Šťastný Nový Rok

31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

The snowy streets of Slovakia Sestra Bar, Sestra Jones, Starší Fe'l, Starší Guy, and Starší Chri'n

The snowy streets of Slovakia
Sestra Bar, Sestra Jones, Starší Fe’l, Starší Guy, and Starší Chri’n

Smiles all around; fun and fellowship at Christmastime

Smiles all around;
fun and fellowship at Christmastime

It’s been a wonderful two weeks! We haven’t been teaching as much as we’re used to, but we’ve been keeping quite busy and doing as much good as we can. The one Christmas visit we were able to make had a greater impact than we thought it would: we stopped by to see a sister who has just recently returned to activity, and she was more or less alone on Christmas. She described that little visit as one of the highlights of her Christmas this year – it was definitely an inspired plan! It was humbling and special to be able to bring someone else such happiness just by reaching out in our simple way. It brings to mind the words of the scriptures: “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

The baptism we were hoping for this past week didn’t happen:  our friend feels that she’s just not ready, her circumstances are not right. She has prayed about it and feels to stop actively meeting with us. Sestra Bar and I were so sad to say goodbye, but I respect her ability to receive revelation for herself and trust that Heavenly Father will answer the fervent and beautiful prayer she offered, asking Him to help “lead her back to this wonderful Church”. I cannot wait for the day when not only Pani K’ova, but her whole family will accept the Restored gospel together. We’re still in contact by phone, and she helped us organise some Christmas caroling at the hospital where she works.

Getting into the holiday spirit: Sestra Jones sporting some festive headgear

Getting into the holiday spirit:
Sestra Jones sporting some festive headgear

We went to the hospital on Christmas Day, and had such a lovely experience singing and sharing the special spirit of the season with those who were too ill to return home for the holiday. Some of the people there were naturally feeling a bit downcast and discouraged, and it was the best feeling ever to see their eyes light up as we visited and sang carols for them.

The Branch Christmas party was a huge success! Every seat was filled: a few ladies from our English class came, and our lovely former

The handcart pioneers of the 21st Century Elders Chri'n and Guy enter the chariot races

The handcart pioneers of the 21st Century
Elders Chri’n and Guy enter the chariot races

investigator Su not only came with her 4-year-old daughter but also brought along a friend, and his daughter too! Prezident van D was his usual, wonderful self and gave Su’s friend a Book of Mormon. He now wants to meet with us and come to church this coming week! We’ve also spent quite a bit of time out contacting new people, in addition to visiting and serving members of the Church. People keep saying “call me after the new year”, but I feel hopeful that our area will blossom as long as we keep displaying faith and diligence.

May the Lord bless and keep you. I love you all lots, and wish you a very happy New Year!

S láskou, Sestra Jones

Advertisements

Veselé Vianoce!

Christmas 2013

It’s been a happy and hectic week for Sestra Jones and her fellow missionaries, with no time to email as they have enjoyed a full measure of the music, devotion, activity, travel, fellowship, and service that a Christmas in the mission field has to offer. Sestra Jones recently wrote to us regarding some of the fun Czech and Slovak holiday traditions she has been introduced to in recent weeks:

traditional Slovak Christmas wafers tradičné slovenské vianočné oplátky

traditional Slovak Christmas wafers
tradičné slovenské vianočné oplátky
Thanks for the photo, Wikimedia Commons

“…all over the city are stands selling crispy waffle-shaped wafers, I’m pretty sure they’re called oplátky. *(It is said that the word “oplátky” or “oblátky” comes from the Latin “oblata”, meaning offering. Traditionally, these would be broken and eaten by the family together, with a blessing pronounced upon all around the table). They are eaten with honey for happiness and garlic for health (I don’t know whether those are simultaneous or separate, but that’s what they told me!). Slovaks celebrate on Christmas Eve, and Christmas dinner is carp and potato salad. Santa doesn’t bring presents, Baby Jesus does! Children write pre-addressed postcards to Jesus that they buy in post offices, etc.

svaty_mikulasThe local Father Christmas figure is Svaty Mikuláš (known in other lands as Saint Nicholas), whose festival was on the 6th. Almost like in Holland, the children put their boots on the windowsill the night before and in the morning Saint Mikuláš has put mandarins and nuts and chocolate in their shoes! For some reason Mikuláš (who looks a lot like the American Santa) is pictured with an angel and a demon at his side. I think the demon brings coal to naughty children…? Eerie, but totally mainstream here. 🙂 ”

One of the most highly-anticipated Christmas Day events for missionaries and their families is, of course, the traditional phone call home! Sestra Jones favoured us with a beautiful duet with her excellent companion, Sestra Bar, and spoke glowingly of the special experience they’d had that morning singing Christmas carols at the local hospital. She had enjoyed a traditional Christmas Eve meal of delicious kapustnica (sauerkraut soup), and was looking forward to further seasonal delights thanks to the legendary hospitality of the Family van D! Truly a Christmas to remember… Veselé Vianoce, one and all!

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart.
-Christina Rossetti

 

“The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ…May we give as the Savior gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift…How much better the world would be if we all gave gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness.”
– President Thomas S. Monson, “The Real Joy of Christmas”

Miracles in a Winter Wonderland

16 December 2013

This week was AMAZING! We had so many jaw-dropping miracles and I can’t tell you the half of it in the few minutes I have to type.

2 blue background snowflakeI got so many parcels this week – you’re spoiling me! 😀 One from Grandma and Grandpa Jones containing Christmas tree ornaments – thank you! They’ll be perfect for decorating for the concert tomorrow. And you’ll never guess what else: the pumpkin and brown sugar for Thanksgiving pies finally arrived! Haha! Just in time to bake up a storm this evening for the concert refreshments. Good timing all around!

So here is my week in brief:

Monday we had another walking tour of the city with the new additions to our District. All our meetings that evening fell through so we spent two freezing hours contacting. It was a productive experience in more ways than one; we found some really great people, and also I vowed to layer tights from then on. Since then I’m cozy warm!blue background snowflake

Tuesday we had lunch at Big Burger, attended an inspiring District Meeting (I love watching “The District”!), and held a final District singing display to advertise for our concert, as the Elders would be gone from that afternoon until Friday (they went to Brno for Elder Chri’ns Progressional Training. A lot of hours on the road and rails for them, but it worked out nicely for me – that’s how I got my parcels!). Our meetings fell through again (one of which we’d travelled half an hour for), so we returned home feeling a bit defeated. Not my ideal start to the week, but we were working hard, contacting on our way, and learning to have fun with it.

Wednesday was full to the brim! That morning during studies we received an unexpected call from Prezident McConkie, telling us to expect a phone call from the BBC! It seems that the local newpapers back home had recently published an article about my missionary service in the Slovak Republic, and now a BBC Radio religious news programme (Bwrw Golwg) wanted to interview me about it?! It was totally out of the blue, as until that moment I didn’t even know that there had been a piece in the newspaper! Sestra Bar and I were jumping up and down with delight, and buzzing with excitement at such a special opportunity.

blue background snowflakeRadio Cymru Bangor called us that very day – in the middle of a lesson with one of our recent converts, and right before teaching both our English classes solo, as the Elders were away. I picked up the phone, nervous and eager all at once. The lady on the other end had the Caernarfon accent I haven’t heard in nearly a year, and my heart skipped a beat for home. Then it skipped another beat out of sheer terror, because she said they wanted me to do the interview in Welsh. I haven’t even heard Welsh, let alone spoken it for 12 months! I tried to stammer back to her in comprehensible Cymraeg ,”Can you give me some sample questions? Can we do it next week so I can prepare?”, but I couldn’t summon a single fluid sentence. Kindly, she helped me to face the fact of the matter: “Wel, sut wyt ti’n TEIMLO i wneud y cyfweliad yn Gymraeg?” (Well, how do you FEEL about doing the interview in Welsh?) I sighed and said thank you very much, but we both knew my Welsh was not up to par for a spontaneous interview on the radio, and they weren’t offering for me to do one in English. I hung up and we finished our lesson, taught English (teaching beginners is a lot more enjoyable than the advanced class I find – maybe it’s just the novelty factor, but the beginners seem to have a special energy), and made our way home. I was pretty miffed with myself about the way things had turned out with regard to the interview. If only…  But I’m so grateful for the brilliant opportunity I was offered, and I have realised that it’s helped me prepare for interviews with universities or potential employers in the future: Step 1: don’t freak out! breathe! 2 blue background snowflakeBut the whole saga of “the BBC interview that never was” is only the half of our incredible day! The day up to that point had consisted of an impromptu lesson in a tearoom with a Buddhist monk (it’s amazing who Heavenly Father places in our path!) and a triumphant first meeting with a soon-to-be Catholic priestess (that’s what she’s studying for anyway). In the contact she said: “I’ve heard of you Mormons. You better be ready – I’m going to put your knowledge to the test!” She said she was putting her studies and career on the line even to be seen walking with us in town, but once safely in the church building she said there was a wonderful, peaceful feeling, she wants to come visit our Sunday service after the Christmas hols, and she was blown away by the fact that our faiths are more similar than she thought (her jaw dropped when she saw we use the same Bible). She thanked us up and down for being “WONDERFUL people who are passionate and sincere about your beliefs”. Prezident van D was a great help (he has a rock solid testimony of the Book of Mormon, which she has started to read) and he high fived us and practically did a little dance after we bid her goodbye. “Well done, Sisters!” It was a lesson to remember! Talk about an interesting day 🙂

Thursday: A gentleman named J who had previously shown some interest in the gospel, but had declined to2 blue background snowflake meet with us, texted us and said he was enjoying the Book of Mormon so much that he would love to meet and talk about it. He and Prezident van D hit if off nicely! That evening we met with Ro; he’s one of the cool people we ran into while contacting on Monday night. He is an amazing young man with an unshakable faith in God and the Bible – to the point that he said he left the church he was brought up in, and has been searching for the church that is closest to teachings of Bible, but doesn’t think a totally true church exists any longer. We taught with M, a member of the Church who has recently returned to activity (she has changed so much – it’s like the sun has come out in her life now that she’s back at church!). She was bold and testified that she knows this church is true through the Book of Mormon, 100%. He was wary, but when we gave him a Book of Mormon he was so grateful, and committed to read and pray about it. He said he will be baptised if he knows it’s true! 😀 I love teaching good people who are sincerely searching and asking questions: the Lord has prepared them carefully, and it’s so humbling to see how willingly they accept commitments.

blue background snowflakeFriday we met with P. He’s doing all right; we would love to see him develop a greater desire to study the scriptures, and worry about him when he doesn’t make it to Church. But when it comes down to it, he is a teenage boy who is living a good, clean life and has such good heart –we are proud of him, and feel so blessed to know him. We also met with Pani K’ova who has accepted a baptismal date for the 28th of December! She said it felt right, and we’re praying for her and know she has it in her to be ready and take the step. We had a miraculous evening: we did something new and took the bus up to the Zoo to tract in that village. The third house down a lovely lady with a gorgeous family let us in! We have a return appointment to bring her a Book of Mormon! We could hardly believe it! We have never been let in before when tracting. What a blessing.

R’s grandfather passed away this week, so we were especially mindful of serving him and his grandmother 2 blue background snowflakethis Saturday. The Lord loves their family very much.

In short, this is the Lord’s work and He is working here right alongside us. I am looking forward to Christmas, and can’t wait to speak with my family!

All my love,  Sestra Jones

First Snowfall

09 December 2013

We had snow this week and it was beautiful!

I feel like I’ve had the best week. We were blessed to teach at least one lesson every day, and found some new investigators (B – a lovely young woman, and R’s grandma Z believe it or not!), rekindling the joy of contacting. I love the feeling of tumbling into bed exhausted each night because I’ve worked my tail off all day: no regrets!

We had a beautiful miracle on Friday: PK’ova was in hospital for some health care, so we took her some flowers and the elders administered her first-ever Priesthood blessing. It was so sacred and special, I hope and pray she will have courage to be baptised and take that step once she’s healed up.

Our efforts this week were far from perfect but I’m learning lots from Sestra Bar already. She’s a singer, dancer, writer (she’s got a BA in Creative Writing!), and has such a peppy, fun attitude about the everyday, frustrating things while being mature and level-headed about the work.

A pleasant surprise: Starší Pet and family pop in for a quick farewell. Starší Pet, a distinguished-looking bearded gentleman, Sestra Jones, Sestra Bar, Prezident van D

A pleasant surprise: Starší Pet and family pop in for a quick farewell.
Starší Pet, a distinguished-looking bearded gentleman, Sestra Jones, Sestra Bar, Prezident van D

Our new missionary is Elder Chri’n from Utah – he’s an actor and is such a good sport! It’s refreshing beyond description to have a new Elder in the district. We’ve got the full spectrum now with a greenie just out, and imminently departing Elder Guy too – I love our little missionary band. 🙂 Speaking of which Elder Pet surprised us yesterday by coming with his parents! They’re amazing people. Elder and Sister Mil, our humanitarian service missionary couple hosted a wonderful Thanksgiving feast for us the other week, even though they had to travel to the States for some health care the next day. We were so touched by their loving kindness, and will be happy to have them back as soon as they are able to return.

Heavenly Father is pouring out His Spirit upon all lands, and people are being prepared to receive the “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). We have a Saviour! 🙂 Everyone is spending their time and money in search of what He offers freely: happiness. The kind that doesn’t fade with time or is dependent on outside factors – that is the priceless gift we want to share with everyone.

Love you lots. Kramar!
Sestra Jones

Raising the Bar

02 December 2013

Sestra Bar and Sestra Jones, companions for Christmas!

Sestra Bar and Sestra Jones, companions for Christmas!

I’m staying here for another two months, and joining me is Sestra Bar from the Czech Republic! She’s been Sister Training Leader for a while, and just like Sestra Johns and I, she was also trained by Sestra Pyšňáková!  🙂  We’re going to have so much fun learning Slovak together and really getting this area going. I look forward so much to learning and growing and really giving my all to this area: I want to learn to turn OUT to help lift others, rather than focusing on my own needs. I confess it will be nice not to be the senior companion for a bit!

Sestra Johns is going to Z, and other exciting mission news this transfer includes the arrival of a new Slovak sister, and a new sisters’ area opening up in Trenčín!

Our beloved Pani K'ova

Our beloved Pani K’ova

As for this past week with lovely Sestra Johns, we worked really hard to contact people, even when it was cold and in the face of repeated rejection, we did it. I feel like we really got things right, and the Lord blessed us richly: the B’s (both of them!) were at church on Sunday for the first time in a long time, PK’ova (I love her!) fasted for the first time and was uplifted, P has been able to help us understand his family situation a bit more, and we found some potential investigators who seem very likely to become new investigators this coming week. I can’t wait! We met with our friends and former investigators K and H yesterday, they are still happy Catholics but the Spirit was there and THEY FELT IT! It was a good lesson.

There were a number of visitors at Church this Sunday, including Czech/Slovak Mission Alumnus, JT

There were a number of visitors at Church this Sunday, including Czech/Slovak Mission Alumnus, JT

Preparations for our Christmas concert on the 17th are well under way, and we’re following Brno’s example to involve more Branch members in the programme. If they don’t sing, then they can read scriptures. It will be beautiful!

When elders get bored...

When elders get bored…

The Christmas markets have opened, including Swedish glögg stands. Yum! *(In Sweden, glögg is a traditional spiced, hot fruit drink often garnished with raisins and blanched almonds, and served mainly at Christmastime. It was originally an alcoholic drink, akin to mulled wine. But just like the American holiday favourite, Egg Nog, a milder non-alcoholic version has now become widespread, to be enjoyed by young and old and missionaries alike.)

The Elders have been sick,  with no way to restock their cupboards. On Sunday we undertook a mission of mercy to take them some necessary supplies, and discovered that in their enfeebled, possibly delirious, and obviously very bored condition they had devised a creative delivery system involving a bucket tied to lots of sheets… down it went from their balcony (like, four or five stories up), in went the supplies, and up it was hoisted again.  Now there’s something you don’t see every day!  😉

I know that the Lord loves his children dearly. As long as we exercise the faith to obey the whisperings of His Spirit, we will be led to accomplish miracles. I know that our Saviour lives, and I am striving each day to repent of my mistakes so that I can become the person He wants me to be.

Love you all lots! <3, Sestra jones x