Springtime Sunshine!

24 February 2014

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time” Ecclesiastes 3:11

The weather here is absolutely gorgeous today! It is sunny and warm, and it feels as if winter is already over.  We spotted snowdrops and daisies while out tracting yesterday!

The past week has been a bit scattered and slow: full of unexpected curveballs that we didn’t quite dodge. Like days’ worth of appointments falling through, or surprise sleepovers without sufficient bedding, or time spent travelling after getting thoroughly lost. None of our investigators made it to Church yesterday, and despite our daily efforts to find people to teach we did not pick up any new investigators. And yet, somehow when we totalled our numbers for this week we found that we had met our goal and taught precisely 14 lessons! How?! It was a miracle: a tender mercy of the Lord in showing us the big picture, that the work is in His hands.

Making friends and influencing people in Bratislava.

Making friends and influencing people in Bratislava.

Highlights of the week: we gave a mini-concert at the Red Cross facilities for the mentally handicapped, and my recorders came in handy again for that. Those little flutes have been such a blessing!

We had wonderful lessons with some of our “Mat”s. Our Mat from Zimbabwe came with questions: he had carefully read the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon and was ready to know more! We taught him the Restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. There was such a sweet Spirit present in that lesson.

We had a great experience teaching optimist-atheist Mat with the assistance our lovely MG (who is a former optimist-atheist herself). She bore a beautiful testimony.

We met with recently baptised S, and he was SO happy to discuss and learn about the gospel, hungry for more information. He hadn’t read the Book or Mormon for a week because he’s constantly lending it to friends 🙂 It was a miracle that we ran into him on the street last week, it enabled us to get back in touch with him after his phone got stolen, so I know the Lord is watching out for him!

We had a wonderful training in Brno on Thursday. It was delightful to see Prezident and his beautiful family once again, and the sacred camaraderie we share with our fellow missionaries across the mission is so energizing. It felt good to catch my breath and re-evaluate my commitment to the Lord’s work. It was an inspirational meeting, and I came away with a renewed vision for my remaining months of service. I feel very appreciative of my companion, Sestra Seni, as she is a beautiful example of some of the qualities I would like to develop as a missionary. I feel so humbled and blessed to have this sacred time to learn from her example and bask in the Spirit she carries with her.

I am looking forward to what this week holds in store; bring it on, Blava!

Big hugs! ❤

Sestra Jones

This Week’s News, by Numbers

17 February 2014

Halušky happiness! Sestra Seni and Sestra Jones get cooking

Halušky happiness!
Sestra Seni and Sestra Jones get cooking

2 bedframes, now fully assembled: This week has been fab! We finished building our beds at last and are officially moved in, and feeling the Spirit more in our orderly home.

 4 investigators named Mat: It’s kind of weird, but we have met 4 “Mat”s who are all really fab, very prepared! On Monday, both lessons we had set up cancelled, so we went contacting and the third person we stopped is our atheist but optimist Mat. He was really open to having a building tour of our Church meetinghouse, and we will be meeting for a lesson on Tuesday. Mat from Zimbabwe we contacted last week. He told us, “I wasn’t planning on crossing the bridge that day. I don’t know why, but I did. Then I met you.” A chance encounter? I think not! 🙂 We definitely met for a reason, and he has readily accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon. Another of our Mats is one of my favourite contacts ever! He is Italian, is soooo funny, and is genuinely interested in and sensitive to spiritual things. (*I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to find out more about the 4th Mat!)

So many classy, solidly employed, English-speaking, young prospective Priesthood holders! 😀 That’s just what Bratislava seems to need right now. Two of our young single Branch members participated in a singing display with our district last Friday, and I was so impressed with their goodness, strength and courage. What we need here is a group of young adults, having fun together and supporting one another in faith and friendship! (And hey let’s just come out and say it: then going on to marry each other in the temple, and continuing to have fun, friendship and faith in a strong family!*Sestra Jones knows it could happen, because her own parents first met at a Church activity!) My trainer, Sestra Pyšňáková, always told me that missionaries are also “matchmakers” in a way: you hunt for people who will complement and support those in your branch. Sestra Seni and I are taking this seriously and are committed to finding young men and women who are ready to hear and act on our message.

5 incidents of Impeccable Timing: We’ve been bumping into a lot of familiar faces while we’ve been out and about! On Monday we met members M and D and brightened each other’s day, on Tuesday we ran into another sister, K, thanks to me forgetting my scriptures on the tram, and on Thursday we met potential investigator F and (miraculously) our elusive recent convert, S! Yay!

6 sweet months to give my all: I had an awful night’s sleep Saturday and couldn’t figure out why. Then it hit me: Saturday marked exactly 6 months left in the mission field.  NOOOO!  I’d better make those months count.

11 lessons taught: Prezident has encouraged us to focus on engaging people in Meaningful conversations: at least 10 a day. Goal Slovakia 2014 is to teach at least 14 lessons per week. We’ve been close; we had 13 our first week and 11 lessons this past week. We’ve seen posters for the Winter Olympics. Some people are using it as an excuse not to meet with us. 😉 * The Slovak ice hockey team has had 3 matches in the past week. They play against the Czech Republic tomorrow… there just might be a few people who are suddenly “too busy” for lessons that day across the Czech/Slovak Mission!

 48 years old: We had a beautiful lesson with Iv, a 48-year-old man who is deaf. We don’t speak Slovak sign language. We had no one to interpret for him, so we conducted the lesson by writing to each other, and drawing pictures. We played soft hymns on our phone in the background to help us to be calm, patient, and feel the Spirit. Iv accepted a Book of Mormon.  I hope he’ll understand and feel the power of the truth it contains! Sestra Seni taught and testified beautifully. With all the other Slovak sisters but her going home in the next four transfers, she literally is the future of Slovakia. What a star! 😀 We made halušky together for first time this week, plus taught the children in Primary.

1,200 words: We have a district goal to learn 1,200 new Slovak words by April. Elder Fe’l alone memorised 61 last week! (How am I supposed to maintain an air of casual brilliance when I am surrounded by such linguistic geniuses?! Ack ;P ).

∞ : The love I feel for all of you, my dear family and friends!

Sestra Jones

South of the Dunaj

10 February 2014

Ahojte!

Bratislava is FANTASTIC! The branch here is the largest I’ve seen so far, with FAMILIES at church! 😀 For starters, Prezident B and his wife are practically superhuman with rock-solid testimonies, and have a fine family. The Ruz family are a couple from Russia with 3 angelic young children. The Val family have a special place in my heart; they have 5 children (one boy fostered, a pair of twins, all VERY energetic). Both Brat and Sestra Val served full-time missions in the UK (Brat in Aberystwyth! Cymru am byth! *That’s Welsh for “Wales forever”). Brat S is great: he’s in his 20’s, comes from Latvia, and is a super talented musician.

Sestra Seni and I both feel that our service this transfer is for the members of the Branch: while still aiming for Prezident McConkie’s vision of at least one baptism each transfer, we are also feeling focused on building a strong, happy Branch with active members sharing the load and ready to welcome more into the family.

I’ve already had some experiences which help me to know I’m in the right place: T was being taught in English, but during our most recent meeting with him I spoke to him only in Slovak, and at the end he said he now understands nuances that hadn’t been clear to him before about the Book of Mormon and its role.

Our District is well-balanced, and we’re all going to be great friends. Elder Roos is the new Elder (another missionary from the UK! Small world!). He’s Filipino/Dutch and hails from London. 🙂 Elder Lam was inspired to divide up the city amongst the four companionships for contacting and tracting purposes. We sisters were assigned Petrzalka (basically everything south of the Dunaj), and we’ve spent some time finding buses and scoping out good routes. We feel it’s a perfect fit for us, and Sestra Seni kept saying: “We’ve crossed the bridge!”

"And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness..." Moses 7:18 The Bratislava District chow down as one.

“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind…” Moses 7:18
The Bratislava District chow down as one.

Our goal is to find at least one family there and end the transfer with strong, active members and a handful of baptismal dates to take the final step next transfer. Follow-up training is a privilege. Sestra Seni is ever patient and optimistic. She said to me on Tuesday after a taxing day of contacting: “I’ve never participated this much in contacts before. Thank you so much!” It was a moment in which the Lord let me know that He’s helped me grow and change over the course of my mission. I hope I can stay sensitive to her needs, and apply everything I’ve learned through all my experiences so far.

I’m also currently acting as District Language Study Co-Ordinator. I’m still trying to learn how to effectively share my talent for speaking Slovak. Just because I am able to speak and understand fairly well myself, doesn’t mean I can easily teach grammar to another missionary.  🙂 This will be another great opportunity to stretch myself a bit, and hopefully gain new understanding and skills.

Love you all so much, Sestra Jones

 

All Change!

03 February 2014

Capital city companions: Sestra Seni and Sestra Jones

Capital city companions:
Sestra Seni and Sestra Jones

Hope I can type all this fast enough; I’m feeling a bit groggy after getting up at 4 this morning. Can you guess why? That’s right! I had to catch the early train, because I’m follow-up training the lovely Sestra Seni in Bratislava!! I get to serve in the capital city of Slovakia, in the largest branch in the country, and see Brat M again! Happy days 🙂 *(Brat M was baptised in Košice in August 2013, and lives in Bratislava now.)

Like me, my new companion is 20 years old.  She is so much fun! She’s from Salt Lake City, and loves reading, sports, films, and food. She studied for a year at BYU Hawaii before coming on her mission, and was in the MTC with Elder Chri’n. She LOVES the members and investigators here and is a wonderful missionary with great faith and confidence. I’m sure we’ll have a lot to learn from each other!

I’m going to miss Sestra Bar: she’s been such a champ and has taught me how to be happy on my mission (“it’s not missionary work; it’s missionary fun!”). I’m so honoured to have served with her, and feel sad that this will be her final transfer. It was a luxury to serve with a sister as kind and experienced as Sestra Bar, and she taught me some great lessons (all of which I seem only to have absorbed in our very last week together. Why?! :D) I had some eye-openers about patience and not forcing people to be ready now, but accepting the Lord’s timing for each individual. I also learned much more about relationships. Sestra Bar is so perfectly honest about herself and others – never aggrandising or exaggerating when recalling the past, but also perfectly balancing the need for privacy and never wanting to hurt anyone.

Sestra B will be serving with her this transfer, which is really cool as Sestra B has a lot of ancestral ties with that area. As for the fate of the Elders, Starší Chri’n will be follow-up trained by Starší C (they’re perfectly matched!), and Starší Fe’l just can’t resist making history, the young thing. He’s twice the legend now: training again, plus opening a brand new area here in Bratislava. So there’ll be 4 companionships serving here now – can’t wait to be a part of it!

A fond farewell

A fond farewell

By the end of this transfer, Starší Fe’l and I will have served in the same district for an astonishing 8 months. That’s almost half my mission. He jokes that he can’t get rid of me even by transferring. I have refrained from pointing out the obvious, which is: I was here first. So if anybody is “following somebody else around”, that would be him, not me. 😉 Really, he has no idea how grim and sad his life is going to be when he doesn’t have yours truly around anymore!

Parting with the Košice Branch members at church yesterday filled me with gratitude to know such astoundingly good people. We had a good turn-out, too: all the regulars (Sestra B’gova, the van D’s, J, E, and M) and the lovely L (just returned from studying in Spain) plus (miraculously) her non-member father! Add the 6 missionaries and 2 investigators and there’s quite the impressive group. Julius popped in just for Priesthood session declaring that the Book of Mormon is the best book he’s ever read – “better even than the Bible”! Alma is his absolute favourite, and he was convinced the book is true when he read Mormon denouncing infant baptism. He enjoyed himself thoroughly I dare say, but has no desire at present to commit to coming weekly, or be taught, or consider baptism. What a funny man! The second investigator was our lovely I, who is now working towards March 29 as a baptismal date! 😀 She came for Sunday School and absolutely LOVES church: she willingly participated in Relief Society and was so sweet in bidding me farewell. I’m sure the Lord will work miracles in her life as she continues on her path to conversion. She is in good hands.

A warm welcome: Sestra Seni, MG, and Sestra Jones in the big city

A warm welcome:
Sestra Seni, MG, and Sestra Jones in the big city

Košice will always have a special place in my heart, but I am at peace about moving on now. I have felt for a while that this is what the Lord was planning for me, and when the long-anticipated transfer call came it just felt RIGHT.

So, quickly about what has transpired today: I’ve met the lovely MG, an 18-year-old convert who has immediately won a place of honour on my list of all-time favourite Slovak Church members. She studies animation (the 3D kind on

Posh digs

Posh digs

computers) and loves RPG and video games, etc. She was introduced to the gospel through online gaming: the girl she was chatting with said ‘I have to go to church now.’ Then MG waited for THREE HOURS for her to return! She asked her friend, “what church takes three hours?!” and her friend said, “glad you asked, let me show you”…Boom, so great. She loves teaching with the sisters and wants to serve a mission! My hero.

Starší Fe’l and New Missionary (don’t know who he’ll be yet!) are moving into the sisters’ old apartment, so we just moved into a spanking new one! It’s jaw-droppingly fancy! Like living in a hotel: complete with receptionist and gym and flat screen telly (not that we’re watching it, but still – posh iawn)! Thank you, parents, for raising me on flat-pack furniture, cause it’s IKEA assembly galore as soon as we return from this library. I think that’s about it for now, I love you all and send you big bear hugs!

<3, Sestra Jones