Fear Not, Little Flock

Good morning everyone!

     There isn’t a whole lot to share this week, but as usual, we had a good week here in Kranj. The weather is cooling down – 50s during the day and 30s at night – and the alps are starting to get a little snowcap. I can’t believe it’s already this time of the year!
     Our week was a combination of contacting in the city center as well as tracting. Since Kranj itself is mostly made up of apartment buildings, Elder Hughes and I have started going to some of the smaller neighborhoods outside of the city center to do our tracting. Once you get outside of the city it’s nothing but single-family homes, which has been a LOT better for finding young families. There’s a trade off though… although people are friendlier out in the villages, they are also a lot more Catholic. So that’s something we’re trying to figure out as we are doing this tracting. All in all though it’s going well 🙂

(The Slovenian countryside back dropped by the alps)

(The Slovenian countryside back dropped by the alps)

One thing we’ve done this week in our contacting and tracting is focus on the Plan of Salvation. Sunday is Day of the Dead here (it’s a pretty major holiday) and so we’ve tried to use that as a way to talk to people about the idea of death and the afterlife. We’ve been able to have a number of good conversations because of it!

(The whiteboard says "Day of the Dead is coming... will we ever see them again?" and the chalk on the ground says "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death")

(The whiteboard says “Day of the Dead is coming… will we ever see them again?” and the chalk on the ground says “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”)

     I’ve thought a lot about opposition this week and about how hard Satan tries to pull us off the path. We’ve been teaching someone who is facing a lot of opposition from family and friends as he gets closer to baptism. This happens to people close to baptism as well as life-long members of the church – we’re all locked in battle with him.
     That being said though, there is so much hope to be found in the promises given by the Lord in the scriptures. D&C 6:34 says, “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.” Further on, in D&C 68:6, the Lord says, “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son ofthe living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.”
 
     Life will always have opposition – it’s an eternal principle. That being said though, the most important thing to remember is that we are always more powerful than the opposition. Always! If we have the Lord on our side then there is no reason to fear. As Helaman so wonderfully put it, “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built (Christ).”
    I love you all so much, and hope you have a wonderful week!
     Love,
     Starešina Jack

Becoming Mighty in Prayer

Good morning everyone!

Thank you for all the letters and updates. It seems like every week is filled with something new and fun, and I can’t wait to be there doing those things with you!

We had a good week here in Kranj, although compared to last week’s email, this one will be pretty simple. It’s been raining for more than a week straight (welcome to Slovenia!) and that tends to slow things down a bit. The rain can’t stop great things from happening though!

(This is what tracting in Slovenia looks like. Well... sometimes haha)

(This is what tracting in Slovenia looks like. Well… sometimes haha)

This was right as they were setting up. The interview will be on TV today, and I'll send you all the link as soon as I have it!

This was right as they were setting up. The interview will be on TV today, and I’ll send you all the link as soon as I have it!

One of the highlights we had this week was a visit we had from Elder Charles, who is the area authority for this part of Europe. He did a mission tour with President Grant, and part of the mission tour included a zone conference in Ljubljana. On Thursday we all had the chance to go down there and be taught for a number of hours by this wonderful servant of the Lord. He and his wife were just amazing, and I learned a lot from the both of them. They are both converts, and come from families with members that are Muslim, Jehovah’s Witness, Greek Orthodox, and Church of Scotland. Talk about an amazing conversion story!

(Elder Hughes and I took some glamour shots in Zagreb...)

(Elder Hughes and I took some glamour shots in Zagreb…)

(Beautiful Kranj)

(Beautiful Kranj)

(We were using a whiteboard in the town square to talk to people, but it ended up just turning into a place for kids to draw)

(We were using a whiteboard in the town square to talk to people, but it ended up just turning into a place for kids to draw)

(Taking the train back to Kranj after a day in Zagreb. If you can't tell, we were EXHAUSTED haha)

(Taking the train back to Kranj after a day in Zagreb. If you can’t tell, we were EXHAUSTED haha)

The conference was wonderful, and then on Saturday we went with the sisters to Zagreb for Mission Leadership Council (once a month, all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders gather in Zagreb to discuss the progress in the mission). Elder Charles ran most of the meeting, and once again, I learned a ton. Toward the end of the meeting they asked the leadership from each country to go and make a plan for their respective countries for the rest of 2015, and I thought I’d share a portion of that plan.

We called it our plan to become “a zone mighty in prayer” and the things we talked about are applicable to non-missionaries as well.

One of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon is the story of Enos. The entire book of Enos is only one chapter long, but it contains one of the greatest examples of prayer that exists. He starts out in verses 1 to 4 by setting the stage of his prayer. One of my favorite parts comes from verse 2, which says “And I will tell of you the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.”

What does it means that Enos’ prayer was a “wrestle” before God? Can we all comfortably describe our prayers as “wrestles” before the Lord? I know I can’t haha!

I’m not sure if we always devote the time, attention, and energy we should to our prayers. As I’ve been on my mission, I’ve come to learn more and more how important prayer really is though. There are SO many things that are outside of our control, but prayer is the one thing that is completely in our power to control. Referring to missionary work, our District President in Slovenia made the comment that “the battle is won or lost in prayer” and asked us if we pray like Nephi, who said “And I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.” Are we devoting the same amount of time and attention to our communication with our Father in Heaven? I know that I can personally do a lot better.

This week I’ve started to do a few things to improve the quality of my prayers. I always have something to write on nearby while I pray so that I can record impressions, I make sure I’m wide awake and not falling asleep when praying, etc. I’m seeing a huge difference from these changes.

     This week I would invite all of us to take a look at our personal prayers and see what we can do to improve them. The power of prayer is one of the most underappreciated powers that we have, and  I can promise you will see a difference as your prayers improve. Let’s all work to become mighty in prayer!
     I love you all so much, and can’t wait to hear from you soon.
     Love Jack

A Week in the Spotlight

Oh boy, there was a lot that went on this week… It was an exhausting few days, but has also been one of the funnest and most fulfilling weeks I’ve had in a while. I’m sorry in advance if the email is all over the place.

     First things first – it’s hard to believe I’m actually 20 years old. It sounds like such a milestone in life, but I don’t feel any different, and I think it’ll take some getting used to… My birthday was a blast though. Elder Hughes made me palačinke (crepes) in the morning, and then in the evening we had our district meeting where we had a nice group birthday dinner. We had a great time.

(Pre district meeting dinner with the Ljubljana and Kranj districts. From left: Sister Nydegger, Sister Robertson, Me, Elder Hughes, Elder Prososki, Elder McKee, Elder Frandsen, Elder Lewis, Sister Duffy, Sister Rhodes)

(Pre district meeting dinner with the Ljubljana and Kranj districts. From left: Sister Nydegger, Sister Robertson, Me, Elder Hughes, Elder Prososki, Elder McKee, Elder Frandsen, Elder Lewis, Sister Duffy, Sister Rhodes)

     Other exciting news from this week? The Kranj district is famous! On Thursday, we had the opprotunity to do a news interview – a first and probably last for me. The woman who did the interview runs a program in Slovenia that focuses on spirituality and lifestyle topics, and she decided she wanted to do a feature piece on the Mormon missionaries. So, she came with her crew to the Kranj church and interviewed us and the sisters. She asked about why we came on missions, how we understand our purpose as missionaries, what the Book of Mormon means personally to us, how faith helps us in our lives, and what sort of message we would send to people still searching for their purpose in life. I think (or maybe just hope…) that it went okay. After the interview we went into the city where they filmed us talking to people on the street. The feature will be airing on Slovenia’s national television channel on the 19th. In the evening. All over the country. What have we done haha!
     Just when we thought the excitement was over, we had another experience toward the end of the week which ended up being one of the more spiritual experiences of my mission.
     I got a call this week from that woman and she told me that her and her sister (who live together) have been having some problems in their apartment with “bad energy”. They wanted us to come over and bless the apartment. I’ve never gotten a request like this before, but when we got there I was surprised to see that it was a beautiful family – two adult sisters and four kids, and they were some of the kindest people I’ve met here. We sat down at the kitchen table and the two sisters started to describe the problems they were having. We prayed with their family, and then we dedicated their home to be a place of peace and safety, and a place that would only be home to the Spirit. I then gave the woman a Priesthood blessing. By the time we left, the difference was night and day – their home burned with the Holy Ghost, and they could all recognize it.
     We came back the next day as a follow up and I was floored to see the change that had taken place. There was a light in all of their eyes that wasn’t there the day before, and they told us that they had started praying as a family just like we taught them. They had also started reading out of the Book of Mormon, and were loving it. We taught them the message of the Restoration, watched the Joseph Smith movie with them, and they all committed to come to church (which they did). At the end of the lesson the 12 year old son asked me if I would give him a blessing for health. When the blessing was over he gave me a big hug, and everyone in the family was crying. Right before we left we gave the family a framed picture of Christ to have in thier home, and one of the sisters just broke down crying out of happiness. It took everything I had to not cry, and there are few times in my life when I’ve felt the Spirit like I did with this family. I cannot wait to see them progress in the gospel.
     This week my testimony of the power of the priesthood grew immensely. I’m not sure if we always understand how amazing the priesthood is. It isn’t some theoretical energy or just a nice idea – it is an actual and literal power that we have to perform the works of God on the Earth. With the power of the priesthood, the dead have been raised, the sick have been healed, the seas have been parted, and the universes have been created. How wonderful of a gift is this! Elder Ballard said: “The same priesthood power that creat worlds, galaxies, and the universe can and should be a part of our lives to succor, strengthen, and bless our families, our friends, and our neighbors.” I have a firm testimony that this is true. Let’s remember to take advantage of this gift that we’ve been given.
     Well, that’s my scattered email for the week! I love this work so much and couldn’t be happier. The time is flying like crazy (at least on this end), but I’m loving every miunte of it. I love you all so much, and cannot wait to hear from you soon!
     Love, Jack

We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

Good morning and happy Monday everyone!

     Another week has flown by in Kranj, and this week was the last week of the transfer. 9  more weeks have already come and gone, and I now only have 5 transfers before I’m home. How scary is that!
     It was a good week for me in Kranj though, and definitely started out on a great note 🙂
     We didn’t have too much planned for p day last week, but after church on Sunday we got a text from our friend telling us how much he enjoyed church, and asking us if we wanted to spend our p day with him! We happily agreed.
     The 5 of us (him, us, the sisters) drove about 30 min to the mountains that separate us from Austria. There, we took a gondola up to the top of the mountain, and then hiked another hour or so. Our destination was a place called “Velika Planina” (the big pasture), a very high-altitude pasture which is home to a small village of traditional wooden huts. In the summer it’s used by hearders and in the winter it’s a ski resort. It was such a cool place and just felt so… European.

(Sister Erdmann, Sister Duffy, Me, Elder Rice, Sjoerd)

(Sister Erdmann, Sister Duffy, Me, Elder Rice, Sjoerd)

(It was probably 37 degrees and VERY windy, so we were all trying to bundle up as much as we could haha)

(It was probably 37 degrees and VERY windy, so we were all trying to bundle up as much as we could haha)

(It's like a Slovene version of the Shire!)

(It’s like a Slovene version of the Shire!)

It was a really fun p day, and I think the 5 of us just enjoyed spending time together.

It was a really fun p day, and I think the 5 of us just enjoyed spending time together.

The cutest little church I've ever seen

The cutest little church I’ve ever seen

The gondola

The gondola

Ljubljana

Ljubljana

We went to a rooftop cafe in Ljubljana for lunch this week and they had the coolest stairs I've ever seen!

We went to a rooftop cafe in Ljubljana for lunch this week and they had the coolest stairs I’ve ever seen!

     Thursday was the highly anticipated day of “transfer announcements” and the 4 of us were huddled over the computer in the morning, clicking the refresh button fairly violently haha. To a non-missionary this would seem like nothing… but for us, this is our life for the next two months.
     To make a long story short, I’ll be staying in Kranj for the coming transfer, and Elder Rice will be moving to Celje (lucky!). My new companion will be Elder Hughes, who has been in Slovenia for almost as long as I have. I’m really excited. Elder Hughes and I have been asked to be the zone leaders, so this should be quite the adventure haha!
     The final highlight this week was, of course, general conference.
     On Saturday evening we got together at the church in Kranj and watched the Saturday morning session live. I made palačinke (slovene crepes) for everyone, and we had a great time watching. Then, on Sunday, we went down to Ljubljana to watch Saturday afternoon with the members, as well as Sundaymorning live with the missionaries there.
     One of my favorite messages was that which was shared by our prophet, President Monson. How great of a blessing is it to have an actual, living prophet which can guide us with revelation directly from God! I think that we sometimes fail to see how great of a gift that is, and I know that I can do better at studying and living by the words of our prophets and apostles.

President Monson talked about being an example to the world during conference. He said that “we become examples of the believers by living the gospel of Jesus Christ in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity,” He continued, “As we do so, our lights will shine for others to see.”

I have a strong testimony that our example is the greatest tool that we have as members of the church. Of course our words our important, but people are always watching us, and will tend to form opinions about us based on what we do more than on what we say. President Monson concluded: “That each of us within the sound of my voice may pledge to follow Him, thus becoming a shining light to the world, is my prayer.” I know that as we live in a way that the Lord wants us to live we really will become a light to the world, and that we will lift those around us. It’s something I try to do every day, and is something we can all work on for the rest of our lives.

     I love you all so much, and hope you have a great week!
     z ljubeznijo,
     Starešina Jack