Hello everyone, and Happy Christmas!!

This has been a great Christmas week here in Celje, and I hope it has been just as good for all of you back home.

On Monday for P-day, we had the chance to go with a returned missionary from the branch to Šmartinsko Jezero, a really pretty lake north of Celje. The weather was nice, so the five of us walked up there together, the member showed us around, and we had a picnic for lunch. It was a lot of fun, and the area around that lake is so beautiful!

From Monday night through Wednesday I was on an exchange in Ljubljana and Kranj, a small city about 30 min. north of Ljubljana. The exchange was a lot of fun, and I loved seeing Kranj for the first time. It’s the fourth largest city in Slovenija, and is a really nice European-esque town up towards the Austrian alps. It’s a really old city, and the Elder’s apartment there is in a 200 year old building. During that exchange we did Christmas caroling, and I passed out 20 Book of Mormons in an hour. It was really cool! We also spent some time in Ljubljana, and did some contacting in the city center there. Exchanges were a lot of fun, and it was great to spend some time with the other Elders.

Thursday was of course, Christmas, and we were given a 24-hour “vacation” by President Grant. So, at midnight on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, we went to Mass in St. Danijel’s church, a beautiful old gothic church built in the 1300s. Midnight Mass was really cool. They sung the entire chapter of Luke 2, and the chior there preformed some beautiful numbers. I really thought Midnight Mass was a wonderful experience.

On Thursday we spent most of the day at the Lamberts’ apartment. We had Christmas brunch, and then everyone took their turn skyping. Christmas was a nice break, and (of course) I loved getting to see all of my family over Skype! The time was short (it felt short anyway), but it was still so good to see everyone.

On Friday we had a lesson with one of our investigators. He’s amazing, and is the best investigator I’ve had on my mission so far. We’ve taught him the restoration and about the Book of Mormon, and he liked it all a lot. At the end of the last lesson after I had prayed, he said “Next time, I’m praying!”. In the last two weeks he’s read 50 or so pages of the Book of Mormon, has come to church both weeks, and even comes to English class to help us teach. He also came to our “hot chocolate activity” and passed out pass-along cards with us. This week I challenged him to read the entire Book of Mormon and pray about it, and he said he’d read every day until he finishes. He’s an awesome guy, and I’m really excited for him.

The other big event of the weekend was the sudden arrival of winter!! Up until this point it has been really warm and nice. The days have been in the 40s and 50s and the nights have been in the high 30s. Not too bad for December. Well, on Saturday night it started to snow lightly, but nothing was really sticking, and we didn’t think too much would happen. Oh how wrong we were. We woke up Sunday morning and it had SNOWED like I’ve never really seen. I’m talking almost 2 feet of fresh beautiful snow. Plowing here is nothing like it is in Utah, and when we left for Church nothing was cleared. We trudged through the snow to church, and then cleared the sidewalk and street in front of the church. Because of the snow (and because the roads were terrible) a lot of people didn’t come to church, but it was still really nice. It should be better next week when the roads are all clear. I’m really loving this snow, and right now everything looks magical. I’ll have to take a bunch of pictures today of Celje and the mountains!

All in all this was a good week (: I hope you had a great Christmas together, and I hope you all have an equally great New Year! Happy 2015 everyone!

Starešina Davis

Hello and Vesel Božič (Happy Christmas)!!

DSC00038DSC00130  DSC00047DSC00113DSC00131 DSC00034 DSC00023 DSC00004 DSC00002This has been a good week here, and has been pretty crazy! We’ve done a lot of exploring and traveling this week, which I am always excited to do. On Monday after emails we went on a bit of an adventure to try and find “Jama Pekel” (Hell Cave), which is supposed to be a pretty cool cave outside of Celje. It has a waterfall in the cave, and a large river running through it. Anyway, the 4 of us took the train out to the town of Šempeter, and then caught a taxi up into the forest. We hiked around until we found it, but, as luck would have it, it was closed… It was okay though. The weather was BEAUTIFUL (high 50s) so we hiked around in the mountains there and just did some exploring. It ended up being a really fun p-day.

On Wednesday we did another little bit of exploration! We took a train about an hour north of Celje to the town of Velenje, which is the 5th largest city in Slovenia. Velenje was very interesting. The first thing I noticed was that it’s very socialist (or at least it was in the past). It’s very planned out, and filled with communist style apartment buildings. There is a large center square which has a giant statue of Tito, the former leader of Yugoslavia, on one side. The square is called “Titov Trg” (literally Tito’s Square) and until the 1990s, Velenje was called “Titovo Velenje” (Tito’s Velenje). So it definitely has a communist past. Today though, it’s just a normal town. We actually found it to be very prosperous, and it’s full of families. We tracted a few house in a few different neighborhoods to get an idea of the people, and all of them were very friendly! From the little trip, we’ve decided to definitely come back and start doing missionary work there.

On Friday we had the Adriatic North Mission Christmas Conference in Zagreb! We got up early and all drove down to Croatia, and then spent the whole day there in Zagreb. All of the missionaries in the mission were there, and it was a BLAST! We’re very isolated up in Slovenia, and it sometimes feels like we’re our own mission, since we go to Slovenia and stay there our entire mission. So, it was great to get to know all of the other missionaries from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. We played games, heard from President and Sister Grant, saw a few slideshows and videos from the year, etc. We really have a gerat mission. I feel so blessed to be albe to spend the next two years with these missionaries in this amazing place.

After the Christmas Conference was over, becuase of the confusion of travel and getting everyone home, I somehow ended up in Maribor with Elder Dearinger. This was my first time in Maribor and it was a beautiful city! I wish I could have seen it in the day, but I still enjoyed it. We had to wait an hour and a half for a train to Celje, so we were able to eat some dinner and walk around Maribor center. I’ve now officially been in all four cities open to missionaries (Ljubljana, Kranj, Celje, Maribor)! We finally got home though, and went straight to bed.

The craziness continues though. On Saturday we had our Celje Branch Christmas dinner and party, and it was great. The members did a great job planning this, and everything got set up and prepared really well. Our chapel is also our multi purpose room, and it looked pretty good! The sisters of the Branch cooked traditional Slovene food for dinner, and it was a blast. About 30 minutes into the evening though, the power went out, and stayed out for maybe 45 minutes, until somebody could find an open store and get a new fuse… I couldn’t help but laugh – almost 40 Slovenes just chatting in the pitch black chapel while we tried to play piano music to keep some sort of Christmas Spirit present… It was kind of a comedy of errors. In the end though, it all went great, and everyone had an amazing time. We missionaries did a 20 minute Christmas program with readings from Luke 2 and Matthew, as well as a few Christmas songs. All in all, a great activity, but I was DEAD by the time I got home.

Another interesting story from that. One of the people that came to our Christmas dinner was a woman from our English class. She’s an older woman, and she’s so, so sweet. Anyway, I mentioned to her that I was getting a cold, and she told me I needed to be drinking tea with honey. We talked about that, and she told me one of her hobbies is making homemade herbal tea. Well, the next day we came to the church for something, and sitting on the doorstep was a gift bag that said “For Jack Daves”. In it was a giant jar of homemade herbal tea from her garden, as well as a jar of really nice honey. It was such a nice gift, and I can’t believe she went to all that trouble. It was so sweet of her! So that was maybe the highlight of the week (:

My thought for the week is one of my favourite scriptures: Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” This week I hope we can all simply remember this verse. The holiday on Thursday is about remembering and honoring our “mighty God”, the Prince of Peace. I know that as a missionary this has come to mean so much more to me, and I am excited to share His message of peace with the people of Slovenija this week.

I love you all and hope everyone back home has an AMAZING Christmas!

Starešina Davis

Dobro Jutro and Vesel Miklavž!

     This week was a big week in the Balkans, because it was the holiday “Miklavž” or “Sveti Nikolaj” (Saint Nicholas). This is essentially an Eastern European Christmas holiday, and here in Slovenija they celebrate Miklavž and regular Christmas. On Friday and Saturday night, there were TONS of people in Center (I didn’t even know there were that many people in Celje!), and they had concerts, preformances, bands, food, etc. It was a lot of fun to just walk around and see the festivities. We ended up running into the sisters, so we all went and tried some of the traditional Miklavž desserts that they were selling on the street. It was tons of fun!

     The rest of the week was great as well, though it’s been raining pretty much all week, so there haven’t been a ton of people outside (that big umbrella has saved me). On Tuesday, we had a great lesson with an older couple here in Celje. Elder Lyman and I met them 2 months ago, and they let us in to teach a first lesson. After that lesson, we asked them if we could come back and teach more, but they told us they were not interested. This past week though, Elder Dearinger and I happened to be on their street and I decided we might as well just stop by and see how they were doing. The wife answered the door, and I asked her if she had time that we could share a little more of our message. She agreed, and we were able to teach both of them about the Plan of Salvation. It was a really powerful lesson, and I could tell that both of them felt the Spirit. We stayed for a long time, and they had an endless trail of questions about the Church, missionaries, us, what we do, etc. It was a fantastic visit! This time when I asked if we could come back and share more, they gladly accepted (:

     This week we’ve also had a few more meetings with our investigator who is trying to quit smoking. He has made some pretty amazing progress, and is really wanting to be a part of the Church. He got up and bore a powerful testimony on Sunday about Jesus Christ during testimony meeting. He was the very first one up, and I was very impressed at his willingness to do that. Granted, we still need to work on the smoking, but we committed him to get baptized, and it will likely happen next month. The Lord’s work is moving forward!
     This week we also had a little miracle with that guy that 18 year old hip hop dancer we met last week. We were set up to meet with him Thursday night, but he didn’t show, and I realized that we didn’t have his number or address. This meant that we had no way of contacting him. The next morning before we left the apartment, I prayed that somehow during the day we would be able to run into him, so that we could get his number and be able to set up again. That night, Elder Dearinger and I were walking through a crowded part of Center, looking for the Sisters who were also in that part of Center. There were tons of people out for Miklavž, and I had no idea how we would see the sisters in the crowd. As I was looking around for them, I spotted the guy I had prayed about standing off to the side of the road. We were able to go over and talk to him, and had a great conversation about our missionary work. We were also able to get his number this time, and we set up again for this week. Again, it was one of those moments in the life of a missionary that most people would chalk up to coincidence. I know though, that it was the Lord hearing and answering my prayer. There really isn’t much better than having Christ on your side to help you accomplish your work!
     So, winter nights are pretty hard in Celje. It’s cold, dark, and people just don’t want to talk to you, open their doors to you, etc. So, on Sunday night, we did something a little different. We set up a table in front of the Church, sung carols, gave out free hot chocolate, and just talked to people as they walked by. It was a wonderful activity! It was just a nice way for people to see the Church, talk to us, have some “Kakav”, etc. It’s also a great way to to help people have a good first encounter with the Church. Overall a great activity, and we will probably start to do it weekly during the winter.
     This week has been yet another great week in Celje, and I hope all is going well back home! I love you all and pray for you constantly!
Starešina Davis
IMG_1309DSC09654
DSC09627

Week 19: Happy Thanksgiving!

Zdravo!!

First of all, happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is still full from Thursday, and I hope everyone had a great holiday. My Thanksgiving here in Celje was a bit different I’m sure, but still fantastic. On Thursday we went over to the Lamberts’ apartment (the senior couple), and spent a few relaxing hours there having Thanksgiving lunch, socializing, and playing a district game of “Naseljenci Otoka Catan”, which is the Slovene version of Settlers of Catan. It was a lot of fun haha! One of the highlights was the great American food, including real, homemade pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie doesn’t exist in Slovenija (how can they survive!?), but Sister Lambert made one for Thanksgiving. Overall, a wonderful day!

This week was also the first week of our new district (group of missionaries) here in Celje. Elder Dearinger is here and settled in from Maribor, and we’ve had a fantastic week. We get along great, and he’s a hard worker. Honestly, I’m not sure if you could find a bad missionary in Slovenija! Also, we have a new sister – Sister Nydegger – here straight from the MTC. She’s being trained here in Celje by Sister Cuthbert, and both of them are great missionaries. Overall we have an awesome district, and I can tell we’re all going to have a fun transfer.

In terms of missionary work, this week was great!

On Wednesday we found an awesome family while tracting. We talked to the mom for a minute at the door about who we are and what we’re doing, and then we asked if there was a time next week that we could come back to teach their family more. Usually, when you ask people that question, they all of the sudden come up with every possible excuse to NOT have you come back. This was not the case with her though. She, without much of a pause, said “Sure, that would be great! How about next Wednesday at 12?” I have no idea what will come from this, but it was such a faith builder for me to see that the Lord really does prepare people for us.

Another experience related to that happened on Sunday. We were doing some contacting along the Savinja (Celje’s main river) and started talking to a young guy just hanging out by the river. It turns out he’s our age, and a world champion hip-hop dancer. He told us that he would normally be inside at that time of the day dancing, but had a 10 minute break and decided to just come hang out by the river for a few minutes. We had a great conversation, and set up a time to meet at a nearby cafe next week. As we were walking away I thought for a minute about how the Lord really does direct His work. What if we hadn’t been by the Savinja at that exact moment? What if that guy hadn’t taken his break right then or there? Most people would chalk it up to coincidence, but I know the Lord really does direct us to people who are prepared. In the same way, I firmly believe that the Lord directs people who are prepared to us.

This week we also started meeting with an investigator who has known the missionaries for a while. He’s older, in his late 50s maybe, and has essentially been taught everything. He has also come to chuch quite a few times. He came up to me at the end of chuch last Sunday and told me that he’d like to be baptized by the end of the year if that’s possible. He’s a GREAT guy, and I would baptize him today if I could! There’s just one problem: smoking. He’s a pretty heavy smoker, and in order to be baptized he obviously needs to quit. So, one of my big projects this month is to help this man quit smoking. Honestly I’m a bit overwhelmed and nervous about this. I’ve never had to help someone quit smoking! I can probably count on one hand the number of people I know that actually smoke cigarettes, and I’m honestly not even sure where to begin. The Church has a great program for quittting though, and so we’re going to work on that this month. It’s a bit crazy sometimes what missionaries do and are expected to do. Here I am, and 19 year old stranger, yet I’m now working with this man to help him kick a lifelong addiction. But, that’s just what we do I guess haha.

Overall, this has been a great week (: The weather is getting colder and colder, and people are saying it could snow this week. But, I’ve got my jacket, and I’m (hopefully!) prepared for my first Slovene winter. Christmas is just about in full swing here, and Celje looks magical. They have a bunch of giant pine trees set up and lit in Center, and they’ve strung lights throughout the entire center of the city. Tonight is the big lighting ceremony, and I cannot wait for the Christmas season to really start!

Other than all of that, life is great here in Slovenija, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. My spiritual thought of the week is something we talked about during District Meeting on Friday. We were talking about missionary work, but I think that it can be applied to any kind of work in the church. It comes from Isaiah 60:22, which says: “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time.”

We talked about this scripture, and about how the work we here do is similar to the work of honey bees, when it comes to measuring success. In the life of one honey bee, they only produce a tiny amount of honey – maybe a few teaspoons at the most. One honey bee may look back at his life and only see that tiny amount of honey. In that situation it would be very easy to think of oneself as a failure. But, if we look at the combined efforts of an entire hive, we truely see the success. This principle can be applied to missionary work, or really any work. A missionary in Slovenija for example, may spend two years here and just see a handful of people join the Church, if that. Similarly, a member of the church might put a lot of effort into a calling or project, but see very little tangible “success”. It’s for that reason that we need to keep a larger, eternal perspective. One missionary may baptize only a few people, but their work, combined with everyone else’s, leads to 300,000 converts a year. A church member may not see any success as they work in their calling, but they are helping to successfully run a worldwide church of 15 million. The Lord will turn the the work of a little one into a thousand, and a he will make a small one into a strong nation.

I’m not sure if that all came out as I had thought of it in my head, but I think the general idea is somewhere in there (:

DSC00645 DSC00649 DSC00650 DSC00651

I love you all so much, and hope everyone is healthy, safe, and happy!

Lp,

Starešina Davis