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.
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 🙂
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.
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. This 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!Over 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.One 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