Excerpt from Chapter 6: Wisdom By The Sea

The train slowly entered Varna and festively whistled in the May evening. A flock of seagulls, nibbling a forgotten croissant, stopped their dinner and screeching flew up on the nearby roofs. The train station was almost empty, the tourist summer buzz hadn’t arrived yet. May was the favourite month of the locals – it was warm and the streets were still clean; there were no tourists, no thieves and beggars, the prices were still bearable.

Elder Nelson stepped on the station and immediately felt the characteristic for the seaside moist air. It smelled like the sea. He took a couple of deep breaths and then turned around to take the suitcases from his companion. There were five missionary couples in Varna and that made the Church service here interesting and exciting – the day off as well.

Elder Nelson’s new companion for Varna was called elder John Nebeker. He was a calm, intelligent American who wooed and amazed the people he conversed with not only with his sermons but also with his handsome classic structure and deep blue eyes. Born and bred in Los Angeles, California, in a highly educated Mormon family, Elder Nebeker was an excellent , but not aggravating debater on subjects far beyond the standard LDS Church doctrine. Of course, he had a strong testimony about the truthfulness of the Gospel, but it was a problem neither for him nor for his family, all of them active members of the Church of Latter-day Saints in Los Angeles, to discuss deeply philosophical subjects on the structure and functioning of the world in the evening by the fireplace. A much more useful activity, in fact, compared to the zombifying, useless waste of time on the internet.

The missionary routine took up all of the missionaries’ time. In the morning – exercise, personal preparation, prayer, breakfast, planning for the day, studying Bulgarian, spiritual preparation with the scriptures. In the afternoon – discussion on various subjects, meeting acquaintances, meeting new people, visiting the homes of members of the Church. It was a challenge to preach in Varna, the city where the oldest gold in the world was discovered.

However, there was a time in the strict missionary life when the Internet was very useful – even a blessing. It was the time when the missionaries were writing letters to their loved ones. Elder Nelson adored that task. It was as if he was developing a great skill to express himself better through written words than speech.

He was writing letters to his mom and dad, to his grandfather, to Maria – not necessarily in that order.

“Dear Maria,

Varna is so beautiful in the end of May. I met so many good and interesting people here. On Sunday, during the Church Service, I was asked to bless the sacrament. It is strange to feel the Holy Ghost when I say the words in Bulgarian. I have listened to them all my life in English. There were 85 people at church – we barely fit in the room. After the service I and my companion went to visit two elderly women, members of the Church, in an elderly home. We brought them the sacrament. We read them the Book of Mormon – they loved it.

We had lunch in a very interesting fish restaurant. From there you can see the harbour and the sea. But it is quite expensive – we can’t come here with my companion often. But I will come here with you, I promise! We will order crabs. Do you know how to eat them? I don’t. We will walk in the Sea Garden together. It’s wonderful! Especially in the evening when there is a slight evening breeze. Just you and me! In the Sea Garden there is a big round tulip garden. I avoid it when we walk there, I can’t look at it and be at ease. I always see you in it, among the tulips. It’s good they are not just white; if they were I would go crazy, I would throw away my mission. And I want to complete my mission. I miss you! Goodbye! Good night!”