Mila rodino a kamaradi, [note: Dear family and friends]
Happy Birthday to Megan this week!
My favorite story in the Kniha Mormonova [note: Book of Mormon] is Ammon's mission to the Lamanites. He is my hero! I love reading his story over and over again and finding such amazing things of how I can improve as a missionary. And then I was thinking, can you imagine what Ammon's emails would have been like if he'd emailed home every week? "Mom, dad, the king here offered me to marry his daughter. But I locked my heart!" or "I did some service today and took care of some sheep. But then some robbers came and I had to cut off their arms!" It's kind of funny to think about. Completely a different experience that he had than what I'm having, but at the same time I can imagine his emails saying "I listened to the king pray for the first time today. It was incredible!" or "I prayed and Heavenly Father provided a way for me to share the gospel with the people here." In a way his mission experience was so different than mine, and yet we experienced some of the same things--we both got to see people come to Christ. That is the most powerful experience in the world.
Today while eating at Olivo, a restaurant on the Námestie [note: Square], a pigeon was walking around the tables and suddenly flew up next to me and almost landed on my plate! This happened only moments after the restaurant had played a song from Josef and the Technicolor dream coat. And, everyone here says "hej" instead of “jo” or “ano” [note: yes]. I've never liked saying hey, but I’m picking up “hej” quite fast here:)
This week was beautiful! We are starting to get the hang of things here. The work is rolling forward and we've been blessed with miracles. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you and your companion are both completely devoted to the work. With hard work, high goals, a vision and lots of prayer, you can accomplish anything! I'm really enjoying working with Sister Izatt. Church was packed yesterday in Banska! Much different than our first Sunday here. I gave a talk about adversity, mostly po cesky ale par slova bylo po slovensky [note: Czech but a few words in Slovak]. The Elders just said I was speaking Czechoslovakian. Whatever! We had three of our beautiful investigators come to church - Pavol and his daughter Simona, and Vladamir.
We got to know Pavol and his daughter more this week and we just love them both! Simona is 14 years old, but is very mature for her age. She told us during one of our lessons how she'd come to church here once before and loved it. She said she'd always believed in God, but she'd go to kostel [note: church] and have to do the rosary and say all of those memorized prayers and come out feeling like she hadn't gotten anything out of it. Then she came to our church one Sunday and felt different! She actually felt something. She felt like she had come closer to God. It was a powerful testimony to me of the Spirit and how it touches people's hearts. Simona and her dad love it so much that they wanted to come back! Pavol told us that even though there are only a few members here in Banska, they are sincere and truly wanting to follow Christ and that was more important to him than going to a kostel that was full of people. They both love the church and feel the spirit. They read together from the Book of Mormon and Pavol's mom started reading in it as well.
Then therte is this older man. He's so humble and so good. He was a former that has been investigating for 3 years. He reads diligently in the Book of Mormon, but has a hard time accepting it's from God like the bible is. He refused to pray to know if it's from God. But, he came to church yesterday and loved it! He felt so good there that he didn't want to leave. I know he can make it as well.
Something beautiful has happened this week was that Sister Izatt and I were on the bus headed home one evening. We had been waiting at a stop when an elderly man, who looked homeless and not quite with it, started talking to us. He kept reaching out to touch my shoulder which was making me uncomfortable so I was trying to avoid him. We all got on the bus and sister Izatt was quiet and I asked her what she was thinking about. She said "I was just thinking about how that man is our brother..." It suddenly hit me, that this man is truly our brother! I suddenly felt such love and compassion for him. We both talked about how we wished we could help him. We talked about how all of these people that we meet each day are our brothers and sisters. It was just one of those moments where you've heard things a million times, but then you actually feel it suddenly. We wanted so badly to do something for that man, but of course there wasn't a lot we could do. In the end before we left the bus, we gave him a pass along with a picture of Christ and invited him to come to church. It was a really sweet and simple experience that helped to remind me of God's love for all of his children here.
I've been thinking a lot about Megan lately. Her birthday of course is this week so I've been thinking about her a lot, but also I was blessed with several opportunities in the past week to testify of the plan of salvation to people who have lost loved ones. One of them was a woman and her little son while waiting for a train to Zvolen. Her husband died a year or so ago. I testified to her of plan spasy [note: plan of salvation] and that she'd see him again. The spirit was so sweet and beautiful during that contact. Another experience was with Pavol and Simona yesterday at church. His wife died of cancer two years ago and when we asked him about it he started to cry. He's a big guy and has kind of built a wall to protect him and keep him from hurting, but seeing him cry and hearing about his wife allowed me to testify of the plan of salvation yet again. I testified that his wife lives and that thanks to the restored gospel he and his daughter can live together with her again! He believes it and I am just praying that he'll make it.
After those experiences, my focus has been a lot on plan spasy and with Megan's birthday this week I decided to study about life after death and about the resurrection this morning behem osobne studium [note: personal study]. I'd like to share a few of my thoughts. I read Mormon 7:5 and remembered how I was crying one day after Megan's graduation and just hurting inside and missing her so much. I turned to the Book of Mormon for help and opened right up to this very scripture. The last few lines seemed to jump out of the page--Christ has overcome the grave and in Him, the sting of death is swallowed up. I was reminded today that when I had read that, peace had come over me and I knew that Christ had made it possible for us to live together again one day. I knew that I could truly find peace, even with tears rolling down my face. I could move forward, even with a hole in my heart. And then I realized that through Christ, that hole could be healed, and it was! I have a strong testimony of Christ and his atonement. I don't think we fully comprehend it, at least I don't, but I know that he can heal any hurt, soothe any pain, and feel our souls with a peace that surpasses understanding. It's that testimony of Christ that I bear everyday on my mission to the people in Slovakia.
Elder Scott's talk on revelation was so beautiful from last general conference. He quoted Joseph F. Smith and said that our love for our family who have passed on is so strong that it ties us together, even through the veil. He then said that we can strengthen those ties as we recognize that separation by death is temporary and that our temple covenants are eternal. I love that!
I then read a beautiful article from the Liahona July 2012 titled A River of Peace. I cried when I read it and if you haven't already, please do! She quotes Daniel 3:17, 18 and talks about how Shadrach Meshach and Abednego were going to be thrown into the fiery furnace if they didn't worship the golden idol. The three of them said "We know God can deliver us...but if not, we will not worship the golden image." What a testimony! They knew God could deliver them, but the key is they said if He doesn't save us from it and we die from the fire, so be it, but we will keep the faith! We will stay true to our covenants! I thought of Megan. God could of saved her. There's no doubt about it. But He called her home. And will we falter in our faith? Never! We move forward knowing that God could deliver her, but it wasn't His will, so we move forward with complete trust and faith in Him and His plan. I was so grateful for that thought.
I know that Megan lives! I know that it's because of Christ that we will all live again after we die and through the sacred ordinances of the temple we can be together forever one day! One day we will be with Megan again. We don't know when that day is, but as we move forward with our eyes on the Savior, staying true to our covenants, we will make it! I feel so blessed to be serving on a mission with her! She's my companion that I have with me no matter where I get transferred. Her influence through the veil is something very real. She's teaching me how to be a better missionary. Thank you all for your faith and your examples. I love you all so much! How grateful I am for the beautiful Plan of Happiness that God has made for us. Understanding our purpose here on earth brings such peace and joy to our lives. I am grateful that I get to share that with others around me!
S laskou, Sestra Melissa Pysnakova