More Mysterious Ways

     Happy Tuesday everyone!
     This week was a whirlwind, and a lot happened. Let’s see if I can make sense of it all.
     On Monday we had the chance to take a fun p-day trip to Varaždin, a Croatian city about 45 minutes from Maribor. The Elders there are Elders Rice and Burnette, my former companion and Elder Frandsen’s good friend. So it only seemed right that we pay them a visit. Varaždin was nice, and it was fun to explore a new city. The city castle was probably the coolest part, and was yet another reminder that I live in a fairy tale land.

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(Varazdin Castle)

     The middle of the week was pretty standard, but on Thursday we got up the courage to try something I’ve never done before – tract student dorms. College aged students are always the most open and willing to listen to us, and so we figured that we might as well go right to the source. We would have tried it sooner, but I had to spend some time building up the courage… Something about knocking on the door of a college dorm where I knew 4 guys my age lived didn’t sound pleasant. But, after some coaxing, we started. And it worked! At the very first door a student answered, listened to who we were, and then invited us in to talk to him and his roommate. They weren’t the only ones who listened, and we found a number of students willing to listen.
     Friday was zone conference in Ljubljana, and that was where the week really got crazy.
     During my mission I’ve had many different opportunities to see the hand of the Lord at work. Specifically, I’ve been able to teach people that weren’t found by us, but rather lead to us by the Lord. These people are examples of how the Lord hastens His work in His own time and in His own way. Zone conference brought yet another of these examples!
     After finishing lunch we were all sitting in the church listening to a presentation. A number that I didn’t recognize called our phone, so I sent a quick text saying that I was in a meeting and would have to call back later. The response was unbelievable.
     The mystery person on the other end responded by saying that they had known missionaries for quite some time and would like to meet with us to talk about getting baptized. That’s not a text we get very often! So, I took the next chance I had to call the number and see what the situation was. It turned out that the mystery person on the other end was actually a young woman in Maribor. She’d been living in Germany for some time, and there met the missionaries and investigated the church. She told me that she had made the decision to be baptized, but had to leave Germany and come home to Slovenia before the actual baptism could take place. So, she’s now home and wants to finish what she started!
     We set up a time to meet her in person the next morning at the church. Elder Frandsen and I weren’t sure what to expect, but it’s safe to say that we were both pleasantly surprised. While living and studying in Germany she investigated for a few months but had to come home to Slovenia right before she could be baptized. We had a great time talking, and I was able to take her into the other room and conduct a baptismal interview the same day. The depth of her testimony is amazing, and she expressed a desire to be baptized as soon as possible. So, we set a baptismal date for this Saturday, April 2nd.
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(The Johnsons invited all of us for Easter dinner. The girl next to me is the one getting baptized this week, and the man next to her is our district president)

     Since then we’ve been working to get everything ready for Saturday. We weren’t expecting to have to plan a baptism this week, but it’s a welcome surprise. More than anything though, all of this was another testimony to me that the Lord is in charge of His work. We come up with good ideas, we work hard, we try our best, but in the end it’s the Lord who makes it all happen. Isaiah was right when he said “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in my time.” This is true in missionary work and in every aspect of our lives. Of that I have no doubt.
     Love,
     Starešina Davis

Follow Him and Find New Life

Good morning everyone!

     This was a good week, and we did a lot to get ourselves pretty immersed in the Easter spirit. Each Easter and Christmas the Church undertakes a big public relations campaign, and this year’s Easter message is called “Follow Him”. There are a number of nice videos on the mormon.org site, all of which send the central message, “Follow Him and Find New Life”. This is the message we’ve worked hard to share this week.
     Since nothing is translated into Slovenian the first step was to subtitle the video and create a pass along card. With the translated video, we went to work! The weather has been nice so we took the Johnson’s iPad and a table into center, and started sharing the video with people. It went surprisingly well, and we were able to get quite a few people to stop and watch – there’s something very non-threatening about watching a short video.
     On Thursday we got to change things up a little bit and take a quick trip to Zagreb, Croatia. There were some things in the office we needed to figure out (with apartment leases and such) so we made a little day trip out of it. After some time at the office in the morning we headed out for lunch and a walk through Zagreb’s beautiful center. There are some amazing things to see in Zagreb, one of the most notable being the main cathedral. It’s a beautiful building, and the history behind it is very cool. Although I love Slovenia, it was fun to have a few hours to explore Zagreb!

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The Zagreb Cathedral

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(A cool sculpture above the main door of the cathedral. It depicts God (on the right) , Christ ( on the left), and the Holy Spirit (the dove, above). It is so interesting to see that when the cathedral was built many hundred years ago, they believed that the Godhead was made up of three separate individuals. They may have changed the belief since then, but the artistic evidence of the truth remains.)

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(More Zagreb)

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(One of Zagreb’s center squares)

This week we also got to do a little birthday celebration for Elder Frandsen. He loves soccer, and the best gift we could think of was a Maribor soccer game! Back home I always thought of soccer as boring (c’mon, any sport where you can tie 0 to 0 can’t be that interesting, right?) but I’m a changed man now. Soccer games are SO much fun, and it’s just as exciting as any basketball or football game I’ve been to. The match we went to was Maribor vs. Novo Mesto, and I’m proud to say that Maribor won 2 to 1.

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(Maribor’s two newest fans!)

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     Overall, a great week. I loved the chance we had to show the Easter video to people, and I couldn’t think of a message I’d rather share than that through Jesus Christ we can find new life. Everyone we talked to this week knew who Jesus Christ was – they’ve heard that name their entire life. But, the answers changed completely when we asked them whether or not they felt like they had a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ isn’t just a historical or religious figure to study and read about in church. He is someone that we can actually have a relationship with. That’s the message we tried our hardest to share this week, and I can’t wait to keep on doing that for many more weeks to come 🙂
     Have a great Easter, and I I’ll hear from you soon!
     Jack

 

Teaching Repentance

Good morning everyone!

Well, another week has come and gone, and I’m amazed at how fast 7 days can go. I sincerely hope that the weeks don’t fly this fast at home!

We had a good week here, although nothing too out of the ordinary to report. The Elders from Ljubljana came to Maribor on Monday night for an exchange, and instead of two of us going back to Ljubljana all four of us stayed in Maribor. It was great to have more than two missionaries here for a few days – I miss having a district! I worked with Elder Prososki, one of the Elders that was in the MTC with me an eternity ago. It’s fun to be able to see the change that has happened in that year and a half.

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(My name is Jack, Elder Prososki’s name is Joe. It was too perfect)
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(I got to spend a few hours in Celje this weekend. It was like seeing a long lost friend:)

This week we had the chance to teach a number of different lessons. Although each was very different, I noticed a common theme woven throughout all of the lessons: repentance. Ever since the church did that broadcast called “Teach Repentance, Baptize Converts” I’ve really tried my hardest to teach repentance in a more complete way. And the results have been amazing!

What I’ve seen in the past few weeks is this: everything we teach is supposed to point toward repentance and baptism. Take Joseph Smith and the Restoration as an example. Why do we teach people about that? Is it just so they know about something cool that happened 200 years ago? No! It’s because the message of the Restoration is supposed to point us toward repentance and baptism by proper, restored, authority. Do we teach the Plan of Salvation because it’s fun to talk about where we go when we die? Well… yes haha. But more importantly, it’s because the Plan of Salvation teaches us why we need to repent and be baptized. Everything we teach as missionaries points towards repentance, and covenants such as baptism.

In 3 Nephi 11 Christ comes to the Nephites and begins to teach then, just as He taught the people of Israel. He starts by saying to them, “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.” At this point the Nephites were probably expecting something spectacular – what is Christ’s doctrine!? He continues, “And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit‍ the kingdom of God…And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child…Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine…” And that was it! The Gospel of Christ is not complicated – not even a little bit. It’s about repenting every day, trying to do better than we did the day before, and making sacred covenants.

I love being able to teach this to investigators. I love telling them that my purpose as a missionary isn’t just to fill their heads with new knowledge – it’s to help them change their lives through the power of repentance. There’s really no better calling than that.

I hope you all have a great week, and I’ll talk to you soon!

Starešina Davis

Where are you spring!

Good morning everyone!

We had a good week in Maribor, although the weather is all over the place right now. We didn’t have any snow this winter, but in the past two weeks its snowed 4 or 5 times. I just want Slovenia to be blindingly green again! Is that too much to ask?

On Monday we had a great p-day with Elder and Sister Johnson in the little town of Rogaška Slatina. Beside having a number of nice spas and hotels, Rogaška Slatina is also home to Rogaška Cyrstal, a company which produces crystal for companies all over the world. They have a huge factory here, so the four of us took a tour and watched as beautiful crystal pieces were blown, cut, decorated, polished and packed. It was actually a very cool tour!

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(Just a cute Slovenian village on the way back from Rogaska Slatina)

On Tuesday we had a great lesson with one of our investigators. He’s a college student in his early 20s who we found while tracting a few weeks ago. He finally had time for another lesson, and it was… well, it was something. He had a billion questions about everything imaginable, and these weren’t just the “so, what do you believe?” kind of questions. They were deep, philosophical, and difficult to answer. Part of me really enjoyed it actually – I like the intellectual challenge. I tried not to let that part get the better of me though, and remembered that as a missionary it’s not my duty to answer and address every single question and concern that an investigator can come up with. And it’s definitely not my job to try and teach things from an intellectual standpoint. Bearing testimony of gospel truths is the greatest tool I have, and once I’ve taught and testified it’s up to the investigator and Holy Ghost to do the rest.

The rest of the week was pretty standard, and there were a couple of other investigators we were able to teach. We also spent quite a bit of time tracting, and were desperately searching for the apartments where the college students live. As much as I love arguing with 75-year-old Catholics… I don’t. So, we’re doing all we can to find out where the young, friendly, and open-minded people live.

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(Maribor)

Another exciting moment from my week? I finally had a success in the Catholic archives! Agnes Zidarič (the one who came to America) had two husbands – Louis Cvetko and Martin Vouk. Our family obviously comes from Louis Cvetko, so I’ve never thought to look for information on Martin Vouk. Well, this week I decided to give it a try and actually found his baptismal record with a birthplace, parents, etc. It was exciting to actually find something, and every time I make progress on my Slovenian family history I feel more and more like I am accomplishing a task I was sent here to work on.

All-in-all this was a great week, and we are having a great time finding, teaching, and enjoying this wonderful country we’re in. There is so such to be enjoyed on a mission, and I’m realizing more and more that happiness and satisfaction is a choice. In a mission like this, I could easily let myself be discouraged, pessimistic, and unhappy. But it’s my choice, and I choose to be happy, to love the members and investigators, to cherish the teaching moments we have, and enjoy the amazing culture around us. This is something I hope to never forget, especially when I go home – we can be happy or unhappy, and it’s simply up to us to decide.

I hope you all have a great week, and I’ll hear from you soon.

Starešina Davis

Monday Morning in Maribor

I’m beginning to run out of clever subject lines for my weekly emails… I guess that means I’ve been here too long! Maybe I’ll just start teaching you random Slovene phrases.

 We had a good week here in Maribor and right at the beginning of the week I started feeling a lot better. By mid-week I was back to 100%! But, as luck would have it, Elder Frandsen started to get sick right as I started to get better. I guess when you have two people who live together and are around each other 24/7 the sickness is just bound to be shared. So, I had my turn playing nurse this week.

 On Monday we had a fun p day and were able to spend some time with the Elders from Varaždin, the closest Croatian city (that has a branch) to Maribor. It’s only 45 minutes away, and so on their way to come take care of some car registration stuff they stopped in Maribor for p day. The Elders there just happen to be Elder Rice – my former companion – and Elder Burnette – Elder Frandsen’s good friend from home. So it worked out great!

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We all went on a hike together. From left: Sister and Elder Porter- serving in Varaždin. Me (on the phone of course…), Elder Rice (in Varaždin, my companion in Kranj), Elder Burnette (in Varaždin, friends with Elder Frandsen from back home), Elder Frandsen.

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Palačinke movie night! This weeks feature film? The Testaments

 The rest of the week was fairly ordinary, although we had a couple of great lessons. One of them was with a 26-year-old who has known the missionaries for some time. We met him this week at the church, expecting to teach a simple lesson. He instead ended up asking every single question he could possible think of about the church. In his words, he “just wants to know what joining your church would entail”. It was a ton of fun answering someone’s questions like that and there’s no better feeling than teaching someone who actually wants to learn.

On Saturday we had quite the adventure. If you remember, I had the chance to speak at a funeral in January. Well, the man who organized the funeral emailed us and asked us if we’d visit some of his family members that still live here in Slovenia. Apparently the funeral made some sort of impression on them, and this man thought it would be a good idea to follow that up with a missionary visit. So, of into the countryside we went. These people we were trying to visit live in the middle of nowhere and so we were using the GPS to try and navigate ourselves there. The GPS ended up bringing us to a tiny dirt road in the forest though. So we parked. And then we traipsed through the forest, looking for this house. Needless to say, we were in the wrong area. I just had to laugh at the situation though – two missionaries in the middle of some Slovenian forest trying to find a tiny mystery village. I’d be interested to see what other missionaries do on their mission haha..

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(“in 200 meters, your destination is on the right.” Whatever you say GPS…)
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I call this face, “lost in a Slovenian forest”

We ended up finding the people though and had a great visit with them. It’s an older couple, and we’re going to come help them with their garden when the weather warms up a bit.

All-in-all a great week. I’m happy, healthy (finally…) and loving the work. One of our investigators asked me this week if, with the knowledge that I have now of what a mission actually entails, I would still come and give up two years doing this. The answer? Of course! Yes, a mission is hard, and sometimes it feels like you aren’t actually accomplishing anything. But what I’ve learned is to find joy in the little things. A good lesson where I know the investigator felt the Spirit. A great sacrament meeting that I know the members enjoyed. Giving someone a small piece of advice that will hopefully help them. As I focus on these little things, this becomes the most enjoyable work in the world.

 

Starešina Davis