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!