Teach Repentance and Baptize Converts

Good morning everyone!

I had another great week in Maribor and two days ago marked 18 months as a missionary… yikes! It’s a big milestone (I’ve now served a sister mission) and I can’t believe how quickly it’s come. I can remember so well my first few transfers in Celje and to think that I’ve been away from home for a year and a half is hard to believe. Before I know it, those 6 months I have left will have come and gone. Time flies when you’re doing the Lord’s work.

Our week wasn’t too out of the ordinary and we did the usual – street contacting in center and tracting out where the homes are. Although there was nothing too miraculous, we found success doing both. On Thursday we went tracting in a town called Lenart (20 or 30 min outside of Maribor) and Elder Pickard and I found two different people who agreed to let us come back this week to teach more. During our street contacting in the city we were able to talk to many more. So not a bad week!

One of the highlights though was Wednesday evening. For the past 2 years the church has been focusing on working with the big fluctuation in the number of missionaries after the age change, and they now finally feel like the effects of that age change have been “digested”. The numbers of missionaries are stable, there aren’t really new missions that need to be created right away, and a sense of normalcy has returned. With this, the Church decided to do a worldwide missionary broadcast to refocus the efforts of missionaries and start to move the work forward. The title of the broadcast was “Teach Repentance and Baptize Converts”, and that titles reflects the new push of the missionary arm of the Church.

It was a two hour broadcast on Wednesday evening (well, Wednesday morning in Utah) and was watched simultaneously by the missionaries all over the world. It was so cool to know that there were tens of thousands of other missionaries watching, singing, and praying with us. We heard from Elder Oaks, Elder Bednar, Sister Dew, and a number of Seventies from the missionary committee. All of their messages were focused on one central theme – teach repentance and baptize converts.

This “new” focus of the Church isn’t actually anything new at all, but is an effort to refocus us on the basics: faith in Christ which leads us to want to repent which gives us a desire to be baptized. In Mosiah 18:20 it says “Yea, even he commanded them that they should preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord, who had redeemed his people.” Later, in our day, the Lord stated in D&C 6:9, “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation...” This is the Lord’s admonition that we help people focus on the basics – faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

I love the new focus on teaching repentance and I’m excited to start doing that with the people we talk to. The word “repentance” has such a negative connotation sometimes and people often think of confession, guilt, pain, anger, embarrassment, etc. The truth though is that repentance is a beautiful gift from the Savior which gives us nothing but feelings of peace, love, acceptance, cleanliness and closeness to God. It is a wonderful process of change. Why wouldn’t we teach this to everyone we meet!

I love you all and hope you have a great week back home. You’re in my prayers always and I can’t wait to hear from you soon.

Starešina Davis

PS I’ve been terrible with pictures… I’ll do better this week!

Čuj ti, v Mariboru si!

     Happy Monday everyone!
     This was a great week for Elder Pickard and I, and I felt like we found great success finding people this week who were willing to listen. It’s not that we did our work any differently this week – we just had the Spirit with us more and I think people felt that as we talked to them.
     One example was a contact and subsequent lesson we had toward the end of the week. Elder Pickard and I were walking though center, trying to find people. Finally, we saw a young dad with a stroller and young daughter through the center. We stopped him to try and talk to him, and to my surprise, he was more than willing to listen to us. We talked for 15 or 20 minutes, at which point his wife walked up. With the entire family now there, we taught them about what we do as missionaries and explained to them the idea of a restoration. Both of them were very interested, and they invited us over to their house the next day so that they could learn more. I can’t remember the last time I went to a home to teach an entire family, and Elder Pickard and I were obviously excited.
     So, on Sunday night we went over to this couples’ house to teach them, and oh man – it was a lesson unlike anything I’ve had in a long time.
     We started off by trying to teach them about the Restoration and Joseph Smith, but the further we got into the lesson the more I realized that something just wasn’t clicking (especially with the mom). Abandoning the lesson plan, I jumped right into this concern and started talking to them about who God is and what His nature is. It was then that we realized that they didn’t believe in God as an individual, but more as an “energy” or “positive idea”. This is a super common belief here, so we spent some time talking about this and what it means to have a literal Heavenly Father. Again, we just didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Finally, with the right questions (and more than a lot of help from the Spirit), we finally got to the heart of the issue. In her high school years, this woman (now 30) went to a Catholic high school and was fairly active there. As part of their religious training though, they had a number of Catholic priests come and visit the school to give talks about exorcism and Catholic experiences with evil spirits. The negativity of the topic really started to eat away at this teenage girl until it lead to nightmares and other emotional problems. This continued and continued, until finally she had her own experiences with “dark energies” as she called them. I wont relate exactly what happened, but she opened up in a surprising way and talked to us about how dark and evil she felt during those two years of high school. As she was struggling with all of this she made a decision – if she stopped believing in God as an individual, she could also stop believing in the reality of evil. So, from high school on, she made the conscious decision to not accept the reality of God, thereby keeping herself “safe” from the reality of evil.
     All of this opened the way for us to bear testimony about the unmatched power and love of our Heavenly Father, and it was probably the strongest testimony I’ve given in a long time. I’ll admit – tears were shed on both sides of the table haha. At the end all 4 of us took turns praying, and the woman’s prayer was one of the sweetest prayers I’ve heard. By the time we left, the Spirit was as strong as could be in that house. It was an amazing lesson for me, and I think it helped build my testimony just as much as it helped build the testimonies of the couple.
     There isn’t too much else to report this week. We had zone conference in Ljubljana on Saturday (as always, zone conference was wonderful) and then we had church on Sunday. All-in-all , a great week, and I definitely can’t complain.
     Well, I hope everyone is healthy and happy, and I hope you have a great week. Hear from you soon!
     Starešina Jack

His Mysterious Ways

     Good morning everyone!
     Another week has come and gone, and like always, this one was filled with a number of great experiences. If I had to sum up the things I learned into a simple phrase though, it’d definitely be this: the Lord is always in charge. I think Sister Johnson may have already sent you some pictures, but this week the Maribor district was involved in a funeral. The request for us to help with a funeral seemed fairly random at first, but looking back now, I can see how the Lord uses “random” (although they actually aren’t random at all) things to further His work. He’s truly at the helm!

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(Snowy Maribor)

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(Our beautiful little Maribor church)

     Last week, we got a call from an Austrian-American member asking us to help with his mother’s funeral. She was born and raised in Slovenia, but lived in Graz, Austria from the 1970’s on, where she joined the church and started her family. Due to her Slovene roots though, she wanted to be burried here, in a little town about 30 min. from Maribor. Wanting to have a more LDS-style funeral, the son reached out to us for help. He asked me and Sister Nydegger to speak (I spoke on the Plan of Salvation and Sister Nydegger talked about eternal families), and asked the 4 of us to sing “I Need Thee Every Hour”. Although we had never met the woman, we were happy to help, and spent time on Monday getting prepared.
     On Tuesday morning we packed into the car and headed out to this tiny town, not really sure what to expect. We gave our talks and did our musical number though, and it turned out to be a beautiful service. The even cooler part though was how the Lord used this as a missionary opprotunity. Right after the service finished, the photographer started talking to us and was very interested in who we were and what we were doing here. Then, a member of the Catholic choir that was there asked the Sisters if they could come to her house and talk more about our message.
     This wasn’t the end of it though! After the service, everyone headed to a nice lunch at a nearby resturaunt. When we missionaries got there, the question of where to sit of course came up. We spotted a really nice, young couple, so chose seats across from them. Sister Nydegger and I ended up talking to this couple for the entire lunch, and they were full of questions about who we are, what we teach, etc. They asked us if we could get together and talk some more, and Elder Pickard and I met with them on Friday to teach them about the Book of Mormon.

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(Maribor district coming back home from the funeral: Elder Pickard, Me, Sister Nydegger, Sister Higgins)

 

     As we were driving back to Maribor after all of this was over, it dawned on me how “in charge” the Lord really is. He directed so many different paths to get all of these people at a funeral that we happened to attend, and then used that to further His work in Slovenia. All we missionaries had to do was be in the right place at the right time! I know I’ve quoted it before, but Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind – “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.” All we need to do is trust in Him, and He’ll direct our paths (often in a much more literal way than we think).

     The rest of the week was good, although the funeral was definitely the focal point. We had some good lessons, church was nice on Sunday, and we did our fair share of contacting and tracting. All-in-all, a solid week of missionary work.
     I love you a ton, and hope you have a great week. Experiment this week with putting more and more trust in the Lord, and watch as you are directed exactly where you need to be!
     z ljubeznijo,
     Elder Jack

Srečno Novo Leto and Happy 2016!

 

     Good morning everyone and happy new year! The fact that 2015 is over is something that’s still dawning on me. 2015 was the “year of my mission” – the year when I was a missionary the entire time – and I can’t believe it’s over. 

     Our new year’s celebration was pretty normal (how crazy can it really be as a missionary?), but I did get up at midnight to watch the fireworks. Our apartment is on the top floor of our building, and we have a balcony which overlooks the entire city center. So, at 12:00 I braved the cold to sit out on the balcony and watch the festivities. From what I can tell, there really aren’t any laws here on fireworks (or if there are, they are all ignored), which meant that when midnight rolled around there were fireworks everywhere. And these weren’t just sparklers – they were the real thing. It was a nice moment, sitting out there on the balcony watching fireworks and thinking about the previous year as a missionary. I’m excited for what 2016 will hold!
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(District hike)

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(Fun fact: Hitler stood on this balcony during WW2 after Germany took over Maribor. This is where he said his infamous “let’s make this land German again!” statement)

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     The rest of the week was fairly uneventful. The time around Christmas and New Years can be hard for missionary work since most people are either out of town or too busy with family to talk to missionaries. Even still, we saw some success.
     We met with one of our investigators early in the week to teach him about the Restoration and Joseph Smith. He came to the lesson fairly apprehensive, and sort of had the idea (from what I could tell) that he’d listen to us for an hour just to satisfy us and then that would be that. But as we started teaching, he started feeling the Spirit, and got more and more interested. By the end of the lesson he was excitedly talking to us about prophets and dispensations, and told us that the idea of Joseph Smith made perfect sense.
     A few days later he texted us and asked us to meet. He said that he had questions about priesthood and the Book of Mormon, so we gladly set it up. His attitude this time was completely different. He had read the brochure twice, and had very specific questions. He offered to pray at the beginning, and was anxious to get to the meat. It was so amazing to see what can happen to someone once they get a piece of the truth and feel the Spirit – they just want more! It was a testimony to me that our message is true and that all we need to do is help people feel the Holy Spirit.
     All-in-all it was a nice week, although I’m excited for the holidays to be over. People will be back in school, walking around the city, and (slightly) less busy at home.
     As I’ve thought about the new year, my mind obviously turns to goals. There are many things I want to work on – I need to do better at studying Slovene, I want to have more patience with people, I want to focus on talking to and finding families and young people, etc. etc. I have a long list of goals. But, one goal which I have and I think you should all have as well is to read the Book of Mormon again this year. I know that seems like a goal every year, but on my mission I’ve come to realize how important the Book of Mormon is. President Ezra Taft Benson was big on the Book of Mormon and he said

“Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book? Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation. Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life. There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who is not.”

President Marion G. Romney further said this:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents.Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness”

     These promises are real, and I know that I need to do a better job at making the Book of Mormon a greater part of my life. So, take some time this week and make a goal! Maybe it’s to read the Book of Mormon this year as a family. Maybe it’s to read it before I get home? Something – anything – to make the Book of Mormon a more central pillar of our testimonies.
     I love you all so much and hope you have a great week back at school and work. Hear from you soon!
     Jack

 

Vesel Božič in Srečno Novo Leto!

     Dobro jutro in vesel Božič everyone!!
     The first few days of the week were filled (for the most part) with our hot chocolate activity, and we’re still seeing great success with it – we’re now teaching 3 people who were found while doing it. We also spent the first fews days of the week doing some last minute Christmas shopping… when you are with someone 24/7 it can be really hard to get gifts for them haha, so there was a lot of sneaking around, enlisting the other missionaries to buy things for you, etc. Somehow it worked.
     On Christmas eve we spent a few hours going to each of the members’ homes, singing to them, and giving them a bag of “Christmas oranges”. It was good for me, being new and all, to have the chance to go and see all of the members like that. They seemed to really appriciae it as well, and I know we missionaries really enjoyed it.
     When we got back to the Johnson’s, we spent the rest of the night playing Catan, eating Slovene-style Cafe Rio, and trying to keep ourselves awake. When midnight finally got close, the 6 of us walked into center and enjoyed midnight mass together. Mass was a lot more enjoyable for me this year (probably since I was able to understand it this time around) and was a fun way to see some Slovene culture.
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(Maribor district with matching PJ’s)

     Christmas itself was amazing, and we spent the whole day in our PJs, eating, watching church movies, listening to Christmas music, opening gifts, and of course, talking to our families 🙂
     All-in-all it was a fantastic Christmas, and I loved being able to see everyone. You all looked so healthy and happy and I wished I was there celebrating and opening gifts with you. But, I know that I’m in the right place doing the right thing, and that you’re in the right place as well.
     I love you and can’t wait to hear from you, and have a wonderful new year!
     Jack