We received these photos from Jalen in the mail today!
The top of Dobratsch, near the city of Villach, Austria, August 2012
You can't beat hiking in the Austrian Alps!
Jalen is very proud of his flower photos! :)
So, first news: WE HAVE ANOTHER BAPTISM THIS WEEK! It is Marco Cesella, Daniele and Federica´s son. He is turning 9 on Sunday. It surprised us when Daniele called last week and said he wanted to be baptized on his birthday, because Daniele and Federica really take the baptism seriously (which is way cool) and they want him to be ready. But, that also means that this week is going to be INSANE!! We have to teach Marco EVERYTHING by Thursday. Thank goodness he is only 8 haha. So we are so excited for that. Their whole family will now be members. The funny thing is, it is probably mostly the influence of his father and his mother, very recent converts, that really got him excited about it. Nevertheless, they are doing their own missionary work, and I am just glad that we get to be a part of it.
Next up, that is SO AWESOME for Logan and Levan! What is up with the Smith boys going to Asian countries? That is pretty cool haha. So far there is no pattern in our family, but no complaints. I am still the only one from our group over here across the big pond :/ I am waiting for someone else to come join me! Even come to my mission so I can train them ;) But nonetheless, the work goes forward, and it cannot be hindered. What a marvelous thought, to think of all of my friends who are joining me out in the field, and all over the world.
Okay, I hope Allie had a good birthday! And also, I was looking back at old letters I have, and I have no idea if Becky ever got the one I sent in reply to hers. So, I don't know where she is at the moment, but could you send me her home address? And also the address for her aunt, Sis. Allen? That would be fantastic!
Okay, so we met the new district this last week! And I also had the chance later to do an exchange with Elder Riser, who I knew from the MTC!! He has been out for about a week now haha. But man am I jealous of his accent! He lived in Düsseldorf for a few years as a kid, so he really has the accent down. It was so fun to walk and talk and contact with him. We actually talked almost all in German, which is better than I do with my companion a lot of the time. But hey, I am understanding more and more, and working on sounding like a native speaker (that part is still pretty far off tho haha). But I remember how much Bruder Ehlen sounded like a native speaker when we first taught Lukas, and we were so confused as to whether he was from Germany or not haha. Mensch, good times.
Oh, Familie, I sent you a letter with about 4 pictures from my hike. I think it was last Tuesday. I printed off a few pictures, but the envelope seemed too heavy with all of them. So you should get that soon!
So last Pday we didn't end up going to Leoben, and we had the whole day here in Klagenfurt. So we played Fußball for 2 and a half hours behind the church! I love Fußball! It is much like life (just hang with me, this is coming to me just now, so I am making up an analogy) in that you can always learn new things! Or find other, better ways to do things, or just relax and try to beat a juggling record of only 371 (I always get screwed up by someone else eventually, this time was 263 or something). But anyway, back to that. It also is good practice just using your imagination, trying to see how things work, pushing your limits. Just like life, oder? And everyone has their own "fußball", real Fußball is just my favorite. Haha, did that make sense? Just having fun ;)
I was blessed with taco salad and real Ranch at district meeting!!! That was so good! But I love the food here regardless, so no complaints to anything else. I also had a real PibbXtra, which I bought from a game store. They sell American sodas at most such stores. And I figured out that Pibb is a "spicy cherry soda." You learn new things daily, eh? I also ate my last Pomegranate tootsie pop from the candy store the other day. I miss Toosie pops and tootsie rolls... but chocolate works.
Also, we went to our first American Football game in Austria on Saturday!! A less active is on the team so we went to support him. Well, Klagenfurt destroyed Graz, so they didnt need much support. It was fun and interesting. Although it's been a long time since I've heard english swearing.... I prefer the German words, because I don't know what the German words are!!
Okay, a fun thing that Elder Eaker read to me. Read Alma 26:23-29, and replace the words that have anything to do with Nephites or Lamanites or cities with the appropriate "European" terms. It's what I heard all too often from many people, basically telling me that I would have a hard time as a missionary in Europe. Well, too bad for that!! I still remember Bruder Ehlen and Bruder Evans always talking about how there is no lid on the people anymore. It is not the past still. Something is starting, or already going, I don't know. But don't let anyone tell you otherwise, about anything.
Well, the finding and teaching are going great! We organized our Area Book this last week, and I have really gotten down to just planning out exactly who we will visit and where we are going, so it makes me feel like I am better using the time I have. But we have found a few potentials on the way, and we have a new investigator from the list of former investigators. So the Lord has really blessed us, despite difficulties and discouragements in the past. Things are moving forward always, and it is just a matter of waking up everyday and wanting to become a better person, a better missionary. We are certainly busy, and the work goes so fast. It is already week three of my second transfer! I keep learning, and I keep trying to do more and more all the time. Or to give more everyday. It is going great :)
So I studied 2 Nephi 9 today. Such a good chapter!! I was impressed with verse 14. Jacob says that everyone, ALL of us, will one day know perfectly our guilt and uncleanliness. It is true, we will feel all of that when we stand before Christ and Heavenly Father. BUT he goes on and says that the righteous will ALSO feel (not that they WOULDNT know their guilt) the perfect happiness and joy from their righteous works. I thought that was so cool! And it reminded me of an article in the Liahona by Tad R. CAllister, which I may have already mentioned: "How do I know when I am forgiven?" He speaks of the feelings, or also knowledge, of guilt that we still have, even when we think we have repented. But he says that they are there to teach us, to motivate us, to help us grow, and remember that we don't want to do those things again. I think the joy that the righteous will feel will be so wonderful that it will overpower the knowledge of guilt we shall have. The guilt will be there, because of the fact that we did it, but ONLY through Jesus Christ can we receive the peace of forgiveness, and a quiet mind. I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that He loves each of us so much, and He wants to take away all bad feelings, all pain and sorrow and despair. He is able, but only if you accept Him and let Him in. As written in 2 Nephi 8:7, let Him write His law in your heart, let him calm your fears and grow through tribulations. There is nothing so sweet as knowing that everything will be okay, that feeling from repentance, when you know that He is by your side. And He will always be ready to do so, if we just let Him. Who else do you want by your side? Just like the quote from Sis. Voyles of the District (which maybe I shared last time... I can't remember) "There is a time in everyone's life where they need God. Because they have nothing else." Well, when the time comes, Christ will be there. Just look for Him.
I am so grateful to be here, and for the amazing people I get to interact with. I am grateful for all the blessings I have, and I try to thank Heavenly Father for everything. I can do that through my work and the example I set. And so can you!
I love you all. Have a great week! Never stop smiling :)
Elder Jalen L. Gibbons