It’s Raining and Pouring

22 April 2014

The wet and the wild: Sestra Jones and Felix the Lizard

The wet and the wild:
Sestra Jones and Felix the Lizard

What a wet weekend we’ve had! *And more rain and thunderstorms forecast all week long – you can check out the weather in Bratislava here.

Yesterday (Easter Monday) the shops and libraries were all closed, so we had a partial P-Day indoors writing in journals and chilling to MoTab. Most relaxing day I’ve had in absolute ages! It was boring compared to last P Day 😉  We took a výlet to Devínsky hrad (Devín castle); it was almost as cool as our Welsh castles. We found a lizard, and named him Felix 😀

Learning a critical skill: Sestra W cooking halušky for the first time. It's all part of the training...

Learning a critical skill:
Sestra W cooking halušky for the first time. It’s all part of the training…

My companion, Sestra W is so cute! She is down-to-earth, considerate, and quiet. She works really hard. Like me, she is the eldest child in her family. We made halušky together for the first time yesterday. Yay!

This week has felt like an age! And yet the time is slipping by so fast. I have mixed feelings about our efforts this week: I feel I am trying hard, but am aware of my imperfections as I try to balance between helping Sestra W come into her own, and buckling down to get the job done efficiently. My appreciation for what my parents and teachers and trainer have all done for me has suddenly risen to a whole new level. 🙂 I’m trying to develop patience and trust that the Lord will magnify our feeble (but consecrated) efforts to work miracles here in Bratislava. And we need them!

A miracle that we’re praying for in particular is a prepared family to teach: “the kind that tells us ‘we’ve been praying to meet you'”, in Sestra W’s words. She and I truly became friends this week.  Her Slovak is quite excellent already. She memorised the entire First Vision in one afternoon! So proud… 🙂 All she needs is the confidence to react to questions and take the lead.

We were in Brno (Czech Republic) last Thursday for a training meeting, and Sestra W and I both came away from training feeling that we need to focus on becoming great finders and refresh our teaching pool. As Prezident McConkie has said: “the key to a happy and successful mission is learning to love contacting, fast.” 😉 A few times this week a wave of urgency to do the Lord’s work has swept over me and propelled me forward as we seek to open our mouths and share the gospel message with the people around us.

Dobrú chuť! Dinner is served.

We learned a lesson about the law of the harvest: try as we might our Friday remained devoid of teaching apointments, so it became a Finding Day. We practiced different contacts, tried using Gospel Art and testimony and questions and pass-along cards and YSA members and by dinner time we were ready to keel over with exhaustion. We had many meaningful conversations, but not a single lesson nor phone number to show for our earnest efforts. It was tough. We steeled ourselves for the next day by telling ourselves that miracles would play out for the work we’d put in on Friday. Sure enough, on Saturday we got 3 numbers almost effortlessly while riding the trams to and from appointments. It was such a testimony-builder for me of reaping miracles from consecrated efforts!  The Holy Ghost brought to my mind something else Prezident McConkie shared with us about the principle of consecration: “it means giving consistent effort every day regardless of immediate results.”

We didn’t teach as many lessons as we’d hoped this week, and have no new investigators. Although we did have a miracle in that an investigator we found last transfer has resurfaced: he called and wanted to meet.  A member of the Church here who just received his mission call to Germany helped us teach and was just fantastic!  The branch mission leader accompanied us to do some service in S’s garden, and we had a positive discussion afterwards.  Also Brat M read the Priesthood Session from Conference, which he enjoyed immensely.  Easter Sunday was full of miracles. Our stalwart sister M went to teach a former investigator with us; her testimony had a crucial impact. M’s father, who is not a member of the Church, invited all the missionaries round for dinner and let us share a spiritual thought! M was just glowing as she held the Book of Mormon with her father, and bore her testimony about Christ. It was a beautiful moment.

I love you all lots, you’re in my prayers!

Sestra Jones

New Beginnings in Bratislava

14 April 2014

“Old things are done away, and all things have become new.” 3 Nephi 12:47

First day in the field: Welcome, Sestra W! Sestra Jones is there to greet her new companion as she arrives in Prague.

First day in the field:
Welcome, Sestra W! Sestra Jones is there to greet her new companion as she arrives in Prague.

This has been a week of firsts! First time training for me, and first time everything for Sestra W! We taught our very first lesson together on the train ride home to Blava from Prague. The lesson was with a young adult from Moldova. That experience was quickly added upon as each day brought new opportunities: we also taught at the Church building, in a home, on a bench, tracted *paneláky, and visited with Branch members´non-member families. What an adventure!

*A “panelák“ is basically an apartment block constructed of panels of pre-fab concrete, a form of cheap, collective housing that was widely adopted in the old Czechoslovakia during the Communist era, and is still common in the Czech and Slovak Republics today.

Trainers all:  Starší K,  Starší C,  Starší P,  Starší W,  and Starší F, Sestra Jones, Sestra G, and Sestra B. Sestra Jones is the only Slovak missionary training this transfer, all the others are serving in the Czech Republic.

Trainers all: Starší K, Starší C, Starší P, Starší W, and Starší F, Sestra Jones, Sestra G, and Sestra B. Sestra Jones is the only Slovak missionary training this transfer, all the others are serving in the Czech Republic.

Sestra W is so fantastic and unique! She’s so dedicated and always wants to do what´s right. She never complains and is considerate of everyone´s needs and feelings. She is very aware of her weaknesses and willing to face her fears to improve. Sestra W is a naturally reserved person and so contacting takes a lot of courage for her. But she did it nevertheless! We´re learning together: for me it´s a lesson of feeding her “milk before meat” and giving her opportunities to contribute without overwhelming her.

Sestra Jones and the marvellous Sestra Munro.  Sestra Munro and her husband serve in the Mission office in Prague, keeping all the little cogs turning smoothly for the entire mission. The night before Sestra Jones came up from Bratislava to meet her new companion, Sestra Munro had a rather comical but very vivid dream, in which she owed Sestra Jones 25 Czech Koruna (that's about 75p or $1.26). Being the awesome bundle of irrepressible fun and good cheer that she is, of course Sestra Munro had to pay off her dream debt and take this picture as soon as she saw Sestra Jones in real life the next day! Many thanks to Sestra Munro for sharing these fabulous photos!

Sestra Jones and the marvellous Sestra Munro.
Sestra Munro and her husband serve in the Mission office in Prague, keeping all the little cogs turning smoothly for the entire mission. The night before Sestra Jones came up from Bratislava to meet her new companion, Sestra Munro had a rather comical but very vivid dream, in which she owed Sestra Jones 25 Czech Koruna (that’s about 75p or $1.26). Being the awesome bundle of irrepressible fun and good cheer that she is, of course Sestra Munro had to pay off her dream debt and take this picture as soon as she saw Sestra Jones in real life the next day!
Many thanks to Sestra Munro for sharing these fabulous photos!

I feel like we get along well as our personalities balance each other out. I feel Heavenly Father wants me to help her to gain confidence in Him and in the abilities He´s given her. What I appreciate most about Sestra W in terms of our relationship is her openness in telling me her ideas and preferences. The main improvement I need to make as a trainer this coming week is making sure we settle into a better study routine. At the moment our studies are a bit scattered and inefficient as we get accustomed to each other and our investigators.

Speaking of which, we were blessed to teach lessons despite having only a half week to work with, and many appointments falling through. S is doing fine: he has set a baptismal date for June, and came to General Conference. We´ll be serving in his garden this week at the advice of the new Sister Training Leaders (they´re so great!). My days in Žilina and Prague this past week were amazing, and Conference was just fab! What I took away from General Conference was a burning desire to help people make lasting changes in their lives – to become converted! M, a young sister in our branch, has definitely caught the missionary fever too: “I´m like a Mormon bomb of spiritual witness: just waiting for someone to press the button so I can explode! Call me so I can teach with you, Sisters!”

I know that this is the Lord´s work. I feel so privileged to be participating in it. I am so happy to see that the person I´ve become is far better than the new missionary I arrived as. It gives me faith and hope that the Lord will continue to shape me as I strive to do His will, not mine. His design is always far better.

Love you all oh-so-much,

Sestra Jones

Šťastné Veľká noc všetky!  Happy Easter, everyone! Here’s a little video for the season, which expresses beautifully why Sestra Jones is doing what she’s doing:

New Beginnings

 

 

Training!

07 April 2014

It was 22:10 on Saturday night and we still hadn’t received a transfer call. So Sestra Seni and I safely assumed we were a low-priority call and would both be staying happily put together. I’ve never felt more indifferent about a transfer call. And yet here I am emailing you from Žilina, back where it all started a year ago! Can you guess why?

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer – here’s my fabulous transfer news: I’m training a new Sister in Bratislava! 😀 It’s such an honour, responsibility, and joy to be counted worthy and ready to help Sestra W begin her service in the field. I know nothing about her except that she is the only Slovak missionary arriving this transfer. I have a firm testimony that the Lord hand-picks His trainers, so I’m already convinced that we’ll get along swimmingly and that there’s something sacred and important Heavenly Father wants Sestra W and me to learn from each other. I’m spending the day and night here in Žilina (Elder Chri’n is transferring here from Košice today: this calls for a singing display!) before heading to Prague solo tomorrow morning. We’ll be trained on how to train, spend the night, maybe catch a glimpse of the departing missionaries (Sestra Bar!), then off we go back to our areas on Wednesday afternoon. The only thing Prezident said is “I want you to FILL your Schedule: back-to-back lessons on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday so Sestra W won’t even be able to keep her eyes open at church on Sunday. Help her learn quickly that we are a hard-working, exactly obedient mission.” Aye aye, Captain!

A relaxed moment before the rigours of Transfers.

A relaxed moment before the rigours of Transfers.

As for the rest of our District, Elder Fe’l is three times the legend now! He is staying in Bratislava to be the new Zone Leader! (Mwahaha, he can’t escape me! By the end of this transfer we will have served in the same District for a whopping 10 months). This is really kind of unusual, because Slovak Zone Leaders within living memory have always been in Zvolen – or at the most split between Zvolen and Banská Bystrica.

And to further thicken the plot, who should be joining Elder Fe’l as Zone Leader but Elder Boy from England (who is a Czech-speaking missionary, and former Assistant to the President)! Who saw that one coming? Good old Elder Bar is also entering the Czech/Slovak Mission history books: he is spending his final transfer in Prague as an Assistant to Prezident McConkie! Only 3 other legendary Slovak missionaries have served in that capacity before him. 🙂 It’s a fun mix and I can’t wait to get back to work with setting Bratislava afire with the Gospel flame! Plus, the Trenčín Sestry are now the Sister Trainer Leaders of Slovakia! At last, the momentous day has come! 😀

 

A sister is forever: Radiance and beauty abound in Bratislava.

A sister is forever:
Radiance and beauty abound in Bratislava.

So much in the mission is changing, but it’s exciting. Sestra Seni is taking Sestra Bar’s place in Košice. She’s excited and will take the city by storm, but cried herself to sleep after the transfer call. I feel that I’m richly blessed to have served with Sestra Seni; she has developed true charity and is good at showing people that she loves them. We became good friends, and I’ll miss her a lot.

Our last week was good, and we saw many little miracles. By Sunday night we felt that we’d literally taught the best lessons of the transfer and possibly of our missions: working in unity with each other and the Spirit, helping our investigators build their resolve to keep commitments and follow Christ. Pani S (the lady we tracted into) is so prepared! She read up to Mosiah in a week and a half and took so many notes, had questions. It will take her some time to comprehend the breadth and depth of our message, but we are honoured to be teaching her (she told us what a difference we’ve making in her life). What we’re in sore need of currently is New Investigators! It seems the Lord wants Sestra W to gain confidence in contacting her first week, because we’re going to have to do a lot of that. 🙂 I want to improve my ability to request referrals in lessons – I always forget!

The Easter concert was fantastic – my highlight of the week! I wrote and translated the entire script (scripture reading and commentary between musical items to teach the “why” behind the Easter story) and sweated my way through some light piano accompaniment too, so definitely underwent some stress in order for it to come together. Not as well-attended by members of the public as we’d hoped, but the Branch member participation was

A woodland ramble...

A woodland ramble…

priceless and it was a very spiritual experience for all. Plus one of the Potential investigators we’d texted randomly showed up and wants to meet this week, so it was a definite success. I’m grateful the Lord can use the talents He’s given me to bless the lives of others. 😀

We went to see a children’s opera last week: “A Doctor’s Fairytale”. It was great fun (not at all what we expected: it was a quirky story with weird costumes, but nothing inappropriate and some fun audience participation). The Elders wanted to take a hike in the woods, which we topped off by eating 194 meters off the ground, at a restaurant on top of a television tower.

...followed by a meal at high altitude. An uplifting experience, no doubt.

…followed by a meal at high altitude. An uplifting experience, no doubt.

Cool. 🙂

We had some very special member-moments this week. We had a meeting with Prezident B at his home, and I suddenly missed the daily family dinners and prayers of my own home very much. :). Most importantly S, a less- active member we’ve been working with a lot, came to church!!!  Oh happy day, he really did it. He felt so good, you could just see it in his face.

 

The Altitude Restaurant at the top of the Kamzík television tower.

The Altitude Restaurant at the top of the Kamzík television tower.

I haven’t watched any of Conference yet: we’ll view it as a branch this weekend in Slovak (although I’ll probably opt for the English broadcast if available; it’s hard to keep up with heavy, formal language like that).

I’m praying the Lord will qualify me for the work. I know that as long as I am spiritual and consecrated in carrying out His vision for our area, miracles will happen. Our success is only limited by our enthusiasm! “God has not ceased to be a God of miracles” (Mormon 9:15)

All my love,

Sestra Jones

 

Spring Forward

31 March 2014

We put our clocks ahead an hour this week, and time is indeed “flying on wings of lightning” as the hymn so rightly says (Hymns 226, Improve the Shining Moments). Time after time this week Sestra Seni and I collapsed exhausted at the end of the day. We’d look at each other and just laugh that each day could be soooo long, but yet the week could fly by at such shocking speed.

Our Easter concert is this Friday and I hope that everything will come together nicely. Having 8 missionaries at our disposal makes for a sizeable choir, but it is proving more difficult to co-ordinate than expected! Not to mention giving the members a chance to be involved… I feel like we could have done a lot better in that department. It took us until last week to decide on a solid programme and so we only succeeded in recruiting the Primary children and a few Relief Society Sisters to sing with us in addition to our prized instrumentalists T (concert pianist) and PS (freestyle: Gameboy-esque epic soundtracks are his specialty!). Still, it’s a big improvement on past concerts that have been visibly missionary led, and the members will be reading scriptures from the script to tell the Easter story. Let’s pray that people from the public will come! We’re encouraging members to bring friends and we hope that they’ll gain the confidence to do so before it’s too late notice. I for one vow to be better at that after my mission, when I’m back to being a “regular” member of the Church!

April is shaping up to be an eventful month, starting with transfers – including the arrival of a new Slovak sister! – Generalna konferencia, District Conference in Brno (with a General Authority from Finland attending!), Easter, and without a doubt lots of finding and teaching and baptising across the mission!

As for us in Bratislava, we’ve had really high hopes to help a particular person make it back to Church, but he hasn’t picked up his phone or responded to texts all week, and we’re getting worried. This week we might just be stalking his workplace a tiny bit at lunchtime, to see if we can’t catch a glimpse of him! 😉 Everyone has their agency, but it’s still within our power to hope and pray and be optimistic that they will follow the Spirit and make the right choice. We have been richly blessed to work with other members as well: one sister came to game night, as did PS who is helping with the concert and faithfully attends English every week. 🙂 Brat M can’t wait to get his hands on a Gospel Principles manual, and intends to be “far more active” by the end of the year. He LOVES our phone calls and I just pray that the Spirit will drag him back to church soon so that he can become a real part of the branch family: united with church in doctrine and in heart.

It was a miracle for us to teach 15 lessons this week after having a slow week just passed. Some people we had high hopes for have bid us goodbye for now, including J (who thought hard about it all week, but decided that he’s Catholic) and a beautiful Baptist family who feel they cannot accept any scripture in addition to the Bible. They do not want to continue the missionary discussions, but they graciously extended their welcome to share a meal with them sometime. Also we had a miracle obtaining a referral on the street: 2 teenage boys gave us their friend’s number. It was probably a joke because their friend turned out to be atheist but he wants to meet with us sometime regardless. 🙂 Also, E who did our missionary tour was just glowing at English this week. She was so touched by the Book of Mormon we gave her, and although she’s been too busy to meet we’re following up and pray that she’ll read it on her own.

Transfers are coming far too quickly. I’d love to stay here with Sestra Seni and wish this transfer would never end! But I trust that whatever happens will be the Lord’s will, and I’m grateful to have grown spiritually and personally this transfer and for all the Christlike people who have touched my life. The Lord has helped us lay a firm foundation for whoever serves in Ruzinov north area next! 😀 I know that this is Christ’s church and that we don’t need to be perfect to be accepted and loved by the Lord. Faith will override fear, every time, if we let it grow within us through obedience and courageous service.

“…if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.

Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”  (D&C 6:33-34, 36)

 

Nothing like a circus to bring out the kid in everyone!

Nothing like a circus to bring out the kid in everyone!

Love you lots!  Sestra Jones

P.S.  Last P-day we went to the Chinese circus. It was amazing! 😀  We also did service in the Val’s garden. I love that family!