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!

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