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!"