Hello all family and friends!!
This week has been a nice warm week with temperatures in the upper 30° C. It might have reached 40°C one day. Super hot for the Slovenes, but nothing compared to Texas. Then again, air conditioning is a rare thing here in Celje. Lucky for us we are the only missionaries with AC in Slovenia!
So on Tuesday I said ˝adio!˝ to Elder Simon and said ˝zdravo!˝ to Elder Baldwin. Elder Baldwin is from Arlington Texas, so now all the Celje people are going to think all Mormons are from Texas! He is also 22 years old, and is 2 months older than me, but has been on his mission already for ~21 months. We've been joking with him that he's going to train in Slovene in a few months. ;-) He has only served in Croatia, with 1 year in Zagreb, a few months in Rijeka, and a few months in Osijek. He has a lot of brothers, and his family now lives in Virginia. He's great. It's just I don't think I have talked in so much English for almost a year. Of course he speaks no Slovene, and his Croatian is tako tako from what I can tell, but I'm still learning some good Croatian words and sentence structure from him. He has also proved the Croatian, Slovene language rule too. I can understand pretty much 90% of everything he says to me, but he understands.... pretty much nothing I say, or any members say in Slovene. I've been trying to help him learn and switch some of his Croatian to Slovene, but it is all his choice.
This week has been a kind of ongoing saga throughout the summer of helping the less active members who haven't been to church in months or years come back, not only into church, but into full activity of coming every week. A lesson I've learned is that the goal isn't just the one event of them coming back once, but that once you've hit that check mark, they are still pretty much inactive until they have developed the habit of coming every week. It does no one any good to come to church once, to not come again for another month or two and not be an active contributor to the community.
This Sunday, we had a great turnout, despite two families and 2 other members who are usually there every single Sunday (9 people less who are always there) being on vacation. The reason for this? We had 4 less active people who haven't been there in 2-5 months come! We as Elders have been in contact with four less actives and the sisters with four also. One of the great stories was with one of the people who came yesterday. Baptized many years ago, he and his son (about 25 years old) are members. His son has been mostly active for the last two years, but his dad has been struggling to come back to church. He last came some 5 months ago while Elder Simon was in Celje, but I was still in Kranj, and he hadn't been back since that one time. None the less, he has been in contact with a few members of the ward here throughout this time. But, last Sunday, as his son was getting ready to go to church, his dad surprised him and said that he was going to church with him that day too!! They both came, slightly late, and sat down. Through the whole Sacrament meeting (the first hour, basically normal church), I thought that the son had simply invited a friend of his to church. Then as it ended, the members went over to him one by one and embraced him, welcoming him back and saying how good it was to see him. It goes to show how much power the righteous influence of one family member can have in inspiring the hearts of the less active. We learned later also that as he sat down and the sacrament meeting began, be leaned over to his son and whispered to him, ˝I can't believe I have waited so long to come back. I can feel the Spirit so strongly!˝ This is just one story of seeing the less actives come back in Celje, and it is amazing. I can't even imagine, as long as we keep nourishing the branch, what it will be like here when the holidays end and all the regularly active members come back as well!
The Lord is building his kingdom and I have the wonderful blessing of being a part of His work. There is no greater opportunity than that, seeing His miracles and being a part of that work!
I hope all is well with you all. Stay cool!