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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!
Happy New Year all!

Can you believe that the year is coming to a close? It's insane how fast the time flies. Well it was a good week. I can't process that I talked to you all this week. This email is going to be short. Sorry!

One quick thing before; one of the reasons I like teaching so much is because of how much I learn in preparation for and in the presentation of lessons. I always feel like I take more out of appointments than my investigators do. 

MONDAY! It was a good day. We talked to an interesting man. He told us that the true Israelites were blacks and he had a lot of scriptures to back it up which was interesting too. We hear a lot of different religious view points out here and a lot of them contradict and most are backed up by the bible. It's interesting. It's almost universally accepted as God's word but very widely disputed as to what it actually said. We thank thee o God for a prophet. After that we went to the Mag's to teach Robert and we read 2 Nephi 2 with him and talked about agency and the Plan of Salvation. Robert is a really cool guy. He is set to be baptized on the 18th of January. We are going to do all we can to help him get there. The Magdaluyos are so supportive. I want to be more like them when I grow up. Robert knows that the Church is true. We just need to teach him the remaining lessons and help him to fully integrate into the ward.

TUESDAY! Oh man. Good day, but it was hard. In the morning we had a great District meeting about the power of the Spirit. Then we did a mail run from the mission office up to north town and all over. We had a really hard lesson with Stephanie. So Sunday night we confirmed everything with the baptism with her and got that all set up. She was excited and ready. She told us how she knew that more blessings would be coming her way. So Tuesday we are teaching her the law of tithing and she commits to pay it. But then she asks us about the Law of Chastity. She told us how she'd been thinking of having her 'old man' (the father of her children) move back in and she asked if that would be a sin. So we teach her the law of chastity and we watch her face just drop. All that excitement and energy just drained out of her. She did not want to live it. We talked about it with her but she just kept saying, "I’m going to have to decide." We invited her to pray about things and she said that she would but you could just feel that from that moment on she was closed. It was hard to compare her happiness Sunday night with her attitude right then. So we said that we'd come by tomorrow to see how she was feeling about everything. It broke my heart; that was the hard part, the rest was good. We went to the Marx' house for Christmas Eve dinner and that was a blast. I love that family so much. Well I love everyone, but it's way easier to love the people that love you a lot back. I know I know, even the publicans do that. But still! We watched an interesting music video there; it was of that song "Did you know?" about Mary. The video that went with it was clips from the bible TV show that came out earlier this year and I think it was by cee-lo green. I imagine it was really popular when it came out but,,, we're not really on the cutting edge. Then we went to the Mag's house for dinner with them as well. I could rant about these favorite families almost as much as I do about how awesome Elder Slik is. A lot. Then we went to eat with the Lawter family and we had a big Mexican Noche Buena party. The food was sooo good. And we spoke in Spanish which was fun too. I was so impressed about how many people gave us gifts. Floored actually. Lots of families gave us gifts. And pretty much everyone gave us candy. I don't need any more candy for like the rest of my life. People like us and we can't figure out why. 

CHRISTMAS! We got up real, real early to play soccer with the zone. That was fun. We were playing before the sun was even up. I'll remember that for forever; singing and playing and having a good time with friends. It was so cold too, like 40 degrees. I know, I know, it's colder in Michigan or Utah or almost anywhere else, but I thought it was cold. After sports we went to the Iverson's house and we opened some presents and had breakfast and skyped.
Christmas morning at the Iverson's in the PJs they gave them.
It's a weird sensation. I almost feel like I haven't been gone very long especially after talking to you all. But anyway. By this point we were not hungry. We were still full from the dinners the night before! But we ate at the Iversons, and it was real, real good and then we went to a members house for lunch and we tried our hardest to eat the food. He even said, "Hey elder, you're not eating your chicken very fast, do you not like it?" something like that. That day the scripture was fulfilled "that there [was] not ... room enough to receive it." We were like totally up to capacity. We went by Stephanie’s afterwards and dropped off a gift to her but she did not want to talk. She told us that she was depressed. We tried talking to her about things of the spiritual nature and she even said something like "Come on guys! You've got to give me a break!" Oh another knife to my heart. She was so excited, and so happy just days before and then her whole countenance changed. It hurt me to see her so, so sad. But we went to see Toni and Severina and that made it all okay. Toni expressed her love to us and she told us how happy she was. She explained the peace and joy she'd received from joining the church. She talked about how she feels loved and wanted. I sit and think about where she was when we started and where she is now? It's incredible. She's a completely different person. She recognizes that too which makes it that much better. Severina did the same. We are so blessed to be able to devote two full years to blessing our brothers and sisters. Coming to know and love them. Then we went to the Banks family; another awesome family that we love so much. UPDATE! Rigdon's dental papers are signed and so it's the home stretch to getting them in now! He just needs a physical and then to send them off :)) (my double chin). Then we went to see some of our other favorite families.

THURSDAY! We had a good district meeting and then we .... surprise, surprise. I don't even remember too much. I didn't write it in my journal. :(. But what I do remember was a few visits and our lesson with Stephanie. ... We went by and one of the first things that she said to us was, "I think I'm going to stay Baptist." That was the killer. That was soooo hard to hear. She was so, so sad when she said that to us. We tried our best to understand what happened and why. She told us that she's always wanted to stay Baptist. But as bad as that lesson was for Stephanie, it was there that Andre really understood what the Restoration was. He realized the boldness of the claim that we make and we directed him to the Book of Mormon as the evidence of the claim. It was a lesson of mixed emotions. I love when people commit to read the BoM but I don't like when people tell us that they are going to "stay Baptist." But we set up a time to come back Saturday. Stephanie said that she will still keep coming to church and meeting with us but she's not going to get baptized. We'll have to see how things pan out with them. 

FRIDAY! We had a lesson with Norma first thing in the morning. It was crazy. She fed us Mexican food and we talked about death and her brother's passing and Sister Jewitt came with us and shared her experiences. Norma is grieving so much. We try, but it's almost like she's too sad to learn the things we are trying to teach her. She's scared and feels lonely. She said that we are her only friends. She's pushed everyone away and she often tells us that she tries to be happy for her children, but not for herself anymore. It's a humbling experience every time to meet with her. I don't have much life experience to share with her, I don't know what to say to a woman who has lost her brother so recently. But the Lord does. He knows and loves all of his children. Plus, when women cry, it freaks me out and I don't know what to do. Awk. We coordinated with the Bishop and with the Egans and Brother Odulio, which was good. Bishop Waite always tells us how much he loves us which makes a big difference. Even when you know you are loved, hearing someone tell you, is nice.

SATURDAY! We went to the temple. That was such a good experience. We missed our session so we went to do initiatories, but they were full so they sent us up to do sealings. Those were incredible. I'd never been in one before and it was very, very powerful. The sealer was Elder Ballard's cousin and in between families he taught us a lot of doctrine. Like almost randomly. He just started asking us questions and teaching us stuff that I’d never even heard about before. Then after a while he decided that we should go do initatories. So he sent us down and told us to tell them that Brother Ballard sent us. It worked and we did those. Then we did a session. Having done all three at once makes everything make more sense in the grand scheme of the ordinances we do in the temple. God promises us a lot of blessings. The temple is a place of worship. We learn about God's plan for us as his children. So that was good. We went out with another prospective missionary and we had a good time with him. Saturday night we had a lesson with Stephanie. We mostly talked with Andre. He read Alma 40 and really, really understood what it was saying. He had some great questions and some good insights. I am always so, so impressed with him. He is leagues ahead of most people we come in contact with. He really understands spiritual things. And he learns them quickly too.

SUNDAY! No investigators came to church in BV. Robert came to church in FH. We had a really good lesson with Suzie at the Kuhn's with Chelsea. We get to work with some cool people. Suzie is one of them: a great, great girl. We talked about the Plan of Salvation and about prayer. She is really seeking to feel God's love and presence in her life. Honorable. But her life is so busy it's hard for her to find time to read and pray which is how we feel and speak with God. We also got back in contact with Randy, which was good. 

Overall. It was an amazing week. We got to spend a lot of time with our dream team families. I love being a missionary. Life is good and things are going forward. 

I'm happy :)
I love you all so much!
Sam


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

As someone said yesterday, Christmas without Christ would just be a miss.
I said that last week was like the best week ever, this week I think was even better.
So much happens in a week it's hard to process it all. I'm just always so happy. It's hard not to smile all the time. I could just rant all day about how good life is. 
It's an interesting experience to be able to look back upon where I was this time last year and see how far I've come. It's crazy to think about, how much I've learned and developed. Not to mention look at the lives of people we've worked with. For some, there has been a complete 180. They have left behind their past life, along with addictions, guilt and pain behind. 

I'm going to highlight Stephanie. She's awesome. I think about the first time we met Stephanie. A great woman but you could tell, that in her own words, she was "going through it." She was sad and quiet. Now I love going there because it fills me with so much happiness. Even in all the trials which continue to mount for that family, they are happy and full of faith. We go in and sit down and it is all smiles and praising the Lord and his goodness. I have really grown a lot in my testimony of the blessings of the simple things: reading and prayers. It has changed her life. She tells us all the time how much peace she feels. It brings me peace as well. To see her smile and laugh and just truly enjoy life: there is nothing greater. No greater blessings. It's interesting. As I write about this I really am trying to compare other times when I've been happier and they are quite few. I've made a difference in someone’s life, in their faith, and I’ve helped them to be happier. What could be better than that? But anyway, we go to her house and I am left feeling spiritually uplifted by just rubbing shoulders with someone with so much faith. :) It's hard to explain. I know the Book of Mormon can provide peace, happiness, answers and safety for the soul http://bcove.me/wy27ezhf . All we have to do is read it. 

MONDAY! We had a great FHE with Chelsea and her mom at the Mag's house. It was a real good experience of talking and laughing and reading together. They really stand out to me as doing what the prophet has asked us to do in regards to missionary work. They live the best life they can and do their best to follow the Savior and then they invite others to be a part of and feel the goodness of their life.  I think the world of so many families, and they are one of them. Brother Mag served his mission in Puerto Rico. He was a good missionary. He has so many cool stories to share. He and really his whole family seem like fireballs to me. Just love to do what's right and will get it done. But anyway. Chelsea is dating their son Kaden who is serving a mission in Argentina. She got baptized 16 months ago. Her mom is a non-member, great, great woman. Just not ready to commit right now to changing her life. But we had a good, spirit filled time reading Alma 32 and discussing. She shared some powerful experiences, about feeling the Spirit in the past. It strengthened my testimony that God loves all of his children. Period. Robert was supposed to come but he was still sick so he couldn't make it. Chelsea is really cool. She wasn't religious or spiritual before taking the missionary lessons, but now she is on point. She'd make a great missionary.

TUESDAY! It was a crazy day. We started it out by contacting a referral. We talked with him for a bit and he told us how his family was afraid of us. We get that more often than you'd think. I don't really know why though. But he said that he'd set something up and we could come over sometime for dinner and a lesson. We get that more often than you'd think too! Members are always asking to feed us but non-members ask us frequently. I mean I'm not complaining. People like feeding us, and we like to eat! So it works out (which we need to do more hahaha). We took a while to plan for a training we had to give in zone conference Thursday. Then we went to some families to deliver Christmas cards. It made a big difference. Sometimes the littlest things make people so happy. Like going to Severina's and eating her Filipino food and singing her some songs. She loved it.  She recorded us (and I wish she wouldn't have. We sounded soooo bad.) Then we visited a few members. We had a crazy experience. So Patrick, the guy that came to church the last 2 weeks. He's awesome. Nice guy. We went by in the afternoon to talk to him and his girlfriend came out. Oh man. She was dark, not physical, but she had a weird vibe about her from the moment we saw her. The first thing she said was, "Well look at these three handsome young men." Boom from then on out things just got worse. We asked for Patrick and she told us that he was inside and then described in vivid detail the bad things he was doing right then. It was messed up. Then she tried to get in each of our heads. When we asked for Patrick’s phone number or a better time to come back to talk to him she told us that he was going to get kicked out of the apartment that night and he would probably OD and die that night. Then she was telling us a bunch of other crazy stuff and we just left. It was messed up, just sad, and dark, and messed up. We see first hand how many people and family's lives are ruined by the influence of substances. It's depressing. Then we went to go contact a referral. On Monday we got a call from one of the sisters in the other ward about someone she had used “the willing and brief invitation” on and they had said “yes.” She was sooo excited to have done her part in the work of salvation and she set up a lesson for Tuesday. So we went and talked with this young man named Matt. He lived alone and worked a lot. You could tell that he really wanted people to talk to. He told us about his life and his cards and his guitars and everything. It turns out that he was a member. So we got him hooked up with the singles ward. Then we ate dinner with the clan. That was an interesting experience. They live a crazy lifestyle. We then taught Stephanie and Andre the word of wisdom. It was awesome. We started teaching it and Andre was interested and sat down. We gave him a pamphlet and he opened it up and the first thing he says is "Dang, Joseph Smith was a handsome dude." It was pretty funny. The Spirit was very strong as we talked about the blessings they could receive. Both of them committed to stop right then. We took their coffee and tea and poured it out. They were both happy too, which was the best part. Andre has grown so much in his faith. He mentioned that in the lesson. Little by little he is getting happier and happier as he opens up more and more to God :). Then after that we had a good visit with Bishop Waite. He's a great man. He got a little emotional talking to us. It made me happy to see how much he loves Elder Slik and me. Oh, I haven’t ranted about how awesome Elder Slik is this letter. He's the best! I couldn't have gotten to where I am today if it wasn't for his good example and guidance. But anyway. 

WEDNESDAY!  Oh man. Bomb day. We started the day with a lesson with Susana and Chelsea (the one who we talked about earlier.) They are both 19 and went to the same high school so it was awesome. They turned out to be a great match. They really connected and the lesson was very powerful. Susana told us about her experiences reading and praying about the Book of Mormon. She said that he felt warm and had goose bumps and she was crying while she prayed. She recognized that that was a different feeling than she had ever had before in her life and she knew it was God's spirit answering her prayer. And then Chelsea had a very similar experience and they were able to bond really well over that. The youth. They are the best. She told us that if all of what she has been learning and feeling is from God then the Catholic Church is not right and she'll keep going just to support and be with her parents. It was so cool to see this new light and fire starting within Susana and for Chelsea to be there to share her own similar conversion story. It was like straight out of an Ensign article. We invited Susana to be baptized and she said yes. :) Then we visited some of the elderly people in the ward. A few were less active and while talking with them Elder Slik and I both felt that if they would just be fellowshipped a little more they would come back to church. I want to always be a proactive member in the work of salvation when I get home from my mission in two years. I wasn't the best home teacher before but I don't ever want to miss a month again in my whole life. I've seen the difference it makes. Plus the prophet asked us to step it up. Anyway. Then we taught Gloria and Kimberly. Man, Kimberly is really special. She's super smart. She asks lots of questions and you can tell that she is listening and really trying to understand. I was impressed about how much that she retained. It was cool. She thought a lot harder about spiritual things than I did when I was 13. Then we ate dinner with a cool family. We got to help decorate their tree, which was nice. I felt like part of their family. Then we went to the chapel to help set up for the zone conference for a little bit before we had a lesson with Stephanie. It was good. She is a great example of relying upon the Lord through trials. Then we visited a family that is trying to return to activity. They made us food and talked with us. They were so grateful that we came over that they literally sang to us. Then we sang a song with them. I wish I would have took singing lessons and stayed with the piano. 

THURSDAY! We got up early and went to set up for a five zone conference. It was really, really good. I learned a lot and it was good to see so many missionaries that I knew, and weird to see so many that I didn't.
Christmas Central Zone Conference
Elder Slik and I trained on the “Blessing Contact” and we talked about faith and prayer a lot. It was pretty good. I think that we did a very good job, a lot of other missionaries told us we did too. It's nice to do your best work and then have it recognized. I really like training. I get really scared because when you look out and see like 40 other missionaries it's intimidating but exciting all at the same time. It's funny to think about me in May when I was scared to train eight missionaries and then last week we trained 80 over two groups. We saw Gloria with Brother Martinez. Man the Martinez family so, so cool. We took Bro M and his daughter came and Taylor. She is very quiet but she bore her testimony of the Book of Mormon unprompted which was really cool. And she said a great prayer. I'm always so impressed with the young people here. Then we went up the hill to eat dinner with a part member family in our other ward. It was a great dinner and lesson. Then we went to the Jones' family, a recent convert family. We had a good visit with them. Again, us just showing up and thinking about them really made them happy. Sometimes I forget that. We can make people so, so happy just by showing up and letting them know that we are thinking about them.

FRIDAY! We had a good morning Friday. It was unique. We set out to visit a few members and see how we could help them but instead, member after member gave us food or presents. It was crazy; cheese ball, pictures of Christ, fudge and more. Sister Gammon made us lunch and that made me happy. We stopped by to talk about her daughter coming to teach a family with us and she said something to the effect of "No! You can't give them cookies, I have to make them lunch first. Then they can have some." Her love for us has really made an impact on me. She reminds me a lot of you mom, which makes me happy. She's stake YWP and everything. She's almost as cool as you, but not quite. Then we visited some other people. It was a good afternoon. No lessons but a lot of time to grow closer to the members in our area. Then we saw Stephanie again with the Bishop. Andre really likes the Bishop. They connected over football and I think that Andre can see he is a person to respect. Then that night we had a lesson with Susana and her parents. She had asked her Dad for permission to be baptized and he wanted to meet with us to understand what was going on. We had a great visit with them. He said that he would allow her to make her own decision and we all were so grateful for that. Susana bore her testimony to us and told us how grateful she was and it was so powerful. She said that for the first time she really felt God in her life. It was funny too, we ended the lesson with a prayer and she said "well the way we pray... I mean they pray." It was just a little thing but you could tell that she had already adopted 'our' way of prayer as her own. It was cool. She's really, really special, young and smart and seeking for God. I'm so glad that we've been blessed with the opportunity to work with her. I am humbled daily by such amazing people in and out of the church. The road to becoming Christ-like is long, but joyous. 

SATURDAY! I was on exchanges with Elder May (from Mexico) here and we had a good day. We didn't have any lessons set up, but we talked to a lot of people. One guy, Chris talked to us on the street and gave us a blessing. It was pretty funny, he just said, "Grab my hand." Elder May went to grab it but then he said, "The other hand," and then Elder May switched hands and then he said, "My other hand." It was like straight out of Napoleon Dynamite. But then the guy prayed for us. He was nice. He talked to us about suicide for a long time. It was whack. Life is really hard for a lot of people. Later in the night we had a really cool experience. I felt like we needed to be somewhere and so we were walking around the place and figured it was to go visit this one former investigator so we walked towards her house and then I felt like that wasn’t the right way, so we walked a way and as we did two cops ran up and started knocking on the same door that we were about to not 30 seconds before! So we walked back onto the street and a car pulls up behind us just then and the door opens and a man yells, "Hey! Are you going to visit my sister?" and then he told us that we should because she was waiting for us. Then he told us where they lived. So we went and they invited us in and offered us food. We sat down and were talking and shared a little bit and I said something like we'd love to leave a blessing on your home and then come by another night and share a message of how your family can come closer together. And she said, “You could just teach us now, if you wanted.” It was cray. Things like that don't happen too often. So we shared the Restoration and the Book of Mormon with them. Turns out she was a former investigator six years ago but never got baptized because she moved. She had forgotten pretty much everything though. It was really cool to have an experience like that. Then we talked to two really cool guys on the street and they asked us why there were so many religions. We taught about the great apostasy and it answered a lot of one guy's questions. It was cold, but cool to be able to talk with two guys that were super, super smart and interested in what we had to say. One of them had even read some of the Book of Mormon so he was curious about what we believed. I dunno. They were like two intellectuals and we kinda interrupted their convo but they let us be a part of it.

SUNDAY! Stephanie, Andre, Susana, and Pete. All came to church. Except for Stephanie it was all their first time! And then Chelsea's mom came to FH [Frenchman Hills ward]! It was an awesome day. Everyone had a really good experience as well. It makes me so happy when people come to church bc it s a big step. It takes a lot to put three hours especially early in the morning into something that you've never done before. It's a sacrifice. Then we visited the Tachouets and gave them the Sacrament and taught them the Restoration. Rigdon helped out and did a great job. We have good experiences with them each week. Then we saw Stephanie and set things up for her baptism this Saturday!!! She's so excited and just so happy. Both she and Andre lovvved church and the Spirit in their home was so, soo strong, just all smiles and not a word of complaint. Stephanie feels really peaceful every time she thinks about it and Andre said that he's proud of her for making the decision. You can feel that he'll be making the same one soon. Then we visited other families. I love both our wards so much and the amazing people we get to serve alongside. I've learned so much from the great examples of all the wonderful people. That's all.
I love life.
I love the Lord
I love you all so much
Sam

Monday, December 16, 2013

It’s been a really busy week

So. People love us.
That's like the root of anything I could say/ it's borderline weird. Both of our wards think we are the greatest things since the Book of Mormon. Members are always asking us what they can do to help or what they can get for us. I'm always taken back by the love and generosity. People who we haven't even directly served tell us how great we are and both of us just walk away like.... what? I can't describe the experience. It's nice to feel so loved. I don't think I've ever felt this way before in my whole life, loved definitely, but not like in such a general or personal sense. I hope I don't sound whiney or anything. Moving on.

Life is good. This week was awesome, especially good. So, so much has happened andddd regrettably my journal keeping slacked, hard this week. It's crazy how tired we always are when we get home, planning, area book and then bed. I feel like this has been one of the best weeks of my mission, I just can't remember why hahaha.

MONDAY! The big event was teaching Robert. He's such a good guy. I really like him a lot. So we went over and the Mag's bought us dinner - Thai food. I love Thai food and it'd been the longest time since I had had it. Delish, but, to the more important - we taught Robert the Plan of Salvation. It went really well. I've gotten way better at teaching it as my mission has gone on. As well my understanding of it has increased dramatically. I really enjoyed it. The lessons are pretty low key. It's us and Brother and Sister Magdaluyo and we sit in their living room and discuss. The Spirit is always very strong. I realize that, that is the way the lessons are supposed to go in the comfort of the member's homes. It makes a big difference. Robert does have some health issues which makes it hard him to be real active. He's really seeking for answers. I like the guy a lot. Brother Mag also has a lot of really cool mission stories that he shares.

TUESDAY! We had district meeting which was really good. Then we ate with Severina. Whenever I talk to her I am always so humbled. She is such a talented woman with such a love for God. I want to be more like her. Then we had a lesson with Patrick, the guy who showed up to church last week. It went pretty well. We talked about the Book of Mormon and shared with him the message of the Restoration. When we were giving an overview we said something like "the church Jesus Christ established was lost after he was killed, but now it has been restored through a living prophet." He said, “Woah, woah, woah wait. That's a lot to think about. Can you say that again?” So we talked about that for a while. He's going through a lot but he definitely wants to learn more and feel more of the spirit that he felt at church. Then we went to Gloria's house to teach her and Kimberly. It went really well. We talked about the Restoration and baptism. Both felt the Spirit very strongly. Gloria is a very humble woman. She's a breast cancer survivor too. When we talked about baptism Kimberly was asking if she could get baptized again. That was cool. I dunno. Both of them don't really have super strong Christian backgrounds but they are very open to learning more. Then we saw Stephanie. Man. That woman is going through hell. I'll try to briefly explain the situation. She has no job. She's really, really sick. Her son lost his job. He's sick and he has pink eye on top of that. He also has a warrant out for his arrest because of traffic tickets. Because of that, when his crazy baby momma came to steal his son (who she's not even allowed to have custody over) he couldn't deny her because she called the cops. It's crazy. And more bad is happening too. That's just the surface. But Stephanie, she's great. As missionaries we always talk about the importance of reading the scriptures and praying and we promise (as do the prophets and scriptures) a host of blessings. Stephanie is a great example of that. Her life is like falling down around her shoulders but she reads and prays everyday and she is just so happy, big huge smile and so much faith. You like being around her because she is so lively. And she tells us it's because she's reading the Book of Mormon. She's in Ether.... It's awesome. She really just loves the Book of Mormon, me too. It's brought her so much happiness in this hard time in her life. And Sister Justice has as well. She is the perfect example of member fellowship. We brought her to a lesson, and Sister Justice invited Stephanie into her life and family. She takes her places (like for example this week to the temple. Stephanie lovvved it soooo much.) and she helps her with things. They are friends. Whether Stephanie gets baptized or not this month, S. Justice has changed her life forever. It's amazing to see. I want to be a Christ-like friend like Sister Justice. But in this lesson Stephanie called us her angels which made me feel really good. It's things like that remind of me of the instantaneous good that we can do as missionaries. Reading the scriptures makes us happy. That night we went to a meeting with the stake about the Christmas open house. I loved it. I just loved counseling and talking and taking notes on how we can improve for next time. It was a really cool experience and I'm so grateful to have had that privilege. I feel like that with the whole mission. So many cool things I've gotten to do and see and be a part of. What a blessing. 

WEDNESDAY! A tonnnn of our appointments fell through. That was tough. It's interesting how it happens like that. We visited some people in the morning, some new members of the ward. Then we sat in on one of Vicki's new member lessons with the Egan's. It was good. I love her and Sister Marx a lot. They are like a power team in my mind. We had a great lesson and then Sister Marx bought us lunch. Vicki is such a good woman. She just has such a strong spirit about her. She's always so happy too. I always want to surround myself with people who are happy and excited; life is happier and more exciting that way. We saw Toni later and she told us all about her baptism and how she felt clean for days after the ordinance. It was interesting to hear her testimony like that. Then we went to eat at the Iverson’s. They are the best. They've done a great job in welcoming us into their family and it feels good. Then we went to see Stephanie which went good too.
Okay I'm running out of time. I’m just going to hit some experiences sorry.
We taught Johnathon and Fabiola, a couple who we had the blessing of contacting a while ago. We felt prompted to go there when we hadn't originally planned to and we knocked right in the middle of a huge argument they were having about the future of their family. We came in and taught the Restoration and the Spirit was really strong. Both of them felt it. When we were sharing the BOM with them, Fabiola said, "I have to read it" and she asked to keep my picture of the first vision that I showed them. That was my last one... but I was happy to give it to them. Then Johnathon said his first prayer ever and it was really, really sincere. He was just humbly pleading with God for the things he needed.

On Thursday I was on exchanges in Montebello West again! I love it the most. There are so many people and so many prepared families. I want to serve in that area again before the end of my mission. I still have two years to go so chances are high.... but it was a really good day. We talked with a lot of people and saw a lot of investigators. It was the birthday of the virgin of Guadalupe or something like that so there were tons of parties in the streets which was pretty crazy. I learned a lot about communication on the exchange that I went on. The elders in the area are doing very, very well in their indicators, but they aren't happy. And we know it's completely because they aren’t communicating. They don’t talk to each other about their feelings. They hold in their anger and frustration and then get even more mad at each other because they continue to do the things that the other doesn’t like! It's sad. I've been blessed to communicate fairly well with all of my companions but my skills have grown a lot in my time in the mission and especially with Elder Slik. Transparency is important. We don't always agree, but we always get along. We are different people, so we think differently but we don't let it get between us. We talk and that solves everything. Unity, it goes a long way.

Friday we had a lesson with Norma that went really well. Norma is our referral from Gladys Knight. She's not progressing very quickly, but she is really, really cool. She wants to learn, but she's not sure yet if she's committed to act on the knowledge. During the lesson she was asking lots of good questions like, "How do I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet?" and other things like that. I like having lessons with her a lot because she is thinking and that makes us think more. They are a little more scattered than other lessons because she is alllll over the place. Anyway. She's cool. She's only 26  too which is weird to think about sometimes because she's so young. Oh man. Then we had the sickest experience with Gloria. One of her granddaughters was visiting and got delayed. She said that she knew that she was going to not be able to leave because Gloria told her we were coming. She's being going through a inner spiritual battle recently. We taught our lesson about the BoM and then we were reading a part of Alma 7 and she was really feeling the Spirit. When she had to go she asked us to take down her information and she told us, "I'm taking this with me" referring to the Book of Mormon. That was cool. Powerful experiences all over the place this week. Friday night we also had a great lesson with Stephanie in which we mostly focused on Andre. He's an amazing man but as he's said before he said again, “I'm not ready to stop running from God yet.” He will soon though. He's opened up a ton.

Saturday! We had our stake president’s breakfast which went well. Then for the afternoon we delivered Christmas cards to the ward members. It made me feel good. A lot of people told us how much they liked them which made me feel good. I love these two wards so much. Such incredible people that I’ve gotten so close with. That afternoon we had a lesson with Susana. It was good, but tough because she believes in God but has never really felt him in her life before. So that's our new focus with her, helping her to feel and then recognize the Spirit. Then that night Brother Cotner took us to Outback Steakhouse. Man. I've never eaten like that before in my life. Sooo much food. Sooo good.

Sunday was pretty bomb too. Patrick walked to church. He told me after sacrament meeting that he had to leave because it was his daughter's birthday but he wanted to make sure he came but that he'd be there all of next weeks. Man I was floored by that. Tyrone invites the guy to church to help him feel better and he feels the Spirit so strong that he commits to coming back every week. The Spirit. Stephanie loved our gospel principles lesson on exaltation and Gloria just loved church so much. :) Man I love it when our investigators are happy. It makes me happy. Then we took the sacrament after FH to a family that can’t come to church because of the husband’s back problems. We had another powerful experience there. In our short message she told us that for the first time she understood the point of church, religion, and everything. That was cool to talk to her about. Then we had dinner with the Martinez family. Man. They are the coolest. There are like seven or so families that are all just neck and neck for greatest families I've ever met and they are one of them. Just incredible people. I love them a ton. Then we visited a part member family and that went super well. Return apt and dinner for next week. Things are happening here in central. I love it. Elder Slik is like my hero. I'll be grateful forever for the things he's taught me and the great example he's been. 
Life, my brothers and sisters, is good.
I love you all so much!
Merry Christmas
Sam

PS. To the ward, thanks for writing me all the cards, I loved them!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Walkin’ in a winter wonderland

It's pretty cold here in Vegas.
Yeah, yeah I know that other places it’s like below 0 and such but I think I've acclimated to the temperature here. It's odd. Forty degrees feels like my nose is going to fall off. Everyone gives me a hard time because I’m from Michigan where it gets 'really cold' but I still am freezing up here. But it's all good. With my gloves and sweater and stuff I’m all set. 

I must say, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, minus the snow. Lights and decorations are going up and people are talking about it. Finals are coming up and the stores are getting busier. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

I have a lot to be thankful for. I couldn't possibly list all the blessings I’ve received but they are many. 
To name a few though! 
I’m grateful for the Savior. This morning I was overwhelmed as I read from the New Testament of the breadth of the Atonement. Christ truly felt my paper cuts and he felt the pain of losing a loved one. And everyone's everything in between. He suffered and he can help us. It's hard to express what that means without sounding redundant. But when he said he descended below all things he meant it. And he can carry us when we don't think we can anymore. He loves us a lot. So I'm thankful to my big brother for that one.
I'm grateful to be serving him. There is so much joy in the work. I've seen miracles as people's hearts have changed. Mine has. We get to watch as people grab the rod and are able to pull themselves up onto stable ground. For all the work I do for others, I’m the one who benefits the most. I'm grateful for the Restoration. What a glorious time to be alive, when the priesthood is on the earth and we have a prophet who guides and warns us. We don't have to live in darkness. There are answers to the questions we have. I'm grateful for inner peace. 
I feel like as missionaries we don't do very much. Like don't get me wrong, we bust our butts to find and help the 'one soul' (see D&C 18:15). But we do what we can but everyone loves us so much. More than we ever deserve. I'm grateful for that. So many people have really taken us in as their own. Really cared for us and loved us.
I'm grateful to all you troopers reading this right now. :)

Anyway. That's all a long way to say that life is good and that I’m happy. I wish the world was as happy all the time as they are at Christmastime. What if we were always friendly and serviceable and gift giving and family oriented? 

It's been a good week. Lots happened. Spark notes attached free of charge.
MONDAY! Remember how when I was in the MTC I talked a lot about how the days felt like weeks and the weeks felt like days? It's kinda the opposite and kinda not. Last Monday feels like a year ago. I did a double take when reading my journal entry. But the days go so fast. I think it just feels like so long ago because so much has gone on this week. I remember before I left people telling me not to worry because "it'll go by fast." Curse them all. Time flies far too fast. But anyway. The highlight was going to the Magdaluyo's home to teach a lesson to Robert, our newest, solid investigator. We've found others but they aren't "low hanging fruit" as Brother Mag describes him. Anyway. Robert is a half Japaneese man about the same age as Dad. He doesn't come from a strong Christian background but he has a lot of faith and he has grown up with members of the church for practically his whole life. We met him on Thanksgiving. He's a really bright guy, quiet, funny and humble. We sat around in the Mag's living room and discussed the Restoration. He openly told us at the frontend of the lesson that he thinks the Book of Mormon is true and that he has a testimony of prayer. That's what we love to hear. We taught the doctrine and he understood. When we were talking about prophets he said that it only makes sense that we would have another prophet. I wish everyone thought like that. A lot of our time is spent with people explaining that principle. God has always called prophets to guide his church. We aren't saying that Joseph Smith was anything more than that, a prophet. He was a modern day Jeremiah, or Noah, or Moses. He just is part of the grand pattern of God's plan for his children. But so we taught Robert and it was a great lesson. Brother and Sister Magdaluyo were great, just humble, happy people, living good lives and being good examples. I love that family. Robert has a lot of real intent and he understands the role of the Book of Mormon and the Holy Ghost in coming to know the truth of what we shared with him. His prayer really touched my heart. It was simple and sincere: really asking God to let him know that what he heard was true. :)

TUESDAY! He had a great day. We did some errands for the Zone in the morning and then in the afternoon we visited members and referrals. The first place we visited was pretty interesting. It is a great, great family who is only less active because they have no fellowship/ their home teachers aren't doing their assignments. Nice people still with a testimony, it is just collecting dust. True, they should be coming on their own, but with a little help they could grow a lot. With them, the littlest bit could go such a long way. That's true for a lot of people. But they were really nice. They liked video games a lot. Since Elder Slik and I cared about these people we were able to talk with (mostly just listen to their stories and then about their video games) them and pray with them and really lift their spirits in such a simple way. It was pretty funny though - they were talking to us about all these video games and stuff and the woman loads up Zelda on the new Wii and hands it to me and is like "see its super fun, try it out!" It wasn't really a temptation to play and it was easy put it down but it was kinda funny. Now that I'm writing this I sound super video game trunky. I'm not. But it was funny to just feel how different things are now that I'm a missionary. Ugh. I sound dumb. Anyway. Then we followed up on this referral and the girl was so happy that we went by. She invited us in right then. She was like a 20 year old college girl so we had to decline and set up another appointment. It was cool though. It was the referral that I think I talked about last week. The member was super tense in giving it to us. But the girl, after we left, texted the member and was sooo excited. It was funny. Twenty minutes after leaving, our member texted us saying, "You two are the best!" That made us feel really good and it strengthened my testimony of member missionary work. It was hard but everyone was happy. So anyway. We visited Sister Rosser, who I think is the coolest. She's so smart and just so real. She also loves helping. She gets on our case when we don't let her serve us. I want to have an attitude more like that for the rest of my life. We saw Tyrone for a bit. Then we had a weird experience where we visited an old couple in the ward that I visited with Elder Taetakua a year ago. I have weird dejavu a lot here. We had a really good visit with Toni when she told us all about her time in the hospital and her experiences with getting a blessing. She was really stressed because of her son. She told us all these problems he's been causing. Dang. It was nuts. God gives us commandments for a reason. Then that night we went out with Chris Marx to go see a new part member family. We had a great lesson. The wife got very emotional as she told us how she wants to come back to church because she wants her daughters to be raised with Christ as the center of their lives and so they don’t have to go through all of the hard things that she had to go through. Her daughters were crying too. I don't like it when girls cry. But it was really a good lesson. And a good experience for Chris to see how much this means to others and to help him recognize what a blessing it has been in his life. We had a great lesson with Stephanie too. It’s funny. We don't even bring up baptism but she talks about it because she's always praying and reading the BoM. She told us that she's "ginna surrender," referring to baptism. She says that she knows that the Lord wants her to get baptized but she's just being stubborn. It was pretty funny. Stephanie is such a great woman. But she's going through such a hard time. I wish we could do more but I’m grateful to the members of the church who do so much to serve those around me.

WEDNESDAY! We had Mission Leadership Council. It was really good. It was largely focused on the scriptures which I liked. How we could use them more often and more powerfully in our lessons. Those were the two trainings we received. Then we had a cool time to counsel with the other leaders about what to do to help our zones. I like counseling. It's a powerful experience. We had most of our appointments fall through but we had good backups to still get things done and be effective. MLC is awesome. I'd talk more about it but there's no time.

THURSDAY We drove a missionary down to Henderson for his doctor appointment. It was weird being back in my old area. It's almost like I never left even though it’s been like three months already. We had a great lesson with Norma. She's the one whose brother committed suicide and she referred herself after Gladys Knight. She cancelled the last lesson but this one was powerful again. We brought Rigdon who knew her brother and Sister Faught who is like super mom. Both were able to connect better to Norma than we ever could. She shared with us how the Plan of Salvation pamphlet and things she was reading on lds.org and what people were telling her about our beliefs were helping her to feel at peace. She had a lot of questions so it was hard to explain properly that the peace she was feeling was the Spirit telling her it was true. It's difficult. She has real intent but she has so many questions is hard to present the doctrine effectively so she will make commitments. She's really a special and prepared investigator but we have to set the expectations. Not that we will talk and be teachers but that full understanding will come with time. Teaching effectively is hard work but it makes a big difference. Anyway.  Then we saw the clan. It's hard to go there because they just aren’t doing anything to change their situation. Even Rigdon recognized that it's draining. Just because we give them all we have spiritually and they are content to sit and do nothing all day. After that we took a lot of time to plan for our ZTM. It’s very different team training than doing a solo thing like for a district meeting. Then we had another lesson with Robert that night. We talked about the Book of Mormon and he told us that he prayed and felt peace from God. Boom. Simple experiences like that are so powerful. Those are the foundation of testimony. See D&C 6: 22-23. After he shared that with us, we invited him to be baptized and he committed to do so! Wahoo! It's always the most exciting to invite new people because they either commit or we quickly discover their concerns and know where to go from there. 

FRIDAY! We had our ZTM which went really well. Not perfectly according to plan, but things went well. We went to see Toni and we talked to her about baptism and it was good. You could just tell how excited she was. She told us that Satan made her sick last week and he tried to do it again this week but she wasn’t letting him! She's funny and we love her a lot. We had some other good lessons. We went to both our ward's Christmas parties. They were verrrrry different. It's interesting to see that kind of juxtaposition in two wards that are kitty corner to each other. Both were good times to mingle with the members. Oh and we also got a picture with Santa!
Slik, Santa, and Sam
SATURDAY! Wow. Today was a crazy day. I was severely humbled this morning. Not in the ways that I usually am either. A member of our FH ward, Brother Cotner, called President Neider and got permission to take Elder Slik and me to the mall to buy us new suits and shoes. Both of ours were really beat up from use. It was one of the nicest things I've ever had done for me. I don't think I've had a new suit before and I've never had any shoes that nice. It was crazy. Then we went to the chapel to fill the font and set up the room. We had two back to back baptisms and the room was packed for both of them, like 80 people. It was awesome! I've never seen a crowd like that before. We were pretty happy.
Toni and Idary's baptism
Toni and Idary and then Bailey. Bailey was a kid I met a year ago with the zone leaders. When Idary got baptized he inhaled a bunch of water and that freaked him out. Also when he did he kicked a foot out of the water. So that was a little bit of a new experience. He ran up onto the women’s side and we couldn't even get him to cross over the water to get onto the men’s side. He was totally immersed so bishop said it was okay but Idary said real loud, “I'm never getting baptized again.” It was cute. After he was dry and changed he was all smiles though. Then we ate with the Jewitt’s. I love them. Such a cool family. Sister Jewitt told us some of her theories about education and schools. She said that because of the ways schools are going more and more children are not understanding or liking math. She says that math is truth. There are no theories or hypotheses. It's about solving and proving with facts. She said that because kids aren’t learning math they aren’t learning to understand truths, and absolutes. So it makes facts less valuable in children’s minds. It's hard to explain but she explained it well. I’ll try one more time. Math is absolute facts. It doesn’t change. Schools are having problems. Kids don't like math. They don't learn it. Because they don't learn math, they don't believe in absolutes and question truth. Ugh. Google it. Then after that we did a blessing on a woman’s home. A while ago we set up an appt with a woman for Friday but we totally spaced it. We didn’t think it was big deal bc she didn't seem too interested.  Saturday morning she called us and asked why we didn't come by! We were super taken aback bc that's never happened to either of us. So that night we went by and prayed with her and her family. It was cool. Then we met with Susana, that referral we contacted on Tuesday. She's pretty cool. She asked us a ton of questions about missionary life and she accepted the invitation to take the lessons. We’ll see how it goes!

SUNDAY! Church was good. We coordinated. We watched the devotional. Tyrone invited a friend to church and Sunday night we had a good lesson with him. He was super interested and he said that now he knows we don’t worship aliens. He only knew us by the title “Mormons” and he "had no idea what a 'Mormon' was." He was cool and shared his life story with us. He said he really felt the difference at church and he wanted to have that peace in his life. It was cool.

Life's good.
Sorry that I kinda tapered off at the end.
No time.
I love you all so much!
Sam
PS. Merry Christmas!!!!


Monday, December 2, 2013

I'm pretty tired today.

Well hello!
The most important thing that happened this week is that Toni didn't get baptized - more on that a little later. She'll be getting baptized this week though. 
It's been a great week. I'm really, really tired but I feel good and happy. I almost feel good because I'm so tired if that makes sense. I'm trying my best and therefore I feel good. Not everything goes according to plan though. But I've slowly but surely come to better understand how to not get upset when things go awry that I don't have control over. I can't do anything about it so there is no sense in stressing about it, seems simple but the small things make the biggest difference.
So I guess I'll just move on to talking about the week!

MONDAY! Pday stuff, you know how it is. That evening we got to three pack with Elder Fagerston because Elder Montgomery was doing all the get ready to go home things. So we went and saw Tyrone and read some of the Book of Mormon with him. I like Tyrone a lot. He's such a good guy. And you're never sure what he's going to say. He's smart and watches a lot of history and discovery channel so he is always dropping some random factoid doctrine. Then we went to Toni's and helped prepare her for her baptism. It was good. I like Elder Fagerston a lot. He's a really good guy. But the really exciting stuff happens when at 9 o’clock we get a call from President. It's Elder Montgomery saying that he needed to be picked up at the mission home that night. So Mike dropped us off and we drove down there that night. We got to the mission home and that was really weird. I saw Elder Fischer and Sister Burrup and Sister Despain. EF and SD were in my first district and so that was pretty saddening to see them go. But so we did't get Elder Montgomery until like 9:45pm. So then we drove all the way back and those elders live pretty far from us so we didn't get home until 10:45. It was nuts. I know it's not that bad I shouldn't complain but I was absolutely exhausted when we got home. 

TUESDAY! They are all great days. Today was transfer day and so we sent off Elder Lilo, Elder Montgomery, Elder Reed, and Sister DeSpain. We got Elder Borden (who was in my district in Warm Springs) Elder Janke (who is a stud and Elder Gunnell's last companion) Sister Fernandez (who served in my district last year at this time) Elder Moore (Elder Slik's MTC companion's trainee) and Elder Andersen (who came out the same transfer as me). We helped out and drove missionaries around and then just as we got done someone called us telling that they left their scriptures and so we had to drive all the way back. When we got back to the mission office, some sisters were struggling with their luggage so we helped them and drove their bikes to their new apartment. Then we saw a Mexican family (daughter and dad) moving out so we helped them. While talking, it turned out that it was a part-member family and the daughter wanted her dad to join the church but he wasn't interested. She was really grateful for the help and the good example we showed to her dad. Then we were heading to a lesson in our apartment complex and we ran into a newlywed couple moving in and we jumped in and helped out. It was interesting to talk with them. They had jobs and vehicles and goals which most people that we talk with in the apartments don’t have. Our lesson flaked but we saw Jazmine which was good. She was really depressed and saying a lot of really horrible things. She was telling us that she was hungry and mad and because of that she was never going to go to her GED class again. It made no sense to me. She ran out of food stamps because she spent them frivolously and then she was mad at everyone else around her and because she was mad she was going to give up on her life and shoot herself in the foot for the rest of her life. GED classes are free till the end of the year and then after that they will be pretty expensive and so this is like her only chance. People need love and mentoring. Jazmine is a perfect example. Smart, and capable person but she had gotten into a situation that she can't bring herself out of. Others can't do it for her of course but if no one was supporting her she wouldn't have a chance. Sigh. Goals and guidance are so important in success. I could rage about that family's situation all day, so many problems that shouldn't have happened and shouldn't have to continue. Too often people underestimate their own power in helping themselves and others. After Jazmine we went to the Marx's house to talk with Vicki about her baptism. There was a marked difference in the happiness between the two. Vicki was taking strides and confronting her challenges and making changes. Man, it makes me so happy to talk to Vicki to see how happy she is. She is a very special woman. The lesson we had with her was incredible. She shared some of her spiritual experiences from her baptism and we were almost all crying. I'll briefly tell y’all about them. First was she and Brother Marx were practicing the ordinance. He was going over the prayer with her and asked her to say her full name and as she did she slipped up and said her maiden name. She said that right then she felt the Spirit really strongly and she could feel that her parents were right there with her. Vicki is a very smart, but quiet person; when she told us that she said "I know my parents were there with me." She said it was such power and conviction. A little bit of fire too. I love Vicki. She's cool. Anyway, second was that as she stepped down into the font she said that it felt like it was full. Like there were tons of unseen people packed in there. It was like all her ancestors waiting for her to be baptized to do the work for them. Then the third was when she was actually baptized. Vicki is afraid of water. She didn't tell anyone before her baptism because she wanted to just do it without making a big deal of it. But so when she got dunked under the water she said it felt like a warm blanket being wrapped around her. She said that she wanted to stay there forever because it felt so comfortable. She was sad when she had to come up. It was a powerful experience to hear her describe the feelings of making that covenant with God. She was a prepared soul. Then we went to see Dante. We read from the Book of Mormon with him. He hasn't smoked since last Saturday which is awesome. It's a huge deal for him too. He is quite strong willed. Another prepared person to receive the gospel, I just hope that we can support him enough that he can continue to change his situation and living conditions. Later we went to teach Stephanie and we had a really good lesson with her. We didn't even bring baptism up but she said that she's been thinking on it. She says that she keeps going back and forth. But we had a sweet experience with her. She shared with us that she knows Joseph Smith is a prophet. She has a strong testimony of that. I know that the Spirit has borne witness of that as she's read and prayed. But near the end of the lesson Stephanie broke down in tears about how hard things have gotten and how she needs blessings from God to help her. She's going through a rough time :/. it was great to have Sister Justice with us because she could really comfort Stephanie in a way that we couldn't. She gave her a big hug and let her cry on her shoulder. It was hard to see someone so strong as Stephanie cry like that. I'm glad to know that Elder Slik and I have been sharing something with her that has brought her strength and happiness. We went to Toni’s after and went over the baptismal interview questions. I was pretty surprised at how well she knew the answers. She's pretty funny too. Sometimes I don't get her humor but when she's playing around she's pretty funny. Toni has a strong desire to be baptized. She also opened up and shared with us a lot of her struggles with God and religion. She has gotten dealt some pretty bad hands earlier in her life which was sad to hear about. I'm so grateful for the life I've had. I've been so blessed. Abundantly. 

WEDNESDAY! DM was bomb. I really liked it. Elder Janke is a really good teacher. He is very composed and confident and he commands attention. It's cool. Pretty much everything cancelled on us on Wednesday which was tough. A lot of the lessons that cancelled were ones that I was sure were going to go through and be good. But we got over it. We visited Grandma and she shared with us the pain of beginning the first holiday season without her husband. I can't imagine how hard life would be without the gospel. Knowing that families can be together forever, and having God's promise of that, is such a source of comfort. We saw Stephanie and we talked a lot with her about how she's in the middle of getting baptized and going back to her Baptist church. She has a testimony but she really likes Baptist churches still. So we are doing everything we can to help her keep feeling the Spirit. We had dinner with the Iverson family, man are they the best. They are a functional family that love each other and love the Lord.

THANKSGIVING! Well it was Thanksgiving. I didn't eat nearly as much as I did last year, which was good if any of you remember how much I ate last year. We had DM in the morning. Then we had Toni's baptismal interview and she passed with flying colors. Then we went to Brother DeLeon's house to eat a feast. We had a pretty normal food except there was some random Filipino noodle dish on the table. I like Brother DeLeon. He's a good guy, quiet but with a big heart and real talent for cooking. Then after that we went to the Magdaluyo's house for dinner number two.
Sam and Elder Slik - Thanksgiving 2013 - meal #2

Thanksgiving at the Magdaluyo's
They are awesome. I really love that family and how devoted they are to the gospel. Sister Mag is so loving and funny and Brother Mag is a goofball but he really can be serious about the important things. They really make us feel like part of their family, which means a lot during Thanksgiving time. People like them have really made a big difference on me, on the kind of person that I want to be and the attitude I want to have towards life - a more Christ-like one. Then we had to go make a pit stop at the church to make room for the final dinner and there was a homeless dude chilling outside! It was pretty sad to see so we grabbed all the leftovers we had accumulated and gave them to him. He was pretty happy, which made me happy. I wish we could have done more for him though. There we were laughing and warm and enjoying time with friends and there was this guy cold and hungry. I'm thankful that we got to serve him that night. After helping a brother out, we went to the Bank's house, Rigdon's family (who comes out with us every Tuesday.) We had a great time there too. I was pretty stuffed but the food was good so I packed more in. I'm thankful to all of you, those who love and support me. I'm thankful for the Savior and for his sacrifice and his example. I'm grateful for the scriptures. I'm grateful for the chance I have to serve others.

FRIDAY! We spent the morning preparing for Toni's baptism and making the program and such and doing some of our weekly planning. We had a good lesson with Dante. He finished reading the entire Book of Mormon Stories book. He loved it and understands pretty well. It's not the BoM but his plan is to go back and read all the stories that are referenced. For a drop out he reads and comprehends really well. You'd never know he hasn't been to school in years. That was good. I really like Dante. He has a special spirit about him. I think it’s just his eagerness to learn and grow. That night we went by to see Toni but she was asleep on the couch because she didn't feel good so we didn't go in. So we went to see Stephanie with Sister Thayer. We had a great lesson. Stephanie was a little distracted because her family was in town but it went well. Sister Thayer shared her conversion story and some of her experiences and Stephanie connected really well to it. When we got out we checked our voicemail and we had one from Toni that said "Oh help, please help, SOMEBODY HELP!" It was super scary. We drove over there as fast as we could and we knocked on the door and then Idary opened the door behind us and said that his mom had a heart attack and was in the hospital. We arranged for Idary to get picked up and a blessing to be given to Toni. She had high blood pressure and chest and stomach pains and couldn't walk. So we cancelled the baptism and she didn't get released from the hospital till Sunday afternoon. That was crazy.

SATURDAY! With the change of plans and the fact that no one had really invited people to the stake Christmas open house, Elder Slik and I spent most of the day tracting. We handed out about 500. We covered an entire city block's worth of houses. It was fun, but super ineffective. After we finished we visited the Gammons. Dang. Sister Gammon and her kids Blake and Taylor are the coolest. Blake served in Australia and Taylor will be leaving in March. I think they are another one of those super awesome families. 

SUNDAY! Fast and Testimony meeting was good. Idary bore his testimony again which was cool. It was powerful in both wards. After that we spent the rest of the day preparing for the open house which went really well. Lots of people showed up but we didn't get very many referrals. It was our stake's first year doing it so hopefully next year we can fine tune things to make it a more fruitful activity. It was really a great showing of creativity and hard work from most of the stake.
Christmas Open House 
I loved being a part of the planning and set up and stuff. I really like doing that kind of stuff. It gets my blood pumping. I love doing the stuff and Elder Slik is so good at it. He is a natural leader and he really understands how to get things done. Most of the referrals we got were because of Elder Slik's good planning and ideas. He's incredible. It's a blessing to work with him and learn from his great example.

That's pretty much the week.
I loved it.
Life is good.
I'm so grateful for everything
I love you all so much.

Sam 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Yo

Well, well, well family.
We meet again. 
DREAM TEAM 2014! Elder Slik and I will be staying together for another transfer. Can you believe it? I'm like the most happy. 
DREAM TEAM 2014
It was pretty crazy. Normally the transfer information comes out Saturday morning but we didn't get it until Sunday afternoon. So for all that time we were stressing and stressing and stressing. But right before Vicki's baptism we got them! I was so relieved. It's nice that we won’t be separated for Thanksgiving or for Christmas. It's fun how close we've gotten with each other and to the members of our wards.
The zone is getting changed up quite a bit though. All the senior companions in our district (except Elder Slik of course) are getting changed. And in the Spanish District Sister Despain is going home. DANG. And Sister Fernandez is coming. Yes, the same Sister F that I served with here in Central a year ago. It's interesting.
A lot of missionaries I know are going home this week. Other than Sister Despain is Elder Fischer. I'll be sad. They were both in my first district.
BUT things are good. Life is going well. I have learned a lot. I'm a better missionary today than I was when I last wrote you. That's what it's all about.

MONDAY! After Pday we taught Tyrone with Brother F. We read the Book of Mormon together and talked about it. Brother F has a very interesting story. He was one of those people who something bad happened in his life and he turned it all around. He's now in the EQP and is one of the most devoted members we have. He serves, and visits, and ministers. He also is like the discernment master. That may sound silly but he just comes into situations and understand what role he can play in making it better. Or he really gets a feel of what people are thinking. It's hard to explain. I think he's awesome. But so we read from the Book of Mormon to help strengthen Tyrone. Then we went to go see Nick, the Romanian man, but he wasn't there. Brother F, while we drove that night explained to us his personal philosophy which is pretty good - life is a test of recognizing temptations and 'just saying no.' That’s what he puts everything in life through. It's cool to hear him talk about it because it's really helped him to change his life around and become the man that he is. Then we went that night with Brother Tobler to go see Holly. She was the woman who we helped pick up cigarette butts for. We got there at the perfect time and she was so grateful. We prayed with her to help her overcome her alcohol problem. It was a sweet experience. She felt the Spirit really strong. She's a nice woman with two small children (she very recently finished a divorce) and she recently hasn't been to work since the government shutdown, even after she still has been out. Because of all the stress she has started drinking and smoking again. She shared with how she wants to stop but it's hard. It's sad that these substances just take people's life over. I think about all the people I've met who want to change their living situations but just can’t because of addiction. It tears apart families and consumes lives. Then that night we went to see Toni as well. She said that watching Tyrone get baptized was encouragement for her own (which is on the 30th).

TUESDAY! We started things off with a lesson with Randy. It was a good lesson. Elder Slik and I were very unified and we taught simply and powerfully and by the end he got it. He said "I know that you can’t be saying that your church is God's church, because you just can’t say that." But we told him that, that was exactly what we are saying. He understood and didn't get offended either because he understood the role of the Book of Mormon. It's a very bold message, the one that missionaries bear. There is one Lord, faith, baptism, and church see Ephesians 4. That's what we preach. Not to take anything away from anyone else though. It was powerful. I know that he really felt the Spirit. I love first lessons. There is so much pressure. You really feel it in there and I know that the Spirit guides us. We invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it and he accepted. And then we invited him to be baptized when he got an answer. He started to say no, but then said, “I'll do whatever the Lord tells me.” It was a great lesson. I really hope that he sincerely reads and prays. Then we did some service to a woman in the other ward. The house was filled with half junk and half ancient artifacts. To me there was a clear distinction but to her the line was a little more blurry, a lot more blurry. But she had a lot of really cool Egyptian artifacts and scrolls. She lived in a giant castle with like 7 bedrooms and 5 floors. It was crazy. I really saw though the importance of maintaining order, for as big and grand as the place was, it wasn't neat and so it was kind of dreary. Then we went to the Z's apt to help them move a GIANT tv. Remember the one that we used to have? It looked a lot like that and it was stuppppid heavy as well. Dang and then a family friend came in and started screaming and yelling. It was weird. We don't usually deal with that level of irreverence. Of course I didn't like it but I thought about anger and what had pushed her to get to that point. We said a prayer with the family and the juxtaposition was almost humorous. Peace makes the biggest difference. Then as we left we talked to Jazmine about getting her GED and reading the BOM. She doesn't do anything but sit in her room and mope so she is super depressed. We encouraged her to do stuff. Do anything other than just sit around. Then we taught Vicki and we prepared her for the Baptismal Interview. She is the most golden. She was a soul who was kept only from the truth because she didn't know where to find it and then finally when she did find it all it took was the loving invitation from a friend. It didn't come on the first try but Sister Marx didn't give up. I look up to her a lot.
To anyone reading this: There is the biggest difference between those that the missionaries have contact with and can "find though their own efforts" and people referred by members.
Alma 13:24 For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory.
Moroni 7:37 ... for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. The Lord is hastening his work. There are angels preparing your friends, and you can be one of those angels too. Please be a part of it. Take an active interest in the lives of the missionaries in your ward. Ask them what you can do to help. Pray for them by name. Pray for your own experiences. I really don't want to be preachy, but this is what our Prophet wants us to be doing. We love to talk about modern day prophets and modern day revelation but no one wants to follow this revelation given to the prophet. Do something every day to further the work, even if it's just planting seeds. Anyway. 
So Vicki is incredible. She carries such a strong spirit about her, such a hunger for righteousness. When we got there she had been planning the service and listening to hymns that she wanted. Then we went to the Banks' and they had like 500 ties that we looked through to find more matches. We got like seven new sets so we were pretty pleased about that one. It was fun to be there sorting through this massive heap of silk trying to find ties that matched. It was weird that there weren't very many. Then we went with Mike to Mama Maria's and then to La Flor de Michoacan, two Mexican places. They were his wife's favorite before she passed away. It was really good. It's right down the street from the temple and at about 6:30 that night two cops that were eating there got up cursing and ran out. We didn't think much of it until the next day. Then we visited some members to invite them to the upcoming Christmas Open house. 

WEDNESDAY! We visited some members in the afternoon to invited members to invited friends. We have such incredible people in this area, such great examples to me. The sisters especially are really inspiring to me. Sister Gammon is one of them (she's one of the members we visited. She told us about the young man who killed himself at the temple Tuesday night), but there is Sister Jewitt, Sister Tobler Sister Martinez, Sister Magdaluyo, Sister Dutson, Sister Marx and so many others. The women of the church are incredible, such devotion and leadership. I wanna be like these great women. But anyway, that night we taught Stephanie a great lesson about the Restoration. Similar to the one we taught Randy. It was powerful. She really understood deeper than before too which was good. She committed to be baptized, but she wants to keep reading to get confirmation. She's cool. The video was really powerful. It was kinda funny bc two things happened. One I had food poisoning so I missed the first 10 minutes of it because I was in the bathroom. I was sooooo sick and I was so embarrassing because I thought everyone could hear my body hating me for what I put into it. Luckily ES said that no one could hear anything. Then Andre accidentally hit the remote during the First Vision and it changed to Japanese. Every time the Spirit is building up in a lesson something happens to disrupt the First Vision. It happens allll the time. But then we went from good to better when we went with Sister Jewitt to see Norma our one non member referral from Gladys Knight. We set up the apt last week and she was there waiting for us. It was an incredible lesson. Her brother had died about 6 months ago and his birthday was on Friday so she was very sad and reminiscing on him and his life. We talked about the Plan of Salvation and how God is loving and just. He had taken his own life and she had been told by people that he was in hell or that he was gone for good. She didn't believe either of those, because she said that she could feel him prompting her. I'm sure that her brother was there listening in on that lesson. The Spirit was very strong as we testified of the Spirit World and of the Atonement. Sister Jewitt was able to relate very well to Norma as well which was powerful. We invited her to read specific parts of the Book of Mormon and I pray that she read them, but even if she didn't she and Sister Jewitt are now exercise buddies! That's fellowship! Outside Norma's house we talked to an interesting man. He said almost confrontingly that we probably didn't want to hear his take on religion. We assured him that we did and he told us that he believed in an apostasy (he didn’t use that word of course) and that he thinks the bible has been changed. We told him that we believed very similarly. Then that night we had another lesson on how the gospel helps families. That was interesting. Sometimes in retrospect I feel like we beg those whom we teach. We beg them to keep their commitments because we know how much it can bless them. Of course we don’t get on our knees or even use a pleading tone of voice but that’s what it feels like.  I wish everyone did everything that we invited them to do. Mostly just read the scriptures, pray and come to church. That happened in this lesson. They expressed how they wanted to improve family relations and center their lives on Jesus, but they weren't ready to make the changes.

THURSDAY! We had exchanges. I was with Elder Reed in my area. We had Vicki's actual interview which went well. She and Sister Marx made us delicious cookies. We were working on a list that day from the ward and we got into like two new homes which was good. We met up with Dante again. We had dinner with a family who had just about nothing. We were eating very small portions of very watery spaghetti. It made me sad to see people living in that circumstance. I wish everyone would get and keep jobs. Then we had a really good lesson with Tyrone about the Book of Mormon again. He really got into it. Then we taught Toni and Idary about the Book of Mormon too. That night we unexchanged a little early so ES and I could give Sage a blessing. I was really thankful that they called us. I love that family and to know that they wanted us made me feel good. The blessing was strong and the next day Sage said that she felt 100% better so that was cool.

FRIDAY! MISSION TOUR WITH ELDER BRUCE CARLSON of the 70! That was awesome. We were in training from 8:30 – 4:30. I loved it. I learned so much, especially in the leadership portion. He really got real with us and gave us lots of new idea and guidance on how to better lead other missionaries and help them have success. I really was impressed and you could feel his authority when he talked. Then we had dinner with a Hispanic sister and we talked in Spanish the whole time and she loved that. So did ES and I. It was fun to use that and practice. I love Spanish! Then we gave a sister a blessing. Then we taught Dante and helped him to set a date to quit smoking. We drew him up a calendar and prayed with him. He wants to do this. Gotta speed up.

SATURDAY! We were supposed to get transfers and we didn’t. We coordinated with the Egan’s. Apparently President told them a while back that Slik and I were going to stay together but they weren’t allowed to tell us! We learned that last night. But anyway, then we had lunch with Severina. I love her so much. She is a special, special woman. Then we had a lesson with Toni and the Toblers. It was good. I really think that they are such good saints. They love each other and the Lord. That night we had another great lesson with Dante and the young mens president [ymp]. It was super good. He really committed to quit smoking in three weeks. Having the ymp there was such a good thing. He really has taken Dante under his wing to help and guide him. Then we went to the Marx’ to talk and finalize Vicki's baptism.

SUNDAY! We went to ward council in BV then I went to FH. After church we went to dinner with the Mags and then we set up for the baptism for Vicki. It was so powerful, almost everyone was crying.

Vicki's baptism
Elder Slik, Vicki, Sam 
Vicki is such an elect woman. So strong in her faith and it’s been a blessing to watch her grow and grow with her. Then after that we went to another stake meeting and counseled which was cool. I like being involved in stuff like that. Everyone is for the dream team in both our wards people were asking us all day Saturday and Sunday if we knew what was happening. So it was cool to see people excited that we were staying together for a 3rd transfer and then even at this meeting it got announced that we were staying together which made me feel good to know that the whole stake was noticing our efforts. I also really love watching Elder Slik work in these kinds of settings. He is very professional and he isn't afraid to push for what he wants. He presents what he thinks will be good and he does it in a powerful way. I can’t wait to see what he does for a living. He'll be good at it.
Life is good. I really am so happy, Dream Team for another 6 weeks and more baptisms to come. Thank you all for your letters and thoughts and prayers.
:)
I love you all so much
Sam