Back to the Roots

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!

     We had a good week in Kranj, and winter is definitely rearing it’s ugly head… The weather was beautiful during the beginning of the week but on Friday we got 3 or 4 inches of snow. Although Kranj and the nearby alps are beautiful when covered with snow, it sure doesn’t help get me excited to leave the warm apartment haha. We’re surviving though.
     The first highlight from the week was the chance I had to go visit my roots, and see where the Slovene family all began. On Thursday morning we went down to Ljubljana to borrow the car and then Elder Hughes and I made the trip down to Brežice, a town on the Croatian border. We met some of the Slovene family there and together we spent the day exploring this part of our family’s history. We went to the house where Agnes Cvetko was born, the family vineyard, the graveyard where everyone is burried, etc. I had such a great time getting to know this part of my family a little bit better.DSC03249.JPG(The white house in the background is where Agnes Cvetko was born and raised. It’s obviously been remodeled over the years, but it was so cool to be back there, over 100 years later)

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(At the Zidarič family grave)
     It was a great day, and having this connection with Slovenia is something that adds so much meaning to my mission for me.
     The second highlight of the week for me was a miracle we saw on Saturday. We got a referral from Mormon.org (that happens once in a very rare blue moon in Slovenia) so we were obviously excited to go and visit the woman. We went over to her house with a member and started by just getting to know her. She is in her 30s and has two young kids – it’s a beautiful family. We started to talking to her and she told us about how she met a friend online from Australia who happens to be Mormon, and I guess their conversations quickly turned to religion. He ended up sending her a Book of Mormon which she read in 3 days and she’s now wanting more! We talked about what we do as missionaries and she’s already committed to be baptized – it’s now just a matter of teaching the lessons and helping her build a testimony.
     This referral was simply another testament to me that the internet is the future of missionary work both here and all over the world. The internet can reach more people in one day then a missionary can reach during their whole mission, and it helps us find those who are actually looking for the truth.
     All-in-all this was a good week 🙂 We’re helping Sjoerd get ready for baptism, and make sure to keep in your prayers! Hopefully by next Monday when you hear from me he’ll be Slovenia’s (and the Netherlands’) newest member of the church.
     I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving, and make sure to eat an extra plate or two in my honor.
     Love,
     Jack

 

Peace I Leave With You

Good morning everyone!

     This was a fairly uneventful week here in Kranj – no crazy traveling or run-ins with immigration police… Just a good solid week of missionary work 🙂DSC03232.JPG

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We did a fun p day last week at Lake Bled and the nearby Vintgar Gorges. So amazing!

DSC03225.JPGHow could we not get a district picture at the “Poo Slap” sign haha? (It should say “Pod Slap” which means “under the waterfall”)DSC03216.JPG

     One of the highlights from our week was one of the people we’re teaching. We had a lesson togehter, and he told us that he’s going to go ahead and get baptized, in spite of the opposition from his family and friends. He’s faced a lot of opposition on the path to baptism, but it’s amazing to watch somebody move forward in spite of that. Watching people accept the gospel is the greatest feeling on Earth.
     This week as we’ve spent time talking to people on the streets I’ve thought a lot about the direction in which the world is moving generally. The Paris terrorist attacks are a big news item right now, and the number of refugees moving through Slovenia is going up and up. Add things like that to the individual trials and sorrows people are facing and it makes for a fairly grim picture.
     In Doctrine and Covenants 4, the Lord says that “in that day (in our days) shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them…And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.”

     The picture painted here in D&C 4 is becoming more and more clear as the days and months fly by. In thinking about this during the week and while contemplating how I can help people feel hope, I found myself in John chapter 14. This chapter of John contains some of Christ’s final teachings to His disciples before He leaves them. He says:

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart betroubled, neither let it be afraid.”

     This promise from Christ is just as real for us now as it was for those apostles 2000 years ago. Although the situation in the world will get crazier (as will our personal trials), there is never any reason to be hopeless. Christ will give us peace and hope through the Holy Ghost, and that will allow us to be happy and content even when the world around us is “in commotion”. This is the message we missionaries have for people – that’s what we offer them. Is there a better message than that!?
     Getting to serve as a missionary is a great opportunity and I love it. I hope you all have a great week and know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers. Hear from you soon!
     Love, Jack

Travel, More Travel, and a Night in Prison (well, almost…)

Good morning everyone!

     This has been another good week in Slovenia, and it was one of those weeks that left me absolutely exhausted. I did a ton of travel this week, and am really looking forward to a relaxing p day… As soon as we finish here we’re sneaking off to Lake Bled for the day 🙂
     On Monday and Tuesday we had Mission Leadership Council in Zagreb. It’s a two day meeting where all of the mission leaders get together and discuss the state of the mission and what we can do differently moving forward. My favorite part of MLC (besides home-cooked meals from Sister Grant of course) is the chance to be with some of the missionaries from the other 4 countries. We tend to be isolated up in Slovenia, and chances to interact with the others are rare. So, getting that chance this week was a lot of fun, and I got a lot of good ideas from them.
     On Saturday evening there was a baptism scheduled in Maribor. A really great girl in her 20s was getting baptized, and it was set to be the first baptism Maribor has had in over 2 and a half years. Because of this, we figured it would be the perfect chance for Sjoerd to come and see what a baptism is like. So, Saturday afternoon us two and the sisters piled into Sjoerd’s car and we started the trip across Slovenia to Maribor.
     And then we had a run-in with the law…
     We were driving on the freeway and out of nowhere an Audi (a very nice one I might add) pulls up right behind us. After tailing us for a minute or two it whipped around in front of us and flashed its (very well hidden) police lights. All 5 of us were confused, since we weren’t speeding or anything, and had no idea what could possibly be a reason to get pulled over by an undercover police car. But, we followed it off the freeway into a truck stop. Once we stopped, the doors of the car opened and 4 very scary looking undercover officers got out. They told us that this was a “random” immigration control check (I have no idea how on Earth they managed to find the car with 4 Americans and a Dutch guy inside haha). They took all of our documents, and after checking them told us there were a few issue with the papers. By this point we were all praying our little hearts out… We talked for a minute, and they told us that they would either charge a €1,500 fine per person (not happening…) or that we’d all have to go “downtown” to sort this out. By the power of prayer (and with our charming personalities) they let us go with a warning. By the time we got back on the freeway, the 5 of us were dying with laughter. Here we were trying to help Sjoerd have a spiritual experience at a baptism, and it ended with us almost getting arrested.
     In any case though, we got to Maribor in one piece and actually had a wonderful time. The baptism was beautiful and the Spirit was very powerful. All in all, it was definitely a night to remember haha.
     And that was our week! A busy one, but a good one all the same.
     One thing I’ve studied a lot this week is the Plan of Salvation. This is one of the most important things we teach as missionaries and the more and more I study it the more and more beautiful it becomes to me. How amazing is it that a loving Father in Heaven has prepared a plan for us so that we can all live together as families for eternity? 1 Cor 15:22 says very simply “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” That right there is the doctrine – so simple a child could understand it. Because of Christ we will all live again. What message is great than that?
     I love you all so much and hope you have a great week! Hear from you soon.
     Love, Elder Jack

30 Years in the Making

Good morning and happy late Halloween!

I hope Halloween was a blast for everyone, and although we didn’t have Halloween here, we enjoyed Day of the Dead on Sunday instead. The tradition here is that everyone goes to the cemetery on Sunday evening and puts candles around the graves of their ancestors. The cemetery ends up looking stunning, and the 4 of us explored on Sunday evening.

(Elder Hughes and I at the cemetery)

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The week was great, and the highlight was a companionship exchange I did. As zone leaders we do exchanges with the other Elders in the zone, and this week I was able to do an exchange in… Celje! I was in Celje from Thursday to Saturday, and it felt so amazing to be “home”. I’ve grown to love all of the branches here, but even still, Celje will always be something special, and it was so great to see everyone there.

Everything in the week though culminated this weekend. Saturday, October 31st, 2015 was the 30th anniversary of the dedication of Yugoslavia for the preaching of the Gospel. Exactly 30 years ago, President (then Elder) Monson stood in the small church in Zagreb and opened up this part of the world for the amazing work in which we’re all engaged.

To celebrate this anniversary, we had a Slovenian district picnic in Celje for all of the members in the county. Almost 70 people ended up coming, and it was a fantastic day. We celebrated the 30th anniversary of the dedication of Yugoslavia, did a “Mormon Helping Hands” service project for the refugees, played soccer and basketball, and ate until we couldn’t eat any more. It was a blast, and I loved being able to spend time with these amazing members. I’m sure every missionary says this… but we really do have the best members in the world 🙂

(We put together almost 250 hygiene kits for the refugees passing through Slovenia)

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     To close, I’d like to just share some of my favorite quotes from President Monson’s dedicatory prayer on Yugoslavia. The blessings contained are spectacular. He starts by saying “(I) bless the land and bless the people from the North to the South, from the East to the West, that all factions may be united as one, and that prejudice may fall away and that there be aroused in each human hear a desire to learn…the mission of Jesus Christ”. He then goes on to bless the missionaries here, “that they may be men and women of courage and great faith…that they may touch the hearts of the people, that they may love the people…and go forward with their work unhindered…”. To close, President Monson blesses this land, “that Yugoslavia may indeed be Zion…and that one day wards and stakes may grace this land”.

The blessings that Heavenly Father has in store for this part of the world are truly exciting. To be involved in such great a work is a blessing unlike anything I’ve ever before experienced, and I’m loving every minute of it.

I hope everything is going well at home, and I love you all so much! I’ll hear from you soon.

     Love, Elder Jack

     By the way…The mission asked me if I’d write an article about finding my family for the church site, and this is the “pre translation” draft.

     “And He shall direct thy paths”

Elder Jack Davis

If I’ve learned one thing about Slovenia in the past few years, it is that many people – if not most – have never heard of this small but beautiful European nation. Often confused with Slovakia, Slovenia and its two million citizens are largely unknown outside of Southeastern Europe.

For me though, Slovenia was never something unknown.

Unlike almost everyone I knew, I was aware of Slovenia from as early as I can remember. My mother’s ancestry is primarily rooted in Slovenia, and I grew up wearing a t-shirt from Ljubljana, attempting to make traditional Slovenian food, and learning to pronounce the family name – Cvetko. Davis1This simple interest in my family’s background developed over time into a longing to know more about my roots there. With this desire to know more, I began the daunting task of researching my Slovenian family history, but was met with little success. I eventually found myself in the Church’s family history library in Salt Lake City, Utah, but even there, I was told that I would be unlikely to find family records without going on an actual trip to Slovenia. I left feeling defeated – when in my life would I ever have the chance to go halfway around the world to Slovenia? Even still, I knew the Lord wanted me to find my ancestors, and so I held to the promise that if I trusted in Him, He would direct my path.

Only a few, short weeks later it came time for me to open my missionary call letter. It was a moment I had been anticipating for a long time, and my family gathered at the grounds of the San Diego Temple to participate in that special moment. I read the letter slowly, and when my eyes reached the sentence stating that I would be serving in Slovenia, I could hardly contain my joy. I had always known that the Lord would help me find my family, but I never imagined that He would “direct my path” this literally!Davis2Over a year has passed since that point, and the miracles I have seen in that time have been immense. Shortly after arriving in Slovenia I was able to make contact with living relatives there, and have met almost a dozen “cousins” since that time. Meeting and spending time with family I didn’t even know I had has been a beautiful experience and one that has strengthened my testimony of the sacred nature of families to our Heavenly Father. These interactions have also led me to find my relatives who have passed away. During a recent visit with family I was able to spend time exploring our family tree, and was given a digital copy of all of the records that have been collected over the years. These files contain information about nearly 12,000 of my Slovenian ancestors.elderdavisOne year ago, I never would have been able to imagine the blessings I’ve seen in this short time – a chance to return to and live in Slovenia, dozens of new relationships formed with family members half a world away, and the gathering of genealogical information for almost 12,000 ancestors. But, as it states in the Old Testament, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we put our trust in the Lord, He will direct our path in ways we can hardly imagine. I’ve seen that in my own life, and cannot wait to see where this path will lead me in the future.

Elder Jack Davis