O That I Were an Angel…

I had a good week, although it was interrupted by a bout with the flu. In the Book of Mormon there’s a point where Alma, wishing to have greater power to share the gospel message with the people, laments “O that I were an angel”. Well, I think I made a similar statement laying in bed this week! Granted, I was less interested in the angelic power than I was in the lack of sickness and pain that comes from having an immortal body…

On Wednesday night I wasn’t feeling the best so I went to bed shortly after we got home. When the alarm went off Thursday morning, I knew it was all over… I had a high fever, bad cough, sore body, and upset stomach. So, I crawled my way over to where the medicine is, then went back to bed for a few hours. It didn’t get much better and we ended up spending the better part of Thursday to Sunday inside our apartment. Poor Elder Frandsen was probably going crazy by my 10th or 11th nap… I did have to put myself together though on Friday and get through a few hours of zone conference. With the ever reliable help of DayQuil, I made it. Despite the fact that I was sick and drugged up, I still really enjoyed the conference. We talked about teaching the Restoration, and there we a lot of things which I’d like to try and implement in my teaching.

Despite the run-in with the flu, Elder Frandsen and I were still able to have some great teaching experiences this week. One stands out in particular.

Because of the time inside the apartment, we figured it would be a good time to start looking at the records of people who had been taught at one point in the past but, for whatever reason, stopped meeting with the missionaries. After looking through a few records I saw one that looked promising and gave him a call. He seemed happy to hear from us and was more than willing to get together and talk.

Two days later we met him at the church to sit down and talk, and I figured it would be more of a “get to know you” type conversation. The topic quickly turned spiritual though, and we ended up having an amazing lesson with him. He’d had religious questions for a long time that he’d never been able to find answers to, and we taught him about how we can find answers through honest and sincere prayer. We challenged him to pray when he got home, something he agreed to readily.

The next day while we were doing some things in the apartment we got a text out of the blue from that same investigator. Clearly excited, he said “God answered me! With His help He finally led me to an answer. You two MUST have been inspired to call me when you did.” It was such a great thing to hear, and it was a testimony of God’s hand in the work. In spite of whatever may be going on – sickness definitely included – He still works though us to accomplish miracles.

I wish I had more to share this week, and hopefully next week will be a little more exciting. I’m feeling much better, and Elder Frandsen and I are excited to start a fresh, healthy, new, week. I hope everything is going well back home, and you’re all in my prayers.

Starešina Davis

 

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Happy Valentinovo! (Plus a discourse on doubts)

Good morning and happy “valentinovo” everyone! Valentine’s Day is in fact a holiday here, although I’m not sure it’s quite as big of an event as it is in the United States. It’s also not as big of an event for missionaries in general…

We had a good week, and the last 5 or 6 days have been kind of…busy? That isn’t usually a word I use to describe my week, but somehow this one ended up being one in which we had multiple lessons scheduled all throughout the week. Weird, right? I definitely liked it.

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Elder Frandsen and I at the Maribor Soccer Stadium

We met with one of our investigators on Tuesday and then taught English class in the evening. English class is always a lot of fun, and right now we have anywhere from 8 to 12 people who come each week. My understanding of English has definitely gone up with the random questions the class throws at us (Why do you say “I want a car” but not “I want an air”?, what is the difference between “I will be going” and “I am going to go”, etc, etc). Despite their best efforts though, I haven’t been stumped yet. Yet…

On Wednesday we met with two more investigators and were able to teach good lessons. The second investigator is an 18-year-old girl who goes to the local high school here, and we had a great time talking about the Plan of Salvation. She doesn’t quite understand who God is or what that even means, so we tried to explain those deep concepts in a simple way. She was very engaged, and at the end commented that the Plan of Salvation is extremely logical. How right she is! When you look at God’s plan for us, you begin to realize just how logical and organized it really is. In fact, it’s perfect.

Later in the week we spent some time in a little town called Lenart, about 30 minutes East of Maribor. We’re experimenting with tracting in small, outlying villages, and Lenart is one of them. We spend a lot of time tracting there, and on Thursday we had our first real follow-up lesson in the town. The investigator is a 32-year-old man, and we talked to him about finding answers to our questions by reading the Book of Mormon. He seemed to like it, and we’re going to follow-up this week. It’s fun to be able to do missionary work in these small towns where almost nobody has even heard of Mormons, let alone know what we believe. It’s like working with a clean slate.

The rest of the week continued like this, and despite some surprise snow on Saturday morning, it was a good week. On Sunday we had church (small, but nice) and then went over to the Johnson’s for a Valentine’s lunch.

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(From Monday at the Ptuj castle- Elder Pickard, Elder Hughes, Me, Elder Frandsen)

One topic I’ve been thinking about recently is how we can overcome doubts, especially doubts about the church. It’s one of the most important topics there is to talk about, and is constantly on my mind as a missionary.

Everyone has doubts – that’s a given. Because of that, I think that the most important question is this: how do we respond to doubts? The first way is the positive way. This when we have honest questions, something that should always be encouraged! If Joseph Smith hadn’t doubted the established Christian churches of his time we would never have had a Restoration. Doubting (lacking confidence) and then honestly seeking truth is not a negative.

Then we have the other kinds of responses. Those in my opinion are best illustrated by the Apostle Thomas in the New Testament. He wasn’t with the other Apostles when the risen Christ returned, and said famously “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Thomas (at least at this point) wasn’t honestly questioning or asking – he was simply refusing to believe without proof. Christ’s response is wonderful: “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
I’ve seen this on my mission with things like the Book of Mormon. Everyone has doubts or concerns about the Book of Mormon, and that is not a bad thing. I myself have had a fair share of doubts! The response is important though. Those like Joseph Smith will say, “Okay, I have doubts about the origins of the Book of Mormon. So, I’m going to read it for myself and ask God if it’s true.” On the other hand, those like Thomas will say “Okay, I have doubts about the origins of the Book of Mormon. So, I’m not going to believe it’s true until the missionaries are able to resolve and dispel every concern I have.” Two very different responses to doubts.
President Monson said, “Faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.” It’s sort of crazy how true this is. We (especially as members of the church) sometimes go about it the wrong way, like the Apostle Thomas. We figure that in order to have more faith in something (the Restoration, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, tithing, etc) we FIRST have to expel and resolve all doubts concerning that thing. It’s backwards though. We work and act to grow our faith, which in turn begin to expel doubts.
I try to do as little rambling as possible, so I’ll get off my soapbox. But for now it’s enough to end with this: honestly seeking answers is never a negative, and as we work hard to increase our faith our doubts begin to shrink.
Starešina Davis

 

A Quick Hello!

I sure missed emailing you all yesterday, and it’s funny how subconsciously attached my body has gotten to Monday mornings… But, yesterday was a national holiday (Prešeren Day, celebrating Slovenia’s most famous poet) and EVERYTHING was closed. So, here I am!

Last week was good, and Elder Frandsen and I are trying to get ourselves situated into Maribor for our transfer together. He’s a really fun guy, and I think we’re going to have a great time together. Because of fewer and fewer Sisters entering the mission field though, Maribor is going to be “sister-less” this transfers! Just us two and the Johnsons. We’re taking over the sisters’ investigators and their area of Maribor, so this week we tried to get organized (tried, being the operative word there). Being the only two responsible for an entire city of 100,000 should be… something!

We did quite a bit this week, and I’ll quickly try to give you some of the highlights.

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Last Monday for our p-day we drove around with the Johnsons and got Elder Frandsen oriented in Maribor. We drove through center, around the river, up into the surrounding countryside, and finally ended at Maribor’s big soccer stadium. Elder Frandsen is very into soccer and Sister Johnson was able to talk our way out onto the field. Maribor’s soccer team is the best in the country (sorry Ljubljana…) and so it was a really cool thing to get to see.

During the rest of the week we did our normal missionary things: contacting, tracting, teaching lessons, etc. and we were able to talk to a number of really cool people. There was one experience though which really stood out.

On Saturday Elder Frandsen and I decided to go and track down an inactive member of the branch that nobody had heard from in a while. As we were going through the branch roster we felt pretty strongly about visiting this member, and so headed to his apartment building after lunch. When we got to the building though, we realized that we didn’t know which, out of the 20 or 30 apartments, was his. The solution? Tract the whole thing! We started at the top floor and began to work our way down.

10 or 15 doors later, a college-aged guy answered the door and we started talking to him. That turned into a conversation about the Restoration and ended with us teaching him a 30 or 40 minute lesson about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. He told us that he’s searching for truth in his life, and that he’d be excited to meet with us to find this truth for himself. It was a great experience, and as we were leaving, I had the distinct impression that this guy was the reason we had been prompted to visit the member. We never did end up finding that member, but the Lord used that as a way to get us into the path of someone who was searching for the truth. I love it when I get to see the hand of the Lord like that!

Sunday was good, and fast and testimony meeting was really nice. Although we may be small in number, I love hearing the testimonies of these pioneers. After church we did some more hunting for members, and this trip to some cool places that I had never been before. And we found the member! So a double win for us.

Finally, yesterday was, of course, a blast. In addition to being “Prešeren Day” is was also part of “Pust”, Slovenia’s traditional holiday meant to drive away winter. Maybe you remember it from last year – a lot of half sheep, half yetis running around trying to scare winter away. It’s a fun (and very unique) tradition, and we were able to go to the town of Ptuj to enjoy some of those festivities.

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(Sister Johnson, Elder Pickard, Me, Elder Hughes, Elder Frandsen- my companion. All of us at the Pruj castle)

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(Pruj castle weapons room – aka every boy’s dream)

 

All-in-all we had a great week and I’m excited for this upcoming transfer. I don’t have too many of those left, and I hope to be able to use this one to its fullest!

Starešina Davis

 

“Mid-Transfer” Transfers

We had a good week here, and as always it would be incomplete without some sort of craziness that comes from serving in the Adriatic North Mission.

Our regular 9-week transfer is scheduled to take place a week from today, but on Tuesday morning (this past week) we got a call from President Grant that threw everything up into the air. A sister in Croatia had to go home for medical reasons, and so to balance out the numbers two sisters were pulled from Slovenia down to the Southern part of the mission. With all of this going on, President Grant decided he might as well just mix up the Elders as well! Our week turned into a crazy one of packing and moving, and Elder Pickard ended up moving to Celje. I’m now in Maribor with a new companion – Elder Frandsen. He’s a great guy (been out for about 4 months) and I think him and I are going to have a lot of fun together. Because of this move we don’t have any sisters in Maribor for the time being… Elder Frandsen and I are just lone men in Maribor.

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(Goodbye to the old Maribor district! Blurry, but it works. Elder Pickard, Me, Sister Higgins, Sister Nydegger)

On Friday I did a nice “Tour de Slovenia” and helped moved everyone around. I got up in the morning, drove to Celje to drop off one Elder and pick up another, then brought that Elder to Ljubljana and picked up a third Elder, and then brought that one to Kranj where I finally picked up my new companion! A LOT of driving, but it was fun to see every Elder and every city in the zone in one day.

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(Meeting up in Kranj to switch around – Elder Franssen, Elder Wise, Elder Eddington, Elder Lewis, Me, Elder McKee. My new companion is Elder Franssen on the left)

All of that craziness took up a good chunk of our week, but it by no means meant that we didn’t have any time for missionary work. We had good experience this weekend, although it ended up being as heartbreaking as it was spiritual.

We met with a couple on Saturday who expressed interest in the church and our message. With the nice weather we’ve been having, the 4 of us sat down outside and started talking. Shortly into our conversation the couple really opened up to us and started to talk about some of the things that have been going on in their life. The husband got into business with somebody who ended up being less than honest, and they lost all of their money in a matter of months. The wife is pregnant (due in a month) and currently living in a hostel. The husband tries to do odd jobs to pay for his wife’s hostel room and stays in a Catholic shelter. It was genuinely heartbreaking, and I think the hardest part was how normal and put together this couple was – they were simple destitute.

We talked about what we do as missionaries about the relief and peace that can come from a relationship with Jesus Christ, and focused our discussion on Matthew 11:28-30.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I have often looked at this statement by Christ in a very spiritual light – I always thought it was referring to spiritual burdens and being “heavy laden” with sin. I still think that’s true, but as I sat on a bench watching this woman cry I thought about the true depth and meaning of that scripture. Those 3 verses are an open invitation for everyone, whether they are burdened with sin, sadness, sickness, pain, financial troubles, relationship issues, or whatever else may be the case. If we come to Him and learn of Him, He will make those burdens light. What a remarkable promise! The couple came to church the next day, and we’re going to continue to meet with them.

Until next time!

Starešina Davis