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Monday, September 30, 2013

GENERAL CONFERENCE IS COMING!

The above is the dream team tags in .... TAGALOG!
The church is true. The same church that Jesus Christ established has been restored and he stands at the head as the chief cornerstone (see Ephesians 2:20). What a blessing it is to have the priesthood on the earth again and modern revelation to guide it. I love General Conference so much. 

There are like a million and one things that I would like to tell you all but I don't have time or the memory. 
The most important I guess would be the two baptisms this week. 
Severina's baptism




Severina (previously assumed to be spelled Savrina) and Andres! It was cool to be a part of both. Severina is so cool, so prepared and so spiritual. This week we taught her quite a few times. The highlight was on Friday when we went to the temple with her. It was crazy. Of course we went on the day that a Filipino woman and a RM [returned missionary] from the Philippines were getting sealed. Just as we walked around the back of the temple they came out and their family was there waiting. They were all excited and talked to Severina and bore their testimonies. It was cool that it all happened as if we had planned it. Severina cried most of the time on the temple grounds. She was feeling the Spirit very strongly and was so, so happy. She is an older woman but she had a skip in her step and a song in her heart which she shared with us. "I'm going to follow Jesus. I'm going to follow Jesus. No looking back. No looking back." It was special. We read from the scriptures there as well. Severina didn't have the best marriage relationship. Before whenever we would talk about eternal marriage she was always a little bit uncomfortable. It was clear that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be with her earthly husband in the life to come. But seeing the couple after they were sealed really touched her and before her baptism on Saturday she told us that she had a dream about getting sealed to her husband in the temple and now she is set on that. It was a powerful experience. Severina is so, so sweet. We call her Lola which means grandma in Tagalog. 
Andres'baptism
Andres' baptism was cool too. 
Extra special because Elder Slik and I were the ones to find him (what now feels like) a long time ago. We were on exchanges and now we got to go to his baptism as companions. 
Andres' and Gissel at his baptism (sorry about the orientation)
It was cool too because Gissel helped to teach him and then gave a talk on the Holy Ghost which was very powerful. It was special to go back and see all the people I used to get to see on a daily basis.

Monday was pretty normal day. We taught Severina. We had a lot of appointments cancel including the Ts' which is sad because they've been cancelling a lot lately. We think we scared them, especially the dad. Well mostly the dad. He was pretty closed and I bet he didn't like that his wife and children were liking reading the Book of Mormon. We're not really sure but we know the Sister T knows the Book of Mormon is true.

Tuesday was cool because we took out a priest named Rigdon. He is so cool. The first time we wanted to take him out he was kinda skeptical but now he is like super gung-ho. He is a rugby player and is so cool, funny, and really cares about the people we see. He remembers everyone down to the people we talk to in the street. We were also on exchanges and I was with Elder Lilo (another rugby player, but he is straight outta Samoa). He is super nice. We had a good time and I really learned a lot from him. He teaches very simply and directly and is always bearing his testimony. I want to teach more like that. We taught Toni and Rigdon and EL both liked that. She is someone who you can’t not just love, simple, and humble, and pure. She just wants to be good. That is a quality of people I have really grown to respect more and more. The conscious desire to do what is best. We read the Book of Mormon with a less active family (half of which then came to church on Sunday which was cool). That evening we were going to visit a referral and we started talking to a man and he invited us to teach him a lesson right then. We did and it was awesome. He shared with us how he felt that everything we said was the truth and it brought a warm feeling to his heart. We explained that it was the Spirit he was feeling and talked to him about its importance. He really wanted to be a better father. I don't know much about fatherhood. But we just taught about Christ. It was a good day with EL but after I was happy to again be with Elder Slik. He's bomb.

Wednesday we went to the temple. It was so cool. I hadn't gone in a while and I really wanted to go back. I could just feel that I needed to go. It's hard to explain really but I could just feel that my two transfers of not going was up. I went and felt so at peace. That is even harder to explain. My mind had been muddled for a long time with a lot of things and I felt that in the temple I could just leave them all behind and I had so much clarity. I've been tired and distracted for a while now with all the new responsibilities I have but I had one of the most powerful prayers in a very long time afterwards. I know that serving in the temple brings blessings. Funny story though. I was kinda feeling sick that day. Anyone who knows me knows that I can destroy a bano. Well I so am sitting in the temple and I just know that I have to go. I look at Elder Slik and whisper, “I've gotta go,” and he chuckles and says to me, “too bad.” But then again I say, "No, I've gotta go.” His eyes bugged out. I had to get up right before the session began and run to the bathroom. It was pretty embarrassing, but other than that part, the peace was inexplicable. That night we again taught Toni about the Atonement. She definitely felt the importance of it. And little by little she is grasping the restoration of authority. She keeps saying give me a week or two more and I'll get baptized. We haven't set a specific date with her but it will be soon.

Thursday we had a really good District Meeting done by Elder Hiatt. It was about powerful and impactful first lessons that set people up for conversion. It was well planned and presented. I think it was Thursday that ES and I did “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes” too. We had a great lesson with a new investigator and our 2nd counselor in the bishopric. We just boldy explained the blessings of keeping the commandments. Not as bold as LTP [L. Tom Perry] during last conference but it was still powerful. God gives us commandments for a reason - our personal happiness. They protect and sanctify us. We see so much sadness here in Vegas that could be avoided if people just knew and followed God's counsel. But don't take my word for it. (See John 7:17)   

Friday was the temple with Severina which was so awesome. But also on Friday was Andres' baptism which was awesome too. Also we got our Tagalog tags which was like the triple crown. BUT THEN! I got to eat alligator tail. It was quite delicious. I'd definitely eat it again. 

Saturday was Severina's baptism. It was cool because Toni went to that. And while there a woman bore her testimony and then said and we are so excited for you Toni when you will be taking this important step. I was worried that she was going to get scared but she enjoyed it all. She also went to the stake dinner before the RS broadcast and then to the broadcast. She loved that too. She said it was an answer to her prayers. She said that she hadn't told her concerns to anyone but God and they were answered during the broadcast. Cool or what? That afternoon as well we taught a sweet drop lesson. The guy wasn't ready but we didn't know that till the lesson. We were very bold and he and his wife felt the Spirit but he just wasn't ready to follow. The Spirit really is the key to the work. Without it we just offend people or are ineffective. It is such a blessing to feel it prompting you to say certain things or not say what you planned on, or usually say.

Sunday was an incredible Fast and Testimony meeting in both wards. In Bonanza View almost everyone bore their testimony of missionary work. One man shared his experience of the past weekend. He got taken to jail for old traffic tickets for three days. He didn't know why God would let that happen to him but as he pondered and prayed he felt impressed to share the gospel with his other 24 "tank-mates" as he described them "gang bangers, drug dealers and drunks." He said to himself though that they wouldn't listen or accept. They were too far gone and that was why they were in prison, but then later after he got out he regretted it. He was saying that he realized that those are the same people that Jesus ministered to. He didn't judge people for their immediate circumstances but saw where they could go to. It was incredibly powerful. It really touched me. "When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  I know the church is true with all my heart. Christ lives and leads his church through a living prophet who holds all the keys. The Book of Mormon is true. I finished it for the fourth time on my mission this morning. It is another testament of Jesus Christ and another witness to his reality, example and most importantly his Atonement. 

In Frenchman Hills the first person to bear testimony was a senior in high school and she said something like this, "Since I've been little I’ve heard everyone tell me that Christ loves and knows my name. But now I know. I know he lives and I know he loves me." Her spirit was so strong and we all knew that she knows. I cried a little bit, I’ll be honest. She was such a good example to her family and fellow young women and whole ward. The Atonement is real and she bore simple testimony of the reality of it and the effects of it in her life. After church we also taught another great first lesson. It was to a woman who is in a transition stage in her life. She is trying to change things in her life and what we told her hit her very deep. 

God lives. He loves us.
It was a real good week. I feel so blessed, incredible experiences, amazing companion, and the support from all of you. 
I love you all so much.
Sam


Friday, September 27, 2013

"Your Missionaries"

The Dream Team in action
This is an email we received.  "Hi. My name is Bradley Iverson.  I'm in the Frenchman Hills Ward. Your sons visit my family and me. Today, they came to challenge me to invite people to be taught the gospel. I stopped them midstream, they hadn't  yet helped me feel the Spirit. So, they sang this song. Now, I'm full and committed.  I love these two. Our son is a missionary in Saline, MI." 
Thank you Brother Iverson. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The time sure does fly

It feels like it was yesterday that I was emailing you all, but so much has happened. It's a weird phenomenon. Time. 

So as always the week has been great. Elder Slik and I are having a blast and working hard and seeing miracles. It’s like the triforce of a good mission. 
We got to see Sister Burrup the other day which was kinda funny because Elder Slik and I were with her (what seems like) ages ago in Los Feliz. When she saw us she told us that she couldn't believe that we were companions. In the mission they hand out a leadership roster which has like all the zones and zone leaders on it and she said that when she saw us together she though the president must have gone crazy. It just confirmed for ES and me that we are like the mission joke. Everyone joked about us being companions and then it actually happened. What upppp. 

'Stewardship' is an interesting thing, as I am learning. It's been explained to me in a few ways. One is that it's my - meaning our ES and my - job to make sure each companionship is finding, teaching, and baptizing. Another is that as a leader/steward the only person that should be praying more for the zone are the mother's of each missionary. I'm not where I should be but I'm trying. Christ-like leadership leaves no room for selfishness. So I'm doing my best to kill the natural man. But as I have been in a position to influence missionaries for a while, I have noticed a trend that I really don't like. It's a phrase and an ideology that denies not only the Atonement but the fact that we are here on earth to progress. It’s the phrase "it's just what I've always done" or other similar ones like "I have just always gone with the flow" and "It's just how I was raised" and all the phrases like it. I've heard that very, very often as an excuse and I don't like it. Missionaries make mistakes. Most of the time they are smaller and often times inconsequential, but when someone says that they can’t and won’t change because they did x, y, or z thing in the past it gets on my nerves. I'm not really sure how to get my point across. Basically excuses hold us back. The whole purpose of the gospel is to say that it doesn't matter who you were, or where you came from, or what you did, you can become something better. We don't ever have to be complacent with sub-par performance. We can get better. I know you all know this but sometimes we forget and say that it's okay that we are still making the same mistake we made as children because, exactly that, we did it as a child. It's not true. We can change and overcome but it takes effort and commitment. Jesus Christ suffered through the same things that we are subject to and he overcame every temptation. He knows what it is like and he can help us find the way out. I know that we can repent and leave old habits behind. From simple bad manners to iniquity, it can all be made clean. I don't mean to preach but it is something that I feel very strongly about. We have been given agency. Neither our culture, upbringing, nor past mistakes define us. 
Prayer is so important. It is a time to align our wills with Heavenly Father's. If we are sincere and seeking, He will show us our weakness and where to start and how we can improve to better help others. I'll stop ranting, but the point of it all is that we have been sent here to put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement and making excuses doesn't help that.  Maybe it’s hard to hear that from people I love because I make a lot of excuses. I just want people to be happy.

Annyyyyway. 
What a good week!!! I wrote in my journal a little bit but it hasn't been sufficient. We are sooo busy. I love it, but I've got to figure out what I need to re-prioritize to make the time to keep my journal up to date. 
In order to refrain from just talking about how awesome my companion is for the entire letter I’ll just say it here - he's the absolute best.

MONDAY! We did our p-day stuff and before the end we worked on our white boards. We have one for each ward and then one for the zone. Kind of like President's transfer board. It’s pretty cool. It’s got everyone's face on it and then some notes of the things that we are working on with these missionaries. It's nice because then when we make phone calls and do stuff like that we can always be following up with the elders and sisters to see how they are doing with their commitments and goals and other things. After p-day we stopped by Sevrina to set up another appointment but she insisted that we come in and then she proceeded to make us a feast. She is so nice, so sweet and so loving and so sincere. She wants to do the "will of Heavenly Father." She is always talking about that. I wish I could speak Tagalog. Monday night we had a lesson with the T family. It was pretty good. They played/sang a song for us which was pretty cool. It was called ‘My God is Awesome.’ Elder Slik has a video of it which you all can see in 2 years. It was sweet. They are a really strong family. 

TUESDAY! We taught a few lessons which is always good. I was thinking about it the other day with ES. I am so blessed. I have had an incredible mission already in just the short time I've been out. I've been able to teach and learn and grow and talk with people, and make a difference. I really should never have anything to complain about. I don't understand why I'm so blessed to have so many of the awesome experiences that I'm having. I think about the stereotypical (or at least what I picture) missionary in some Scandinavian country just walking around his whole mission in the snow getting yelled at by the people and never really teaching anyone. I know it's not like that but ... I’m blessed. Elder Slik and I have been trying to talk to everyone and we are having such a good time. We send tons of Spanish referrals to the sisters and other nearby companionship's. It's interesting. Last transfer I was sending tons of English now it’s opposite. That night we took out a member and he loved it. He didn't speak Spanish but we talked to like tons of Hispanics and he'd have us translate his testimony. He got really excited being out with us. I love having experiences like that. Watching people commit to join in the work of salvation. We didn't invite him, he just felt the Spirit and knew that he could be doing more to help others. 

WEDNESDAY! We had zone conference in the Sunrise stake. It was weird to go back to the Taco Bell chapel but cool because a member from the stake remembered me and started a conversation with me. She called me her favorite missionary which just lit up my day. She's the stake Relief Society president and I had helped her with some activity. J It makes you feel good when people remember you. There are a lot of new missionaries in the mission. Tons I don’t recognize. Elder Clawson gave a great training about finding. Elder Fischer bore his last testimony which was weird. He goes home after next transfer. As usual they asked me to give a talk. It happens like every time and every time I get all scared. It’s pretty intimidating. I feel like I have gone down a lot in my public speaking skills. I don't know if I talked about the honey doctrine before, but basically Elder Slik and I and the rest of the Los Feliz gang had a long running joke about the honey and bees and we would always find weird scriptures about them to share with each other. At dinner a member preached about honey to us (talking about scriptures too) for like 20 minutes. It was cool but it made me want to laugh the whole time because it was just like what we had all done months ago. She gave us some royal jelly to eat which was weird. It’s the stuff they feed the queen bee and it was so gross. It gave me like an instant headache and made me just feel odd. That night we had an incredible lesson. Read Elder Slik's email for a more in depth account. We taught an incredible lesson about the Book of Mormon to the T family. The Spirit was there so strongly. The women of the family were feeling it but Brother T was closed off. It was sad. He just wouldn't listen to us or take anything we had to say seriously. Elder Slik is a spiritual monster. If you haven’t, go watch the clip in Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration when JS rebukes the guards. SILENCE! SILENCE YE FIENDS FROM THE INFERNAL PIT... that part. Well Elder Slik was teaching with about the same caliber of spiritual power during that lesson. It was pretty sweet. It was a pretty sacred experience. It strengthened my testimony of the Book of Mormon as I felt the Spirit in the room. It's true. Any sincere seeker of truth will come to know it to be true through prayer and study. If everyone would just open their heart and try to figure out if it’s the word of God or not. 

THURSDAY! I gotta pick up the pace. We had a good lesson with Toni. She is so humble and sincere. She really wants to find the church where she is supposed to be to serve God. She wants to serve God so bad. That's all she talks about. It’s awesome to teach and serve someone so committed. She asks a ton of questions. But it’s okay. I love her. She has had a lot of struggles in her life but is looking for the way to overcome them. I'm really learning from her the importance of the simple things. I think I talked about this about Martha, but when our investigators keep their commitments they progress spiritually. It sounds so simple but its powerful. When Toni reads the Book of Mormon there is a notable increase in her retention and application. I wish you all could meet Toni. She is so simple. She doesn't care about anything other than her faith and family. As long as she is good with God and her family then she is happy. I want to be more like her. At night Brother DeLeon (I ate dinner at his house a year ago.... weird) invited a bunch of nonmembers over for dinner. He invited us there as well. CLUTCH! It was really super cool. Really noncommittal and we just watched a video about Jesus - such good member missionary work. He has no fear. It was awesome.  

FRIDAY! We taught a really good lesson to a PMF. Bold. I am learning a lot from Elder Slik about the importance of being bold. Just saying things as they are and not mincing words or anything. I think sometimes I am almost apologetic in my declarations. That’s no bueno. That's not my calling. I've been good about not doing that anymore. Don’t worry I’m not being close minded or offensive or even politically incorrect. I'm just being more upfront I guess you could say. Idk. We taught Toni and she hadn't read and she was kinda stressed out and wasn’t sure if we worshiped Joseph Smith or Jesus Christ. With Sevrina we taught a bomb lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the happiness and peace it brings into our lives. That night we talked to a woman who had had two brain surgeries and it was possible that she might have a third. She broke down and told us how she didn't want to and that she would rather die. It was depressing almost. As we testified of Christ and the Atonement she felt the Spirit and her countenance really changed. She was visiting family so I hope the missionaries on the other end contact her and help her. She was really nice, but suffering. You wouldn't know by looking at her either. She was only a little older than ES and I.

SATURDAY! We taught Toni and it went well. We brought the Tobler's, who have like become the most incredible missionary family in just a few weeks, and they were awesome. Toni and Sister Tobler got along pretty well. The Tobler's are so awesome. They both are so loving and committed to serving everyone. I wanna be like Brother "T-Rex" Tobler. Sevrina made us spam mosubi. SO good. I shouldn’t like eating that kind of stuff... but I can’t help it, it's delicious. That night we had a cool street contact. Again bold. It worked well too. The thing about boldness is that the Spirit has to direct. If you want to be bold, because you think that it's warranted then you are going to offend someone or hurt their feelings. But as the Spirit guides it can open people and help them to feel the Spirit.
The Spirit is real. I know it. 

SUNDAY! Church was good. We were afraid Toni didn't like it/ was bored but she said to us "it doesn't matter if it’s boring because its where God wants me to be." Toni? She gets it. We taught some other lessons too. I love the people we are teaching so much. I’ll try to talk more about actual people next week. We are always so busy. SORRY!
I love you all so much
Sam

PS. SeVRINA IS GETTING BAPTIZED ON SATURDAY! SHE'S GOLD!!! The v isn’t a typo.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Leadership: seeing the divine potential in others and helping them to see it in themselves

These are some pictures of Arandas. Idk if I told y’all about this place before but its where Elder Slik and I and the whole Los Feliz district used to go to eat lunch together. We went back! da best #carneasadafries



Agenda. Thank you and other stuff before I forget. Then qandas. Then quick week overview.

Thanks for sending me that letter Kato. I loved it. Really, I’m so glad you are having a good time and I’m pumped for you to just love the classes you chose. You are going to do awesome and I wish I could have been there for the toast party. You’ll have to invite me to the next one in 2 years. PS. You should go over to the Slik's house. They'd for sure make you some dinner says Elder Suave. 
Mom, thanks so much for the package! I love the bag and the ties are super nice! Thanks for thinking of me and looking out for me.

1. Where are you living? I’m living on like Stewart and Nelis in the old zone leader’s apartment.
2. What is your apartment like? It’s pretty small. I think when I lived in Sunrise I used up all my nice apartment points for like my whole mission so I've been stuck with all 1 bed 1 bath 2 room places. It’s nice though. I can’t get lost or anything like that.
3. I imagine you have a car – right? Yeah we have a car. Both of our areas are pretty small but they don’t connect and because we are zone leaders we get one too because we have to do a lot of administrative things.
4. How long has it been since you biked? It hasn’t been too long. Like last transfer when I went on exchanges and things I was almost always, if not always on a bike. I really like it because if the area is small and there are people out you can find a lot. But it’s also nice to have a car because you can just get from place to place really quick.
5. So what are your responsibilities as ZL? That's a hard question to answer. I think we are really just responsible for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the missionaries in our zone. We are to train and help them to be doing effective missionary work. 
6. Are you still getting lots of new missionaries or has it slowed down? Well there are pretty large groups of missionaries that go home so the incoming missionary groups have still been pretty big.
7. When is your first zone council?  And how often are they? Zone council - idk what that is. There is a zone meeting every month and a mission leadership council (which replaced zone leader council) every month as well.
8. Do you still hear from Elder Mayo? Elder Mayo emails me and sends me pictures every week. It’s awesome to always hear from him and know he is doing well. It always raises my spirits to hear his love and enthusiasm.
9. What was the best thing about Tuesday? Well, definitely the visit from Elder Andersen, like the apostle Elder Andersen. It was really cool. It was incredible to hear him speak and train us and feel and witness the power and authority of his calling. I know that he is an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. You could just feel it. One cool thing about it was that I got to be the 1st one to shake his hand!
10. What was the funniest thing that happened on Friday? We were at the Odulios house (the like grandparents of Sabrina’s grandchildren) eating lunch after having a lesson and we were talking about church movies. Now let me fill you in about Brother Odulio. He's like the man. The coolest and smartest guy around, but anyway we start talking about church movies and he (and he's like 70) and he just starts tearing in on all of them. He literally said that Finding Faith in Christ sucks. Like it’s not the best movie ever but he went off on a tirade about how horrible it is. Then we went through and suggested others and he tore them all apart. He said, "I told Elder Oaks that its bad but he didn't do anything about it." Idk you must have had to be there. He is just one of the most humble and devoted men ever and he got all fired up about how the only good church movie is the old Restoration movie. 
11. What was for lunch on Thursday? I ate like a thanksgiving dinner sandwich, gravy stuffing turkey and cranberry sauce. It was pretty good. I didn’t get sick this time which was nice. It was pricey though. I was on an Exchange with one of the assistants and that’s where he wanted to go. 
12. What have you used to decorate your apt?  (Are your banners hanging?) I've got most of my quotes and Jesus pictures up and over my bed I have my Vegas banner and a big picture of the temple and the sign that grandma sent me saying "Don’ count sheep, talk to the shepherd" 
13. What is ES’s favorite cold cereal? A member gave us some cereal called "crave".  It was pretty good. He liked it a lot. 
14. Did you send us a picture of George two weeks ago?  (You sometimes forget to tell us who the pictures you send are of.) George is the big guy with short hair. Sorry about the lack of captions. I’m not used to taking nor sending pictures.
15. Will you get to go to George’s, Amelia & Leo’s and Martha’s baptisms? Yup. I will. Hopefully they don’t get scheduled at the same time that our baptisms here will be. I’ll work it out. I miss those guys a lot but I love all the new people that I’ve got to meet. 
16. Have you been thinking about going to the temple with the As next year? All the time. Oh it would be so sick. I'll probably be at BYU by then so I’ll be able to drive down in a matter of only a few hours.
17. What do you need? For like the 1st time in a long time. ESs and I want matching ties. We are already super unified but we want to be even more unified. So if mom you could find a few sets of matching ties, that'd be awesome. People already laugh that we are companions but we just want to be like .. one (see D&C 38:27).
18. How many are in your zone?  There are 7 companionships in the zone. So we have a pretty small zone in comparison to like Warm Springs which was 11. 
19. Do you have a zone motto/theme/logo?
20. How was your last interview with PN?  Did you tell him you had been dreaming of ES? I didn’t tell President but Elder Slik asked. Everyone in the mission knew we wanted to be companions. It’s kind of a funny story. ES was on an exchange with the other AP and he told him that the first transfer decision was putting me with Elder Slik. One of the assistants said no way they can’t be together they need to be split up to help other zones. But then like the "senior AP" idk what else to refer to him as, Elder Fischer, said "No! Just let them be companions. They are best friends and they love each other." So it stayed. Pretty funny if you ask me. It’s definitely been a breath of fresh air to serve with someone as awesome as Elder Slik.

Well the week was awesome. Hopefully those q and a’s answer a few questions.  I’ll try to go over the week. Again I didn’t have time to write in my journal. I KNOW I SHOULD! I feel bad. Like guilty even. It’s bad. But anyway
MONDAY! we had what was called a cottage meeting where we got a bunch of less actives, recent converts, and investigators together at a members home (other members were there too) and watched a movie. Afterwards there was a powerful testimony meeting. Something interesting was the movie though. It was one I had seen hundreds of times but I decided to really focus and try to glean some new revelation out of it and it was awesome I saw it in a totally new light and it really helped me throughout the week, my testimony was strengthened instead of me just sitting and being bored. All of us can always have that experience if we really make seeking in the scriptures an active and spiritual and consistent pursuit. Even though we've read the stories many times and they haven’t changed, we have and hopefully we are more spiritually mature than the last time so if we are ready and humble the Lord can teach us new things. I took that attitude to my study of the Book of Mormon the whole week and it was awesome. I usually have good studies but this week I gained even more from the BofM. That night we tried to have lessons but everything fell through. It was okay though. We had a member with us and they still had a good time.

TUESDAY! We had a lesson with Sabrina. It was kind of funny because there is a def language barrier and when we invited her to live the commandments she said no pretty emphatically. We were both shocked, then Brother Odulio explained the question to her and she said yes. We need to learn Tagalog. That afternoon was the Elder Andersen meeting. It was bawsome (boss and awesome). It was segmented into 3 parts. The first was hearing from Elder and Sister Callister (he's in the prez of the 70) and from Sister Andersen. Then Elder Andersen trained us on how to be better missionaries. It wasn’t directly about that but he talked about lots of things like not comparing ourselves to others and setting goals and focusing on helping others to have faith. Then for the last hour he trained us on The Atonement and missionary work, specifically about the merits and mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Most of the hour was focused around 2 Nephi: 26 and 8. Not too much to report about Tuesday.

WEDNESDAY! I got to watch another district meting which was nice. It’s a totally different experience participating versus training. I like both. But I really did like giving the trainings. We visited a lot of the members. I love both of our wards here so much. We are really blessed to serve alongside such awesome people. The wards are like completely different but both teach the same things and work for the same goals. That night we had an interesting lesson with Clara's daughter. To fill you in, Clara is an older black woman who is losing her eyesight and hearing. The elders have been teaching her for a while and she liked the things they shared. She was going to get baptized but when her family found out they all freaked out and so that night we had this lesson with Clara and one of her daughters. The daughter started out pretty firm with us but we just bore our testimonies and shared our expectations and intents and it was cool to watch the Spirit soften her heart as the time went on. By the end of the lesson she set up a return appointment to learn more. Experiences like that are cool. Even if nothing comes out of it I enjoyed feeling and seeing the change. We also went to see Marcus that evening. He was someone we went and prayed with last week. He was really happy to see us and we talked with him about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. It was a good lesson, he opened up to us and talked about the things he was thinking and feeling. He said there is no point in being dishonest so he told us that he was unsure but he wanted to learn more and come to church. I love everyone so much. Elder Slik and I talk about it a lot but its kinda funny that we aren’t teaching any white people. No Caucasians. I haven’t taught really any my whole mission! It doesn’t make a difference at all but it’s just interesting to think about.

THURSDAY! I was on an exchange with Elder Fuller. He is from Michigan too but from the other side. It was a good day. He really taught me a lot by his example. He is a very by the book missionary. He is a master planner and he is really good at just remembering all the little things that make the big differences. We went to a district meeting about prayer. I liked it. It basically was a training session about how to receive more revelation. It sounds weird but a lot of it was personal reflection and evaluation time. Always pray earnestly. That's the bottom line. We taught Sabria tithing and she said she was excited to live the law of tithing. She really understood the principle. The Lord doesn’t need our money but we need the experience of giving it up. Later in the evening we went out with a priest who is unsure if he wants to serve a mission. He really liked it and then on Sunday went to mission prep for the first time and he said that he is going to go. It was a good, good night for him. He was definitely really scared beforehand though. It was funny. He must have asked us 4 times if we were going to go "tracking." I didn’t have the heart to correct him. That night we ate dinner with an eternagator named Sister S. Like THE nicest woman ever. Incredible. She's probably going to get baptized soon she is just dragging her feet a little bit. She made us the best enchiladas. So, so good. Then we went and exchanged back. Don’t mock me but I missed Elder Slik. I had kinda forgotten how well we work together, get a long, and how much fun we have. It was hard to adapt to a quieter, more reserved, more serious person. But I learned a lot and that’s the purpose!

FRIDAY! We had a good planning sesh. We taught Sabrina again. She is so ready to be baptized. She like is inviting anyone she can. She is also a Book of Mormon testifying machine. Friends or people at the grocery store, it doesn’t matter, she knows it’s true! Me too! But don’t take my word for it! Reading rainbow! We started teaching a new woman Toni. She is African American and really wants to do what is right. It was hard to teach effectively because she had soooo many questions but they were all good and sincere. Her son is an inactive member. She doesn’t not want to be part of the "church of man," she wants to serve God. I love hearing stuff like that. I know just where to send them. Friday night we walked around an apartment complex with a member and visited a few people. 

SATURDAY! I WENT BACK TO MY OLD AREA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WAS SO AWESOME! I went on an exchange with one of the district leaders back into Montebello West. Oh man I can’t even explain how nostalgic it was. The whole time I was thinking about how much I’ve changed and grown since then. I’m proud of who I am. Truly. It’s a comforting feeling. But we had a good day. It was a leadership training exchange so it was like my job to train him to be a better leader and steward. Humbling experience to say the least. Basically the biggest thing I tried to teach him was street contacting by example. We talked to everyone. He was astonished and we got a lot of return appointments. I learned a lot too. Then we were working on inviting people to be baptized on a specific date and we set one person. It was a pretty awesome lesson. I loved teaching in Spanish again especially knowing that it was my old area. 

SUNDAY! I went to two ward councils and that was cool. We also got to go to a stake missionary meeting. People treat you differently when you are a zone leader and I don’t like it. It’s nice to be well respected but ... it’s unsettling. Anyway. Church was awesome. I went to FH this week because we have to split and it was a great sacrament meeting about missionary work and an awesome elder’s quorum about leadership. That afternoon we had like four lessons falls through which was too bad but it was still a good day. We accomplished a lot and we hit the sack at the end of the day dead tired after a great week of hard work. I love working hard and having a companion who is willing to push me even harder. I wish everyone got to be companions with Elder Slik. It’s a great experience. But I’m super glad I get to work with him every day. He has taught me so much. He cares so deeply for these people and he is here to serve the Lord. He does it well.
We make green smoothies every morning after exercising. They really make you feel good about yourself. It’s like 5 servings of vegetables to start the day. WAHOO!
Not too much to say. I’m loving life and that about sums it all up.
I love you all so much
Sam
May the Spirit be with you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

DREAM TEAM!

Proof it's for real
drrrrrream team!
Just so you all know - this has been one of the best weeks of my whole life. 
I feel like I could write a discourse on the blessings of unity in the companionship. That is honestly my overarching feeling. I love being with a companion who is more focused and dedicated and consecrated than I am. It's awesome. IT’S SICK! It’s really been such a blessing. I’m not going to complain about my companions but I feel that a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. It’s liberating.
Elder Slik is such a good missionary, one of, if not, my favorite. For those of you who are late to the party, Elder Slik has been a huge example and influence for me throughout most of my mission. Being his companion is a huge blessing and also an invitation to step up to his level. 
Being a zone leader is also super intimidating but I’m glad Elder Slik is showing me how it’s done. He has such a love for everyone in the zone and such a desire for the work to progress that it makes it easy to do what is right.
Elder Slik and Elder Anderson in sombreros and lava lavas
We have had a week full of miracles. We've been pretty tired because we wake up so early and go to bed so late but it’s all worth it when we hear that people are doing well and being successful. 
I guess I'll run through the week and try to remember everything that happened. 

MONDAY! (I was still in Warm Springs at this point) That night we saw the As. They are awesome. I really am going to miss them and I can’t wait to see them and talk to them again. They have a real special place in my heart. They fed us pizza and Brother A did a spine alignment for me. Basically he cracked my neck and it made my legs be the same length again. It was like straight brujeria but it wasn’t a big deal. Then we went to George's and Amelia and Leo were there. Cynthia made us some Peruvian food that rocked. It was sad to go. 

TUESDAY! Transfers. I was super sad to leave. I loved Desert Bloom. I would have been pretty eaten up to leave except that I came to Central to be with Elder Slik!!! On the way I got to drive with Elder Cuevas which made me happy. The Elder formerly known as Ruiz. He is so humble and so dedicated. I look up to him a lot. That day Elder Slik and I started the transfer off by setting some goals and expectations. It was good. I really felt the Spirit confirm that this companionship is inspired and not just put in place because Elder Slik and I wanted it. Really wanted it. On that note - everyone has been talking to us about how lucky we are and how it’s crazy that we are companions. I think the whole mission knows how bad we wanted to be companions. We met Clara on Tuesday, She is an old (super rich but she doesn’t care about money at all) black woman who was married to a boxer until he very recently passed away. She is one of the sweetest people ever. Real quick because I’m scatterbrained without my journal, I am in two really, really small wards, Bonanza View and Frenchmen Hills. They are both awesome. BV is fairly ghetto and FH is up on the hill by the temple and is super nice. That afternoon we also saw Sabrina. She is one of the elect. She is Filipino and hardly speaks English but we are teaching her the gospel with the help of other Tagalog speaking members of the ward. She wants to be baptized so, so bad. It’s cool to see and feel how prepared she is. She has fed us every time we have gone over there and is always so gracious to us. It’s crazy. She loves us so much. That's pretty much the highlights of that day.

WEDNESDAY! We went to District meeting with the English district. It was odd. It was really nice to receive training on a district level for the first time in a while. Elder Slik was actually the last one, he was my last DL. Its kinda weird to think about. He's the best. Did I already mention that? We visited Sabrina again and taught her a good lesson. We teach her almost every day and she is going to get baptized in like 3 weeks. The whole process is going to take like a month with her. She's gold. That afternoon we met and started teaching a really awesome family. The T family is awesome. They are from Arkansas and are a family of seven and are  Pentecostals. They are pretty interested in learning more. Elder Slik and I were a little scared because like the first time we walked in to meet with their whole family there was a big and very well used bible sitting on the couch and I was pretty sure we were going to get bashed on. But thankfully she just wanted to study with us! :) Blessings. That night we met some other people too. It’s super hard to keep my thoughts straight. 

THURSDAY! We went to the Montebello District Meeting. That brought back so many memories. It’s weird but good to be back. We taught 5 lessons Thursday which was cool because they were all pretty good. Super funny story. -- So we are teaching the T Family. We watch the Restoration and Brother and Sister T compare the experience of Joseph Smith to their own lives and their own experiences. Elder Slik and I begin to testify of the Restoration and of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is super strong. Sister T shared a really cool story about the Book of Mormon. She had read a little the night before and shared this with us. I’ll butcher/paraphrase. "This all felt really familiar to me. As I was reading it reminded me of things my grandma used to talk about." Basically her Grandmother used to live on an Indian reservation and so she had a lot of contact with the Native Americans. In Arkansas there are a lot of caves with a lot of cave drawings. She said that her grandmother got to see the parts that were roped off. One of the drawings always stuck with her. It was of a man in a white robe with his hands outstretched and his palms were bleeding. These paintings are super, super old too. She said that she knew that the Native American people knew of Jesus Christ and that he visited them. It was incredible. The Spirit was testifying so strong of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of the hastening of the work. Elder Slik kind of "passed me the ball" so I could invite them to be baptized and in the moment before I started talking our member chimes in and says this, "I know this is totally off topic but have y'all seen ‘Church Ball?’" It was soooo funny. Like the Spirit was practically tangible and then the member totally killed the moment. Spirit was still present, but it wasn’t the right time anymore. We love that member so much. He is such a blessing to have with us. Elder Slik and I are still laughing about that. 

FRIDAY! We had awesome weekly planning. We taught Sabrina and Clara. We really talked for a long time about our stewardship in the zone during WP. I loved it. I really like having our days and time focused on serving others. That’s one thing that Elder Slik is really good at. He loves and serves all the time. His every moment is to bless others. I want to be more like him.

SATURDAY! I got to go on an exchange with Elder Harper. He is a really good elder. It was an intense day of training. We worked on a lot of principles and things they can apply in their area. He is my mission nephew. He was trained by Elder Bennett’s other trainee. He is really, really humble and that's something I’m trying to work on. I loved being there with them. It was the area of my first area but in English. We had dinner though with a Mexican woman and I lovvvvved that. True it’s been only a few days but I loved the Spanish food and the chance to speak it too.

SUNDAY! So. I went to the two new wards. In the first I was asked to pass the sacrament and then the stake presidency member who was supposed to speak didn’t show up so they asked me to speak. I about peed my pants. I had to finish the meeting. I spoke for about 20 minutes. It was nuts. I did a pretty good job, but I would have liked to have a couple minutes to prepare. A lot of people told me they liked what I said and it was mentioned in the other classes. That was the big part of Sunday. There was also a fireside that we were in charge of that night: Spanish Why I Believe. I got to see a ton of missionaries and a ton of old members and stuff. It was cool especially because Elder Slik and I are companions and a lot of the Los Feliz members were laughing that we were. They all thought we were joking. I still think that it’s a joke sometimes.
Sorry for the lackluster writing. I didn’t have time to write in my journal. I’m going to do better this week.
I want you all to know how important what I am doing is to me. 
I love being a missionary. I have never been so happy in my whole life. Life is good. God loves us. 
:)
I love you all so much.
Sam
The bottom of Sam's shoe

Monday, September 2, 2013

Uhoh

So... I have like a million and 7 things to tell you all and I don't know where to start. and I don't have time to type all that. 
First and foremost. God lives. He loves us. We are His children and life is good. So good.
I'M GOING TO CENTRAL AGAIN! It's going to be awesome, I love the central zone and I know a lot more know than I did last time I was there.
THE A'S GOT BAPTIZED! I wanted to weep with joy.
I'M GOING TO BE COMPANIONS WITH ELDER SLIK! I can't even believe it!
Its been a bomb week. Those are just the three most exciting pieces of news.
It's been a good transfer. I was doing the totals last night and doing all my district leader number duties. Elder Ledezma and I averaged 19.3 lessons with members a week this transfer. I'm pretty happy about that. 
My time time in Desert Bloom has really changed me.  For my first three transfers the Lord taught me the doctrine that I didn't know before my mission (I was pretty ignorant). For my next three transfers the Lord taught me Christlike attributes (I was pretty selfish). And for these last three He has taught me how to be an effective missionary. I don't know everything (or hardly anything) but I know a lot more than I used to. I feel like as if I have learned the skills that I need as a missionary to be successful.  I have grown closer to the Savior. Its not a coincidence. 

Being with Elder Slik means that I'm a zone leader. I am super scared. This is where Elder Nonu was when he was my zone leader. I am going to be in like the same spot that he was. It's weird to think about. I don't think I could ever live up to how I saw him. He was such a good example to me. Now I've gotta be that. It's a lot of responsibility. Zone leaders have always had a big influence on my mission and now I have to be one. Yikes. I was really scared until I prayed about it. If I do my best I'll accomplish all that the Lord wants me to.

So the week went like this. 
MONDAY! - I went with the APs to get hair cuts, from the pics you can see that there wasn't time for me to get one. But I loved being with them and talking about the work. Elder Fischer gave me a like 10 minute talk on how I can be a better steward. I loved it. There I was taking notes in the hair salon. It was kinda cool over there I got to have a good gospel discussion with a woman that was getting her hair dyed. And then one of their machines broke and I got to help them fix it! That was fun. I like helping people. We went to the A's that night and had such a good time talking and helping them get 100% ready for their baptism. They are/were ready. They are really super special to me. They are such examples of faith. Hno A is kinda like a chiropractor and showed me that one of my legs is like 1.5 inches longer than the other. He said its because my vertebrae is out of balance because of stress. I was pretty freaked out. I laughed super hard when he showed me. Then we went to Amelia and Leo's. Kiwi was asking a lot of questions. Sometimes I get super excited and think that he is going to "experiment on the word" and then he shuts it all down and says "I can't believe that. I know too much science."  He's 18. The time with the A's though was really special. I'll always remember it. 

TUESDAY! In the morning we went to the Toyota dealership and got our car all fixed up. It took like two hours which was supppper long but it gave me a lot of time to catch up on my Book of Mormon reading. We went to lunch at the free gas station and we sat down and picked up a conversation with an excommunicated member. He was talking about all his plans to come back to church. He's been out of the church for 10 years. "These last ten years have been hell." It was interesting to hear him talk about being out of the church. He said a bunch of really interesting things. One that really struck me was how he described feeling the Spirit. He said that he can feel the difference everyday. Now it takes a lot of effort to feel the Spirit and when he does, it's like there is a bag covering it. He just feels like the shape of it. Interesting description. He kept saying "I can't wait to get the Gift of the Holy Ghost again." He talked a lot about taking it for granted. One other thing he said was this country needs something to unite around. All the Christians spend too much time fighting and arguing with each other when they really should be speaking out against sin and immorality. Then he said this - "Our country needs a Captain Moroni. A title of liberty to rally around." Really quick after lunch we made programs for the As baptism. We actually had a pretty miraculous day. We got like three return appointments from pretty unexpected people. It was awesome. We went to see Andres really quick and set up another appointment for the next day. We went to the baptism and Elder Johnson was there. I love that elder so much. He's bomb. He's district leader and doing a great job. He has really turned his new area around. A lot of branch members came to the baptism which was nice to have the support. The baptism was a spiritual feast. There weren't too many dry eyes in the room. Especially when they bore their testimonies. Oh man. It was incredible.
Sam, Elder Johnson, A family, Elder Ledezma

Sam, Elder Johnson, A family, Elder Ledezma
Sam, Elder Johnson, A's, Elder Ledezma
 After the service we went to George's and Gissel bore incredible testimony of repentance and prayer. 

WEDNESDAY! - Good day.  We helped Brother Rojas prepare to move out to Utah. We moved a ton of boxes down into his garage. I really like Brother Rojas. He is such a good example to me. Good guy, funny, loving, spiritual and a good missionary. He taught me a lot. We saw a bunch of formers that afternoon which was good. Most weren't interested at all which is too bad. We went to Martha's and she fed us a bunch of carne asada which was bomb. I love carne asada. When we went to Andres' house. Okay this was one of the toughest moments of my mission. Andres' dad came out and laid into me, just yelling at me for like 10 minutes. He called me stupid and irresponsible and all these other mean things. It was harsh. I wanted to flip out on him so bad. I'm not perfect but a lot of the things he was getting on my case about was his own lack of communication with his wife and other problems he's caused. It's a long and complicated situation but basically I took a 10 min whooping for stuff I didn't do. After that we went to Amelia and Leo's. They weren't there but Amelia's friend was and we taught her a lesson about the Book of Mormon. She said she'd read it and said that if I don't get transferred she'd let me baptize her. I knew she was mostly joking but, it was a huge turn around from being formerly church adverse. We went to George's that night and taught the Restoration again to him and his wife, focusing on revelation. George has already told his parents that he's going to be baptized and they were fine with it. He was super surprised about how easily his dad took the news. 

THURSDAY! - Super fast. We visited some members. I love the members here. We had a bomb lesson with a former investigator. He committed to be baptized! That's my new goal, invite everyone in the 1st lesson. It's what the Brethren want and its what I'm gonna do. Gissel again in a lesson was bearing super strong testimony and  I wanted to just cry. At Amelia and Leo's I seeded a bunch of chiles and then at public request licked my fingers. I thought my tongue was squirting blood it hurt soooo bad. I knew it would but I still did it anyway. Insanity I know. 

FRIDAY! - We had zone training meeting. It was really powerful. I love training and being trained. I ate some questionable curry afterwards and then paid for it that night. Bad. We finished helping Hno Rojas move. Then we ran to a lesson with Andres. On Wednesday we set up a lesson with the dad and he said, "I will make sure that we are home at this time." (This is after he rebuked me). They weren't there when they said they'd be. No call. No note. We taught some other good lessons that night though.

SATURDAY! - We taught a good lesson to Percy. He wants to get baptized. I think it'll be soon. He just needs to come to church. He has decent excuses but excuses wont cut it. Basically the best part was that I get to go BACK TO CENTRAL TO BE WITH ELDER SLIK!!!! I am sooo, sooo, soo excited. He is like the best. Everyone is talking to me about how lucky I am and I know it. :) I don't have words. Its like being comps with Elder Mayo. We visited a lot of members and it was nice because I got to see people who I had a legit connection with. I feel like I have a real relationship with the people here more than before when it was just that I was a missionary. Moving on.

SUNDAY! - Great day. Lots of people came to church. I translated for 2 hours straight which gave me a headache. It's fun but hard. We visited a few more people. At night Amelia and Leo threw me a going away party, it was soo, soo sweet. George and Cynthia were there too so it was cool. I love them all so much. Leo pulled me aside and talked to me for like 40 minutes really seriously. I love him so much. He has grown an incredible amount since we've met him. I cant even describe it. He told me all these things that have happened to him in his crazy life. Its incredible. He is really special. He said like three times, "I should have been dead by now, but God gave me a second chance." Leo took it and says that now he is happy for the first time ever. I'm so happy too. 



I'm so happy. 
I love you all and thank you for your thoughts letters and prayers.
SLIK/ANDERSON 2013!
Elder Slik and Elder Anderson - get to be companions together in Central
I'm pumped. Elder Slik is going to push me to be the elder I've always wanted to be.
Love again,
Sam