Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Southern Poland....Interview Trip!

Well, we re-grouped on Monday and then we were back on the road....but this time by train and with our great Assistants, Elders Garrett and Eastman!
Katowice was our destination. President has said he is not driving to Katowice again until all the road construction is finished which means we might be riding a few trains!
Getting into Katowice, we take a short walk to the chapel. Downside of riding the is difficult taking supplies to the missionaries.
As President starts his interviews, District Meetings are taking place.
Elder Davis, the District Leader in the Krakow District teaches Revelation through Church Attendance. The importance of feeling the spirit in Sacrament Meeting was emphasized.
Elders Hancock and Davis role-play what they have just learned.
The Krakow District: Elders Hinckley, Hancock, Davis and Bode.
In another room, Elder Sorn, the District Leader of the Katowice District is teaching the same lesson, only to his district. This was an interview trip so both Districts were in attendance, but each District met separately.
Role-play is an important part of every District Meeting. It helps the Missionaries develop better ways and methods of teaching the gospel. Something may seem difficult until you understand how to do it. Pictured above: Sisters Austin, Allen, and Mann. Sister Austin is the investigator and Sisters Allen and Mann explain what the scriptures say about attending Church.
Sister Mann is now the investigator, with Elders Sorn and Jensen teaching.
The Missionaries of the Katowice District: (Standing) Elders Sorn, Dabrowski, Jensen, and Hillyard. (Sitting): Sisters Austin, Allen, and Mann. Transfers are in one week. There may be some changes in this District.
With District Meeting's time for a little DeGrasso's Pizza! Then...

Elders Hillyard, Garrett, Bode, Sorn and Jensen.
With interviews over, it's time to race back to the station to make our train.
The Katowice Zone Leaders, Elders Dabrowski and Hillyard were worried about us getting on the right train, so we had a 'personal escort'. (The Assistants had gone on to Krakow for a two day exchange so we were on our own!) The Katowice train station is undergoing remodeling and it can be confusing.

We made our train, but it was late and very crowded. We got the last two seats that were together. It so happened that couple sitting across from us were from Chicago. We had a nice three hour conversation about everything- including the Church and what we believe in. Funny how things just seem to always work out. We made it ......with only one small hiccup!
As we were boarding the train, Elder Jensen and Elder Sorn came running to our platform. They had found Elder Eastman's bag in the chapel that he had left by mistake! He was off on an exchange with literally the 'clothes on his back'! We had left at this morning at 6:30 am, and made it back to Warsaw about 8 pm. It was a long but very productive day! Interviews are always great and to see how all the missionaries are doing. I love this Church and these missionaries!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Interview trip...Day 4...the Last Day!

Day 4...Sunday...our final day of interviews of the Northern part of Poland. We reunite with the faithful members of the Bialystok Branch.
Standing (L to R): Krzystof, Zoja, Patrycja, Elder Smith, Robert, President Libert, and Elder Waits. Sitting (L to R): Angelika, Ella, Grzegosz, Karolina.

Elders Waits and Smith with thier investigator, Patrycja, and Krzystof---a member of the Branch that helps with lessons.
Following Sunday meetings, the Elders had a great lesson with Patyicja. She is a wonderful young lady who is gaining a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ. What happens to a person when the spirit touches their heart and tells them that these things are true is wonderful to see.

After visiting with the great members in Bialystok, we headed to the Elders apartment to inspect and see how things looked. The apartment was spotless. Their mothers would be proud of them. Things were in order, changes had been made to make it their home and not an assigned place to stay. Well done Elders Smith and Waits!

As we headed back to Warsaw after 4 days on the road (we traveled about 1200 KM or 775 miles), we realized this has been a 4 day National Holiday and the roads into Warsaw would probably be crowded. Along the way, it's summertime and the people are out selling berries. They stack jars in groups for miles along the way. We hardly ever see anyone stop and buy anything. Especially today, if you stopped and got out of line, it would take you forever to get back into the flow of traffic!

Another interesting Polish bridge. About 70 km outside of Warsaw the traffic stopped. It took an hour and a half to travel the next 40 miles. It was a great trip. Interviews with 23 missionaries, great visits with members, temple recommends, investigator lessons, good visits with branch leaders, sacrament meeting talks, Sunday School lesson and just a wonderful time with the missionaries and especially with my companion. We love Poland, there is so much history here. This region of the country from 1795 to 1918 was governed by Russia. In 1918 it was Poland. In 1941 it was Germany. In 1944 it was under Communist rule. Finally, in 1989 it regained it's freedom as Poland. What a great country.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Interview Trip....Day 3! Full of Excitement!

We got up early this morning with our final destination being Bialystok. We had a very special place in mind we wanted to visit before we got there. Little did we know what this day would bring!

Mrongoville! (That's what we thought!) Believe it or not, it's a western village tucked in the forest in this 'land of lakes'--the region we were in. Being from the 'West' ourselves, we had to take a peek!

It was set up like an old western town...ghost town really... and someone had put A LOT of money into this attraction. Everything was painted, clean and very well kept up....but no one was in sight!

We stumbled into these 'Polish Cowboys' who live on the premises. They take care of the animals (horses, wolves, goats), and they told us that this was the 3rd season this park has been open. They have restaurants and put on cowboy and Indian shows. You can shoot guns, ride horses, sit by a campfire, even ride a mechanical bull!

When you see signs like this, you understand why we (English speakers) have such a hard time with the Polish language..."Mail Pony Express" instead of "Pony Express Mail". OR...

...why Polish people may struggle with English spelling...."Pacyfic" instead of "Pacific". It's all good!

All in all, it was a very good replica of an old western town. But I can't help but think that someone is 'losing his shirt' on this investment! Good Luck!
As we traveled through small towns, we came across this 'parade'...
It was a group of Catholic youth who were on a 'pilgrimage' celebrating the Catholic holiday, Boze Cialy. It reminded me a lot of a girl's camp hike....leaders in the front with a megaphone leading the songs they were singing...
...and the Priesthood in the back making sure everyone was OK. I guess some things are universal!

Passing through the countryside, it looked like they were 'growing' giant marshmellows!

Harvesting them and taking them to market!!! (I told you this day was full of interesting events! I think it is bales of hay...but don't tell my grandkids that!)

This is the town that we were looking for....the one we wanted to visit before getting to Bialystok. This small village is located in what was once East Prussia, Germany and was called Selbongen at the time. It was home to the only Church owned chapel in Germany in the year 1929.

The church began in this area when a young man, Fredrick Fischer, left Selbongen to find work in Berlin. After joining the church in Berlin and serving a mission, the Mission President asked him to return to his hometown and preach the gospel there. With some 'creative' missionary work, the gospel spread throughout the village. A chapel was desired, land donated, construction started and was completed in one month in 1929. It was built and funded by the members--about 75 of them. Just about the entire village became members of the Church and everyone in the community knew about the Mormons.
To the side of the church is this grave belonging to Adolf Kruska, the only son of the Branch President. He had been serving in the German army and had returned home still wearing his German uniform. Even though the armistice had been signed, Russian soldiers who had seen him enter his home knocked on the door and asked to see him. They told him he needed to register at the local headquarters. When the young man left the house, he was shot and killed on his doorstep. The members dug a grave by the side of the chapel and buried him here. (1944)
At the end of WWII, this part of Germany became Communist Poland. All public buildings became the property of the state. In other words, this chapel no longer belonged to the church. The saints continued to meet here until 1971 when the Polish government, under Communism, finally issued a formal order forbidding the use of it for religious meetings. It later became a Catholic church, was added on to, and the front door of the church was put on the side of the building. The Saints that met here were faithful and courageous during a time when freedom was only a dream. There is still a sweet spirit that abides on this property. This is a sacred place in Europe and Poland Church history.

Then heading on because we still have a long drive ahead. Mikolajki....a lively lakeside town and full of action on this holiday weekend! It was beautiful!
The lake was packed with sailboats.

A pot-pour-ri of watercraft was all about! I admit, it made me miss our 'lake days'! Look out for the guy in the little yellow rental....

WEIRD!!! (Had to put it in! I wasn't sure what it was at first!) Just one of those things that stand out at the Centrum and where people are having fun.
Passing a Lutheran church (which is unusual in itself!), we recognized this familiar looking statue. If you have been to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, you know what we are talking about! This statue is very familiar to the one in Temple Square.

Heading on down the road, the scenery was beautiful. Fields of flowers.....this is Poland! A few months ago there were yellow flowers everywhere, now red.

We are finding that this is a common sight. These workers, use 'weed-eaters' to cut the grass on the sides of the road....'weed-eaters'! These guys are out in the middle of nowhere with miles and miles of weeds on both sides of the road. It would take 100 men their entire lives to cut all of this. There must be a reason why the government doesn't buy a tractor to do this....maybe job security?

As we were driving out on this small narrow country highway in the distance we saw this. This was a sad sight...someone's house was burning down. Luckily, it was only a few kilometers from the nearest town that had a fire station.....and we could hear them coming!
OK...I told you this was a 'road trip', right? And when you go on a 'road trip' you look for unusual things, right? Well, this church has my vote for 'ugliest church in Poland'! It was a montrosity! With all the beautiful Catholic churches in this country, they should have taken an architechural lesson! It looked very out of place. No Homeowners Association with an architectural review committee here!

About 45 minutes out of Bialystok, we found "Pentowo"...Poland's Stork Village. Storks are a common sight in the towns and villages of this area. But this is a special place, and you'll see why.
The owner's home on the property is worth the visit. It is over 100 years old and has been the property of the same family since it was built.

These lanky white birds are notoriously inept at building their homes, so the locals lend them a hand and build platforms for them to start their nests on. This Stork Village is home to 31 nests and 62 birds this year.
"Don't walk under the nests!" Great advice....and you only have to be there for a short time to understand why!
The best time to see these nesting birds is between April and August. By September, they begin their 'road trip' south to Africa for the winter!
BIALYSTOK!!! We finally arrive for our last stop on our interview trip!
Before meeting the Elders for dinner, we see this strange 'merger' of two churches: a small 17th century parish church...and attached to it, a huge Gothic cathedral! The cathedral was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century as an 'extension' of the small white church. This was the only way the Poles could get around the Russian bureaucracy that officially forbade them to build new Catholic churches.

Interesting sidenote: We asked about the flags that we have actually seen all over the country... because of the holiday. A Pole told us that the 'red and white' signify Poland...the colors of the national flag. The 'yellow' color symbolizes the Catholic church. Needless to say, this is a very Catholic nation!
We finally meet up with our Elders (Smith and Waits) and two great members of the Bialystok branch...Zoja and President Libert. We had a very nice time visiting....and we will see them in the morning at church!