This week I will be going on my first exchange today! Exchanges are something that happen every few months, and it’s when companionships essentially “mix” for a few days. For this exchange, I will be going to Ljubljana most of the week with one of our Zone Leaders! I’m so excited to be able to see Ljubljana, and stay there for a few days. It’ll be very different from life in sleepy Celje, so I’m excited for that little bit of change. It’s going to be a great week!
This Monday was definitely the best P-day we’ve had yet. After emailing, Elder Lyman and I and the Sisters took a taxi up the mountain to “Stari Grad” – literally “Old Castle”. It’s up on the hill right across from the City Center, and it’s an awesome castle! From what I gathered from the informational signs, it was built in the 1300s by the “Counts of Celje”. At one time, the Counts of Celje were one of the most powerful dynasties in this part of Europe, and even more powerful than their Austrian and German counterparts. Anyway, the castle itself was really cool. It’s suprisingly intact, and just looked like such a classic European castle. There was walls, a moat, a really high tower, thone rooms, etc. From the top of the castle, you could see ALL of Celje, which was so cool. Anyway, I can see why this is considered one of the best Castles in Slovenija.
We spent a lot of time knocking doors this week, and decidied to go a little bit outside of Celje. We call it “going off the map”, since the area we went to is not shown on our big wall map of Celje. Anyway, it ended up being great!! The problem we run into inside Celje, is that missionaries have been here for 15 or so years. Celje is a town of 37.000, and so by this point everyone pretty much knows the missionaries, or has seen the missionaries somewhere. So, we wanted to try getting out to an area that hadn’t been touched, and where nobody and any ideas about who we are or what we believe. My favorite encounter was with a middle aged woman North of Celje. She’s a mother of a 4 and 6 year old, and we started talking to her outside her house. She eneded up really opening up to us, and told us that she feels a lot of guilt becuase she cant spend more time at home with her young kids (she teaches school in Ljubljana). We were able to have a really spiritual conversation with her about familes, about the responsibilities of parents, and about how the gospel blesses families. We also told her about Family Home Evening, and she LOVED that idea. All in all, a very good conversation, and we’re going to come back and talk more in a few weeks after she is done with the Slovene equivilent of Midterms.
We spent all of Thursday in Zagreb, Croatia! We got up early and drove with the senior couple, which was a stunning drive. We actually ended up driving right through the town where Agnes Zidarič (one of my relatives) is from! It was such a cute little town. But anyway, we got to the Church in Zagreb, and a great conference with all of the missionaries from Slovenija and Croatia. Our visiting General Authority was Elder Dyches of the 70, who is part of the Europe area presidency. We talked in the conference a lot about some of the problems in the mission, and how we can become more effective missionaries. We talked a lot about using our daily planners and area books. He also gave a great talk on faith, and praying with faith.
It wasnt until lunch time on Friday that I realized it was Halloween!! There is no halloween in Slovenija, though American halloween has begun to creep its way over. People now start to put out pumpkins and things like that, but there is no trick-or-treating.
Nov. 1 is the Slovene version of halloween, called “Day of Rememberance of the Dead” (roughly). It’s not like halloween though. On this day, everyone in Slovenija goes to the graveyard to remember the dead, and then they fill the graveyards with these beautiful red candles. It’s a great tradition! We went with some memebrs of the Branch to the big graveyard in Celje. A few weeks ago, one of the members here took his own life, and it’s been rough for some of the members here. They all feel some guilt, though in reality this man had some hard mental challenges, and so there was really little anybody could do. I never met him, but Elder Lyman knew him, so, we all took candles to his grave, and had a moment of prayer and rememberance. It was a really touching experience, and I love the idea of spending Nov. 1 remembering those who have passed away.
Anyway, it’s been another great week in Celje! Thank you all for your emails (sorry if I haven’t responded yet – I will!) and I hope everyone is doing great!