Preston’s farewell address to the Thunderbird Hills Ward was held on Mother’s day, May 15, 2013. The following is his talk. It was held with his friend Connor Meikle (Chicago Spanish Mission) Because of the two farewells and Mother's Day, there were over 400 in attendance.Connor (soon to be Elder Meikle) and I have been good friends for a really long time. (Probably since we were about 6 years old.) We even work together. I think it is appropriate that we are giving talks the same day in preparation for our missions. We tease and torment each other a lot. He has teased me about the cold in Slovakia and advises me to avoid snowballs and frostbite. And I remind him to avoid mosquitos and bullets in Chicago. The places where we will serve are very different. The city of Chicago has more inhabitants than the entire country of Slovakia. We will be teaching in different languages. But there are similarities. We will both be preaching the same gospel of Jesus Christ to our father in Heaven’s children in their native tongues.
The mission to which I have been called is one of the smallest missions in the world in terms of numbers of missionaries. It contains 2 countries, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, and 2 distinct languages, Czech and Slovak. The country to which I have been called is the Slovak Republic. There are only about 20 missionaries in the entire country. The Slovak language is considered one of the most difficult for English speakers at the MTC. My dad says he doesn’t know whether to pray that I be given the gift of tongues so that I can speak Slovak, or to pray that the entire country of Slovakia receive the gift of tongues so they can understand me. In spite of the small number of missionaries, there are many things that are happening there that are exciting and lead me to believe that there are great things in store for the future. Although there have been sister missionary’s in the country for some time, they have learned Czech in the MTC and only sporadically spent time in Slovakia. Only beginning this year have sisters studied the Slovak language in the MTC thereby being called to work exclusively in Slovakia. There are new areas being opened up in Slovakia that have either never had missionary’s or have not had them since before WW2. And the Book of Mormon has only recently been translated and published in Slovak.
I would like to relate what one missionary wrote about the mission conference when the mission president announced its release to the missionaries in February of this year. The mission had been summoned to a conference in the city of Brno, a city close to the border of the 2 country’s. I note that the mission had a preproduction copy of the book of Mormon in Slovak but it had not been published or released to the Missionaries or the Slovak people.
|President started his training about the
scriptures and the importance of the Book of Mormon. It fit in perfectly
since more of us should be studying the Book of Mormon daily in studies. What
happened next is something I'll never forget.
President called up two elders - Elder Bird who is a Czech elder and Elder Meridith who is a Slovak elder. He handed Elder Bird the Czech copy and gave Elder Meridith the spiral bound rough draft copy we had in the mission home. He asked Elder Bird to read Moroni's promise in Czech. He did. Then he had Elder Meridith read Moroni's promise in Slovak. Elder Meridith began reading and then President interrupted and said "Hold on!" He then pulled out from behind the podium a thin blue Book of Mormon.
After he finished reading President bore the sweetest testimony through his tears. I've never seen him get so choked up. He said in all his years of church service he had never seen the adversary work so hard against something as he did against the publication of the Slovak Book of Mormon. He then proceeded to relate to us how everything that could have possible gone wrong had gone wrong. I could hardly believe how much opposition there was. But President wouldn't give up. He did all in his power to get at least 20 copies of the Book of Mormon to Brno - one for each missionary in the Slovak mission- and he did!
As we stood to sing the mission song, there was hardly a dry eye. We sang:
"The seeds are sown, the field is white
in Czech and Slovak tongue
come join the harvest of men’s souls
until God's work is done.
We are called of God to a land once cold.
Bringing forth His wondrous light
And with us, the Lord labors here!"
The tears just rolled down my cheeks. The seeds are sown in Czech and truly now in Slovak tongue. How grateful I am that finally we have the Book of Mormon in Slovak. How grateful I am to be a part of this magnificent work. After the closing prayer the Slovak missionaries lined up and President handed each of us our own copy of the Book of Mormon.
Today is Mother’s day and I think it is appropriate that I say a couple of things about my Mother and what she means to me. My mom has always been my biggest supporter. Those who might have tried to take advantage of me or bully me as I have grown up, probably thought twice about it because they would have to deal with my mom. My dad may look mean, but my mom bites. (not really) My mom is the hardest worker I know. And I know that to her the most important people in the world is our family.
My Mother’s grandmother’s family came to America from Slovakia just a couple of generations ago. My mom has tried to do genealogy over the past several years but has been hampered by lack of information coming from behind the iron curtain and her inability to understand Slovak. So on this Mother’s day, I want to make my mother some promises. I promise you that as I go to the land of our ancestors and relatives, not only will I try to get information related to our genealogy in the way of cemetery markers, church records and government information, I will speak proudly of my Slovak heritage to those with whom I come into contact. I will purposely seek out our relatives in the tiny towns where they came from. I will try to develop a relationship with them, forge a bond between them and family in America, and to attempt to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ.Now, as I say goodbye to family and friends and concentrate over the next two years of serving the good people of Slovakia, I know that I go with the best wishes of this ward, my family and friends. I know that I will have trials and heartache, as I miss my home, friends and the members of this ward. However because of adversity, I will return home a more mature young man, with a deeper understanding of God’s plan for me, as well as a firm testimony, and a love for the land of my ancestors. I hope to represent my family, the church, this ward and myself with dignity as I convey God’s love to our father in heaven’s children in Central and Eastern Europe. I welcome your support in the way of letters and prayers in my behalf over the next twenty five months.
My grandfather always used to say “Fight the good fight” I have only recently begun to understand that this means that doing the right thing can be a struggle. So to each of you I say: Goodbye, “fight the good fight” stay the course. And keep the faith. Please pray for me. Pray for an Arizona boy to keep warm. in the northern mountains of eastern Europe. Pray for me to be able to learn a difficult language. Pray that the people of Slovakia will allow me in their homes. Pray that a couple of dozen missionaries can make a difference in a country with only a couple of hundred members of the church. Pray for missionaries all over the world and to have a missionary experience of your own.
And although the chances are remote, I hope to see one or more of the youth of this ward or senior couples, as missionaries, in the Czech Slovak Mission. And lastly I hope Connor waits for me to return so we can give our mission reports together too.
In the holy name of Jesus Christ Amen.