Your Bosom Shall Burn Within You

Another week has flown by, and of course there is always more to say than can fit in a short email. Even still, here are some of the highlights.

Ines and Gaja this week started the process of moving into a new house. One of Ines’ relatives owns the house, and told her that she and Gaja are more than welcome to live there. The house needs quite a bit of work though… We went over with the Johnsons to see what sort of stuff needs to be done – painting, installing a new kitchen, yard work, etc. and got to work! We started with the yard by turning the soil and creating a place for a garden. We don’t get a lot of service opportunities here, and being able to work on the house a little bit this week was a blast. It’s weird how much I miss home improvement projects!

In addition to working on their new house, we also continued to teach Ines and Gaja the lessons for new members. They are both doing wonderfully!

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(We had a family home evening night with Ines and Gaja at a member’s house, and while walking home it started to POUR. None of us had umbrellas, and we were totally soaked…)

This week we also continued to meet with one of our long time investigators, and on Thursday had a great lesson with him. I’m not sure how much it touched our investigator, but it was definitely a converting experience for me personally.

Here’s the background – the investigator has been meeting with us for a while and has come to church many times. He feels the Spirit when he’s with us and likes it a lot. But, he was raised Catholic, and really loves that aspect of his life as well. And then to make things even more confusing, he decided to attend an evangelical church to see what it was like, and said that he really enjoyed it there as well. That now leaves him in a “Joseph Smith” type situation – out of the Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical churches, which is God’s church?

We spent a while talking about that and about finding answers through the power of the Holy Ghost. And then we did something I’ve never done before with an investigator – we knelt down and prayed, not just about the Mormon church, but about all three of those churches. We figured that if we truly believe in receiving answers to prayers, it can’t hurt to pray about other churches as well.

We started by praying and asking God if the Catholic church was His true church on the Earth today. I didn’t feel anything negative, but didn’t feel anything overly positive either. We then prayed and asked if joining an Evangelical church was the right thing for people today. Again, nothing negative, nothing positive. And then we prayed about the Mormon church. As soon as the question was asked, I felt a feeling of peace and “burning in the bosom” that is nearly impossible to describe with words. I don’t know how the investigator felt, but I can say that for me, that this was a wonderful experience in which my conversion was deepened and strengthened. It also reminded me that no matter how long we have been members of the church, we can always ask God for a reassurance that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His true church today.

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(Tracting selfie. mormon.org card anyone?)

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(Maribor’s city park. Our apartment is right across the street, and we frequent the park often)

The rest of the week was spent doing our normal missionary things, like tracting and contacting. We had a good time doing it and were able to teach a number of people about who we are and what our message is. It’s fun to meet people who really know nothing about Mormons – it’s like working with a new, clean slate.

On Sunday we had our district conference (our equivalent of stake conference) in Ljubljana and it was wonderful to get to see some of the members from other branches. The church here is still small enough that everybody knows everybody, and it’s fun to be a part of that “church family”, even if just for a short amount of time. Most of the leadership was reorganized at the conference, and a new branch president was called in Maribor. That means I’m off the hook as a counselor! In all seriousness though, I’ve loved the chance to serve in the branch, and am sure that I will have plenty of opportunities to continue serving.

Overall, a fun week. Elder Hughes and I are doing really well together, and are loving the time together in Maribor. The city is great, the Johnsons are great, the members are great… I’m not sure what else I could ask for!
Starešina Davis
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Concert Week

We had a great week here, and as usual there was something to keep us on our toes. After many months of planning and preparation it was finally time for the David Archuleta and Paul Cardall visit. Paul Cardall (an LDS pianist) did a concert in Slovenia last year, and this year another one was was organized to include David Archuleta. The whole concert was done in partnership with a Slovenian charity that benefits children with hearth defects, and the entire event was really nice. It was also a good way to help people get familiar with the Church and see that we’re actually quite normal!

The concert craziness started on Thursday morning. After getting to Slovenia, David Archuleta and Paul Cardall went right into a rehearsal at the Ljubljana Opera and Ballet theater – it’s a stunning building. Elder Hughes and I were able to attend that rehearsal to take pictures and shoot some video for a promotional video that went on the Church’s Facebook page. It was fun to see them rehearse and we were able to get to meet and talk to David Archuleta and the people that came with him.

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(We took a little trip to the Ljubljana castle)

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(I got this from the internet…But even still, look at that theater!)

On Friday afternoon we had a missionary fireside at the Ljubljana chapel with David Archuleta and Paul Cardall as our speakers. They both did wonderfully, and David talked a lot about his mission and the different things he learned. He shared some great insights about following promptings of the Spirit and repentance, and, of course, sang for us. For someone famous, he is a very down to Earth and genuine guy, and I really appreciated some of the things he talked about during that fireside.

 

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(Slovenia)

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(And more Slovenia)

Finally, the time for the concert arrived. All of the missionaries in Slovenia were able to attend, as well as many of the members. It was fun to see so many of the missionaries and members all dressed up going to the concert! The entire evening lasted about 2 hours and was a lot of fun. David Archultea sang, Paul Cardall played the piano, and both sounded great. I’ll try to include the links to some videos I took. They aren’t the best quality, but definitely get the point across.

By the time we finally got home on Friday night we were exhausted. Even still, it was a great week and we were lucky to have someone like David Archuleta come visit. Things like this aren’t only fun though, but do a good job at helping bring the Church’s name out of obscurity, even if only a little bit. Although I would venture to say that nobody will be baptized because of this concert, I can confidently say that to a few hundred people “Mormon” means something a little more positive now. The Church in Slovenia is still young, and most people simply don’t know who we are. (Funny side note. Harrison Ford’s movie “Witness” is, for some reason, really popular in Slovenia. It’s on TV at least once a week. The movie focuses on an Amish boy, but in Slovenia the people who did the subtitles translated “Amish” as “Mormoni”. So now the entire country thinks that “Mormon” is a name for those people who live in the country and don’t use electricity…) Events like this help the Church slowly but surely become a more recognizable and positive force in Slovenia. It’s a great time to be a missionary here!
Starešina Davis

Happy Mother’s Day, and a Quick Hello!

This p day became busier than we had originally thought, and I don’t have too much time to email. But I of course, still want to fill you in on my week.

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(We took a trip up into the bell tower of one of Maribor’s catholic churches. What a view!)

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(A p-day trip up to a waterfall in the mountains north of Maribor. Gotta love Slovenia!)

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     We didn’t have too much special happening this past week, but we spent quite a bit of time going door to door in the college dorms. The fear of doing that has largely subdued, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite missionary activities. There’s just something so fun about being able to talk to so many people my age, who (for the most part) are open minded and willing to listen.
     There was one particular experience which stood out to me in particular. We knocked on a door and a young woman answered. After explaining who we were she quickly told us that she was a biology student and didn’t believe in God. Instead of just saying “thank you” and leaving though, we kept chatting. The conversation become more and more focused on faith, and we talked to her about what it means to have a relationship with God. This was a tough concept for her to grasp – the idea that we can have a personal relationship with a person that we don’t see. But, Elder Hughes and I were able to share our own experiences of what this has done for us, and I think she was touched. At the end we challenged her to give prayer an honest go, and she didn’t seem too against it. I don’t know what will happen – I’ll probably never see this girl again in my life – but it was a nice experience to be able to simply and directly testify about what it means to really know God as our Father.

The rest of the week was pretty standard. Contacting, tracting, and a lesson here and there. Next week should be crazy though… Somehow in the midst of all of these emails home I’ve forgotten to mention that David Archuleta is coming to Slovenia to do a concert this week! The Church is teaming up with a Slovenian heart disease foundation to put it all on, and this week we’ll be deep in the throngs of that concert. I’ll let you know how it goes.

     I love you all so much, and I hope you had a great mother’s day 🙂
     Love you,
     Jack

All in White

     We had yet another great week in Maribor, and the obvious highlight was the baptism of Gaja on Wednesday.
     We spent Monday and Tuesday getting things ready for the baptism – filling and heating the font, buying and cooking food, making programs, etc. Everything was going wonderfully. When we woke up on Wednesday morning though, we were somewhat disappointed to see that it was raining. Then, to our shock and horror that rain turned to sleet, and then full-on snow. Of ALL the days to have a freak snow storm, it just had to be Wednesday

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(Maribor getting dressed in white for the baptism)

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(What happened to spring?)

     Despite the snow, we continued to get everything ready for the baptism that evening. First missionaries started showing up, then Ines and Gaja, and then (to our great relief) members. You never know who will come to events – especially in the snow – but by the time the baptism started there were probably 35 people in the chapel.
     The program itself was wonderful, and the Spirit was strong throughout. Ines gave a talk on baptism – her first talk as a member – and then we heard from our Relief Society president. After a musical number from the Ljubljana missionaries, it was time for the actual baptism! It’s amazing that such a simple and quick ordinance carries so much significance, but those 30 seconds in the font are some of the most important seconds in our lives. With every baptism that I witness, I gain a stronger and stronger testimony of the power that comes from making sacred promises with God.

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(Maribor chapel ready for the baptism)

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(Me, Gaja, Ines, Elder Hughes)

 

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(Baptism selfie with Gaja)

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(Elder Pickard, Elder Hughes, Gaja, Ines, Me, Elder Frandsen)

     After the baptism, we had the chance to hear Gaja bear her testimony. It was simple and beautiful, and she was so happy and excited that she could barely speak! It was a lot of fun to watch someone feel so good about the decision they had just made. All-in-all it was a fantastic evening and I couldn’t be happier for Gaja and for the Maribor branch. In one month we’ve seen two young and energetic additions to our branch, and I think it’ll do wonders for the church here.

     The rest of the week was good, although it paled in comparison to Wednesday. On Thursday morning the Johnsons, Ines and Gaja were off to a Young Single Adult conference in Zagreb, and we were left all alone in Maribor. So we cleaned the church, tracted in the student dorms… the usual. By Sunday everyone was back at home, and Gaja was confirmed as the newest member of the Church.
     Being a missionary, although at times difficult, is one of the most rewarding jobs there is. We give up time and means to come on missions, but in return get to be witnesses as the Lord hastens His work and gathers His elect into the Church. What could be better than that!
     Starešina Davis