Konec

     After 25 months of weekly emails, it’s hard for me to believe that this the last one!
     Instead of trying to tell you the details about my week, I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts about… well, all of this. We’ll see if I can do that without turning the email into a sermon!
    The other day I was reading Alma in the Book of Mormon and came to chapter 26. This chapter is essentially Ammon giving a summary of his mission in the land of Nephi, what they experienced, and how they felt about the experience. Although these were the experiences and feelings of missionaries over 2,000 years ago, they are no different from the ones we feel now. Here are verses 27 to 30:

“Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren…and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.

And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.

 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.

 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.”

     I think this verse is such a wonderful overview of a mission. In 20 years of life I don’t think I’ve done anything that even comes close to being as hard as a mission. I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve felt such “afflictions and sufferings” (although still haven’t been cast into prison!). A mission is difficult, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – Ammon describes that in detail. But in verse 30 Ammon tells us why he suffered so much – he did it for the chance to help save even one soul. And the joy that came from that made the rest of it irrelevant!
     As I enter the last week of my mission, I cannot help but feel just like Ammon. The joy that has come from watching people accept Christ and His atonement is indescribable, and has made everything worth it. It has changed me in incredible ways. I feel so at peace with my mission. Paul said it best in 2 Timothy: “…the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course…”
     I love you all so much, and cannot wait to see you. In person!! Thank you ALL for the emails you’ve sent me over the last two years. It has really meant a lot.
     See you on the other side!
     Starešina Davis

The Best 2 Years

     There are a lot of little milestones and “checkpoints” you pass on a mission, but on Saturday I reached one of the most recognizable milestones of my mission. Exactly two years ago, on July 23rd, 2014, I entered the MTC and began my missionary service. It’s crazy to think that I’ve now been on a mission for two whole years. They’ve sure been good ones!
     This week was a good one, and we stayed pretty busy. One of the highlights was Wednesday night when we (the Kranj and Ljubljana missionaries) helped to put on a “Meet the Mormons” open house at the Ljubljana church. Members ran different “stations” where visitors could go to learn about the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, etc. It was a really nice event. The best part was that my Auntie Jožica came! She is technically my closest relative in Slovenia (1st cousin 3 times removed, whatever that means…). She really enjoyed the night, and it was great to see her again. She is absolutely hilarious – 4 time Yugoslavian rifle shooting champion, avid mountain climber, and almost 90 years old. She plans to take a helicopter to the top of Slovenia’s tallest mountain next year, and I can only hope we share some genes that influence longevity and energy!

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(Teta Jožica and I in the Ljubljana church)

Since we were all dressed up and in Ljubljana together, the Kranj district also decided to take a few quick pictures at the Ljubljana castle.

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(Me, Elder Prososki, Elder Mangeris, Elder Wise – the most Kranderful district there is)

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(Slovenia!)

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(…and Austria? Oops!)

     This week I also made another trip to the archives in Maribor. This was probably my last trip to the archives while here (they close for the rest of the summer), but it was a very productive one. I found the information for previously unknown ancestors, including my great-great grandparents, my great-great-great grandparents, and so on for a few generations. I now have our Slovene family traced back to about 1780.
     Overall, it was a good week. I hope you all have a great week and that you’re enjoying the summer. Hear from you soon!
     Starešina Davis

Što da kažem…

     This week was a whirlwind of travel, and it honestly flew by. The subject line of my email this week is Croatian, and I feel almost like I’ve spent more time there this week than in Slovenia! It started on Tuesday. Elder Prososki had a dentist appointment, so we made the trip down to Zagreb. Nothing too exciting there – just driving. Even still, it took most of the day.
     On Wednesday we made a trip to the Ljubljana archives. I found another couple of names there, and I think the running total for the past few weeks is now 33 new ancestors. It’s so rewarding to be able to find these people who have been waiting for decades and centuries to receive their saving ordinances. I cannot wait to start going to the temple and actually doing them myself!

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(Some archive work. We have to go in “civilian clothes”, since the Catholic church isn’t the biggest fan of Mormon missionaries walking into their archives to do temple work…)

     Thursday was spent in Kranj, and we had the opportunity to teach one of our investigators. He’s 18 years old, and really enjoys learning about the gospel. Some people are like sponges, and just soak up every ounce of gospel information they can get. It’s so fun to be a part of that process. The next step for him is to come to church, and we hope to see him there next Sunday.
     On Friday and Saturday we had an overnight zone conference at the mission home in Zagreb. The meetings were great, but the best part was spending some  down time with the rest of the zone. We played volleyball, basketball, card games, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

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(A group game of “Mafia”)

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(I missed the folded arms memo. (from left) Elder Prososki, Elder Mangeris, Me, Elder Wise)

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(The Slovenian Elders!)

It was a somewhat sentimental two days for me – this was my last zone conference and was the last time I am going to see some of the other missionaries. I’ve grown to love these people, and will miss them a lot. There are five of us going home next month, and we all had the opportunity to bear our testimony at the end of the conference.

     All-in-all, a great week. It flew by, and I’m afraid that isn’t going to stop. I’m loving it here though, and am trying to soak up every moment I have. I hope things are going well at home, and I’ll try to write more next time I’m on the computer!
Jack

 

Happy 4th of July!

     First of all… happy 4th of July! Today obviously isn’t a holiday in Slovenia, but my companion and I are wearing red, white, and blue in spite of that. I’ve always loved the 4th of July – especially the BBQ!
     This was another good week in Kranj, and on Monday we had the chance to go on an amazing p day with Sjoerd and the other Elders in Kranj. We visited what is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Slovenia: the Soča river valley.DSC04792a.jpg
     The Soča river is known around the world for its stunning blue-green color, and was even the filming site for portions of the movie Narnia. I had seen pictures before, but when we actually got there I was shocked. It looks like someone poured a big bucket of food coloring into the water! Honestly, the river is just plain amazing.

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(This is in the town “Most na Soči”. It doesn’t even look real…)

 

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(The gang in the Tolmin Gorges. From front: Elder Wise, Elder Prososki, Elder Mangeris, Me, Sjoerd)

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     Despite the fact that I don’t have any pictures of the rest of the week (oops), it was good as well. We had an exchange with the Elders from Celje, and I was able to serve with Elder Eddington for a few days. He’s been out for probably 6 months, and we had a lot of fun tracting and contacting around Kranj.
     One experience stands out in particular. We contacted a teenager on a bench who was sitting and playing on his phone. We started talking to him about what we do here, and he proudly told us that he is atheist. After a few more minutes of conversation though, he asked us why we care so much about religion. I told him how faith benefits my life, and when he saw that faith impacted my life in an actual, concrete way, he looked genuinely shocked. It’s sad that people don’t even know what they’re missing when the decide to ignore God. That’s why we (meaning we members, not just missionaries) are here.
     On Saturday, the Kranj Branch had a picnic, something that has been in the works for a while. Planning a branch activity can have its challenges, but the picnic ended up turning out wonderfully. Almost everyone from the branch was there, and we all enjoyed each other’s company for a few hours (as well as a LOT of food). Elder Prososki and I were in charge of filling up the water balloons for the activities, and well… let’s just that we ended up soaked. It was a great day though, and it was like watching one big branch family.
     I hope you all have a great week, and enjoy the rest of your holiday. Eat a burger in my honor.
     Starešina Davis

Family History, I am Doing It!

I don’t have too much time to write today, since we’re heading out with Sjoerd for a fun p day adventure pretty soon. I don’t have too many p days left, and I definitely need to be using them to their fullest!

     One of the highlights this week was a trip to the Maribor Archdiocesen Archives. They house nearly all vital records for the eastern half of Slovenia – including all of the towns where my family is from. We scheduled an appointment, made the drive from Kranj, and then spent a few hours looking through birth, baptismal, and marriage records. It’s somewhat tedious work, but each time I found a new ancestor it gave me the motivation to keep going. At the end of our few hours there, I had found 22 new ancestors.

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(Here’s an example for you to see the kind of records I’m working with. This is a birth record for “Franz Urek”, one of the ancestors. If you think the writing looks a lot like Elvish, that makes two of us…)

     I scheduled a few more visits to the archives before I go home, and am excited to find as many people as I can. As I’ve done this family history I’ve gained a deeper and deeper testimony of how powerful this work really is. Doing sacred temple and family history work is so unique in the sense that it has tangible effects on both sides of the veil. As we serve our ancestors, they serve us, and everyone is edified together. I cannot wait until I’m able to start participating in the ordinances again. With these family names, I imagine that the temple experience will be more meaningful.
     Other than all of that, life is going pretty well. Summer started this week, and it’s been in the 80s almost every day. Combine that with 60-70% humidity and you’ve got a Slovene summer! It’s actually not that bad though – better than a few feet of snow.

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(Slovenia the beautiful)

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(You never know what you’ll see on the road!)

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(There was a man in center with a pet pig. He got an ice cream cone for him. Your guess is as good as mine…)

     The work is going alright, and we’re just taking things day by day. On Monday we stopped by the house of a 24 year old who’s known the missionaries for a while to see how he was doing. His friend was there too, and the four of us ended up talking for quite a while. They had tons of questions about missionary work and the church, and we had a great time trying to answer. Although I may not be here to see them get baptized, it feels good to help people form a positive opinion of the Church and missionaries.
     Starešina Davis

Happy Father’s Day!

I hope everyone had a great week and a great Father’s Day. Sunday wasn’t a holiday in Slovenia, but I still enjoyed the time to reflect on all of the amazing fathers I have. I’ve got fathers on Earth, a Father in Heaven… I’m pretty much set!

     We had a good week, and this week I really have nothing much to say expect that I’m happy, healthy, and loving Kranj! It’s beautiful here, and on Monday we took a little trip to Lake Bled. It was a bit rainy and cloudy, so the tourists were few and far between – a lake to ourselves. We got pizza, ate some yummy Bled cream cake, and, of course, took pictures.

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(Slovenia, my one true love)

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      During the week we did the usual missionary routine of street contacting and tracting, and were able to talk to a number of people. Nobody new to teach yet, but we’re still hopeful! Church on Sunday was good, and the members here are some of the best. It may just be my Slovenia pride, but the faith and diligence of these pioneers is something that I wish members from wards and stakes all over the world could see.
     Anyway, I hope you all have a great week, and I look forward to hearing how everything goes. Love you all!
     Starešina Davis

T minus 9…

Today marks the official start of the transfer – my last one in the mission field. That means that I won’t have any more companions, any more cities to serve in, any more moving, and only 9 weeks until I leave. Yikes! It’s kind of scary how fast the end is approaching.

 

Kranj is great though, and I’m loving being back. There are four Elders in Kranj right now, and three of us (Me, Elder Wise, Elder Prososki) were in same MTC group. I never thought I’d be in a district where 3 of us would be going home together! But it’s a lot of fun. I especially love to see how we’ve all changed since our MTC days. Speaking of that, this week I went on an exchange with Elder Wise – the fist time I’ve been able to serve with him since the MTC.

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(Elder Wise and I in the MTC)

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(Elder Wise and I two years later – and probably 200 lbs lighter)

The rest of our week was pretty good and mostly consisted of “normal missionary” things like contacting and tracting. One thing I’m trying to do though is make one more big family history push. Although I’m sure I’ll be back in Slovenia at some point, I won’t ever have the same opportunity to seek out my ancestors like I do now. I have an appointment scheduled at the archives in two weeks and hope to be able to find as much as I can before I leave.

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(Elder Prososki and I were stopped on the street by a reporter who asked about our opinions on soccer. Looks like he liked it enough to put it in the newspaper! Famous once again…)

It was a good week and I hope you’re all doing good. You’re in my thoughts and prayers always!
Starešina Davis

Good Morning Kranj!

I can’t say I ever thought I’d write a Monday morning email from the Kranj library again. But here I am! It’s definitely been a week of transition, but it’s nice to be back.

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(In case you forgot what Kranj looks like!)

On Monday, Elder Hughes and I moved around most of the day, and by Monday afternoon I was finally in Kranj with my new companion, Elder Prososki. Elder Prososki is actually in my MTC group, and we never thought we’d have the chance to serve together in the field – especially so close to the end of our missions. So it’s been fun having the chance to do some work together in Kranj.

One of the benefits of being in Kranj again is the fact that I’ve been able to reconnect with a lot of the people I knew and taught a year ago. For example, I took this opportunity to text a former investigator that I found last July, and told him I was back in Kranj. He was excited to get together again, so we met at the church on Friday for a lesson. After catching up for a few minutes we started talking about faith, and I asked him what’s changed in the last year. He talked about how he really wants answers and direction about religion, and wants to start meeting regularly to find those answers. It’s cool to see the change that can happen in a person over the course of one short year.

Getting to catch up with Sjoerd and Jasmina has also been a lot of fun. It’s now been about seven months since they were baptized, and I feel like a proud dad returning to see all of the great things they’ve done in that time. Missionary work is simply such an amazing and life changing work, for the missionaries as well as those being taught.

On Sunday instead of a regular sacrament meeting we watched a Western Europe Area broadcast from Salt Lake and Frankfurt. Elder Christofferson presided. One of the main themes of the day was the Church’s three-fold mission: proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, and redeem the dead, and how we can work as members to further that mission. They also talked about our responsibility to reach out to the refugees in Europe as well as any others that may need our help. It was a nice conference.

All-in-all I’m enjoying the chance to be back in Kranj. We’re still not sure if this is permanent – we’ll find out on Thursday – but it’s been fun in any case. As a interesting side note, this weekend was the “International Organ Grinders’ Festival” and Kranj was alive with street organs and participants from all over Europe. Honestly I didn’t even know what an organ grider was, let alone that they have their own international festival. All I know is that Kranj looked, sounded, and felt even more fairytale-esque than ever  before. Not a bad place to be a missionary!

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(A nice guy from the Czech Republic let me try out the organ. I’ve never felt so European!)

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(The Kranj old bike club was out in force this weekend)

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(It just goes to show that there is a hobby out there for everyone!)

and this..

https://www.dropbox.com/s/zpurtx8e24q9b6t/MAH04621.MP4?dl=0

Starešina Jack

Come What May and Love It!

There is no such thing as a dull week in the Adriatic North Mission, and this week was a prime example of that. Keeping a balance in the number of missionaries here is like a tedious game of dominos, and this week a few of them were knocked down… The Johnsons have been moved to Banja Luka, Bosnia (I’m really going to miss serving with them), Elder Hughes is moving to Celje, and I am going back to Kranj. And this is all happening today! Needless to say we’ve been busy this week with packing, organizing, and setting everything in order to leave Maribor. I’ve really grown to love Maribor and the people here, and am sad to leave so abruptly. But Kranj is fantastic, and I’m excited to once again be serving in the shadows of the alps.

Packing wasn’t the only thing we did though this week. On Monday Elder Hughes, the Johnsons, and I all took a trip up to the beautiful Logarska Dolina. It is “must see” for anyone in Slovenia and Elder Hughes had never been! It was even greener this time around, and I tried my hardest to exercise self control and not take 200 pictures again…DSC04561.JPGDSC04551.JPGDSC04553a.JPG

We also squeezed some missionary work into the schedule. On Wednesday Elder Hughes and I were able to go to the University of Maribor and speak for 45 minutes to a comparative religions class about Mormons. Few things are better than a captive audience, and it ended up being a blast! We talked about Joseph Smith, the start of the Church, the Book of Mormon, missionaries, the Word of Wisdom, temples, families, etc. etc. Not only that, but we brought Ines and Gaja along who talked to the class about what it’s like to be a Mormon in Slovenia. Overall a really good presentation, and the students had a lot of questions. I wish professors would invite us to their classes more often!

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(We had Ines and Gaja try to snap some pictures during the presentation)

The rest of the week was just plain busy. Zone conference in Ljubljana on Wednesday, a meeting in Zagreb on Thursday, and then packing and cleaning on Friday and Saturday. Church on Sunday was nice, but it wasn’t fun having to say goodbye to the members. I’ve built some great friendships here, and it’s always hard to leave those behind. It was especially hard saying goodbye to Ines and Gaja! We’ve become a little Maribor family in the past few months, and I hope to see them again soon.
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I guess the moral of this week is that change is simultaneously the best and hardest thing that can happen to us. I don’t like change any more than the next guy does. But God knows what He’s doing, and if the change is coming from Him we can trust the it’ll be good change. If I’ve learned one thing on my mission it’s that God has a plan – a real, practical, involved plan – for all of us, and that we are always happiest as we allow Him to let that plan unfold.
Starešina Davis

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