Monday, January 23, 2012

Pin out of finger (Jan 18)

Thanks everybody for the birthday wishes! Haha it's weird to think that it's my birthday already once again, and that I'm 20, not gonna lie I still think I'm 18, in fact when I have to put ages on stuff I still have to think before putting 19, and now I've already got to put 20, weird.

Anyways, this week was interesting. It has continued to be a little bit of a struggle for me, and I've been trying to figure out why. It's not so much that it's just hard to try and find people recently, because that's how it was for all three transfers in Olney, so I think there's been something else going on. I think I just haven't been as grateful as I used to be for the little miracles we see each day.

It was interesting because last week in zone conference that's one of the things they said, that the people in the days of the church in the Book of Mormon lost sight of the miracles, and their hearts were hardened. Luckily the Lord told me so I could try and stop it in its tracks. I'd never realized how vital gratitude is in our eternal happiness and in just our general attitude towards life. We need to be grateful for everything the Lord gives us, and as soon as we are our entire perspective on life and situations begins to shift. We see the good instead of the bad and because of that we're happier.

Other than that this week has been fairly eventful. I finally got the pin out of my finger! Haha that was weird, the doctor just grabbed some needle nose pliers and pulled it right out, didn't even numb me or anything, even weirder, I couldn't feel a thing! Haha super strange, so now the nail on my finger has fallen off, it's slightly swollen, and pretty ugly! But at least I can use it, and it's straight!

We've had some pretty cool teaching experiences. This Saturday we were on exchange, I brought Elder Bigelow to my area and as usual we saw a ton of miracles! We're teaching this lady that actually lives in Langley Park but we teach her on Saturdays because she lives in D.C. during the week and comes to our English class. Unfortunately she just has this problem with drinking coffee, but has been praying to know if she should really leave it behind. Unfortunately she was asking for a dream from God telling her that coffee was bad. Turns out she's had dreams before, something hispanic people just seem to have a lot of! But it was cool because her dream from before was very applicable to her situation now and we were able to help her see what's at stake, Coffee or Eternal Salvation! She's now going to stop drinking coffee!

We've also had some cool experiences with our [older lady]. Haha last night we were teaching her and she had a friend over that has met with the missionaries before but had some issues with wanting to keep just about all of the commandments. So he started asking us a bunch of questions about it all and Maria just started testifying about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and everything, it was like she was a member at our lesson with this guy even though she's not baptized yet! She's super solid, and it was cool that God provided her with that opportunity to bear testimony of the truths she's come to know!

We also had a fairly interesting lesson with a part member family. The family has been members for 14 years and the father just won't get baptized. We read with him in Doctrine and Covenants 39:7-10 (Jessica if you have any tough investigators this one is pretty legit:)) and he was touched. We spoke on the importance of the priesthood and how he has to help his family endure to the end. Unfortunately he seems a little reluctant to leave behind the world. A little too content to try and be serving two masters but we'll see what we can do for him!

As for our recent converts, they're all doing well, which was one of my goals this transfer, to strengthen them and make sure they don't just drop off of the map. ... Oh we also had kind of a sad experience. We were teaching this other little old Lady... Unfortunately she's probably one of the most negative people I've ever seen in my whole life! She literally just has this negative aura about her. However, she's normally been fairly pleased to see us. However, the other day she dropped us... Her words, in a not so nice tone were "No se molesten en regresar" Or in other words, "don't bother coming back" It was super sad, and slightly frustrating. She just doesn't seem to realize that her negative attitude is going to continue in the hereafter... As Elder Sterr and I contemplated it we realized that she will literally be sad and negative for all eternity unless she chooses otherwise.... It was super sad, and we're going to see if we can't try one more time to try and at least cheer her up. We'll see though...

Still, it's been a cool week! We finally found some pretty cool new investigators that hopefully start to progress here this week! Oh as for birthday plans, I don't really have any, haha but we'll see if we go do something.

It's a tough life (Jan 11)

Haha interesting title ay? Yeah, it's been kind of a tough week for me, I guess because we're just not seeing the success we saw last transfer and sometimes it gets kind of tough because you just wonder what more can we do? Of course there's a lot we can still do, but the good thing is, while it's tough, it's not too bad. We still plenty of miracles, we just have some people that aren't too willing to progress right now so we've moved on back to the finding stage, which is always the more difficult part of missionary work.

The Lord has really been tutoring me this transfer on making sure that I'm relying on Him and the spirit rather than my own abilities or knowledge. Unfortunately there comes a point where you feel like you know how to teach, haha such a silly thought. While we may know some good teaching techniques it's not worth a thing, because in the end if the spirit isn't touching the hearts of the investigators it doesn't matter how good your teaching techniques are, how good your teaching to their needs are, it won't do a thing. En cambio (not sure how to say that in English) if you have good teaching techniques and the spirit's with you and touches their hearts that's when miracles occur. Sadly I think I'd been kind of missing some of the spirit in our lessons. Thankfully the Lord helped me see it and is tutoring me in relying more on the spirit. It's just been one of those times where you're working so hard and yet nothing seems to be happening, haha thus our patience is tried. However, we're still doing well and we've especially grown in companionship unity which will make us more powerful instruments in the Lord's hands.

Besides the struggles of just trying to teach people we've been seeing some cool miracles. We've been having some pretty cool finding experiences with English people. For instance we went to this building to go check on a reference and the person was not interested at all. However, it was one of those things where we were just pretty determined to teach and I was convinced we were going to teach someone in that building. We didn't know where they would be but we decided to find out why we were there and just knock a few doors. We knock the first door and a Jew opens the door! Haha luckily he was a nice Jew and we still testified of the reality of the Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Jesus Christ and while perhaps not interested he was kind to us. Then we randomly chose another door and a really cool lady opened up the door. While we couldn't go inside because there wasn't another male, we were able to teach her about the Book of Mormon and the church and she was very interested and called the Book of Mormon a "Godsend". It was really cool to just see how the spirit can work through us and direct us to just keep going and then a miracle occurs. Once again, it was a reminder to me to trust in the Lord.

An unsettling pattern I'd begun to notice in myself and also seen strongly in the district is that we think we know how to do the work. Because of that we'd maybe started talking to less people each day, believing that because member work is the way to get things done then talking to people is a waste. Once again a pretty silly notion. Luckily the Lord corrected me with Elder Sterr before I'd stopped talking to people and then I was able to help remind our district the importance of trusting the Lord's promise as well. Haha so I guess you could say it's been a rather humbling week in a very good way!

We also had Zone conference this week which was especially incredible. President Matsumori's workshop was much different from the ones he usually does. He shared with us very personal stories and scriptures that had really helped him personally to face the trials of life. It was very interesting because President Matsumori is a very business like man, very closed emotionally I would say. He doesn't let out emotion easily, but he was in tears as he gave the workshop. It was powerful because it was him and it wasn't just a workshop. It once again taught me a lesson I need to apply in missionary work. I don't know if you all have noticed it but I seem to have an issue with letting people love me. Yeah, I think our whole family may have a little bit of that problem ;) Which is unfortunately something that limits me and my investigators. It keeps me from sharing some of those experiences, or making that testimony even more personal and allowing my investigators to hear not only my testimony but why I have one. I believe it's something the Lord is trying to tutor me on, he's trying to help me let people in maybe just a little bit more, not necessarily for my sake, but because my investigators need to feel it as well.

In short it's been a very reflective week, very humbling, fairly difficult, but with the hand of the Lord in all of it. It's been really good for me! Haha I don't know if I ever told you guys about in Olney, but it was a hard time for me on the mission, one of those times where you work so hard and nothing happens for so long. It literally drove me to my knees at times, but it's when I grew the most. Once again it seems that it's time to grow, and I am more than willing to submit to the process. Never easy, but definitely worth it!

The work is true, and I love the mission. I love seeing the lives of people change, I love seeing the light that comes into people's eyes as they hear the first vision or feel the spirit. I love the difference Christ makes in the lives of these people, and I love being able to serve Him. It's very cool how in the service to our King we come to know Him, and I can definitely say I have come to know Christ so much more. I thought I knew Him before but I had nowhere near the relationship I have with Him and my Father in Heaven as I do now. I am very grateful for the hard times, and the good times. Life just wouldn't be as good without both!

Jan 4th letter

Anyways, this week was pretty interesting we had a lot of cool miracles and a lot of fun finding experiences! We biked super far to south west d.c. one morning to hold an appointment with a guy down there, that's like a 30 minute bike ride going down hill, super far but definitely worth it! We met a guy named Jose who had spoken with sister missionaries at the festival of lights and was fairly interested. He was even interested enough to give himself a conditional baptismal invitation. He said, after reading this if I like it I may just take the step and become a member. Haha it was cool to see how he was just asking about church and looking for a community and family that he could really be apart of. Unfortunately he didn't come to church, the whole New Year's eve thing really destroyed our church attendance. Half of the members of the branch weren't there and we only got one investigator there... The rest were still sleeping off their late night parties... Apparently in the Hispanic culture New Year's Eve is just about as big as Christmas, haha we of course were still sleeping by 10:30.

Man, Jessica's mission sounds pretty sweet, you guys got a party! We were told to be in by 7:00 to get off the streets in D.C. unless we had a teaching appointment, luckily we had a teaching appointment :).

Oh, definitely the highlight of the week would be that [our newly baptized member] was confirmed! Man, he's super faithful. He worked until 4:00 in the morning on the day of church and we had to go into his apartment and shake him awake to come to church at 10, but he got up, came, and received the Holy Ghost. Super faithful, probably more faithful than a lot of the members in our branch unfortunately. We've also begun to teach the Father of an active family who have been members for 14 years, and the father isn't. He says he's Catholic but that he likes the church more than the Catholic one. He says he doesn't want to be baptized because his 92 year old mother would be super sad. ... He's a really cool guy and he's just missing out on so many blessings that he could have if he would just make the decision!

Haha oh we had this one super funny experience, kind of, haha we went to the [visitor center] with [the man who was just baptized] but we had to bus and metro it. This was the first time in my life I'd ever taken a bus, except for in Taiwan, so it's pretty cool. But we get to the bus stop and we're waiting and waiting because it was supposed to come at 4:36. We'd been waiting for a good half hour when another bus comes, yeah turns out the other bus doesn't run on the holiday schedule. So we get on the bus that came because it was going to go pretty close by the temple, or so said the driver. He drops us off at a stop which I know is relatively close to the temple but it's still like a 20 minute walk. So we start walking and as we walk we notice all these signs where we're walking that say they're stops for the bus we were just on! Yeah, not sure if he just wanted to make us walk in the cold because we were missionaries or what, but we ended walking like 20 minutes in the cold ... Haha it was alright though because he loves the [visitor center] and the spirit he feels there. His words were "Cuando no puedo ir, cuanto deseo ir!" "When I can't go, how much I desire to go!" Haha super cool!

Other cool highlights of the week, I had my first District meeting, haha that was really weird. It was weird to plan it all seeing as I've been used to showing up and just receiving the info, but it was good, and it was cool to be able to receive inspiration on how to help the district grow. It turned out fairly well and I think everyone was able to learn some things that will hopefully make us all better missionaries. Oh, and it has finally gotten cold! Yeah, super cold, riding bikes with an arctic wind and snow was pretty interesting yesterday! But as you all know I happen to love epic things, so it was sweet! :)

It was a good week, though we're still sifting through investigators. Hopefully we can find some solid ones! Oh, we did teach [the lady who had a lot of concerns] again though. She started reading in the Book of Mormon again and was very changed. We read Alma 32:32-34 and I think it may have scared her. She was asking about life after death and second chances and such, hopefully the eternal perspective will help her see that God really is just trying to help us with his commandments, not restrict us.

The work is still great, super fun, and tiring! Haha but it's awesome, it's been fun to work with Elder Sterr so far as well, he's grown a lot in the last couple of weeks!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas, DL, Numbers (Dec 28)

"'s been an interesting week, due to some meetings and Christmas we didn't get to work as much as we would have like this week. Haha it's weird, Christmas in the mission is super weird, it just felt like another day, just one where we couldn't teach. Still, it was cool to open all the presents and then do the usual run arounds for church attendance as Jessica related. It was really cool and there were quite a few people at church. We still have that one old lady that's doing super well and should be baptized on the 8th of January! Haha, she's super funny, so weird, but very willing to learn and progress towards baptism. We had an awesome lesson with her, and it was a testimony to me of the purpose of us teaching the lessons, namely helping their faith in Jesus Christ grow. It was cool to see how her faith could grow in just that one lesson!

"Let's see, Christmas was spent at our branch president's house and the Visitor's Center and it was pretty fun. Probably the coolest thing about this week has been training! Because I'm training we now get two hours of companionship study, something the rest of the world would probably look at and say, wow, that's a ton of studying, considering we study from 8-12 straight every day! However, it's super sweet, I feel like I know how to train much better this time around, poor Elder Gleed, I could've done a much better job! Still, it's been cool to see the progression of Elder Steer in just one week, he'll be a super good missionary!

"Another thing I wasn't going to mention, but I guess I will, because it's helped me realize something more about missionary work is that I am also a District Leader now. Because of that I got to go to a leadership meeting where we received training and also went over numbers for the transfer. I don't like numbers. It was weird, it was entirely new perspective on missionary work, and just from the way things were talked about, and goals were set and such I felt that leadership has the danger of taking us away from the purpose of missionary work. We look at the numbers as the end rather than the means. For instance focusing on how many new investigators we can get, it may look impressive, but it's not what matters. I don't know, it was a really weird experience, it made me feel like kind of a less "pure" missionary I guess you could say. With Elder White we just worked super hard and numbers came as they came, and we just cared about the people, which is what I've tried to do the whole mission, but now it makes it seem like numbers are important, that we have to get our goals on our numbers, rather than using the numbers as a means whereby we can more effectively serve. I just hope I never fall into that thought process of thinking of numbers as the end, rather than the means, and lose sight of the true importance of missionary work. We are here for the one, the one individual that has dreams, fears, problems, and hopes. The Son or Daughter of God that is looking to make it back home. It was a good reminder to me of why I'm here and to make sure I never lose sight of my true purpose as a missionary.

"Other than that the week has been pretty good. We just need to find some people that are willing to progress. It's sad, we have a lot of investigators, but none seem willing to progress right now. We'll have to see what happens here in the next week. Hopefully the spirit can touch them, if not we'll have to drop them to make room for those whom the Lord has truly prepared. Haha it's great to have a trainee as well, he reminds me of the fire and naivety/faith I had when I came out. I still have some fire, or at least I'd like to think I do, but it reminds me of my first day in the field when I was sitting in Ihop with the assistants and I just had the most intense desire to stand up on the table and tell people the Book of Mormon is true. This is a true work, and we do it because this is the only way these people will ever live with our Father in Heaven. There is no other way. It's not about the numbers, it's about making sure we're doing all we can to ensure we don't lose our brothers and sisters. I love this work and the Lord, one year has already gone by... It's way too fast! Still, this next year will be even better! :)

Surgery, baptism, branch (Dec 20)

From Derek's December 20 letter home:

Well, here's an update on the finger/crash incident. The "surgery" went well, it only hurt that first night so I only even ended up taking one pain pill, and all is doing well. It's just starting to get annoying because it is literally impossible to bend my finger! Not to mention the fact that the whole finger incident kind of owned our time for a lot of this past week, which was kind of depressing, nevertheless God provided some sweet miracles for us as well!

"First of all, [the young mand] did get baptized this Sunday!!! Man, that was the coolest thing ever! Especially because we didn't think he was going to be baptized at all after he dropped us, but we found that he has made a lot of sacrifices to be ready for his baptism, and because of that he is truly converted. After learning about the law of chastity he told his girlfriend and she dumped him because of it. He also had some issues with coffee but after a fast and a blessing he's now been clear of it and he's doing super super well! Haha after the baptism he also randomly pulled out this white shirt and slacks to put on which he's never done before! He looks like a full fledged member! It was awesome, and we're super excited for him, he'll be a strong member, we'll just have to keep supporting him!

"You should also know that the branch here takes very very good care of the missionaries. For Christmas they gave the missionaries a TON of food! Yeah, it was a ton, it was a big blessing, and they truly do look out for us. We've also had a cool experience of running into this member that is inactive because she didn't know where the church was, she happens to have a daughter who is also an inactive member who happens to have two little kids that aren't members but can be baptized! For a missionary that's really really cool! ;) It's cool though because the daughter had rebelled against the church when she was younger, but she now sees the blessing the church can be in her life and in the life of her growing children, so we have a lot of hope for them!

"Let's see, [the intellectual woman] is still having issues... We had a very direct lesson with her, she has a very strong desire to know if this church is true, and so we talked about the qualifications for receiving an answer. Faith, asking, studying, and real intent. We really focused on real intent because that is what she asks. We explained that God was only going to give her an answer if she was willing to [act] on it. So then we asked her if she was willing to test God and keep the commandments and be willing to follow them after her answer. She almost blatantly said no, so we'll see, it's super sad, but we may have to drop her... She's grown so much, but she's just not quite willing to give herself to God...

"Other than that not too much happened, though transfers brought some interesting news! Elder White is now in Olney and my new companion is (Drum roll please) Elder Steer (Pronouned Stir)! Yeah, it was crazy because Elder Steer is a new missionary, I was called to train again. It's funny, I definitely didn't think I would train again, and you'd think that it would be easier the second time around, but it's not. I'm still fairly nervous, and feeling the pressure very strongly, but hopefully I can help him and learn from him. He's from Logan Utah, he graduated in 2011, that's super weird, and he seems like a good missionary.

"To answer your questions [about the accident], my companion was behind me and super scared when he saw it... He said he thought I was going to die as well! The left hand index finger is broken. Unfortunately the driver didn't stop, super lame! Some guy yelled at me for being dumb though and then a few others were concerned. The pain was about the same both times, but I didn't have any painkillers when I broke it."

Second Accident with a car (Dec 14)

From Derek's December 14 letter home:
"Ok, so we were biking and we had to call someone, so being the missionary I am, I started to call someone while we were riding, first mistake. Second mistake, my back brakes don't work and because I was riding with my right hand and talking with my left, I wasn't going to be able to stop, because the back brakes are on the right side. In the moment that I had to stop, I made the third mistake. Instead of throwing the phone on the grass or in my pocket to brake with my left hand, I reached over with my right hand to the left brake. Bad idea. Because of that I ended up turning towards the oncoming traffic. The reason I share this part is because it's spiritual, not to scare you all, or to show off or anything. So as I was heading towards oncoming traffic, I started to fall because I also lost my balance. From what I could see I honestly thought I was in a dead on trajectory to get nailed full on by the car that was coming. Literally full on, I honestly thought I was dead, or that I was going to be very injured.

I hit the ground and fell and for some reason the car didn't hit me... What did happen, I was on the ground, somehow my finger was broken, and my front tire was a little bent out of shape. As well as that the hubcap of the tire scraped the top of my helmet as the car drove by. I was literally probably 10 inches from death or serious injury... It scared me a lot.

"Even though I wasn't hurting that bad, especially because of the adrenaline, I was pretty shaken emotionally, I was sure I should be dead or really hurt, and I wasn't emotionally stable for probably a good hour and a half. It honestly scared me so bad, and I learned my lesson, I quickly bought brakes and I haven't talked on the phone since while riding. The spiritual side. I am dead positive that God protected me in that moment when I was about to get hit by that car. It was extremely humbling because I feel that I still have more to do on the earth, clearly it was not my time, and clearly God does complete with his promises. In D&C 84 it talks about the signs that will follow those that are sent out in the name of Christ, and one of those is avoiding poison, or death. While others do die, and I'm still not sure why I did not, I do know that God protects us even when sometimes we're really dumb and do not deserve it. It was a testimony builder for me, a shock, and a good reminder that the Lord truly is watching over each and every one of us in every moment of our days."

"So, for the rest of the week, it was super sweet! We'll start with a fun thing! This Monday we had our mission Christmas party in the VC!! It was sweet! We had a cool dinner, a fireside where President and Sister Matsumori spoke, and we watched a movie! haha yeah crazy! ... Haha it was really funny and a good relaxing thing to do for Christmas!

"This Sunday was also super cool! Man, we've had so many crazy miracles! We're teaching this old lady, ... that's like 70 years old but now wants to come to know Christ, and she's accepted a baptismal date for January First! Then [the young man] had his Baptismal Interview and he's super solid for this Sunday! I'm so happy for him and that he is now willing to be baptized! It's going to be one awesome baptism! We also had a member bring a random family of like 5 kids that all love the church! In short, the Lord is once again opening the windows of heaven and pouring out his blessings! I honestly don't think I've ever seen quite so many miracles as I did this transfer with Elder White. It was incredible, and it's one that will go down in my records as one of the best transfers ever! Transfers are next Tuesday, we'll have to see what happens! Oh yeah, that means I think I'll be writing you all next Tuesday, I think. Anyways, it's super crazy, so many miracles, and crazy times! Even though I feel like we've wasted a lot of time, what with the pizza thing, and then my finger, for some reason God is still blessing us. It is humbling and exhilirating at the same time!"