Monday, November 30, 2015

Week #20--November 30, 2015

Wow! So much happened this week and I have a very short time to write. 

First off, Lisa got baptized. I haven't heard much about that yet, but when I find out more I'll send home about it. 
Second, Elder Jones went home (honorably, full 2 years was up) this morning. I want to apologize, because I think I came across a little too negative. I truly love Elder Jones, and he truly loved me. We taught well together and had a lot of great times. He taught me many important lessons, and one thing no one could take away from him is his love for those he served. He truly was concerned for their well being, and was truly concerned for me. He made sure I was taken care of and he had my back. I will miss him dearly. 

Now as for transfers? I'M WITH ELDER GOLDEN AGAIN! I'm freaking stoked. Out of the 180 missionaries, I got put with my MTC companion. We've already set up plans of all the work we're going to put in because we're both pretty green still and pretty fiery. I'm sure that big things will come from our companionship. 

Next, Thanksgiving. It was super cool. There's a really awesome family (The Lehndorfer's) who fed us breakfast, and will be facilitating our phone calls on Christmas. Then we immediately went over to the King's and spent the rest of the day with them playing board games and eating food. It was a blast of a day! I felt a very strange type of homesickness. It wasn't the kind where I wanted to pack up and go home, quite the opposite. I knew I needed to be there with them. I just... Missed my family. It was weird to have Thanksgiving dinner somewhere that wasn't home. But it was awesome! But it felt weird. 

And then to cap it all off: The baptism! Wow wow wow. What a cool experience. Elder Smith Topham Jones and I were at the church at 6:45 that morning setting up for the baptism at 10 (a youth baptism) and then stayed for the King's baptism at 2 and finished setting it all up. It was a brutally exhausting day, but it was such a cool experience to see them all baptized! The Priesthood has been restored!

Then when Elder Jones went down the hill yesterday afternoon and a few other days this week (with his temple trip and final interview with President and what-not) I was with the Zone-Leaders in the Tongan ward. They love me so much. The zone leaders made me sing for the first house and then news spread and every house after that knew who I was and made me sing. Then they made me sing at the ward party... Yeah. I got my fix of music this last week. They're super awesome. I love all the people I've met so much. 

Elder Smith and Elder Topham's area closed, so they're gone, and Elder Russell didn't get transferred so I won't get to see him until after the mission. That makes me sad, but it's okay. That's part of a mission! 

Sunday (yesterday) Elder Jones and I talked in church after the confirmations. It was funny, because there were 2 other speakers before me and Elder Jones, and a musical number, and the confirmation, and the sacrament... And by the time it got to me it was only 9:30, so we had 40 minutes to fill. I covered 30 of that, haha. I'll send my talk home, but don't feel obligated to read it. 

That's pretty much it. I'll count the talk as my spiritual thought, because I have no time. But I love you all and miss you! 

Church is true!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Week #18--November 16, 2015

This week, he didn't send a mass email, but here are the highlights from the letter he sent me (mom).

It's great to hear from you! Things are going great here in the big VVA zone. (Victorville A) 

And Elder Smith and Elder Topham are just in the district... But because they live a ways off and use our house for laundry they have spent the night at our apartment quite a bit to save miles on their car (because missionaries only have a certain amount of miles they're allowed to use)

Dad sent me his talk and I loved it! Both of you guys are such great speakers and great examples to me in the way you speak with the spirit. 

Since Elder Jones is going home, I'm getting a bit of "inheritance"... probably more than I want, but haha it's cool. With that he's given me some highlighters and colored lead for mechanical pencils to mark up scriptures. So that's kind of him. Also! The Elder gave me what might be my new favorite thing. He got a ukulele his first transfer while in a samoan ward and has had it signed by every companion he's ever had. I've had quite a bit of fun playing it this transfer in our spare time (Because we're not allowed to bike after dark and it gets dark around 7, which leaves like 2 hours of free time each night). 

Welp, I love you all and miss you!

You're the best!
Church is true! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Week #17--November 9.2015

Another week has passed, and I'm already 1/6 of the way done! Crazy how the time flies!
Not a ton happening this week worth sharing. Cynthia and her daughters are still on track to be baptized and although she's still coping with her loss they're all doing awesome!
A woman named April (maybe I already said this) moved up here from Arizona and was about to get baptized down there so hopefully we can meet with her and move towards a baptismal date sometime in December. 
It's getting a little chillier, which is nice. MUCH better than the 100 degree stuff that I was dealing with in Rancho, haha. Usually the weather sits anywhere between 50-70 degrees. So for the natives, that's big coat weather while for me... Yeah... I'm still biking in short-sleeves, because this isn't cold at all for me. Either that, or maybe I'm just storing the cold air inside me somewhere so I can ration it out during next summer (Because science). 

The ward is shrinking like crazy, and it's quite a poor ward which makes for a different dynamic. We only have about 65 active members every week... Which I guess just means we need to baptize everyone we can! 

Today for lunch we ate at Apollo Burger (which is amazing, and if you ever go through California, you've got to stop to eat there. Much burger, very wow) and I had a cool spiritual boost. There was a homeless man sitting next to us who sat down with his food and began to pray over his food. Not vocally, and not with a big motion to make it obvious, in fact I'm pretty sure I was probably the only one who noticed his prayer, but it was fervent. You could see it in his face. It's rare enough to see people pray like that in public, especially a loud burger place, so it was cool and I couldn't help but take a few more glances. The man even got a bit emotional as he prayed, for a solid 5 minutes or so, before finishing, looking up and then eating his food. Elder Smith and I talked to him for a bit and it was amazing how grateful he was for the Lord. He kept saying "The Lord gives me exactly what I need. With the Lord, I never want." This blew me away! This man had been living on the streets for 6 years and all he could talk about was how the Lord kept on providing for him. 

Apparently about a year before, he was outback and saw that someone had tipped the giant trash can over so he went to clean it up. A man drove up and said "Get out of here ya bum!" and the man told him he wasn't going to leave until he'd done his good deed of service for the day. So he finished cleaning up the mess. The man was shocked, thinking he was stealing cans or something only to find out he was cleaning up. The man was also the owner and offered him a free meal whenever he wanted to come and do the jobs the other employees didn't want to do like clean the toilets or take out the trash.

That's a little off topic, but I thought it was a really cool story. The point I was getting at is that it showed me how ungrateful I am. I have so many more luxuries than this guy and yet how much thanks do I show to my Father in Heaven? How fervent are my prayers? Usually not nearly as much so as this man! His love for God was so incredible. It truly impacted me.

I have a few other stories, but I don't want to write you all anymore than I already have, but the message I want to close with is that the Church is true. I know it. I love my Heavenly Father a lot and I have so much room to improve. We all do. But we have the knowledge of the fullness of Christ's Gospel, and that will be what brings the most joy in our lives. 

I love you all so much. I'm so grateful for all of your support. 
Church is true!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Week #16--November 3, 2015

Hello all! Crazy monday, which is why this is coming out a day late. P-day was... Yeah. Something else. 

This week we've been working alongside a Recent Convert named Donald. The guy is a champ. And his family. They sacrifice literally everything for the missionaries. They are so loving and kind and missionary minded, so even though they don't make much money they feed us often, come out and work with us often and they're just awesome! Especially Donald. He's such a good example to me of being focused on that which matters most. He has had a really rough life, but he will testify of the mighty change that the gospel has wrought in it.
We've also been working with Cynthia and her family. They're super solid and their baptismal date is set for the last week in the transfer (Nov 29) so we're very excited!
As for the crazy monday: We have become really good friends with our District Leader and his companion: Elder Smith and Elder Topham. Elder Topham came out with me and is super tight with Elder Jones, and Elder Smith is the district leader, is a bit older, but is into all sorts of nerdy things so him and I are really tight. 
Then P-day rolls around and the Zone Leaders want to go on a hike in Barstow. The hike was decent, not great, so we made it more interesting by going our own trail. This resulted in many dumb decisions, some near death experiences on cliff sides and getting stuck for a bit. Luckily we all made it out safely and went to In N Out for lunch. We were going to drive back up with Elders Smith and Topham, but the car was having issues so we were stranded in Barstow for a few hours. Yippee. 
Finally got back later that night, but the rain was so bad that the Elder's had to stay the night because they still didn't trust the car. Very adventurous day, and none can deny that fact!
Now for a really cool experience. This one is a very special experience and I would ask that you not share this, because I don't want it to end up in the wrong places.  
Cynthia and her daughters have been super interested for the past 2 months and super excited to get baptized. Her husband was on board and we were looking at setting a date with him as well. 
Unfortunately, out of nowhere, he left her. We know now that it's for good, but there was a long time where we weren't sure. With no real family or close friends nearby she turned to us.
Rarely have I felt so inadequate in my life. I'm an 18 year old kid with little to no life experience and here is this person who I care about in the absolute depths of misery. How am I supposed to comfort her? The whole houses demeanor was dark and gloomy. It was a very difficult thing to experience as she expressed her sorrow to us. 
It was then that Elder Jones offered to give them all a Priesthood Blessing. It was a little awkward at first, because they didn't know what it was. So we explained how it worked and what it was and they agreed, sort of hesitantly. Elder Jones was asked to speak and we gave the blessing. It's difficult to describe the change that took place in the room. Neither Elder Jones or I can remember a single word that was said during the blessing, but it was very powerful. The wording was simple (And he himself will tell you that he's just an uneducated farm boy, and not very eloquent) but it didn't need to be complex. It was beautiful because the words didn't dilute, block out or disrupt the spirit that was there. 
After the blessing was given, she asked something that will always stick with me. "How long is he staying?" We were taken aback, at first so she rephrased "How long is this feeling or person, whatever it is going to stay?" We were able to testify of the power of the Holy Ghost, the power of the Priesthood and the presence of God in her trials at this time. It was an incredibly special experience. She informed us that she knew now that this was just a tool of Satan to keep her from getting baptized, but that it wasn't going to work. She said even if her legs broke she'd have someone carry her into that water. 
How cool is that?
I have such a strong testimony of the divine nature of the Priesthood, and that God's authority has been restored to the earth. I love this gospel so much, and having the opportunity to share it has shaped me in so many ways. I love and miss you all. 
Church is true!