Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another week

Well family, I just spoke to all of you, and I guess I'll be seeing you soon? So I'll keep this one short but still give an update so Jessica/ Hermana Croft knows what's going on over here. So like I was able to tell some of you on the phone yesterday this week has been a good one but one full of ups and downs... Sunday was quite the crazy day, but in order for it to make sense I have to go all the way back to Thursday. On Thursday we went up to the Visitor's Center so Nick could see the temple, have his baptismal interview, and see the lights. It was quite the experience, especially since it took us about an hour and 40 minutes to drive there fighting city traffic, lets just say that I may be a little bit more of an agressive driver than I used to be, but it's necessary, it's one of those crazy driving worlds out there in Washington DC. Anyways, that was extremely frustrating with a couple of other frustrating experiences on the way as well, but after repenting of our frustration we had a very spiritual time at the Visitor's Center, so Nick was set for his baptism! Saturday we taught the Walters family and it was an incredible lesson as well, they were all excited about their baptism, the kids couldn't wait to "be mormon" and they were excited to come to church the next day. We left their house once again just feeling profoundly grateful for the opportunity to teach them. Sunday came around and we were excited for what was about to be an incredible day, the Walters family was going to be at church and Nick was going to have his baptism, it was going to be perfect! However, as usually happens, trials seem to come. Early Sunday morning we got a text from Alex Walters, the son, saying that they wouldn't be able to come to church that day... We were shocked but wanted to know why and after a few texts back and forth we got a call from the mother, and it was honestly the saddest phone call I think I have ever had on my whole mission. Like Dad once said, the hardest and most depressing thing that seems to happen on missions is when a family drops you. It's something I had never experienced and something I had hoped I would never experience, but the Mom called us and said that she just didn't think this was for her, that she just couldn't believe some of the doctrine and that she had made her decision to no longer listen to us or keep with the lessons.... It literally felt like a blow to the gut, we had no idea what to say and we just immediately began to pray as we spoke to her, trying to find the words to say. She agreed to let us come by again this week to answer some questions, and so we'll be going by hopefully on Friday... But it was honestly one of the hardest moments of the mission. All I could think about was this incredible family and fearing that they would never be baptized. It's strange how as you teach them you can just see their potential, that they were going to be incredible members, that they would have such a greater spiritual abundance, and that eventually they would go to the temple and be sealed. There were quite a few tears shed... I'm not sure I've ever cried over an investigator dropping us before, but this one definitely cut pretty deep. However, not all hope is lost, it's normal for people to have doubts and we are still praying and hoping, and we'll be fasting as well that they can feel the spirit as we speak with them and decide to continue. We love them a lot, it's crazy how you can come to love people in such a short amount of time. I feel that that is one of the things that has changed for me, that it's gone from caring about people to truly loving them. Sunday continued and it was the best and worst of times you could say. Nick's baptism was pretty incredible. There was literally an outpouring of the spirit and the hearts of his parents were touched as well as every single individual there. His parents are also now interested in what their son is learning. Nick was weeping as were most people in the room as talks and musical numbers were given. I've never seen him display that much emotion and it was just incredible to feel the love that was in that room. His father was also crying as he saw his son become a devoted follower of the Savior. It was a powerful moment, and I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to see Nick progress. He has a bright future and I can almost see him as a missionary, a father, a leader, and a priesthood holder. It also taught me a lot about the Savior and our Father in Heaven. For them, and hopefully for us, the sting of losing some of His children does not in any way diminish the joy that is felt at one of His children making it home. Nor does the joy of one returning diminish the sting of those who are making mistakes. I feel that He feels both individually and simultaneously in some inexplicable way. I guess it just means that His love, while all encompassing, is also incredibly individual. So, it was quite the incredible week. There were other things that happened, but that's the main run-down of it all. I was thinking that this would be a shorter email, but I guess not.
I would just say once again, though I know I've said it many times. I love the mission. I love living the gospel, I love the Savior. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to be able to serve Him and my brothers and sisters. It has literally been the most incredible experience I could have ever asked for. I have literally seen miracles daily, I have seen the hand of the Lord revealed in the lives of His children. I have seen the power of the Atonement as it has worked in my life and in the lives of so many. I testify that the Gospel is the "more excellent way" that leads to exaltation. I know and am confident that every one of us can make it back to the presence of our Heavenly Father as glorified and celestial beings. There is no greater cause than the one that we are a part of now, and that is spreading the gospel, whether to our families, friends, or strangers on the street, preaching the gospel is one of the greatest priveleges we can ever have. I know with a surety that the Book of Mormon is more scripture, that it was translated through the Prophet Joseph Smith by the power of God, and that it truly is Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I feel that my testimony has been strengthened, and that my conversion has deepened. I will miss the mission, a lot, and thankfully it's not over yet. There are still many miracles left to be seen, and many more lives that still need to be touched, and luckily, the work will go on even when I'm not here. Still, I just hope that I can make the rest of life "real life" Missionary life.

Another week

So this last week was probably one of the most spiritually uplifting weeks that I've had on the mission. I feel that the Lord is blessing me with some incredible opportunities which have both humbled and inspired me. To begin with this last Monday we began to teach a family that was referred to us by one of the members of the ward. It's a family of 6, however the Father is currently not interested in the church. However, we began to teach the mother and all of the kids and it has been an incredible experience. We've already had 3 lessons with them and they have a lot of questions on all of the doctrine but have loved how it all makes sense and seems to go with the things they've thought of themselves in regards to the pre-earth life, prophets, more scripture, the godhead, etc. It's been just incredible to see how the Lord has prepared these people to receive the gospel. We've also been able to teach them with their member friends and it has been a further testimony to me of the importance of members in the work. Their testimonies make such a difference when sharing the gospel with these people. This last Monday we were able to teach them about the gospel of Jesus Christ and then invite them to be baptized! It was incredible to see the resolution in their eyes and the joy that came as they accepted the invitation to be baptized on the 13th of January. The Lord continues to pour out his blessings on us and on His children. It is an incredible family and it is just a blessing to be able to teach them. They're home feels like any active member's home and they have such a light that just screams the fact that they are ready to receive the restored gospel. So that's the first miracle, the lessons in themselves are all miracles. The next miracle is that Nick Cutter will be getting baptized this Sunday and he's asked me to baptize him! That should be a pretty incredible experience as well, he's a good kid that has grown a lot in the time we've been teaching him. It'll be exciting to see him hopefully one day go on a mission as well! So that is a very brief rundown of all that has been happening in terms of our area. We've also been on tons of exchanges and blitzes recently and have many more in the next week. Things are crazy busy and it's been amazing to just be working hard, seeing miracles, and feeling the spirit. There really is nothing better than missionary work!
We also had the mission tour this last week and I mentioned that Elder Packer was coming. It was incredible as he spoke on the importance of the spirit in missionary work, the goal of becoming, and of truly acting as our Savior would act. I feel that it was exactly what the mission and myself needed to hear. Through a variety of experiences and spiritual impressions I felt that the meeting was specifically directed at myself and the needs I've been having as well as the needs our investigators have been having. Needless to say it was a powerful experience. Then I had another incredible experience, one that I was most definitely not expecting and for which I am extremely grateful. It humbled me a lot, but I was interviewed by Elder Packer. Needless to say it was quite the learning experience for me, and a spiritual experience that I will never forget. The thoughts, impressions, and feelings run deep on this one, probably too deep to really be able to describe. However, he did say that he and his wife say hi to the family as well as the grandparents. He is definitely an inspired man, and it was a blessing to be able to be instructed by him. There truly is no comparison for the blessing of the mission. I feel that the mission and all of these experiences that I have been able to have have been blessings too great to describe and that they have literally shaped me to be a better person, and that they will in a large part define the rest of my eternal life. The Lord is definitely doing His work, both with ourselves and with those in our area. How incredible it is!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Surprise, I'm writing a little bit early. This week our P-Day was changed to a Monday which I forgot to tell you all about. It's because we have a mission tour this week with Elder Packer from the Seventy. Hopefully it will be an exciting one. However, that means it's only been a little while since you all have heard from me, but still many miracles have happened since then. I had the opportunity to go on exchange once again, which is always an exciting experience! I was with an Elder who has been struggling in a variety of ways throughout his mission. It was good to be with him and to be able to see some of the things that he brings to the mission and then point them out to him, much like President Eyring spoke about in Priesthood session. It's something that I have grown to love on the mission; seeing the stories of each missionary and why they're here as well as why they've decided to stay. We were able to set some goals that will hopefully be able to help him not only in the mission but throughout the rest of his life. I also had the opportunity to give my first interview to a white guy! Haha I know that that sounds super weird but it's true, he's a really prepared individual and honestly it was slightly intimidating. He's in his mid-thirties and has served in Intelligence in the military, been on "secret missions" etc. yet here I sat interviewing him for his baptism. It was quite the humbling experience and I was glad that he was prepared to be baptized and make a covenant with our Father in Heaven. It always is such a miracle to see how people have come to know the gospel and to see how they've changed in just a matter of weeks! We also had a ton of crazy miracles at church this last week! We had a ton of non-members show up! The father of our 18 year old investigator came to church for the first time, a number of less-actives with their non-member spouses also came, and then a youth also invited one of his friends. Haha it was mind boggling as people just came through the door and just kept on coming. Not all of them were interested in investigating, but hopefully they were able to have a powerful experience.
We also had a miracle on Saturday evening which was quite incredible. We have a member referral that lives on the edge of our area which is about a 45 minute drive from where we live, therefore it's always a gamble to go out and check on them, especially since no one lives even relatively close to them. However, Elder Clapier felt inspired that we should go out there and after calling them a number of times with no answers we finally decided to go and commit ourselves to a long drive. We got there right around 8:20/30 which is the time when you're supposed to head back to your apartment if you aren't teaching anyone. Luckily, or miraculously they were home! The man of the house had just arrived and he invited us in and we were able to speak with them. It turns out she's incredibly interested in the church and the following day came to Sacrament meeting and then invited us to come to their house later on this week for lunch and a lesson! It was a blessing to once again recognize that it is the spirit that is doing the work.
I've also been studying the Atonement recently and I have come to realize more and more of its depth. It seems like every time I study the Atonement I'm able to understand our Savior just a little bit more, to gain a little bit clearer of a picture on who He is and what He's done for each individual. What I've learned is unfortunately not something you can really put into words as a new piece of doctrine or anything, it's more just a greater appreciation and reverence for the Atonement. "I stand all amazed" is the phrase that consistently comes to mind.
Man, I'm trying to remember all that we did this week. From what I remember there was a lot of driving! Haha we live so far away from everything and we've had two meetings in the last week that have been at least a 45 minute drive away without traffic, and with traffic it took us almost two hours to drive there the other day! Still, we have had a lot of cool experiences.
This last Friday Elder Brown and I were called back into the office to work on some things with President and the current Assistants. Haha I admit it was pretty fun and that I realized in some ways I missed the office. It's incredible how we can always seem to find joy in whatever assignment we may receive no matter how different they may be. It was fun to be with all those good elders and to see how the revelation and inspiration flowed as we worked together on some of the problems/events happening in the mission. It was honestly just good to be back with President, and it was surprising to see the warm welcome that was given by the Senior Couples in the office. I guess sometimes you never do realize the impact that you have on people. It was just a blessing to be able to associate with all of them once again.
Our recent Convert Adam Beal is also now back in town and it was good to see that he was able to maintain his testimony even after being in a fairly toxic environment for the last week and a half. He's still just as fired as ever and it's cool to see how gung-ho he is about the gospel! We've also been back in contact with quite a few cool people that had kind of fallen off the map during Thanksgiving and we were able to help them progress quite a bit in a short lesson that we had with them. Other than that the work continues, we've been on exchanges, had a meeting with all of our District Leaders, and set some goals for the transfer. It was good to be with the District Leaders and have what was the equivalent of a PEC where we were able to talk about the specific needs of the zone and come up with a plan of action for the following month on how to help our missionaries continue to progress as well as help their investigators progress. There is a lot of potential in the zone right now and I just hope the missionaries can see the vision of what it is that they're accomplishing.
I also had the opportunity to give what we call here in the mission a "death testimony" or in other words all the missionaries who will be returning home bear their testimonies in the last big meeting. Ha, this is probably the only time you will hear me mention anything related to the end of the year, but it was a good experience. It was good to be able to reflect on all of the things that I have been able to learn, and of the testimony that I have received.... It's so interesting to look back two years and look at all that has been done and learned. The experiences gained, the friendships made, it's honestly overwhelming and incredible. As says the hymn "I stand all amazed".
Man, well this week has been pretty ridiculous with the miracles that we've been seeing, I honestly am just constantly amazed at all the miracles that we see on a daily basis! Thanksgiving was a good one, we were with the Gillissen family, which one of these days when I remember to bring my camera to the library I'll be able to send you home a picture. They're a really nice family where only the Father is a member. Unfortunately the mother is not interested but is extremely supportive of the missionaries and of her husband. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to proselyte on Thanksgiving so we spent a lot of the day with the members as well as taking care of other little things that we had to do.
This Friday was leadership meeting which as always was pretty enjoyable. It's always good to gather and learn how we can better fulfill our responsibilities as leaders in the mission. Let's see, what else has happened, I'm not entirely sure, I left my old planner at home which has all of the things that we did... Hm, all the days just seem to blend together, it's crazy to see how quickly time is going by, it's hard to believe that November is just about over, I could've sworn it had just begun! Well, the things that stand out is that on Saturday we had everything fall into place to have us go to the Visitors' Center with a less-active couple that we've been trying to meet with for months. We were finally able to go with them and watch an incredible performance on the birth of Christ. The spirit was extremely powerful, particularly during one of the numbers entitled "No other way". It talked about the fact that the way Christ did it was the only way it could've been done, that he had to come in a manger, etc. It was powerful to feel the spirit bear witness of the reality of that fact! It is such a blessing to be able to serve during this season! The even cooler part is that the couple came to church the next day for the first time since I have been here!
Nick Cutter is also doing incredibly well. He's the 18 year old who went to seminary. He's been really excited about the gospel and has even begun to share it with all of his friends. Not to mention the fact that we've been going out with one of the priests a number of times and he's seen a lot of cool miracles in the lessons that we've taught. His mother said that beforehand he hadn't been too sure about serving a mission and now he's positive that he'll be going as soon as he graduates from high school! Haha he even texted us and asked which appointments he could go to with us this week, it's cool to see how serious he is about preparing to serve a mission and he's been super pumped to share the gospel with his friends, asking us for advice on how we can meet them, etc. He's a cool kid and it's good to see that he's already doing missionary work and catching the missionary spirit! Sunday we also had a cool opportunity to visit a few individuals in the hospital. I say a cool opportunity but it was also a rather sad one. There's an older single lady in the ward who is quite the fireball. She's never been married but is one of the most faithful people I think I've ever met. She served a three year mission in Bolivia as a temple worker as a senior sister. Unfortunately life seems to be catching up to her and she has now been hospitalized with stage 4 cancer... Of course she began talking to us about her will and how she was planning on giving everything to the missionaries and to the church. It was quite the humbling experience to be able to be with her, to pray for her, to have given her a number of blessings in the past, and to just feel her spirit. It's very true that some of the most valiant souls will never be mentioned in the books of history and Sister Du Bois is definitely one of those. We also were able to give a blessing to another man who has stage 4 cancer and now pneumonia who was in the hospital and not a member of the church. It was a powerful experience to feel of the power of the priesthood and to be able to recognize how much we truly are tools in the hands of the Lord to do his work. The day was a touching one, particularly since it was a Sunday. I believe the spirit of the Sabbath was felt in an even more profound way. We've also ran into a lot of members who are coming up on the year anniversary of having lost loved ones... It's been a powerful week, a week of feeling of the reality of the gospel and of its power in our daily lives. The priesthood, the plan of salvation, it's all just so real! I'm grateful for that knowledge, without it I swear there would be no hope at all! I don't know, I could go on and on about just the lessons and miracles I've learned in this last week. The Lord is doing miracles. He's pouring out his spirit, and he's teaching me a lot of lessons as well as allowing us to bless the lives of others. How I love the mission!
Well, this last week was transfers! Haha unfortunately it wasn't as exciting as it once used to be, still, it's cool to once again have a companion. Oh, that's right, I haven't told you all yet, my companion, Elder Sanchez was called as a new Assistant to President Matsumori! Haha, man, it was really hard to avoid telling him all about it for the entire transfer. I've known for quite awhile that he would be the next assistant. He'll do an awesome job and is one of the best missionaries I've ever known. That meant that I was stuck in a trio for the last week covering two areas and two wards! Haha needless to say it was yet again another stressful, tiring, and very rewarding week. We've seen tons of miracles in just the last week and it's exciting to once again see the Lord continue to pour out His blessings on the people that we teach. Man, I remember one missionary at the beginning of my mission that said to me that he just wasn't excited about baptisms anymore, that he'd seen too many and that it had just become routine. I made a promise to myself that that would never be me, and I'm glad to say that the Lord has been able to help me keep the wonder of the work that we do.
This Saturday was the baptism of Adam, and it was as always an extremely spiritual experience. It was incredible to see the depth of commitment and emotion that was in his face as he stepped into the fount. He almost started to cry as the prayer was said and he was baptized. It is just so incredible to see the lives of people change. I can truly testify that the greatest miracle is that of conversion. The fact that we can be changed to become like our Savior is a miracle beyond compare! Adam is well on his way to a long life as an active member of the church and it's incredible to see how he's changed from a boy to a man in just a few weeks. We've also had the opportunity to find and meet other prepared people. This weekend we received a call from one of our members saying that his son was back from college with his girlfriend that wanted to hear what we had to say. We taught her twice, once with a recent convert who bore his testimony on baptism, and as we talked about how the gospel brings happiness and peace to our families, the hope for an eternal family, and the blessing of a restart on life tears were brought to her eyes as she realized something that she had been missing in her life. It was just another incredible opportunity to see the spirit touch someone's life when they just never had the chance to feel it before. Man, I love the Gospel.... I just love seeing people change and seeing the way they light up as they feel the spirit and as they realize what the Gospel means for them. In the other ward we taught a lady from Australia that felt the spirit so powerfully when the first vision was told that she asked it be told again because she said it just filled her up and just let her feel of God's love for her. This is the work of the Lord and I don't think that for as long as I live anyone or anything will be able to convince me otherwise. We've had a bunch of other miracles as well in just the last week, and I'm sure there are many more to come, but I don't want to overload you guys too much! Lets just say I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission...
Ok, so this week was probably one of the most physically exhausting weeks that I've had in possibly my entire life, haha man, it was crazy.... So this week we were teaching Seminary on Thursday and Friday and Tuesday, and I have a bunch more admiration for these kids and their desire and diligence in getting up so early, man, it's crazy how much waking up that much earlier just wiped us out! Still, it was really fun to be able to teach these kids the gospel in a seminary setting, granted the participation was sometimes lacking because they were all so tired, but it was cool to be able to see their insights. I swear I wasn't nearly as spiritual as these kids are now. They are definitely being prepared to serve missions at a younger and younger age. We were able to teach them about temples, sacrifice, and standing up for what we believe in, all through the new testament. It was an enjoyable experience and hopefully they were able to glean something from it that was beneficial for them. Still, haha that means that we were really tired. So we had a lot of stuff to do this week, one night we had to stay up later planning a training because we had had no time at all earlier in the week, and I'm serious, not even poor budgeting of time, we had appointments, blitzes, exchanges, and meetings straight through and so the training/class was pushed to the end. Anyways, we finished the training and then woke up the next morning early for seminary, showered, ate, drove to the church, taught seminary, returned home, and then sat down to plan another training for a district meeting later on, and we realized that it had only been 8 hours since we had finished planning our last training.... Needless to say we were exhausted! Still, it was super fulfilling and I'd much rather be extremely busy than have too much time on our hands. Other cool things that have happened. We finally were able to teach a kid named Nick Cutter who has been going to seminary for the last two months. We sat down with him and taught him the restoration and it was super cool. He said he'd pray about being baptized and the next morning at seminary when we spoke with him he said that God had said it was go! Haha it's super cool and he has a strong support group. It just goes to show the power of youth sharing the gospel!
The other miracles continued to flow, Adam, a guy that wasn't goingn to be able to be baptized because of probation is now going to be baptized this weekend! It's honestly unbelievable what happened. He had a court date on Thursday and the judge waived his probation!! Man, it was the craziest miracle ever! He's a good kid, he's had a lot of issues in his life and he is a completely different person! It was incredible! There have been a lot of other miracles as well, last week was literally probably the best week Elder Sanchez and I have had together so far, miracles just kept falling from the sky!

I've also been thinking a lot this week about what it means to be "fully invested". Unfortunately this week we received news about a couple of missionaries who went home... It's interesting, I thought that one of the hardest things on the mission would be when investigators dropped us, but I think even harder than that has been seeing missionaries go home... It's amazing how much I've been able to come to care about these missionaries and how they honestly feel like my brothers. I worry for them and pray for them so much, and just hope that they'll be able to be ok. Anyways, it's made me ponder on what it means to be fully invested and if I've really been able to invest my whole heart, might, mind, strength, and soul into the work that we're doing. Obviously some days and moments are better than others, but I've been able to see that when I've been making a concious effort to be fully invested in the lives of each missionary, investigator, less-active, etc. that that is when the miracles have come, and that that's when it's hardest and most joyful. I just hope I can become more fully invested and help missionaries do so as well. I don't think we ever realize the gift that it is to serve a mission, the gift that it is to be able to give everything we have to the Lord. It's a blessing that I literally cannot compare to anything I've ever before felt or experienced....