There and Back Again

23 September 2013

District Conf training meeting

President and Sister McConkie with the missionaries of Slovakia, in Brno.
“We come from places far and near,
To find the Lord’s elect.
With faith to work His miracles,
Our souls with strength are blessed.”
from We Are Called of God, the Czech/Slovak Mission Song

Thanks for the lovely emails and messages, everyone! I’ve just had time to scan through a few of them – we’ve been on trains and buses all day, returning from the District Conference and missionary training we attended this weekend in Brno (Czech Republic). Responses will be in the post if I’m able to get around to it, or (the more likely scenario! 😉 ) I’ll catch you next week.

So, last week I said I’d tell you more about our výlet (excursion) to Slanecký hrad/Slansky castle that didn’t go at all as planned……We and the Elders had the train and bus times planned out, we baked plum cake for refreshments, President van D and two other members were planning on coming, as were at least 5 of our investigators (some bringing children or family members). Bulletproof, right? Wrong! It clouded over, so everyone except President Van D and the Elders’ investigator M cancelled.

So our party consisted of six missionaries (Elder and Sister Mil included), one stalwart Branch President, and one intrepid Slovak investigator. 😀 We all made the best of it, and hopped on a train in good time to get to the village of Slanec. Before too long the train stopped and we made to disembark, except that the door jammed. Puzzled, we crossed to the other compartment and heaved at that door, which likewise refused to budge. Then the whistle blew and the engine started – with us still firmly locked inside the train! President even ran at the door with his shoulder and walking stick, but to no avail: we pulled out of the little station and in a twinkle Slanec was miles behind us. Turns out we’d tried to get off the train on the left side, which would have landed us between the two tracks. Not that the tiny Slanec station has a platform anyway: it’s just a little plank bridge over the ditch alongside the rails. But the left-hand side doors are always kept locked for safety. Makes you wonder why they have them at all! (Daft…) So anyway our little jaunt up a hill to a castle turned into a two-hour hike along the train tracks and through the woods and over fields to catch a bus back home. But at least it didn’t rain!

forefathers

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…”
Malachi 4:6

Sestra Jones’ forefather Joseph, and his sons

Great-great-grandmother Maud, and her little sister Ruby

Families are Forever:
Great-great-grandmother Maud, and her little sister Ruby

This week was hectic, but overall pretty good. The Zone Leaders finally made it out here to visit us and we put on a singing display – a highlight of any transfer! We were inspired to change the spiritual thought for our English class at the last minute; we shared an uplifting message about family history, and it  turns out that some of our advanced students have definite interest! That’s perfect, as this week on Thursday we’ll be holding our first Family History presentations – wish us luck! We got permission to familiarise ourselves with FamilyTree on the computer (it feels SOOO weird to use the internet…), which I’d never used before, but looks brilliant. There’s nothing available in Slovak so far though…Shame.

We’re also working on putting together Family Home Evening kits – a brilliant idea of Sestra Johns’ – that we can use to keep children entertained in church, or while we’re teaching their parents, and most of all to teach families how to hold Family Home Evening. We want to demonstrate lessons using the first 3 missionary lessons from Preach My Gospel (Restoration, Plan of salvation, Gospel of Christ), so we’re looking for materials to put in those. I remember my father using some little *Joseph Smith story finger puppets in our Family Home Evenings when I was little. Any tips on how to make those? We inherited a Slovak “Plan of Salvation Man” picture set from Sestra Pyšňáková that we’ve copied. My father had one of those too, leftover from his mission; I think he called it Fred… am I right, Dad?

*The “First Vison” puppets that Sestra Jones remembers so vividly are found in the July 2001 issue of the “Friend” magazine here (scroll down for the printable figures). A printer-friendly, black and white version can be found in the January 1997 “Friend” issue here, while a simpler version of finger-tip puppets for small children (or the “crafting impaired” parent 😉 ) can be found here. Visit this excellent website for a simple colouring page depicting Joseph Smith and the First Vision.

Our missionary training with President and Sister McConkie this past weekend was absolutely stellar. It was a spiritual feast, and just what we needed for our area! President’s remarks focused on quality teaching, and that has been on my mind lately, as this past week two of our investigators accepted baptismal dates! One is PK’ova, with whom we’ve been working since the beginning of the transfer. The other is PH: the teenage nephew of a Church member from another area. Because I’ve never before experienced following an investigator on their journey to baptism from start to finish, I feel nervous about forgetting something, or not doing a good enough job. I want to teach in such a way that will truly help our investigators be prepared to make their sacred baptismal covenant, and then remain fully active to receive even greater promised blessings, and contribute to building the kingdom.

Sestri Jones and Johns, with the lovely L, a member of the Church in Slovakia

Sestri Jones and Johns, with the lovely L, a member of the Church in Slovakia

I really appreciated the message of the training, but the practical exercise of working with our pamphlets was my favourite part of the entire conference: Sestra Johns taught me the gospel of Christ in excellent Slovak and just glowed – I am so grateful to be her companion! I often feel that I have been so inadequate as a follow-up trainer, and wish I could have had the skills and experience to do better for dear Sestra Johns… if one of us is transferred next week, I will take some comfort from the knowledge that the Holy Ghost is our real teacher: we need not rely on anyone else for instruction from our loving Father in Heaven. And I’ll be forever grateful to Sestra Johns for putting up with me and loving me, despite my flaws and weaknesses!

Unbelievable, I’m out of time already!

Before I sign off, let me just once again share my feelings of gratitude for the Saviour’s Atonement, and for this opportunity to help others feel its healing power through missionary service. I know I have so far to go before I’m the servant I could be or should be, but when we exercise faith the Lord is right there beside us as we build His kingdom.

S laskou,

Sestra Jones

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