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!

Another crazy week!

Haha it seems like I just wrote you, but this time it's because I really
did just write you! Kind of, 5 days is a very short time here in the mission field. Anyways, this was another difficult and intense 5 days, still it was a good one. I'd been slightly worried about a few things, it's said to always be difficult when a new missionary comes into the office as an Assistant because the work here is completely different from any work we've ever done before. Suddenly the priority becomes the office and ensuring that everything goes smoothly; however, Elder Brown and I are both pretty gung-ho about missionary work so I'd been slightly worried about my companion getting used to the office work, but it's gone well. It took a few days but I think he's settled into the work as an Assistant, and I think he did it a whole lot faster than I did. It's also been an interesting week because we've had a lot of communication with President.
There have been some companionship issues, a meeting, and the implementation of a new set of meetings throughout the mission that we've had to discuss and coordinate together. It's really an incredible experience to work with President and Sister Matsumori. They are literally people who have sat for years at the feet of the prophets receiving instruction, guidance, and direction. It's been incredible to learn more about leadership and for the past few days the words of D&C 121 have just been running through my head as I've sought to align myself more with what's taught in just those few verses. It's incredible how those verses literally describe how we should govern our lives in all aspects of our
lives. Teaching, administrative work, parenting, companionships, leadership, and even just our daily interactions with people.

We've also had some incredible miracles in our area! This Sunday we had a little bit of time to go out and proselyte and we visited a part-member less active family, the Sharpes. Only the father was home and he's the non-member. He received us warmly and invited us in, haha which was surprising to us since most of the less-actives in this area are less-active for a reason and they make it known. Still we were able to have one of the most spiritual lessons with him as we talked about families, how the gospel can help him, and as we shared thoughts from the scriptures and conference talks. The spirit was penetrating him and we asked him if he and his family would like to receive the missionary lessons and he said yes! It was super awesome! It's really weird to work with white people, they're a lot different than hispanics, but it was also an interesting experience to see how the spirit can once again magnify our words even to someone who runs what is probably a multi-million dollar corporation. We were also able to teach Phil more about the Priesthood, and this Sunday he passed the
sacrament with a few other recent converts who had yet to have the experience! It's just incredible to see the spiritual progression of these people as they make the changes that the Lord invites them to make!
Still, this week has once again been a humbling one. There are so many things to juggle and inevitably I've let some balls drop. Luckily they haven't been too crucial, but it's still been humbling to feel the weight of so many things as well as the weight of the trust that President and the Lord have placed in us. Needless to say there have been quite a few stressful days in just these last 5, but it's good. The Lord stretches us to points where we feel like we're going to break, and then we realize that if we don't turn to Him we really are going to break! Haha but luckily I've been able to learn in just the past few days once again how much more real the enabling power of the atonement is in my life. It's always really easy to have faith that others can change, that others can progress, but I believe the trial of my faith has come in believing that the Lord truly can change me and make me adequate for a task. But I testify that He does indeed answer prayers and that the Atonement really can enable us to do things greater than we ever could have done on our own. That has become an even deeper reality for me this week.