Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Week #75--December 27, 2016

Well Merry Christmas! 

Christmas was good. Phone call home was nice. We found 3 new investigators from tracting on Christmas night, which was an awesome blessing. Life is just good! Loving life.

Paul is still doing really well. He's super hyped on the church which is awesome. We're working on bringing him to some lessons. 

Also his neice made me a German Chocolate Cake for christmas and it was literally perfect. I just about started crying right there in their living room. Totally from scratch, totally heavenly. 

Also, I need to remind you that wickedness never was happiness. Trying to find joy in sin is contrary to the nature of God. I know that probably seems a little harsh, but I promise it's because I love you all so much! And sometimes we need that reminder. Everyone makes mistakes, and it IS true that God will always love us, but we must also remember that God doesn't tolerate sin. And he always wants us to improve. We often times see God as the perfect Cheerleader, because he's always there for us and always cheering us on. Even when we're down 70 to nothing a cheerleader will still cheer us and tell us how great we are.

In many ways that is true, but while listening to a talk by Hank Smith, he pointed out that perhaps it would be more accurate to describe God as a Coach. A perfect Coach. It's true, he's always on our side, but he is far more concerned with our progression than he is with our personal comfort, and therefore is going to push us. He's going to make us uncomfortable to make us better. And it doesn't matter how much a coach loves his players, an interception is an interception. A fumble is a fumble. A penalty is a penalty. When we sin we open our selves up to injury, regret, guilt, and punishments beyond our own comprehension. 

That is why God pushes so heavily for Obedience. He does not ask for our Obedience IN SPITE of loving us, rarther he asks for obedience BECAUSE he loves us. Neal A Maxell once said "Consecration [The act of conforming our will to God's] is the only surrender that is also a victory."

Well, I love you all! Church is true!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Week #74--December 19, 2016

Hello! Happy Hanukkah everybody! Hope you have great plans involving Menorah's and other fun holiday festivities!

This week was a lot of fun! 

We have some pretty funny stories, but IDK if I can remember them all. One took place with our investigator Robert. He's awesome. He's only like 70-80% crazy, which is about 20-30% less crazy than the average Barstow resident. 

During our lesson we asked why it was important to read the Book of Mormon and he said "So I can learn the mormon way! Like stocking up on canned goods in the garage." we had no idea where that came from, so we started to suppress laughter and he pointed at me and said "BROWN KNOWS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!" I honestly didn't, but that's besides the point. 

We also helped him dig a mine shaft in his back yard this week


You read that right. 

A mine shaft. 

He asked us to come help with some yard work, so we showed up and he directed us to this area where some trees had created a little shack, and it kind of looked like the entrance to a mine shaft. So he wants to dig a ten foot hole with stairs. 

Just for fun. 

This is the same investigator who when we were watching the Restoration movie in the quiet of his home and feeling the spirit asked OUT OF NOWHERE "You guys ever seen eggs in a basket?" to which we said "Yes" and he just went back to watching the movie. 

I love barstow. 

Spiritual moment: Paul got baptized! That was a super cool experience. He has a lot of members in his extended family and they all came down for it. Also last week he went up to Utah for his nephews farewell and his family took him to temple square for his first time and Paul told us he just couldn't describe how strongly he felt the spirit there. 
Then right after the confirmation when he was shaking hands and hugging everyone, when he got to me we hugged so hard that it made a resounding clap sound throughout the chapel and an old lady said "that was loud" and everyone laughed.
We also found 3 new investigators this week! One of them was a guy named Omar who is at a low point and wants to turn his life around. His mother in law is a member, so he was accepting and then he came to church and really enjoyed it! So that was super cool.

Also, to shift focus on the investigators who have a date (now that Paul is baptized) Edmund is a 13 year old in a PM family who comes super consistently and due to some complications was waiting for his mom to get baptized, but asked if he could baptized sooner. So he's on date for January 14th! Then we have Granny Barbara, a 78 year old Black Lady who really wants to get baptized on January 21st and Robert (mine shaft guy) is planning on getting baptized January 28th! So if all goes well, that'll be three baptisms 3 weeks in a row! It'll feel like Santa Fe all over again. 

Well, as a spiritual Thought I've been reading from President Kimball and he talks about how our thoughts play a significant role in who we become. He quotes the scripture from Proverbs "For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he". He then quotes James Allen:

"A man does not come to the almshouse or the jail by the tyranny of fate or circumstance, but by the pathway of grovelling thoughts and base desires. Nor does a pure-minded man fall suddenly into crime by stress of mere external force; the criminal thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart, and the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power. Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself. No such conditions can exist as descending into vice and its attendant sufferings apart from vicious inclinations, or ascending into virtue and its pure happiness without the continued cultivation of virtuous aspirations, and man, therefore, as the lord and master of his thoughts is the maker of himself, the shaper and author of environment...

Let a man radically alter his thoughts and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life. Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit and habit solidifies into circumstance... He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. Columbus cherished a vision of another world, and he discovered it; Copernicus fostered the vision of a multiplicity of worlds and a wider universe, and he revealed it; Buddha beheld the vision of a spiritual world of stainless beauty and perfect peace, and he entered into it."

I don't know if there's too much more to be said, but aim high! Don't allow poor thoughts to enter into your mind. Your mind is like an empty lot (as President Packer once said). If you leave it maintained, slowly trash and garbage will pile up until it's a junkyard. so do any necessary cleaning out right now and hang signs that say "No Dumping" and "No trespassing" and keep your thoughts clean and aspirations high!

I love you all! Church is true!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Week #73--December 5, 2016

Good morning America!

Real quick, I have to share a pretty funny quote. Last night we were planning Paul's baptism and his nephews and neices and siblings were all there and contributing ideas, and Paul was starting to get impatient because everyone was talking over him and stuff was getting rowdy and finally after a little bit of that, one of his nieces asked "Uncle! What are we going to do after the baptism?" And he turned and said so impatiently "WE'RE GOING TO COME HOME AND PLAY SKIPBO! WHAT ODO YOU THINK WE'RE GONNA DO?" And he was serious! The dude loves skipbo! I lost it. I was laughing so hard. It probably wasn't even that funny, but seeing this large Samoan man get so serious about skipbo... It was classic. 

So on that note, Paul is getting baptized in 2 weeks! So we're very excited about that. His family is also very excited. There's just lots of excitement. Just so dang excited!

Elder Prestwich got SUPER sick, so that was rough. R.I.P. Misionary work for a few days, haha. Happens to the best of us though. 

We had a big multi faith christmas program at the church... It was really nice... and then a very baptist choir performed and things got pretty irreverent. The had a drum set and a key board and were performing very loudly and people were jumping up and down.... yeah... A little strange. I would've been a lot cooler with it, had it been anywhere but the chapel haha. But it was fun other than that! We sang in a community choir... And let's just say it was no OHS chamber choir!

Not gonna lie, there were some pretty discouraging moments this week. Not so much with the work, just kind of frustrating things... Hard to explain. But I learn more and more each week that a mission is really hard. I know I keep saying that, haha, but it's because it's true! I wish I would've realized just how hard it would be, just how lonely I would feel at times, just how exhausting/tedious/frustrating it would be, so that maybe I would've been a little more prepared. 

That being said, I don't think anyone can be FULLY prepared for what the mission has to throw at you, but a strong testimony and a readiness to work hard definitely helps. 

But amidst those trials, we listened to a talk in the car called 'Healing=Courage+Action+Grace' that left a really big impact on me. 
Here's just one of the many quotes that stuck with me:

"As we consider the key components for healing, let us remember that, in the end, healing is a gift from our Savior that will likely require effort and suffering on our part so that we can grow and develop through our struggles. The gift is often the refinement we experience in the process.

Let me give you one example from one of my heroes. When the relatively young Nelson Mandela first entered prison, he was described by his peers as too “emotional” (meaning he lacked self-control), “passionate” (meaning he had a temper), and “quickly stung” (easily offended), but when he left prison twenty-seven years later, the words he would use to describe himself were “balanced,” “measured,” and “controlled.” 7 As Richard Stengel noted in his excellent book on lessons learned from Mandela, “Nelson Mandela had many teachers in his life, but the greatest of them all was prison.”8 When he was pestered about how prison had changed him, Mandela simply said, “I came out mature.” 9

Was prison a healing experience for Mandela? It depends on how you describe healing. As described in Elder Oaks’ words, Mandela developed in prison the strength, understanding, and patience necessary to bear the burdens that were placed on him. What were those burdens? In the midst of decades of violent and hate-filled conflict, Mandela left prison to lead two groups into the miraculously peaceful development of a democracy, preventing the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives in a bloody civil war. Is that healing? I would say yes. Mandela’s personal healing fostered nationwide healing. His life is an example of how courage, action, and grace lead to healing."

So for those of us who are experiencing our own prisons, please remember that healing is sometimes painful. It's different than being cured. It requires a process. The process of overcoming oneself is not always fun, but always worth it. As we allow our will to be swallowed up in the will of the Father, we come to realize that (As Elder Maxwell once put it) Consecration is the only surrender that is also a victory. 

I love you all so much! Church is true!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Week #72--November 28, 2016

Hey! This week was great! 

Thanksgiving can be rough, and I thought it would be tougher leading up to it, but it was surprisingly good! Mostly, I don't remember much because we had 4 thanksgiving dinners, and the first one was really good but I don't remember the rest of the day #FoodComa. 

Paul is still excited to get baptized! We're really pumped for him as well. 

Also, I'd be perfectly fine to stay in Barstow for the rest of my mission. It's a little unlikely, because that'd be 7 transfers/10 months but it could happen!!

Also, our Sacrament meeting on sunday was packed with people from Utah, haha. We had 3 BYU athletes and a member of the seventy all passing through on their way back to Utah, haha. But I guess when the Bishop excused the Aaronic Priesthood to sit with their families after the sacrament, everyone else thought they had the aaronic priesthood and got up and left! 

I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving! 
Church is true!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Week #71--November 21, 2016

Okay! Hold up. Life is so good. Barstow is the best
Also, fun fact. I bought some shoes here this week. 
So I guess you could say
I got my kicks
on route 66

Nah, but for reals this week has been one of the best. Ever. 

I'll just start with the coolest story. So Paul? (For those of you who have been following, he's the Super cool Samoan investigator that got on date.) We had a lesson with him on Friday. To kind of give some background to the story, he set the date mid January but we were all skeptical as to wether or not he'd be able to make it. He kept refusing to pray and come to church, so there was this un-seeable wall that was preventing him from progressing any further. 

So for the lesson we just dropped the question. "What is keeping you from coming to church?"
He skirted around the actual concern for a little bit, but after some discussion he came out with the actual concern, which was that he didn't want to fail. He didn't want to fall short of what was expected and break these commandments and when he went to church he wanted it to be the first day of the rest of his life.  He didn't want to come short. 

We've tried addressing this concern before, and have talked about how Church is a hospital for those who are struggling, not a museum for people to show off their good works before men. We've talked about how we go into the waters of baptism dirty, and come out clean, we don't go in clean. We've tried talking about all of that before, but it's never hit home. But this time, we sat in silence for a while, and then the spirit kicked in on overdrive. I can honestly say it was one the most spiritual moments on the mission. I think in part because both Elder Prestwich and I needed to hear it just as much as Paul did. 

We explained how, when it comes down to it, there's three reasons we make mistakes. Ignorance, Rebellion and Weakness. Obviously, for those who know of the gospel and the commandments, ignorance falls by the way side and becomes irrelevant. So that leaves rebellion and weakness. When God speaks of unrepented rebellion, it is not good. It just flat out is not good. But when he speaks of Mercy, it is always with mercy, and love and compassion. We shared the well known Ether 12:27 'And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.' and explained that while there are multiple differences between rebellion and weakness, one of the most important is our humility. If we are trapped by 'the sin which doth so easily beset us' and feel overwhelmed by the multiple mistakes we make, we must remember not to confuse our rebellion with weakness. If we remain humble and teachable then God not only CAN work with us, but God WILL work with us. 

Now President Uchtdorf reminds us that "Some suppose that humility is about beating ourselves up. Humility does not mean convincing ourselves that we are worthless, meaningless, or of little value. Nor does it mean denying or withholding the talents God has given us. We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves. It comes as we go about our work with an attitude of serving God and our fellowman."

So, if you feel like Paul, that you will never live up to the standards the church has set, that is okay. To rebel is of the devil, but remember that weakness is of God. As Neal A. Maxwell put it: "Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .

. . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .

. . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. "

The love and Grace of God is sufficient for you. Don't ever forget that you are enough! I don't mean that you WILL be enough when you grow up a bit more. I don't mean you COULD be enough if you were more obedient. I mean you ARE enough. You're exactly what God needs right now. Keep improving and working to become, but find encouragement in the knowledge that you're doing well.
Well, sorry this was so long. But I love you all!
Church is true!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Week #70--November 14, 2016

Hope you all had a good week. Just want to point out that scriptural prophecy was fulfilled this week: "For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth..." (D&C 29:13). Haha, funny stuff. (Don't take that as having a view, because for the next 8 months, I honestly don't have much of an opinion. Just funny wording.)

This week was really good. I can't really make a summary of our good lessons, because we had a lot of good lessons! We were super blessed! We taught 19 lessons, and had so many names on our progress record that we had to staple 2 together for ward council! That's a first for me, so we were very grateful that we were able to see so many people. 

That being said, due to lack of commitment we have to drop quite a few of them, but that's okay! The one's we are working with are doing great! 

Also Paul Paopao set a date for baptism! January 21st! His family (who are members) are all really excited and were very pumped to talk to Elder Prestiwch and me at the ward party on Saturday. 

Also a woman named Sally set a date, and she's been investigating for about 2 years, so if that happens a lot of missionaries will be very happy!

Also, we had a super cool experience! We saw some teenagers skateboarding in the church parking lot as we were driving away. This bothered me, because... Well... I don't know why! But my first instinct was to tell them to leave... But I decided to try doing it in a nicer way. So Elder Prestwich and I parked and walked out and starting contacting them and then offered to give them a church tour. 2 were super bugged by it and wanted to leave, but one got super excited because he had a friend that was mormon who had brought him to mutual one time. We did a church tour and used the art work to explain our beliefs. The final picture was a big one of the first vision, where we recited the first vision. The spirit was SO STRONG! It was incredible. Right then and there, Aaron (the one who was open from the beginning) agreed to start coming to church and taking the lessons.  

That was an awesome experience!

So all in all, it's been a great week!

Kind of a short spiritual thought, is just that god is the author of peace! also, I was informed that 'Fear Not' appears more times than any other commandment in the whole Bible! I thought that was really interesting and also realized that to 'fear not' is a commandment of God! God casts out all fear, and is the author of peace. No matter where we are or what we're doing, God's life is a peaceful life and he can help us overcome our fears and live in peace. 
Also, an interesting point from Ether 6 that was pointed out to me, is that even though (while the brother of Jared and his Family were crossing the ocean) the winds and waves never ceased, and they were swallowed up in the depths of the sea may times, and trial after trial took place, it was the winds that drove them to the promised land. Still waters don't make great sailors, and motionless boats don't do much sailing! The comforting thing we can take is that those winds "did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind."

So don't give up when the pressure mounts! Take a deep breath and remember that God is God. He's more powerful than anything and he loves you and all of this is for your good. Change and progression are uncomfortable, just like crossing the ocean in those boats was uncomfortable, but it is all worth it in the long run. 
Love you all! Church is true!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Week #69--November 7, 2016


This week was good. We had transfers, but Elder Prestwich and I are staying, and so are the other Barstow Elders and we're exiled from the rest of the mission so that's pretty much the only news that effects us, haha! 

Going into this week, I didn't really expect it to be as hard as it was, but it was still good! I've learned that missions are always hard! They don't get easy as soon as you first 6 months are done, or as soon as you get past your year mark. It's always difficult. You never  REALLY get used to the emotional/spiritual/mental/physical strain that comes from a mission. I think in the book of mormon we talk way too much about the thousands of convert, and not enough time about the times their hearts were depressed, the times they were about to turn back, the times they were bound in chords, spit on, smote upon, beaten, scourged, stoned, etc....Like it's very hard. But it's so worth it. I really do enjoy it. My testimony as grown so strong, it's incredible. Like, the church is so true. I love how much the church has changed me. 

So if you remember E.J., the 13 year old boy who had a ton of good questions and knew his bible really well? Well we saw him and asked him if he had read the book of mormon and he said "No, I'm sorry, I'm only in Mosiah." LIKE WHAT THE HECK????? He thought we were asking if he'd read it all and HE READ ALL THE WAY TO MOSIAH IN ABOUT 4 DAYS LIKE WHAT ON EARTH. He's pretty awesome. His parents gave him permission to investigate, so we'll continue to teach him and even if he doesn't get baptized now, I have no doubt that he'll eventually get baptized, because it's all making sense to him. 

We went to a Ghost town last p-day and that was pretty cool. 

A lot of people have been sick this week, so we weren't able to meet with them, so that was rough. But because of that we were able to find some new investigators! 

There are some.... Interesting situations with a lot of the people we're teaching. I guess that's just the way it is in Barstow. That makes it hard for people to get baptized. Also, pretty much no one down here in married, they just live together and that's pretty much the worst. And they're usually too poor to afford a marriage license so R.I.P. 
As a spiritual thought, I want to share this scripture. (from 3 Nephi 8):
and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.
And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;
And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;
And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.
And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.

When I read this scripture, I thought about how bleak out lives would be without the hope of the gospel. I thought about how bleak the day to day would be. Too many people just let their eyes adjust and live on in this darkness... And often we turn of our flashlights and lamps and allow ourselves to live in the spiritual darkness. 
So turn to Christ and find hope in his Atonement. Because of his sacrifice we have hope for a better tomorrow. We can find hope in being a better person tomorrow than we were today! 

I love you all! Church is true!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Week #68--October 31st

Alrighty, so I suppose I should start by just touching on an event that took place LAST transfer that I neglected to mention. I AM THE CHAMPION of a place called Apollo Burger. They have this huge eating challenge that is super difficult, basically it's an insane burger and a MOUNTAIN of fries and a large drink. Many missionaries have tried and failed. Only 2 people have ever been able to do it and their pictures are up on the wall. 


It was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life, but it happened. So now my picture is up on the wall. THE THIRD IN HISTORY TO COMPLETE THE CHALLENGE!

On to the week: It was awesome! Super busy. We taught more lessons than I have my whole mission, which is 15! While that may seem like a smallish/normal number to those of you in South America, that number is flipping awesome for us in California! So I'm pretty pumped. And we got 4 people on date for baptism!! The work is moving forward brothers and sisters!

We taught Gabriel and Izeta some more. Gabriel especially really opened up and we spent all of one lesson talking about Jesus Christ, is sacrifice and his love for us. It was a really cool experience. 
We also taught Paul Paopao. Not sure what it's going to take for him to come to church and set a date, but he's really getting close. 

No one came to church, so that was a bummer, but it was still a good day, and we were able to get 3 lessons in that evening!

We met and taught a kid named EJ who asked the toughest questions I've heard my whole mission (they were all genuine tho) and he knew his bible so well! He's read it so many times. So he's pumped to read the Book of Mormon and he said. "Oh, I'll read this. And I'll tell you if it's true or not!" 

Hopefully he can get permission from his parents to investigate

Also, can I just say that the Priesthood is cool? I am so grateful that God restored the Priesthood to the earth. It was pretty cool talking to E.J. because he said "The Prophets of old and the prophets in Jesus' time had power to heal the sick and cast out devils... Do your prophets have that power?" And I had the chance to testify "Yes! That same power has been brought back!" I then reminded him that Christ never said "Go to, I have made thee whole." But that he said "Go to, THY faith hath made thee whole." And that while the Priesthood Authority has been restored, the power is conditioned on our Faith. 

That Power is open to any who seek it! We read in Elders Quorum about the talk "Where are the keys?" And it compares the Car to the gospel, but without the keys it was useless. With the Keys, the car could start, the heater would be able to warm the cold bodies of him, his wife and children. I was reminded that it doesn't matter so much who holds the keys, so long as they are there. All the family benefited from the same heater, the same engine and all partook of the blessings of transportation. So it is with the Priesthood. 

So I suppose my invitation to you all is to find a way to access the powers of Heaven more in your life. Partaking worthily of the Sacrament, sincere prayer and studies, temple attendance, and seeking Priesthood Blessings are just a few of the ways you can do that. 

Bottom line, I love you all. God Loves you all and you're all doing better than you think you are. So keep your chin up. The world's not as bad as it seems, as much as the Devil would like to tell you it is. Don't let feelings of guilt, or shame or inadequacy bring you down. 

You guys are the best!
church is true!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Week #67--October 24th

Well it's been another good week here in Barstow! We had quite a few lessons and everything is going really well. 
The best new of this week: The Bailey family came to church! That was super exciting! So it was the mom, her 2 sons (Bobby and Justice) and her Daughter (Layla) and they all loved it and the kids all want to come next week! Bobby is super excited to be baptized! Super fun. I love being a missionary. 

Also, we got a referral from a member to go see this couple named Gabriel and Izeta. May I just say that people here live in really difficult situations? I'm saddened as we drive through Barstow because of how much poverty there is. That being said, I'm lifted because I know that no matter what a person's situation is they can ALWAYS be blessed and find peace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

So Gabriel and Izeta live in a really run down.... house thing. And they don't have any furniture but as we taught the Restoration, it changed their countenance! They had such a desire to leave their past behind and follow God to the fullest. Then Izeta asked the question "What about our family who never heard this message. Will I ever get to see them again? Or are they lost forever?" with tears streaming down her face, and we had the chance to testify of the glorious plan of salvation that all will have an equal chance to dwell with God! The spirit was so strong. We may teach lessons often, but THOSE lessons are the reason I'm on a mission. 

Also, in the war chapters so that's super cool. I get way too into the war chapters. Like, I already know what's going to happen because I've read it so many times but the War chapters get me PUMPED. Moroni is such a beast. #MyHero

Oh, other best thing about this week: It rained like crazy yesterday. I love the smell of rain in the desert!! We just sat in the car for like 10 minutes last night and enjoyed the rain. It was so peaceful to just listen to hymns and hear the rain....

Then we went inside and the flipping power went out. That was an adventure

"Elder Prestwich where'd you go?"

"Elder Brown, it's not that dark."

"I can't see anything! I think there's a monster!"

"Elder Brown I can see you and you can see me. We have flashlights"

"Ow! I think the monster is gonna eat me! I need you to save me!!"

"Elder Brown, that's not a monster, that's the pantry.... Aaaaand he's eating again."

Life is good. 

God is good. 

Church is true!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Week #66--October 17th

Well, it's been another good week. Never a boring day in barstow, that's for sure. This week we almost caught in the middle of a bomb threat, drove over a bridge and there were cops everywhere. But there was no bomb, so we're good. 

Also, we were walking in a less safe area and saw a bunch of people gathered around and found out that a hard core rumble was about to go DOWN. So we sped walked the other way. 

Also a nice jewish guy stopped us on the road and asked us to come help at a food bank he owns. He then proceeded to tell us everything he owns, and the dude literally owns half of barstow. 

We taught quite a few lessons this week. We also found 2 new investigators. Both were going through some hard stuff, so we testified of the healing power of the atonement and that peace can be found in the pages of the book of mormon. I hope they read it and can experience it themselves!

Actually, I did a smidge frustrated this week. WAY too many people here are going through hard times, and our answer is almost always the same. Read the Book of Mormon, Pray and turn it over to God! He's promised you healing and peace and comfort on conditions of your repentance and your obedience. If you do that for just 15 minutes each day, everything will change! 

And they don't do it. And then they complain that we're not able to help, and that god never helps them and that they're mad at God....

Trying to have more Christlike love for them and not get so frustrated. Especially because I know for a fact I do the exact same things. Christ offers me healing and I don't accept it through my actions. Ah, life. 

Anyway, we had an awesome lesson in Elder's Quorum about Commitment. I've been plowing through the Ensigns and I read and article about Commitment by Elder Holland and it all seemed to fit together. There's a major difference between being committed and contributing. It's very good to contribute, but we can't see our contributions as valid evidence of our commitment! 

To illustrate this, a pig and a chicken are walking down the street when they see a sign in a store window "Eggs and Bacon desperately needed!" The chicken turned to the pig and said "I'll give the eggs if you give the bacon!"
Haha, this is a humorous way of showing that while the eggs have worth to the chicken, it would have been a much greater sacrifice for the pig than the chicken. 

We watched the John Tanner story this morning as well, which is a story of a very wealthy man who lived at the time of the Early Saints. He joined the church upon reading the book of mormon side by side with the bible, and began to sacrifice EVERYTHING for the church. He owned stores, hotels, and even an Island and sold it all to travel with the saints across the country. He loaned money to the church to pay for the temple and many other things. It's estimated he was owed 50,000 dollars by the church, but before leaving on a mission he forgave all debts. He literally had nothing to his name. At points he was forced to beg for food, but lived and died a happy man who had truly stored up many treasures in Heaven. 

Now God is not asking that we do what John Tanner did, but he is asking that we're committed. Elder Holland tells of a time he was asked if he would give his life for the church. He said "I am giving my life for the church" He knew what the boy meant. He meant Would Elder Holland Die for the church. But Elder Holland said "That's the easy part". God doesn't want people who will die for the church, he just wants us to see this all through to the end. He wants us to finish what we started. We can rest when we are dead, but for now let us all press on in the glorious work of salvation. 

I love you all so much!

Church is true!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week #65--October 10, 2016

Short one! This week was good. 

Found 4 new investigators. All agreed to be baptized, so lets see if they can keep commitments and follow through!
Barstow is FULL of crazy people. You don't even know, lol. It's kind of sad but also really cool to see such diversity in personalities. 

I got super sick on Thursday. Still no feeling better. Hoping that changes. 

Quick spiritual thought: STAY WITH YOUR COMPANION! I read that in the missionary rules this week and I thought of it's spiritual significance. We all have companions that we need to stay near, even if not physically. Spouses, parents, children. We must be aware of these people and be near them emotionally and we must be on their side! 

The Holy Ghost is another companion that we must stay near, in a much more literal sense. Talk about a companion that can protect you from danger! 

And finally our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Are we standing by them with our actions? 

These companions can act as beacons of hope in our life. Elder Manes once said "You must become the Rock the river cannot wash away." And where will you find most rocks in a river? Near other rocks. Lone rocks can easily be moved and carried away by an increase of speed in the tide, or be human meddling. So stand with your companions that the Lord has blessed you with! Be the kind of companion that people want to stay near! Avoid fault finding in those who the Lord has blessed you with to live around. Find joy in serving your companions, especially your Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. Just as a missionary without his companion feels uncomfortable, scared and alone, so too we will feel as we distance ourselves from those who truly care. 

I love you all! Church is true!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Week #64--October 3, 2016

Today Elder Brown didn't send a mass email, but here is a bit from his letter to me and some pics:

Recap of this week:

Monday: Spent the day in Chino. That was a lot of fun. It was really cool to spend the day with 2 other great missionaries, and we got a long super well and had a good time. 

Tuesday: Picked up Elder Prestwich. Learned a lot of valuable lessons at the trainer meeting. I think my favorite quote was from a missionary with just a few months left (who ad only been out about 4 1/2 months when I came out, but that just goes to show how long I've been on a mission, haha) "If you get comfortable with being uncomfortable then the Lord really can work with you. He can help you." I thought that was a great description of missionary work. And this area has made me uncomfortable, haha. 

Then we made the LONG drive back to Barstow. It actually wasn't too bad, but longer than any drive on my mission so far. We got settled in, I taught him about the Daily planner and we actually live in a super nice Town-home! 2 stories, 2 bedroom, 1 bath and a half, washer and dryer... It's the life! So much better than the SHACK I was living in in Santa Fe, haha. 

Wednesday: First day with the new missionary! Decided to bike. Bad idea. I've spent 14 months on bike and I was not prepared for the excruciating misery that is biking through Barstow. We taught a part member family that afternoon and they have lived in Barstow for YEARS. But essentially it's just a bunch of HUGE hills. So we'll avoid biking and stick to driving/walking. It's nice having a car.

Thursday:  We taught a really cool 13 year old recent convert and her less active dad. They live in a small house in the middle of the desert. They were super cool. But that night we got super lost. SUPER lost. We also set a baptismal date with an investigator couple who were being taught. 

Friday: We spent like 6 hours doing weekly planning we made a big list of formers, organized them by area and made plans to contact them and revisit them. Because everyone is so poor here, and because no one works there's a lot of work to do. But the problem is finding people who are willing to actually commit and follow through. I don't remember who we taught exactly. Had dinner with the senior couple in the ward. (Barstow is divided into 3 sections, but only one ward. So 2 sets of Elders and one senior couple) They're very nice, and serve in the same position that Umma and Poppy served in (building and strengthening the church/ward) so that's cool. They are very nice. 

Saturday: MUCH NEEDED CONFERENCE. Like, holy cow. It was so good. I don't know how to begin talking about it, but there were for sure a few cool miracles and prayers answered. We also tried the original Del Taco (fun fact it was started in Barstow) and it was aight. 

Sunday: Between 3 hours of studies (we have to do an extra hour when training) and Conference, we didn't have time for much else. We saw that Part member family that night, and also met these two cool Less-actives. 

Monday: Elder Wedel (who is in the same zone now) insisted that we go on a hike in wrightwood. Left at 5 and got back at 2. Long day. 

His new companion is the Elder 2 to the left of him wearing the sunglasses! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Week #63--September 26th

Good afternoon pals and gals! I have no time, so please don't get offended if I don't respond to anyone. We're in Rancho (with some homies) and I'll meet my companion tomorrow due to some complications of transfers this week. 


Transfers were rough today, that's for sure. I can honestly say I have not been anything like this since I got dropped off at the mtc. I've spent half my mission so far in this ward, and it's really left an impact on me. Poor Dan though, he took it harder than me. On Saturday we went to help Yvonne move and he told me in the car (because I had gotten the news the day before that I was leaving) "Well Brown, I got all my crying out last night, so I won't cry anymore about you leaving."

Plot Spoiler: He lied. 

I felt really bad this morning, because we had to pick up some last minute things before I left for Rancho and then Barstow tomorrow, and right before we left his house and he dropped me off for the last time he looked at me all choked up and said "Well, I guess I better go see my boy off". Broke my heart. I'm going to miss that family so much. I can't put into words how much I care about them. I just can't. 

And it's not just Dan. I love this ward so much. Obviously, I didn't connect with EVERY member, but there are so many that I will miss so much. 

BUT! No we're on to bigger and better things. None of the least of which being I am officially in a car! With a crap ton of miles! (Not this month, because we had to drive to the LITERAL opposite side of the mission, because we're in Chino rn, but it's w/e) I'm super pumped to be in Barstow. And we're whitewashing! This is my 3rd whitewash in the mission so far and I love it (that means both me and my companion will be new to the area, not just one of us). 
I just keep replaying in my mind when Nathan Wawro grabbed my mission map over 14 months ago and said "WAIT!! BARSTOW'S IN YOUR MISSION???" And now I am one of the privileged few to serve in the holy lands. 
Well, I'm excited to let you know how the rest of our time goes here in Barstow, but that will have to wait (at least until we get there lol).

Quick spiritual thought: Guilt is only supposed to drive you to repentance. No further. In fact, any further and it becomes destructive. So stop feeling so guilty. "And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance." (Alma 42:29) So don't beat yourself up over mistakes you've made or you are making. Even if those mistakes affect others. It's amazing what miracles God will bless us with when we sincerely repent. Those feeling we hurt? Will eventually be softened. Those words we said? Will eventually be forgotten. The cuts we made, and the bruises we beat will, in the long run, be healed by him who is mighty to save. Trust in God's powers to fix problems that overwhelm you. Now, that doesn't take away our requirement to act, for he needs instruments to perform his tasks, but it should (if the principle is properly studied and understood in individual study) take away so much of the weight that bears us down. 

That's something that has really plagued me a lot, but today getting to talk to President Taylor and through a few weeks of diligent study, I've come to see that guilt is a tactic used WAY to much. So don't feel so guilty. Feel bad enough to change, change, and then move on. :) Let God take care of the rest. 

I love you all so much!

Church is true!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Week #62 and a half--September 22, 2016

Good afternoon! This week and a half for sure had it's ups and downs, but the ups were super awesome to make up for the downs! Overall, so much has happened over the last few days that It'll be hard to summarize it all.

So if things seem choppy and poorly written, bear with me.

First off: DAN GOT BAPTIZED! It's official! After meeting with him for 7 months Dan made it into the waters. If anyone attending DIDN'T feel the spirit, it's their own darn fault! Because it was flipping amazing! A lot of people cried, everyone was touched and it was just a great day.
Elder Wedel and I got to be the witnesses, and standing there at the corners of the font watching Dan step into the waters was so cool. We just looked at each other and flashed really emotional grins of gratitude and love for Dan, and then our smiles widened even more after he the ordinance was done. At the end, Dan shared his testimony, which was the coolest thing. He took up his Book of Mormon and shared some of his favorite scriptures which was super cool as well. He shared 1 Nephi 3:7 and talked about how God won't give us tasks that we can't handle. He shared the scripture that helped him know he needed to get baptized Alma 12:34 "Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest."
And then he closed with the last few verses in Moroni 10 (32 and 33) "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."

He also cried a lot and it was just a really cool experience over all. I love that man so much.
Also, Elder Edward Dube of the seventy came to the mission and we had a big conference. That was super cool. He called me up and had me stand next to him at one point and we re-enacted Moses 1. It was kind of funny because he said: "Alright, we are going to be re enacting the exchange between God and Moses. I will be Moses and that makes you..." To which I responded "Uh-oh" And that was pretty funny. Lots of good points were made.
Then we got to go to the temple, and I love the temple, but this time was really different. Different in a really good way. For the past few months I've really been struggling with a lot of things, lots of feelings of inadequacies, lots of guilt, lots of stress, but for the first time in a long time I felt completely calm. It wasn't the whole 2 hours, and it wasn't very over the top and emotional or what-not, but for a good space of about 5 minutes every worry departed. I felt totally at peace. It was totally silent and I was perfectly content with where I was. I wasn't worried about all the things we had to do after the temple, I wasn't stressed about everything we needed to do that week, I just felt happy. That was such an amazing experience.

It reminds me of a quote that has become my favorite, and a scripture that was shown to me on exchanges.
QUOTE: "The world sees peace as the absence of conflict or pain, but Jesus offers us solace despite our suffering."-David E. Sorenson
SCRIPTURE: Mosiah 2:41 "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
Christ offers us peace in this life. He blesses us temporally and spiritually as we need it and as we seek it. The gospel brings a peace and love that nothing else can replicate. Vaughn J Featherstone said "the two things [Satan] can never duplicate are charity (that is, the pure love of Christ), and peace."
So search for that peace that only Christ can give!
I love you all!
Church is true!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Week #61--September 12, 2016

Good morning! Hope you all are having a great week. 

Well, this week was pretty normal. I got to go on exchanges with our district leader Elder Gibbons, and that was super awesome! We got to work super hard. Also we got to do service with Elder Paxton which was a lot of fun. (Quick side note, Elder Paxton and I were in the MTC together. It was Elder Golden, Paxton and I that came to this mission. Elder Golden and I were companions and Elder Paxton and I have now served in the same zone for almost a whole year, so we've gotten super close, and it's fun to see how we both have grown and continue to grow as the mission progresses).

I think this week was proof to me that sometimes the mission is slow. Sometimes in the mission very little (besides discouragement. There's always plenty of that) happens. But as long as we remain humble and teachable we grow!
Dan is still on track to get baptized THIS SATURDAY! If you can't tell, I'm extremely excited. I love that man so much. He is only the greatest ever. I feel so blessed that I got to be a part of this. SO BLESSED. 

We also had a ward activity and had a good turn out, including a less-active named Matt (I will talk about him in a bit) and had a lot of fun! Matt texted afterwards and thanked us for inviting him because he felt very loved and accepted. It was a horseshoe tournament between the high priests and the elders and Dan ended up winning against our Ward Mission Leader in the final round! 

Matt, (a less active that we've been meeting with) has recently sworn off church. Someone offended him during his re-activation experience and he said he was done. We had one of the most frustrating meetings on my mission. He kept talking about how he needs to get this 'state of the art treadmill' and lose a bunch of weight. Then he's going to get a face surgery that he needs to take 20 years off of his face. Then he's going to have to marry a young lady and after all that he'll be good enough to come to church. We tactfully evaded those comments and asked him if he's still been in touch with some members of the ward (including President Kirby in the Stake Presidency) and how they've been doing. He commented about how it seemed they were just always happy! They had good jobs, happy families, they were good people etc. And he wished he could have that. 

At that moment I shared what has become my favorite scripture in the Book of Mormon:  "for ye ought to know as I do know, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence. Now this is according to his word."

I love that scripture because of how simple it is. Keep his commandments and you're happy. Things work out in the long run. You get what you need. You can survive any trials. If you don't keep his commandments God doesn't have to keep the promises tied to those commandments, and you're on your own to succeed and progress. And even if you succeed by worldly standards you will always feel empty. "There is never enough in this world of that which does not satisfy."

I hope I can remember this when I'm off my mission! I hope all who have experienced these blessings can hold to the knowledge that God keeps his promises! I hope all who want to experience that which I have experienced, and that which many of you have experienced and that which millions around the world have experienced, WILL experience it by following the simple steps of faith we learn from the prophets ( both ancient and modern) and come to Christ with full purpose of heart! Nothing else bring permanent lasting happiness. 

I love you all and encourage you to pursue Christ. He will make all the difference in your life IF YOU LET HIM. For those who feel unworthy of his love and of his blessings, remember President Uchdtorf's talk from this last General Conference. The sheep is worthy of rescue from the Shepherd, not because he is worthy of it, but because the Shepherd's love for his Sheep. For his lamb. For you. He loves you. And because he loves you he wants you to be happy. He wants you to find "peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come" even though you may "know not where to find it" 

So come to him

I love you all

Church is true!