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! :)