12 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.
One of the highlights this week was District Conference (our version of ˝stake conference˝) in Ljubljana on Sunday. It was an all day event – 4 sessions, and members from all over the country came. It was a really amazing experience. It was my first real time in Ljubljana which was awesome! It seems like New York compared to sleepy little Celje, and the church building there is beautiful. Brand new, underground parking, classrooms, chapel, etc. A really great building, and only one of two church buildings in the mission (other is in Zagreb). The highlight of the conference was some very exciting news from the District Presidency (our version of Stake Presidency) – the Ljubljana Branch is splitting!!! Currently we have three branches (essentially mini-Wards) – Ljubljana, Celje, and Maribor. Starting on next Sunday though, Slovenija will have a fourth branch – the Kranj Branch (which will be in the city of Kranj, just north of Ljubljana). This news was SO exciting for missionaries and members. It’s amazing to actually see the fruits of our labors, and the labors of many, many generations of missionaries. The work in Slovenija is not fast – but there is, without a doubt, progress. The Lord’s work will ALWAYS move forward, regardless of the people, country, or continent. So District Conference was very exciting!
In terms of our work and the 30 investigator challenge from President Grant, this week was great. We didn’t get 30 new investigators. We did, however, get 3. For us, 3 new investigators in a week is fantastic, and we’re so excited. Our goal is to simply increase that number each week until we hit our goal of 30.
A little bit more about the work here in Celje and here in Slovenija:
I guess I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. It’s VERY hard here. The young people don’t like to listen to us because they really have zero interest in religion, and they are mostly athiests. It’s hard with the old people too – they’re either hardcore catholics or communists, neither of which are easy to talk to about the Church! So the biggest challenge for us is simply finding people that are willing to stop and give us 30 seconds. Usually, if we can get 30 seconds from someone, we can get more. The hard part is just getting those first 30 seconds. We’re still in the process of finding out what works best! This all being said, we still have success. People here are friendly people, and so they’ll usually talk to us, even if they won’t let us share our message. So, we always eventually find those willing to listen.
Elder Lyman is fantastic. He’s been out for just over a year, and is a great trainer. He’s from Cedar City, and is the same age as me. He graduated High School in 2013 also, but went on a mission instead of going to college. He knows the language well, and has built a good relationship with the people here. He’s also very energetic and optomistic about the work, which is something I love. It’s so much easier to be happy when both of us are always moving forward with energy, not complaining or looking backwards. We get along really well.
So, on a different note, I thought I’d just share some simple and random facts about life in Slovenija. I thought you might want to know a little bit more about my everyday life.
There isn’t a clothes dryer to be found in this country… We have a washer in our apartment, which is VERY nice, but that’s it. So, our little balcony is pretty much filled with hanging garments and white shirts. It’s a bit of a pain to wait for things to dry! Once winter starts, we’ll have to start drying inside… cant wait for that!
Nobody here drinks water. Normally, if you invite someone into your home, the first thing you do is offer them water or something to drink. Here, if you ask for water they look at you funny… Instead, they all drink juice, called ˝Sok˝ (pronounced like Soak). It’s actually really good! You take your cup, and put a little bit of concentrated juice syrup in the bottom (they have almost any flavor you could think of). Then, you fill the rest of the cup with bubbly water. It comes out like bubbly juice. Its very very good. My favorite flavor so far is called Bezeg (with a bit Lemon). I think Bezeg is Elderberry in English. Not 100% sure though.
We do a lot of traveling around Slovenija which I love. In the last two weeks we’ve been to Štore, Žalec, Velenje, Ljubljana, and Celje. Then, next week we’re going Zagreb for a conference. It’s exciting to be able to more of the region.
I love you all so much, and think about you and pray for you every day. Until next Monday!!
Hello from Slovenija!
It’s about 5:00 pm here and Elder Lyman and I are just sitting in the Celje Library. It’s still a little bit weird to wake up every morning and realize I live here. Looking out the window here at the Library, there’s an old palace on the right, a castle up on the hill to the left, and an entire ancient Roman City under me. What a place to call my home! Celje is great, and is exactly what you think of when you think ˝cute old European city˝. I love it here!!
This week has been great for me! The highlight was zone conference! I’ll explain what that is. A mission is organized into ˝zones˝. In our mission, each country is its own zone, so I am in the Slovenija Zone of the Adriatic North Mission. Once every one or two months, every missionary from the zone gets together with and has a conference with the mission president. Its a great thing!! For the first time, zone conference was held in Celje, which was very exciting for us. Zone conference has always been in Ljubljana, but they’re starting to rotate it around. It was awesome to have all of the Slovene missionaries (16 missionaries in Slovenija total) + President Grant in our little church! The topic of zone conference was ˝faith and desire˝, and was connected to a new challenge being issued by President Grant and the Europe Area Presidency. At zone conference, Pres. Grant said that he wants each companionship in the mission to find 30 new investigators each week. I’ll admit, at first I was SHOCKED. Elder Lyman and I have gotten 2 new investigators in the past 2 weeks. Now, we have been asked to find 30! I’m not sure what it’s like in other missions, but the thought of having 30 new investigators each week is a crazy idea here. It was for that reason that the conference was focused on faith. Do we have the faith to trust our mission president, the Europe Area President, and the Lord? If so, we should be able to do this.
As we were leaving conference, Elder Lyman and I were talking about this new challenge, and about how we are going to make it happen. As we were talking about this, a man turned the corner, and we stopped him and started talking to him. His name was Mihel, and by the end of our conversation, we had taught him a lesson, and committed him to a second. This made him a new investigator. We did the exact same thing with a seond person. That night as we were walking home, every single person we stopped on the street listened to our message, and accepted a brochure or something similar. By the time we got home we had found 2 new investigators and taught 4 lessons – numbers from 2 hours, that are common numbers for a week in our mission. I think that this was a signal from the Lord that our new goal of 30 investigators is possible, and that it is something He will help us with. I am so excited to get out there this week and find our new investigators and know the Lord will help us if we pray in faith and trust in Him. This is His work, and if He wants something to happen, it will happen.
All in all this was a great week and I am excited and ready for this coming one. I miss you all and think about you (and pray for you) each and every day. I love you so much!!
Hello Everyone!!!! I feel like so much has happened in the last week, and like I have so much to say! The keyboards here are very strange, so forgive any mistakes, especially Z’s where Y’s should be, and visa versa. Alos, since Im in Slovenija, it’s telling me that EVERZTHING is spelled wrong. It’s a bit confusing. But anyway.
I’m in CELJE!!! Celje is an amazing little town about half way between Ljubljana and Maribor. It’s small – maybe 40.000 (compared to Ljubljana at about 300.000). But I’ll try and start from the beginning.
We flew in to Zagreb Tuesday morning and were met by President and Sister Grant. They are AMAZING. Both from Cedar City UT, and both very, very nice. I can tell that I am going to have a great relationship with President Grant.
After driving to the mission office in Zagreb we had a mini conference with the President and other senior missionaries that work in the office. We were all really tired from flying all day and night, so it was mostly just introductions and getting to know you things. Shortly before we arrived in Zagreb, 13 trainers from all over the mission came in as well, which meant there were 26 of us there – more than a quarter of the mission.
After dropping our stuff off at the mission office, we went out contacting in Zagreb. Contacting is essentially going up to people on the street and starting a conversation with them. I was paired with one of the Slovene Elders, which meant neither of us spoke Croatian, though my partner for contacting could at least understand what they were saying. So, we essentially just contacted in English, which was a perfect way to talk about the free English class offered at the Church. Contacting was REALLY fun. Even though neither of us could speak the language, we had a really, really good conversation with some German travelers about why God is important.
Anyway. We contacted for a little over an hour in central Zagreb, and then headed back to the mission home for a dinner with the Grants. Dinner was great, but we were all suffering from some major jetlag… The cool part of it was that the Ostarsović couple was also at dinner. I probably spelled their name wrong, but brother and sister Ostarsović were the first people to be baptized in Yugoslavia, the fisrt couple from Yugoslavia to be married in the temple. Their faith and their story was astounding. It was also crazy that we were sitting there having dinner with true pioneers. In America, there really are no church poineers anymore – the church has been established for so long. Here though, EVERYONE is a convert, and the pioneers are just regular, middle aged couples with amazing stories.
We woke up Wednesday after spending the night in the mission home, and went to the Chapel in Zagreb for an orientation. There are only two chapels in the Mission – Zagreb and Ljubljana. They’re actually very nice chapels. Anyway, the orientation was okay – just stuff about money, transportation, logistics, apartments, etc. (we each get € 225 each month on a BoA card). The best part of the meeting though, was the end. It was then that we got to meet our trainers and find out our areas! To make a long story short, it was announced that I’d be serving with Starešina Joshua Lyman in Celje, Slovenija. I had heard from my teachers that Celje was AMAZING, so I could not have been happier.
After the meeting was over, the 10 Slovenes that were there (5 new 5 trainers) all went to the train station and caught a train to Slovenija! The ride was great, but it was too dark to see much of anything.
We eventually all had to get on different trains since we were all headed to different parts of the country (Sister Erdmann to Kranj, Sister Dutton and me to Celje, Elder Wise and Sister Robertson to Maribor). After another hour or so we parted ways with the two Celje Sisters and headed to our apartment.
Unfortunatley, the apartment is…. far. About a 35 min walk from city center (which is where the Church, Sisters, etc are). But, I enjoy the walking, and it gives us a chance to talk to people on the street.
Our apartment is small, a bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen/dinning room, but it’s nice and it’s clean. In any case, most of the day is spent out and about anyway.
Elder Lyman is fantastic. He’s been out for just over a year, and is from Cedar City. He is a fantastic trainer, and has been a real help to me (and will be as I try and figure out what’s going on here!). He told me that the goal of his training will be to try and help me learn the things he wish he knew when he first got to Slovenija. He let’s me speak a lot (encourages it) and is very good at the language.
Speak of Slovene… It’s tough. I can speak Slovene alright, but it’s understanding that’s the problem. People here speak very fast, and it’s hard to pick out where a word ends and where one stops. I try and say as much as I can, but I get kind of lost when the person responds… I’ve already seen improvement in the last week though, and I can tell that being in the county helps a TON with the language.
On my first day, we did a mix of contacting and tracking in the morning, which was very fun. I have come to realize over the last few days that I have absolutely no problem talking to strangers (it’s actually really fun!). Granted, it would be nice to understand them…
In the afternoon we taught English class! We offer three English classes (beginner, middle, advanced) for free at the Church on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Elder Lyman and I teach beginners (thank goodness) and had 6 students on Thursday. Not a ton, and we’re set the goal to have 15 regular students in the coming weeks. It was pretty funny during class to hear them struggling with the language as I am – just the other way around!
That evening we had a lesson with one of our investigators. I stayed pretty quiet during the lesson, but at the end, Elder Lyman let me give the baptismal invitation. It was so exciting to be able to extend that invitation and those blessings to a real person. And guess what – he accepted! We aren’t sure on a date yet, but we know he really wants to get baptized.
Also this week, I got to go to Ljubljana. I had to go to a place in Ljubljana that is pretty much a cross between a DMV and an Embassy, where I got all of my visa stuff sorted out. Sometime in the next two weeks I’ll recieve my Slovene ˝Green Card˝, and be an official resident.
Finally, today was Sunday and we had Church at our little branch. Today we had about 25 in Church (including 6 missionaries). It’s a small branch, and is just in it’s beginning stages. The members are wonderful though, and the branch had a great Spirit in it. I admire these memebrs so much, and wish the enitre Church membership had the same courage, drive, and desire to follow Jesus Christ, no matter how hard the situation may be.
I hope everything is going well, and I miss you all so much!! I’m running out of time, but want you all to know that I love you and that I couldn’t be happier right now. Next week I’ll have more time to get into the details about everything that’s going on (we’ll have 2 hours of email time). Anyway, I hope you’re all safe. Remember that Heavenly Father loves you, and that this is, without a doubt, His holy work.