This is the Day

24 March 2014

 “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Sunspots and Goldfish. the Bratislava District: Sestra Jones, Sestra Seni, Starší Fe'l, Starší Lam, Starší Ras, Starší A, Starší Jar, Starší Roos

Sunspots and Goldfish.
the Bratislava District:
Sestra Jones, Sestra Seni, Starší Fe’l, Starší Lam, Starší Ras, Starší A, Starší Jar, Starší Roos

We taught surprisingly few lessons this week; our wonderful investigators and lovely less-active members continue to both inspire us and bewilder us in turns. Sometimes forging ahead boldly to ascend to new and thrilling heights in their faith, at other times disappearing into the misty valleys.

The big highlight of the week was our missionary Conference and fabulous training with Prezident McConkie on Thursday. It proved such a great reminder of why we do what we do: enriching people´s relationship with God. Personal revelation is an indispensable privilege that unlocks the conversion process.

The departing testimonies jolted me a bit though, particularly dear Sestra Bar´s (this is her last transfer… she will complete her mission in about two weeks). It shocked me to realise that in just under five months´ time I will similarly have to take off my badge and return to mundane normality. Sometimes I worry that I´m not working hard enough, that I´m not making the impact on people that the Lord wants me to. On the bright side though, that´s motivating me to be a better missionary now while I still have time. Since then I´ve been pondering what I still wish to accomplish in the two transfers left to me. I love my mission. I know that this is exactly where the Lord wants me to be. I miss being a new missionary with seemingly endless transfers ahead of me and unbridled enthusiasm to accomplish the work. Yet I´m grateful for the experience I´ve gained as a seasoned missionary, and see better now how to go about the work efficiently. Isn´t it funny that the Lord removes us from service just when we´re in danger of getting too comfortable and thinking we have it all figured out?

We had not only all of the missionary force from Slovakia gathered together for this Conference, but also a good many missionaries the Czech Republic (Brno Zone) all squeezed into the church building! Afterwards, our English student who took us on our tour last week, E, graciously repeated the exercise for the entire group of missionaries to share with all a sense of the culture, history, and pride of the Slovak people. Bratislava was bursting at the seams with missionaries! What a glorious sight.

Working hard, working together: on exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders.

Working hard, working together:
on exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders.

I had a great exchange this week with Sestra Bat, one of our Sister Training Leaders. She is a beautiful example of charity, and helped me a lot with my thoughts about ending my mission, as expressed above. Sestra Seni is such an inspiration to me: she returned from her exchange in Uherské Hradiště (Czech Republic) on Friday afternoon exclaiming that we may be far behind our desired goal of 21 lessons this week, but that she refuses to settle for less than the expected minimum of 14 lessons! Wow, that´s unstoppable faith. I look to Doctrine and Covenants for encouragement: “That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world “(D&C 1:23). I may be weak and simple, but the Lord didn´t ask for anyone else, and I know that He will qualify us for the work. If I must eventually leave, then at least I intend to go out in a blaze of glory!

We´re optimistic for this coming week and so excited for our Easter concert in two weeks´time!

Have a great week!
S láskou, Sestra Jones

 

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Embrace the Ides of March

17 March 2014

Well, let’s see if I can do this week justice… Oh, who am I kidding?! Of course I can’t! The miracles have been beautiful and I’m learning lots of great lessons, and so feeling mighty successful. I cannot imagine ever becoming bored of full-time missionary work! Frustrated, exhausted, confused, disappointed sometimes, yes. But Heavenly Father always helps me bounce back to elated, inspired, grateful, hopeful, and charity-driven (although still imperfect) service. With so little time and so much to experience, the only danger I foresee is being momentarily paralyzed by the magnitude of opportunities before me. See? I’ve finally figured out why I’m a procrastinator! Now I can face my fears! 😉 So to further state my case, let me demonstrate what Heavenly Father helped us (and, more importantly, others) to accomplish this week:

Saint George is forever slaying a 3-headed dragon outside Primate's Palace (Primaciálny palác).

Saint George is forever slaying a 3-headed dragon outside Primate’s Palace (Primaciálny palác).

We trumped last week’s record with 21 lessons and 2 new investigators, with more lessons lined up for this coming week! 😀 A less-active sister we’ve been working with came to Church yesterday!!! She was warmly welcomed by the members of the branch and invited to Institute – it was so great! Another member struggling to be fully active came to the Fireside on Friday and you could tell he just belongs in the branch, and feels at home there. This week we taught him about temples and he taught us how to contact – it was hilarious and actually super helpful! “All-day smile, 120% drive!” He’s a salesman, so he has great insights on interacting with the public.

Speaking of the Fireside, it was beautiful and all the members could talk about was how they hope it will soon be repeated. Although we missionaries had planned it and provided a musical number, it was largely run by the branch members themselves (conducting, speaking, bringing refreshments, etc.). There’s been a surge of enthusiasm for our Easter concert in April, and I hope our branch members will all bring friends. One of our less-active members is basically the star of the show, considering he’s a professional pianist! 🙂

In Relief Society we discussed Visiting Teaching and how we can magnify the sisters’ system of watchcare. I feel like VERY good things are happening here in Bratislava. Our branch mission leader, Brat Val is super helpful and has even expressed a willingness to drive us out to visit one of our Church members who lives quite a distance from the city. What a hero. We´re doing FHE with the Val family again tonight – yay!

The Slovak National Theatre  (Slovenské národné divadlo)

The Slovak National Theatre (Slovenské národné divadlo)

A few weeks ago, we were tracting in Petrzalka. We rang someone’s bell to ask if they would “buzz” us in the main door to the apartment building, but the lady who answered couldn’t hear us over the intercom, and so she came downstairs to the door to talk to us. She was expecting guests, so she said we could come back and try her again sometime. When our lessons fell through on Saturday, that’s where we went. You’ll never guess what happened next: just as we rounded the corner to approach her panelák she steps out of the car that she just pulled up in a moment before, and says “Why hello, Sisters, have you come to visit me? Come on in!” WHAT?!?  It was amazing; it is just so, so rare to be invited in like that. Fortunately we managed to pick our jaws up off the pavement, and recover from our shock quickly enough to accept her invitation!

Then yesterday blew me away completely (almost literally: gale force winds this past weekend). We intended to go try a similar lady we’d previously tracted in Biskupice, but completely forgot to get off the bus. We ended up in an area where we’d never been before, and just when we were about to turn back we were let in by a beautiful family that want us to come back with a Book of Mormon! All the way home Sestra Seni and I were asking ourselves what we could possibly have done to deserve such a privilege and a miracle as that.

On tour: discovering the delights of historic Bratislava

On tour: discovering the delights of historic Bratislava

Last Monday we were given a brilliant tour of the city by an English student, E. Our little tour group further consisted of a couple from Northern Ireland and two North American non-denominational Christian missionaries. We had some good meaningful conversations and saw beautiful sights. Other mission news: there were 3 baptisms held in the Czech Republic this past week, and many companionships taught impressive numbers of lessons. The Lord is helping us hasten the work! We’re so close to becoming a Czech Stake, I can just sense it! 🙂

That´s all for now, love you lots!

Sestra Jones

 

March Madness

10 March 2014

Ahojte! Hope you’ve had a nice week. Mine has been absolutely MIRACULOUS. We taught a whopping 20 LESSONS this week! 😀 For the past while we’ve scraped by to even hit the standard 14 lessons weekly, but this week the Elders came to District meeting with some highly contagious enthusiasm. Prezident McConkie had given Elder L a powerful blessing of healing (Elder L has been facing some health challenges), and through him blessed the other Elders (Fe’l, Roos, and A) who will be taking turns at his bedside for a topsy-turvy few weeks. Elder L is a fighter, and refuses to go down for the count: while he is recuperating, he is putting his skills as a former phone salesman to impressive effect. He’s contacting investigators by phone and churning out appointments for the other Elders like nobody’s business.

Elder Fe’l stepped in as acting District Leader on Tuesday and inspired us all with a vision of what 4 companionships working together can really accomplish. Well, Sestra Seni caught the flame and emerged from the meeting announcing: “Sister Jones, this week we are teaching 21 lessons!” Her unconditional faith has absolutely buoyed me up this entire week. I feel like she is the most converted person I know. I have so much I need to learn from her: meaningful prayers, love for people, journal keeping, quality studies, time management, humility, a reverence for what is sacred, positive attitude, the list goes on. She had not a doubt in her mind that we would hit our goals: every setback we faced (lessons falling through, etc), we would hit the streets and search for the person who did need to be taught in that time we’d set aside for a lesson. Even after 6 consecutive lessons cancelling on Saturday we were still SO close to our desired 21 – it was literally a miracle.

Next miracle: we have an investigator with a baptismal date! 😀 S has been investigating the church for literally years. He was on track for baptism last year but struggled with church attendance due to his job (no longer a problem – he’s a regular at all church meetings including English, and some members don’t even realise he isn’t baptised). His dream is to be baptised in the Danube river, so during the winter months it was a bit out of the question. But now that the sun has rolled out, our branch mission leader Brat Val suggested we go ahead and extend a date. S accepted – huzzah, prayers answered!

I feel like we Sestry are doing better at communicating with our branch leaders to discover what their goals are, and then helping in any way the branch needs/requests. We missionaries have organised a conversion story Fireside for this Friday, and an Easter concert is taking shape for the beginning of April, so lots of opportunities for us to work in tandem with banch members there. My mission has really opened my eyes to the power that results when many people work as one, and the abundant opportunities for service available in everyday life. I hope to be a MUCH better Church member post-mission than I ever was before (aware, involved, co-operative, etc.).

So, on to the events of the past week (and quickly!). Stuff I wish I had time to give more details on: we had such sweet experiences teaching FHE at the Val’s last Monday, and in Primary on Sunday. Their rambunctious children actually enjoyed it. Yay! We met with some cool former investigators, they’re not investigators again yet but we’re working on it, phone lesson with Brat M was positive, our professional pianist Branch member T is helping us with the concert, R (a referral) is SUPER prepared but just has so little time available to meet. Our District has learned 1,080 words so far this transfer! Next week is Specialised Training in Bratislava and the Sister Trainer Leaders are coming on exchanges!  Lots of good stuff happening. 🙂

Love you to bits, look after yourselves!

S láskou, Sestra Jones

Sweet Is the Work

03 March 2014

Sweet is the work, my God, my King,
To praise thy name, give thanks and sing,
To show thy love by morning light,
And talk of all thy truths at night.
-Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

This week was FULL of surprises! Our entire weekly planning (goals of how many lessons to teach to whom, how we will help investigators progress, etc.) practically fell through by Tuesday. It’s flu season and *ski week to boot, so we were left with what felt like a blank schedule to revive. But as we all know by now, the Lord works in mysterious ways, and looking back we experienced an entirely different kind of success. With many investigators unavailable, we suddenly had plenty of time to go hunt for our inactive members. We were ready to go to the rescue!

*Editor’s note: According to reliable sources, ski week refers to “…one of two things. It might be the mandatory week of school when students are required to go skiing somewhere for the week with their PE class. They basically spend the week in the mountains with their classmates. Sounds awesome right? It could also just be the week of spring break, so students don’t have school and they go skiing with their families.”  Ďakujem, reliable sources! You know who you are 😉

Monday we met with a wonderful young sister who hasn’t come to church in a while, for various reasons. She loves us Sisters and always promises to try to come to church, but something always gets in the way. She has a hard time understanding the scriptures, so we drew a parable for her: Heavenly Father’s the chef, we’re the eggs, and the church is the pot. The boiling water can be uncomfortable at times, but unless we stay safe inside, we may roll off the table and crack on the floor. She gave it some serious thought, and we hope she will feel a desire to return and renew her covenants at church. I know the scriptures can change hearts, so we plan to help her study the Kniha Mormonova daily.

Tuesday we met with S again: he was so ready to learn more! He was like an eager apprentice at the feet of the master in our lesson with Prezident B – he has such great respect for the man. It was as if we Sisters weren’t even there, I loved it! 😀

Brat S called us last week and wanted to meet. He told us about his first missionary, who was just so great, like a brother. That missionary has already completed his mission and returned home, but apparently a little birdy told  him that Brat S could use a boost, and so we hear that there was a happy reunion by phone. That was just so great – that’s the kind of returned missionary I want to be.

We went and visited Brat M!  🙂 He lives in a town some distance from Blava, so it was 5 hours out of our day, but it’s the first tangible contact he’s had with the church since October. It was a joy to meet with him again, but hard for me to see him so far removed from the church.  He called yesterday to ask if we could arrange with a member for him to stay in Bratislava Saturdays and attend church! It made me so happy!

Fasting together and feasting together; love and laughter make the work sweet in Bratislava!

Fasting together and feasting together;
love and laughter make the work sweet in Bratislava!

Awesome Church members Mi and MG mentioned to us that they’d never managed to do a proper 24-hour fast complete with prayers before. It must be so hard to be in their position, they are the only members of the Church in their families. So we Sisters decided to fast together with them and they both said it was a precious, powerful spiritual experience. Mi bore testimony about it yesterday and made me so happy! Heavenly Father was able to use me to accomplish good things in the lives of others! What better feeling can there be?

I can testify that fasting works. It allows us to literally call down the powers of heaven. I feel like I’m becoming the best missionary I have been so far: we’re opening our mouths at all times and places.

Prezident McConkie came to Bratislava to do interviews (one of my all-time favourite things!), joined us for District Meeting, and even met with Sestra Seni and me to study together at the Church building on Friday morning. He shared with us some very special observations and comments of approval that filled our hearts to the brim with joy and consolation. It was a powerful and happy experience. 😀 I love Prezident McConkie, his vision and leadership are awe-inspiring.

That’s all for now, love you lots!

Sestra Jones