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 http://mormon.org 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!