We’re Halfway There!

As Bon Jovi so eloquently put it…

     Whoa, we’re half way there –
WHO-A, livin’ on a prayer!!!

Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear

 (you can imagine me singing that if you want haha)
     Yes it’s true – as of this past week, I’ve officially passed my one year mark as a missionary… It’s all a downhill slope from here! It’s probably going very slow for all of you back home, but for me it’s… well it’s going both slow and fast. On one hand, I feel like I’ve been a missionary for an eternity, and that this is the only life I know or can remember. On the other hand, I feel like I just got here, and that the past year has zoomed right past me. Time is a strange thing on a mission.
     But enough of that.
     This week was a great one, and I’ll start with Monday. The reason I sent such a quick email last week was because we had the chance to spend our p day at the amazing Postojna Cave and nearby Predjama castle. The caves are beautiful, and you actually begin your visit in a Disneyland-esque train ride through the cave tunnels. After getting off the train you walk through different parts of the cave, and then get back on the train to get out. Slovenia still shocks me with its natural and geographical diversity. From the caves we took a shuttle to Predjama Castle (literally, “in front of the cave Castle”), which is a medieval castle that was built right into the mouth of a cave. It looks like something out of a fairy tale, and was amazing to see in person.  DSC02020 DSC02006 DSC02045 DSC02093 (1) DSC02082

(The Kranj and Ljubljana District at the caves)

(The Kranj and Ljubljana District at the caves)

So that was our amazing p day adventure!
     The rest of the week was equally great, and we tried something new this week – sidewalk chalk.
     It was Tuesday, almost a 100 degrees outside, and our motivation to go tracting in the hot sun all afternoon was about as close to zero as you can get. So we called the sisters (who felt the same way) and talked about some new things we could try instead. The idea we came to was “chalking”, essentially buying a bunch of sidewalk chalk and then using that to someone get people to talk to us. We had nothing to loose, so we decided to go for it.
    The result was phenomenal.
     We took the chalk out into Kranj’s main square and there drew out a big and colorful diagram of the Plan of Salvation (it was probably 40×20 feet). When people would stop to look at it, we’d talk to them, and then offer to take them on a “walking tour” of God’s plan for us. It worked SO well, and we talked to so many people. Excited by this success, we did it again the next morning (we just used the same chalk drawing), and it went equally well.

Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?

Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?

How do we come to know truth?

How do we come to know truth?

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     This weekend was Kranj’s big music festival/carnival/beer drinking party haha, and so we decided to take our chalking skills there. In one of the main squares we set up a little whiteboard which said “Write why you’re happy!” and then had chalk around it. I honestly wasn’t sure if anyone would actually stop and write, but they did – big time. At one point, we probably had 20 people gathered around writing in chalk why they were happy, and this technique was especially good for stopping families with young kids. DSC02156
     All in all, we ended up finding more new investigators in this one week than we had found in the previous 6 weeks combined, and I give credit to the power of creativity. The Lord doesn’t give us ideas, talents and creativity, just so we can ignore them. He expects us to use that creativity! This week was the most fun I’ve had doing finding in a long time, and I am SO excited to keep trying creative finding ideas.
     It was a great week here in Kranj, and as usual I’m loving life as a missionary. I love you all so much, and it sounds like things are going good back home. I pray for you every single day, and cannot wait to hear from you soon!
     Love, Jack

A Quick Hello (and of course, more waterfalls)

Hello family!

     This will be a quick email – I apologize in advance. Today we’re headed off to Postojna Caves (some of Slovenia’s world famous caves) for another great p day adventure, and we’re trying to get there as early as we can.
     Speaking of fun p day adventures, our p day this past Monday was pretty amazing (it’s hard to have a bad p day when you live in a country like Slovenia). We went with the Johnsons to the Vintgar Gorge, a beautiful river gorge north of Lake Bled. There’s a wooden walk way that goes all the way up the river and let’s out at a waterfall. The water was crystal clear and a spectacular blue-green color, so naturally I left with a billion pictures. I’ll send some of the good ones.

(I've come to realize that every hike in Slovenia leads to a waterfall...)

(I’ve come to realize that every hike in Slovenia leads to a waterfall…)

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     The rest of the week was filled with mostly finding – aka tracting and contacting. It was SO hot here this week, but despite the sweat and beating sun, the week was a good one. A plus that came from the heat was a wonderful emotion called pity… At many, many houses, the people felt so bad that we were out going door to door in the hot sun that they couldn’t help but offer us water, and then talk for a few minutes. In fact, we actually found a new investigator that way! I suppose there’s a reason Christ “contacted” the Samarian woman at the well – you just can’t turn someone down when they ask for water haha.
     This week we also focused a lot on trying to talk to younger people, and we saw a lot of success doing that. Not that there aren’t older people out there who are prepared to hear the gospel… the younger people just tend to be so much more open to new ideas. For the most part, they just aren’t stuck in their ways yet. We saw some success with thaton Saturday. We were walking around in Center during the afternoon but there weren’t too many people out, except a young guy sitting on a wall texting. We went up to him and started talking, and it turned out he was 19 as well, but wasn’t religious at all. We told him that our job as missionaries is to help people find out for themselves whether God exists or not, and we then both shared experiences of how we had received personal answers to prayer during our lives. This fascinated him, and he asked exactly how a person can receive an answer like that. The Spirit was very strong as we both testified that God really does answer our prayers when we ask in faith. It was a great conversation, and we’re excited to try and meet up with him again soon.
     Overall, I had a wonderful (but HOT) week here in Kranj 🙂 The work moves forward, and I’m feeling happy and healthy. I hope life is wonderful back at home, and I pray for all of you every single day! Sorry again for the short email, but I’ll hear from you again before you know it!
     Love, Jack

A Week of Miracles

Good morning everyone!

     We just finished up another great week in Kranj, and this week was definitely a week of miracles. Although last week ended on a pretty low note, the Lord definitely blessed us this week, and we saw some great success.
     Monday was p day, and we decided to go with the sisters and the Johnsons to Brdo Castle, a castle to the north of Kranj. It’s actually not so much a castle as it is a fancy European mansion on a beautiful estate, and we had a tour of both. Brdo was Tito’s summer residence while he was alive, and was where he spent the last part of his life. Brdo is still used today by the Slovenian government as an official diplomatic venue, and was the place that hosted the first ever meeting between George Bush and Vladimir Putin. Fun facts from Elder Davis… It was a pretty building though, and the grounds were nice.DSC01788 DSC018031 DSC01783 DSC01772 DSC01764 (1) DSC01746

     On Monday, p-day normally ends at 6 pm (we then work from 6 to 9) and we had a doctor’s appointment scheduled during that time for Elder Rice. The appointment got changed at the last minute though, and so we were left with nothing in our plan for those 3 hours. I’m normally not one that’s anxious to go tracting, but as we were walking around there was a certain street that I felt we needed to go tracting on. We did… and it was great! On that small street we were able to find 4 new people to teach, one of which is very promising. We knocked on his door, and after asking him whether he goes to church or not, he said “you know, I actually don’t go to church, and it’s becuase I’m just so confused as to why there are so many different Christian churches.” That concern is music to my ears, and we had a great conversation with him about Joseph Smith.
     Wednesday was another great day like this. We didn’t have a ton planned, and so we were walking around talking to people on the street for quite some time. Like Monday, we were able to find 4 new people to teach. It was interesting – 3 of those 4 were Muslim teenagers, and I had a great time talking to them about religion, what they thought about Jesus Christ, etc. All of them were really nice kids, and I’m excited to meet with them again. The fourth person that day was a really cool guy – probably 24 – and we talked to him about the Plan of Salvation. He said he would be interested in meeting again, but was really, really busy. He said the only time that he could meet would be Thursday morning (the next morning) at 7am… We figured we might as well try, and set up to meet.
     We got up on Thursday morning, put on our workout clothes, and took a nice morning jog over to the church. I honestly was not expecting anyone to be there, but, to my amazement, there he was at 7am, waiting outside the church. We had a nice lesson with him about the simple basics – who is God, what is His role in our lives, what is His plan for us, etc. The Spirit was really strong. We also had a great lesson on Thursdaywith the “why are there so many churches” man from Monday, and he said he is defintiely interested in learning more.
     The small and simple miracles like this continued until Sunday night, and I know for a fact that it had nothing to do with Elder Rice and I and how great we are at tracting and contacting. The success came as we relied more on the Lord and trusted in His direction. I’m excited to see where the work will go as we work on trusting Him even more. I love you all and look forward to hearing from you soon!
     Elder Jack

Hello everyone, and happy late 4th of July!

I hope you all had a good time for the 4th of July! Though obviously not a holiday here, we got together with the sisters and the Johnsons and had a nice 4th of July dinner together, complete with American-style hamburgers, potato salad, and smores. It was a lot of fun 🙂

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      The “title” of my email this week is the title of one of the best general conference talks ever – “Come What May, and Love It”, given by Elder Wirthlin in 2008. This has been a rollercoaster of a week, and I’ve been studying this talk a lot as a result.
     The week started out fantastic, and we were having some great success with finding people. For example, we were tracting in an apartment building, and at one of the doors a younger girl, maybe 22ish answered. After telling her who we were, we told her that we were sharing with people the story of a young boy named Joseph Smith. Her response? “Okay then. Tell me the story!” We ended up talking with her for maybe 20 or 30 minutes at the door and shared the entire Joseph Smith story. She loved it, and told us she’d be happy to read the Book of Mormon. It was a great success, and we had a number of similar experiences throughout the week.
     The rollercoaster though, began toward the end of the week and has to do with our investigator preparing for baptism. In missionary work there is a undeniable “law” if you will, and we saw it very clearly this week. It is this: the closer someone gets to the Lord and His church, the harder Satan tries to push them away.
     On Thursday we had a lesson with our investigator at the church. He came a few minutes early, and the very first thing he asked, is if we could show him how to pay tithing. We gladly showed him, and he filled out the slip then and there and payed his tithing. It was so cool to see someone excited about keeping a commandment like that! The lesson went great, and we reviewed the Restoration, as well as talked a little bit about the how the baptismal interview works.
     The next morning I called him to schedule the actual interview, and we got it sort of set for Wednesday. I called him a few hours later to confirm, but this time, it was a totally different man on the phone. He seemed flustered, and said he was frustrated, didn’t want to be baptized, and asked us not to call anymore. He then hung up. VERY confused, we texted him asking what had happened and if there was something we could talk about. He responded by saying he wouldn’t be coming to church anymore, and that he doesn’t want contact with us. We suspect all of this has to do with anti-Mormon literature or something similar, maybe given to him by a friend. Or maybe it’s something different – we’re not 100% sure.
     Needless to say, it was very disappointing, and we were really sad about it –  more for his sake than anything else. It’s just hard having someone SO close to truely accepting the gospel, but not actually make it to the finish line. We’re far from giving up on him, but there definitely won’t be a baptism this Saturday. In the midst of all of this, I’ve turned to the Lord in prayer (a ton) and also found a lot of comfort and counsel in the scriptures and words of the prophets. That brings me to my title this week – come what may and love it. The talk is about how we should respond to trials in our life, and if you haven’t read it, I would definitely recommend it. Actualy, I’d say read it even if you’ve already read it!
There are a few quotes I really like:

“In spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result.”

“How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment…But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.”

“Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering,and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understandingbuild our character, and increase our compassion for others.

“Sometimes the very moments that seem to overcome us with suffering are those that will ultimately suffer us to overcome.”

“The simple secret is this: put your trust in the Lord, do your best, then leave the rest to Him.”

     That last quote is my favorite , simply because it sums up everything in one simple sentence. Am I disappointed about what happened this week? Yes. Am I sad that this child of God is missing out on the blessings of the gospel? Yes. Is it hard to be this close to a baptism, only for it to fall through? Yes. But do I trust in the Lord enough to know that it will all work out in the end? Without a doubt 🙂
     It’s been a hard week – there’s no use in saying it wasn’t, but as Nephi said, “I know in whom I have trusted”, and I know that with the Lord, it will all work out in the end. I can testify that if we follow the advice of Elder Wirthlin and have a “come what may and love it” attitude, we’ll be blessed in every aspect of our lives. I got up this morning happy and energetic, and I’m not letting a trial or setback keep me from moving forward.
     I hope everyone has a great week, and I’ll hear from you soon!
Love, Jack

Dobro jutro!

I feel like my p day schedules have been all over the place for the last two weeks, and it’s weird to have just emailed two or three days ago. But I definitley won’t complain about that! I’ll take as much time as I can possibly get.

     I’m sort of loosing track of what I’ve told you about my week, so I apologize in advance if I start repeating myself. But, all-in-all, it was a nice week, and zone conference was a lot of fun. We got up Friday morning, and after doing emails, drove down to Zagreb. It’s about a 2 hour drive, and it’s a really beautiful drive. But then again, driving anywhere in Slovenia is a beautiful drive… We got to the mission home, and then spent the afternoon playing a big zone game of volleyball (among other things). It was so much fun to have all of the Slovene missionaries together in a casual setting, playing games. One thing that I love about having such a small zone is how close we all are.
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No road trip is complete without a cheesy selfie

     After the games, we started the actual conference, and, as usual, it was great. I always learn some new things at zone conference. This conference we focused a lot on using the scriptures in our teaching, bearing testimony frequently, and really utilizing the members in our cities. We went to bed Friday night (after a zone talent show of course haha), and then continued the conference on Saturday morning. We had lunch, and then by 1:30 on Saturday were on our way back to Slovenia. It was a great trip and a great zone conference!

     The only other news right now is the progression of our investigator, David. His baptism is scheduled for Saturday, July 11th, and it looks like it’s really happening! It’s so amazing to watch someone progress toward baptism like this, and I’m very happy for him.

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     Well, that’s really all I’ve got this week… Zone conference, lessons and finding, and just some good ol’ missionary work. I hope everything is going well back home, and I’ll hear from you next week.
     Jack