Monday, January 27, 2014


Elder Botcherby and Elder Weston both ate XXL Döners,
the size of which in emphasized here when sitting next to my normal Döner. :)

Here is Stephansdom in the light (what little light there was...) 

Then we went to the city. I bought myself a new swatch,
and some stickers for my guitar :)  Well, the Austria flag one is a patch
 that I will superglue to the inside of my bag.

I photobombed Bobi :)

Bobi and I ready to eat!

 Viktoria and I, showing off our awesome earmuffs :)

Roasting marshmallows over candles :)
This was a fun week. Poor Elder Weston was sick with a fever for two days. But I got lots of time to think and study, so that was enjoyable. The first day. Haha. On the first day I rewrote my stoplight analogy to more fully compare it to the course of this life and the purpose of life. Complete with scriptures. Yeah, I don´t think I ever told you that analogy. I came up with it in Stuttgart, and thought more about it on Christmas day last year, and it was solidified last week. (You will see it when I get home, I am sure. Remind me.) Although I could probably go more in depth. One day. I wrote my thoughts regarding said analogy out in my book of revelation. So that kept me occupied the first sick day. The second was kinda just random, I read about Joseph Fielding Smith in the Sunday School handbook thing, I sang some songs, and I eventually decided to try for the second time in my mission to make Buchteln, that recipe I got from Sister Kaiser in Klagenfurt. They turned out okay, but a little doughy. We scarfed them down anyway haha. Yes Mom, I still have my guitar, that was one of the two things I managed to hold on to, along with my little carryon bag. And now I have some cool stickers on the back of my guitar, from Stuttgart, Bayern, Wien, Austria, and I even found a Kärnten sticker :) Now I have something for each of my areas on my guitar. 

Otherwise, the week really was fun! Elder Botcherby and I tausched on Tuesday, and it was a lot of fun to work together. We went by on lots of members to strengthen our relationships with them, and we just talked. It was our first official tausch where we got to work together, since the MTC. Crazy, man. 

By the way, that scripture that Dad found was awesome. (John 4:34-38.)  I laughed out loud as I read it. Four months. Not bad. Tender mercies, they are real.

I actually used Grandma Madsen´s talk about Uncle David for district meeting this week, to start off the meeting with a stong spirit. The theme of the meeting this week was "Adapting attitudes through the Atonement." Figured Mom would be proud of my alliteration. ;) The power of words... anyway, I heard from the zone leaders that some of the other missionaries in the district, who are all relatively young (yeah, anyone is young relative to me and Elder Botcherby...) are also struggling with being burnt out. It took me 20 months to reach this point, and it hurts me that these young missionaries are experiencing these things already. One of them talked about how he lost his "golden power" and feels like he is just at the point where he is enduring. Dang it, that is how I feel sometimes, why is he to that point already? But in reality, as I write about this, I just thought about how strong these new missionaries must be, the challenges that Heavenly Father sees fit to put them through. If they are strong enough now to learn how to move forward despite tremendous difficulties, then they will be incredible. That is proof that the Lord calls and the Lord qualifies. Anyway, the district meeting was about being able to adapt our attitudes to missionary life, which went right along with Sister Miles' topic (oh yeah, we had interviews with President Miles with this distict meeting) about the new booklets "Adjusting to missionary life." That booklet is way cool. If you can't get Nathan and Kate such a book, they can look at mine when I am back. It is so insightful and inspired. It has given me lots of ideas. But the meeting went way better than I thought it would, thanks Spirit, and I hope that everyone else learned as much as I did. 

I asked President Miles the same question I asked Dad last week, just to see if he had ever experienced such a burn out on his mission. We had a great conversation, and it also gave me lots of insight. And then Sunday night there was a fireside thing about "Why God lets suffering and bad things happen?" Which basically just reemphasized the purpose of my struggles. To learn and grow. And so it goes. 

As for that one appointment that I made out from calling everyone, we went there, Elder Botcherby and I, and the guy we were looking for sat us down, gave us juice, and then took off. And left us with his family-in-law, who couldn't speak German and kinda just wanted us to help them get work in America. Kinda disappointing. But, we have an appointment for Saturday with the guy I was texting, and I hope that goes well. I was telling him about the different study manuals and stuff that the Church has, and he said he wants to be able to just sit down, read scripture, discuss it, and apply it to our lives--good, I told him that is what we do haha. And he likes talking about spiritual things in English, so Elder Weston can take more of a part, too. I am excited for that. Then gestern at church I got a call from a random number in our phone, someone I have never met, and he asked about church, and wants to come next week! So thanks Heavenly Father for such miracles. 

We kinda introduced the concept of Family Home Evening to familie Simic last Monday, and tonight we are doing a real one :) We are going to teach about the Restoration for Mariya´s sister, and hopefully figure out how much she actually knows and then we can help her prepare for baptism, too. :) I am excited. 

There is lots to do, people to help, smiles to bring, and hearts to fill. Even when the weather is FREEZING. We can bring a fire that will stay, when they choose to learn more about the everlasting restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks for your prayers and love. I love you all :)

Elder Jalen Gibbons

Monday, January 20, 2014

Difficult and Joyous

Guten Morgen!  I have a headache, and sitting in a somewhat smoky internet shop doesn´t help. But it is okay. Sorry in advance if my email is kinda bleh. 

Last week was an interesting one! Monday we went and introduced the family mission plan to Alex, the chef, and he was way excited about it! We are excited to work more with him. He is so great. Then we went to the Simics', and we talked about the priesthood and the boys' duty in the church, from D&C 20 and such. And Mariya asked what her job was, and she was way excited when we told her that she would get a calling from the Bishop. She is so awesome. I love that whole family. We went back to them on Tuesday and talked about the scriptures, about how many plain and precious truths have been taken from the Bible because of all the translations and such, and how the Book of Mormon is there to help us see the truth, to confirm the doctrine of Jesus Christ (see 2 Nephi 3:12). I love seeing the light in Mariya´s eyes when she realizes the truth and it all just falls into place. We weren't able to meet with them on Wednesday, and on Thursday we went shopping with Mariya to this Caritas place, but I was disappointed. There was only one single trachten suit, and it was too small for me. But good for Elder Jones, it fits him perfectly :) He looks good! And you know how much it cost? The lady looks at this BEAUTIFUL trachten suit, and says, "8 euro." WHAT??!!! What a steal. Mine back in the day was 30. But yeah, Klagenfurt´s Caritas had like a whole row of old trachten suits. This place was smaller and had not very much. SO I didn't get anything. It was okay, it was fun spending time with Mariya and the other elders. We went back to the family on Saturday, and Elder Botcherby helped Bobby with his talk, which he gave yesterday! It was so awesome :) Yesterday Bobby passed the sacrament, and I was just astounded thinking about how no more than 4 weeks ago, these people weren´t even members. And now Bobby passed the sacrament, Michi got the priesthood, too, and both boys are so excited to go to the temple in the beginning of February. I just love seeing them taking part in the ward, like one of the men who blessed the sacrament today was baptized just last Oktober. So cool :) But anyway, on Saturday, we talked to family Simic about missionary work :) and I had an idea during personal study to read through the Articles of Faith with them and show them how they could use them to answer people's questions (yes, thank you Elder Perry :) ) and they loved it! And there were just more things falling into place and it makes Mariya so happy! We read number 10, about the Tribes of Israel, and we said that they were also from one of the Tribes of Israel, because they were gathered :) and she smiled and said that she wished she could know from which tribe! SO :) we told them about patriarchal blessings. And she was SO EXCITED! She just loves this, mensch. They love their triple combos, too. I love them to death. 

Yeah, we also met with Br. Caletka and got to do the family mission plan with him. He is also so great. We show up on Tuesday, and he pulls out this really nice guitar, and plays us "I am a child of God." So he let me play around a bit with it. I was messing around on my guitar during the week and I realized that some chords I played reminded me a song from Shrek, the "Hallelujah" song. But none of us knew the words. So we kinda made some up. But then I played it at Br. Caletka´s and he whipped out his laptop and gave me the lyrics. Yay, that is one of my pet peeves, when I can´t remember things like that. It was fun to connect that way with him. He still makes really good hot chocolate :)

Otherwise, all our appointments with investigators fell out. Thank goodness we were with our new converts and less actives, otherwise we would have had little to nothing. We went to the funeral on Tuesday for Br. Ochoko, yes he is the husband of that woman we struggled to find with Br. Zornig. I couldn't get ahold of Bruder Zornig this last week, he was out and about. We gotta get by on his friends!!!! That was basically our only hope as we started weekly planning last week. We had nothing scheduled for this week. I didn't want to plan for an empty week, so I decided to grab the area book. And I called every single person in the area book. Took me about an hour and a half. And I got nothing out of it. Until about 30 minutes later, when someone called back and I made an appointment for Tuesday, tomorrow. Yay! We will committ him to be baptized so that he and his family can be together forever. And that was it. But then last night, we got a text from a number not in our phone, and it said, "Why would someone choose to become a LDS/Mormon? It´s not a requirement for going to heaven, I presume." So we looked through the whole area book again, and found this guy at the very back. I had actually talked with him and he had told me to call him next weekend. But I guess talking to him started his thought process again. Well, we had a good question to answer! And we did so by living what we had preached to the Simic familie the day before. Here was my reply: "Good question. If you know of the Articles of Faith, written by Joseph Smith as a declaration of what we believe as a church, number 3 states that the requirement to get to heaven is to follow Jesus Christ and be obedient to the laws and ordinances of His gospel. We also believe (number 5) that these sacred ordinances must be performed by somone called of God with His priesthood authority. When we seek an answer from God as to whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet called by Him, we can know that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet and said authority from God was restored unto him, and has run in an unbroken chain in church leadership until today. Do you believe that Joseph Smith could be and is a Prophet of God?" And he answered that one and said "Thanks. My knowledge is limited so all I can say is that Joseph Smith comes across as a great spiritual leader." And I said that he most certainly was. And I told him that he just had to read the Book of Mormon and pray to find out if Joseph Smith was a prophet. Does all of this sound familiar to you? This is exactly what we learned and practiced in district meeting last week, the fact that everything comes down to the testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. It is true! He said he was busy this week, but I told him to try and read a bit of the BoM and let us know if he has questions. And then next week we will meet with him and help him understand this process of gaining a testimony. That was a great miracle for which I am very grateful. Two possible potential investigators from all those calls, and I am happy :)

Last week was a very difficult one. Elder Botcherby and I talked a lot about the way we were feeling, namely that we both felt that we were going kaputt (that means broken). We have just been doing the same thing for 20 months (this last week, January 16th) and we were struggling trying to find that joy that we have felt before. As Elder Holland very eloquently described, I looked at myself as a broken vessel, trying to run on empty. Burnt out. I don't know, did you ever have any such experiences, Dad? It was way rough on me. But things are better know, Elder Botcherby read a quote in PMG, in the section in chapter 4, pray with faith, that has changed things for me. I feel better, and even though this whole life is just a roller coaster of ups and downs, I am least confident that I can make steady progress upwards. I am going to live that quote everyday, possibly for the rest of my life. So it goes. 

As I look back at my mission, I may have said this before, I don´t feel like things have gotten easier. If anything, Heavenly Father keeps throwing more and more at me. But through that I can see now that I am becoming better, I can understand better, I am even more emphatic, and I am strengthening my testimony (that was from Pres. Monson, end of Saturday morning session, "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Good talk!). I am very grateful for the chance to be here. For these opportunities to learn and grow. And Mom, I wanted to thank you for those talks you sent to me, from Gma and Gpa Madsen from the MTC. They helped me change my attitude in the midst of my trials last week. And Uncle David is my new hero. That talk on the Atonement touched me very deeply. 

So, to end, I quote what Grandma said in her talk, "Mud or Stars:" Two men looked out from prison bars; one saw mud, the other saw the stars."  Which would you rather see? I am going to look more for the stars, I will change my attitude and renew my fascination of this land and these people. Through that I can increase my love, and I will be happier :) Try it out. 

Um, I didn't hear anything from President Miles about Argentina, sorry. I will send a reminder in my email to him today.

I love you all, and I know that the Atonement can make up for anything that is unfair in my life and in yours. "In the best of times and in the worst of times, the Savior is always there" (paraphrased quote from same Pres. Monson talk mentioned above).

Have a great week!

Elder Jalen Gibbons

PS--Hey, I was watching "I´m a Mormon" videos, and I found my stake president here in Wien :) Go to and look up Helmut Wondra. I was at his parents-in-law´s house for Christmas when we skyped, we spent the night with him and his family :) And it is in English!  Love you! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Up on the Roof

Elders Botcherby and Gibbons
Schönen guten Morgen, schönen guten Tag, ich schreibe euch was, weil ich euch mag. :)

Schon eine Woche vorbei, ist ja der Wahnsinn! We decided gestern as an apartment that we will only speak German now. Elder Weston was the one who asked, and we agreed, and then the GML, ward mission leader, told us the same thing at church, because he can see that Elder Weston gets frustrated when he doesn't understand what is going on. We all feel that way, or have felt that way, but the German is coming etwa langsamer for my companion, and even though he is pretty good at just going with it and winging it, he doesn't understand as much German as he'd like. So we are speaking only German. It is good for us older missionaries, too, of course. And it is back to normal for me, after speaking only Deutsch mit Elder Horlacher. One day it will just click. That is our biggest focus right now as a companionship and as an apartment. Just tough it out. Good life lesson. 

The week was good, we spent lots of time in between appointments and meetings and stuff just contacting the people on the street. I love that feeling when you just talk to everyone who walks by and even though tons of them just ignore you or stop for a second and then walk away, I feel unstoppable. Of course, that is still not the most effective way to find people, but we are good at it. I think that every person who says no just brings us closer to the one who says yes!.We met our goal to get 10 potential investigators, which is the standard of excellence for the mission, and this week we upped it a little bit. We didn't get to go by on those people with Br. Zornig, but we want to do that this week. We did go to a before-funeral ceremony thing for the Br. Ochoko, and that was a neat experience. There were lots of friends there, and they did I guess a somewhat traditional African farewell party. We sang Kumbaya and stuff like that, and a Catholic priest talked to us. The funeral is tomorrow, we are going to go support again. 

We had an awesome zone training meeting on Tuesday, the Zone Leaders and the Sister Training Leaders do a really great job! While we were there, the Ehepaar (senior couple) the Strongs invited us to come on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the Young Single Adult Center so that Elder Strong can work one on one with Elder Weston with German. So I sit there and read talks from Conference in German, or talk in German with the other missionaries who are there. (Speaking and writing are the best practices). Sister Green and Sister Motto are there usually, both of whom I know from Stuttgart, so it is fun to talk with them about Stuttgart when they finish teaching English to their "students." I hope that these classes just give Elder Weston practice and experience. I am very grateful for the Strongs' efforts. 

Oh, Bobby Simic was ordained a Deacon yesterday :) and all four of them who got baptized received a triple combo from the Bishopric. They were so excited! Michi wasn't there gestern, he was at his grandma's, so next week he will be ordained a Teacher. Mariya, the mom, wanted to meet every single day this week, and we are working more today, so that we can go with the Simics to Caritas on Thursday. Caritas is where I bought my first trachten suit :) so we will see what I can find! Ich bin begeistert. (By the way, I am sending a picture of me and Elder Botcherby from our rooftop, we went up there to watch the sunset and to sing at the start of comp study. But Elder Botcherby says hello, and wanted me to send a picture of us.) Anyway, we love familie Simic and we are so excited to see them this week so often. We are talking about the Priesthood today, for the boys. 

We met with A_____ on Saturday night and showed him the church! And we made it very clear why we want to meet with him, that we want to help him follow God and be happy in life. He wants to follow God, and we invited him to be baptized when he prepared himself. He wasn't completely sure at the moment, but he came to church gestern and liked it, so we will see where it goes for him :) As for the familie S_____, I believe they are doing well, but they haven't come to church a single time since I have been here. Some excuse comes up every week, I guess. But the zone leaders meet with them often. 

We went by on the cupcake man again, who we found at the beginning of last transfer, and we gave him a Book of Mormon and talked to him for a little while. He is really nice, and doesn't like how "cold" the people are here. He is Austrian, I think, but his family wants to move away from here eventually. So he respects what we are trying to do. I also bought a real American style cinnamon roll from him, and it was heavenly. Also gave me a headache. So sweet. He is a great guy. 

We have lots in store this week, hoping to get some new investigators from the people we have found. But we did notice something last week, at least I did as I was talking to everyone on the streets. We wanted to focus on getting to the Restoration as soon as possible, and how everything comes down to the Book of Mormon, and whether or not they have a testimony of it. Just like I said last week, if people are going to make sense of our purpose as missionaries and make sense of the message we are trying to give them, they need to know if the Book of Mormon is true. We were just talking about investigators and what their needs are, and everything just came back to the Restoration, to the Book of Mormon. And when I focused on that in my contacting, the Spirit was there to give testimony and I felt more effektiv, even if they didnt want to learn more. I spoke the invitation, like Mom said, and that was the best I could do. Always trying to become a "Preach My Gospel" missionary! So study chapter 5 in Preach My Gospel and see how you can use that in your efforts to recgonize missionary opportunities, like you told me about. Keep it simple and powerful. 
I wish you the best in that aspect, and much fun this week! I love you all! :) Mach´s gut!

Elder Jalen Gibbons

Monday, January 6, 2014

Frohes neues Jahr!

Vienna Zone Christmas Party
Helping in the kitchen
Elders Spencer, Herzog, and Gibbons
Playing Christmas songs on the pipes
Up on the roof on News Year's Eve:  Elders Orchard, Botcherby, and Bailey (top)
and Gibbons, Jones, and Weston (bottom)

Happy new year :) and happy birthday, Nathan. Late. Sorry. You can come over to Wien and hit me, if you want. :) But it was good, we had a good raclette dinner with the Assistants, and then went to the roof to watch the fireworks :) It was way awesome. And then Elder Orchard played us to sleep on the guitar. I remembered exactly what inspired me to learn in the first place haha. So much fun.

I want to tell a story about Saturday. We had a plan to go by on lots of people, but the first person we went by on was a member, Br. Zornig. We wanted to ask about some of his friends he had told us about. But then we were there for an hour and a half because he was talking all about geneaology, and then we pulled out PMG and looked at what it said in there. And then he went online to the ward directory and pulled off a bunch of names for us to go by on, many of which have family members who are not members, he said. Well, I like that :) Then he drove us to go by then on one of the sisters. We parked on the street, but we couldn't find the right house (addresses in Austria are ridiculous sometimes. You don´t understand. Even the Austrians don´t understand them all the time). We walked up and down the street, and Br. Zornig was ready to give up, but Elder Weston and I went and knocked on a door with the right number, it was just confusing because it was on a corner and looked like it belonged to a different street. We knock, a woman answers the door, and is kinda surprised (she has been less active, that is why we went by) and then she started to cry and said it was such a gift that we came right then, because her husband just passed away before the holidays and she was still trying to figure out the details for the funeral. So we got her number and gave it to the bishopric so they could talk to her about that. She didn't have time for us to meet right then, but we will follow up and go back. It was a gift from Heavenly Father that we as the missionaries got to experience that, too! Heavenly Father watches over us. As we drove with Br. Zornig, he kept pointing out where different members live and also where some nonmember acquaintances live, and he wants to take us by on them, too! I was just thinking the whole time, wow, this is the kind of courage we need from members here! And everywhere. I am excited to see what happens from that. Tender mercies.

Oh yeah, the Simic family were confirmed gestern at church :) It was great. The missionaries did the confirmations. I did it for Michi, the oldest son. Now they are members of the ward, they are so wonderful! We went and played Fußball with the boys last week, that was good for me. And Elder Horlacher sent me my fußball that I forgot in Stuttgart, he gave it to Elder Botcherby at MLC. Now I have a ball again! 

I like to learn. I like putting pieces of puzzles together (yeah, not jigsaw puzzles like Tyson, I am talking mental puzzles here). I think a lot. I don´t even know if I stop thinking, it´s not possible. Sometimes I feel like I think too much. So I started a journal, my book of revelations is what I call it haha. It is not my study journal, it is just a separate book I have to write down ideas that I work out in my head, things that make sense finally. Or even half-baked thoughts and theories, I can go back and finish them later. I just have to write them down, it also helps in getting my thoughts straight. So I was sitting in church yesterday, and trying to just enjoy the spirit and learn what I needed to, because I was kinda tired and hungry from fasting and at the begninning of church didn't feel very good. But then I had lots of great ideas come to mind (concepts, thoughts, I don't know what to call them) in Priesthood meeting. And then as I kept just thinking about things, I realized that because I know these things are true, they make sense to me. And I thought about it the other way around, too, that when things make sense to me, I could know that they are true. And as I pondered the immensity of God´s plan for us, the difficulties He tests us with, the fire with which He refines His children, I thought back on tough times and the feelings of inadequacy and guilt and pain and also of hope and of faith and perseverance. And it all just makes sense. Sometimes we feel just down spiritually or physically, I certainly have, but I believe that just the fact that it all makes sense to me will keep me pushing on through when the going gets tough, even when we feel alone. Just because the plan makes sense, I know that I am not really alone when I feel like that. Jesus Christ was certainly very alone during His suffering, and sometimes Heavenly Father sees fit to test us in a similar way--but we are never alone, just because the Atonement was performed. Lucky us, eh? :) I look forward to more enlightenment as I continue to ponder and consider, and then for the opportunity to share those things with others. What a wonderful time to be in the refiner´s fire, to grow and learn as never before. The crucible, as Dad so correctly states. It makes sense, oder? Want to learn life´s lessons? Go on a mission :) 

Gehet tapfer vorwärts im Werk unseres Herrn! Have a great week! I love you all, have fun at school. :) Be happy. 

Elder Jalen Gibbons