Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another week

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

Another week

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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

I've also been thinking a lot this week about what it means to be "fully invested". Unfortunately this week we received news about a couple of missionaries who went home... It's interesting, I thought that one of the hardest things on the mission would be when investigators dropped us, but I think even harder than that has been seeing missionaries go home... It's amazing how much I've been able to come to care about these missionaries and how they honestly feel like my brothers. I worry for them and pray for them so much, and just hope that they'll be able to be ok. Anyways, it's made me ponder on what it means to be fully invested and if I've really been able to invest my whole heart, might, mind, strength, and soul into the work that we're doing. Obviously some days and moments are better than others, but I've been able to see that when I've been making a concious effort to be fully invested in the lives of each missionary, investigator, less-active, etc. that that is when the miracles have come, and that that's when it's hardest and most joyful. I just hope I can become more fully invested and help missionaries do so as well. I don't think we ever realize the gift that it is to serve a mission, the gift that it is to be able to give everything we have to the Lord. It's a blessing that I literally cannot compare to anything I've ever before felt or experienced....
Man, first of all, thanks for sending me pictures Rachel, I'm pretty sure that these are the first pictures I've seen of our family since Jessica left on her mission, which was I'm pretty sure over a year ago! What in the world.... Man, it's honestly scary to see how much you guys have changed. Mom and Dad still look the same but the rest of you have grown so much it's crazy.... Man, I still think of you guys as 14, 14, and 10! Now you're old! Rachel you look like you're older than I am, Jared looks about my age, and Jonathan, well you still look like Jonathan but you look a lot older! Wow, that's really werid.... Not to mention the fact that I am now convinced I will be the short and the bald brother! I'm pretty sure my hair is falling out at ever increasing rates, it's bad news, I'm just going to have to pray that I'll look kind of like Elder Oaks when I'm old. Anyways, this week was a pretty good one. We've seen quite a few incredible miracles, and I've been able to have some incredible experiences as well. It's amazing how the Lord can humble us so quickly and in such an inspiring way. This Thursday I felt impressed to call one of my recent converts, Jose Paz who I knew should be going through the temple soon and he answered and said that my phone call was an answer to his prayers. He was planning on going through the temple to receive his Endowment on Saturday and that he had been praying to know who should be his escort and then he asked me to be his escort... It was one of those experiences that is always so humbling, to be able to serve someone in such a sacred way. It was incredible to be with him and to go through the temple with him for his first time. The temple president gave the little talk before the endowment and opened my eyes to its vast importance and eternal significance. I can honestly say that the temple will never be quite the same again. He said a few things that can be said outside of the temple and one of the things that impacted me and caused some major reflection was the following phrase: "Baptism is the gate, the Holy Ghost is the guide, the Priesthood is the power, and the Endowment is the gift." It's definitely something to meditate on and it opened up the windows of revelation for me to a much deeper understanding of the power of the endowment and the temple. It was also just incredible to once again see someone make it all the way.... It's been humbling these past two transfers to see the power and change that the Gospel has brought to these people and to have been a part of it. There truly is nothing greater than sharing the gospel and seeing those who live it faithfully. I will forever be grateful for these individuals and the opportunity God has given me to be a part of their lives.
We've also had some crazy miracles throughout our zone and area. In our area we are now teaching a part member mother who is incredibly prepared though skeptical. We had such a powerful lesson, and it was only the second time that I've had the opportunity to say the first vision in english on the mission, and it was incredible to once again feel the spirit it brings. The lesson was powerful and her heart was touched. We hope that she will soon be progressing towards baptism. Haha she's an asian mom so she kind of reminds me of you mom. She'll be praying about the Book of Mormon and if things are right I may have her send you an email to ask you about your story. We also had a random miracle where we were at a gas station and a man came up to us and asked if we were from the church! It turns out he's muslim but is unsatisfied with his religion and what it teaches and is looking for something greater. He said he had seen us and was driving away when something told him to turn back and speak with us! The Lord is at work in His vineyard! He's in another area but I'll be keeping tabs on him to see how he progresses. We also had a random lady come to church this week with her less-active friend who also hadn't come for a long time. So the Lord is blessing us with people to teach and the opportunity to bless others lives. It's been pretty awesome, though still difficult as we've dealt with many many dropped appointments with people we had felt were solid. But the Lord has his timing as well. Oh man, then there's another very sad but inspirational story. There's a guy named Adam, 20 years old, who has gone through a ton of things! He's completely turned his life around and has been more gung-ho about baptism than almost anybody I've ever taught and unfortuantely yesterday we had to break the news to him that he probably won't be able to get baptized for a long time because he is currently on probation for something he's done in the past... Still, he is making such strides and is progressing in the gospel. He's quitting smoking and when we asked him how he was doing he said "Of course I'm doing great, this is for my baptism, this is for my salvation, of course I'm going to quit!" It's been pretty humbling to see such an intense desire to receive something even when there are so many obstacles in the way. He has truly taught me better the meaning of the gospel and atonement.
Ok, I have to cruise because the computer has a limited amount of time and other elders are waiting, and unfortunately it's kind of late so I'll give a brief run down. The storm was supposed to be epic and unfortunately completely missed our area! Haha so it really wasn't that bad, we were told to stay inside and all day all it did was rain and blow a little wind, so unfortunately it was nothing spectacular. Other than that this week has been a difficult one... We have a bunch of people that were showing so much potential but that now are struggling... We haven't been able to get in contact with a lot of people, despite our repeated efforts and we're now pretty sure that most of them are avoiding us. So it's been kind of a difficult week... It's good because it's reminding once again of that mentality that you need to have in the field of doing everything possible and then relying on the Lord to provide the miracle, and miracles are happening. Just the other day we were checking on a former when I felt the distinct need to knock some doors around there. The first door we knocked was an old lady that said she had just received a Book of Mormon from a friend that had been trying to get her to listen to the missionaries. She knows a ton about the church and says that maybe since she wasn't willing to let her friend pass us to her God just decided to send us by! It was pretty amazing and we should be teaching her later on this week. Other than that, this week was crazy, we had a ton of meetings, and we also had Elder Cook come and give a special mission conference. He talked a lot about member missionary work, about the new influx of missionaries that will be coming in, and about a lot of the changes that will be coming. The work of the Lord is definitely progressing and we're going to see an increase in the number of missions, missionaries, etc. It's pretty incredible! I only wish that I could extend two or three transfers to see it all happen! We also had some other meetings, Zone Leader Council, which I admit it was hard to be on the other side again. It was just a shock to realize all the things that have been happening that I haven't even heard about when before I was informed on everything. It was weird... Anyways, my time is really short, I'm sorry I don't have time to say more, but things go well, I'll be sure to write more next week!
Haha ok, I found another computer with a longer time limit. So I still have to fly, but I'll try and give a little bit more detail. So this week we also went on exchange and blitzed an area and saw this incredible miracle! We knocked on the door of a less-active family and they answered the door and invited us in and the first thing that the lady says to us was that she had a friend that she wanted us to teach! Apparently the Sunday beforehand she'd spoken to her about some of the things that have been going on in her life and she ended up watching the restoration DVD with her as well! So that day she set up an apppintment for that night and the Elders were able to go and teach her! It was awesome especially since that area has literally had 0 investigators for over 3 weeks! It was a pretty awesome miracle! The Lord continues to show forth His hand in the work! Man, it's once again been so humbling to be out back in the field. You realize so much how you literally know how to do nothing. They talk about building an area, etc., but in the end after all you do it really is God that does the work. We've been working effectively, organizedly, etc. and yet not too much seems to be happening. But we continue to look for ways to improve and just keep expecting those miracles that we know are bound to come, haha but it's definitely been hard!
Elder Cook also left us with an Apostolic blessing that our mission would bless the lives of everyone that we care about, our families and friends now and in the future. So that's another brief rundown.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another crazy week!

Man, life as a Zone Leader again is just as crazy as life as an Assistant. It's incredible how we can always magnify our callings and occupy our thoughts and time no matter the scope of the stewardship or challenge. It was a pretty awesome week though I'm now struggling to remember all of the things that have happened. We've been able to find quite a few cool people recently and our days have been filled with appointments all day every day! I honestly don't think I've ever had so many appointments as we do now. A lot of them are with Less Active members and we've been able to have some cool experiences as we've met with them. It's interesting how I've felt such a pull to so many of these Less Actives and a desire to help them probably more than at any other point in my mission. There are a few that are progressing really well in the Gospel. One of them is Scott, he's a guy that hasn't been to church in 20 years but has now discovered that he needs God in his life and the other day after a lesson we had with him he texted us thanking us for the spirit we'd been able to bring into his life. It's funny how your perception on life and people changes once you've got to know a few people. I think before the mission I would've seen this guy and just wondered how in the world he was going to clean up his life. He has two kids with two different women, tattoos, he smokes, etc. but it's been incredible to see how much of a desire he has to follow the Savior. He was worried about coming to church because he's going to smell like tobacco and he's worried that he won't be able to live all of the commandments as a member, haha I'm pretty sure before the mission I would've said something along the lines of, "well if you love the Lord you'll definitely stop smoking and you'll do this and that, etc." now it was completely different. It was the idea of "you know what, that's ok, you just come and you feel right at home and start feeling the atonement in your life. The rest will eventually take care of itself, as for right now just come and feel the spirit and the love." It's been cool to see the change in perspective on sin, its consequences, repentance, mercy, and the nature of God. I believe He's a lot more merciful and loving than we maybe sometimes give Him credit for. Obviously it doesn't erase the gravity of sin, but it's interesting to put it into perspective and hate the sin but love the sinner.
This Sunday I also gave what was only my second talk in Sacrament meeting. Haha it was an interesting experience, the High Councilor that also spoke had come up to me the Sunday prior and assigned me a topic, the topic? "Why do we need to repent in order to be forgiven?" Yeah, I'm just glad that there weren't any Born Again Christian investigators in there. Still it was a fun topic to study and prepare for and once again it made me realize how much I've grown... It's strange to be able to stand in front of the congregation and not be too nervous, still nervous, but confident that the spirit was going to testify of what I was going to say and that was really all that mattered. Strange how the mission changes you so much...
We've also had the opportunity to go on several exchanges with some missionaries that have struggled to take off in their missions. It's amazing how each of us struggle and try and struggle alone when if we would just step outward a little bit everything would be so much easier. This particular misisonary was struggling with a number of things, negativity, depression, feelings of inadequacy, etc. and just hadn't expressed it to anyone for quite awhile. I think that exchanges and helping the other missionaries has become one of my favorite parts of the mission. It's an opportunity to help others see and realize their potential even though they already have the gospel. It just shows the universality of the Gospel as it applies to all of God's children whether missionaries, non-members, or anyone in between.
We've also been helping out this one guy named Adam, man the guy's life is crazy... He was doing really well, progressing in the gospel, leaving behind bad habits, etc. and then in just the last 36 hours he's lost everything... He was kicked out of his house, lost custody over his child, has no money and no job, all because of a single decision that snowballed and escalated.... It was a sobering realization that our lives really do turn on small hinges and that each moment and each decision carries with it heavy consequences. Thankfully he's been able to maintain some hope, but it's going to be a long road to fix up his life... Still, it's been cool to see how the Lord is teaching him, and then teaching us as we've been able to help him.

Another Week

This week for me has been an interesting one. I thought it would be a little harder for me to get back into the swing of things in the field, but surprisingly it hasn't been hard at all, in all reality I feel like I was never really an Assistant. Unfortunately that feeling comes with some pros and some cons, but overall it has been good to be back in the field. I am currently in the city of Waldorf/White Plains in a ward that's pretty cool, a lot like our ward at home, and with lots of potential. Also being with Elder Sanchez has been good. Haha we're already back to having those revelatory conversations that we always seem to have. Still, we've seen some awesome miracles in the zone as well as in our area. We've met people talking to them at their door that "love the Book of Mormon because it just seems to clarify so much stuff that must have been taken out of the Bible". Yep! We met a lady that had that had already read some of it and just loved it before we spoke with her. Then we had leadership meeting, a trip to the National Mall and to the Arlington Cemetery with a bunch of sweet pictures that I'll be sure to send you some time, as well as a lot of other cool things that have been going on. The Lord continues to work and I continue to be amazed at how much He can use us. I'll share briefly with you an experience that happened just yesterday and was an extremely powerful experience for me. I was on exchange, and the long of the short of it is that God's plan is perfect. We randomly were in the right place at the right time to have a member come with us to an appointment, which wasn't going to happen if God hadn't orchestrated it, and then the appointment wasn't there and we went to check on a potential investigator that they had and this lady needed to hear from us! She started out asking us about what made our church different than the rest, we of course told her of prophets and modern revelation, and then she proceeded to say she had a serious question to ask us. So we were able to go in, and she unloaded her entire life story on us... She said she was amazed at the fact that she was unloading all of this stuff on us because she only ever told her husband these things and for her whole life had never trusted or loved hardly anybody. Yet she said that she trusted us and that she could see Christ in our eyes and in our countenances and that she wanted the peace and happiness that we had.... It was one of the most gratifying moments of the mission because it was just so real. We were unable to do anything really, we have no experience, the scriptures we read only do so much, but the spirit that the Lord blesses us with to accompany us is real, and that's what mattered. We honestly said almost nothing, we just listened and shared our love, concern, faith, and hope, and that made all of the difference. It reminded me once again of the "why" behind missionary work. After and during that lesson all peripherals fall away. You're not worried about your teaching skills, you're not worried about numbers, goals, or being extremely effective, it all just falls away and you remember that the reason why we're really here is to be representatives of the Lord no matter what, and in whatever place we may be in. It was a reminder that this stuff is so real, so necessary, and that it's only by the grace of God that we are able to accomplish anything. All you're thinking about when you're in that lesson is that you're just praying that she can feel something because you have no idea what to say or do. It was a powerful experience, and I direct this next part to Rachel and to Jared and to Jonathan as they think about serving missions. Really all missionary work is is being real. It teaches you how to be real, not just the "real you" but the real Christ. It teaches you what He would do, what He would say, and then it shows you how to best do it in order to help other people. It's amazing how real the changes are in these people's lives as well. We are blessed with the knowledge of the Atonement, and not only the knowledge, but the power to activate it in the lives of the people we meet. This lady knew all about Jesus Christ, she had faith in Him, but she needs the Atonement to be activated in her life and we are the only ones that are able to do it. It is probably the biggest blessing we could ever ask for. That's about all I have to write about though. I hope you all could feel a little bit of what I felt in that lesson, it was a special moment, and a special blessing and I share it with you all in hopes that it can maybe show you a little bit more what we're really doing out here in the mission field, because the mission field makes no sense until you're there and have experienced it for yourself. So little siblings hopefully that's been of benefit for you :)

Another week (transfers)

Well, this week was transfers, and as usual it was a crazy week, full of stress, lots of crazy last minute changes, meeting the new missionaries, and now, getting released as an Assistant... Man, it was a week just full of emotions but a lot of learning as well. I've now finished being an Assistant and these last three transfers have probably been some of the most intense months of my life, spiritually, physically, emotionally, everything! I have learned so much serving in this capacity and I'm going to miss it, but I'm more than willing to be released as well. It reminded me of what Dad said about being released as Bishop, he mentioned a leadership training where they said our time serving is limited and that one day it will be over. Well, my service as a missionary thankfully continues but I will miss the close association I've had with the Matsumoris and the opportunity I've had to work and care for so many missionaries. It has been a lesson on love, understanding, seeing people with God's eyes, and a ton more. Not to mention the organizational and time management and leadership skills I've been blessed to have the opportunity to develop. It really was the craziest ride. Still, the work continues even if we serve in different capacities, and that brings me to these transfers.
Transfers brought no surprises for me, haha since I've known for quite awhile what was going to happen, but I'm pretty sure it shocked the rest of the mission. I will be staying in the English program and I will once again be a Zone Leader back with Elder Sanchez but this time in a different zone where there are only English Elders. Feelings and thoughts on the matter, well, it's going to be very different.... When I found out a few weeks ago that I wouldn't be returning to the Spanish program I was definitely saddened... I've loved the Spanish program, the people, the culture, the love, and everything about it, and now the Lord has called me another way... Being an Assistant and serving a mission has taught me the lesson of "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." It's super sad to think that I'll probably never serve in a spanish ward again, or teach hispanic people... I honestly consider myself half hispanic! Still, I know the Lord has a work for me to do and it's been humbling to see Him direct my path. It's going to be a fun time!
This week also brought some other experiences, meeting with the new missionaries was of course incredible as usual. It's fun to be able to feel of their spirits and it's been interesting to see myself change with each testimony meeting. Each time we meet with them I've had the chance to bear testimony and it's been cool to see how my testimony and understanding of the Gospel has developed. I wish I could be where these missionaries are now, at least in some ways. I wish I had as much time left as them, but I am definitely grateful for the growth that I've been able to experience and I wouldn't trade that growth for anything in the world! Then I also got to teach with President and go on splits with him for an hour and a half. It was a cool opportunity to be able to receive counsel from him and just talk. He is an inspired man and I am so grateful that I've been able to serve so closely with him and learn from him.
Then there was also General Conference.... Man, that was a crazy experience as usual. I don't think I have ever received so much revelation, both for myself and for those under my stewardship, as I have in these two last conferences. I also particularly enjoyed the talk by Elder Holland, as I'm sure everyone did, because it was the same talk that he gave when I was in the MTC, two weeks into my mission. I felt it was directed very personally to me, that the Lord had given me that talk as a direction at the beginning of my mission and that this was the interview near the end to see what I've done with it. There's still a lot left to ponder on that one...
I'm really not sure what more to say. It's weird, being released from an Assistant feels like the end of a major part of the mission, a huge learning experience, and it's made me change so much... My depth of gratitude for the mission just gets deeper everyday. It is such a gift to be able to serve the Lord full time, I always knew that it was never much of a sacrifice and more of a blessing, but that understanding has been deepened and amplified in the last few months. I am just grateful that the Lord decided to let me serve Him as a missionary. Each day is, has been, and will be a gift straight from Heaven. I'm excited to serve more closely with all of these Elders and to be able to grow in my love for them even more. It's amazing how much you can come to care for all of these missionaries... Just as God lets us feel His love for the people He teach, He has definitely let me feel His love for all of these missionaries. It's honestly pretty overwhelming, 126 missionaries.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Time flies by too fast!

Man, time is just moving by faster every single day... It's ridiculous how much stuff we do, how quickly it goes, and that it is once again P-Day. So this last week was spent doing the finals on transfers. Unfortunately it had a couple of bumps along the way, like Elder Brown and I totally messing up all of transfers, but in the end it turned at alright. Let's just say that it was probably one of the most difficult times of the mission up until this point. It's silly too, because it ended up not being too bad, but it's amazing how the mission seems to amplify both your strengths and weaknesses. We strive so much for perfection as missionaries, perhaps more than at any other time in our lives, and because of that any little thing seems like a huge problem. It's taught me a lot about myself, as well as about the things that I need to work on with the remainder of the mission.
However, we have had a few pretty awesome experiences. The church recently constructed a huge new chapel on 16th street and Emerson NW in Washington DC. It's a street that is just lined with tons of churches and the church had to fight a huge legal battle in order to get a hold of the property and then get the zoning permits to build a chapel on it, but in the end it is probably the most impressive chapel I have ever seen. To kind of kick off the opening of the building the church spearheaded a service day here in the DC area and hosted it at the 16th street chapel. It was so big that the city and the state jumped on board and made it a public event. The church even sent 6 semi trucks with $40,000 of food to the chapel and surrounding food banks as well as $1,000 deposits to the bishop's storehouse to various food banks. Then a bunch of members as well as non-members of other faiths got together and we packed tons of boxes of food at the chapel. It was an incredible experience to see so many people there serving, many of different faiths, and to feel the spirit of service that prevailed in the area. It was an awesome experience and it was the epitomy of deseret, haha it just felt like a beehive in there!
This week we've also had a number of meetings where unfortunately we've had to "drop some cane" or "lay down the law" as they say in English. Haha yeah, we had to clarify some issues that have been going on in the mission, nothing major, but some little things, I've got to say that that is still my least favorite part of being in leadership, though it is still a good thing, it means we get to help people reach their potential, which is what really matters. We also went to the temple again today which is always an enjoyable and enlightening experience. Other than that, not too much out of the ordinary has happened, but I'm sure that this next week of transfers will bring a number of surprises that I can't quite tell you yet ;) Let's just say that it is going to be completely unexpected for anybody in the entire mission...
Meanwhile, Conference is coming!!! I've got some questions prepared, it's going to be sweet!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Week

Well, I cannot believe how much has happened in this last week! It's been insane! We finished off zone conferences which was good, we were a little bit worried about this one since one of the zones had been struggling, but there was a good spirit there and the missionaries were able to learn quite a bit. There was a new Senior Couple there that has served 4 missions and they said it was one of the most uplifting Zone Conferences they've been to, so we were pleased that everything went smoothly and that the spirit was able to be there for everyone to learn from. After that the week just picked up, we had another meeting on Monday, Zone Leader Council yet again, which was held in a new chapel that the church has built in DC. It's a super awesome chapel! It's huge, new, and really nice. Hopefully the wards that attend it will be able to take care of it well. We've also been on two exchanges with different areas, and I got to be back on bike for at least a few hours! Haha it was sweet to be back and to be able to talk to a bunch of people at metros, in neighborhoods, etc. We had some cool experiences with some people that were intially very cold and even almost hostile, but once we were able to be a little bit persistent most of them opened up! It was really cool to see. We spoke to a less active who is now Catholic, and a Jew on the street that both started out talking to us completely not wanting to hear anything, but by the end of it it ended as an extremely positive contact and they were able to get some things off of their chest that were clearly bothering them. Though they didn't accept return appointments it was just fun to be able to be the Lord's messenger to them in that moment.
Then this week there were also two incredible experiences. We went to visit a less-active man who was in some desperate need. His mother called us and informed us that he had been in a car accident that morning, that he'd recently been diagnosed with pneumonia, and that a good friend of his had recently died. As soon as she called us we felt impressed to obviously call the Bishop and we were able to immediately go and visit him with the bishop and give him a blessing. It was yet again another experience of just being clearly on the Lord's errand. However, what was even more incredible was to be able to see the mantle of a Bishop at work. We said very little, since John is under the Bishop's stewardship rather than ours, and so the Bishop just spoke and it was incredible to see him say things that were clearly coming directly from the spirit. It was literally as if he were saying exactly the words that the Savior would have said had he been there. It was a lesson on leadership and ministering that I will definitely never forget.
Then, even more incredible, I was able to attend the sealing of the Del Orbe family this past Friday!!! This is the family that was baptized at the beginning of my mission when I was with Elder Shinost, and it was one of the most incredible experiences... It was just amazing to think back to the first day we met them, and then to think of all the lessons, all the worry, all the prayers, and all the progress that has happened for them to be able to come to the temple to be sealed. The only way I can honestly describe it was that it was so real. It was as if I were no longer a missionary, I was just there as me, not their missionary, just their friend, who was so grateful that they had been able to reach this point. It makes you think of the day when we'll all be gathered together in heaven, we'll all just be brothers and sisters, grateful that we were all able to make it there together. It was a good reminder on the purpose of everything, of life, of missionary work, of the Gospel, of everything. The purpose is eternal families, it is returning to the presence of God, it's the happiness that comes as we live according to Gospel principles. It was just a sweet moment to see them all in the sealing room, and to see Valentin and Austri in the Celestial Room, I honestly cannot describe all the feelings that I experienced, or how incredible and sacred of an experience it was. It strengthened and amplified my testimony of the Restored Gospel and it strengthened my resolve to ensure that I one day reach that point, and that I help as many people as I possibly can reach it as well. There really is no greater joy than this... I'm just grateful that God has allowed me the opportunity to serve a mission, it's such a gift of time and experiences. There really is nothing that can compare, no amount of schooling, dating, sports games, whatever it may be, God has allowed us the gift of 18 months to two years of getting to know Him. Of understanding His purposes, and of allowing us to become more like Him as we serve Him and our brothers and sisters. The Church is true and that truth is wonderful!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Another Week

Wow, haha another busy busy week! This week we've had meetings almost everyday of the week since I last wrote! This week is the week of Zone Conferences which is always an enjoyable time. We have the opportunity to see the whole mission as well as to train the whole mission. It's funny I don't get nervous for any other training but this one. It's kind of intense to be training two full zones at the same time. I just hope that our training is what they need to hear. It's always so humbling to have the opportunity to train the entire mission on something. It's crazy to think that our trainings really do seem to set the tone for the mission and thus the tone for the lessons for each of their investigators as well. Needless to say we think quite a bit about what we're going to teach as well as trying to make sure that the training has everything in it and is explained well. This transfer we trained on the "process of purification" which I think I mentioned to you all last time? So far it's been going well, though I admit that for some reason Zone Conference Week seems to be one of the most difficult weeks of the transfer. The devil knows my weaknesses well and seems to attack non-stop during Zone Conferences to try and make sure that our training isn't as good as it needs to be. The devil is an astute one, he's very good at making you look at all your weaknesses and amplifying them a million fold! Yeah, this time was better than last though, I was able to recognize it a little quicker and fend him off a little bit easier, but it's still interesting to see how the devil attacks and the Lord defends right in the most crucial moments.

I've also been thinking about some other things dealing with conversion. It was interesting, the other night we passed by a less active guy's house and started to speak to him. He was nice enough but had left the church when he left home and he wasn't too interested. We testified briefly and invited him to listen to us to try and rekindle the faith of his youth. He declined and then we politely walked away as if we'd just had a normal conversation with the man with no greater significance than just that. As I was thinking about it afterwards I realized that I'm not nearly as converted as I would like to be. It's sad how we can sometimes become so casual in things that are of an eternal nature. I left wishing that I would have been truly "devastated", as Elder Holland says, because this man had no interest in receiving the gospel. Obviously it's good to be polite and respectful of another person's beliefs and practices, but I just got to thinking, man, I know this stuff is true, and I know that without it he's really not going to make it to the Celestial Kingdom, why was I so casual? I notice a similar attitude in many of the missionaries and sometimes members as well, where we understand that the Gospel will help people be happier and help them have better lives, a better family, etc. All good and necessary things; however, in the process we forget to look a little deeper. We forget to remember that we don't do missionary work "just to grow the numbers of the church, or to help people have better lives." We do missionary work in order to "open the doors of the Celestial Kingdom". And we are the only people in the entire world that can do that. It's something I think I need to strive to remember and recognize a little more frequently. Imagine the difference it would make if every time we did home teaching, or invited a deacon back to church, or knocked someone's door, or talked to someone in the street, if we could just see them as God sees them, and realize that we have that thing that will be of greatest value to them. I think that if we could do that it would make a world of difference. We would be filled with love for the people, we'd realize that we have to keep striving to share the gospel despite rejection or if those who are unreceptive. I guess you could say it was kind of a wake up moment. I believe that will be my focus for the course of the next month or so, striving to see these people as they are and recognizing the eternal significance of what we're doing. It's incredible to think that God really has entrusted us with the souls of these people underneath our stewardship... Anyways, besides those moments of reflection it's just been a go go go week! It's crazy to think that the transfer is already halfway over... Man, time just disappears, and we're left just wondering how it all went by so quickly. Still, at least it's happening, right! There really is nothing better than the mission!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Another Week

Hm, well this week has been quite the busy one! We have a ton of stuff
that we've been working on in preparation for the Zone Conferences
that are coming up this next week, along with trying to balance our
time in our area as well as going on exchanges, so it's been pretty
insane recently! Now that it's my third transfer as an Assistant I
decided I better try and do a little more than we've been doing in the
past. I figured that now I know about how long it takes to get
everything done so I'm not quite as worried about just making sure it
gets done. It means that we've had time for more exchanges and more
time in our area, but it also means we are literally running around
every second of every day, haha which is a good thing! This past week
we had a lesson with a part member father named Carlos. His wife
recently reactivated herself and because of that he also became
curious about the church. We were able to go and teach him but it was
interesting to see the difference between him and his wife. His wife
returned because she felt a spiritual abyss in her life and Carlos is
on the other end where he's content and believes his life is pretty
set. It was once again a reminder of the importance of an eternal
perspective. His greatest desire in life is to have a good job in
order to provide for his family so that they have no physical worries,
which is definitely an honorable desire, we're just hoping we can
inspire him to gain a more eternal perspective.
There seems to be a similar temptation for all of us, whatever stage
of life we may be in, and whether or not we are members of the church.
We seem to see it constantly with the missionaries as well, that they
just lack a little bit of that eternal perspective in regards to the
work we're doing and the impact of their missions. We've been trying
to find a way to inspire them and remind them of their potential. The
vast majority of the missionaries are good, but there are always those
few that we worry about and try to find a way to help. Haha it means
we're already thinking about the next transfer and the next transfer
may result in some interesting changes in the mission leadership (but
I can't tell you too much about that yet, sorry! ;) )
This week I was also reflecting on some of the lessons I've been
learning in the mission and some of the themes the Lord seems to have
been teaching me. One of the ones that stuck out to me, especially
right now in the mission, has been the principle of submission. It's
such an interesting thing to think about. We have to ask ourselves if
we really are willing to submit to the Lord in everything we do,
including giving up our dreams and desires even though they may be
good ones, in order to submit ourselves to the will of the Lord.
Whether that's in a career choice, marriage, schooling, friends,
transfers, being faster, smarter, or whatever. It's been humbling to
see how much the Lord seems to have been teaching me the lesson of
submission throughout the mission/life. Granted it is one of those
vital eternal principles ;) Still, it's been good to reflect on my
level of submission and if I really am willing to give up all of my
dreams and desires in order to fulfill the will of the Lord, even if
it's completely different from every good desire I have. Something to
think about.
Random story, yesterday we went on exchange deep in the heart of the
mission and due to traffic and some random mishaps I spent a total of
5 hours of the day not driving, haha man it was crazy! Still, it was a
good time to meet with the missionaries in that part of the mission.

not too much this time!

Haha so I pretty much just wrote you all on Saturday, so there's not too much that has gone on since then, relatively anyways. However, we have seen some sweet miracles. This Monday we had Zone Leader Council which is always a fun meeting. It's fun to meet and council on things we can do to better the mission. We've determined a few things we'll be doing in the future with the mission. This upcoming transfer we'll be implementing the process of purification again which I think I told you all a little bit about last year. We' also determined our training for the upcoming Zone Conference and Elder Brown and I gave a training that the missionaries will be trained on in the upcoming week. We trained on the power of bearing powerful testimony. We talked about how we need to focus on what the lessons mean to us as we teach them, as well as the difference between merely teaching the points of the lessons and testifying of them. It's interesting to see the difference in lessons when sometimes you can teach a lesson perfectly but it seems to do literally nothing. On the other hand when you go in with the attitude of sharing the truths that you've come to know are true it makes all the difference. There is no replacement for the power of the spirit that comes when we testify of the truthfulness of the Restoration, Plan of Salvation, and The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Elder Brown and I also got a bunch of things ready for a mission wide activity that we had to day called "Fall Sports Day". Haha I won't write too much about this but we'll just say that it's pretty legit. To be simple and brief we play a game called "Hero Ball" which is a combination of three games in one. This year we decided to make the three sports Soccer, Capture the Flag, and (drum roll please) QUIDDITCH! Haha that's right, think back to those days of playing quidditch in the backyard, it was pretty awesome, all the games go on at the same time on the field with soccer balls, quaffles, and bludgers flying through the air with 52 missionaries on the field at any one time. It ends up being something of a barely organized chaos but it turned out really well. Only one person got mad, and only one person got hit in the face so we considered it a success. Not to mention the fact that it was good to be able to spend time with all of the missionaries and provide an opportunity for them to get to know one another.
We also had some sweet miracles with finding. We had literally probably about 1 minute in our area one evening and we decided to use it to go check on a lady we'd never met. We were walking to her house and there was a lady getting home with her little daughter. We stopped and talked to her and she instantly opened up to us about some of the tragedies that had gone on in her life. Her husband was in the military and had cheated on her and left her and her three year old daughter all alone. She talked about how intelectually she knew she shouldn't be mad at God because everyone has agency but that she was obviously still struggling. While she didn't accept a return appointment then we're hoping that she'll receive the sisters when they go by in a week or so. It was just cool to see how the Lord could use our limited time to put us in the path of someone that clearly needed a message about his love and awareness of her. It was a blessing to be able to testify to her of the reality of God's love and the fact that we meet no one by coincidence.
Haha it's also been a humbling week as a new sisters was recently transferred into the area. She is on fire and has reminded us of the fire we need to perhaps rebuild and then maintain. It was a good reminder of the faith we need to have in our areas and the faith we need to have despite how little time we may have. The Lord continues to teach us little lessons each day and hopefully we're becoming better each time. It's just weird to think that one week of the transfer has already gone by... Crazy stuff!

Another week, this one a bit longer than the last

Wow, it's been such a crazy week! The week before and after transfers is always super crazy, so sorry I didn't get to write to you guys any earlier, we've just been running around like crazy from early in the morning to late at night! So to give a brief run down of what we've been doing for the past week or so is that we've just been crazy with transfers and setting up for meetings. With transfers we were changing things around until the Sunday before transfers trying to get things right for what needs to happen not only this transfer but also the next, so that's been a bit of stress, but luckily everything seems to have worked out alright and that with only a few hiccups, hopefully everything will go smoothly for this transfer! We've also had a few tough days of trying to figure out what we need to train on for the mission. Leadership meeting, which was yesterday, was an incredible meeting, I honestly don't know if we've ever had one quite so spiritual. It was all thanks to a workshop by one of the VC trainers on the purpose of baptism and the joy of missionary work, mixed in with the theme of reverence. It was super powerful. Reverence has become one of the things I love to study and try to develop on the mission. It honestly makes the biggest difference and sets the tone for our day, lessons, meetings, etc. It's definitely an interesting topic to study and apply. We've also been scrambling to get things ready for a mission wide activity for this next Wednesday, Sports Day! We have a huge game of sports called "Hero Ball". It's a combination of three sports on the same field, we'll be playing soccer, capture the flag, and quidditch all at once! Haha yeah it's going to be insane, hopefully it works out alright.
Amidst all the craziness of planning transfers and other activities and meetings there have been a few extremely powerful spiritual experiences. It's been incredible to see once again the Lord's awareness of who I am and what it is that I need to hear. This last Saturday was an extremely difficult day for us. For some reason we were just exhausted, we had to do a bunch of stuff that we don't normally enjoy doing on a Saturday but that we had to get done, and then it just felt as if Satan was attacking us from all sides. Temptations, distractions, negativity, frustration, we could not figure out what was going on! We just kept praying for strength and that we would be able to accomplish all that was needed. Eventually everything did work out but it was probably one of the most difficult days of the mission. It felt as if the Lord had decided to withdraw His spirit and leave us on our own for a little while just so we would know what it felt like. It really was a fulfillment of Ether 12:27 where the Lord showed us once again our weakness so that we would come closer to Him and He could strengthen us. Still, that day we still saw some incredible miracles, tender mercies that kept us going through the day. There was a random guy that came up to us trying to fundraise that eventually turned out to be super interested in the Book of Mormon. We gave him a book and he immediately asked us what our favorite chapter was so that he could read it that evening! Incredible right! Unfortunately he lives in a van and was only here for a few more days, but hopefully wherever he goes he'll be able to get ahold of the missionaries. Then we also met this one guy that looked like just a punk riding his mo-ped, haha but we talked to him and he was an awesome guy. It honestly reminded me of Elder Schwitzer's experience as a doctor because this guy is working over here to try and get to California to be with his wife, he said they'd been married for 6 years and that the last four months away from her had been some of the hardest. It was cool to see him light up as we talked about the possibilities of eternal marriage thanks to the restoration, hopefully he also will find time to meet with the missionaries in his area. So the Lord continues to be able to work through us, despite our major weaknesses, our limited time, and our limited ability. It's always just incredibly humbling to realize that the Lord really does care about what we're doing, that He is really is guiding us even when we don't feel like it at all.
This week we also got to pick up the new missionaries, man, that is my favorite part of every transfer! It's just fun to see them come in and to think back to the beginning of the mission. I honestly wish I could have another two years... The testimony meetings were extremely powerful and it was especially incredible to see the inspiration that worked through President Matsumori. I've had questions recently about whether or not I'm doing what the Lord would have me do in this assignment, if I've been trying to use time effectively, if I've been diligent, if I'm really accomplishing what he needs me to, and the Lord spoke through President. He was able to give me the assurance, comfort, and guidance I needed without even knowing the questions I was struggling with. It was yet another testament to me that the Lord is incredibly aware of each of us. I don't know, it's hard to describe all the feelings and thoughts I've been having for the last week or so. This time of the transfer always seems to be the time of intense inner reflection, what with the coming and going of missionaries. All I can say is that I'm grateful for the mission... I'm grateful for all that the Lord has been teaching me, for the lessons, the struggles, the joys, the miracles, and the opportunity to serve. I feel that the mission really does lead us to conversion, it's just been crazy to think back to where I was before hand, and to see the change that the Lord has worked in me... There really is no greater blessing or miracle than the miracle of conversion. I feel that recently I have come to know our Father in Heaven in a way that I never have before. I feel that I can truly call Him Father and that He truly calls me son. I don't know, it's just been a crazy week, but I'm grateful for it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another week

Wow, this week has been exhausting!! I honestly don't think I've ever been quite this tired on the mission. The weeks leading up to transfers are always super intense, so we've been working a lot on the transfer board trying to figure out where people are going and we met with President a few times this week in order to discuss various possibilities. It's always just so crazy to see how much thought and time goes into everything behind the scenes. We also had transfer recommendations where we talk with the VC trainers and the Zone Leaders about all the missionaries and we get their suggestions on where they should go and what type of companion they need. Then we compare those with the logistics of transfers and any other things we feel need to happen as well as what President feels should happen and then we come up with a scenario that we end up always changing around, haha it's super crazy! Still it's been cool to see, and the Sister missionaries have especially taught us a lot about transfers. At least for us cold and callous Elders when it's an Elder's last transfer we don't think too much about him... We'll put him in a good spot but we figure he's probably learned about all that he'll learn, the Sisters are much better and taught us a good lesson. Their transfer recommendations were centered around the two sisters going home to ensure that they got everything they needed in their missions. It was just a good reminder that we need to remember the individual in all we do, which is something that sometimes becomes difficult when you just look at the transfer board with other 100 missionaries.
We've also had a tougher week with a couple of difficult experiences... We had a missionary that had to go home and a companionship that had some difficulties. It's always an incredible experience to be around problems like those. You can feel so clearly the love that the Lord has for each of His missionaries, it's very much like teaching lessons and feeling His love for the investigators. The Lord is no respecter of persons, missionary or investigator.
I also have some really good news, the Mejia family from the city was apparently sealed two months ago!!!! I didn't find out about that until this week, but it was probably one of the happiest moments ever! Haha Jessica and I always seem to have such similar experiences. I called one of my recent converts this week who is now slightly less-active... It honestly does break your heart to hear about them making such destructive choices... It's strange because when you're at their baptism all you can think about is how incredible it will be in the Celestial Kingdom, and then when you hear about them making such wrong choices it just tears you apart... Like Jessica said it really is a small taste of what the Savior and Heavenly Father must feel about us as we stray from the path, so it was a very double edged week, as most weeks in missionary life are. The two extremes of fulness of joy and sorrow. I just hope some of those guys can pull back out and regain the direction they had beforehand. Jose Paz is also planning on going to the temple soon with his family!!! It's just cool to see people progress!
Oh we also had an awesome lesson with Phil where the spirit honestly just took over. He had been going through some pretty intense trials, the devil was nailing him at all of his weakest points, and we had no idea. Luckily he hadn't given in, but he was coming close. Anyways, we came to a lesson with what we had prepared for the week before not knowing at all what was going on. We shared it and then he opened up with everything that had been going on. The lesson was exactly what he needed to hear and it helped him make some major decisions. He's now firm in his decision to go to Utah to visit and to see if he can go out there for school. While he's there he's going to hopefully go through the temple open house and see temple square and a bunch of other things. It was honestly as if Satan had thrown a huge stumbling block in front of what was going to be a major opportunity for spiritual growth for Phil. He'll also be doing baptisms for the dead for the first time in Utah! Satan was clever, but luckily God was a step ahead as usual. It was just another humbling experience to see how much God can use us with out us even realizing it... It still amazes me that he can use these two 20 year old guys to do his work, it makes no sense at all... Still, I'm very grateful for the opportunity I have to let God use me, it's just incredible to see all the things that happen each day that are so beyond our control yet seem to turn out just perfectly... Haha though it is really exhausting! Luckily He also seems to give us extra energy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weeks are just flying by!

Man, I honestly cannot believe that another week has gone by, it seems like it's just been crazy! Anyways, I'm not entirely sure what happened this week, haha but I'll do my best to remember as much as I can. Late last week we finished off doing interviews with President Matsumori of the rest of the mission. Obviously we weren't interviewing the Elders but we had the opportunity to check all of their planners and make sure that they're working well in their areas. That was a good experience, and it was fun to be able to see all the Elders, as well as an enlightening one! It was cool because we were essentially able to train each companionship individually on how to effectively plan for their areas and organize and focus their efforts. Hopefully they start to put it into practice. We've also been working a lot on transfers since transfers are coming up in a few weeks. President had left transfers almost completely up to us, and then he was going to check and make appropriate changes, so we've been working at transfers for the last few days every spare moment we've had. It's incredible how many things go into a transfer, but it's been a good experience once again and tomorrow we'll be meeting with President to get additional insight on what should happen with the next transfer. We've also had a few other projects we've been working on for President, one is organizing a ward mission activity, then we have a number of meetings that are coming up in the next few weeks that we have to prepare for, as well as going on several exchanges, etc. Haha it's honestly just been crazy and I feel like I haven't slowed down for a single day in the last two months, which thankfully is just how I like it! :)
Man, we've also had a number of extremely awkward experiences with members and checking on people. Haha so we don't always know when we're going to have time in our area and so a lot of the time we just have a list of people that we need to check on that we get from the ward council and from the sisters that also work in the ward. So we went by a few of them this week and had some super awkward experiences! First of all we walked into a sensitive situation that the sisters had known about for a few months and which we knew nothing about and ended up having an extremely awkward dinner with a part active and part less-active family knowing nothing about what we should share. We then proceeded to knock on a Less-Active's door that I had forgotten I'd knocked on at the beginning of my time here because we'd changed ward directories and hadn't had time to update the information onto the new one. Consequently I'd forgotten, until we were at the doorstep, that this particular lady had converted to Judaism and was not at all interested in returning to the church, not to mention the fact that she recognized me as having knocked on her door a couple of months ago. Haha then we went to visit a less-active, or so we supposed, and the lady that answered the door was an active member I'd seen occasionally at church but never spoken to. Caught off guard it was a super awkward beginning, but then the story actually becomes cool. She told us a little bit about her life and family, nothing too special, and then we were debating inwardly on what to share with her since she obviously was not the person we'd been expecting to visit. The scripture that kept coming to mind was Alma 31:31-35. It was a scripture we had shared earlier and we felt that it would be something we could share with her as well. What happens next is a testament that God truly does work through us despite the fact that we fall so very very short so very often. The scripture we shared was one of her favorites and to her it spoke about her family... Half of her family is Less-Active, including her husband, and as we read the scripture the spirit filled the room and she said that she felt just like Alma. That she so often prayed that she would be able to bring "her brethren/family" back to the church but that far too often she just felt discouraged from even trying. It was a powerful moment and another incredible instance of where the Lord using us as His instruments without us even realizing what we're doing. It's super humbling, we literally do nothing, and yet the Lord can utilize us and utilize even the smallest time we have in our area. It's been a blessing to see the Lord magnify our efforts despite the fact that we sometimes feel we can just do so little.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another week!

Haha man it just amazes me how similar Jessica's mission and mine are! This week I also got to do a few exchanges, the only difference is that as an Assistant we actually don't take anyone into our area, we just go out with the people and work their area for a few hours. We had an awesome exchange down in the Southern part of the mission with an Elder that I picked up from the airport and then Elder Sanchez, my old companion! It was pretty sweet, especially since I was able to see how much this Elder has grown. At  the beginning we were honestly just worried that he wasn't going to stay out on a mission, but it's incredible, he's come to love the mission and love teaching the gospel! Not to mention that we went to a teaching appointment with this super old but faithful guy. He's a baptist deacon and has donated literally thousands of dollars to his church, but he heard the message and loved it! We asked him what it would mean to him if there were twelve apostles and a prophet on the earth and he said in a Southern accent "Well, it would mean I'd have to follow them of course!" And if there was just one church from God? "Well I'd have to be a part of it of course!" Needless to say he accepted a conditional baptismal date and then committed to come to church and follow the baptismal calendar we would make for him! But the coolest part of it all was that this Elder was able to extend his first baptismal invitation of his life after being out in the field for something like 10 weeks! Haha Elder Sanchez and I had to keep pushing him along and staying quiet, but he finally did it and did it super well! It was just cool to see his face light up afterwards when he realized he had just extended a baptismal date to a pretty solid guy! 
Phil is also doing well! Man, he's ridiculous! At church he was talking about how he hadn't done anything "extra" recently and so he wanted to go to the Visitor's Center and then he wanted to go to an addiction recovery program they have here and try and see if his story could help some people! He ended up coming to an FHE with us at the Matsumori's home for all the investigators and recent converts in the area. He had been asking before if there would be people there that he could help and when he came there was an eternagator for an area that hasn't been progressing at all! Phil started to talk to him and just told him his story, encouraged him to fast, and told him it was all worth it because he had to do it for his little daughter! It was honestly ridiculous! I could not believe how much Phil has changed! In just a few months he's gone from a guy that probably never would have listened to us to a guy that just has such a fire for teaching other people about the gospel. His testimony is a representation of what I call "real" missionary work, where you share it just because you feel it! If only we could always be like that! He's also super pumped about home teaching and about teaching his families to their needs and being there to help them out for anything! He's definitely someone that will magnify his callings! 
We've also been working on quite a few projects here in the office, we're making  a new binder for all the incoming missionaries with all the information  they need, we've been working on transfers once again, and we've been working on  all those other little problems that always seem to crop up! It's been pretty fun! All in all it's been a good week. Unfortunately my scripture reading has gone down from normal though, you'd think that as a missionary that could never be the case, but for the last 2 days we've had to be at interviews in the mornings and so we haven't had time for studies, and it's incredible to see how much your spirituality can start to lack just from missing a few days. Needless to say last night I had to do some scripture studying even though it was a little late, I was just starting to feel spiritually bogged down!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Time is flying by!

Wow, I'm constantly amazed at how quickly time is going by! It's already August, which scares me out of my mind, but it's all good, I'm slowly putting myself in a deepening stage of denial about the fact that time is moving by, so my mind is currently convinced that it's actually May or June. Anyways, this week was a good one with a lot of interesting and different experiences. First of all we had Zone Leader Council this Friday which was actually a really really good meeting. Haha if there's one thing that's changed about me on the mission it's how much I've come to enjoy meetings! Haha yeah kind of a weird thing to say, considering my first week I was convinced that District meeting was a waste of time, haha how things change! Anyways it was a really good experience of working together in council to determine the needs of the mission and how we could work
together as leaders to address the problem. In the past Zone Leader Council had been a discssion of rules and if we should change any of them. Lost transfer Elder Pierucci and I received some sweet inspiration on the true purpose of councelling. Or in other words we just finally realized what the true purpose of Zone Leader Council was, so this time we were able to make the agenda items much more specific and useful to the needs of the mission as well. We were able to  come up with some good action points which will hopefully be put into action soon. We also gave a training on To do v. To Be from that talk in conference. It was a really fun workshop to give, especially since we've felt that it's been one of the major things we needed to address throughout the mission. It's far too easy to fall into a routine of things, to fall into the trap of trying to sell the Gospel instead of preaching it, or in other words doing instead of being. It was a fun training, and an especially fun one to plan since we were able to learn a lot more about the subject as we stuied it. It really is all about the motive in which we do things. Of course the Do's and How's are important as well. The two are inseparably connected, but it was good to see the
emphasis shift a little bit more to the be and why of things as well.
This week I was also able to go on exchange in Landover Hills! That's two areas ago and the Elders had planned a lunch with Jorge Duenez one of the recent converts in the area! Man, it was just super good to be able to see him again and to see how he has progressed in just these last three months!
He's faithfully fulfilling his calling and doing misisonary work! In fact a friend that he invited to hear the missionaries will be getting baptized this Sunday! He's also planning on getting married to a girl in September who is also a faithful latter-day saint! Haha he's such an awesome guy and it was a definite tender mercy to be able to see him once again!
Ok then we had this crazy day on Saturday! Under the invitation of President Matsumori we went to a meeting in Southern Maryland, like  southern southern Maryland to be with the senior couples, and (drum roll please) a visiting emeritus General Authority!!! Yeah, it was awesome to be able to meet him and hear his conversion story. He has a powerful testimony of the truth, and it's still just incredible to me to see the depth of their personal conviction and to hear the power behind the words that they say. Though the words we say are just the same the conviction behind them is incredible! His name was Elder Kikuchi! Dad you may have heard of him, he's one of the first General Authorities from japan and he's served as a General Authority for something like 20 years or more. It was one incredible experience! He spoke about the pioneers on the plains and about how we find God in the plains of our lives. 
We were also able to roll out the new meeting program, and so far it's turning out well. It looks like it will be a good shift in the focus of the mission. It will give the Zone Leaders a much more organized way to train their zone, and will allow the District Leaders to have a little bit more responsibility as well!

Funny story of the week! We were at a dinner with some members and the family is super crazy! They have four little boys that are all super hyperactive! Anyways, their cat got stuck in a tree probably about 20 feet or more in the air and so one of the kids climbed the tree and got the cat. So he's stuck in this tree with the cat and he can't get down with the cat in his arms and he has to get  the cat out, so we're staring at him in the tree, slightly worried because he looks like he's going to fall and kind of wondering how they're going to get the cat down. All of a sudden two of the other brothers run out of the house with a towel! Yep, that's right, they were going to do it fireman style! Aka they were going to drop the cat from the tree and catch him in the towel. The parents completely agreed that it was a good idea and so on the count of three the cat was thrown from the tree!! Yeah, not the best idea.... Unfortunately one of the kids just didn't have that great of a grip on the towel, forseeable? perhaps. So this is the sad but kind of funny part of the story, the cat nailed the ground!
Yeah, just picture this poor little animal being tossed from twenty feet up, it was a crazy sight! He did get a little cushion from the towel and in the end the cat was ok, but it was definitely one of the crazier experiences I've had at a member dinner before!