Deliriously Happy

23 June 2014

Feeling the joy Sestra B and Sestra Jones

Feeling the joy
Sestra B and Sestra Jones

It was an eventful week! Sestra B and I are exhausted but deliriously happy. I can imagine nothing greater.

Moving P-day to the end of last week really pushed our physical limits. It takes careful juggling to keep in contact with dozens of people with differing schedules and needs, and stay on top of what they need spiritually. If I struggle this much with stewardship over a companion, a few branch members, investigators (potential or progressing), and sister missionaries, then how does God manage to direct the entire universe? It boggles my mind.

But it is all so worth it, even waking up at 04.30 to travel to Bratislava on Saturday: S’s baptism was such a victory. Riverside baptismal services rock. The view over the glittering Dunaj (otherwise known as the Danube) was glorious, and the Spirit we felt was sweet. I’m happy beyond description that the Zone Leaders’ investigator M will soon be joining S, as yet another addition to the Bratislava branch.

Baptism in the Blue Danube: Sestri Jones and B, S, Sestri W and B-Min

Baptism in the Blue Danube:
Sestri Jones and B, S, Sestri W and B-Min

The Teixeiras’ training was great, as were the McConkies’, as always. Elder Teixeira promised us that we will return to our mission 25 years from now and see STAKES here in Slovakia. We’re bound for success! 😀

Love you!

Sestra Jones

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Best Week Ever

16 June 2014

We’re emailing and then rushing back to work today: we’re moving our Preparation Day to Saturday this week, so that we can attend S’s baptism in Bratislava. 🙂

This has literally been the best week of my mission so far. EVER. Sestra B is a tender mercy from the Lord. I feel that her companionship and consecrated, Christlike example have given me new wings to fly and be the best that I can be. Sestra B is great about emulating charity: greeting everyone with a smile, sincerely seeking to share their life by asking inspired and thought-provoking questions. One of my favourite things is that she seeks to leave everyone with a prayer. She asks “what are you grateful for?” or “what do you need help with today?” and then she prays for just that. Service is like breathing to her – she just yearns to help everyone and spiritual power is the result. It is an answer to my prayers to learn from a Sister like her.

Posterity of Pyšňáková: Sestra Jones and three of her companions were all trained by the same sister. l to r: Sestry Jones, Barney, Pyšňáková, B and Johns  Photo courtesy of Sestra Barney. Ďakujem!

Posterity of Pyšňáková:
Sestra Jones and three of her companions were all trained by the same sister, pictured here in the middle.
l to r: Sestry Jones, Barney, Pyšňáková, B and Johns
Photo courtesy of Sestra Barney. Ďakujem!

From the word “go” we’ve been trying to spend every waking thought focused on the work of salvation. Tuesday we had no lessons set up, so we went out contacting in the morning and taught several good bench lessons. By the end of the day we’d taught 7 lessons and helped a distraught mother calm down and feel the peace that comes from prayer. She and her boyfriend and daughter had a great next lesson with us on Wednesday. In addition to careful planning and seeking frequent guidance from the Spirit, we’re applying the age-old principle of just getting out and working our socks off. The Lord has been so good to us: we taught a whopping 36 lessons! That’s the mission-wide record this week and my all-time high! We were blessed with 13 new investigators (including three families) that have great potential to accept baptismal dates and make immense progress in the coming weeks. We’re teaching a group of people in a Roma community, and thus far they seem very sincere (taught them family prayer and Word of Wisdom). Some of them are even related to a less-active member of the Church that the Sisters tracked down last transfer. We visited with his wife and daughter yesterday and hope to help them progress to baptism and reactivation as a family. *Sheffield miracle, please! 🙂

*Sestra Jones is referring here to the rapid growth of the Church amongst the Slovak Roma in Sheffield, England, which continues at a tremendous pace. Last year (2013) saw the formation of the first Slovak-speaking congregation of the Church outside of Slovakia, the Sheffield 4th Branch. You can read more about the exciting work taking place there on the mission blog of Starší Zachary Brown, a Slovak-speaking missionary of the England Leeds Mission.

It’s so exciting to see what we can accomplish together (granted that we haven’t had to travel outside of Žilina for an exchange yet), and we’ve a firm confidence that we can work effectively throughout the transfer despite leadership demands. We’re still striving for temperance in all things: cutting meals and studies short to squeeze in another accomplished goal is not healthy over an extended period, and we can’t afford to be frazzled when we’re meant to minister to the other Sisters.

Quick FYI: As Sister Trainer Leaders we are responsible for Sisters in Košice, Trenčín, Bratislava, Uherské Hradiště, and Brno. We have a weekly call-in with each

Last year in Žilina... Sestra Jones and Sestra B from France, together with their friend Ra. Sestra B and Sestra Jones are the first sisters called to preach the gospel in the Slovak language. They were companions in the MTC, and follow-up trained one another too!

Last year in Žilina…
Sestra Jones and Sestra B from France served in Žilina together last year. Here they are pictured with their friend and investigator, Ra. Sestra B and Sestra Jones are the first sisters called to preach the gospel in the Slovak language. They were companions in the MTC, and follow-up trained one another too!

companionship and one with Prezident McConkie (so when you add the weekly call with our District Leader, Starší G, we have a call-in with someone from 21.45-22.00 every night). We check up on their areas and personal progress, and conduct a 24-hour exchange with each sister once per transfer. Exchanges are discouraged on transfer and training weeks, so our first exchange won’t be until next week after the Teixieras’ visit. (Elder José Teixeira and his family are from Portugal. He is currently serving as president of the Europe Area Presidency.)

Sestra B and I are so excited to get a lot of work done this transfer, and we feel we will. This week we’ve proven to ourselves that we can get bench lessons and new investigators, and that basically: missionary work works. But we need to ensure that our service to people doesn’t become distorted into a numbers game to top old statistics. We could be teaching 100 lessons a week, but if no one is brought to Christ because of those lessons, then we’re not fulfilling our purpose. (See Russell M. Nelson ‘Protect the Spiritual Power Line’, 1984 – great talk!)

The mix of missionaries here in Žilina is refreshing. It’s such a privilege to serve around both senior couples and new missionaries (like Elder Garn, who is from Bluffdale, Utah – he’s great!). It’s as if our District has an anchor of motherly love and father-like counsel, plus all the energy and adventure of limitless horizons and a mission ahead of you.

I wish I could write so much more, but there isn’t time enough to process let alone recount everything that’s happened. Remind me if I forgot to answer questions and I’ll try to cover them next time. I know that the Saviour is anxious for each of us to become the person we’re designed to be, and that through His Atonement we have the means to do so. I know that the power of the Priesthood is real and that the Holy Spirit can lead us to accomplish miracles if we will tune our heart to hear His voice.

Love you all to bits,  Sestra Jones

 

Full Circle

09 June 2014

“…wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” 1 Nephi 10:19

Ahojte! This will be the briefest email ever, because I have to run for a train and probably won´t have time to email in my new area. Yes indeed, there are big changes afoot: I´ve been called back to my beloved Žilina! My companion will be Sestra B (the American one), and together we will serve as Sister Training Leaders for the Slovak and Brno Zones! Yippee! 😀

It is such a luxury to think that I´ll revisit the rest of Slovakia on exchanges before departing, but it´s such an immense responsibility that my head is spinning. I´ll tell you more when I know exactly what it entails. What I do know is that Žilina needs a branch president for when Elder and Sister Wr leave this year, so it´s reactivation stations for us this transfer.

My old MTC companion, Sestra B (the French one 😉 ) is transferring here to follow-up train Sestra W, so we’ve both come full circle and will be ending our missions right back where we started. ❤

On Thursday we had an amazing, tender mercy: a training and Fireside with General Authorities – right here in Bratislava! (Sister Linda S. Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President, and Elder Patrick Kearon, first counselor in the Europe Area Presidency).

It affected us all deeply, and I was overjoyed to see the room literally bursting with people, with a new investigator of ours (M) and Brat M present (what a victory that was!). The speakers spoke about teaching deliberately in our homes, and increasing our commitment to the gospel by extending invitations to share the gospel with those not of our faith. Sharing the gospel is an antidote for growing stale in our discipleship. Their remarks were super inspired.

Yesterday we had an amazing miracle: Sestra H invited us round for a farewell dinner and her colleague A unexpectedly asked if she could meet us too, so it turned into an impromptu first lesson! And her entire family are super prepared to receive the restored gospel: A told us how she handed her minister a letter of resignation from her former church because she doesn´t think the doctrine about the Trinity is correct, and she knows there can only be one true church. She told us she believes Christ´s church may be ours, because we actually apply Christ´s mandate to love one another. She wants to bring her family to church and is reading the Book of Mormon. What a blessing! 🙂

I know that the Lord´s hand is in the work. I intend to make these last two months count!
All my love, Sestra Jones x

Onward and Upward

02 June 2014

It has been a great week. We´re inching closer and closer to achieving our goals, and Sestra W and I are determined that this week will be the week that we reach them!

Sestra W and Sestra Jones  Bratislavský hrad (Bratislava Castle) can be seen in the background.

Sestra W and Sestra Jones
Bratislavský hrad (Bratislava Castle) can be seen in the background.

The picnic at the American Embassy to celebrate the success of the hospital service project was without question a highlight of the week. I hope it is not prideful, but it felt really nice to be invited as honoured guests and publicly recognised for the good we are striving to achieve. All of the Elders and Sisters in attendance were outstanding at mingling and helping others feel welcome and appreciated. We sisters had positive experiences inviting a young hospital patient and his family to attend English lessons, and another girl and her mother to learn more about our message over a lunch later this summer.

It was wonderful to see Sestry Val and Bat return from their business trip to England, refreshed by temple worship and a landmark visit to the Sheffield Slovak branch. It’s an absolute answer to my prayers for these stalwart sisters, whom I have come to love so dearly. They bore glowing testimony of the good examples those Saints are to the homeland Slovaks, and are advocating sending the Sheffield Saints some needed Slovak hymnbooks.

S is doing great! We and two Elders went to serve in S´s garden with one of the Elders’ investigators. We briefly taught about fasting, and challenged S to fast and bear testimony that week – which he did! I think it meant a lot to the members of the Branch to have a non-member come to the front and testify of the Book of Mormon, and express his intentions to be baptised in three weeks´ time. I feel he will be ready.

J is our other progressing investigator – a young father with a sincere desire to follow Christ, and a growing testimony of the Book of Mormon. We taught him the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom this week, which he humbly and willingly accepted. It´s a struggle to be patient, but I hope that we can soon begin teaching his wife as well, and that J will be blessed with a new job that leaves his Sundays free for church attendance.

Brat M is making impressive progress. He has resolved to attend the upcoming Fireside with Elder Kearon, which I feel will be a turning-point for him.

Greenie days! In March of 2013, brand new missionary Sestra Jones and Sestra Pyšňáková, her trainer, became the first sister missionaries to serve in Žilina since 1998.

Greenie days!
In March of 2013, brand new missionary Sestra Jones and Sestra Pyšňáková, her trainer, became the first sister missionaries to serve in Žilina since 1998. Pictured are Starší U, Sestra Pyšňáková, Sestra Jones, and Starší Cl

Another highlight was meeting the Pyšňákovci (my trainer and her family) in town and going to lunch together. It meant the world to me to reminisce about all the blessings and growth I´ve seen in my life since Sestra Pyšňáková and I “blinded in” to Žilina, and to see the positive transition that she has succeeded in making from full-time missionary service back to normal life. She and her family are absolute heroes, and continue to build the kingdom in their homeland despite having re-settled abroad. So many Church members here just love them to bits.

I know that this is the Lord´s Church and that He is actively engaged in His work. So many times – usually when Sestra W and I were just starting to feel like we may have failed or that our work was ineffective – we have been placed in the right place at exactly the right time and truly had our mouths filled with the words people needed to hear. It´s beautiful and miraculous to watch conversion happen. Onward and upward!

S láskou, Sestra Jones

P.S. Transfer week again: eeep! What will my final area be and with whom will I serve? We find out this Saturday, so stay tuned for the next episode… Ha ha! 😀

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

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