Green Again

I’m excited to report that after months and months of brown and grey, Slovenia is officially green again. And man is it beautiful! I forgot how stunning it is in spring and summer, and as fun as winter is… this is SO much better. As soon as the sun comes out and the trees start to come back it’s like a whole new world. Missionaries are happier, people on the street are happier, and life just gets a touch easier.

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(Maribor’s beautiful city park)

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(More Maribor)

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(Two of Maribor’s beautiful churches)

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     Nature and weather aside though, this was still a great week. I’ll try and see if I can take all of my scattered thoughts and organize them into some sort of coherent email…
     We were able to keep meeting with Ines and Gaja, and everything is still on track for Gaja’s baptism this week. All of us are really exited for Wednesday, and it should be a beautiful evening. Gaja is so prepared to be baptized and will be an amazing addition to the Maribor branch. And Ines is still amazing too. They’re truly the dynamic duo!
     On Wednesday we took some time to try and track down a few inactive members of the branch. Our first to visit was to a Muslim family that lives out in the boonies. There are 6 baptized members in that family, and so we were obviously anxious to figure out who they are. We took a bus to the outskirts of Maribor and then walked. And then walked a little more. After following a small country road for a while we finally came to their house. And as luck would have it though, the house was all chained up and abandoned… We found an old woman at the house next door who told us that they moved to Germany years ago. This poor old neighbor woman probably thought we were from some secret government agency – two Americans in white shirts and ties, way out in the middle of nowhere, snooping around the abandoned house of a mysterious Albanian family. Yay for missionary work!

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(Speaking of missionary work, we also got to help a member move a thousand year old boiler out of his apartment)

     This week also marked the start of a new finding approach – tracting the college dorms. It’s probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but we figure that if we’re going to spend time tracting, we may as well do it where everyone is between the ages of 18 and 26! After the initial fear and embarrassment though, it turned out to be one of the best things we’ve tried.
     At one of the doors, a young woman answered (probably 21-ish) and we started talking about who we were. She told us that she had been religious in her younger years but that in high school she stopped going to church, and eventually lost her faith altogether. We had a great conversation about how we can each have a personal relationship with God, and I could tell that the Spirit really touched her. She said that she hadn’t thought about these things in years, and that us coming was a wonderful surprise. I’m excited to keep tracting the dorms and helping these students feel the Spirit. There’s really no better work than the work we get to do here, every single week. Love you!
     Starešina Davis

The Slovenian Dream

     We had another good week in the fairy-tale land of Slovenia, and I’m still amazed that I get to to missionary work in here.
     Last Monday we had an great time on p day exploring the Logarska Valley, which is said to be one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in this part of Europe. Although I can’t say I’ve visited many European glacial valleys… they’re so right! We spent the whole day driving and hiking around this arm of the Alps, and I don’t think I’ve seen nature this beautiful before. The scene of rolling green valleys back-dropped by the sheer mountains was spectacular.DSC04170.JPG

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(This is the mouth of the valley. Coming around the corner and seeing that was literally breathtaking!)

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     The rest of the week (although not quite as filled with beautiful nature) was equally good, and was the first week of my new transfer with Elder Hughes. It’s so great to be back together, and I can tell that this transfer is going to be one of my best. After getting him all moved in on Tuesday, we got to work and were fairly busy for the rest of the week.
     One thing we did was obviously continue to prepare Gaja for baptism (and teach Ines at the same time). We got together three times this week, and each time I was just amazed at the strength of their testimonies and excitement for the church. The energy that they have is contagious, and is making a real difference in the branch and in our missionary work. Honestly, I keep needing to remind myself that this isn’t too good to be true – it’s just the Lord leading prepared people into His church.
    On Thursday Elder Hughes and I had the rare chance to visit a… referral! I can probably count the number of genuine internet referrals I’ve received on one hand, so this was obviously an exciting moment for us. We scheduled an appointment and went over to this man’s apartment, and I won’t lie – at first I was a little unsure. The apartment was small and messy, and the smell of cigarette smoke was strong. The man we were there to teach was in his 50s and lived there alone. Not exactly what I was expecting. But, as we started talking, it turned out to be a wonderful and spiritual lesson.
     This man (although culturally Catholic) had never been religious, and had never given much thought to religion in general. But, as he was on the internet one day he stumbled across something about the Book of Mormon and started to read about what it was. And that’s when the Spirit hit him. He told us that when he read about the Book of Mormon online he felt drawn to it in a way that he’s never been drawn to anything in his life. He said that he felt some sort of connection to the book that was incomparable to anything else he’d felt. So naturally he requested one to read and, well, here we are! Isn’t it amazing how the Spirit can touch people like that? Although he had never heard of Mormons or the Book of Mormon, the Spirit was able to help him feel that it was something good and something he needed. We’re excited to keep teaching him.
     All-in.all, it was a great week. Maribor is wonderful, the people we’re working with are amazing, and I love my companion. I guess you could say that that I’m living the Slovenian dream 🙂
     Starešina Davis

Moving and Singing and Satan, Oh My!

This was a good week here in Maribor, but we were once again left tired and sore… and happy!

     After a pretty relaxed p day on Monday, Tuesday was taken up by a day trip to Zagreb. We had to finish up some stuff down there, and so naturally took the opportunity to get lunch and walk around the old part of center. Nothing like a midweek trip to Croatia!IMG_3585.JPGIMG_2905.JPG On our way back though we got a call that someone had vandalized the church. Fearing that we were going to need to repaint part of the front of the building, we drove straight there. As it turns out though, someone had just written “Satan” and “666” a few times on the window with marker. It wasn’t quite the persecution we were expecting… but humorous nonetheless!

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(Nice try teenagers)

 

     Despite all of that fun, one of the best highlights of the week was our newest addition to the Maribor branch – Ines – who was baptized and confirmed last weekend. Having her as a member is a great blessing, and the energy that comes from an excited and young new convert is very tangible. One of the greatest things we’ve seen this week with Ines is her excitement to teach her friend, Gaja. The two have been friends since birth, and Gaja is now preparing to be baptized as well. If nothing else, all of this has been a true testament to the power of member missionary work.
     On Wednesday the craziness continued when all 16 missionaries in Slovenia had the rare opportunity to gather in Ljubljana and put on a district fireside for all of the members in the country. Wednesday was April 6th, the day on which we know Christ to have been resurrected. Many in the Church also believe April 6th is Christ’s birthday. Is there better day to organize a fireside about Christ?! The 16 of us put on a concert/testimony meeting which included about 6 musical numbers, 6 testimonies, and a short video from prophets and apostles testifying about Christ. More than 100 people came, and the Spirit was strong throughout the evening.

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(The cast and crew)

Unfortunately for us, we missed our 8:50PM train to Maribor (from Ljubljana) and so were resigned to take a 10:50PM train home… we didn’t pull into the Maribor train station until 1:30AM. 1:30 is almost unbearable when your body is trained to sleep every night at 10:30.

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(It was a long night for Elder Davis)

      On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we were completely immersed in moving. For more than 10 years, Maribor has had two apartments – one for Elders and one for Sisters. We recently got a new apartment for the Elders though, which meant we needed to move out of the old Elders’ apartment. And since we have no sisters, it meant moving out of theirs as well. So, in three days we had to move out of (and clean) two apartments and move into a new one. We’re sore. And tired. But we’re happy. And that about sums it up!
     If that wasn’t enough for one week, transfers were also announced. It’s scary how fast the transfers come and go, and I only have two of these 9-week cycles left. For this next transfer I will be… (drum roll) staying in Maribor! I’m actually very excited to stay –  I’ve grown to love it here. My companion will be Elder Hughes (who I was with in Kranj a few months ago) and we’re both really excited to be together again.
     All-in-all it was a great week. I feel sort of like I got hit by a train, but at least I’m tired from having to do so many wonderful things in one week. It’s still amazing to me that such an exhausting work can make me so happy and fulfilled.
     We’ll see what next week holds!
     Starešina Davis

The Lord is my Shepherd

     This week was quite the whirlwind, and by Sunday night we were all exhausted. But despite the exhaustion, it also shaped up to be one of the best weeks of my mission – the highlight, of course, being the baptism that took place on Saturday evening.
     We spent most of the week in baptism mode, getting everything ready for the big day. The Maribor church doesn’t have a built-in font, so we instead use a temporary pool of sorts. Getting it set up is quite the process, and once it’s up the water takes more than 24 hours to heat up. But, together with the Johnsons we were able to get it all set up and warm.

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(The apparatus in its full glory)

     The day of the actual baptism finally came, and it turned out to be one of the sweetest services I’ve been to. Ines (the girl getting baptized) was absolutely thrilled, and her happiness and excitement were contagious. We had most of the Maribor branch members there plus many from Celje, and for the first time on my mission I saw the Maribor chapel filled with people. What a great sight! We had two speakers, two missionary musical numbers, and the actual baptism. Elder Johnson baptized her (in Slovene no less) and the Spirit was so strong. Ines was absolutely beaming the whole time, and it’s exciting to see the change that baptism can bring to a person. In her testimony after being baptized she bore simple witness that the Church is true and that God has a plan for us. She also shared the 23rd Psalm, her favorite scripture:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

     What a beautiful description of the Lord’s love for us – He truly is our Shepherd. The next day I had the opportunity to confirm Ines, and she’s now the newest member of the Maribor branch!

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(Me, Ines, Elder Frandsen)

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(Me, Ines’ friend who is now getting ready for baptism, Ines, Elder Frandsen)

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     This whole experience has been a deeply spiritual one for all of us, and it’s been one of the greatest testaments to me that Lord is truly at the head of this work. Not only did He lead Ines to be baptized in this miraculous way, but He’s been preparing others as well. Ines’ best friend was at the baptism with her, and has begun meeting with us to take the lessons. She’s now preparing to be baptized in April as well! The Lord really does have a greater plan prepared and all we have to do is trust that He knows what He’s doing.
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(We also had a visit this week from Sjoerd! So many great people in one week!)

 

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(And a bonus picture of Maribor)

Starešina Davis