Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas in Croatia

We had a wonderful hour of telephone conversation with Elder Dixon yesterday on Christmas day.  It was 7:30pm in Zagreb; 11:30am in Mesa.  Elder Dixon was using an LDS chapel family history center computer.  We established a four-way Skype conference call, connecting Ryan with Heidi and her family in Colorado, David and his family in Mesa, and the rest of us at our home.  What a blessing to have this technology that allowed all our family to be together in this big conversation!

Ryan and his companion, who has been in Croatia about six months, are serving as zone leaders over the one zone in Croatia, which has a total of 32 missionaries, including elders, sisters and senior couples.  They regularly drive to visit seven different cities spread across Croatia where the missionaries are located. Ryan lives in Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, which has one branch of the church and the one free-standing church building in Croatia.

Ryan loves the Croatian people and his missionary work.  He really sounds great.  He said that he has been really blessed to never have a bad companion. We think that might have something to do with him being a great companion himself.

The following photo shows Elder Brady Mason (Ryan’s previous companion) and Elder Dixon with a prop they made for a zone leader training session.


I really apologize for not posting to this blog more frequently.  Here are some excerpts from recent emails:

October 17th

Welp, I love being a Zone Leader in the Slovenia-Croatia mission. I have the greatest companion. His name's Elder Mason. The man is so great. I told President it's like a high school basketball player playing along side Michael Jordan. I've always looked up to Elder Mason and now the brother is my companion. I'm loving it.

Zagreb is huge. Pula was pretty small (60 – 70 thousand peeps) and was kind of slow paced. Zagreb has about a million people and is busy and bustling. I love it hear. We drive a car hear. I little Opel hatchback. I don't know how to spell anymore I'm sorry. 

We spent nearly the entire first two days in the car, dealing with transfers and all kinds of red tape. We are so busy. What's great though is that we are in more teaching situations than any other time in my mission. There are so many people in Zagreb so close to baptism. So many potential priesthood holders. We met with somebody last night that is literally GOLDEN. He loves the doctrine that we can be holders of the priesthood and still have a wife and kids. When I familiarize myself with all these people better by next week, I'll fill you in a little better. Zagreb's on fire though. It's going to be such a great transfer.

There are really dedicated missionaries serving in this district. The missionary I trained two transfers ago, Elder Anderson, is training in Zagreb. There's also a set of sisters and a senior couple in our district.

It's cold over here. I'm not looking forward to another winter folks. The cold in Osijek was enough for a lifetime by me. I really think it will be freezing cold in Hades. I will probably be in a car instead of walking, so that's a plus.

The new missionary and I bore our testimonies at church on Sunday.  They asked me to share about myself, specifically to share the names of my brothers and sisters. Families are pretty small here, so it's surprizing for them to hear 5 bros and sisters. I was like ''I have 5 brothers and sisters. There names are Holly, Eric, Angie, David, and Heidi. I realized I had just said quite a few names, so at the end I just threw in a ''i tako dalje'' which means et cetera at the end.

They all laughed cause there's so many of us. There's an elder that just came in who has 12 bros and sisters. I bet Croats flip when they hear that.

Welp, I wish I could say more, but I better bounce. You guys take care. Peace out.

November 2nd

Another extremely busy week has passed. We had Zone Conference and Zone Leader Council last week. The latter meeting is where all the Zone Leaders in the mission, the Assistants, and President and Sister Hill gather and discuss the mission and stuff. It was a great meeting. Elder Wondra, who is an area 70 from Austria was there. I really enjoyed learning from him. Something I was reminded was that faith, when exercized, can make important things happen.

We have been busy traveling between areas, teaching, and different activities. Today, we are going to a coastal city called Zadar -- where Kresimir Cosic was from -- for P-day, and I am staying for an exchange with one of the Elders down there. I'll be there all tuesday. Then, on Wednesday we will be back in Zagreb. On Thursday and Friday, we have another exchange with the Elders in Osijek. Then we come back to Zagreb. Our schedule is way busy. It's really nice, but I'm kind of experiencing the growing pains of coming from Pula, a small town with few responsibilities to Zagreb, the biggest city in Croatia as a Zone Leader with the whole country under our stewardship. But, whether I like it or not, I've been called to this position, and it's where the Lord wants me to be. So, I will work at it.

November 9th

Man, it has been a busy, busy week. Elder Mason and I went on two 24 hour exchanges -- one with the Elders in Zadar and one with the Elders in Osijek. Elder Mason spent at least 26 hours in the car this past week. Haha, it's out of control. That's one thing I love about being a Zone Leader. We are so busy. It's draining, but the diverse schedule is really nice.

We are teaching some great people right now.  One investigator is doing really good. He's started coming to church without our inviting him. He's liking it a lot. We've been talking to him about baptism. He said he will get baptized when he finds out for himself that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but that he needs time. We are also working with a 26 year old girl. She is great. She is an English student. We teach her spiritual thoughts, and while Elder Mason was on an exchange with an Elder from Zadar, she started asking them why they came on missions and what motivated them to do what they do. They bore their testimonies and talked a lot about the peace that comes from the Gospel. She asked if she would be able to feel the same peace, and they obviously said yes and explained more. By the end of the meeting, she decided that she wanted to meet with us everyday to learn about this. So, we do! We do about half English class, half Gospel. Today, she had questions about baptism, so we talked about that. She said she would be willing to be baptized but just needs to learn more, which she does. She's doing really good.

District Conference is coming up, aka Croatian Stake Conference, where president Hill is going to meet. I'm going to be able to see Miro [from Pula] and my buddies from all over Croatia. I can't wait.

I was talking to Elder Babcock on my exchange with him in Osijek. We came out in the same MTC group, so whenever we meet up, we always seem to have kind of a contemplative conversation about the mission. We talked for a long time about how our missions have blessed us. I have been given so much on my mission. I haven't baptized a soul, but I wouldn't miss out on this mission for the world. The mission has just been a medium through which the Lord could bless me more. I'm truly thankful for what I've experienced.

Elder Mason just barely told me that I need to immediately learn how to drive stick. It's an order from the higher-ups in Ljubljana. So next week, I will be able to drive a manual car. Laterrrrrr...

November 16th

Our investigators are doing well. We just had District Conference in Zagreb for all of the Croatians and we had 4 investigators there. We are starting to work with an English student. He's in his twenties and comes to all the church meetings including sacrament meeting. It's really cool. Our investigator -- idk if i've told you about her -- is now in Germany for about 10 days, but she is thinking about baptism right now. She actually has a lot to learn still, but she has a lot of good feelings at the church and when she learns with us. We used to teach mostly english and like 15 minute lessons. Now she prefers that we only teach a few minutes of English and the rest about the Gospel. 

Our African investigator, loves church. He is struggling with the idea of the Godhead but has such a strong desire to understand what is true concerning the nature of the Godhead. He doesn't speak perfect English or Croatian, so we have experienced minor language barriers which make it hard sometimes. He speaks French and reads the scriptures in French. He has a friend in Paris that is going to hook him up with all the French liturature from the chruch there.

District conference was yesterday. I got to see Miro. That was great. He's still doing good. Yesterday, they made huge changes in District Leadership. Actually, They released everybody with district callings. Thats like wiping out everybody with stake callings, including the high counsil, etc. Then they called Elder Thompson, the husband in a senior couple in Zagreb, to be the District President. And they didn't call anybody else for a district calling. I guess they will later on. I think it will be a really positive change. Leadership in this country is just so unexperienced. It will be a fresh start, and President Thompson has his fair share of leadership training. He was a Bishop at 26, a convert at 19! Laterrrrrrr...

November 23rd

The other day, I met an angel! Not really, but... really. I was on an exchange in Zagreb with another Elder who serves in a city about 30 minutes from here. There was a member, who I hadn't remembered meeting before, who needed us to bring her groceries because her elevator is broken in her apartment. Because of her health, she couldn't make it up and down 10 flights of stairs to get to her apartment. So, the relief society president got a hold of us, and arranged for us to drive over there with about a month's worth of groceries.

After driving stick shift through through and getting lost in Hades (aka the center of Zagreb) with and new missionary that knows the city of Zagreb worse than I do as a navigator, we finally made it there. That was one of the most nerve racking experiences of my life. But it was worth all the blood, sweat, tears, and stalls in the road, because we met Gordana, the member, who upon seeing I realized I had met at the church before.

We packed the four garbage bags of groceries up to the last door on the fifth floor, and she was so happy to see us. She let us in. I've never seen such a small apartment in my life. I was probably half the size of the room in our house downstairs. The little bathroom was separate, but any other empty space was filled with a bed, some tiny kitchen appliances, a small table and desk, and just enough space to walk in front of each of those things. But it was so neat and in order. On a shelf mounted on the wall, there were pictures of her daughter, members of the Zagreb branch, and other family.

She had lots of books, many of which were church related books. She had us sit down on her bed, and she asked if she could make us some eggs. We told her we didn't have a lot of time, but we asked if we could share something with her from the scriptures. We shared some scriptures from the Book of Mormon, and said a little bit about them. Then, I asked her if she would share her conversion story with us. Without hesitation she went into it all.

She is from Sarajevo, Bosnia, where she experienced a lot of negative things as a result of the war. I don't really have time to tell her whole story, but it was one of the most touching conversion stories I have ever heard. Her testimony is heavily rooted in the fact that she can be with her loved ones forever. Something that really touched me was she always referred to her missonaries as her "dragi ucitelji", or "dear teachers", and very seldomly as missionaries. She revered those two missionaries as her dearest teachers more than anything else. They were literally the teachers or instructers that helped her understand for herself how to find peace, hope, and salvation. It made it clear what we really are as missionaries.

Another thing that was amazing about her was the things she had in her apartment. Like I said, she had very little, but what she did have taught me a lot. With virtually no space in her home, the few possessions she had showed who she was. On her shelf were the pictures of her family, friends, and all her church books. On the table next to me were her scriptures, marked and worn. On her doors hung her few dresses that she had. One of the dresses was hanging in a protective bag, and that was her temple dress. On the table, there was also a couple large binders that were full of 400 names of ancestors she has planned on doing or has already done temple work for. She is in angel, man. When we left, I was so uplifted and happy. I don't know if I have ever felt the converting Spirit stronger from the words of another person. I felt like I understood what it might have felt like for Joseph Smith to have spoken with the Angel Moroni. So cool... I love the members here. They are so faithful and all because they know it's true.

One of the people with baptismal dates in Zagreb is a 26 year old guy. I hooked him up with one of my suits, because he felt like he needed one if he was going to be a member. He speaks a little English, and he told the Sisters, "All the brethren have suits. I should have one too." Haha, brethren...

Welp, I better go. Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Keep it real.

November 30th

Hello mother of Elder Dixon aka Claud hoppers! haha

This is Elder Anderson. Elder Dixon today had written you a wonderful email and as he was about to send it the computer went freaky and shut down or something along those lines. Non the less his letter was not sent and he was not able to send you a letter today. He is very busy as a Zones Leader and I told him i would take some time to write you adn let you know you have an AMAZING son. Not only was he my trainer but now i am lucky enough to have him as a Zone leader. He is amazing and definitely someone who not only me but the whole mission looks up to and a great example for us. He is such a great person in general! Sorry you were not able to hear from him this week and you had to hear from me.. yuck! haha

Hope you are all doing fine adn your son is doing good as far as i can see. I dont think he is having mental breakdowns or anything so.. you will hear from him next week tho :) take care

Elder Anderson

December 7th

It's been a great, busy week. And this week will be even greater and busier. We have two exchanges with missionaries from two of the farthest away cities (aka me driving driving cross-country Croat style), our Christmas Zone Conference, Elder Mason has to pack since he bounces in a week from today, and there's going to be a baptizm on Saturday for Toni, the guy I hooked up with a suit. I was asked this week if I would baptize him. So this Saturday, I will be getting into the water with a convert! I'm excited. I've never taught him or anything, I just see him at church and hear about him a lot. It will be great to be a part of his conversion in that way. I'm stoked!

I got to go to Pula on an exchange this week. Man, I love that place. It was so great to sit and talk with Miro, contact people, teach in the church, see the familiar sights, and smell the familiar smells. I saw a few people on the streets that I knew in the short time we were there. It was great. I was with my last companion, so it seemed just normal. I didn't want to go back to Zagreb! Not that I don't love it here. Pula just has 6 months of love on Zagreb.

Last week we had a Zone Leader workshop -- Elder Mason and I -- that went so well. I wish I had more time to tell you about it. We used that big box with the picture of the missionary on it. While we were introducing the workshop, we asked the missionaries to list attributes of a great missionary, which we wrote on the box. When we said the right words, Elder Brown, who was hidden in there (which almost nobody knew about, including President and the assistants) busted through the box, and said "Thanks guys for all the compliments!"

We pointed out the fact that while all the missionaries had been listing the attributes of a spiritual giant and a great missionary, they were really just saying all those things directly to Elder Brown. Simply because that's the way they saw him. We related that to how God sees us. He sees our full potential, and knows our eternal selves. He doesn't see exactly what we see in ourselves when we look in the mirror.

We shared the quote from Joseph B. Worthlin, "Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us�even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will. We [might] see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. . . . The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.”

We then talked more about our potential and what we need to do to reach it. We ended with that money quote from Nelson Mandella that I shared at Bachalaureate way back. I have no idea how to spell that word, btw. Anyway, it went so well. I'll tell you more about it in 8 months.

December 14th

Welp, it has been a very eventfull week. Elder Mason and my trainer, Elder Giberson, left for the mission home on the way to America this morning... Single tear... They are great men. I'll miss them both a lot.

That makes my two MTC companions and me the oldest missionaries in Croatia for the next 8 months. That's kind of an overwhelming thought for me, but I am getting a great companion, so that helps a lot. His name is Elder Matson from Ogden, Utah. He has been out as long as Elder Anderson, the missionary I trained, aka 6 months. So he's pretty young. That still doesn't beat one of the Elders in Serbia, who was made Zone leader at 2 months in the mission. We have a really young mission!

Elder Matson is a great missionary.That reminds me of something crazy that happened this week. So, we had Zone Conference this week. Since it was the Christmas Zone Conference, the Serbian Elders came over to celebrate with us. There are six of them. And I hadn't met any of them. Anyway, Elder Mason and I went and picked them up at the train station, and I got talking to one of the missionaries, Elder Porter. He asked me where I was from, and I said Mesa, Arizona. He then said that his family had lived there for 8 years at one point, and then he asked me if I knew the Clouses. I thought, "Well, there are a lot of Clouses", but I asked him which ones. Then he said "Curtis". I said of course I know the Clouses! Chelsea cut my hair every month! Then I just explained how well our family knows their family and stuff. Apparantly his family is good friends with the Clouses, and they have Thanksgiving together every year or something. It was the most small world experience. We were standing in front of a train station in Zagreb, Croatia, where we met for the first time, but both were friends with the exact same people. Only on a mission...

I got to baptize a convert on Saturday. That was great. It felt good to step in the water of the baptismal font with somebody dressed in white who was prepared to be baptized. We had to do it twice though... I forgot to say his name before saying the prayer the first time! He was completely emersed, and I was stoked, because I wouldn't have to do it twice. But, I was completely oblivious to the fact that I didn't even say his name. So... we did it again, and it was alright. His testimony afterwards was really great. He talked about how he gained a testimony through quiet peace rather than a magnificent sign. He had it all written out. And he was rocking my JC Penney suit... It was so good. It was a pleasure to be a part of his conversion in that small way.

It's snowing in Zagreb. A lot. So, now that I know how to drive stick, the next step is to learn how to do it in the snow. Elder Matson will be able to show me the ropes.

Well, I will miss my man, Elder Mason. He has been a great companion. Offer up a moment of silence for him and Elder Giberson if you ever get the chance... They have both had a very large impact on my mission and who I am. Remember to ask the Lord to bless them in your prayers for what they've done for me. They are real men.

December 21st

It has been a very busy week. Transfers were nuts since we are the Zone Leaders for the whole country. Most of what goes on in the country is on my head and my companion's head, so it's pretty crazy some times. We've spent a lot time in the car. Driving in the snow is not my favorite pass time. I'm excited to be out working more and doing less of the transfer business.

Our investigators are doing well. A member here whose native language is French is going to be going on lessons with us to teach our African investigator, so that he can understand better. That will help SO much and will really help him progress much faster towards baptism. He's been having a hard time understanding the Plan of Salvation because of the language barrier.

We had Zone Leader Council at the mission home in Ljubljana this last week. There were 6 Zone Leaders 2 Assistants and President Hill. That was a great meeting. I was thinking how rare a chance it was to be in a room with such wonderful men. I really felt I was sitting among greatness. Our conversation was so obviously directed towards the needs of our mission. I really love those meetings. President Hill is so inspired. But the great thing is it's not just him. Each of the Zone Leaders and Assistants have been taught and inspired by the Holy Ghost according to the needs of those they have stewardship over. It was just so evident that that was true as we discussed our mission for those few hours at the mission home.

Well, brothers and sisters, I better get going. I hope you all make it a great day. Take care and have a very merry Christmas. Don't forget to leave water out for my boy, Rudolf.

Love you lots!

S Ljubavlju,

Elder Dixon

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leaving Pula?

This may be Ryan’s last week in Pula. He is expecting a transfer to a different location this week. However, he’d love to stay right where he is at. He has grown to really love the place and the people he works with. I’m sure that he will treasure the memories of Pula forever.

The photo below was sent to us by Sister Hill, the wife of Ryan’s mission president. We think it was taken at the mission headquarters in Slovenia, where the missionaries gathered for a zone conference. Ryan’s head is visible just above the girl in the green blouse.

Slovenia/Croatia Mission

Ryan has learned to cook some great food, including banana bread. Here is a photo of his first loaf!

Ryan and Banana Bread

A few excerpts from recent emails are included below:

September 14

Well, it's been a great week here. It's rediculous. I pray almost every day to love people here and have greater love for those I already do love. But then, when I feel my love for them really strongly, it border-line frustrates me, because I know I am going to leave them all sooner or later. It's a paradox of sorts. I guess I should just keep serving them and trying to love them more, because either way it's going to hurt to leave Pula. We're getting 8 new missionaries next transfer, so I am trying to be open to the likely change.

We are still enjoying the fruits of the package... or should I say junk-food haha. I rocked another box of sponge bob macoroni and cheese the other day. PUHHHH!

We had a great Sunday yesterday. 14 people at church, folks! 2 visitors from Germany, 4 members, 2 Pula missionaries, 4 missionaries from Rijeka, and 2 investigators. It was so great. For the sake of time, I'll paste what I wrote to President Hill today. This is a pretty cool story.

We had 14 people at church yesterday! Can you believe that? The best was that there were two investigators there. They were two women who were friends. Elder Anderson and I had met one them on the street a few weeks ago. We stopped her, and after saying a few words about the Book of Mormon, she mentioned that she had already met with ''my boss''. Thinking she was probably confused, I asked for a description of the person who was my supposed ''boss''. She proceeded to list some attributes that described Elder Nelson. I asked her if it was him, and she said yes. Haha, that made me laugh. My boss... She then told us she already had a Book of Mormon but not from Elder Nelson. She said she had purchased it at a store. That, too, was hard to believe, but our conversation eventually came to an end, because she wasn't interested; and we went our separate ways. She saw Elder Anderson and I in old-town Pula a few weeks later and stopped us. She told us she had her Book of Mormon with her! From out of her purse she pulled an old, sky-blue copy of the Book of Mormon with the Angel Moroni on the front. She let us look at it, and we noticed it was in English and that there was a testimony written on the inside of the front cover. As we were reading the words, she clarified what she had said before and told us she had bought the book at a used book store. We looked at the bottom of the page and the testimony was signed ''John Cassinat, Netherlands Amsterdam mission (that's where Amsterdam is right? I remember it was Amsterdam for sure) 1978''. We both immediately thought of our teacher at the MTC, Sister Cassinat. We talked to her for a little bit longer, explained to her a little bit about our curiosity about that book, and actually got her phone number to tell her about it when we found out more. We invited her to church then as well. We e-mailed Sister Cassinet and found out the following week that it was definately her dad that had written his testimony in that copy of the Book of Mormon! We eventually called our investigator to let her know about that with little response on her part. It seemed she still wasn't very interested, and a few more weeks passed. Then, yesterday about fifteen minutes before church started, her and a friend, who we had met when we saw that Book of Mormon for the first time, walked through the doors. I was so happy to see them. With fourteen people there, they got a solid welcome. It was great. It was a wonderful meeting. The sisters from Rijeka spoke as well as President Manley. I don't know if the talks could have been any better. I gave a Sunday School lesson on the Plan of Salvation. It seems like the Lord knew how the meeting was going to be yesterday, full of people, and he planted in their minds that they should come to church. It was great! We have her number, and they are both (especially her friend) interested in taking English Classes from us in two weeks. We're very excited. (End of letter to President).

Welp, I better go. Thanks for the word from back home. It's one of my favorite things to here from yall. Take care. You're in my prayers. Peace out.


Elder Dixon

September 21

It's been another good week in Pula. Probably one of the last I believe. It's not for sure, but we had interviews with President Hill this week, and it's looking more and more like my time is up in Pula. A ton of new missionaries are coming in this transfer, so President has had to let several cats out of the bag in order to let younger missionaries know they will be training next transfer. Elder Brown, who I am with right now, will most likely be training. Elder Anderson, the Elder I trained just last transfer will also be training. It's looking like I'm getting booted out of my own corner of Croatia for a fresh, new missionary. It will be good, but the thought of leaving is less than appealing to me!

We are getting English classes going again in Pula. We'll see how that goes. We have already recieved a lot of phone calls, so I'm predicting a pretty big turnout. We made 5000 flyers, which is the same amount we made in February when 100 people came to sign up. With the additional students that we already have, it should be a pretty serious turn out. I'm really hoping some prepared souls show up this go around so some more great people can be baptized in Pula.

I've been thinking a lot about temples lately. I taught a Sunday School lesson about the Plan of Salvation, and talked about the things we need to do to return back to God's presence and become like Him. We then talked about how everyone needs those blessings, ordinances, and principles to return to our Heavenly Father. We then talked about temples and the restored authority and keys or rights to seal or bind things on earth that are in turn bound in Heaven. I'm really greatful that our family is bound on earth and in heaven by that power. I'm thankful that we have something - each other - to hold onto after this life. It's also great to know that that's available to everybody! I read something by Gordon B. Hinckley today that explained we don't maintain a standard of worthiness to enter the temple because we want to keep people. Rather, the opposite is true. We want everyone to experience the blessings of the temple, but they need to be prepared to do so. He said this about going to the temple, '' But all of this would appear to be unfair indeed if the blessings of these ordinances were available only to those who are now members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The fact is that the opportunity to come into the temple and partake of its blessings is open to all who will accept the gospel and be baptized into the Church. For this reason, the Church carries forward an extensive missionary program in much of the world and will continue to expand this program as widely as possible, for it has the responsibility, under divine revelation, to teach the gospel to “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people”. That’s one of the great reasons I’m on a mission - to invite people to accept and enjoy the blessings that pour from attending and participating in what’s offered at the temple.

Welp, I love you guys a lot. Thanks for the great e-mails. I better go, but take care.

Lots of love,

Elder Dixon

September 28

Haha, so Elder Brown and I went to Rijeka for district meeting reciently. We are doing that once a month now. On the bus, they usually play music. I recognized one of the songs that was playing, so I listened harder, only to find out it was the song ''Aisha'' from the youtube video! Haha, I laughed. Unfortunately, Elder Brown didn't know what it was. I had no idea that was a real song. This song was a different version, but had the same words and tune and everything. Probably the original. I thought of Eric haha. Remember this part at the beginning? ''Pffffffffffffff...'' Haha.

Man, I love Sunday meetings in Pula, Croatia. Elder Brown and I have invested a lot of effort into preparing talks and lessons for church and also working on the language. It really paid off this Sunday. I talked along with Elder Brown, and I also gave the Sunday school lesson. We had two missionaries, two members, and two visitors there. I gave a talk and based my remarks on two talks, ''My words... Never Cease'' by Jeffrey R. Holland and ''Profile of a Prophet'', the BYU Devotional Dad introduced me to by Hugh B. Brown. I was able to say everything I wanted to say in Croatian and it went so smoothly. In Sunday School my lesson was on Prophets. I was inspired by Hugh B. Brown's talk, and made a more abbreviated ''profile of a prophet''. I list five roles or responsiblities of prophets, and made a chart to see how diferent prophets fulfilled those roles and responsibilities. The 5 points were:

1. They reveal the will of God to mankind and make known His character.
2. They boldly denounce sin and correct wrongs.
3. They are preachers of righteousness.
4. When necessary, they will prophecy of forthtell future events for the benefit and blessing of God's children.
5. They tesify boldly of Jesus Christ and teach his gospel.

I put those five roles and responsibilities on one axis of the chart, and on the other I wrote ''Old Testament Prophets'', ''Jesus Christ'', ''Joseph Smith'', and ''Thomas S. Monson'', and we looked up each of their words from scriptures and conference addresses to see how they each fulfilled their roles as prophets of God. In introducing who Joseph Smith was, I got to explain his experience and what we believe concerning the restoration of the Lord's church to the visitors who were there. The feeling there was calm and powerful as we discussed and read words from these ''teachers come from God''. One of those visitors was a member's sister who is not a member of the Church and is from Subotica, Serbia, a city where there used to be but are no longer missionaries. By the end of church, it was so natural to ask her for her contact information, because it seems virtually anybody from any walk of life would want to learn more about the good news we shared that day. We gave her number to the Zone leaders last night, and the missionaries from a different city in Serbia should be able to contact her in the near future.

Well, I think that's all folks. I better bounce. I hope you all have a great week. Take care. Thanks for the emails. Sorry I cant always reply to everyone. I really appreciate the communication though. You are great. Peace out!


Elder Dixon

October 5

Welp, last Monday was a great day to say the least. In the afternoon, we went over to a member's house to watch a documentary that was made about the missionaries in Zagreb. Her sister from Serbia was there, the one who had come to church last week. She whispered to me that her sister wanted to be baptized. We had a chance to talk to that sister later, and she confirmed it. We told her we were very happy for her (biggest understatement of all time) and asked her if she had any questions. She asked why we this church is called what it is, because of the ''of latter-day saints'' part. We answered that, then she had other questions that could be answered by the Plan of Salvation. We proceeded to teach her the whole Plan of Salvation. It was a really good meeting. We got additional contact information from her, and the missionaries in Serbia will teach her, hopefully. It's early on, but I feel good about it and I was so happy. I think I could have run a complete marathon on just happiness-energy. So great.

I love Conference. We watched the two morning sessions at Miro's on his computer, in his living room. I loved President Monson's talk during the Sunday Morning session. I felt like God's will for us was well expressed through President Monson. Selfless service is really central in our religion. I thought the last verse in James 1 after watching that session of conference. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." I love the simple fact that these messengers, servants, and teachers we just heard from are prophets called of God are on the earth.

I love Pula. President Hill told me in my first interview that he had to tear people away from their areas at transfers. That's the truth. That's how it was with Osijek, and that's how it will be again if I leave Pula. Even more so. I'm tempted to say, "I'll kill somebody if I leave Pula," haha, but that's probably not true. I don't want to leave, but I will go wherever... We'll probably find out by next Monday. Just cross your fingers that I’ll stay here one more transfer. K? K.

Welp, we'll see you later. Take care!


Elder Dixon

Monday, September 7, 2009

Serving and Teaching in Pula

Elder Dixon continues to have great experiences in Pula, Croatia, as he and Elder Brown lead the little flock of seven members of the Church.  What an adventure it must be, out on the frontiers of the Church!

We don’t have photos of Elder Brown yet, but you can see from this photo of Elders Anderson and Dixon, that they know how to have a good time!


Here are some excerpts from the last two emails we received …

September 1

I’ve been teaching sunday school a lot.  I love it.  Last Sunday we talked about faith.  I love that principle of the gospel.  You can gain greater understanding of it until the day you die, and it makes for a solid Sunday School discussion.  I realized towards the end of that lesson what a reverence I have for the Prophet Joseph Smith.  We don't worship him.  He's not God or a Savior.  But he sacrificed so much to enable us to have Heavenly Father's gospel of happiness and salvation.  Joseph Smith taught a principle about faith I have never really though of before.  When someone asks what the results of faith are, I would answer "miracles, answers to prayers, hope, good actions, etc."  Those things are still true, but a quote from him shed some light on other things that faith enables.  I read this quote from him in the Gospel Principles book:

"When faith comes it brings apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All these appear when faith appears on the earth, and disappear when it disappears from the earth; for these are the effects of faith. And he who possesses it will, through it, obtain all necessary knowledge and wisdom, until he shall know God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has sent whom to know is eternal life. Amen"

After I read that at church I thought about Joseph's simple faith brought about the fullness of the gospel -- complete with apostles, prophets, etc.  I proceeded to share my testimony of the reality of his call as a prophet, and I felt a deeper reverence and appreciation for him than I have felt maybe in my whole life. 

So, every Friday, we do service at a Down Syndrome center.  We never work with the kids, but do odd jobs around the facility.  The past three weeks there have been great.  We have had to clear out this space completely overgrown with weeds.  Lots of these weeds were taller than me and had trunks pretty much -- the redwoods of weeds with serious root systems.  The area was probably 10 feet by 40 feet, and they just sicked us on it to clear it out.  I miss that kind of work so bad.  It felt so good to do that type of physical work in jeans and a t-shirt...  It reminded me of work before I came out.  It's the best time in the world to think.  Toward the end of our third day I got thinking about repentance.  Elder Brown and I had worked really hard on that for our last three visits and we finally got to the back of the area we had to clear out.  There was a huge pile of debris we had cut down or uprooted and thrown out.  But I was so unsatisfied at the end!  We had torn down all the big stuff and pulled up what we could, but the ground was just covered with weeds and infested with roots.  We had a couple really old rakes, a dull pick, and a couple shovels.  I remember almost completely exausting myself to pull out some roots only to find out there were others growing right next to it and others spread all throughout the 400 square foot area.  There was no way we could clear it out or clean it on our own.  I thought about our mistakes or sins, big and small, are like weeds, big and small.  Inevitably, they come up, because we are human.  We all make mistakes.  Alone, we can do a lot.  We can break bad habits, through a lot of garbage out of our lives, uproot a lot of things that choke us.  But, we can't completely remove all of the guilt, break away from the effects of sin, eliminate the distancing from God, or feel the needed forgiveness -- at least on our own.  We have to come to Christ in faith by living his gospel.  Then Christ, the master gardener, can supply us with the proper tools and actually cleanse us.  Our weeds can be removed and roots taken up, and be given a fresh plot of soil.  Im so thankful for repentance and the sacrament that gives us an opportunity for a weekly maintenance. 

Welp, I love you.  Take care.  Peace out!


Elder Dixon


September 7

Welp, it's been a good week in Pula.  Yesterday was Fast Sunday, of course, which I enjoy in Croatia.  It's always kindof intense presiding over a testimony meeting when you don't know what is going to be preached over the pulpit, but in Pula, it's not too much of a concern.  A german couple came to church yesterday.  They were just on vacation.  It was great to have them come and share their testimonies.  It was really good for the German couple who are here for six months.  We had Sister Sundermann translate from German to Croatian, and so, for the first time in forever, Brother Sundermann could understand what was being said in Sacrament Meeting.  Haha, poor brother, he never understands anything, but he still comes faithfully.  Haha.  She also bore her testimony in German without translation, since half of the congregation spoke German anyway!  It was a good meeting. 

By the way, I am now a master chef...  Since Elder Brown and I got together, we have made some of the greatest meals...  This last week, we made sweet and sour meat balls (not as good as Moms, but delicious nonetheless), enchiladas, and broccoli soup.  Probably the 3 best meals of my mish.  Thanks to the Slovenia/Croatia cookbook, Elder Brown and I are eating like kings.  Actually, the credit goes to Elder Anderson's mom for the S and S meatball recipe.  We eat those every Thursday...  We also made Banana Bread from a recipe we got from Sister Pettersson.  We took a loaf to Miro and Nataia, and they loved it.  Cooking is great.  I can't say I'm a good cook, but I can follow a recipe like a champ. 

We taught an 82 year old the other day.  We tracted into her, and taught her the first lesson about the restoration of the gospel.  We have a return appointment on Tuesday.  We were talking about prophets, and, in looking back on that lesson, I realized I said something so funny.  I said something to the effect, "We have a living prophet named Thomas Monson, and he's about your age".  At the time it didn't seem so weird, but, looking back it makes me laugh.  My companion says that maybe it made her feel good.  I hope so.  Haha, we'll so how it goes with her.  She was so nice.

Welp, I love the mission.  I'm learning a lot.  I'm working hard.  I love you guys.  Take care.  Keep it real!


Elder Dixon 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Loving Life in Pula

One of the choice experiences in our recent vacation trip to Utah was meeting Brother and Sister Pettersson, who served as missionaries with Ryan in Pula before recently returning home.  What a delight to discuss the work in Croatia and get a better sense of the experience Ryan is having there.  The Petterssons are wonderful people who did much good in their service to the great people in Croatia. 

with Petterssons

Ryan continues to have great experiences in Pula.  He recently got a new companion, Elder Brown, who arrived in Croatia about four months ago.  Ryan is serving as first counselor in the Rijeka branch presidency and leader of the Pula group, which is technically a part of the Rijeka branch, although Rijeka is located about 100 km away.  Ryan is to focus on leading the group in Pula and training the one priesthood holder in Pula to be a leader in the Church.  What an awesome opportunity and challenge!

Ryan and his companion also continue to do a lot of contacting work and teaching a few investigators … planting seeds that will undoubtedly mature and grow as the work in Croatia moves forward.

Here are a few excerpts from Ryan’s recent emails:

July 13

Elder Anderson and I have seen some pretty hilarious stuff this week.  There are some great moments on the mission, haha.  I’m kind of debating weather or not to share the following story, but I think I’m going to go for it.  Feel free to edit it before you send it to the whole world, haha.  Just try not to throw up when you read this one.  So, in Pula there is this one guy who walks around town who, mentally, is not all there.  But, he’s a nice guy and doesn’t cause any trouble.  But he just walks around town and greets people very loudly.  Sometimes he’ll just walk into the library we are in right now and yell, “Zdravo!” which just means hello.  So, we call him Zdravo, because we don’t know his name.  He’s a funny guy and everyone knows who he is.  The Mesa equivalent would probably be that guy they call Dizzy on Main Street.  As a side note, he’s a big guy, probably like 350 pounds.  The other day, Elder Anderson and I were on our way to our apartment for dinner and we saw Zdravo strolling across the street from our apartment about 30 to 50 feet ahead of us.  I pointed to him and was like, “Hey, that’s Zdravo.”  About 10 seconds later, Zdravo began to do the unexpected - he started pulling down his pants!  We were shocked to say the least, and before we knew it, his navy blue shorts were hanging at his knees as he was going #2 in the street!  It was very brief - just like ten seconds, and he pulled up his pants without a single wipe, and went on his way.  There were about 5 spectators, and the funny thing was that it didn’t seem to faze anybody too bad, haha.  Except one guy kind of shook his head and laughed. Haha, I’ll e-mail the picture of the evidence left behind.  You’ll see that its not so normal looking.  He must have been hurting pretty bad before he let it go!  Hahaha, I’m sorry that’s so gross.  I don’t think I could have NOT shared that though.  Haha.  Laterrrrrr!

Steve Redd was in Pula this week.  I got a call from him on Saturday morning.  He was like “This is your cousin Steve in Pula, Croatia”.  I was so surprised.  He’s studying in Austria and him and some friends came down for a trip.  We tried to arrange to meet up, but it couldn’t happen.  He had to leave pretty soon.  But we were so close to each other.  He said he was going to the Colluseum probably during the time we were at church.  Our church is like 100 yards away from the Colluseum.  It was nice to here the voice of a blood relative.  He’s the man.

Welp, I love the mission.  I wonder if I will be able to duplicate the happiness when I get home.  Probably not!  I’m loving it.  Welp, I got to go.  Hope you are all doing well.  Peace out!


Elder Dixon


July 20

Welp, once again, this week flew by, and I’m a little frustrated with how fast time is going by.  There’s just not enough time!  Things are going well here, though.  Pula never ceases to be great.

So, the Petterssons are gone, aka 2 less people at church, aka it feels like half the congregation is missing.  Not only that, it puts a lot more of the responsibilities on the missionaries.  On Sunday, I conducted, passed the Sacrament, directed the music (accompanied by a CD), gave a talk, taught Sunday school, and translated.  Haha, ironically, it was one of my favorite Sundays of my whole mission.  For the first time on my mission, I didn’t write out every word of my talk in Croatian.  I just made an outline with scriptures, main points, quotes, experiences, and testimony and went up and talked.  My Croatian wasn’t perfect and the talk wasn’t flawless, but I could just tell the Spirit had a lot more room to do its job - to direct and teach.  It was a good experience for me.

After that I taught a Sunday School lesson about missionary work.  I love to teach members, especially new ones, the simple truths of the gospel.  I was thinking of the good old “Did you know?” books the other day.  The ones that were each about a different Bible story.  I remember each start out with “Did you know?” followed by some simple, true statement about the Bible story.  It would say something like, “Did you know that Jonah was swallowed by a whale?” or “Did you know an angel protected David from lions?”  I love having the chance to do that with Miro when talking about missionary work.  I can say, “Miro, did you know the gospel is going to fill the whole earth?  Did you know that someday everyone will hear the gospel in his own language, just like you did?  Did you know that there are people in Pula prepared to hear the gospel, just like you?”  I love to talk about and teach these simple truths. 

In other news, it has taken me a year, but I am officially sporting a part in my hair.  I just figured it was about time.  I like it.

I forgot to tell you, but we found 45 potato bugs in one night in our apartment a couple weeks ago.  That is pretty unprecedented.  Usually we find one or two here and there, but that was a special day I guess.  We told our land lady person and she called the bug man.  Haha, nasty, huh.  I promise the apartment is not nearly as nasty as you are thinking it is right now.

Well, I love you guys.  Hope you are doing well.  Much love from the Croatian coast.  Take care!

S ljubavlju,

Elder Dixon


July 27

The big news of the week was that I have been called to be 1st counselor in the RIJEKA branch presidency.  Miro has been called to be the 2nd counselor.  I’m staying in Pula though.  Pula is a part of the Rijeka Branch technically, so that's why it works out.  Miro and I will lead the branch here together.  They pretty much gave me 2 main responsibilities: 1. Carry out responsibilities of President slash Elder Manley when he is not present in Pula.  (The Manleys are in Rijeka now) 2. Help train Miro to be a leader in the church.  I feel like I don't have much more experience leading in the church than Miro, but I've been lucky to grow up in the good old Lyn Rae among some great leaders.  Hopefully I can just follow the example of all the greats back at home and Miro and I can work together to help the people in Pula.

Welp, I love you guys.  Take care.  We'll see you later.


Elder Dixon


August 3

Welp, July 30 officially marks the one year mark for being on a mission.  The only word that I feel can accurately describe how I really feel about that is "laterrrrrrr!".  Not really, nevertheless  i CANNOT believe that it has been one year.  That is out of control.  There is absolutely no time. 

I wanted to be funny and give you a full physical status update � as far as how tall I am, how much I weigh and stuff, but we don�t really have the resources.  I�m pretty much the same though, so it doesn�t really matter.  Still about 6 feet tall, probably a tiny bit heavier.  My Walt Disney pencil stache is growing in thicker and thicker everyday it seems, but still only minor signs of growth on the side of my face.  Acne is still a part of my life.  I currently am sporting an underground zit near my chin that is about the same size as and feels about as good as a badly sprained ankle.  Anyway, I�m just picturing somebody who is not a member of our family reading this and feel an urgency to stop writing about this right now. 

It's been a great week here.  We have been doing a lot of tracting and contacting.  We keep finding a lot of people and sifting through them, because they fall out of interest.  We've met some really great people.  We are just working and hoping for the prepared to grasp on.  Our "bird investigator" is still meeting with us.  I love that guy.  I feel really good about him as far as eventually accepting the gospel, too.  He hasn't been to church yet, and we're working to help him get to that point.  He keeps reading the Book of Mormon.  Pray for him!  A weird observation is that he actually looks a lot like our brother Eric, Eric Dixon, that is.  Picture Eric wearing his glasses, with even darker hair, Italian-tan skin, and a 3 day beard - that is approximately our investigator.  He is great. 

Miro and I had our first Branch Presidency meeting.  It was great.  I�m liking being able to work with Miro in this way.  We just talked about a few small things like who's going to talk in church and stuff, and then we talked about the welfare of the members in Pula.  He asked what our role was in our new callings.  I thought about it, and I didn�t have the perfect answer, but the scripture in Mosiah 18 from when Alma is describing to the people the requirements for baptism came to my mind.  We read verses 8 and 9 about being willing to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need to comfort and stand as witnesses of God at all times.  As we read about selfless service, I felt like he and I understood our roles as leaders in the church a little bit better.  Leadership in the church requires us to take the role of a servant. 

Welp, I better go.  You are the best.  We'll see ya later!  Peace out.


Elder Dixon


August 10

Welp, transfers have gone down once again, and once again the transfer has flone by way too fast.  I was fully expecting to stay with Elder Anderson another transfer, but he's going to Zagreb, while I stay in Pula with another companion coming down from a city called Varadin, named Elder Brown.  He's been out four months, and he's from somewhere in Utah.  The morning of transfer calls, Elder Anderson and I were doing a companionship pondering session on who we thought would go where.  Somewhere in our conversation, I said, "I'd like to work with Elder Brown."  And then... I got the call that night.  Elder Brown is quiet, humble guy.  I love people like him, and I can't wait to work with him in Pula.  I came to here at four months in the country, so we will be able to relate.  This is my third companion in Pula. 

Our mission is so incredibly young right now.  At the end of this transfer, my group will be the 2nd oldest group of missionaries in the mission.  After that next one, we will be the oldest for 8 months before we go home.  To add fuel to that fire, 8 new elders are coming in next transfer (that's a lot.  my group of 3 is normal size).  There will be either 6 or 7 cities open at that time, so pretty much every city will train plus more.  I told Elder Anderson he would probably be training at four months in the country.  That's kind of nerve racking for anyone to hear, so he said something like, "No, you and Elder Babcock and somebody else are going to train."  I said, "You're probably right, and so will you, and so will 4 other people."  Haha, it's crazy.  New missionaries are going to be training new missionaries.  We are very young, it's kind of cool and very intense. 

I love what the mission has done for me.  It's done so much for me personally.  My testimony has been so fortified.  I know this is our Father's work.  I've learned quite a bit about life.  I'm hoping it can do something more for my friends here in Pula.  In the meantime, I do feel very blessed to have this experience. 

Well, I better go.  Hope you all have a good day.  Peace out.


Elder Dixon


August 17

Welp, it seems like I was only with Elder Anderson for a couple weeks, but it was a whole transfer, I guess.  That's nuts.   Now, I am with Elder Brown.  He is from Wellsville, Utah, near Logan.  He lived in Brigham for a long time as well.  He's sweet.  He, like me, came down to Pula with four months in the country under his belt, so I have empathy for the brother.  Things are going well.  The language just gets better and better.  I can say I love this language.  It's great.

With transfers and stuff, it was hard to get a lot done this week, but we are looking forward to hitting it hard this week.  As far as investigators and members and stuff, it's all pretty much the same.  Miro never disappoints and is so strong.  I love hearing what he has to say about the gospel.  He just gets it. 

We had a couple cool experiences with tourists lately.  Some people from Holland -- I think it was Holland -- stopped us and asked in English "Are you enjoying your stay?"   Haha, we said yes and asked if they were members of the LDS church.  They said no, but they had friends that were.  We got talking, and after some time the topic of discussion was family history work.  The husband asked if the Salt Lake Temple was a place where they stored family records.  We explained that the church has some of the biggest family history centers in the world, but they are separate from the temples.  But then we went on to explain the purpose of temples, that we believe family relationships can last now and after this life, and that temples are where that can be made possible.  We explained that baptism is an ordance, and similarly, theres an ordinance done in the temple that makes it possible to be sealed with our families.  We gave them some information about how to find some family-history information and hooked them up with a pamphlet.  It was really cool.  Families... that's really what it's all about. 

We also had a really good discussion with a lady whose a Croat but lives in Atlanta.  Shes going back in a couple weeks.  She expressed that she had regrets in the past about mistakes she had made, but was living a better life now.  I shared with her what I felt about the power of repentance and how to repent.  I mentioned how great it was that we can be simply and completely clean.  I love that we can repent and be forgiven and feel the effects, for reals.  We got her information and will be in contact with her. 

Welp, I better go.  You guys are the bomb.  Take care.  TTYL.


Elder Dixon


August 24

It's been a pretty great week here in Pula.  Time flying continues to be an issue, but things are going well, heh.

Yesterday was a great Sunday.  Two members of the Church came from Zagreb, because they were visiting Pula for the weekend.  One was baptized 17 years ago when he was 15 years old and the other was baptized 15 years ago around the same age.  It was so cool to have them with us.  I was giving the Sunday school lesson on obedience.  It was so great to have their contributions to the lesson.  They have so much experience that we lack here in Pula.  It's so great to see teaching going on Croat-to-Croat.  They invited us to there weekend-home for lunch, and we talked about the church and missionary work and other random topics.  Faithful members in Croatia are real-deal pioneers.  It was so cool to see people with the same testimony, knowledge, and sense of unity that is found with every faithful member of the church. 

Also, yesterday, I conducted my first interview as a leader in the church!  I'll tell you what, that experience really motivated me to live close to the Holy Ghost.  That meeting wouldn't have worked out if it were any other way.  But, the Lord helped us out, and I think we both left the room edified.  Also, I'm so impressed with the members here and how faithful they are with such limited support.  I've grown to love the people here.  If I get transfered any time soon, I will probably punch a whole in a wall... JK, but really, I can't leave Pula.  I love it.

Things are going well with my companion.  I see a lot of me in him.  We are similar people, and I came to Pula at four months in Croatia just like him.  I know where the brother is at, so it's nice to work with him in that sense.

We found a couple cool investigators whose lives can be very blessed and serious questions answered from accepting the gospel and hear the message of the Plan of Salvation.  I'll keep you updated on future progress...

Welp, our members are doing good, but still keep them in your prayers!  The church needs to grow and these members need to endure and progress to the end.  Theirs a lot of opposition in these parts against those two goals, so please know your prayers are appreciated and felt in Pula!

Welp, I better peace out.  I love you all.  Take care!!


Elder Dixon

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Catching Up

Please accept my apology for not posting to this blog for three months.  Ryan continues to have great experiences in the work of the Lord in Pula, Croatia.  He and his companion, Elder Anderson, from Cardston, Alberta, Canada, are the only missionaries in Pula, since the missionary couple, the Petterssons, returned home to Utah. Elder Dixon and Elder Anderson, who just recently arrived from the MTC, lead the little group of seven members of the Church in Pula as they continue in their efforts to build a branch of the Church in that city.

Ryan is really enjoying his work.  In his words, "I am happier than I have ever been on the mission aka in my whole life."   He certainly looks happy in following photo of Ryan and fellow missionaries looking out the window in an old building.  We received the photo yesterday from Sister Hill, the mission president's wife. 


Here are a few excerpts from recent emails we received from Elder Dixon:

May 18th

Welp, we just got back from a P-day adventure.  We went to a really old castle called Dvigrad, hiked through this beautiful canyon in search of some caves that we didn't find, and went to a town called Motovun that's on top of a hill where there's a really pretty view of villages and viniards.  I had a 'Croatia' moment while we were in the car.  We drove past rolling hills with scattered groups of trees and small villages in between while everything was in bloom.  All of that was under a blue sky, and it was beautiful.  I thought about how rare a chance it was to be where serving and having the calling I have.  I'm in a beautiful place and serve among some wonderful people.  I wish you all could see beautiful Croatia and meet the members and missionaries here.  It all combines to make a pretty quality experience!

Were teaching some new people.  We are teaching another drunk-type guy.  We will see if he is as humble and awesome as Mario, and will give all of it up!  We also have an English student that is going to come with us to District Conference on Sunday.  We have never taught him personal lessons, but he has been to almost every spiritual thought since I have been here.  We just announced to everyone at our spiritual thought that an apostle was going to be coming, and he said he wanted to come!  He's a big stud, and would make an awesome member. Keep him in your prayers.  We would love for him to take the lessons from us and be baptized.

May 25th

This weekend was District Conference.  It was so awesome.  It was also tiring.  We woke up at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday to get to a meeting in Zagreb on time.  We had meetings and contacting throughout that day.  Then, in the evening, we took a bus to Karlovac, a city about 45 mins out of the 'Greb, to sleep there over night.  We woke up at 4:30 the next day to get to a bus to Zagreb.  That evening, after all was said and done,  The Pettersons drove us to Rijeka, where Elder Nelson had to go to the doctor the next day (today) for his eye.  At 10ish we got on a 2 hour bus to Pula.  It's p-day, so we got home, and we both crashed and took naps, and now we're back on track. 

It was all worth it though.  Those were some of the coolest meetings ever. Saturday morning was a meeting with Elder Christofferson and just the missionaries.  That was so sweet.  President and Sister Hill talked to us, along with Elder Wondra from the area 70, as well as Elder Christofferson's wife.  Then Elder Christofferson addressed us.  He just opened it up to questions.  He is truely a remarkably good man.  I was amazed by how calm and good he was.  We each got to shake his hand.  It was pretty amazing to look into an Apostle's eyes.  He just has a goodness and a purity about him that you would expect from an Apostle.  In every way he fits the mold you of an apostle.  In response to all of the questions he recieved, he simply would turn to the scriptures and teach the pure doctrine.  There was no opinion mixed in with it.  It was simple the doctrine, nothing more, nothing less, and the Spirit was strong.  I've grown to really love him.  He is the man.

So, I went to the restroom during lunch, and immediately following me was Elder Christofferson...  I decided to use the stall instead of the urinal in order to avoid any apostalic awkwardness, but when I got out he was combing his hair in the mirror.  So I went to wash my hands, and we were standing next to one another, just he and I, and he said, "Did you survive the meal?"  I kind of laughed and said, "Yes, I did. Thanks for all you've said.  It's been a good weekend."  He said, "Your welcome.  Yes it has."  We said bye or something, and he left.  Haha, I never thought I would have personal one-on-one contact with an apostle in a bathroom in Zagreb, Croatia!

June 1st

Elder Nelson and I have been really blessed to make contact with a lot of people.  We've been getting a lot of numbers from people and have had several chances to teach.  We're struggling to find people who really want to read the Book of Mormon or progress in any way, though.  Peoples' non/committal tendencies can be pretty frustrating, but I know there are some exceptions out there ready to hear the gospel.  I've felt lately a greater need to prepare myself to be able to teach the people who are prepared when we come in contact.  I need to be the missionary the Lord can depend on to teach his receptive children.  The more ready I am, the more willing the Lord is going to be to bless us with prepared souls to teach and baptize. 

Yesterday, Elder Nelson and I were walking down a sidewalk by the harbor contacting.  We noticed a couple kids across the street pointing to us and talking to their parents.  Elder Nelson was like, "Dude, those are Mormons".   Haha, sure enough, about 6 people crossed the street, and when they were about 20 feet in front of us, the dad said in English, "We are members from Italy!"  We got talking to them, and they live in Milan and were in Pula on vacation.  I asked them if they knew Elder Toronto.  They didn't, but they knew the story of their ancestor that converted.  They were checking out the Croatian on our name tags and Book of Mormons and thought it was so cool.  When they were leaving, they all wanted to shake our hands and stuff.  I got that missionary-hero feeling when I shook the kids' hands, haha.  That was pretty sweet.  It's not every day you run into an LDS family on the streets of Pula!  It was tight. 

June 8th

Every companionship is training in our zone, save the zone leaders only.  So, I guess this makes me the first trainer in Pula, training the first greenie to ever come to Pula.  Btw, his name is Elder Anderson from Calgary, Canada.  Pretty cool, eh??  Pray for the brother.  And more for me…

I’m pretty nervous x 10097342439074397607.  My language skills are weaker than I would like, and I still have the junior companion slash greenie feel going on.  I’m going to have to step it up, be a little better, rely on the Lord a little more, etc.  I really want him to see some real success and have a blast.  I didn’t find or teach very many people during my first four months, and I don’t want that to be the case for him.  I really want to help him hit the ground running.  It’s pretty out of control, because the Petterssons are going to be leaving in a month, and after they leave, there isn’t supposed to be a senior couple coming here from what I know.  Therefore, it will just be Elder Anderson, myself, and 7 members in Pula.

June 15th

I'm very impressed with Elder Anderson. He knows so much more Croatian than I did coming out of the MTC.  In fact, he puts my greenie speaking skills to complete shame.  He's going to own the Croatian language.  He looks a lot like Brian Garner, Ed's friend, especially when he's smiling.  He's from Cardsten, Canada.  He is a stud.  It's been pretty sweet so far.  He's already taught his first lesson, blessed the sacrament, given a talk, prayed at meetings, and contacted people on the street.  We are planning to get up early from here on out to study the language, so that we can hit the ground running.  I have a feeling this is going to be a sweet transfer. 

I was pretty nervous coming into this transfer, but it's going good.  I've experienced a boost in my ability to understand and speak.  So much that I think that Elder Anderson is under the false misconception that I'm fluent in the language, haha...  Hopefully I can keep him in ignorance...  :)   JK.

June 23rd

The greatest experience happened the other day.  We were on our way home, and at the rate we were going, we were going to get home 5 or 10 minutes early.  So, we decided to take a longer route and talk to a couple more people.  We stopped a young guy -- 20s -- and began talking about the Book of Mormon.  He was a cool guy but didn't seem really interested at first.  I was holding out a copy of the Book of Mormon as we were explaining a little about it.  After a minute or 2 of talking, I felt something fall on the book.  We all heard something so we looked down, and a bird had dropped a gift directly onto the Book of Mormon.  (You can use your imagination and take a guess at what type of gift it may have been... haha.)  That guy -- looked up and said, "That's just your luck."  After that, I said, "I think that means you need to read this book."  We laughed about that, and after a minute or so, we got his number and we gave him a pamphlet.   I guess that gift was a gift from the heavens, because since then, we have met, and he is currently in the process of reading the Book of Mormon.  Haha, the Lord works in mysterious ways... I think if that bird didn't come to lighten up the mood a little, he wouldn't have given us his number.

We had interviews with President today.  He is the best.  I love interviews with him.  He's so directed to understand our needs.  I appreciate the man.  I wish you all could know President Hill.

To answer Mom's question, Pula is its own district.  After the Petterssons leave, it will be just Elder Anderson and me.  I'm kind of excited. It will be pretty cool to just go at Pula, just me and Elder Anderson. 

June 29th

Things are going great with Elder Anderson.  He is the man.  I've never enjoyed missionary work as much as I am right now.  We are so busy!  I have know idea where time is going.  It seems like weekly planning shows up about every 48 hours.  The thought that I have been out almost a year blows my mind slash freaks me out.  It just makes me want to work harder! 

Elder Anderson and I officially walked home our first drunk the other night.  It was funny and sad all in one.  He was eighty-ish.  I felt he was a little old for that stuff. 

We are teaching the guy we contacted when the bird pooped on the Book of Mormon.  He is such a cool guy - one of the coolest people I have met in Croatia.  He just gets it.  He's been a pleasure to teach.  We are only a couple lessons in plus seeing each other on the street, but I feel good about him.  He's reading the Book of Mormon right now like a champ and is committed to pray about it before Wednesday.  Pray that he'll get an answer.  He's the man. 

So, Elder Anderson and I were living off of noodles, gouda cheese, chicken seasoning, milk, and corn flakes last week because we were out of dough for the month.  We were really puzzled as to why we ran out of money so early.  So, we were planning to finish off the last 5 days of the month with the same noodles and cheese with seasoning on top, haha.  In desperation, I looked where I usually keep my food money, and behold - 400 kuna aka about 80 bucks.  We were so happy, man.  We went shopping and now we are eating like kings, because we scraped by for like a week, haha.  Funny huh!

July 6th

Things have been going really well here.  Our investigators are progressing more and more, and we are continuing to find people.  We're very blessed, Elder Anderson and I.  I am happier than I have ever been on the mission aka in my whole life.  There's not enough hours in the day and we're pretty busy, but I love it.  I hope we get busier and busier.  I love this work.  I love the gospel.  Life's great out here. 

The "bird poop investigator" is doing good. ... He's really great.  Such a cool guy with great questions.  He's probably our most progressing investigator.  Keep him in your prayers.  On a side note, he also follows American baseball which is uncommon here.  He likes to update me when the Diamondbacks win.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beautiful Pula

Ryan continues to serve in Pula, Croatia, a beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea.  We don't have any personal photos to show you, but liked the following coastline scene from a travel website.  We understand that Pula is a favorite tourist spot for visitors from many parts of Europe.

It sounds like the English classes Elders Dixon and Nelson are teaching are enabling them to meet new people and develop strong friendships.  They hope that this will lead to opportunities to teach people the gospel.

A few excerpts from Ryan's last email:

Subject: Ciao Ciao

Dear Family,

Things are going well in Pula.  Last Friday, we had Cowboy Night for our English students.  It was an awesome activity. Probably the most awesome activity I have been involved with on my mission.  Easily the greatest part was the cowboy dance that Elder Nelson taught to them all.  When we decided we were going to do a cowboy night, Elder Nelson decided he would teach everyone a country dance he learned when he was in elementary school.  So, virtually everyone that came (which was about 40 people) learned the "slappin' leather" dance from good old Elder Nelson.  Haha, it was so funny.  Elder Nelson and I got cowboy shirts...  We had a cupcake eating contest, bobbing for apples, hamburgers, and other stuff.  It was sweet.  The coolest part was a time when like five english students ganged up on me and started asking all kinds of questions about the church.  I got to testify a little and tell them more about what it was about, and I invited them to church.  There's some sweet people that we want to start teaching, so we'll so how that goes. 

So we went to some underground caves in Slovenia the other day.  Easily the coolest thing I've ever seen on a p-day.  They were beautiful.  And huge.  As a rule, we weren't aloud to take pictures. I went up to our tour guide and asked if we could take video of the cave with our cameras.  Haha, she then proceeded to give like a two minute speach about how they allow it but don't recommend it, because people might get the idea they can take pictures -- and the flash was damaging to the living species and the nature, etc.  So, I said okay, and since she said it was OKAY to take video, I was going to.  I went to take a video, but it was on the wrong setting, and I took a picture that flashed in the direction of the tour guide from like 5 feet away.  Haha, she was kind of frustrated, and I felt like Hades.  I appologized right after and looked pretty stupid, but the best part is that Elder Nelson happened to get the whole thing on video!  We sit down and watch that and just laugh.  Haha, it was so funny.

So lately, I've been increasingly grateful for the way the Lord builds up good men and women in this life. Looking back, much of the growth in my life has come as a result of being surrounded by good men and the teachings of good men and women who love the Lord and live His gospel. The prophets and Christlike examples from the Book of Mormon and the other standard works have guided me in my decision making throughout my life; and the examples of good men and women that have surrounded me, like Mom and Pops, church leaders, and companions like Elder Nelson, have inspired me to repent, change, improve, and grow. I am growing more and more thankful for the goodness in people as I realize what it has done for me, and consequently, enabled me to be somewhat of an influence for good here right now.  I love you peeps.  Thanks for your goodness!

Welp, I better peace out.  TTYL.  I love you!!


Elder Dixon

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time is Flying in Croatia

Elder Dixon reported this week that he is amazed at how quickly time is going by in Croatia.

The following photo is a sunrise over Pula, where Ryan is now stationed.

Sunrise in Pula, Croatia

Some excerpts from Ryan's last email:

Subject: I said a boom chick a boom!!!


Haha, Elder Nelson randomly started chanting the "I said a boom chick a boom" today and it made me laugh. I forget where he learned it, but it made me think of Shawn McKay at the classic Lyn Rae ward party! Such good times in the Lyn Rae hahaha...

Welp, it seems like this week didn't happen. I can't believe it's monday again and that transfers happen again in 3 weeks. I've almost been in Pula for six weeks. Croatia for 6 months... ish... Laterrrrr! is all I have to say about that! We had Zone Conference this week. It felt so low key for some reason. I think it's because five missionaries left last transfer from Croatia and we haven't got any back yet. We were a small group. It was an amazing conference though. President is called of God. K? K. He's truly directed to direct us. Inspired to inspire us. I love him.

I also really loved the workshop the Assistants to the President gave us. One of the assistants compared missionary work to sports. He said his coach in high school said to practice with your hands, but play with your heart and your mind. He talked about how in Volley ball, you would practice passing, hitting, and returning (and stuff) from every possible position on the court. That way, during a game, those actions were just muscle memory. He could think about and put his heart into the game, because everything else was simply automatic. He didn't have to worry about the mechanics. It's the same thing in missionary work slash life in general, I think. The scriptures teach us to treasure up knowledge. As missionaries, we practice teaching and speaking in our language. That way, our limitations are... limited, and the Spirit has more room to guide, teach, and befriend the taught. It's such a sweet principle that's so applicable to missionary work.

Last night, we taught our most active members slash couple about temple work. That's a sweet branch of missionary work... Preparing members to enter the temple. I love the temple. I would advise anybody preparing to go on a mission to go to the temple every possible day after he/she gets his/her call... I treasure my times in the Mesa, AZ temple. It's helped me to better understand why I'm here and the goal for the investigators we teach. But, we showed them my pedigree chart, and explained that I was sealed to all those people and more. We explained that when they go to Frankfurt, they can do those ordinances for their parents and beyond. They were touched by that. Isn't that so sweet?? They can literally invite their parents to live in the presence of God and with them forever. I also randomly remembered that Brother Boren had ancestors in Slovenia and went there to do family history work. Nataia is a Slovene, so I told her that. It was cool. Haha, small world.

Welp Ive got to go! Thank you for everything. I'm really happy out here. Thanks for the mail. Take care!!


Elder Dixon