Elder Eaker, Jalen, Bru. Mauch, and the Halls
Elder Orchard and Jalen eating Mongolian BBQ, courtesy of the Halls
Jalen in downtown Klagenfurt (?)
Jalen after a self-haircut :/
with Elder Orchard
I love Austria!
MTC buddies' reunion at a training meeting in Vienna
So Hawaii treated you all well, I hope? That was a really cool story about finding that author's wallet! (Jeff found a wallet with lots of cash and credit cards under a shelf in a store and went to some trouble to find the owner and return it--turns out it belonged to an author featured on Oprah's book club list--she was so happy and grateful to have it back!) Way to go Dad! I just don't understand how someone could find a wallet and then take money or whatever, and not just KNOW that the right thing to do is to give it back, how someone wouldn't think about how happy the owner would be to have it back! It is just right. And we see the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments of God, who have faith and confidence that they can and that they do do the right things. Read Mosiah 2:41, ge? Think about it, the blessings the gospel brings. How else can someone live with such hope, such confidence in life? I echo some words which Elder Orchard said to me gestern about his life, namely, that I too have had life way too good. Born of goodly parents, a wonderful family, brothers, sisters, cousins, amazing friends, and through their examples, all of YOUR examples, I am who I am today. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives, changes people themselves. And no matter how strong the winds of life are blowing, they are blowing in the right direction. Nicht wahr?
The Gospel is true, and we know the blessings that come from it, and yeah, sometimes our karma just doesn't seem to match up, eh Dad? Who needs karma, we have the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Hope Nathan is feeling better after getting rear-ended holding so much pineapple in his lap haha. Not too spiny, hopefully? What were you doing with that pineapple, bringing it home? How did you manage that? (We got rear-ended by another tourist about a mile from the airport as we were bringing our rental car back before we flew home. Nathan was holding a 40-lb. box of fresh pineapples on his lap at the time--we brought them home for family and friends.) So how was that new hotel compared to the other one? I love that other one.
Well, Dad asked about transfers, and I have nothing I can say yet haha. I didn't get any hints from President in Interviews, all he said was that Elder Orchard and I were two fireballs and that is exactly what he wanted. :) I am okay with that haha. Hopefully we are living up to our potential. We do have a new baptismal date with.... ah, I can tell you later ;) As for the futsal tournament, is takes place every year and apparently is something very big here, people from all over Europe come. But it is okay because we can't play with them anyway, when they are playing for points and stuff, just to avoid getting too competitive. I don't want to spend the rest of my mission with an injury or anything. IF I stay here, then I will go and play around on the side, juggle a ball, and just be there to support and hopefully get some missionary work in :) I will just come and play in the tournament after my mission, eh? I will get a little American team :) haha.
Dad asked about if I listen to the BYU speeches that Tyson and Chris always talk about: my question is "how do they do that?" Do they drive in cars a lot or what, because I have no time where I have any means to do that. Except maybe at night, and we have listened to a few talks we have on minidisc, but those are done and we have no means to access any BYU speeches. So no, I haven't been able to listen to anything they talk about haha. I would love too, I love talks. We have some awesome ones in the apartment. Otherwise we are just too busy planning and figuring things out. Sorry that I can't rejoice together with you all...
So, bowling was really interesting :) and hilarious. Dad talked about the Austrians showing up with their bowling shoes, and I just laughed, because bowling is NOT something the Austrians do very often :) Also, Daniele had a really interesting technique, I have a video of it. You'll just have to wait another 18 months. Elder Orchard won overall, with a total score of 256 in two games, I got 2nd with 237. We won comfortably haha. But it was so much fun! My first bowl--STRIKE! But then it all went downhill, till the next game. They said (the men in the ward) that the missionaries are always way ahead. It was so wierd to be bowling on a mission, in Austria haha. Sadly D___ never has much opportunity to do things with the ward, he is so busy with hockey and games and practices, training. Villach is tied for second I think in the league, they played the number one team last night, we'll see how it went tonight, when B___ makes an American dinner for us!!! :) Oh, and we are going to D___'s game on Thursday!!!! It is going to be so cool!!!!!! :) I will buy some kind of VSV fan gear or something. Maybe a toaster that burns the VSV logo into the bread? ;) was denkt ihr?
Okay, I just read Mom's email, it wasn't here yet, and Hawaii sounded awesome! I am proud of Nathan branching out and getting interesting foods. That is how one can make things adventurous. Good work :) And you always mention things that Tyson and I have done and which I can't remember, like all the things that Nathan and Kate do in our honor, like Nathan and Curran putting straws together at Kimo's--but it sounds like something I would definitely do :) I am excited to go zipline around Hawaii next time, that sounded so cool! But yeah, I can make do with the Alps for now. Plus I can look one direction and see the Italian alps, the other direction and see Slovenia, try that in Idaho, eh?
Well, I can give an update on how our week was then! Monday like I said we thought we were going bowling in Graz, so we headed to Leoben and then drove to Burck an der Mur, and missed our train by a minute. The next option wasn't too bad, but then it was 30 minutes delayed. We figured we could maybe just go to Graz and play fussball in the church gym, and Sister Holmstead and I were the most excited about that (by the way, I figured out that she is a Real Madrid fan, enemy of Barcelona haha) but then that train was late. So instead, we four elders went to the Bruck "church" and played ping pong, which was really fun. We played around the world, regular, left handed, doubles, doubles sitting down, singles sitting down, and my favorite was doubles freestyle, where Elder Orchard and I were volleying back and forth behind our backs and between our legs and stuff and then we could slam it on the other side :) We had more fun than the Leoben elders haha. Then we stayed in Bruck, did district meeting and a finding day there on Tuesday, then we were finally in Klagenfurt again! Wednesday we had a termin with E___, a man from Italy who we found Elder Orchard's first night here, and that was cool. Then we just did some finding before the bowling activity. Thursday then we did an exchange with Leoben, and I worked in Klagenfurt with Elder Riser. It was really good! We had an AWESOME appointment with D___ and B___, it was so cool. We followed up on how things were going with Word of Wisdom, and he is doing so well, he has stopped drinking coffee which is a big step. We told him that we were so glad that he had done that, and hoped that he had seen the blessings from that, but of course we had to follow up on the rest of the Word of Wisdom too, so we asked how he was doing with not drinking alcohol, and he said that those two weeks he had tried it, he had done well. And then Elder Riser asked us to read Mosiah 2:41 together, and B___ started reading but then couldn't finish, because the Spirit was so strong and she started crying. D___ looked at her and said, "She is passionate about her religion, and I like that." So D___ finished reading, about the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments. And after that we sat there and just enjoyed the spirit that was there, for a little while. And we were able to bear testimony about the blessings that come from the commandments. And I asked D___ if he was willing and ready to take the next step and to fully live the Word of Wisdom, and he said "Yeah, I can do that. I don't have that struggle with the church anymore." I saw him change. I saw him accept the Word of Wisdom, accept the challenge to give up everything and follow the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been able to meet with them since I got here, in August, and I have seen how the gospel and the spirit have changed his desires, have strengthened his testimony. He is a different man than the one we tried to commit to the Word of Wisdom in December. Wow. That experience changed my mission, my life, and I know that the honest seeker of truth can overcome any obstacle with the help of the Atonement. It is something that I haven't really seen yet in anyone with whom we meet, because most of them we struggle just to find time to get together, let alone to get them to keep commitments. But I have been so much happier since then, because at least I have been some small part in helping D___ come closer to Christ. I can't wait to see them again today, I love being with them, just talking about the gospel.
Also, we FINALLY met with M___ again last night, it has been about three weeks, and each appointment till then he cancelled. And he called about half an hour before the appointment time and we were so afraid he was cancelling! But he just pushed it back 30 minutes. Thank goodness. And it was such a wonderful appointment, everything just went so smoothly! It was incredible, we just talked for 90 minutes about the gospel, faith, repentance and baptism. It was just a discussion, not just us trying to teach someone something. It was cool, when talking about faith, M___ said that it brings a feeling of fulfillment, and we read in Alma 32:28 about the seed, which grows and enlarges our souls, brings enlightenment, and all the scriptures we used just melded perfectly with what M___ needed and what he thought. And we talked about baptism, and committed him to prepare himself for the 3 of March, and he said that it was something he could definitely see himself doing, and he agreed to meet with us 3 times a week to help him prepare. He even said he will definitely think about coming to church, and praying, and all those things that we have wanted him to do before but which he didn't. We are so excited for him! I have known him since Elder Eaker and I found him, and things have never clicked so well as they did last night, he was actually like quoting things we had taught him already and just putting puzzle pieces together, it was so cool!! he is looking for the right religion, and has a good heart and intent. We are so excited!
Sadly we never got to meet with R___, we kept trying to call and it didn't work. So I went by with Elder Riser and got his NEW phone number, he had gotten a new phone. And he hasn't prayed yet or read :/ so the goal for early in February was just a goal, it will most likely be pushed back. Otherwise, he is still very open and cool, and we will see where we get with him.
Church was just awesome gestern, we taught the young men (all two of them haha) and also the middle class, second hour. That was great. It was we two missionaries and then everyone else in there was over 50 haha. We asked them about their birthdays and what their favorite gifts have ever been, then asked them when the Lord's day is, and what gifts we can bring Him. It was great.
Well, I know that I always marvel at how much Tyson writes, but this email is definitely longer than usual, just because we have more time. It is nice :) I can even attach some pictures, in another email probably. But yes, the work of the Lord goes on, and there is nothing greater in life than the joy that we can have. Even when you walk around a relatively empty city for almost 6 hours on a Saturday, at -6 degrees, like we did last Saturday, we are happy :) and our smiles are still defrosting ;) haha. There is nothing more glorious than the blessings of the gospel, I know that.
Do everyting in your power to keep the Spirit with you. HE is the comforter, and a friend, and you will be happier with Him around, it is impossible not to be. Make sure the Savior has your heart and your faith, because then you will see blessings never dreamed of. Let us all press on in the work of the Lord, wherever you may be. It all starts with a smile.
I love you all! Have a good week. :)
Elder Jalen L Gibbons