First Sunday in Lithuania, and I loved it!! There are two different branches in Vilnius – the Lithuanian speaking one, and a Russian speaking one. We attend the Lithuanian one, because it has a younger population and also because that’s where Dima’s family goes. Round 8:45 this morning, we all trekked out to the bus stop – it’s about a 30-40 minute bus ride from our apartment to the church building, so we have to leave a little early. Plus, Auvi, Abi and Presley (the teachers who were here for the Winter – they’re not leaving until Thursday) were asked to give the prayer in church, and we had to be there at least 10 minutes before.
The bus system here is pretty interesting – you purchase bus passes for 2.50 Leets by boarding the bus and putting your money on a tray by the bus driver. He pulls the tray through the slot, puts a ticket on the tray and pushes it back out to you. After you get your ticket, you “validate” it by putting it in a red box (which is always located differently on each bus) and pushing a lever. This lever stabs the ticket with some spikes, leaving it invalid to use again (plus, in my opinion, the whole “spike” portion kind of dissuades people from cheating the system and using the pass twice).
Anyway, we got to the church around 50 minutes before the ward started, and ended waiting around for the missionaries to get there. Once the missionaries arrived, we were able to get into the building, and have a chance to talk to the missionaries before church started. There are 6 Lithuanian speaking missionaries in this branch, and they are all awesome! Elder Rich (one of the senior companions, I think) offered to translate for us – he handed out little earpieces, and would speak into a microphone thingy that transmitted to our headphones while he translated. It was super helpful, and gave me a whole new perspective.
|The Lithuanian branch building - both the Russian and Lithuanian branches would meet here|
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - it's true, no matter where you go! :)|
All the branch members were so kind and welcoming – the gentlemen in front of us spoke a little English, and answered my questions on language tips so we could semi-sing the hymns. A couple of the English speaking members introduced themselves to us, and were so welcoming and kind. One girl in particular, Louisa (Loo-ez-ah) invited us to her class – she is a beautiful 16 year old girl, was baptized 8 months ago, is the only member in her family, and actually teaches the gospel doctrine class!! Here, the “youth” is ages 12-30; the membership is so small in this branch, that they combine all they can. It was this “youth” class that Louisa taught, half in English and half in Lithuanian. When we sat down in her class, she laughed at the 8 ILP teachers there (Auvi, Abi, Presley and Emily – the previous ILP teachers, along with Areil, Bailey, Janese, Elise and myself – the current ILP teachers), saying “there are so many English speakers here, I feel like I’m in America!” Cute girl :). Such a sweet girl, so down to earth, and so faithful. I really, really like her, and was actually late to RS because I stayed after class and talked to her for 20 minutes or so.
RS and Priesthood was combined today, so Elder Rich was still able to come translate for us. After Priesthood was over, the branch 1st and 2nd counselors approached us, apologizing that the President didn’t speak English and letting us know that they were there to help. They gave us their phone numbers, let us know who our Visiting Teachers were, and asked if they could “use us in the branch” while we were there, which I’m assuming means I’ll be getting a calling! So exciting J. I love the members here, and feel so at home. After we left the counselors, our Visiting Teachers (Victoria and Svyeta (pronounced sv-yeta), who were also the previous teachers VT) had us stay for the lesson they were giving and introduce ourselves. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I LOVE this branch!! Everyone is so welcoming, and try so hard to communicate love, despite the language difference.
It was actually really touching – while I was sitting in sacrament, listening to Elder Rich translate the sweet older Lithuanian woman’s testimony about Joseph Smith (HERE), I was touched by the richness of the gospel in these members lives. They value each gospel principle differently than those of us who have been raised in the church their entire life. They have such a sweet spirit about them, and I love every member I’ve met.
Overall, I love the ward down here! I'm super excited to be involved in this branch, and meet more of the members :)
|All the ILP teachers!! From left - Janese, Areil, Elise, Bailey and Hillary|
Some more fun European tidbits:
- When you go to the store, the cashiers won't automatically bag your purchases, and you have to pay for the plastic bags that they come in.
- Rye bread is EVERYWHERE here!! Though I haven't really tried rye bread much before now, apparently it's way better here than in America. Or so I've been told :)