Random Sampler

28 October 2013

crop detail 2Short letter today, I’m afraid I’m COMPLETELY out of time! However, I may have an opportunity to write a few good, old-fashioned letters to send by post this week, as we have a Zone Conference in Brno and we’ll have a total of 14 hours on the train traveling there and back. The Elders want to buy a “Settlers of Catan” game to while away the hours, or as it is known in Slovak “Knížata z Katanu” – the “Princes of Catan”.

It’s been a fairly good week. We went street contacting together as a District to sign people up for our family history and English classes, and held singing displays to advertise for our concert next week. It was so refreshing and encouraging, and we saw good success.

crop detail 3P’s baptism has encountered another delay, as his mother has some concerns about his wish to be a member of the Church. We have offered to meet her to answer any questions she has, and discuss the matter with her, but as of yet she has not felt to take us up on the invitation. Naturally, we will respect her wishes. But we’re also planning to fast with P and ask Heavenly Father to help open doors and hearts, and prepare a way for him to fulfil his righteous desire to be baptised. P himself has handled the disappointment with such a faithful and positive attitude, and is being completely stoic about his situation. He said, “I guess I’ll just keep coming to church until I’m 18. The nice thing is then at least I’ll know everything before I’m baptised!”

This week we learned from Sestra Bar (one of our Sister Training Leaders) that another Slovak sister is in the MTC (Missionary Training Center) – we werecrop detail 1 overjoyed at the news! That will make a grand total of 7 Slovak sisters in the mission. It will be so exciting to meet her when she arrives next transfer. It’s also going to make transfer calls even more interesting than usual… who will be serving where, with whom? We will be counting on President McConkie to relieve our curiosity in 5 weeks’ time!

I’m in a bit of a reflective mood this afternoon, and have been pondering my journey of missionary service so far – it’s amazing and wonderful to consider the distance the Lord has taken me on this path, and yet I often feel like I’ve still got such a long way to go in becoming what I am to be. We’ve had a week of miracles; I know the Lord has blessed me and I’m so grateful to be His representative in reaching out in love to His children! I want to learn how people work, to finally understand how to help others feel loved, feel successful, feel empowered and happy, as the Saviour did. I have some repenting and learning to do, but thank goodness for the humbling moments that remind us how much we need the Lord’s wisdom and help!

S laskou, Sestra Jones

Jesus taught with power and clarity, and with great love and compassion.

Missionary Milestone

This week marks 9 months since Sestra Jones began her missionary service – that’s the halfway point! It’s amazing to think of what has transpired in these 9 months past, and still more exciting to think of the experiences that await in the 9 months yet to come… Enjoy the adventure, Sestra Jones!

Just 9 months ago…
Newly called Sestra Jones at the England Preston Temple

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9

21 October 2013

Another week come and gone – what a roller coaster ride – I still haven’t gotten used to the thrills and exhaustion, and highs and lows. In a way it’s a blessing – there’s never enough time to get bored! On the other hand, I struggle to take enough time to be organised and make a concerted effort in all the areas I wish to develop. (Each night, it’s like: ‘Finally 22:00, tomorrow planned and teaching records filled out. Let’s see, I could write in my journal or practice piano or read the Ensign…Zzzzzz. Nah.’) 😀  This week I’m feeling reduced to my normal, scatterbrained self and this update may well be far less comprehensive (or even comprehensible, as the case may be…) than last week’s.

We had some really great miracles again this week (they always come when we’re being obedient – sometimes we’ve got to look hard, that’s all!).

On Tuesday on our way to District lunch I lost my companion! We mis-communicated about which bus stop to disembark at, and before I could blink we’d pulled away with me inside the bus and Sestra Johns outside it! (We’d split up to bus contact, see). One Frantic call to Elder Guy and a dozen silent prayers later, we were reunited safe and sound outside the church building – we’d all had the feeling to go meet there. What a relief!

Another walkabout with Pres van D - he's such a great tour guide! He's got a head full of local knowledge, and a heart brimming with love and kindness to share. Notice the autumn colours showing in the trees...

Another walkabout with Pres van D – he’s such a great tour guide! He’s got a head full of local knowledge, and a heart brimming with love and kindness to share.
Notice the autumn colours showing in the trees… how quickly time marches on!
Sestra Jones, Sestra Johns, Starší Guy, and Starší Fe’l

On Thursday we got an unexpected phone call from Elder C in Nitra: “Sestra Jones, we just wanted to let you know that a young woman you contacted in Žilina back in April and invited to church is now planning to be baptised – she studies here in Nitra and got in touch with us!” Whoa, we just never know how far-reaching our influence can be.

Finally, we had a beautiful service project at a less-active member’s home. Since Elder Guy arrived, so many doors have been opening in the branch: this area is his mission ‘birthplace’ (he was trained here by Elder Bat), so he knows lots of the former investigators and less-active members here. He already has a great relationship with many of them, and knew that R was trying to remodel his house. We showed up in grubbies and basically gutted an old kitchen (tore out rotting cabinets, cleared rubbish…). It was GREAT to do some manual labour: quick, tangible results, and that satisfyingly achy feeling when you’ve worked your muscles hard. R is SOOOOO amazing! He’s an engineer / construction expert / entrepreneur, speaks perfect English, but hasn’t been to church for nearly 5 years. R was living in London when he saw an ad for a free copy of the DVD ‘Finding Faith in Christ’, which he ordered (When Elder Guy heard that he was gobsmacked: ‘You did? I thought that never worked!” :D). The missionaries delivered it to him, and he was baptised there in England before moving back to Slovakia. Anyway, it’s complicated but he shared with us that although this building project is the culmination of a lot of imagination and effort – a dream come true really – he’s finding that it doesn’t really fulfill him. Despite the extravagance and comfort his new home could one day offer, it’s not giving him PEACE. He accepted a challenge to read the Book of Mormon daily and come speak with President van D – miracle!

P’s baptism will likely be delayed a week or two, as he hasn’t yet obtained written permission from his mother to be baptised, and he wasn’t able to make it to Church this week. We don’t want to rush him into something if he isn’t fully understanding the commitment he’s making (and especially if family support is not yet forthcoming), so we’ll wait until everything is in place. He’s pretty much ready by all outward appearances; he’s had all the lessons, desires to be baptised, and already lives a pretty clean life. But we want to make sure that we help him develop DEPTH of testimony as well, so that he will continue to keep important commitments and covenants on his own strength, after we’ve moved on.

On Sunday, we started out sacrament meeting feeling so disappointed; we had expected 3 investigators (and the Elders were expecting at least 2 to come as well), and the only ones there apart from missionaries were the van D’s, Sestra B’gova, and Sestra B (bless her! – Brat B’s in the hospital, but she’s still come for a running streak of 3 Sundays). Then after the sacrament and first talk, we stood up to sing a missionary musical number when who should walk in but P K’ova! We were so happy! She’s normally quite shy, but she was actually conversing, laughing, and hugging the branch members after staying all 3 hours, what a blessing. Plus, our wandering Sestra N walked in after meetings had concluded with two teenage Roma girls in tow, asking if we could give them a spiritual thought. Another instance of Heavenly Father saying, “Catch!” 🙂

I have so much to improve on – I need to work harder, put my heart into it, and have a cheerful attitude despite the challenges of each day. I’m living my dream – I’m a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, pushing new frontiers and speaking new tongues and touching new hearts! I can imagine nothing better to be doing with the precious time the Lord has given me here on earth. I love you all dearly. You are in my prayers. I know this is the Lord’s work – what a sweet assurance!

S laskou, Sestra Jones

A Colourful Week

14 October 2013

Bright smiles and pretty patterns: Sestra Johns beams under the colourful origami figures that still adorn the city after the recent Marathon

Bright smiles and pretty patterns:
Sestra Johns beams under the colourful origami decorations that still adorn the city after the recent Marathon

Ahojte Všetci! (Hello all!)

First of all, a big shout-out to my cousin, who has just received his mission call to the England Birmingham Mission: congratulations, Elder Jones! I’m so thrilled for you! I’m also excited for Elder C, who is leaving Wales this week to begin his training in the Missionary Training Center – a great experience awaits you!

Okay, getting down to what happened this past week: on Monday we went to the zoo with the Elders and the Mil’s. It was inexpensive (not a very big zoo) and fun. They wanted to expand the zoo this year, but went for the cheap option and imported life-sized plastic dinosaurs rather than real animals that need food and medical attention. 😉

"obrovský slide" Looks like Sestra Jones has just gone round the bend

“obrovský slide”
Looks like Sestra Jones has finally gone round the bend

Just as we were leaving, we saw an (and I quote) “OBROVSKY” (giant) slide next door: an 800m metal chute up the hillside that curved round and down – ridden in flimsy plastic carts with only a stick brake for a handle. The Elders were dying to ride it and it was only 2 euros a go, so we called Prezident for permission (we are supposed to avoid dangerous recreational activities while on our missions… we weren’t really sure where an 800m obrovský slide would fall on the safe-ometer). Sister McConkie  told us to go ahead and ride it, on the condition that we email her pictures. 😀  When we returned home, the town was still covered in origami decorations from the annual Marathon last weekend – very pretty! It was a fun day out.

And lest you should think that all we do over here is goof around on over-sized playground equipment, I am happy to report that we taught V another beautiful lesson this week. The Spirit was there and she felt it: the doctrines of the gospel brought joy to her heart. Coming to church is the big commitment she needs to keep in order to progress: she’ll be out of town this week, but promised to come next week!

P’s baptism is scheduled for this Saturday – can’t wait! We taught him about Priesthood service and he’s excited for it. He even told us he plans to serve a mission one day! We were ecstatic! We gave him a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and read together the standards that will allow him to prepare for that calling, and keep his baptismal covenant. P is such a good kid, and desires to do what is right.

I LOVED General Conference!! October sessions are the best – so cwtchy  🙂  (“cwtch” is a Welsh expression that is not easy to explain… it is often translated as “hug” or “cuddle”, but that’s not exactly right… it is a word that also implies deep contentment, comfort, security, and a certain cosiness. So you might say in English “October General Conference has me feeling full of joy and contentment, and wrapped up securely in its warm and familiar embrace”. Or if you speak a bit of Welsh, you can just say that it’s “cwtchy”).

P-day with the dinosaurs! Sestra Johns, Sestra Jones, Starší Fe’l, and Starší Guy

P-day with the dinosaurs
Sestra Johns, Sestra Jones, Starší Fe’l, and Starší Guy

One thing that has brought me some sadness this week, is that we may not be meeting with K and H for lessons much longer. Although we all enjoy our visits together, and will continue to be friends, they are not quite prepared to accept the full implications of our message: they feel happy where they are, and aren’t searching for anything more. This makes me sad because I know that only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has Heavenly Father’s permission to baptise and seal families for eternity. Anyone can know for themselves whether the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith is a prophet: if they ASK God, they can receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. I pray that this wonderful couple and their beautiful little family will be ready to do that in the not-too-distant future, but in the meantime we need to spend our time finding and teaching those who are already searching for us: those who are hungering for the gospel NOW.

graphic courtesy of ldsprintables.com

graphic courtesy of ldsprintables.com

I feel that’s what I learned most from Conference: we cannot afford to be apathetic or complacent in our quest for perfection and exaltation. I want to learn from my mission to be bursting with energy, and rejoicing in the fact that I have 16 hours of work that I get to put in each day! I want to reach for excellence: not just make a little plop in the pond but create a tidal wave to lift those foundering in treacherous waters, and carry them to safe harbours.

Our concert will be the 5th of November (it’s a concert to share the message of the Restoration in music and the spoken word). The B family, who have been members of the Branch for a year now, came back to church this week and have invited us back to teach them. They were welcomed with open arms! It’s a joy to see our Branch family drawing together again. 🙂

Well, that’s all from me this week, except to take some time to answer a few of the questions my  younger brothers and sisters sent me a couple of weeks back.

Lots of love, Sestra Jones x

Sibling Q and A:

Q: (from my 4-yr-old sister): When are you coming home? ‘Cause it’s taking a long time…

A: I’ll be home when Heavenly Father thinks I’m ready. I have a lot of important work to do here – people need help learning about who Jesus is so they can be happy. I’ll talk to you on the phone at Christmas time, then again on Mother’s Day, and then after your birthday I’ll be on my way back to Wales! I can still give you hugs through the computer like this: *squeeze* Love you!

 Q: What’s your fave Slovak food?

A: Slovak food is delicious, I love the Hungarian-style goulashes and Czech svickova (bread with chicken and carrot sauce), and halusky is a must (potato dumplings with ripe sheep cheese and bacon). Scrummy! It’s too chilly for it now, but ice cream is HUGE here and the Namestie (main square, like a high street but more open like a marketplace) is lined up and down with confectioners’ shops that open onto the street and ladle out ice cream cones of deliciousness.

Q: Have you ever been sick on your mission?

A: I’ve never really been sick, apart from one day last transfer I went to bed early with cold symptoms. Actually, I’ve been extraordinarily blessed health-wise and am enjoying feeling rather invincible. 😉

Q: Can you feel the Spirit in the Branch where you are serving?

A: Yes, I do feel the Spirit in the Branch. When I have prepared myself throughout the week to take the sacrament on Sunday, then listen to the testimonies of our wonderful members, and try my best to help investigators and others feel loved at church, I can feel the Holy Ghost regardless of whether I’m in Zilina or Brno or Riverton or Ewloe. Isn’t Heavenly Father great? His Spirit is exactly the same, wherever you are.

Q: Do you ever get to eat Mexican food?

A: Funny you should ask; we had Mexican food not too long ago at the van D’s home. Sestra van D’ova joined the Church while she was living in California, and so she REALLY knows how to make a good Mexican meal! Other than that though, not so much.

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: What do I want to do with my life? I want to serve the Lord! I love being a sister missionary for just that reason: it’s so much fun but most of all I get to be helpful to Heavenly Father in His plan for all of His children to return to Him.

Renewed Strength

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

07 October 2013

Crammed into a little lift!

Crammed into a little lift!

I feel we’ve had an AMAZING week! We’ve seen so much of Heavenly Father’s kindness and tender mercies in our daily lives, and while I feel I have so much to improve on, it’s empowering to know I have the tools to overcome my obstacles. Or rather, I have access to the Saviour, and He has the tools.

Our new District Leader, Elder Guy is such a powerhouse and sets a stalwart example of speaking Slovak around the clock. I feel that my vision has been raised: for my personal development, as well as the branch’s growth. As a District, we have set a goal that by the end of the transfer we will have 10 people attending Church regularly on Sundays (excluding missionaries – there are 6 of us as it is!). We feel we need to visit all of our Church members if at all possible every week, and see what we can do to help and encourage people in enjoying greater activity in the Church. Sestra Johnson and I have also set a companionship goal to read the entire Kniha Mormonova (Book of Mormon in Slovak) by Christmas – we’ll see how it goes!

We’ll get a chance to watch General Conference this weekend, with a choice of English or Slovak languages. Can’t wait!  🙂

Our teaching pool is smaller by half than it was last transfer, contacting is still a real struggle, and we’re worried that the word about the concert we’re organising is not getting out fast enough. Despite these setbacks, we are so blessed to be teaching wonderful people who are searching for, and seeking to apply truth! I felt the Lord reaching out to me this week and expressing His approval as both PK’ova and V told us that they know we have been placed in their lives for a reason – basically, they recognise that we’ve been sent to them by God. It’s such a privilege to see the Spirit come into the lives of these lovely people, and to watch their conversion grow.

V is not yet working towards a specific baptismal date, as she’s headed to Taiwan at the end of the month, but she loves us coming to teach her and always has lots of excellent questions. PK’ova knows she wants to be baptised – she feels the Spirit with us in the church building unlike anywhere else, she said. She feels the Kniha Mormonova is true and wants to finish reading it before baptism.

Branch members, investigators, and visitors from the USA "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God"  Ephesians 2:19

Branch members, missionaries, investigators, and visitors from the USA
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God”
Ephesians 2:19

P loves church and is great friends with President van D. He’s excited for his baptism and when we ask if he has any questions in lessons he smiles and says “No, everything is absolutely clear.” It would be fabulous if his mother and brother would accept the invitation to come to church as well; I think they just haven’t gotten around to it yet, as from all indications, P’s mum seems to be very supportive of his decision to be baptised.

A singing group performing in traditional Slovak costume

A singing group performing in traditional Slovak costume

My 16-year-old sister asked me what lesson I would take home from my mission, if this were my last transfer. My answer is this: my mission is teaching me how much I don’t know! I’m learning how nothing is more important than the gospel.

One thing I do know is that this is the Lord’s work, and that He has a plan for His children in this city. I know that when our vision is aligned with the Lord’s, we have the privilege of participating in miracles. I am thankful for the grace of the Saviour’s Atonement!

S laskou, Sestra Jones

Shipwrecks and Scuttlebutt

scut•tle•butt – A nautical reference meaning: 1. An open cask of drinking water, for use of the crew of a ship 2. The news (or rumours) circulated by those who are gathered there to drink

30 September 2013

Yes, it’s Transfer time again! That time when missionary hearts swell with tender feelings of gratitude for friendships made and blessings received, missionary nerves jangle with anticipation and suspense, missionary brains churn with thoughts of possibilities ahead, and missionary tongues wag with speculations regarding new assignments!

First things first with the latest mission headlines: Sestra Johns and I are BOTH staying right where we are in our beloved little branch! 😀 We had some exciting theories about Sestra Johns going to Žilina and Sestra K coming here from Bratislava, but in the end it was our second-best guess that proved accurate: none of the Slovak sisters have moved.

More exciting news is that Starší Guy is coming from Bratislava, as Starší Bar has been assigned to another area and will serve as a Zone Leader! (We totally called that one – he´ll do a wonderful job!).

Most exciting is the news that 4 new Elders (all Utah boys, apparently) are arriving from the MTC! (Missionary Training Center)

The most common cities to train new missionaries in have previously been Bratislava, Žilina, and Košice, but this transfer has seen some thrilling new developments. A second area has finally opened in Trenčín, meaning there will be 4 missionaries serving in that little city (Hallelujah! Amazing!). The new elders will be training there, in recently-opened Nitra, and – you´ll never guess where – in Zvolen (!) by Zone Leader Elder Pet. Our fearless Zone Leaders won´t even be serving in the same city, let alone being companions! President apparently told Elder Bar: “It´ll take some creativity to do exchanges and plan trainings, but you´ll figure it out”! I love that about President, he always says: “The Lord trusts you, so I trust you. Pray about it and then do as you think is best”. Wow!

It’s interesting and inspiring to see how President McConkie is managing trainings and transfers thusfar: breathing new life into the missionaries by taking us to see the dedication sites, and fuelling our contacting by emphasizing creativity. The most recent Brno conference was a focus on powerfully expounding doctrine, and teaching our investigators as the Saviour would, once we’ve found them.

Bratislava used to be in the Brno Zone (no idea why – it was the only Slovak city grouped with Czech Districts), but has now re-joined the Slovakia Zone. Yay! Also, border-hopping has effectively come to an end, and we expect that from now on missionaries ordained to speak Czech or Slovak will stay in their respective native fields of labour.

One of my little sisters recently asked me if I think I’ll serve in a country other than Slovakia. All things considered, the answer is: No, I don’t think so (not on this mission, at least – I’m aiming to start a mission fund for my senior years just as soon as I get a job 🙂 )!

Ok, now I’m running out of time, but there is still so much to tell!

Kitchen adventures: We were trying to make soup, but overcooked the lentils to mush. I saved them to make a gorgeous dahl curry (if I do say so myself). Plus, last week in a fit of madness I bought a leek at Lidl (yes, we have that supermarket chain here, as well as Tesco), and I made a pot of Welsh rarebit. Mňam mňam as we Slovaci say! Sestra Johns and I are super excited that we´ll be together for Thanksgiving! Recipes from home for stuffing and pies and dinner rolls would be much appreciated. We’ll need them ASAP so we can stock up on ingredients 😀 (I wanted that to be a winky face, but my keyboard´s being stubborn and I´m having to think twice as hard while typing on the Slovak letters! I’ve tried set it to US keyboard as I normally do, but to no avail… )

grandpa rog

Young bride and groom:
Sestra Jones’ great-grandparents

Our Family History class was a fabulously (and mercifully!) successful event: we had Val and S bring their whole family (4 children), and two of our English students came, along with another three former or potential investigators. I got to share the story of Grandpa Roger being shipwrecked when the Hornet went down. I felt the Spirit of Elijah, and got to share my most precious testimony of the sacred nature of families. Hopefully this week’s Family History presentation will be just as successful.

The USS Hornet (CV-8)

The USS Hornet (CV-8)

*One of Sestra Jones’ great-grandfathers served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), the last American fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire.

Grandpa Roger worked under decks, in the sweltering boiler rooms, where his coppery hair and constantly flushed face earned him the nickname “Pinky”. In October of 1942, the Hornet and her crew engaged Japanese naval forces in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the Hornet sustained 5 bomb hits, and considerable damage from 2 planes that took dives into her island, and port side. The electrical systems had taken a severe blow, and she had lost power to her engines.

For the 19-year-old sailor Pinky and his buddies, the scene below decks must have been one of great stress and peril, as they heard the eerie and distorted sounds of the battle raging above; the screaming of the diving planes, the thunder of their own anti-aircraft fire, the terrible shrieking of metal being torn asunder, the wailing of sirens, and the pounding of feet and shouts of men. They were rocked by the shocks and reverberations as each bomb hit its mark, and smelled the smoke and burning fuel from the crashed planes above, as all the while they worked feverishly in the dim light to repair the engines and electrical systems. They were just on the verge of restoring power, when the Hornet took a torpedo in her starboard side, causing a 14-degree list.

The ship was taking on water, and the order was given to abandon ship. Sailors scrambled over the side and into the drink. In the bowels of the ship, Pinky and his mates escaped through ventilation shafts, clambering and crawling along the ropes that had been installed within them for just such an emergency.

After fighting to escape the listing and smoke-filled vessel, and then casting themselves upon the mercy of a vast ocean, the sailors then tread water for their lives, hour after hour through the long night.

Sestra Jones’ young ancestor struggled to keep his head above water, and  fought to find the strength to keep his burning muscles moving. He clung to his will to live by thinking of the future he hoped to have, and by telling himself that if he could just stay afloat until the sun’s first rays lit up the sky, he could live to walk into that future. As he floated in the darkness, he promised himself, “If I live through this night to see the morning light, I will name my first daughter after the rising dawn.”

Pinky did survive the night; you might say his hope saved his life. After a number of hours adrift upon the waves, he and his ship-mates were rescued, and picked up by a “tin can” (destroyer).

After the war, Pinky returned home, married his sweetheart, and they eventually became the parents of 7 children, including a daughter named “Dawn Rose”.

“…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5

Both PH and PK’ova (our investigators who are preparing for baptism) were at church yesterday, it was an enormous blessing to be able to share that with them, and see them reach that goal.

This transfer we NEED new investigators to refresh our teaching pool – we can´t continue to wring out the last drops of possible interest from the last two transfers. We have plans to put on a concert to teach about the Restoration in music and the spoken word, and host a lecture on the theme of “Mormons in the Media”, sharing the facts about our standards / lifestyle. Weŕe hoping to create a buzz! 🙂

I feel that I need to learn to work in more complete harmony with my companion and focus on helping her excel in her language acquisition, so we’ve set the lofty companionship goal of speaking in Slovak for 100 hours this week – that´s just about every waking hour! We’ve also got General Conference coming up (yay!), which is always a great experience to look forward to.

I must close now but I love you all dearly! Have a great week, and know that you´re in my prayers all the time.
Big hugs,
Sestra Jones ❤