savior. What more could I ask for? My only desire is that others can have it too. May we all be a witness!

Yesterday, Sister Izatt and I dedicated several hours of our day to spend in the city center, with the goal of finding youth. Let me tell you once again: I LOVE missionary work! I LOVE talking to people on the street; I LOVE finding those that Heavenly Father has prepared; I LOVE witnessing of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a living prophet on the earth today, continuing revelation and direction from a loving Heavenly Father. I LOVE it with all of my heart, and each day is just a joy here. We set out with a goal of how many people we would find, and how many lessons we would set up - we had about 3-4 hours of just talking to people lined up. We were looking for miracles (just as we do everyday). We stepped off the tram that dropped us off right in the center, and stepped up to talk to the first person we saw. He was a young guy, who had actually spent some time in America, and had found faith there, while living a completely atheist life before. He said that over the last few months, he had been questioning some things, however, and wondering about why there were so many branches of faith, why the "path" had to be so confusing with all the different ideas, methods, and interpretations. He asked all the right questions. He was sincerely searching for the right way, the right path. Sister Izatt and I bore powerful testimony about a 14-year-old boy in the year 1820, who had the very same question. We bore testimony that God and Heavenly Father appeared to this young boy, and revealed the beginnings of a grand restoration of priesthood authority on the earth, and the fulness of Christ's church and gospel once again. He asked to meet with us, and said he would like to bring his boss at work as well. Miracles!

We then walked about 5 steps further, before we contacted the second person of the day. It was a young girl, who was also already a believer. I felt that we should bear testimony of a living prophet today, who is a representative of God, just as Moses, Abraham, and Noah in days past. As the words came out of my mouth, she raised her eyebrows, and gasped. "Really?" she said. Yes! We're meeting with her tonight. She reminded me a lot of Lauren, actually, which made me really happy - goofy, super friendly, tall, and really genuine. We contacted for the rest of our time, and we found tons of youth who are searching for the truth - tripling the goal we had set that morning! Heavenly Father wants His children to have truth! He needs this message to be spread. While Sister Izatt and I were like two big blocks of ice by the end of that day, I couldn't have been happier. I feel so blessed to be here, to have the special opportunity to speak to God's children and tell the good news!

I love you all. May we all think today about the greatest blessing our Father in Heaven has given us: His Son, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know he lives.

S laskou,
Sestra Lucy Brimhall

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pictures!

Dearest family and friends,

I'm going to send a couple pictures on! Unfortunately, I haven't been super great at taking pictures, so there's not much to send on. However, one is a picture of my last district in Ceske Budejovice. We thought posing in our regular Sunday positions might describe the transfer the best :) The next is a picture with my new companion, Sister Izatt. She's fantastic.



The last few days have been chock full of beautiful moments. I absolutely love my new area. It has such a different feel to it, as the branch is much bigger and functions quite independently, and the city is so much larger and livlier. Our responsibilities have shrunk a bit, and we're able to put most everything into classic missionary work. It's quite a blessing for the missionaries, and quite a blessing for the members that they have so much here for them.

A few houskeeping items: I know, it's quite a bummer that we don't get to hear the end of the story with the family we found, eh? However, when I see Sister White sometime, which may not be for a while as we're on different sides of the country, then I will definitely ask what ever happened and send the news on home. Of course, I think about people in my last area, and I wonder about those that we found; however, missionary work is missionary work wherever you are, and the minute I stepped foot into Brno, my heart was here, with these people and this branch. There's no reason, and certainly no time to look back! And most of all, the people I've met just in the last few days need my whole heart, might, mind and strength. Father, that was such a funny connection you had with the Izatts! Small world, indeed. Mother, I absolutely love hearing about what's going on in Relief Society and how my beautiful ward back home is working so hard to help each other, improve, plan, magnify their callings, and do the Lord's work. The faith of our ward back home gives me a lot of strength and vision for the church in this country. We have a grand responsibility to lift where we stand, and help every soul vytrvat do konce ("endure to the end"), and return to our loving Father in Heaven. This work is grand, and it is the Lord's.

Well, as I said, the last few days have been chock full of beautiful moments. When I came in, the area was doing quite well, but needed a little boost. We don't have a very large pool of people we're working with, but we do have some really special souls that the sisters found last transfer. This last week has been all about the Atonement, and the power it has in peoples lives. I've met three investigators so far that the sisters were working with. The first was a young, Slovak man who is just brilliant. When the sisters found him, he had already met with missionaries in the past, read the whole Book of Mormon, and stopped meeting with the missionaries, because he felt like he was teaching them more than they were teaching him. His heart was a little hardened, and from what I heard, he was seeking to disprove the book, rather than seek whether it really was true. We had a meeting with him this week (my first lesson in English on my mission, as English is our best bet, rather than Slovak). He came, having read the chapter the sisters gave him, and he had a question about what the "infinite Atonement" means. The lesson turned into a beautiful discussion about the power of the Atonement, the love of God and that He will never let us down, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the middle of the lesson, we still hadn't gotten to our planned lesson material, but I felt a very strong, undeniable prompting to teach this young man about baptism, and commit him to follow the example of his Savior by being baptized himself. We read 2 Nephi 31:5, and I asked him if he would prepare for baptism on a day in January. He was hesitant, and I think quite surprised, but family, I saw the Spirit work in such a real way, and he accepted the date. Ah. Beautiful moment.

Oh wow, already out of time. However, I didn't even get to some of the best moments. Next week, I guess! I love you all! I love missionary work! I'm having the best time of my life.

I love the Lord. I love this gospel. I know it changes lives.

I am profoundly grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Love,
Sister Lucy Brimhall

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Transfer to BRNO

My dear, wonderful family and friends,

Mother and Father, I just read the lyrics you sent on of "Amazing Grace." What an incredible description that song is of what I've been so privileged to see over the last few months. I'm sitting here in a new city, thinking back to the last four months I spent in Ceske Budejovice with people that are coming from lives of sorrow and so much pain, but are finding their "fears relieved," their "hopes secured," through the grace of Jesus Christ, our Savior. How "sweet the sound" of the gospel was to their ears and their hearts. How beautiful it was to hear people say in their own words, "I once was lost, but now I'm found, Was blind, but now, I see." My heart is so full right now of gratitude to my Father in Heaven. It is nothing less than an honor to be a carrier of that message of hope and redemption. Those words are beautiful. I want everyone to read them this week.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Well, I'm writing a little later as this week was a transfer week. I'm in a new city! BRNO! It is on the Moravian side, and is kind of like the Prague of this side of the republic. It's bigger and it's pack full of university students! I didn't really expect to leave Ceske Budejovice, but I got the call and was immediately so excited. I love how quickly transfers happen. Got the call Monday night, taught all day on Tuesday, left at 6 AM on Wednesday to come here to Brno. I'm not one for long goodbyes, or for things that disrupt missionaries' focus on the work. Focus is so important on a mission, and I was happy to have such a smooth transition, so that Sister White and her new companion can start working as if I was never there. I hope it can be that smooth on every transfer. Of course it was sad to leave those members and investigators that I love so much, but I'm already excited beyond belief for the new experiences and challenges that Brno will bring. I will be follow-up training Sister Izatt, who came in last transfer. Let me tell you how much I already love my companion: I LOVE HER. She is a tall, determined, assertive girl from Provo, Utah who went to BYU before. We've talked a bit about the area and some goals we have, and some things she wants to work on. She's bold, a hard worker, thirsts for improvement, has vision for the church in this country, and most wonderfully of all, her long legs make her walk even faster than me! I've been so blessed. I can hardly wait to dig in and start working tonight.

The area is going to be quite a different experience from my previous area. Here, we have a large branch and we even have our own, beautiful building! There are also I think 9 missionaries, total, here, and we have a senior couple, The Francis', who live down the hall from us. The Francis' work with the young adults in Brno. I'll actually get to know a few missionaries in the mission, and I'll get to see how a larger branch functions. Sister Izatt has already laid down several of her ideas for the area, and I think I felt similar to my first day in the MTC - like a rocket that was about to take off. I am so excited. I love to work, especially when we're talking about missionary work :)

Well, I'm not really sure what else to say, to be honest, haha. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories to tell next week. You asked about the language now. Well, I love speaking Czech. I'll say it again - it's like doing a puzzle all day, and it's just a joy. I'm so far from fluency it's ridiculous and often hilarious, but I'm realizing that I'm actually not too bad at it for how long I've been here. Czech has seven cases in it, which means that depending on what you're doing with the word in the sentence structure, it puts on a new ending or changes in some way, and it's different for both singular and plural, and what gender it is as well as all those irregulars. It's a puzzle! I'm really, really enjoying learning the language, and I realized I was so blessed to spend my first four months in Ceske Budejovice, where essentially nobody speaks English. In Brno there's apparently a lot of English speakers in the branch and on the street, so I'm hoping that doesn't have a negative effect on my language progress. I'm sure it will be great.

Well, I love you all so very much. I'm so grateful to be here, serving as a full-time representative of Jesus Christ. I KNOW that this gospel is true. I know that Jesus Christ laid a path for us to follow. I know that when we follow that path, and we partake of his Atonement, we have hope for a better world, and that faith can be a sure anchor for our souls (Ether 12:4). I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that he loves each one of you. Do not deny that gift that he so freely gave to you. He died for you, he took upon himself your sins, pains, and sorrows. He stands there with arms outstretched and he invites ALL. Never think that he left you out. He loves you, and he wants you back.

Love,
Sestra Lucy Brimhall