Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Moving forward. Thanksgiving is coming!!!

Servus (there's some Celje speak if you want some)

This week has been... wet. And dark. And even more wet. And even wetter. So much rain. I'm pretty sure it rained every single day nearly nonstop for the past week until today. I think I only saw the sun once this last week. But the good news is that it is over now!! (hopefully). This morning the dark clouds rolled past and the sun (kind of) came out!! But it got really cold. I hear it is supposed to be really cold from here on out, which, means that the snow and ice are not far out.

But in happier news, the Christmas lights are starting to come out!! And Thanksgiving is on Thursday!! Which of course does not exist in Slovenija, but it exists for missionaries!! So I got a 4 kilo(10 lb) pumpkin today from the open air farmers market in center for some wonderful homemade pumpkin pie (which baffles all the Slovenes minds. Pumpkin pie does not even come close to existing here).

This week has been a fine week as well. One of the people we meet with has begun to show real interest in what we teach and is sincerely trying to learn to understand how to come closer to God. We also have had contact with pretty much all the people we meet with, and have set up with most everyone for this week. (which makes a really really busy week since we will be short a day of the week with Thanksgiving.) 

English class here has also taken off. This last week we have had 9 new people come and join. The beginning English class I am teaching now is probably one of the biggest English classes I have ever taught. 

Our less active who was gone for 8 years is still solid. Has not missed a single Sunday for the last three weeks since he came the first time in Celje. And he is starting to see his outlook on life completely change because he has been coming. That instead of just doing things now and in the moment, he said he has been thinking of his actions and more of their long term consequences. We also discussed his goals with his family, and how he will still personally progress.

This week I also spoke in Sacrament meeting. It was on missionary work, but tailored it more to the needs of the branch. If I have time I might write it out.

Thanksgiving is of course this week, but Slovenija is going to be cut in half instead of together. Maribor is going to come down here to Celje and we are going to have Thanksgiving together with the senior couple the Lamberts here, while the Ljubljana missionaries are going to stay in Ljubljana and spend the day with an American family which just moved to Slovenija a few months ago. But it should be still wonderful.

What else is new? It gets dark here really early now. It is almost completely dark by 4pm now. Which is right now actually 16:18pm, which is what, 11:18 Texas time? It is strange, but what can you do. Life will be much better once the Christmas lights turn on in the beginning of December. They add so much cheer to everything!!! :-)

I don't know what else to add. this week is going to be wonderfully busy and full of miracles. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!! (warm and dry at that)

-Starešina Benson

Monday, November 18, 2013

LA Success, Miracles, and Insanity

Lep Pozdrav (Beautiful Greetings) all family and friends and others!
The weather in Celje has been a bit... dark... and cloudy... and wet... and cold.... but the week has been very interesting.
To begin, we had a missionary from a different mission come in to Celje on Monday night whom we met. He was having visa problems, and so had to leave briefly to correct the problem before heading back the next day after it was all resolved.
We also are seeing a lot of progress with the less active members we visit with. ALL three of them at least came to the chapel this Sunday, the 8 year long member coming for the second Sunday in Celje in a row, and this time bringing his girlfriend with him. For one, it was the first time in a few months (she came twice to Ljubljana back in October, but before then it has been awhile). Then for the third, he has been doing really well, reading the scriptures and praying every day, and has finally decided to come to church, at least came to the church yesterday. It was a great Sunday.
Plus, we had another success with home teaching (the program in the church where different members visit each other once a month and care for their physical and spiritual well being.) We had a lesson with one of our great members who recently was released from his calling and so did not have very many responsibilities to fulfill. But, we talked about his vision for the branch, and thus his desire to help other people. We talked about the people he home taught, and identified two of whom he could focus on, one an active member whom he lives close to, and another, a less active who he was good friends with. We invited him to set up with the active member and we would go with him to visit her, and then he said he would get in contact with his less active friend, see how he is doing, ask if we could come on a visit with him, and invite him to church. On Friday night, we saw him and he said he planned to go to his LA friend the next day on Saturday and invite him. Then, when we see him Sunday morning before church, he said tat he went to his place and had a good chat with him, and said that he said he would come to church if it was nice weather. A little bit of a weak excuse and promise, but we'll see. Then, about 20 minutes later, a man I had never met before walked into the chapel, and all the members suddenly jumped up (not too different from how it was last week when out 8 yr LA friend came to church for the first time in Celje) and cried his name, hugged him, chatted with him, and welcomed him back. He came! And we didn't even have to talk to him, his own home teacher invited him back. Goes to show that this work isn't just for the missionaries, but for every single member of the church, and we ALL can have success.
Beyond this, we also had a miracle this week with one of our strongest families here in Celje. We had set up on Tuesday a visit with their son who is a great member with some problems whom we meet with fairly regularly. And so, we went over there with a nice lesson prepared for him, and as we walk in, we see his mom and another woman I have never seen sitting at the kitchen table. We immediately begin talking, and soon find out this woman is the best friend of the mom. We introduce ourselves, and before too long we are in a discussion about the godhead. She expressed a lot of interest, but is cautious that she wants to go at her own pace which is of course fair. But she has the same goal as we do, for her to strengthen her faith.
This week we also had a really great incident. On Wednesday morning, our landlady came in to our apartment with a mechanic to clean out the hard water sediment of the hot water heater in our bathroom. It was all well (just no hot water that previous night of course, it had to cool down for him to work on it), but he was still working when we had to go out, so we left them there. We go through a very long, very busy, and very successful day, and came home right around the time we had to be at home (we have to be home by 9:30 every night, no exceptions usually). Also, we knew we had to get to bed pretty much immediately that night because we had to go down to Ljubljana the next morning, the train leaving at 6:50, meaning we would have to wake up 30 minutes early at 6 to make it on time. And so, we get home, exhausted, and ready to take a quick shower and get to try and make up for the 30 minutes of lost sleep, and as I'm turning the key in our door I hear something and say, ˝Strange, it sounds like there is water running in our apartment....˝ It sounded like someone had left the shower on. We get inside, and open the door to the bathroom to find water ALL OVER the floor and bathroom.
What had happened was that he had to take out a pipe that connected from the wall to the water heater to work, and one of those pipes had become frayed when he tried putting it back in, and so when he turned the water back on and left, as it refilled the water heater, water began spraying everywhere out the connection of the pipe, all over the bathroom. When we had finally gotten home, it had probably been spraying for a few hours at least. So we call our landlady back, telling her, ˝Voda je vseposod v kopalnici!!!˝, meaning, ˝Water is everywhere in the bathroom!˝, she said she was coming immediately. And so, in the time we are waiting for her, we figure out how to turn the water to our apartment off to stop it from spraying everywhere, and mop up the floor of water, and begin waiting for her. 45 minutes to an hour later, she arrives, looks at it, says she will call the man to fix it tomorrow, and leaves. It was all fixed the next day while we were in Ljubljana, but to say the least we did not get our 30 extra minutes of sleep, nor a shower that night.
And so that has been the most exciting parts of our week. Fairly fun and exciting and successful if I say so myself, except the weather and some of our plans falling through. But it has been a great week. Thanksgiving is coming up, and so the challenge of finding an American pie pan begins. I hope you all enjoy your week and have a great lead into the holidays!!!
-Starešina Benson

Monday, November 11, 2013

Transfers and we're going forward!!

Hello all!!!

Hope life is well and warmer and sunnier where you all are. It actually wasn't too horrible of a week this week, it is just everything went south on Saturday. The dark clouds rolled in from the south and it began to rain. Ever since then it seems like it has been perpetually in almost some kind of rain, whether heavy pouring, or really light drizzle. And the clouds are here, only clouds, no sun. But it has at least kept the temperature higher instead of lower. If it was colder than freezing right now, it would probably be snowing. No worries. The snow will come before too long. Then winter will really begin.

So we have transfers today!! And the big changes for me are.... nothing! Elder Lyman and I are stying here in Celje. But as expected, Sister Legro went home, or rather is going home today, and so Sister Flanders who was down in Ljubljana is coming up to be with Sister Jones in Celje!! It is all just going to be one big party. Meanwhile, Sister Legro's replacement, Sister Brown, is taking Sister Flander's place in Ljubljana with Sister Burton, who is training, and who has only been in the country for 6 weeks. That will be fun. But they will both grow and learn. 

The Elders are all kinds of mixed up now too. Elder Simon is moving from Maribor to Ljubljana to be with Elder Dereanger, while Elder Wilson is going to be zone leader with Elder Burdette!!! Elders Hunt and Stott are going to be in Maribor.

This last week however, has largely been a week of meetings and chores. We had zone conference all day on Thursday, and had to go to Ljubljana on Wednesday to pick up Elder Lyman's visa (Yes!! He has his own real visa. So fast.) None the less we have had a good week. We had contact with all of our new friends we found last week and everything is going well. Any fears I had at first that they don't want to meet with us after the first time are eased now. We actually had a really great visit with the friends of our less active (8 year LA guy) and they said they were going to start reading the Book of Mormon and see if what we were sharing was right. But, then I forgot to ask them when would be a good time for us to come back, and so we were about to head out the door, not set up for next week when they asked, ˝Ali se bosta kdaj oglasila spet?˝, meaning ˝Will you two ever come around again?˝ I then realized my mistake, and we quickly set up for next week. none the less, it goes to show that they are sincerely interested to want to meet with us by them asking us to come back.

Another one of the people we meet with, who we wern't able to meet with last week had a great experience. She and her family couldn't meet with us last week with the holiday, and so we were trying to set up for this week, but we couldn't set a time, and so eventually I asked if we could come by around 5 on Sunday. But I wait a few days and still don't get a response. So Sunday comes around, and despite the fact that we still hadn't heard back from her, I felt like we should still go see her. So we go, and knock on her door. Her son answers and he says to us immediately, come in. We aren't sure what to do, having just been invited inside by a 8 year old, until she comes from around the corner and says to us also, ˝Naprej!˝, meaning ˝Come in!˝ And so, even though we didn't have a lot of time, we set up for our next visit, introduced what we'll talk about, and prayed together. She said in the visit that she had run out of credit to text with her phone, so she wasn't able to say yes! come!, but was hoping and expecting that we would come around. We actually came at just the perfect time as she had just finished baking some Slovene cake as we range her doorbell. Goes to show there is inspiration in the process of planning and we are truly guided as the Lord's servants.

Also, church yesterday was excellent. We actually were not able to meet with out LA friend (8 year) this week as he had something come up at the same time we had set up for on Saturday, but I organized and made sure everything was OK so that he could come on Sunday, and he did!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The first time he's come to church in Celje for about 8 years!! I was starting to get nervous with him, even though he had come to church in Ljubljana last month, he still hadn't come to church in Celje yet, missing a few weeks. But he finally came yesterday. It was so wonderful to see him standing at the doorstep of the chapel looking around. One of the really old families were already there who he knew from back in the day, the mother stood up and introduced herself to him, and then we said his name she said, ˝Ahh! Ne!! Dobrodošel!!!!!!!˝, meaning ˝Ahh! No!! Welcome!!!!!!!˝ and gave him a really big hug. This happened basically with every single one of the old time members. Everyone was so happy he came and warmly welcomed him back. Leaving, he said he had had a good experience, and said he was looking forward to coming next week with his girlfriend (she couldn't come today as she had to cook lunch, but they will prepare Sunday lunch in advance next week he said).

Well, here's to looking forward to another wonderful week which will not be burdened by too many meetings. I have my Visa renewal coming up before too long, but that should be a fairly simple process. I'm also so excited for Elder Burdette to be Zone leader. He's going to be wonderful.

Hope you all have a prijetno week.
-Starešina Benson

A picture of a Slovene graveyard (right after the day of the dead) These graveyards are a big deal.

And a picture of our former Maribor and Celje Sisters on a hill near Maribor last week.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Week of Miracles

Hello all family, friends, dearests, special people, Americans, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, parents, and so forth (a little bored with the usual, you know? have to change it up sometimes!. :-) )
Life in Slovenija is wonderful. We had a TRULY MIRACULOUS week this week.
But you're weekly weather report from across the world. This week has been truly wonderful weather. Clear every day, sunny, and warm in the 70's, to cooling down probably into the 50's at night.... until Sunday. The storms rolled in, and the sun has been hidden. It has rained off and on (mostly drizzle, a down pour or two) also though, with the weather settling into around 50 degrees. A bit chilly, but you can't complain too much. It is starting to get to be that time of the year. I just remember last year this time it had already snowed, so no complaints at all! The benefit however, is that now we're past dan mrtvih (it was last Friday), the next holiday in Slovenija is the Christmas holiday!! And that means the Christmas lights should start coming up in the next weeks!! I just need to get some good winter socks and I will be able to make it though another European winter. Hey! Life in this kind of winter isn't always easy for a Texas kid who's worst winter days at home were drizzle in the 40's and 50's (sounds like the weather outside today...)
As I mentioned, this week has been a truly wonderful, miraculous week. The work with people who are not member of the church is suddenly taking off!! It all started really, a few weeks ago when we were on a visit with the less active who was less active for 8 years and finally has started coming back. (fun story about him in a bit!) At the end of the visit, we mentioned that we were going to go out for a few hours that night and go door to door, and if he had any suggestions on someplace where we should go. He at first said no, you can go anywhere, maybe a big bloc (apartment building), but then he said, well, actually, I have this friend who came to my baptism some 11 years ago. He told us his information, and we went out to go contact his friend. However, as it is with spontaneous visits, we came at an inconvenient time. And so we came back a few more times to his friend, not getting a specific return time.
Then we come to last Tuesday. I had an exchange with Elder Wilson from Ljubljana who was here for the day while Elder Lyman went over to Ljubljana for the day. At first when the exchange was originally planned, Elder Lyman was supposed to stay and be with Elder Wilson in Ljubljana, and so I planned an excellent day for them, a visit with a member, and two visits with less active members. Then, we also saw our referral and I said (actually out of accident) that we would come back Tuesday night, forgetting I wouldn't be there. None the less, I told Elder Lyman that he can come here and have contact with him, then if he doesn't go anywhere still you can try finding people in his bloc. However, the day before the exchange, we find out that Elder Wilson's plan had changed without us knowing, and I was going to be in Celje with Elder Wilson. No problems.
And so Tuesday came, Elder Wilson came up, and we went around teaching the less active lessons we had in the plan. Also, Elder Wilson broke Elder Lyman's bike. That's a side note. And so we go through the day, it was wonderful, and then we get to the night when we had told the referral we were going to be coming. We go, he answers, but says they just sat down for dinner, but we set a specific time to come back on Saturday, and suggested we would invite his friend who referred him to us to come along as well. And so we begin going through the bloc.
After a bit, we find this very nice woman who is interested in discussing about faith and almost lets us in, until we ask if she has a man home (as missionaries we can't be alone with people of the opposite sex). She doesn't, but says we can come back that next Saturday and she will invite her brother to be there with them. She also had a maybe 13 year old son we met there also. We keep going, and on the same floor, we meet another older lady who lets us in immediately and we teach her a quick lesson about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet her husband. She was very open and very kind.
And so we had some potential lessons set up for Saturday, in addition to a visit with our 8 year less active member. And the miracle is, everyone was interested. The lady who said she would tell her brother to come was home, just finishing lunch when we came, and we taught her, her brother, and her son all together. They are a very strong, very kind family. I can not wait to see how the gospel can bless and strengthen them still even more. Then the visit we had with our less active member was wonderful. He girlfriend stayed for the whole lesson, but she wasn't interested in talking, only listening, so she's not quite ready to meet with us for her, but she's so close!!! And then we went on to his friend (he couldn't come with us, he had another visit that night besides us), and the referral lets us in and we teach him and his girlfriend. They are good people, and will really progress, especially if his friend is there to support them.
And so we found a ton of people to meet with all in one day really, but you can see how the Lord has been preparing us to meet them, and I believe the Lord has been preparing them to meet us.
Otherwise, the little story about our friend. He said he would come to church in Celje for the first time on Saturday, given that it didn't rain as they didn't have umbrellas or jackets. The last week he had a surprise visit from his mom who brought lunch, so he wasn't able to come. And so, he said Sunday morning they get up, it was very cloudy and ominous looking, but it wasn't raining, so they get dressed and ready to go, he, his girlfriend, and his little 3 year old daughter, and leave. They are walking on the road  to center for 5 minutes, however, when it begins to rain and the little girl begins to cry with a runny nose. And so they turned around and went back home... So close!!! I know they will soon come and will dramatically progress in the gospel of Christ.
But this was basically the highlights of the week. It has been a great week. Meeting and teaching individuals, couples, and families. Here's to the next week being just as wonderful!  This week is also the last week of the transfer. But then again, since I am still training Elder Lyman, nothing will likely change for the two of us. Sister Legro is going home however from Celje, and so that will make Elder Burdette and me the most experienced missionaries in Slovenija. Weird.
Anyways, stay strong, safe, and warm. I know thanksgiving is coming up before too long. Enjoy the week! It's wonderful!
-Starešina Benson