Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Lights, Challenging Lives, Wasted Time

"Haha, it was once again a good week! This week we had the confirmation of the .... kids [who were baptized last week], they're super cool, and it was just cool to see them sitting on the church bench afterward as they listened to the testimonies of all the people in the ward and realize that they are all members of the church and that they're just going to keep going and getting better and better! Man, they're so crazy, they've already read up to Jacob in the Book of Mormon, something most members that have been members for a long time have never done! Super awesome, then we invited them to share the gospel with their friends and they commited to share a Book of Mormon with them this week! Super incredible! They're going to be like the best missionaries ever!

"Then the lights started here in Washington D.C.! Yeah, unfortunately they're nowhere near as impressive as the lights in Salt Lake City but they're still very beautiful and they have a different concert here every night which has been cool. We've been there for three nights I believe and it has been cool to enjoy the spirit of Christmas as well as see the look of awe on our investigator's faces as they pull into the parking lot and it's all lit up with lights!

"Then we've had some other interesting experiences, some good, some interesting, and some not so good. [One investigaor] has been having some interesting doubts. We taught her about the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom, and she has some problems. She's very set on the worldly view of things, in that there's no real view of right and wrong because whatever a man does is no evil. She seems to want to believe that there is a right and wrong but has had a hard time reconciling her beliefs with those of God. She wants a reason for the commandments and sometimes we just can't see all the reasons. Nevertheless we've been doing a lot of thinking and studying about it and I think I've come up with some good reasons. She has a specific doubt about the Law of Chastity, in that if "preventive measures" are taken to ensure that children don't come about because of it then there shouldn't be anything wrong with it if it's done for the sake of love and not just for the satisfaction of it. Yeah, it's an interesting concept, and we've tried to explain it to her but eventually just told her that she'll probably have to wrestle with God like Enos and try and figure out God's reasoning for herself. While she has some fairly large doubts she's still progressing, and does have a sincere desire to understand God, she's just a little too intellectual about it all and a little bit lacking in the spiritual. Still, we have high hopes for her.

"Then we had this crazy experience where we ran into this lady, a referral from a member that had had something terrible happen to her... Her son in Honduras was kidnapped... When we heard that our hearts about dropped and I had no idea what to do... I've never been placed in a situation quite like that, where something so drastic has happened and these people were looking to Elder White and I for comfort, solace, direction, and hope... It was very intimidating and my heart cried out to our Father in Heaven to let me know what we could say to help her. Luckily, the promise is real, God truly does speak to us, and our minds and hearts and mouths were opened to the spirit and we were able to share some things with her that really helped her. We were also able to give her a blessing, and it was a very interesting blessing to give... It was one of those times in blessings where some very specific promptings come to you, it wasn't about whether her son would be ok, but some other very specific things, something that doesn't always happen when giving blessings. It was a special experience for me, and I testify that God is very aware of the needs of his children, and that he can work through us even though we are imperfect servants... We pray her son will be alright...

"Then we had a rather terrible experience on Monday... I'm ashamed to admit it but we wasted a lot of time... A member took us out to eat somewhere super far away and because rides were late and such we ended up wasting almost four hours... It was terrible. I've never quite felt that bad on the mission. I could feel very strongly our responsibility to use God's time wisely and how much I had failed in it that day. I still feel that I'm repenting of that, but it was a very humbling experience for me and a reminder that this is not my time, that I only have a year left, and that I can never afford to waste even an hour or minute of the Lord's time, especially when I have so very little left... Needless to say it helped refocus and re motivate me even more.

"We also had a pretty funny experience yesterday that I think Rachel especially would like. We taught two super old ladies that were just super funny. One at first didn't believe that we spoke Spanish, and so tried to speak to us in really broken English, and then she could hardly hear at all and so we had to speak very very loudly the whole lesson. Haha and then she just told us all these crazy stories. It was super funny! A cute old lady. Not gonna lie, it reminded me of what Rachel could be like as an old lady. Slightly crazy, but good and funny. Haha it was a super funny experience.

"And that was about the week, ups and downs as Jessica says, but over all super good! We continue to find some cool people and our recent converts are super strong! [One of them] is doing so well! Man, he had been drinking coffee and he felt so bad about it he confessed it to President Ortega without us ever even knowing about it, and now he's well on his way to receiving the priesthood and it was a sign to me that he will be faithful because he was willing to repent so quickly after an offense. He's so solid!

"A sad side of things... My eyes are ever more opened to the sad state that some of these people are in. There's a lot of poverty, a lot of drugs, violence, lost hope, kidnappings, everything. There is a great need for the Gospel to be preached to every person. They all seem to be trapped in a darkness to which they can't see an end. It's been amazing to see the light of the gospel pierce the darkness and give them hope where they had none. Haha D.C. is kind of a dark city as you all may remember, a lot of crazy things go on, but there are a lot of good people as well. A lot of people that are fighting for the right, and looking for something better in their lives. I'm very grateful that I have the opportunity to be a bearer of that light and hopefully warm their souls a little bit in the midst of the winter of their lives. (I think I've been reading too many talks by President Monson ;))

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One of the Best Weeks of the Mission

From Derek's November 30 letter.

"This week was super awesome!!! haha probably one of the best weeks that we've had on the mission! I'll pretty much just focus on Sunday since it was a day of miracles! The... family was baptized this Sunday by their Father who recently received the Melquisedec Priesthood, [the other investigator who was baptized the week before] also received the Holy Ghost, in short an amazing day at church!

"The baptism was once again incredible just to see a family fully united in the Gospel. It's always super touching to see them all dressed in white and know of the eternal significance of the step their about to take. It's super incredible!

"[The brother's] experience was also incredible, he's super solid and has a very firm desire to follow his Savior and recognizes the difficulty and the joy of the path he has decided to take. We're excited for him and he's already starting to get more involved in the branch, tonight he'll be helping out with a service project, and there's definitely no better way to fellowship than through service!

"So that was the beginning of the awesome day of Sunday! Then we had some other super sweet miracles. First of all this girl we've been working with ... finally came to church! We've been working with her for probably about two months now, and two months ago she didn't even believe in God. She's been faithfully reading and praying and has felt the spirit strongly on so many occasions, and now she finally decided to come to church and really loved it! Man, it was so sweet! She loves the unity that is felt there and just the way it is, she says she's looking to see if her life will change at all by living a "religious" lifestyle, meaning going to church. We assured her that it most definitely would! Later that night we went to the Visitor's Center with her as well where she almost accepted a baptismal date, but at least accepted to be baptized, just not yet with a specific date. So she's doing super well and God continues to give us so many miracles!

"So earlier on in the day on Sunday we also had an incredible lesson with a lady we were trying to teach but whose husband hadn't seemed too interested, luckily God works in mysterious ways and opened up the way for us. We were coming back from checking on their door when we ran into them and it turns out they were coming back from the doctor because she'd been assaulted and robbed a few days earlier and they were doing some check ups on her. Yeah, crazy place! Anyways we were able to offer to give her a blessing and the husband was also there. It was honestly one of the most spiritual experiences on the mission. As we gave the blessing and explained the implications of the authority of God on the earth, namely eternal families, the spirit of the Lord filled the room and clearly testified to these people that this was God's church and the path they should take. We asked them to describe their feelings and the hermana said that it was like her heart was opening up to God again, and the Husband said that he just felt a peace in his home that apparently he hadn't felt in quite awhile. It was so cool and the wife accepted a baptismal date, and the husband did, just not as firmly as the wife. Unfortunately since that point, as happened with Jessica, Satan has been working hard through his family members to convince them to no longer listen to us.

"In times like these I've learned that all we can really do is pray, work hard, and trust that the Lord will do his work and touch their hearts. It's interesting, because it breaks our hearts, and then I think of how Heavenly Father must feel and how it must just tear him apart, but at the same time he is their father, and these are his children and he is very aware of the plan that he has for them, and they will never be lost or dropped to him, even if we may lose them or have to drop them.

"That same thought was also manifested in another incredible miracle. Do you remember ... the guy that ditched us at the metro stop? Well, Sunday he randomly called us and asked if he could come to church or the visitor's center that day! Yeah, super weird, but we went with him to the visitor's center that night and had a lesson with him. Haha it was kind of weird because we went on splits inside the Visitor's center so I ended up teaching [him] kind of alone. It helped me realize how important companions really are! Nevertheless we were able to figure out his doubt. It turns out he ran away from baptism and from us because he felt so bad for something that he'd done pretty close before his baptism. Luckily we were able to help him and give him some hope again and help him to repent, he is once again on date for the 18th! We'll see how it goes this time! Haha still it was crazy, definitely a testimony that God is very aware of his children and will touch their hearts at the appropriate time.

"In short, we are seeing so many miracles it's ridiculous. While it is at times stressful, like when church is started and none of your investigators are there yet, even though they're supposed to be baptized that day, it all seems to work out in the end. Like them showing up in the middle of the sacrament hymn. Yeah, super crazy, stressful, fun, joyful, and legit! ;)

"Haha as for the other things during the week, it flew by, haha I honestly only remember Sunday. Oh, and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was sweet! We went to the former Branch President's house... We ate dinner with all of their family and we all dressed up as pilgrims and Indians, haha super crazy! The food was great, as was the pie, ah so much pie! :) It was also cool because they really made us feel included in their family and not just like the outsider missionaries, so I was grateful for that, and Mom you can rest easy knowing that a kind lady out here in Maryland... is super generous and made your son feel at home on Thanksgiving, so no worries ;)"

"Well that is it family. 11 months have already gone by, ugh terrible. Have a good week though! Until next time! :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Baptism, Families accepting the Gospel, The power of attitude and perspective

"Haha, so I know you want me to write at least a little bit about the hard or scary times, but the thing is I honestly don't even think of them! The mission is incredible with daily miracles, as long as we're looking for the miracles it seems like we notice them! For instance this week was incredible! I'll try and give a quick run down of it all.

This Sunday we were supposed to have 3 baptisms, we ended up only having one, but that was because the family of the less-active will be baptized this coming week because the father is coming back from Utah where he was working and so he'll be able to baptize his kids! So that'll be incredible! However, the baptism for [P] did go down this week and it was awesome! He was super excited and super prepared, when we went out of a meeting on Sunday morning to call him to remind him to bring extra clothes he was already there about a half hour early before sacrament meeting dressed in a white shirt and tie for the first time! It was just incredible to see the change that has already begun to happen to him in his life. He has a very sincere desire to change his life around, and while he's passed through some sketchy times in his life he's extremely willing to turn it around and he has become a true follower of Jesus Christ. He was extremely grateful to Elder White and I. For some reason our companionship was able to touch him strongly and the spirit called him to baptism and he responded very willingly. It was one of those instances where the person accepts you as a representative of the Lord and so they were willing and accepting to do everything that was asked of them. Granted, it is not always like that, but there are those that have been extremely prepared and have almost no doubts whatsoever! He'll be a faithful member, and once again it was incredible to just the feel the joy of the Lord as we witnessed another of his sons coming to baptism and starting on the path back home.

This work is so individual. God really cares about the individual, for him it is in no way about the number of people that make it home, but whether or not Juan or Pedro or Josue make it home. It was a good reminder to me of my purpose out here on the mission. We've also seen some other incredible miracles! We were able to teach a family that will hopefully quickly be baptized, as well as another family that was very receptive to the gospel! Two families! It's the best thing when you get to teach families! It's been awesome because the members have really been stepping it up over here. Generally in wards that I've been in or heard about, the members haven't always been too receptive to doing missionary work. Thus, missionary work becomes hard, it's a lot of tracting, a lot of slammed doors and rejection, and a lot of perseverance just waiting for the miracles of the Lord. The miracles do definitely come! As we saw in Olney, after two transfers of nothing Francisco just appeared out of nowhere as a blessing from the Lord! Here in Mount Pleasant the members have thankfully been doing some missionary work and because of that we have these two families to teach, it's super awesome!

Let's see, what else can I share. Haha man it rained a ton the other day, which is always kind of fun, riding down the streets on bike is, as I would say, Epic! :) Hm, as for scary experiences, there haven't really been any. As Jessica said, things just aren't as scary when you have the spirit with you. The streets of D.C. are super sketchy and we approach people that probably aren't the nicest looking people, but you feel no fear because you know that the Lord is with you and that if they were going to do anything to you you would be warned. Haha we do have plenty of strange experiences with people that are drunk coming up to us, occasionally yelling at us, and sometimes hugging us. Yeah, those are the awkward ones ;) It's sweet though.

I think one thing about me that has really changed on the mission is that I've learned the power of attitude and an eternal perspective. When things are tough you just embrace it, give thanks for it, and keep working hard knowing that the Lord will bless you with things ahead. Trials come in different ways, through investigators not wanting to progress, to companionship problems, to just days where nothing happens, but miracles are always right behind the trials and we grow because of them. It's really been a blessing for me to learn that lesson!"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

General Authority, Metro

From Derek's Nov 16 letter.

Haha, as usual the week was kind of crazy with a lot of cool miracles! First of all this week we had a mission tour by the Seventy Elder Kearon (the one that spoke on the scorpion analogy thing). It was super incredible! Man, I could obviously tell a lot of things that I learned, but to be brief I learned a lot about what a good leader is and the power of the spirit. Not so much by what he said, but by the way he was. It was super cool to be able to be taught by him and his wife specifically to the needs of our mission. It was incredible just to see the change that happened in him, and it was a testimony to me that we truly are the products of the spirit. If we allow the spirit to work on us we truly do become more like Jesus Christ. He told his conversion story, and from what he said he was kind of an arrogant punkish guy that would never believe in anything. Then the spirit touched him and his life was changed! Now you can see so clearly in his countenance that he has truly been born again and become a new Creature in Christ.

Then we had some other rather disappointing and difficult trials, as well as some cool miracles. So this story could be a lot longer but I'm going to try and tell it briefly. We got in contact with the investigator that was going to be baptized. We set up a time to go to the visitors center with him and he said he would be meeting us at this metro station at 7:00. That's always a very risky thing to do, considering the fact that if he doesn't show up we will have wasted a bunch of time, but we confirmed the appointment a half hour before we headed out and then got on the metro. We get to the stop at 7:00 and start calling him to see where he is. No answer. Call again. No answer. So we go to another metro stop where we were going to eventually end up to see if he maybe went there ahead of us. Not there. Call again. No Answer. So we decide to be a little tricky and see what's up and we call him under the restricted number *67. We call him and he answers! Yeah, but then he doesn't say anything, we hear some laughing in the background, and he hangs up. Hm, you can imagine how we felt about this point. Slighly betrayed, frustrated, and owned. So we try some other calling tricks but he's eventually turned off his phone because it just goes to voice mail. Hm, Elder White was super frustrated and betrayed feeling. I was trying to keep the mood light and laugh it off, because the moment you get super frustrated and depressed Satan will own you, a lesson I've learned far too many times in life. So I was still laughing, and meanwhile the thought keeps coming to me that we must be there for some other reason! So we get back on the metro and I'm just praying almost demanding a miracle you could say, in a non-blasphemous way, but that was my attitude, I was determined to see something happen from this trip. Luckily my determination was not in vain! God had indeed prepared a person who was then placed directly in our path! We barely manage to board this metro and as we get on we're just looking for anyone we can strike up a conversation with. There's a ton of people with headphones and then this one hispanic guy. We sit down and just start talking to him because we're not allowed to directly proselyte on the metro unless they ask us about it. Haha the first thing he asks us is if we're from a church! Yep, door's opened! It was super sweet, he was very interested, he'd heard a little bit about our church, but what he was really looking for was peace in life. He says the world is just too crazy and he knows the only way to find peace is in a church! We testified to him of the Book of Mormon and of the Restoration and gave him a Book of Mormon. He was super interested and wanted the Elders to pass by as soon as possible! Unfortunately he lives in Virginia so we won't be able to teach him, but it was a very very powerful witness to me that God places us in the right place at the right time even if we sometimes cannot understand it. He knows exactly where we're going to be and he places his prepared people in our paths, we just have to be aware of them. It was awesome, and as we left the metro we looked back on the train and he had already begun to read the Book of Mormon! We don't know what will happen to him, but we do know that we did our part in his path to Salvation and it was just a blessing to see the tender mercies of the Lord so clearly! At the same time it's been very sad with [the investigator]. He no longer answers our calls and our Ward Mission Leader called him and said that he was very standoffish and didn't even really want to talk to him... It's not looking too good, and it's been saddening... But, This is still the Lord's work and I have gained an even more powerful testimony that we truly are instruments in his hands!

Another experience was also similar. All of our appointments dropped one day so we decided to go check on some referrals super far away and we taught a lady that is also super prepared! A referral from a member in New Jersey. It was a powerful lesson and once again a testimony that we were where we were supposed to be even if we hadn't been planning on being there. God truly does guide us in his work!

Anyways those were the coolest miracles of the week, and the saddest. It was an interesting week, but the work continues to move forward and it is truly a blessing to be serving the Lord right here, right now! There's nothing better! It sounds kind of scary not that I heard that story about the Texas missionaries, but I really do wish that I could be a missionary forever! There is nothing greater than this work and giving everything we have to the Lord! I feel that I have come to know him and our Savior in a much deeper way than before the mission. I've been thinking a lot recently because it's scary, I'm coming up on the year mark... That means that what I've done will be all I have left, and I feel like I haven't done anything! Yet when I look at it I really have become a different person, a better person. Haha the same me but hopefully a litle better I guess. It's a huge blessing!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Emotional Week

From Derek's November 9th letter.

"Well, it was a crazy week... I can't remember exactly what happened but I'll try and go through the highlights! First of all the baptism did not happen this Sunday... That was pretty tough, we'd been in contact with him for all week and he was super excited for it all, but then come Sunday he didn't come to church, we called him a bunch of times and went by his apartment and nobody answered... It was pretty tough especially since he was so solid and we still haven't been able to contact him because now he's changed his phone number and we don't have his new one... Yeah, so we're not sure what's going to happen with that, haha and to make it even more interesting President Matsumori decided to come to our baptism and we had to break the news to him that it wasn't going to happen.

But, we do have some good news. First of all is that we have three very solid baptismal dates for the 20th! The less active family... that just randomly came to church last Sunday, both of the kids are now on date. They're super cool and excited to learn about the gospel. They look so young, haha even though they're 15 and 18, but they're sincerely seeking the truth and you can tell that they feel that it's true, we just have to wait for the requirement of three Sundays for them to be baptized! We've been to the visitor's center with them as well so they're doing super solid!

Then we still have [another young man] who's doing very well as well. The spirit has touched him strongly and for some reason he feels a special connection with us as well. Let's see, what else. Oh yeah, we're working with this less active part-member family,... and we had an incredible lesson with them! We were able to testify strongly of the restoration of the gospel as well as the difference it makes in families and the opportunity it gives us to have an eternal family. It was an extremely powerful lesson and we were able to feel that we were guided by the spirit to really teach and testify to his needs. Then this week we also had to drop one of our investigators that used to have a baptismal date. He just wasn't progressing, and it was super sad... We were very bold and very frank with him, and with that he finally told us that he was in reality never planning on coming to church... It's just been a rather emotional week I guess. Some disappointments and some successes.

Oh, this week was also transfer week and Elder White and I will be staying together!! It'll be sweet, he's a super hard worker so we'll continue to see a ton of miracles! Haha while this letter sounds kind of disappointing in parts, it's really been a good week. We see daily miracles of people that are prepared to listen to us who we get the opportunity to help in even little ways, and sometimes big ways. It's truly a blessing to be a missionary! So crazy that another week has gone by though..."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Crazy Week of Miracles!!!

Haha, yeah, pretty sure I say something along those lines every week, but, we continue to see so many miracles!

Well this week was crazy! I'll start with Sunday. We had four or five people lined up and committed to come to church, when lo and behold, every single one of them told us they weren't coming at the last minute. However, we'd recently had a lesson with the cousin of one of the members, Pedro who has a baptismal date for the 13th, and had originally told us he wouldn't be at church on Sunday. We were able to give some promised blessings by the spirit and he felt inspired to come to church. It was awesome when we called him and he said he was coming! So that was the first miracle on Sunday.

Then we had the husband of a less-active randomly show up, and then we had another less-active also randomly show up that has 2 kids that aren't members, one of which is almost positive that he wants to be baptized. It was honestly insane and Elder White and I were just stunned by the miracles!

The Lord is truly revealing his arm in this area! We also had an incredible experience afterwards. We went to an appointment that fell through and as we were leaving we felt that we had to go visit one investigator. Right as we pull up we see another investigator that we had dropped hobbling up the stairs on crutches. It turns out that a week ago he'd been shot three times and hadn't even realized it because he was so drunk and high... It was pretty sad to see what had happened to him, but we were able to testify to him of the purpose of life and how we have to choose God's path in life or the Devil's. Elder White also was able to share some experiences from how he's seen some of his friends lives destroyed by drugs and alcohol. It was a very powerful experience. We'd only taught him maybe twice and yet for some reason he was one of those people on the mission that you can just feel God's love for so clearly. It was incredible as I looked at him I could feel how much God cares about this guy, his son, and how much he really wanted him to make it home. It was a powerful experience, and almost overwhelming. By the end of our meeting with him he called out to us as we biked away "Hey, if I can walk next week maybe I'll see you on Sunday!" It was truly incredible to see how God placed us in the right place at the right time and put the right words our mouths to be able to touch him!

Later that night we also went with that one guy that recognized the prophets as prophets in conference to the Visitor's Center. He is going to be baptized this Sunday!! We also went and saw a John Schmidt concert while we were there. I'm not sure how spiritual it was, but it was a good experience, and pretty enjoyable as well! We've also seen a lot of miracles with a less active family really opening up to us, we hope they'll be coming back to church soon! In short, it's been pretty awesome.

We've had a lot of miracles, and now transfers are coming up next week... It's crazy to see how quickly time goes by, I've now passed the 10 month mark, Elder Lee my [old] companion, is finishing his mission in a week, and it's almost winter again... It's crazy, over a year ago I received my call, was endowed in the temple, received the Melchizedek Priesthood, started my first semester of college... So much has happened in just one year. It feels shorter and longer at the same time... Haha, it really surprised me to read in Jonathan's letter that I'd almost been out for a year... It seems like I just saw all you guys! It's crazy... But the work is amazing, and I love to see so many people progressing and really coming to Christ. We have a lot of investigators right now, and a lot are progressing, it is a huge blessing to be working in DC right now. The best mission in the world! Sorry Jessica! :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hermana Croft, People Prepared for the Gospel

"Haha, it's awesome, the Croft family now has two missionaries out at the same time, Hermana Croft, and Elder Croft! There truly is nothing greater than the mission, and it is the biggest blessing that any of us could receive from our Father in Heaven. To our parents, don't worry too much about Jessica, she'll be in Provo for awhile, and then after that you can trust in her mission president, it's incredible how much they really care for us out here, they become a type of parents, never quite the same, but they'll be taking care of Jessica, and the Lord gives them an extra abundance of Love to make up for the fact that we're away from the family. I imagine it's been a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone, but I am confident in the Lord's promise that our families will be protected on the mission, especially spiritually.

I'm proud Jessica has also decided to serve a mission, it's a super cool blessing, and there is honestly nothing better than serving the Lord and bearing testimony so frequently each day! I hope all goes well, and I think you guys just barely dropped off Jessica, crazy stuff, it's going to be one wild ride! And no worries Mom and Dad, I'll be home in something like 14 months, so you'll be seeing me soon! :)

For us over here the week has been pretty interesting! I'll keep it brief, but we have seen a ton of miracles! We've had some incredible finding miracles where the Lord is placing prepared people in our paths in the exact moment when we have to be there! We were knocking this one guys house looking for a referral we had received, and when we knocked the guy told us he had some Mormon friends (he wasn't the guy we were looking for by the way) and that just two days ago they had given him a Book of Mormon and he had been reading it and had some questions for us!!! Yeah, it was an awesome miracle!

[A woman we've been teaching] continues to progress, she was reading in the Book of Mormon one night because she had gotten scared by some ghost stories and it was late at night and such, and as she started to read the Book of Mormon she said she felt "protected". It's awesome, she is slowly coming to develop a relationship with our Father in Heaven. It's been a blessing to see her progress and just eat up all that we're teaching her. She is extremely willing to learn, and it's been cool to see the spirit come more and more into her life.

Oh, this Sunday we also had an incredible fireside by one of the Seventy. Elder Alfonso, his talk was extremely powerful and he spoke on not hesitating to be baptized and how we must be grateful in all things. He told this story of how on his mission he was at an investigators house and they had no food, nothing but two eggs, and they gave these missionaries the two eggs. They of course tried to refuse but the family insisted, and said that they would instead fast. The missionaries ate the eggs, and the children, who didn't quite understand what was going on began to cry because they had no food... Later that day the Father returned to the house laden with food and money. He'd been out all day selling some things, and at first nothing was happening, but then at some point in the day he began to sell everything, and he returned home with food for his family. He began to sell at exactly the same time that the missionaries were in the home with the family and they made the sacrifice for the missionaries. It was a confirmation of my faith that God truly does watch over the people we are here to serve. He cares for each of his children so deeply and is just waiting to open up the windows of Heaven.

So much of the world doesn't seem to understand that God does not want to punish us, he wants to bless us, lift us higher, and help us to become incredible. He is not just to be feared, but to be trusted as a close friend. I feel that so many people that we speak with just see him as the great punisher, or the one thing you pray to when you have problems. They fail to realize the true relationship we have with our Father. If we could all understand that, I feel like a lot of problems with the world would be solved.

Well with that fireside we had an investigator there that was really impacted by the Seventy's words. The next day we taught him at a members house and he committed to baptism! It was incredible, he is so ready,... and he can already feel the truthfulness of the Gospel all through the testimony of this one man.

In short, God is pouring out the blessings of heaven upon this area and we are able to see the fruits of it! I have gained a powerful testimony of the fact that God truly does pour out his spirit to prepare the people of the earth to hear his message. People are drawn to us as representatives of Jesus Christ, both the Good and the Bad, and we have the opportunity to serve them both. There is truly nothing greater than wearing the name of the Savior on my chest every day!

Other than that it's continued to be a good week of hard work, and I love it!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sad, Cool, and Hard Experiences

"Man, two missionaries in the family at the same time, haha I just remember talking about it when we were littler that Jessica and I would probably serve missions at the same time, and now it's going to happen! It's going to be awesome, and totally worth it! I have come to find such a testimony for the reality of this work as the work of the Lord, and literally the purpose of life as members of the church. Every single one of us is a missionary and always will be a missionary as we serve in our callings, in our families, with our friends, or as full-time missionaries, everything we do is focused on the missionary purpose, inviting people to come to Christ through the restored Gospel. It's incredible how that literally is the life purpose! It's cool to hear about you guys and all the missionary work you're doing, in the temple, with your friends, in your callings, in the family, and now Jessica serving a full-time mission as well, it's legit! :)

Anyways, this week was pretty cool, though we did have some sad experiences as well. We taught this one kid named, and he was super interested and everything, but when we went by on Thursday he said he couldn't speak to us anymore because his mom was super catholic and didn't want him speaking to us at all! But, we asked him about the Book of Mormon, if he'd been reading it, and what he thought about it. He told us he believed it was the word of God, and that "it should've been part of the bible" haha that part was cool, but it was honestly super sad to have to walk away because his mom didn't even want to speak to us. Nevertheless, we trust in the Lord and that he's in God's hands. Hopefully one day his mother's heart will be softened and they'll be able to receive the gospel together...

We've also continued to see miracles as the spirit has worked on less-active members in our area who are now feeling a greater desire to come back to church. We also had an incredible lesson with [another] new investigator, actually two pretty cool lessons. She has problems believing in God, saying she's not sure what to believe. We keep telling her to pray and read the Book of Mormon, but she says she's scared to pray because she wants there to be a God, and because of that she's afraid she'll trick herself into thinking that she's received an answer. It's an interesting doubt, but we testified powerfully of the truthfulness of prayer and of the Book of Mormon, and that because of that she would be able to know with a surety that there is a God.

It's incredible how everything hinges on the Book of Mormon. Even for that kind of a doubt, it all returns to the Book of Mormon. If the Book is true, then God is real and He appeared to all the people in the Book and to Joseph Smith. If it's a lie, than it's all just a lie. Each day I grow more grateful for the power of the Book of Mormon in our lives, and the fact that it has given me a testimony of the reality of God, of Jesus Christ, and of this church. It truly is incredible!

Oh, then I have to tell you all about this one crazy day. Saturday we went on an excursion to some referrals that we have that are super far away! We biked to the far ends of our area on Saturday and had some crazy experiences! First of all we think we biked over 20 miles, and very possibly a marathon! Next we heard a gunshot while we were in the South East area of DC, talked to some evangelical guys that tried to bible bash with us, rebuked them with the power of the spirit and testimony, biked a freaking ton, climbed a humongous hill (on a single speed :)) and then finally had the miracle of contacting one of these referrals at the very end of the day. We show up to this referral that it's taken us forever to get to and we discover.... it's a fake address!! Yeah, terrible, the address is 5014, and all we see is 5016 and then 5012. Stunned and slightly disappointed we decide to knock 5016 to see if the referral lives there. We knock on the door and a lady comes out to speak with us. We explain we're looking for Blanca and she's white and says there's no Blanca that lives there. We try to share the message of the gospel with us but she just says, "Yeah, I don't think Mormon is for me. We're Lesbians, and if I were to talk to you guys it would mean I'm like a sinner or something". Ha, yeah, super lame statement that came out of nowhere. Well, we just testified of the reality of the work and then left. But she did say to us that one of the houses in this circle spoke Italian, so Elder White said we should knock it. A little reluctant I agreed, and lo and behold it turned out that Blanca lived there and was working for the Italian family!! Haha, yeah super crazy, not to mention the fact that she was also interested in the fact that there is a prophet on the earth! Yeah, it was super sweet! Then we biked on home, exhausted after a day that resulted in only one visible success, but knowing that we'd still done the Lord's will, and biked a ton! Haha it was a cool day!

We also had a super cool experience yesterday where we taught someone that was extremely interested! We taught the first lesson to her and at the end of it she was just saying "I really want to read this book, like right now! You guys left me with a doubt, and I want to know if it's true!" Haha it was cool to see the spirit work on her and see an honest seeker of truth realize that the truth is within reach. We're very excited for her and miracles are just flowing! Granted, it's also been a hard week.

Ha, whoever would've thought it would be hard for me to have a super good companion, but it is. Sometimes it's easy to feel useless since I still don't know my way around these confusing streets, considering I always got lost at home, and the fact that I just don't feel needed at times. It's been good because it's given me some perspective on how I think Elder Gleed must have felt. Still, God has humbled me, and Elder White and I work well together. It's super sweet!..."

"Well, that's all for now folks! I'll be writing you all next week after you've all had a crazy experience with yet another MTC drop off! Haha, super crazy! Love you all!"

Elder Croft

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A crazily cool week!

From Derek's letter of October 12.

"So, this was a super good, and difficult week! First of all, the highlight! [The father's] baptism!!! Man, that was probably one of the coolest experiences on the mission so far! It was so amazing to see him and his family so united in the gospel and just to see how solid he's going to be as a member! He's truly converted to the gospel and not merely baptized.

It was really a very tender experience, extremely spiritual, and one of those fruits in the mission that will never be forgotten. [He] said that I was his hero... It was extremely touching for me, and it strengthened my testimony of the reality of this work, of the power of the spirit, and of the reality of mission calls and assignments. I feel strongly that [this man] was one of the people I was sent on the mission to be here for. So Jessica, as you serve in the mission, I know that you'll also find those that are waiting specifically for you.

This is in every [way] God's work and the Spirit does have the power to change the hearts of the people with whom we speak. It was honestly one of the happiest days ever, and seeing the Olney ward as well. Man, the ward is just so incredible, haha I honestly feel like I could live in that ward forever, I came to care about those people so much. Haha it was kind of nice to see that they still remembered even my name after two weeks of not being there.

Other cool things for this week, we have some cool new investigators, another one of our investigators [that went to conference] ... came to church once again this week even though we hadn't had an opportunity to teach him at all and he loved every minute of it! Haha, even though we hadn't taught him we gave him a baptismal date for the 30th after church and he accepted! Yeah, he's a golden investigator, especially since he has Sundays off! Then we taught him Monday because he got off of work early and we watched the Joseph Smith Movie which he loved!

It's awesome and we continue to see daily miracles, haha though the days are definitely long and hard. I don't think I've ever come home so physically and emotionally drained as I have been here. It's awesome, and I love working hard, seeing miracles, and being a tool in the Lord's hands! I can hardly believe so much time has passed... Soon enough it'll be halfway over, it's super sad...

Elder Holland is very very right. The world will always be there, but your mission won't be. Anyways, that was the week, extremely tough, but extremely joyful!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Awesome First Week in Mount Pleasant

"Well this first week in the area was awesome! Elder White is an incredibly good missionary!...I think the Lord and the President expect us to explode this area, it's going to be sweet! We already saw some pretty sweet miracles, we have this one guy they were teaching ... who [now has a baptismal date of the 23rd] and he's super ready. He's had a pretty crazy life but he's done a pretty good job of turning it back around and he now has a kid and a wife. He's so cool, haha apparently he said he just had to call out to the Elders when they were going by and now here he is, super ready to receive the gospel!

Then we have this other guy... who came to a session of conference, said he believed they were prophets and everything even though he's never received the 1st lesson! Haha it's super crazy, but it's awesome, the area has a lot of potential,and we've been teaching a ton! It's good to be back on a bike though it does mean I'm even more exhausted by the end of the day!

The branch is very small even though they have over 400 members on record... Yeah enough for almost 2 wards, but no one comes.... It's super crazy, so we'll be doing a lot of less-active and member work. Still, the people seem pretty cool. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet many of them because of conference but hopefully I'll meet them soon!

The D.C. area is also super crazy! Tons of people, super ghetto, and kind of spiritually empty. It reminds me of Langley Park where it's just kind of dark spiritually... Everyone is just focused on themselves and the world. It's sad to see how lost they are, as well as to once again see so many people lost to the pull of alcohol. It's super sad and makes me pretty angry at Satan... Luckily the light of the gospel can penetrate even the darkest abyss. Hopefully we'll find many who will accept the gospel!..."

"As for conference, conference was awesome! So much talk on missionary work!...."

"I know I'm super far away from being home, but it also made me think about what I want to make sure I do after the mission. My goal: to stay away from everything that offends the spirit at all. There as so many movies, music, and just junk in the world that's just not worth it. If they offend the spirit then why are we bothering with it? ... There nothing greater we can have than the spirit and if there's something that doesn't agree with it we better leave it alone. Better to be filled with light. So as you can see I'm going to be one of those RM's a lot of people hate haha! But it's all good!"

"The gospel is so true and the light of the spirit is clear, definite, and real. I have come to learn to recognize the spirit in a very real way and it's because a friend and constant companion and I have come to know my Father and Savior so much more. I love this work, the gospel, Jesus Christ, and my Heavenly Father to the depths of my heart. It really has come to define me and it is a gift and blessing I really cherish. I just pray people can see the light that has come even more fully into my life because it is very real and oh so sweet."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Transferred to Mount Pleasant

"Well, Transfers brought quite the surprise to Elder Gleed and I. I have now been transferred to Mount Pleasant South! It was honestly a very sad thing! I'd come to really enjoy the ward and working with Elder Gleed. Not to mention the fact that I only got one transfer with my trainee. We were both expecting to stay together so when we received the call out it was a little bit of a shock. Nevertheless, the Lord needs us to do other things I guess, I just hope that I was able to train him, set a good example, and hopefully be a little bit of a strength to him. It was an awesome time training, and it made for a really sweet friendship.

My new area is now in the heart of the DC area! Yep, I'm once again on a bike, this time serving in the middle of the city! Haha, it's actually super super awesome! The apartment is really nice and you can see the top of the Washington monument from the roof of the apartment complex! My new companion is Elder White, he's a good elder that has been out for 2 transfers before this. It'll be interesting to relearn how to work a bike area as well as probably being on a bike in the winter! Haha, it's going to be crazy, but I'm pretty excited about it, and I'm sure that it'll be an awesome experience! I just hope that I accomplish whatever it is the Lord has for me in this area.

A quick update on my last week in Olney though. This week was incredible! Everything finally started to fall into place (just in time for me to leave) :). [The father] has accepted a baptismal date for the 9th of October! We went with him and his entire family to the Visitors Center and he now feels ready and willing to accept baptism on the 9th of October. The whole family and ward are super excited! Hopefully I'll be able to return for this baptism!

Then we had another crazy miracle with a lady... So this story is super awesome! It's the last minutes of the night and we're just not sure what to do. We go to check on a referral but we immediately felt super creepy about going out of the car. Well, we figured we were either being little babies because it was dark out or the Spirit was telling us to go somewhere else. As we're driving in the direction of our apartment I felt like we should turn down this street to check on an old investigator we had. We go to check on them and no one is home, but then Elder Gleed remembers this one lady that told us to come back but we never did. (We assumed she was kind of unaccountable) So we go knock on her door and she is incredibly prepared! She accepted a return appointment and it turns out that she has a friend that's a member in a different ward. We give her a Book of Mormon and plan on being back in two days. When we go back to the appointment we can't go into her house to teach her because we need to have a third male to enter her house and there's no third male. We start to just talk to her on her doorstep and we ask her what she's expecting from listening to us, or what it is she's looking for. It turns out she's been to a bunch of churches, witnesses of Jehovah, Adventists, Catholics, Methodists, and in every one she was just looking for something to "fill her". Yep, gold!!! Haha so we start talking to her and promise her that this will most definitely fill her. We set up an appointment for the next day to go to the Visitor's center and she is completely accountable! We go to the Visitors Center have an amazing first lesson, and she accepted baptism for the 16th of October! The Sister giving the tour did an amazing job. When [the investigator] asked her "Well isn't that a little soon?" she just said "Time isn't a factor, because if you know it's true than there's no point in waiting". She is now on date for the 16th! Super amazing miracle! We've waited a long time to even find just a few solid investigators and now God is blessing us for our diligence, haha unfortunately I had to leave!

Then we had an awesome lesson with... an investigator whose whole family are members. She opened up a ton and we were super blunt and honest with her. Hopefully she can now make the decision to act off of all the good feelings she's been having with the spirit.

In short, it was a sweet week to end on, I'm going to miss the ward and the investigators over there, but it looks like God has other plans for me! We'll have to see what happens over here. It'll be super different, especially since this is a branch instead of a ward."

"As for running I do get to run some, not too much, but now the apartment I'm at has a gym with treadmills, so while I hate treadmills they have the advantage of letting me run at the speed I want even if my companion doesn't want to run. As for conference, I'm pretty sure we should be able to watch it. There are plenty of chapels in a close enough distance we could make it to them. It's crazy that it's already come around again!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goal to not disappoint Christ

Today ... we all [went] to the temple as a mission and the people that are finishing their mission [got] to have a special meeting with the temple President. It's crazy to think that some of these people are finishing the missions! Especially the fact that some of the sisters are finishing and when I started they were only halfway done, yeah, it's way too short!

This week was pretty sweet though. Actually, it was ridiculously tough with some cool blessings along the way. We've been really struggling to find people in our area and it seems like we're lucky if we get to talk to even one Hispanic person on the street throughout the day. Haha the other day we were super excited because we knocked a door and a Hispanic person answered! Yeah, it's been tough to find [people], but God is blessing us for our diligence.

Unfortunately our teaching pool has kind of shrunk this week with us having to drop some people and some people dropping us, but [the father of the member family] is still doing incredibly. He still has not accepted a Baptismal Date even though we've gone over all the questions with him. We've figured out that he's afraid of failing, so he doesn't want to take the step of baptism quite yet. We had a super good lesson with him about Faith and just trusting that even though we won't be perfect God will make up for what we lack. We're hoping he'll be baptized on October 2nd which will be super awesome! A Father of a part-member family, haha there's literally nothing cooler!

Other than that, it's just been diligently working with little fruit showing... I've been praying a ton to know how to work this area, especially since the leaders keep asking us why we're not finding. They're very understanding of the difficulties of the area, but they obviously still have to ask just in case they can help. Haha it's been kind of funny though, every time I pray and then search for answers in the scriptures I just keep coming up with "be patient in your afflictions". So Elder Gleed and I will continue to keep working and waiting for God to put his people in our path!

Other than that not too much has happened, it's been a week of emotional refining, a lot of prayer, self searching, and learning more and more how to rely on the Lord. Haha, I think that's one of the biggest things I'm out here to learn. Every transfer I'm forced to rely on the Lord more and more, and just when I think I'm doing a pretty good job of it I have to give up even more of myself and let him take the reins. It's been a good process of change, and while it is difficult, I've been able to see a big change in myself, and I know that the Lord has been with me, and as far as I know I think he's relatively pleased with the efforts we're putting forth. That's my goal, make sure that He is never ever disappointed in my efforts.

It's incredible to think that literally every hour of every day we have here is consecrated directly to the Lord, it's a heavy responsibility, though in reality it makes me realize that that is how life should be lived. Of course there are different ways to consecrate time, not all time can be given to God by knocking doors or preaching the Gospel in the streets. Spending time with family, working for our family, helping friends, all of it is consecrating time to the Lord if we are doing what is right. Anyways, not too much to write, but I'll give a brief testimony.

The work is a true work. I love the opportunity to serve as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, to bear his name, and to speak and do what he would have me say and do. I know that the Church is guided by Jesus Christ and that the Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the reality of this latter-day work. I bear my witness of the reality of the atonement of Jesus Christ to change lives. It does not matter the situation, circumstance, sin, pain, or illness, Christ can and will heal us as we turn to him. I get to see it every day as the Spirit touches the lives of the people with whom we speak. I get to see it every day in my own life as I try to repent daily and become the man that God would have me be. I know that the Atonement changes us, and there is nothing I would rather be doing than helping people receive that change, and the peace it brings, in their own lives. I know that happiness is only found in the Gospel.

One of our recent converts is still so caught up in the world, he believes that being buff, living the high life, are the only ways to true happiness. That is a lie of the devil. Happiness comes as we allow Christ to become a part of our lives, as we follow his will and become more like him. Happiness is the purpose of this life, and it is always achievable because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ lives, and He is our Savior.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Called a blasphemer

"Well, this week marks the past the middle mark of yet another transfer, and the fact that I'm coming up on my nine month mark, ha, that's super weird, I'm still super young in the mission, but it's weird to see all these people that I've known here in the mission getting ready to head on home...

Anyways, for some cool updates on what's up in life and in the life of the investigators we have this week was pretty interesting. ... the father of the part member family we have is progressing quite a bit! He loves to meet with us and we were able to meet with him this last Thursday with his Home teacher and have an awesome lesson. We invited him to be baptized, but he didn't quite accept a date, nevertheless he says he's not running away from it. Then Saturday we went to the VC with him and his family which was super awesome! We were able to talk about eternal families with the temple right there with him and all his kids. He said it was an inspiring tour, we once again invited him to be baptized, but he's still not too sure about the date. ... It's going to be one of the coolest baptisms ever! He also came to church this Sunday with his family, once again just super awesome to see them all walk in together! He was even in a white shirt and tie and then he went to a general stake priesthood meeting with his son later that night, haha yeah, super ready, he just doesn't know it yet. He's going to be an awesome convert and super strong in the gospel!"

"[The young man who was baptized] is still doing well, he's got some struggles, but we've been able to help him out and teach some powerful lessons. He'll be ordained to the priesthood as soon as possible and we're really pushing to have him get a calling and home teachers as soon as possible!

Haha, ok then we had this super crazy experience! So after the hurricane we'd been driving by somebody's house and we saw that some tree branches had fallen on their cars and such. We stopped and offered to help but no one was home, so we removed the branches and piled them off to the side, took some pictures in case their insurance needed it, as well as to protect us, and then left a note with them. Nothing happened from it, but then one night we were driving by there and we had like two minutes left to do something and we didn't know what else to do, so we decided to stop by their house and see how they were doing. Turns out they're home and the father immediately invites us into the house. He knew we were the ones that had helped him and he was super nice! He introduces us to his kids, etc. Then he starts talking about how he knows all these things about the church, about the Book of Mormon, about Joseph Smith, about the Angel Moroni, etc. because his friends in high school were members. The whole time he's saying this, Elder Gleed and I are just thinking, man, this guy is super prepared! But then, ... he starts asking us about whether or not we believe we're saved by grace alone, or if we can "earn our way into heaven".... we calmly explain that our works bring us closer to Jesus Christ who is the person that then saves us and takes us to God. ... He starts complimenting us on our zeal for the work of God and such, and we're still kind of cautious about what's going on, but we're feeling pretty good about everything, and then he drops a bombshell on us! He calmly looks at us, looks us straight in the eye and says "I wish we had that much zeal for the truth, as you do... for a lie." Yeah, super crazy... Well we're kind of stunned that he's just told us that to our faces as we're sitting in his house with his kids right there, but we calmly look at him and begin to testify of the truthfulness of our message. We clearly and plainly state that our purpose is only to invite him to read and pray to know for himself because we know it's true. Then he keeps trying to bible bash us, but we calmly avoid it through testimony. Then he starts to tell us that we are not Christian. He explained that to him, if Joseph Smith was a prophet that means that God's work, Christ's suffering was incomplete and that God had to turn to a 14 yr. old boy to fix it for him. ... We explained the purpose of a prophet, etc. and the loss of authority, but the man just did not want to listen. Then he says to us that if the Book of Mormon is real it means that the Bible was not enough, and that thus Christ's suffering was not enough, and that what we were saying was blasphemy.... We again bore calm and sure testimony, of the reality of Joseph Smith, of the Church, of the Book of Mormon, and of our knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Savior, and then we left. ... Hopefully one day he will remember the testimonies we bore...

There's definitely no way that Elder Gleed or I will forget that experience, it was super intense, and full of the spirit. Luckily we avoided bashing, haha though the temptation was definitely there! Still, it was interesting.

Elder Gleed in four weeks has now been called Satan, been bashed by some Muslims, been called a Blasphemer, and faced down another ... guy that said that having prophets is denying Christ. haha, it's crazy, but it's sweet that he's getting so many experiences!

Then one other thing that was super amazing happened. Here at the Visitors Center we have these things called nights of Music and Inspiration where it's pretty much a music and the spoken word put on by the missionaries. Haha, because I play the piano I've had the chance to perform in a couple of them, and once again got to perform last night, but that's not the cool part. It was just an incredible night, easily the most spiritually powerful one that I've been to. It was focused on a journey through the life of the Savior and had narrations, testimonies, and amazing musical performances. The spirit was so so thick, you honestly could've cut it with a knife. When it finished and the closing prayer had been said nobody moved and everyone whispered, if they even spoke at all, because you could feel the spirit so strongly. It was an even more powerful witness to me of the reality of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and his mission for us. He truly is the center of everything we do in this life, and his atonement is literally all curing and all powerful. It was just an amazing opportunity to feel the power of Christ's atonement expressed in Music and pure testimony. It was just so incredible!

Then today we had a fall sports day as a mission. So we got together as a whole mission and played sports for four hours! It was awesome, we had a game called hero ball, which is soccer, ultimate frisbee, dodgeball, and capture the flag all the same field. Haha, it was super awesome!

Anyways, the mission is going super good, amazing miracles literally happen daily, and Elder Gleed and I are doing well. ... He's a super good missionary!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost

"... As for my week, it was a pretty normal week, except for the fact that [our investigator] received the [gift of the] Holy Ghost! That was awesome, it's so cool to see how much he's grown in such a short time, he's now preparing to receive the aaronic priesthood, and it's awesome because he really does recognize the importance and the responsibility of the priesthood. He's 18 and he's a senior in high school by the way. Unfortunately his family isn't really supporting him, the father doesn't mind, but he says he's not interested, and the mother and brother live in Mexico but aren't too interested right now either. Still, in our lessons we've had with him he always prays so sincerely that his family will come to a knowledge of the truth as well. It's awesome because he has such a sincere desire to change his life, and now he's starting to see how he's changed and it's strengthened his testimony even further.

Oh we also had some super awesome success with our part member families again! We met with an Hermano whose wife and family are active members, ..he's overcome a lot of challenges in his life, even alcoholism, and now he's ready to investigate the church. He says he feels like we have something more than he does, like we have more light is what he said, haha super awesome! He's super willing to read and learn and committed himself to reading in the Book of Mormon for 1/2 hour every day!! Super awesome, we're expecting him to be baptized soon!

... the other part member family member is also doing amazingly! We had an awesome lesson on the Book of Mormon with him and his family Saturday night and he committed to come to church this Sunday, and he did! Man, it was so cool to see the whole family come in instead of just the wife and kids. He's such a good man, and he's really trying to learn for himself whether or not these things are true. He also came to a spanish Family Home Evening SUnday night at Pres. Matsumori's house, and he came without his wife!! Yeah, super awesome progress, and then they were at a ward activity Monday as well. Man, it's been super awesome!

Oh, we also had two ward activities this week, Friday we had a Ward mission activity where we took people on a tour of the three kingdoms, it was pretty interesting, and a little stressful, but as usual it all turned out in the end. Then this Monday there was a ward bbq because it was labor day, so that was pretty fun and a great opportunity for fellowshiping of [the investigators]. In other words, things are going pretty well! The Bishop is pleased with the success we're seeing in the ward and we keep working hard.

Haha, yesterday was kind of hard though, we knocked quite a bit, and it was raining, and very few people were answering the door, it was a long day! Still, if there's one thing I've learned on the mission it's the importance of attitude, hopefully my companion can learn that a little bit as well, he didn't enjoy yesterday too much haha! Things are going well though, I haven't had too many incredible insights or anything ;) I have been studying the priesthood recently though, and it's amazing to study the doctrine of the priesthood and really understand the power it has to change us, and how it enables us to serve in such a better capacity. I'm still loving the mission, and every time I think about the fact that I've been out for over 8 months, coming on 9, it honestly makes me want to throw up... Yeah, time is going by way too quickly, I still feel like I just started the mission and now it's been a year since I even entered into college... I'm afraid it'll all be over far too soon, but I'm sure going to work hard and enjoy it while I've still got a lot of time! It's weird though, I honestly feel like I just saw you guys, and I feel like Mother's day was just like last week when I talked to you all, but the date says otherwise. Haha crazy!"

"... Well, that's all for now, I hope you all have a great week! Love you all!"

Friday, September 2, 2011


Well, there goes another week! It goes by so quickly... Anyways, not too much happened this week, except for a BAPTISM!!! Yeah, it was sweet, [The golden investigator] was baptized this Sunday! Haha, it was really a cool experience, he's super ready and really wanted to just be clean and have the help and strength of the Holy Ghost in his life.

I can honestly say that there is nothing as good as seeing someone enter into the covenant of baptism! He may have a little bit of a tough week with it being the first week of school over here and there being a lot of temptations and old friends around, but he's extremely motivated by the fact that he wants to be worthy to receive the Holy Ghost this week so that he'll be able to have even more help in the future. In short, he's awesome!

President also came to the baptism which was cool for Francisco, and he gave us permission to take him out with us on splits this week even though he's not technically a member yet, so we took him out with us on Monday and he loved it! Haha he's super set on being a missionary, and we're really excited for him!

We're also seeing some cool miracles with some part member families we're working with that are beginning to show signs of progressing towards baptism, it's cool to see so many miracles just about every day! Man, I just love the gospel so much!

Oh another random kind of interesting experience. On Monday we were called Satan! Yep, straight to our faces! We were talking to this one lady on the street and she just kept talking about how good she was and how she already knew God so much but no one else did. We were polite with her and I'm sure she's a great lady, but then we began to testify about the reality of the Book of Mormon and of the restored church, and at first it was like there was just this cloud of nothingness around her because not a single word we said reached her. Finally after some testimony bearing it seemed to reach her and we realized we'd just wasted like a half hour. Haha at that point she said "You guys are Satan! Do you even know what Mormon means?" So then I immediately think oh great, she's about to pull the Mammon card... and she did! After explaining that he was a prophet in the Book of Mormon she said "Nope, my pastor said that that's a devil book and that you guys are Satan! " "Actually it's another testament of Jesus Christ and if you read and pray about it you can know for yourself" "You guys are Devils!" "Ok, have a good day m'am, we know what we've shared with you is true" and then we walked away. Haha, yeah, it was a pretty interesting experience, my companion seems to be getting broken into the mission rather quickly!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Golden Investigator

This week's letter from Derek is special. Those of you who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), will probably understand his emotions. It may be kind of confusing to others though.

LDS missionaries like Derek talk to 1000's of people. Most of the people are pretty neutral towards religion and missionaries. A few are hostile. Someone who is actively trying to persuade others away from the LDS church with lies and misinformation might be referred to as anti-mormon.

On the other hand, a very few people that missionaries meet are actively seeking for a change in their life. They are sincere seekers after the word of God. They are humble, have faith in God, and actively study and pray to try to discern the good and the true. Missionaries often refer to these people as "golden contacts" or "golden investigators."

Please remember that this post is from Derek's letter to us (his family). He tries to describe his experiences and emotions meeting both types of people in the same week. I hope reading his raw, unedited feelings will be positive and not negative for anyone who comes upon it.

One last comment, it may sound like Derek is expressing surprise that the, "golden investigator" gets answers to prayers. However, I believe Derek is expressing his amazement at the man's rare humility, faith, sincerity, and diligence and his excitement at being able to know him and teach him. Now, on to the letter...

"Haha, ok this week was incredible, I'm just going to start by saying that because you're not going to even believe what happened. So Thursday, my "kid's" [brand new missionary's] first real full day out in the mission field begins with weekly planning, but then we get a call from the Zone Leaders saying they received a referral that's actually in our area and we have an appointment at four. Turns out the referral actually came from the Mexican mission, so we run right over there. We meet our new investigator..., recently returned from his vacation in Mexico city where he met the missionaries and received the first lesson and the Book of Mormon.

We sit down with him and the first thing he asks us is where our church is so that he can go this Sunday. Yeah, stunning! But it gets even better, we start asking him about the Book of Mormon and such and he says "well the missionaries gave me the book and I've read some, and then they told me to pray about it, and I prayed about it and got an answer!" Man, it was so crazy, as you could probably imagine our faces were probably slightly shocked looking as we just looked at this Golden investigator. Needless to say we gave him a baptismal date for the 4th of September.

Well, then we met with him Friday as well at the Visitor's center and we find out that the people he's living with are super anti-mormon and have just been feeding him all kinds of anti-mormon stuff, not to mention the fact that he'd been looking at stuff on the internet and what not. He had a ton of questions, but he was extremely sincere and genuinely wanted to know the truth.

We taught him over and over again to trust the Lord and not anybody else, even what we were saying. The Sisters at the [temple visitor center] also did a great job of explaining it all to him and asking his questions. Then we watched the Joseph Smith movie with him and the spirit was super strong, and he said he felt something after the movie, "something like faith". Yeah, super awesome!

So then he came to church on Sunday, and we went to the visitor's center again Sunday night. Well, while we were there it looked like he'd moved through the antiness, he no longer had any questions and as we were showing him some of the exhibits he said to us "I just have this feeling growing inside of me that it's just all true"

Haha so amazing!!! Then he asked us "So Can I be baptized tomorrow?" haha we told him he'd have to wait just a little longer because we had to do some more teaching but that he could be baptized this Sunday. So [he] will now be being baptized this Sunday!

It's honestly been one of the craziest experiences I've had on the mission so far. I've never met someone so prepared nor seen someone that has been so thoroughly antied, but he withstood the blows, and he's been reading and we've kept daily contact, teaching him every day since then. He's incredibly ready, and we went over the baptismal interview questions with him and when we asked him what it meant to him that the restored church was once again on the earth he said one word "Salvation"! Yeah, don't think there's really a better response, man it's just been such a cool week!

We also had this confrontation with one of the antis that lives in his house. He started just ripping on us telling us that we worship a man, that President Monson has replaced Christ, that we were the blind leading the blind, and that we were all going to go to hell. Yeah, that lasted for about a half hour with our investigator just sitting there listening to it all. Luckily we handled it well, the spirit was with us, and we just bore pure testimony to him of the reality of the prophet, of the Book of Mormon, and of the restoration. The spirit worked on him and he got super frustrated and eventually left the room. It reminded me in a small way of Jacob's confrontation with Sherem, "we could not be shaken" (Jacob 7:5). It was crazy, luckily [the investigator] is super strong and it didn't phase him in the least. He recognized that it was a tool of the devil, opposition being placed in his path, and he's super ready to be baptized this Sunday!

Man, so cool, haha if you could only see me you would understand the excitement and the joy we feel every time we talk about the guy! He even wants to serve a mission, man it's just so incredible to see the gospel come into someone's life and begin to change it. So incredible! I love the gospel! Haha, it reminds me of what our seminary teacher said "the gospel just makes me want to flex!"

"Oh, as for earthquake news, haha I actually didn't notice it until it was almost over... We were in our apartment eating lunch but I was walking around at the time and the only thing I noticed was this noise, and I thought somebody was moving furniture above us or something, but apparently it was pretty scary. Nonetheless, because I didn't notice it I wasn't too scared. It made for a good conversation starter though."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Transfers - Training a New Missionary - August 17th Letter

I'm making two posts today. The first one from Derek's letter two weeks ago, and then the second one from this last week.

"Well, this last week was pretty interesting, and pretty awesome! It was a good way to end the transfer, and my time with Elder Lee. We had two investigators at church. [One] awesome investigator, that while he still hasn't accepted a baptismal date is progressing a lot, and has a true desire to know that it's true. Plus, he's reading in the Book of Mormon which means he'll be baptized. Unfortunately his mom, the lady that came the last week, was not able to come this week because she was out of town. Nevertheless she is also doing super good! Haha, she asked us if she could be baptized twice, and not in the incredulous way, but the really thinking about it way. Unfortunately she also still did not accept a date, but we're working with them, so hopefully more good news will follow.

We also had another investigator come to church who is awesome. ... he's a pretty interesting guy. Haha, in some ways he's kind of a punk, but he's a loveable guy and has a true desire to learn. He's ... progressing and we have a feeling he'll also get baptized within the next transfer or two.

We also had a super sweet lesson with a former investigator that we ran into. Apparently she had received an interview for baptism, had picked the songs, and was about to be baptized, but then she got super sick, people got transfered, and she was lost... Luckily we ran into her, and now she's willing to once again work towards baptism. Unfortunately she has a few problems with health, and her family has a pretty crazy story, but we're excited to work with her!

In short, it was a week of miracles! Then transfer night came around and things got crazy... Haha, yeah, it was crazy... On call out nights President calls all people who will be trainers, or district leaders before the general call out is sent out about where everyone is going. Needless to say I was not expecting a call. We figured I would probably stay in the area and Elder Lee would get transferred somewhere and that would be it. Well, that's what happened, but I also got a call from President, and turns out I'm training! I was super super shocked. Not to mention the fact that I'm nervous out of mind. I've never once been senior companion, and now I'm expected to take over the area, and train a new Elder. It was crazy, and you can definitely feel the weight of responsibility settle upon your shoulders. Luckily, God happens to be one of our companions, so I figure he'll do most of the training.

It's definitely humbled me a ton, and I've turned to God even more these last few days since I found out. But, today I met my "kid", his name is Elder Gleed, from Eagle Mountain Utah. He seems like a pretty cool Elder, a little nervous, haha but that's to be expected. His Spanish is already pretty good, and I'm excited to work with him! It'll be a fun time together, and it's definitely going to make me grow and stretch. Haha, it's honestly crazy and the nervous knot in my stomach has only really left when we were in the temple. Still, I trust God's judgment and if He says I can do it, well, then I guess I have to. God shapes the back to fit the burden he puts upon it! I'll let you know how our first week goes!"

Letter From August 10th

"Man, I think I must have a mental disease because I literally don't think I did anything since the last time I wrote you, because it literally feels like yesterday. I know I did stuff though, since we literally have every hour of the day planned every day, still, sometimes it feels like we accomplished nothing! Nevertheless I'll try and delve into those memory banks and pull out something. Let's just say that the last two weeks have been kind of rough. One of our solid investigators has started to kind of drop off of the map... She was doing really well, but every time we mention baptism she just kind of jumps away from it. We think it's a combination of influence from her husband and the fact that she believes it will bring her under condemnation to be baptized more than once. We've tried to explain, but so far she's showing little progress in that area. She went so far to say "no me bautizo", just straight up, or I will not be baptized. So we're hoping to get her to the visitors center to help her feel the spirit so the spirit can help her realize she needs to be rebaptized!

Then we had a ward activity that was pretty cool, unfortunately no one invited their non-member friends, but we did have some less actives come that hadn't been for quite awhile, so that was a success.

We did have some cool miracles on Sunday though! We had two investigators at church! We had this one lady that wasn't showing too much interest, but thanks to Elder Lee we ran by there before church anyways and she ended up coming, staying all three hours, and really enjoying it! That was super exciting, and we're teaching her and her son tonight, so hopefully it continues to go well! Then we had this other guy come that is the boyfriend of a less active member that has kind of gone seriously off the path. This Returned missionary in the ward invited her to come to church and she came, bringing her non-member boy friend who is now a new investigator! Yay for member work! He's a really cool guy! His path to baptism may be a long one just because he's got quite a lot of stuff to fix up, but he's willing and we're excited to see him change.

Other than that not too much happened. Just a lot of running around trying to get a hold of people and talking to a lot of people."

"We're doing a purification process that I think I told you about in the last letter where we make a list of things we will and will not do each day and then report to the Lord each night. That's been cool, it's been cool to see God remind me of each of those things each time I do them, and I've been getting better already in just these last three or four days. It's been cool and I'm excited to do it for the full 40! Anyways that's about it.

Oh, one other thing I'll share from this week was that in District meeting we all shared some miracles we'd seen in ourselves over the last few transfers. Since I shared with the District I figured I should share with the family as well ;) Two of the miracles I've seen is that number one I've learned more and more what it means to be unshakeable in our testimonies. That was one of my greatest worries before the mission that I wouldn't be able to say with utmost certainty that I knew the Book of Mormon was true, etc. Well, that definitely changed. God has granted me a testimony to the point where I can say with utmost certainty that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that this is His church on the Earth. So one of my miracles was learning more what it means to be unshakeable.

My second miracle was that God has really really humbled me. As you know I've always considered myself to be somewhat independent, never completely so, but I like to do things on my own a lot of the time. Well, as we know, it's impossible to do that on a mission. Especially these last two transfers I've learned what it means to really be driven to your knees because you know that the tasks of the day ahead of you are just too much for you to bear and you have to hand it all over to the Lord. That's happened a lot, and I can testify that the Lord does indeed take the burden, and He will help us to carry it. We are completely worthless, we literally do nothing. All we have to do is let God and Christ take over. Our job is merely to step out of the way, lower our pride, and let God work through us. That's been a miracle that I continue to keep seeing. So those are two of the big changes I've seen in myself on the mission. Anyways that's the week!"

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wow, I honestly feel like it's the Thursday after I wrote you all last

"So, as the title says I honestly feel like I just wrote you all. Time went by even faster this week, and while the numbers say we accomplished a lot it all goes by so fast that I have a hard time remembering everything that's happened. Thankfully there are such things as journals!

So according to my journals, I barely remember any of this happening, we taught a ton on Thursday! There's been some cool experiences of helping with less actives. There's a less active that's around 22 years old that had kind of messed up his life, but recently he's been turning around and because of that he now came to church this Sunday! It was awesome to see him finally make a decision that will turn him onto the path where he could truly return to our Savior. It's cool to think that bringing back a less active is just about like a baptism. Haha, it's funny how before the mission I never even really thought about less actives and now they're one of the things that dominate my thoughts.

There was also another less active family that we had the opportunity to help where the wife has been horribly sick with arthritis, to the point where she's bedridden and can't even lift an arm. Because of that the family has been unable to go to church because they have to stay home and take care of her. It was incredible to feel of the spirit that is in their home. The spirit is definitely manifest when people come together in acts of service. I would also definitely say that angels watch over that house. It was a further testament to me of how very much aware God is of His children. He knows each of us so individually it's incredible...

We also had some interesting experiences this week where the spirit told us fairly strongly to leave some people's houses. We're still not sure of the reason why, but the feelings were unmistakable. It's been cool to learn how to better recognize the promptings of the spirit!

Hm, there were some other cool things, but they're not too cool. I'll just focus on really what I've learned this week. This week I've really been studying revelation, and how it is that I receive revelation. It has definitely been an enlightening experience as I've examined how revelation works, and how I've seen it in my own life. I love the talk by Elder Bednar on revelation! It's so true, and I think that we as members of the church so often fall under the category of receiving revelation without realizing that we are. If we have the spirit, at any moment that we are feeling the spirit, we are also receiving revelation because the Holy Ghost is a revelator. Thus if we are keeping our covenants we will be guided, even if we perhaps don't realize it.

I've also been paying more careful attention to my thoughts and feelings when I feel the spirit particularly strongly and then writing down the impressions I receive, because as Joseph Smith said we cannot receive the Holy Ghost without also receiving revelation.

Something along those lines as well is that in our Zone Conference this week we learned about sanctification and how we too can sanctify ourselves. There's a talk about that and it gives the example of a 40 day "fast". Not a fast of food, but a fast of behavior. What you do is you first fast normally and in an attitude of fasting and prayer you make a list of things that are distractions, or little things that are keeping you from feeling the spirit as strongly as you could, bad thoughts, or just distracting thoughts, etc. Then with that you go to the Lord each morning for 40 days and you promise Him that you won't do anything on that list, and you ask him for help. Then each night you report, and ask for help to do better.

The promise is that by the end of the 40 days if you've been faithful in your prayers you'll be a different person, changed, and that much more sanctified. I'm definitely excited to try it, because it doesn't matter the skills we develop in teaching, what ultimately matters is if we can truly bear testimony with the power of the spirit behind it, because it is the spirit that will communicate with the spirits of our investigators and ignite their testimonies. It was sweet! Hopefully I'll be able to go through with this process of purification!

On a slightly less spiritual note, we also had our zone activity today which was super fun, water fights and such, with a potluck barbecue! It was sweet!

A recent picture

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Investigator at Church

"Haha wow, I literally feel like I just wrote you all! This week has flown by even faster than the last, and now we're halfway through the transfer. Ugh, it makes me want to throw up because I still feel like we've hardly accomplished anything, but in reality we're doing alright!

We have some super good news! We had an investigator at church!!! Yeah, it was super sweet, unfortunately we had to run to go pick her up and so we were late for sacrament meeting, but still, she came! She's an awesome lady that was apparently baptized in her country, but her record weren't there so we get to rebaptize her! Haha, though I admit it was slightly stressful at sunday school because she had some interesting questions, and the teachers didn't understand, started to explain things way to complicatedly, and it was kind of bad at first. Luckily it turned around and she had a good experience, we think she'll be baptized soon!

Then we have two other progressing investigators. We have a [another guy] I may have told you about. He has a friend that's a member in Peru and we started talking to him and he invited us to come back and learn more. We've had like 3 or 4 lessons with him and his mom and they've been reading the Book of Mormon so they're progressing so much! Oh man, it's so cool to see the difference that reading the Book of Mormon can make. They've progressed in knowledge, happiness, and general spirituality. The promise is definitely true that as soon as we begin to study the Book of Mormon a power will come into our lives.

We also have a lady ... that's super solid. She keeps appointments, reads, and calls us to cancel if she has to. I know it sounds funny to be excited about that, but it's great to find people that are genuinely interested in the gospel!

So we're doing pretty good! We've received a lot of blessings, and thanks to some changes in policy we've been able to plan more, which I think has played a huge part in the fact that we can actually teach these people... "

"...sometimes [the responsibility to teach] gets to be a heavy load, and a quote I read today by Abraham Lincoln fits perfectly. He said something along the lines of sometimes the things just seem too heavy to bear and you're driven to your knees because you know that your own wisdom and knowledge is not enough to finish the days work. With these new investigators I've really begun to feel an even greater need to rely on the Lord to ensure that we're doing everything we can to help these investigators that he's given us!

Other cool things this week also include that today we went to the mall and saw all kinds of cool stuff!! We got to go to the National Archives which was cool as well. It was honestly kind of a spiritual experience to see all these documents and statements by the founders of our nation. It was especially incredible to see how integral God was in our nation. This nation was originally founded upon the rock of Christ, it was a really cool experience!

Haha, funny how even museums become spiritual when you're a missionary, yeah, I'm a total missionary nerd! Anyways, that was pretty much the week, not too many incredible things, but a lot of little really cool things!"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Exchange with the AP

"Well the time flies by and I continue to be shocked that my mission will be over before you know it. When we think in terms of 6 week periods, I'm pretty much at my year mark, yeah, not really, but it'll be here far too soon... But, we'll try not to think about that, I think I'm just going to stop counting because it makes me too stressed when I think of how time is going by way too quickly!!

Well this week was pretty cool because one of the Assistants [to the mission president] came out with us on exchange for two and a half days! It was awesome to have the opportunity to learn from him and to get some of his advice on how to work with the ward, how to work with our investigators and how to find. We had a miracle day with him, just because he's super good I guess, and we had 5 new investigators in one day, it was honestly ridiculous! Most of them are pretty solid too, so we're really excited to be able to teach them.

He also helped us learn how to work with members a little more. It was great because we were able to go visit members, stay with them for just a half hour, leave them with a commitment to do some missionary work, bring the spirit, and then leave without using up a lot of time just chatting. It was much better, and helped me understand even more the value of member missionary work when we do it in a very focused way.

He also gave me some advice on what I can do better as a teacher, as a companion, and as a missionary. It was honestly an awesome exchange and it helped me gain some focus that I'd felt like I'd lost. Now the key is just continuing to apply what he taught us. While we probably won't have 5 new investigators every day, and we really don't want that many every day, we should be able to work in a similarly focused manner. It's going to be sweet! While we still had no one at church this week, since most of the people we found, we found on Saturday and they already had plans for Sunday, they all have a lot of potential and we've been able to work well with them since then.

We've also had the opportunity this week to do some service. We've felt like we've lost some of the trust of the ward since there have been no baptisms and almost no one at church for the last two months... So we've been serving them, and committing them to do missionary work, as well as having them come out more with us. We've only been doing it for a little while, but already I can feel a difference in our missionary work. Not to mention that it's awesome to see the members catch a little bit of the missionary fire! As they invite their friends to church and such they feel the joy of missionary work and they're even more excited to just keep going! It's been pretty awesome to see!

Our District meeting was also pretty cool! We learned more about the importance of the Book of Mormon, and as you can probably imagine with 5 missionaries in the same room talking about the Book of Mormon it was a pretty spiritual experience. I would invite you all to redo the promise in Moroni 10. You'll get an answer every time, and as you do you'll be more excited to share that testimonies with others! When we really take the time to think about the significance of the Book of Mormon it's incredible. When I think of how much it has influenced my life it's almost incomprehensible, and as we share that same thing, and those same feelings with other people they can't help but feel the spirit testify to them that our testimony is true. It's like it says somewhere about the prophet Nephi. He was preaching to the people and they could not deny his words because his testimony was so powerful. It's a truth that each of us can have. The Book of Mormon carries the spirit with it so powerfully that any sincere reader will be convinced of its truth by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Sometimes doubts will come into my mind about things in the church, little thoughts placed by Satan, but no matter how strong the doubt, or how persistent the thought, it always comes back to the Book of Mormon. My witness of the Book of Mormon has come to be unshakeable, something I wasn't sure would happen before the mission. I'd always believed and felt it to be true, but I don't ever think I really knew knew that I knew. Now I definitely do, and nothing will ever be able to shake me from my testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. A lot of that is due to Mom and Dad making sure I read it when I was little, and I know all you guys have that same testimony, and it'll be sweet for you guys to reconfirm it. It's an awesome thing to do, and as Preach My Gospel says, we should do it frequently! Anyways that's about it for the week, it was pretty sweet! Hopefully this next week I'll be able to tell you about some baptismal dates and some investigators at church!"

"I'm most definitely enjoying my time serving here, while at times it's been frustrating, and disappointing, I will forever say that it is worth it! Just the [one] baptism would have been worth it! Oh, and [that family] will be baptized this Saturday!!! Unfortunately I won't be able to go to the baptism... It's been too long since I taught them, but I better see pictures! I remember teaching them, and just being able to see them all dressed in white together. It'll be kind of a bummer that I can't go, but the important thing is that they're going to be baptized! They're going to be so strong in the church!!
Derek with his District