Like Nephi

26 May 2014

I am SO, so happy to be a Czech/Slovak missionary! Our training on Saturday was just fantastic (although the departing testimonies scared me half to death – I’m next!!). Prezident shared with us the results we have been attaining mission-wide as compared with this time last year. The number of New Investigators and baptisms have doubled, and made all-time mission records. The Lord is hastening His work here. 🙂

WixomWe are all being immensely blessed here in Bratislava. We had a really rough week last week with regard to teaching, and I mean abysmal, just awful. But this week has showed us just how quickly and completely we can turn things around when we rely on the Spirit’s guidance and the Lord’s timing. Every single day this week we’ve specifically planned for a new person we would find, along with when, where, and what we would teach them. It has been miraculously accurate, and so many of our daily goals came true without us even knowing how. As just one example, Brat M called us one day out of the blue, said he was in town, and requested a lesson. It was a brilliant bench lesson galore, and resulted in 2 new investigators. Sestra W and I teach remarkably well together during these spontaneous lessons, when we are forced to rely on each other and the Spirit for every word, verse, and commitment we present; they seem to go way better than the ones we actually plan out, practice, pray over and study for!

EyringThe theme of the training meeting was testimony. I have had so many witnesses from the Holy Ghost that what I’m doing here is far greater than just me and my companion, the names on the member list, and strangers’ faces I meet in the street. It is an all-encompassing and urgently pressing work that is only restricted by my own faith and obedience. I want to be like Nephi in 1 Nephi 17:50-51!

“And I said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.

 And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me…?”

I know that miracles await for Bratislava, and I intend to bring them a bit closer than before.

Love you so much!

Sestra Jones

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A Quick Update

19 May 2014

I am so sorry, but my letter will be really short this week! We took a hike in the woods as a District and got back late, leaving us little time for writing. But the weather is beautiful and I am well, so no complaints. 🙂

UchtdorfThe concert is finally over! It was so terribly stressful and nothing went as planned, and by the end Sestra W and I were dying to get back to our normal routine of contacting. Brat S played a huge role (narrated a Bible Video in Slovak), and the Primary children were fantastic! A brand new gentleman came to the concert, plus some newer investigators that our District members are now teaching, so not a bad turnout (perhaps 35, including members).

HollandSestra W and I are doing our best not to get frustrated with ourselves. We wanted to be better at teaching and finding by now. I need to do better on talking to everyone. I feel like I want to show the Lord that I’m ready for Him to entrust me with miracles. With long hours of contacting, I’m learning a lot about the Spirit leading us to be in the right place at exactly the right time. We taught a great bench lesson in the park: we met a lady named H who needed to be told about the Plan of Salvation. 🙂

J is progressing, S is doing okay too. Brat M is absolutely loving our phone lessons – I feel like he’s changing! It’s amazing what the companionship of the Holy Ghost does to refine us and sort out the kinks in our personalities: I’ve seen it in myself for sure as I’ve grown more converted.

I’m excited for training this Saturday. I have SO much to improve on and learn. Love you lots!

Sestra Jones ❤

God’s Hand

12 May 2014

“Every day, if you will ask in prayer to be shown where the hand of God intervened in your life that day, I bless you that you will see that.

It will be made manifest to you… you will see that He is leading and guiding and lifting you, and that He knows you.”

– President Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course”

This week was full of interesting ups and downs. We started off with heroic effort and a determination to consecrate our ALL. We collapsed into bed that night with nothing left to give, and Sestra W mumbled as she drifted off the best words I could wish to hear: “I don’t remember when we started working hard, but it feels SO GOOD.” Despite the occasional wobble, our studies are improving as is our effectiveness. It’s a good thing too, as there are challenges ahead: 4 investigators successively dropped us in the space of 48 hours, so we were only weekly planning for 2 investigators: S (still on date for baptism) and J (we’ll have our second meeting today).

Other areas are looking up though: Brat S picked up his phone and not only met for a lesson, but also brought a friend and went contacting with us! He was in his element and really helped Sestra W to initiate contacts with a goodly number of people. In fact, many of the most meaningful conversations we’ve had together this week have been started by Sestra W. 🙂  Her skills are constantly improving and it’s wonderful to see! However, we both feel that we’ve still got a lot more to improve in a short space of time, in order to be ready for next transfer.

Talented Church member M illustrated this awesome depiction of "Plán spásy" (The Plan of Salvation)

Talented Church member M illustrated this awesome depiction of “Plán spásy” (The Plan of Salvation)

And that’s where our Sister Training Leader exchange came in! I went to Trenčín (surprise!) on Thursday night, and Sestra Ka and I had a miraculously powerful lesson about the Plan of Salvation and Holy Ghost with an entire train compartment full of people (one of whose family the Trenčín Sisters tracted into just last month – there are no accidents!). I LOVED Friday in Trenčín! I’ve been in and out of that pretty little city since my Žilina days, and it was an adventure to actually give a day of my mission to build that branch. Serving with Sestra Ka has been one of my secret

On a training exchange: teaching with power and authority alongside the mighty Sestra Ka in Trenčín.

On a training exchange:
teaching with power and authority alongside the mighty Sestra Ka in Trenčín.

dreams since she arrived in the Czech/Slovak Mission, and it was a blessing to learn from her faithful and capable example. She has a presence and confidence that stops people in their tracks when she addresses them as they walk by. That’s what I call teaching with power and authority. We had great experiences of working in unity with each other and the Spirit in the lesson we were able to teach. It’s a powerful idea that one can receive revelation for whatever area they are assigned to, regardless of previous experience.

On Saturday, missionaries and Saints gathered together in Trenčín for a special event: a commemoration of the dedication of the Slovak Republic for the preaching of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. President McConkie had asked Starší U (who is a really superb vocalist; he’s got a voice like liquid gold) to organise some musical items, and I was invited to sing in a quartet, which I really enjoyed. I’ve included some inspirational remarks that President McConkie shared with us in his Nový Hlas (New Voice) missionary newsletter from the event:

“Dear Elders and Sisters,
Today marks the anniversary of the dedication of Slovakia by Pres. Uchtdorf in 2006. The original event was attended by 56 individuals. Pres. Uchtdorf, his wife and daughter, the mission president and his wife, and a strong group of Saints were all present on an early May morning in
Trenčín up near the Trenčín Castle. For those of you that have visited the site, you know that it is a beautiful place. We joined many of the missionaries and members to commemorate the dedication last Saturday. It was a beautiful and spiritual day. When I got up Saturday morning, I took the time to read the dedicatory prayer as part of my morning studies. A few things impressed me. They are things you should consider as you go about your work this week.
At the time of the dedication, there were only three branches in Slovakia (Bratislava,
Trenčín and Žilina). Elder Uchtdorf promised more groups/branches in his blessing and pronounced a special blessing on the youth of the Church. Today we have branches and groups in many other cities (Nitra, Banská Bystrica, Košice) and we have welcomed many good people into the Church. J K, for example, was baptised a little over a year ago in Trenčín and has now submitted his mission papers. He and B Se, and T V and P V will all enter the mission field this year.
In all this, we see God’s hand in the work. Pres. Uchtdorf prayed that Slovakia would be blessed with “many congregations, many units, many branches” and that “the Church and the restored gospel will be instrumental to raise great leaders over the years.” These new congregations, new missionaries and the other young people (S Se, P Sa) who have already served and returned home represent answers to Pres. Uchtdorf’s prayer.
Elders and Sisters, we testify that God keeps his promises. Take the time this week to consider His promises to you. Read the mission blessing from December. Share it with the new missionaries who were not there. Ask God to honor the blessings sealed upon each of you in that and any other blessings you have received as a missionary. Trust that the Lord will bless you and then go about your work with full purpose, faith and effort.
S Láskou, President and Sister McConkie”

It was a beautiful day! One special joy for me was being able to visit with members of the Church from Žilina that I’ve missed. It has been one year since I was last there, and I was so happy to see their growth in so short a time. I know that the Lord has even greater things in store for Slovakia according to our collective faithfulness. Isaiah 41:10 “…I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Love you lots! ❤

Sestra Jones

Lásky čas

05 May 2014

I’m so happy to be a missionary! Just wanted to get that out there first, before the time comes that I can’t say it any longer. 🙂 This week is looking to be fantastic! We actually had time to bake a HUGE batch of banana bread for Family Home Evening with the Val family tonight, and I made Welsh rarebit. We’ll be having exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders this Friday (we were going to work with them last week, but it had to be postponed), which I am SO excited for! Then on Saturday we’ll be in Trenčín, to once again commemorate the *Slovak dedication by Prezident Uchtdorf. It will be fantastic! 😀

*President Dieter F. Uchtdorf dedicated the land of the Slovak Republic for the preaching of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on May 12, 2006 in Trenčín.

We’re having another concert on the 15th, and this time I translated two of the songs into Slovak from English! I’m so grateful for the gift of tongues. We’re seeing miracles all across the mission with more than 10 baptisms this transfer so far! We had some great miracles as well as learning moments this week.

I guess I’ll start with the learning moments 🙂 . For me, it’s been one of those mid-transfer weeks: re-evaluating goals and wondering why we’re not achieving all we had hoped to by this point. I feel that I’ve allowed opposition to frustrate me and stunt my efforts this week. Nearly half of our investigators didn’t make the time to meet with us, and some less-active members of the Church that have been open to meeting with us in the past are resisting our efforts to contact and re-commit them.

Sestra W and I feel that we have yet to learn to plan lessons as efficiently as we could, and teach with as much unity as we want to. We’re struggling to overcome my tendency to dominate in teaching and contacting, so that we can fortify Sestra W with the opportunity and confidence to open her mouth and put her Slovak to use. The Zone Leaders committed us to count how many people we contacted all day on Tuesday. Despite having a miraculous bench lesson, we contacted only 30 people that day. What a devastating realisation! Being busy simply does not equal productivity.

*(Ok, just a little note from the editor: I am sitting here thinking that 30 people contacted in a day, times 7 days a week, times 4 weeks in a month, times 16 months (18 months minus language training time), equals 13, 440 people contacted over the course of a mission. Wow. So maybe a missionary was sick for a few days, and had some days that they were in meetings or travelling all day, so they actually only contacted 10,000 people. Still, WOW!! Way to go Sestra Jones and Sestra W! Keep up the great work!)

Our feelings of inadequacy hit rock-bottom on Saturday, when we lost track of time practicing piano at the Church building (for the concert) and were late getting home. Oh my goodness, we felt like absolute failures! Like, we can’t even succeed in getting home on time!

You’ll be happy to know that we haven’t taken up permanent residence in the land of Woe is Me; no missionary would last a week in the field without learning to pick themselves up (hope), dust themselves off (repent), and try, try again (faith). This is the whole message we are sharing with the world, that our loving Father in Heaven has prepared a way for our happiness in this life, a way to experience peace, joy, and growth despite our limitations and daily challenges. After some reflection, repenting, and receiving Priesthood blessings from the Elders, we’ve resolved to re-commit to our vision of growth in Bratislava. It’s an uphill climb, but exercising the Atonement afresh has given me a better appreciation for what we’re inviting our investigators to do and know and feel.

Well, our week was by no means all doom and gloom! 🙂 The Lord has showed us countless tender mercies this week. Our return to the Foreign Police on Friday was meant to be: we met a fantastic family from South Africa waiting in line with us there. We’ve been praying and fasting for a family to teach all transfer! They are very interested in family history, and I hope and pray they will get in touch with us as they promised. Not only that, but incredibly we received ticket number 1 that morning and were out of the police office by 08:15! Compare that to last week, when it took 9 hours for us to conduct our business there.

Another great blessing is our new investigator, J. He was contacted by Sestry B and K back in November, and then resurfaced to attend our Easter concert in March. Now we’ve taught him the first half of the Plan of Salvation and he wants to be baptised the 31st of May! He’s such a humble, good person. When we taught him the Atonement you could see in his eyes that it was like coming home: the answer to his unspoken questions and private dreams. I feel the Lord has big things in store for Bratislava that will in part be accomplished through J.

Brat M called US this week to relate a miracle: he found his Gospel Principles book and wants to start having lessons with us regularly again. Yay! He wants to go to the temple the next chance he gets. I hope he’ll keep that resolve strong; I know that he can get there!

Finally, we were reminded yesterday of just how valiant all our Branch members are. Sestra Val put her family’s Sunday schedule on hold to go out teaching with us after church. We hit a bump in the road when our investigator expressed his feelings that he wasn’t getting anything out of the lesson, that the subject matter wasn’t reaching him and furthermore our Slovak was too poor to allow for a proper exploration of ideas. My mind was blank, and I felt powerless to teach and minister to him the way he needs and deserves. It was a bit of a sticky moment. But Sestra Val, who is actually quite well-acquainted with this person, took it all in stride and asked the most inspired question I’ve ever heard: “Brother, what’s your favourite verse in the scriptures?” He was still annoyed at first, but explained how physics proves that John 1:1 is true, and finally the Spirit came in when he felt understood and appreciated. Thank goodness for our heroic Church members! We missionaries may not be able to complement every investigator’s personality and learning style, but with the members’ help we don’t have to.

I know that this is the Lord’s work and I am grateful for this week’s reminders that we have no time to waste. I want to experience a change of heart so that my only desire will be to bring salvation to God’s precious children. I want to exercise the faith and courage to invest every ounce of my strength into furthering the cause of the Saviour. I want to be more spiritual and deliberate in setting and carrying out goals. I want Sestra W to be very, very happy and successful on her mission. I want Bratislava to blossom so that Prezident B has counsellors, and the children have friends in Primary, and the YSA have potential eternal companions. I know that the Lord answers prayers and will grant these desires according to my faith in His will and timing.

Wishing you all a beautiful Lásky čas! (In Slovakia May is considered the month of love) ❤

Sestra Jones

 

The Windows of Heaven

28 April 2014

“…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”  Malachi 3:10

Too much happened this week to be able to write it all! 🙂 I feel so frustrated that I can’t tell you everything that I want to! My Fingers don’t work that fast…

District Conference in Brno with the visiting Finnish area authority (Matti T. Jouttenus) was great. I’ve had enough Czech for now though! It was exhausting to strain to understand; I’m so glad I’m past that point in Slovak. Today has been topsy-turvy: we spent 9 hours at the Foreign Police trying to get Sestra W registered for a visa. They turned down some of her paperwork (bad luck with the official who helped us: the documents Sestra W had are identical to what other missionaries get in with), so we’ll have to go back next week too. Thursday will be Sister Training Leader exchanges. Yay!

Cool miracle I’ve been forgetting to share: when in Prague to collect Sestra W, I learned from Sestra Bru (a Czech sister) that an investigator of theirs  had been baptised and just ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. It turns out that he was a referral from Sestra Johns and me, from back when we were serving in Košice! We had no idea that Heavenly Father had used our efforts to perform that kind of a miracle! 🙂 Wow.

This week Sestra W and I have been working hard to feel the constant desire to talk to people, and then pushing ourselves to do so. She made a major contacting breakthrough at a tram stop one evening: she struck up a conversation with a young woman who is very prepared to hear the Gospel (she wanted to photograph the Book of Mormon verse we showed her, and can’t wait to get her hands on her own copy!). We’ve made a goal to get a phone number every day, and so far we’ve been blessed to achieve just that.

We were blessed with a new investigator: V. He recognises a need for the gospel in his life and although a critical thinker, he is also open-minded so far. We had a beautiful lesson with him and Sestra H about the plan of salvation and he’s reading in the Book of Mormon. He even set a tentative baptismal date!

I cannot begin to tell you just how inspired every second of Zone Conference was! Although it’s still a challenge for me to switch back into working mode after having spent a blissful afternoon being spiritually fed myself.  The social aspect of spending time with other missionaries is a great blessing as well, but makes it hard to immediately refocus when large groups of us are travelling on the same train. 😉

We had the Žilina sisters with us over the weekend. It was fantastic, and undoubtedly orchestrated by heaven! We were able to participate in a service project in conjunction with the international school and American ambassador: painting colourful murals on the walls of the childrens hospital. It was a lovely opportunity, and we felt we left good impressions and made valuable contacts. Plus Sestra B and I went on splits for an hour to rediscover the address of a Potential Investigator family, and on our way we bumped into person after person that she had taught when serving here. I mean, seriously? What are the chances of that happening? It was a miracle.

I feel that the Lord is leading us to find those whom He has prepared. His hand is in the work. What a privilege to participate!

S láskou, Sestra Jones ❤