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Monday, October 28, 2013

Ahhhhh

I’m like racking my brain right now. I'm kinda tired and distracted, but it was a good week.
Elder Slik and I want to find contributing families. That's our goal, someone like V­icky. She's the greatest ever. So solid. She wants to join the church. She's great, but her husband won’t let her. Ugh. Anyway. I could rant about that all week.
So. Life is wonderful. We are so blessed. I know I talk about this all the time, but it’s a pleasure to serve with Elder Slik. He's such a good example. He's a great missionary. 

MONDAY! Instead of studies Monday morning we had a giant mission meeting about the Gladys Knight presentation. It was so good. It got me so excited for this. It's an incredible opportunity the Lord has given us to find new people, specifically the contributors. I think ya’ll saw it while I was at BYU, no? We watched a video with Elder Ballard and different missionaries, mission presidents and ward leaders. It was very powerful. I hope that everyone can go to this and really feel the Spirit. The only other time our mission has got together like this was when Elder Andersen came. It's that big of a deal. I was impressed. Elder Slik and I committed to inviting all the members of both wards to invite a friend to this. It's what we spend the majority of our time doing, inviting members to bring friends. Ever since the A family I have had a new desire to just teach prepared families in member’s homes. Sounds like what every missionary should want but it strengthened that desire and this seems like the way for us to find those kinds of families. People get to come into a chapel and feel the Spirit and learn about the church and then Sister Knight specifically invites everyone there to have the missionaries over. I dunno. I've never seen it but Elder Slik and I felt the Spirit really strong prompting us to give all of our energy to this. It was P-day obviously after that and we drove a ton. Like all over. We were giving rides and running errands. That night Severina made us rice. She makes us a Filipino dish and then a heaping plate of rice. We are always so stuffed. She's so sweet. I really love spending time with her. After Severina we went to see Toni. We brought over Sister Rosser. I don't know if I've talked about her in previous emails but she was one of the members that I met coming on exchanges to this area a year ago. Such a great woman. She is clever and so Christ-like. That's the best way to describe her. And talented. The other day she played us a song on the saw. Like she got a violin bow out and a saw and used the bow to play music (on the non-serrated part of course!) But anyway. She shared her testimony on coming to know the Book of Mormon was true through prayer. It was so powerful. Sister Rosser knows and lives the gospel well and the Spirit was very strong. I thought Toni received it pretty well... more on that for Wednesday. We stopped in to see Stephanie because she didn't come to church. Dang. It was a mess. She was really depressed because her son had beat up her daughter, like crushed her face. It was a long and complicated story but basically the daughter dumper her bf and he got mad so he framed the brother who acted out and beat his sister up. Stephanie couldn’t go back to see them because she didn’t have enough money so her one daughter was in the hospital and her son (not Andre) was in jail. We went in and prayed with her and shared a quick scripture. You could see the Spirit work on her in the lesson and she cheered up a little bit right then. We love Stephanie, she's such a sweet person. She listens and keeps her commitments and prays and then she feels the Spirit. I love how happy she gets when we go by. 

TUESDAY! Another great day! It's been that way for a long time. We went to District Meeting with Rigdon. It was a good time. He made a few comments and even during the 'gatorade' portion of the meeting asked for some tips on how he could invite a friend to investigate the gospel. Rigdon is a great kid and a good example. He is loving and funny and a gentleman. And as much as I give him a hard time, he's pretty good at rugby too (like way good). Our district leader Elder Montgomery taught us about how we can better use the New Testament. EM is really, really smart. He's knows the scriptures incredibly well as well. We came up with a cool list/venn diagram of teachings in the BOM, New Testament and both. They testify of each other. I won’t go off on another rant about reading the BoM, but it's really important. We didn't have anything set up so we knocked on a lot of doors. Rigdon has no fear which is cool. He was down to just knock random doors or do anything we could to find new people to teach. That kind of fire will serve him well soon enough in the mission field. We then went over to the Z's. Jazmine told us that she was pregnant (she's 22 and not married and living with her family and does’t have a job) and was like pretty sad when she said it. Almost like in a defeated manner "Oh, and I’m pregnant." It was pretty hard to hear. Elder Slik and I at the same time said, 'dang.' It was like a blow to the face. Jazmine has been trying to get her life in order and this kind just threw things off for her. She mentioned even more defeatedly that she's considering an abortion. We probed a little bit and she backed down from that idea. I think she just said that in desperation. It was a sad situation. Then we went up to Frenchmen Hills and started visiting members and exhorting them to GK [Gladys Knight]. Ohhh I hope they go. And I hope they bring friends bc apparently that is the only regret that people didn’t bring their friends. Then we went and did a baptismal interview. ES did one and I did one at the same time. I got to interview the mother and ES the daughter. The mom was so prepared. I was talking to her about her conversion and how she found the church. She said that the elders knocked on her door looking for someone else and they found her. They shared their purpose and asked if they could set a time to come back and she said that she invited them but wasn’t really that interested. But they came back and she felt the Spirit and she kept feeling it and as she learned more and more she felt herself growing spiritually. It was cool to see the light in her eyes and the fire she had for the gospel. She bore her testimony of the commandments to me like a ton of times. It's cool to hear that from people especially in a city like ours where they are so universally discarded. She was gold. Some people like her do exist and can be found by the missionaries by themselves, but they are most easily found through members cough, cough! On our way to dinner we talked to a woman sitting outside her garage. We struck up a pretty natural conversation about church and the like and it was interesting. She told us her story of how she got offended and stopped going to church and then fell into bad habits. She told us straight up that she has lost some of her gifts because of disobedience. We went to dinner which was crazy. This brother talked for like 90 minutes straight. The sister there just shared with us how she has been sharing the gospel with everyone. I love hearing that. We brought a priest out to see Brother D. He was more intoxicated that usual and was on this like "I'm going to kill him" train. I think it was a good thing we went by so that we could convince him not to do all the bad things he was planning to. He's a really good guy, but with vices. The priest liked it. The language was a little too colorful for my tastes but whatever. Brother D's friend who was there with him was 100% sober and super interested in the gospel. He was asking questions and wanting to know more. He lives kinda far but I still hope he calls us to set things up. Man. If only 1/100 of the people who told us they would call us did, that'd be awesome. But sadly people lie, forget, procrastinate or 'the dog ate the car'. We met up with Sister Justice to see Shenika but she wasn’t home so we went to see Stephanie and it went soooo well. The two of them hit it off really well. Stephanie loved her and it was really cool. They made plans right then to go to church together. We read the BoM together and it was a special experience.

WEDNESDAY! ES and I made jambalaya for lunch. It was dece. We didn't have any meat so we used some venison jerky. Dece. We saw grama and talked to her about sharing the gospel and she gave us snickers. I think she's made an active attempt to make us fat. She loves to feed us. We had a lesson with Parole. Idk if I’ve talked about him before. It went well. Most all the other times we’ve talked to him he's been drunk but we met with him in the morning so he was sober and it was a really good lesson I thought. He has a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation about a lot of things. But it was good he wanted to learn more. Near the end of the lesson he said to us that a devil must have been the one to teach him all those things because they aren’t true, a perfect example of the "father of all lies." We talked about prophets and it was again made clear to me the importance of them. I like testifying of the prophet. It’s a big deal to have one. People don’t realize that. It's like crucial. Idk it’s clear to me the more I learn that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the flawless example of New Testament Christianity because it’s the same thing. The NT really is a testament to the divinity of the Restoration in all its parts, authority and doctrine. Later we talked to a guy who was washing his car. He was interesting. We had a good talk, but he did lecture us on why our church is not true. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion it is true but he was just telling us straight up what we believe. I dunno. It bugs me when people do that, especially when it’s like some grapevine rumors. Annyyyyway. We taught Toni. Dang. It sucked. We love her and we don’t want to drop her but she refuses to progress. She doesn’t keep any commitments and she won’t pray. Today she even told us that she might start going to another church later. She expects us to just give her money and things and to come over every day and listen to her problems. We really do care for her a lot but most of her problems could be solved by doing the things we invite her to do. One of the hardest parts is that she just doesn’t listen to us. Like simply as that. When we speak she does other things and then brushes off our questions and things. I dunno what happened. She was a lot more solid before. Her niece moved out but we are pretty sure that she was feeding her anti-doctrine. She doesn’t get it. We've taught very simply and very boldy the message of the Restoration many times and invited her to pray about it and ask God if the Book of Mormon is the word of God. She just won’t do it. I know that if she does God will answer her prayer. It’s so simple but the effects are eternal. Later in the evening we taught Tyrone. That was cool because it was so easy to see a countenance change with him. There is so much more light in his life now and he is progressing. Going from that lesson with Toni to the one with Tyrone was such a juxtaposition. Toni with little growth and still plagued by the same problems and Tyrone already feeling the Atonement begin to work in his life. He almost looks physically different. We were having a good lesson and then his member wife came in and flipped out. It was weird. He told us that he had already cancelled two lessons that week and didn't want to wait any longer. That like warmed my soul to hear that. That we weren’t just pressuring him but that he really felt it was an important part of his life to have us there with him. :) Then we visited like all out favorite families up the hill. We have some great people to work with. That night we went to spc. It was crazy weird to be a part of that, all the leaders of the stake and then Elder Slik and me. I felt a little out of place. I'm still coming to terms with all the things that are part of this assignment. 
Dang, I gotta pick up the pace. 

THURSDAY! Good day. District meeting with Elder Puga about the Doctrine of Christ and setting out investigators for baptism. ES broke a member's skateboard. We taught Stephanie another lesson about the Plan of Salvation. She had read the pamphlet before and before we could even ask she was telling us how great it was and how strong she felt the Spirit. She's good. It makes me feel good when people are happy and excited to see us. ES then had to do a follow-up intereview for the girl he intervied on Tuesday. That went well. It was nice to get to sit down again with that sister and talk more about things. A sister made us a giant platter of Mexican food. So, so, so good. We saw one of our potentials named Brian. His gf just had a baby and he really wants to get his life in order. I'm really hoping that we can start meeting with him because the gospel would be such a blessing in his life. A member in FH told us a story about a time that he beat up a car full of gangbangers in front of his kids. His wife left him for a week. It was a crazy story.

FRIDAY! Such good days. We talked to Monique who is a member of the Z family and she told us how all the world came crashing down around their shoulders. No time to elaborate, but their life is hard. Keeping the commandments is really important. It keeps us safe from the crazy trials of life. We had a great visit with Stephanie and Sister Justice. She brought her cupcakes. That made me so happy. Andre was really interested in taking part which made me happy. He had a lot of good questions. Tryone wants to be baptized. We had dinner with Bro Deleon who I had dinner with a year ago with Elder Nonu and Tae and Bennett. We dropped Toni but invited her to keep reading. We will follow up next week but that’ll be the last time for a while. She just doesn’t understand and won’t try to. She also told us that it’s okay if we don’t come by anymore. She mentioned other churches and stuff. Idk what’s going to happen with her. She's pretty confident she knows everything too. She told us she knew the Bible better than anyone. Not gonna lie, in that moment I wanted to bash, but we didn’t. The Spirit was very strong in that lesson but she wasn’t listening to it. 

SATURDAY! Good day. Gave blessing to Sister Despain.  We went to two baptisms. President came to one. Saw an investigator from a year ago. Went to a farewell. 

SUNDAY! Slik went to BV again to watch the farewell talk.  Had six at church.

That's all I have time for.
I love you all so much.
Sam

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's gonna be short

So we had to take care of some things so this email is going to be short. I’m sorry.
Read Elder Slik's especially about "boxer guy". He's the best.
Thank you Kate for all the great pictures! I liked them a lot. It was cool to see you livin up the freshman life and having a good time.
Thanks mom for the cool shirts! DREAM TEAM!
It's been a great week. I love life. I had something I wanted to monologue on but I don’t remember and I don’t have time. 
Gladys Knight is coming in like 2 weeks. It’s going to be a big deal. I hope everyone in the world goes.
I've really been feeling a lot of help this week. I know that prayers are answered. Mine and all of yours. Alma 7 - the Atonement is a real true power that we can draw upon. See also “His Grace is Sufficient” by Brad Wilcox.

MONDAY! Severina made us some muffins. They were light and fluffy and sweet with a hint of lemon and cheese on top and chunks of spam on the bottom. ... She's the best. I don't really remember too much else that is super worth reporting. But I did take an interesting note in my planner "Keep the commandments -> your heart will change -> your behavior will change -> you will begin to prosper." Like the notion of purification. Okay nvm. I don’t have time to explain the thought.

TUESDAY! Transfer day. Whacko. We drove people around and did a lot of administering. That is a large part of my assignment, but I really do miss the ministering aspect a lot. We still get to, but we have to rely heavily on our district leaders. Not to say we aren’t trying, but that is one of my goals to figure out the best way to make individual impact on those serving here in the central zone. I love the missionaries here a lot. Dad, you asked for a little more info about all of them, I don't really have time, I feel bad because there is so much about each of these missionaries but... We went out with Rigdon for the day to teach our lessons and help him get prepped for his mission. It was a pretty good day. We started out teaching Tyrone. We talked about baptism and he is set to be baptized on Nov 16. He'll most likely make that date. During the lesson he prayed about it right then which was a big deal. Tyrone is such an interesting guy. He has had a lot of hardships. He shared a few with us and I just felt how much he needed Christ It was a powerful time to bear simple testimony of the powers of the Atonement. He watches a lot of the history channel, which is cool don’t get me wrong, but the history channel just confuses him and doesn’t give him the healing he desperately needs. We don’t preach "Christ crucified" because that is what we are paid to do, we do so because there is no other name given whereby salvation can come. Mosiah 3:17. Everyone needs him. We've seen a change in him even in the little while we have been teaching him. Christ can heal us. We visited Stephanie as well. Her husband is even bigger than her son! But he's not actually her husband and we found out on Thursday that they are splitting up. It's been a hard week for her.  So we went to teach that woman who drove the Z’s to church again and it was crazy. She was super emotional because of family drama and other crazy stuff. But we gave her a blessing and that calmed her down a lot. Elder Slik and I have given sooo many blessings in the past little while, its crazy and a blessing. I really feel like the Lord teaches me during blessings, thoughts and ideas and comfort that I need. That night we went to Ricardo's baptism.
Ricardo's baptism
I wish I had the pictures of his and Fernanda's. His dad baptized both of them :) that was really cool to see. Elder Bishop (from the beginning of my mission) is serving there now! I hope he enjoys it. Afterwards we had an incredibly powerful lesson with Shenika, one of the best in a long time. We read the account of the First Vision with her, including the part about the adversary. When we recite it we usually don’t quote that part but it was to teach her a principle that she desperately needed. She's having a hard time with things. We really love her a lot. And pray for her a ton. I pray that she prays.

WEDNESDAY! Good day. DM was good. It was about the Doctrine of Christ. We're the only church that believes and practices all 5 points. Increasing our testimony of each was the purpose of the meeting. We went to Aranda's for lunch with Elder Alvarez. Now he's Lucas. I love him the most. He and Elder Slik were companions back in Los Feliz and we all got pretty close. We both miss him a lot. After that we watched The Restoration with Tyrone. The missionary DVDs are good. The church is good at making those kinda things. Jamal told us he wants to serve a mission xD! We taught a lesson to Toni. Her niece was sitting in and tried to get super contentious with us, asking us prodding questions trying to catch us in mistakes and stuff. It was pretty sad. I don’t like it when people try to bash with us. We had dinner in the temple with an older couple. The sister was Gladys Knight's escort her first time through the temple. Cool huh? We visited a member who is retiring to be a pro Santa. He's got a great beard. We had a good lesson with Stephanie. She's so sweet. We talk to all these people and it’s so easy to see their trials and struggles, often times people just come out and tell us. I just wish everyone would listen to what the prophet has to say and then do the things. For example, Noah. Those who listened to the prophet were happy, those who didn't ... well they weren’t so happy.

THURSDAY! Elder Puga gave his first DM. It was good. I really respect him. He's so humble, always trying to improve. We visited lots of families most of them inactive. We visited Sister T. We showed up at just at the right time and gave her a blessing. She's such a sweetheart.

FRIDAY! Great day. We planned and ate mousubi. We started exchanges.

SATURDAY! I was on exchanges in Beverly Glen with Elder Montgomery. He's really smart and we had a good day. We visited members and met some cool people.

SUNDAY! We taught a great lesson in Relief Society in FH. Real good. It was about missionary work. 

I’m so sorry that this email is like trash. Great, great week. I love life. I love the Lord. I love my area, companion, and just about everything.
I love you all so much!
Sam

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dang

Every week is so good! I'm sure you all are sick of hearing how "sick" and "sweet" and "bomb" everything is all the time. I feel a little repetitive saying each and every week how great things are, but that's life.
Good area, good companion, good stuff.
Something cool that I discovered this morning while I was studying was the connection between the Savior’s parable (Matthew 13) of the sower and Lehi's vision of the tree of life (1 Nephi 8). Both outline similar situations and talk about the importance of not giving heed to what the 'world' thinks or says. I dunno I thought it was kinda interesting.
I don't know what to say...
Oh. Transfers are tomorrow, but it’s okay because THE DREAM TEAM LIVES ON!
It's been an awesome week!

MONDAY! We had dinner with Severina. She made us soooo much rice. She just loves to feed us so we ended our P-day a little earlier and went there and she had bowls and bowls of rice waiting for us. She's such a sweet woman. She's the elect that everyone always is talking about-seeking for the truth and feeling of its truthfulness when she finds it. One thing did make me kinda sad though. She was babysitting four of her grandchildren and it was hard for her because they were all just running around and being crazy. They would like jump on her and make tons of noise and stuff, but she is so patient with each of them. I love kids and I would have been at my wits end but she was calm and playing with them and giving her attention to them. It was a great example of love and devotion. As crazy and the kids are, they're what's most important to her. It was only sad because she didn't have too much support. I love her.

TUESDAY! Today was Elder Daniel's last district meeting. It was good. Rigdon came with us and so he got that experience of role playing and stuff like that. Elder Daniel will be going home this week- it's crazy that the mission ends. He was really good about always being smiley and jovial. It's a good quality. And he really loves the people. He always has something good to say about those whom he is serving. We taught a few pretty good lessons on Tuesday. I'll highlight two of them. The first was with Stephanie. She's from Louisiana (or Georgia I can’t remember which). She's in her 50s and is a really sweet woman. We taught her the Restoration but we did it using a lot of scriptures from the New Testament so it was powerful. She felt the Spirit and "got chills all up [her] arms." We invited her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and she accepted both of those commitments and she also accepted the invitation to be baptized. It was cool. We had received a training recently (in MLC) about how we should be doing so, and so in our effort to be obedient we did and she said yes! It's definitely one of the highlights of those first lessons - will they say yes or no, do they have real intent? Exciting. She's a really sweet woman. We also had a lesson with the husband in a PMF [part member family] named Tyrone. He's white. His wife set things up so we were a little leery of what was going to happen but we sat down with him and he actually was interested. Although the wife just laid into him after a few moments of the lesson she stops and says, "So are you going to do it? You can’t smoke, you can’t drink, you can’t be sleepin’ around with other women. You already don’t do those things so you should be fine. Are you going to get baptized or what?" It was pretty funny, and really abrupt. She's trying to return to activity. It was a good lesson when we talked mostly about prayer. For dinner a member took us out to Applebee’s. It was good but he ordered us sooo much food. I was like in shock. On a side note, I’m pretty sure Applebee’s is President Neider's favorite restaurant. 

Elder Slik's shoes - read on
WEDNESDAY! Wednesday was a good day. We started things off awesome with an appointment with Stephanie. She had read and prayed about the Book of Mormon the night before after we had the lesson and had received an answer that it was true. She described it as peace as she was praying. We then had a lesson and read from the Book of Mormon to explain more of what it was and why it was so important and what it being true meant for her in her life. She then committed to be baptized on November 9th! It was pretty cool. A little while later her son came in to join the lesson. His name is Andre and he is like 6'6" and 307lbs. He told us. He used to be in the Air Force. We were talking with him and he really opened up to us. He told us about some of his struggles and temptations. In his own words - "I don't drink. I don't smoke weed. My problem ... is women. I've got 9 kids and I’m 34 years old! They be comin’ up on me all the time!" He was telling us how he has a hard time keeping the women away from him. He then told us how he knows he is sinning but he doesn't know if he wants to stop. He was 100% open with us about his life and feelings and it was good. I really like this guy a lot. Good heart. He was just really real with us and that impressed me. But anyway, that's how we started the day off. Then a little later we explained to a kid the difference between God and Jesus. He had a lot of questions and it was cool. Kids are surprisingly interested in learning more about that kind of stuff. And missionaries are unsurprisingly open to explain. A little later we went by to teach Tyrone. About 10 minutes into this lesson he and his wife get into a fight about what they should do about the people who stole their stuff. Apparently right before we got there someone walked in and then walked right out with a laptop a DS and their hard drive. We didn't even know and then things got weird. As we left Tyrone had a bat in his hand and was saying that he was going to teach these people a lesson or something like that. It was weird. We got out.  http://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/gen/39.12 see Gen 39.12. Later we drove by and saw someone getting arrested, luckily not Tyrone. Welcome to the ghetto. Tyrone is a really interesting guy. He is really confused about what is true and what's not. He has had a hard past. Bad family relationships, he got ran over by a bus and saved miraculously. His father's girlfriend (before he died and I think she also broke his parents’ relationship apart) was a devil worshipper. That really messed him up to get involved with all that. Point of story, hard life and he's confused. Point of me telling you all this, it was a weird apt. We also found ES' shoe. See his email for more details. ["Like 3 weeks ago one of my athletic shoes randomly disappeared and I just did not know what happened to it and earlier this week we were driving home from our morning sports activity and Elder Anderson tells me to pull over cause he saw my shoe in this random field by our apartment and I did not believe him for a second cause he is always messing with me but I was convinced to stop and check it out; Well we walk out and lo and behold there my shoe is out in the field without its shoe laces just chilling. I have no idea how it got there, some homeless person must have taken it or something and then realized its worthless and just salvaged the laces and moved on."] BOOM.  Then nearly at the end of the day we had a lesson with Sister Marx' best friend Vicky. It was basically all about how Vicky wants to join the church but her husband for some reason is opposed. We taught the Plan of Salvation and talked about receiving strength through prayers. I was almost crying the entire time. Vicky is a really amazing woman. She knows the church is true and wants the peace she has felt in church and while reading the BofM in her life always. I've been praying more than I think I ever have before that the Lord will soften her husband's heart. 

THURSDAY! We got our oil changed in our car in the morning cause apparently it was long overdue. So ES and I sat in Pep Boys and practiced reciting the Articles of Faith from memory in the voices of the apostles. It was a blast. I love Elder Slik so much. He's been such a good influence for good in my mission, helping me commit to be better, more loving, more efficient, and more obedient all the time. He's a great leader as an administer and a minister. It's a learning experience every day to be his companion. I owe a lot of my growth to his good example back in Los Feliz. After the oil change was done we went to Subway and saw Clara there! It was really nice to see her.  I like her a lot but because of family issues we haven't been able to see her. Apparently her high blood pressure is due to the contention over her will and stuff. It's sad. But Clara is so sweet. Oh I didn’t mention this earlier but we got a new senior couple that will be serving full time in the Bonanza View ward. They're really nice. Elder and Sister Egan. It'll be very interesting because we are like the only ward in the mission to have this. The area is very small and we won’t be dividing it up so it will be kind of a first come first serve basis for teaching investigators. So we'll be playing this one by ear. We had a meeting with them and the bishopric which was good. I love both the wards we're serving in. We have such great people. That night we got an urgent call from a member who was having serious pain and so we ran up to go give her a blessing. As she lay on the couch thrashing in pain all she could talk about was what still needed to be done for the ward activity the next day. It was funny to see how we get sometimes. There was something seriously wrong with her but all she could think about was assignments to be made and what small tasks needed to be completed. She's a wonderful woman and it was an honor to be called on to serve her. Then we taught Tyrone that night the Restoration. It went well, it was just interesting to think about that lesson in comparison to the time we taught Stephanie. Totally different. Our lessons to those of strong Christian backgrounds are soooo different from those who don't have much religious experience at all. It's cool, but it puts a lot more pressure on us. But that's how it's supposed to be. And I do enjoy thinking. 

FRIDAY! We had district meeting. I like district meeting. I do miss training though. I just don’t miss the apprehension. Friday afternoon ES and I cooked a chili. There was a ward party and we entered into the competition. It was fun cooking it, but the chili came out very average. The secret ingredient? liver spread. Brother Deleon gave us the recipe and he is a good cook but we just don’t have the skills he does so it came out dece. We later visited Toni with the Egan family. The Egan’s are so nice. Sister Egan is so excited to be out here serving because she never served as a young woman. Apparently they have been planning this mission since they were dating. So it’s cool to be a part of it. We visited some members, including one RM who just got back from Peru and was struggling adjusting to the language difference. He kept using Spanish words and you could tell by the things he was saying that he was thinking in Spanish and translating to English before he spoke. That night was the chili cook off and we didn't win. Sigh. I wanted to win really bad.

SATURDAY! Today was an interesting day. We started off by helping two different families move. The first had soooo much stuff. They had one of the huge moving trucks fulll of boxes, and boxes, and boxes. It was a very interesting situation. They had a cat that had peed over like everything so my allergies were killing me. But it always feels good to help, especially those who aren’t in a position to help themselves. Later we moved another family and it was interesting to see the contrast of the two situations. Vegas is the city of black and white, poverty right next to wealth, sin right next to righteousness, happiness surrounded by sorrow. We visited a family (non-members) who have 30 desert tortoises. They showed us their house and all their animals. They even invited us to Easter dinner. They're Southern Baptist and not interested in learning more about the church, but they were super happy to show us their animals. I love animals. That night we had a lesson with Shenika. Idk if I have talked about her in the past. She's like ready to be baptized but it’s just so hard to get lessons with her because she is so busy. She grew up in a Mormon foster home but couldn’t get baptized because of legal reasons. We are there teaching the first lesson and we get to the First Vision part and she says, “I already know Joseph Smith is a prophet. I believe what he said is true.” Boom. Testimony builder to me that there are people out there waiting to hear the truth and to be pointed in the right direction. The Lord is preparing more people. A note about the hastening of the work. The Lord is calling more missionaries, but that's not to over saturate the mission field. He is also preparing the hearts of more people.  I know He is. And He is asking all of us to take part. http://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/welcome-to-conference-october-2013
President Monson God's chosen prophet today. Anyway. She wasn’t just prepared by the hand of the Lord. Her co-worker talks to her about the church every day. She told us about how happy and excited about life he always is. It really struck me in the lesson what an influence he had on her interest. Ben was his name. I hope to be a 'Ben' to many people now, and forever. After that we had a weird experience. Friday night we contacted a less active man and he was drunk but invited us over to his home for dinner the next night. We didn't think he'd have remembered but used it as an excuse to go by and hopefully sit down with him. He remembered. He made us a feast of beans and salad and stuffed pork chops and veggies. It was crazy. And delicious. As we got to know him, we could see how great of a guy he is. He is just a little tied down by a few of his vices. He was rough and gruff and scary on the outside, missing teeth and a foul vocabulary but as we talked with him we could feel of his love for us and his family and others. It was a (perhaps needed) reminder that God loves all his children and they all have worth. His friends came too. Joseph was so funny and one of his biker gang buddies came too. Chaz. Slik described it as sitting at meat with the publicans and sinners (Mark 2:16-17.) Not that we too aren’t sinners, but that peoples choices don’t determine their worth. I love those guys. :)

SUNDAY! Great day. In BV the sacrament meeting was all about missionary work. We had a few people we didn’t expect to come to church show up which we were excited about. I don't have too much more time but one nonmember gave one of our investigators a ride to church and we are having a lesson with her tonight and she already says she wants to go to church every Sunday. That was cool. At Frenchmen Hills, our ward went through a lot of changes. So Sacrament meeting was about a lot of that. But President Neider came and presented during the 3rd hour to everyone but the Primary. That was cool. It made me feel good because a lot of members told him how much they love Elder Slik and me. I was blushing and beaming. I know it's a lot of Elder Slik's doing but I still feel good that I was included and people know me. It means a lot to be remembered and for people to say such good things about us. After ward council, the members petitioned to have Elder Slik and me stay together as long as possible. President said at least another six weeks and maybe another 12!!! One member also started crying because of the growth he'd seen in his son since we started taking him out to lessons. It meant a lot to me. Later in the evening we were teaching Tyrone and our WML [ward mission leader] kinda laid into him, but it was good, for a while and was being really bold and ES and I were kinda scared that it was going to freak Tyrone out, but when he said, "Is that something you want?" without hesitation he said, “Yes.” Then the lesson was real good from there. I love serving here. I love serving. In case there is any doubt - I'm a happy camper.

Life. Is. Good.
That's all I’ve got time for!
I love you all so much,
Sam

Monday, October 7, 2013

I had two pictures to send, but I left the camera at home

Original Elder Swan, Elder Slik, Sam, the son Elder Swan
So... the one picture I do have is the coat from this talk.
Pretty cool huh? I look so fat. This is why I hate pictures. The reason my tag is on my tie is... so you could see it with the coat on... sigh....
Those are the Swans.

General Conference was soooo good. 
Saturday session was all about missionary work and I loved it. It’s a very special time to be a missionary. I'm quite blessed with a great area, companion, and family supporting me. 
So much happens in a week and it's so hard to talk about all the things that go on. 
Here's the skinny (not me)
Life is good. I'm working hard and happy about it. 
I feel like I should give my usual random rant but I don't have too much to rant about.
This talk is bomb. That's my GC highlight.

So the week!
MONDAY! We did our p-day thing. Not too much to report on that front. Monday night was pretty good. We started out trying to have a lesson with someone but he wasn't there, his family told us to come back later so we left. As we left we talked to a super nice woman who invited us to come back the next day. We went to Toni’s after that to talk about baptism. It was an interesting lesson. We talked a lot about the difference between commitments and covenants, the need for authority and so forth. She was having a rough day and was not listening to us. She was as Elder Slik says "actin' a foo'." It was like she had forgotten everything we taught her and it was pretty disheartening. Her situation is a tough one. She is very poor and her two sons are living with her. Idary is taking the lessons with her. He has CP but is still pretty high functioning. Her other son is pretty anti. She struggles a lot because her older son is having a really hard time and is not at all trying to overcome his addictions but is stealing her money and food and stuff. He yells at her and is mean and she is afraid of him. She loves him but it’s hard for her because of the way he is acting. She expressed to us in another lesson how she wants there to be the same spirit in her home that there is in the chapel and in the Tobler's home but every time the son comes in he brings in a spirit of darkness, contention and confusion. It's a pretty sad situation. She's scared and sad with the whole situation. But we love Toni. She's pretty real and always says the funniest stuff. After the lesson we were kinda upset but went back to the lesson we had planned on having earlier. The man and his family were moving some stuff into the house and it was a perfect opportunity to jump in and help out. They were all pretty thankful for that. So we sat down with this guy and talked about his family and his struggles and about Christ. It was impressed upon me the importance of doing the right thing for the right reason. We can (this went right along with GC) do the right thing because we want the blessings that always follow or we can do the right thing because we want to serve the Savior and doing what's right makes us happy. The difference is subtle but the effect is big. This guy was pretty interesting. He (like almost everyone we are teaching) is African American and speaks using almost more slang words than others. When we set up a return appointment he said, "Aigh we finna chop it up this Friday." He also wants to learn a lot about the seven deadly sins. I hope things will pan out like they did with Arjelia. He also knows the bible pretty well. A long time ago missionaries used to go to his house but they couldn't answer his questions so they focused on his girlfriend and he kinda disconnected himself from the lessons. Later in the night we went to see Severina. She is like incredible. She has strong faith. 

TUESDAY! Great day. We took out a priest for a big portion of the day and it was a great time. We taught a few lessons which was really good. In the morning we visited a lot of the members and I got to know them a little better. We got like a tour of one guys house that was absolutely insane. It was up the hill in FH and he had like a giant waterfall diving ... thing. Like a giant waterfall that you could jump off into his pool made by the same people that made the one in the Bellagio or something like that. He's the grandfather of some baseball star.  I can't remember his name right now. Cool, cool house. We taught Toni which went a little better than the night before. She was still upset and struggling and even a little defensive. Not that we were on the offensive in any way, I dunno. She was stressed. After the lesson she left to go to California to work out some family business she was super apprehensive. She said like 56 times how much she hates Cali. It’s an interesting world out there. Without the gospel to ground us, life can really do a number on our happiness. We taught Stephanie a little and prayed with her, she was really grateful. She is a really sweet, sweet lady who just wants to be a good mother to her children. Her devotion was inspiring. She also was cooking gumbo and it smelled so good I almost wanted to ask for a taste, but I didn't. Dinner was cool because it was with a stake young women’s president that reminded me of you mom. Then we went to Fernanda's (A's) baptism! THAT was cool. I love the A's so much and I was super happy to be back and watch that special moment. Fernanda is a really special girl with a strong spirit.
Fernanda's baptism
That whole family is just so gold. Ricardo is a little scared so he'll be getting baptized in a few weeks but he said a great prayer at the end of the service. It was great also to see so many members from Desert Bloom that I grew to love so much. I really loved my time down there and grew to love so many people. I got to see Martha and the Murrays, Elder Ledezma and the Taylors, Sister Herrera and the Padilla family. I really love that branch, part because of the people and part because I grew so much. Las Vegas is my Holyland. Pics of the baptism next week.

WEDNESDAY! Today was kinda weird. A great day, but going to Mission Leadership Council [MLC] was a humbling experience. I'd be lying to say that it didn't scare me a lot to be there with so many missionaries I look up to. It'd also be a lie to say that I wasn't worried about going all week. But I went and I loved it. It was 3.5 hours of discussion and training and council and the Spirit, what a blessing. I learned a lot and saw a lot of ways I need to improve. I got there and saw that I really didn't have too much to be afraid of, but it was one of those experiences that makes you really commit to do wayyy better. A ton of our lessons and appointments cancelled. But the coolest part of the proselytizing was that night when we had a member visit with a nonmember present. She didn't want to leave because she was "afraid to miss something!" Kinda cool. We set up an appointment with her for this upcoming Tuesday so I'm pretty stoked about that. This woman? She's like pure gold and took the lessons a long time ago. She has been to Temple Square and loved it. She would have gotten baptized, but back when she was taking the lessons her husband told her she couldn't. Things have changed a little now and I hope that the outcome will be different. 
I gotta speed up.

THURSDAY! So idk if this got explained in the past, but after MLC the zone leaders give a big training meeting to each zone, usually it happens on Friday, but the APs called us on Wednesday night and told us that we needed to do it Thursday morning. So Elder Slik and I had to stay up late preparing and get up early as well to prepare this meeting. I was super tired, but Elder Slik is really good at preparing and giving trainings and such so we did a good job in preparing a powerful meeting. Elder Slik? He's good, a great speaker and an inspiring trainer. So that meeting took up a big part of the day. It was loosely themed about going the extra mile and more tightly themed about the Atonement. It was good. We had to cancel a few appointments which was unfortunate but ... we're happily obedient. I'd never had to do anything like that but it was exciting to prepare it with such time constraints and give it on such short notice. I trained on the importance of inviting others to be baptized in the first lesson. Toni came back from California and she was much calmer so the lesson went well. Not too much else to report.

FRIDAY! We served a less active guy out of the blue while he was working on his palm trees. DANG! Those things are suuuuper sharp. It's kinda crazy, but we visited a lot of members and stuff. 

SATURDAY! General Conference was sooo good. We watched a session at the church and a session at the Tobler's house with Toni. After the 1st and 2nd sessions we went to a member's home. We were talking about the talks about missionary work and he expressed to us his desires to do better in sharing the gospel and then he told us that he needs to be better about tithing too. It was cool to see the power of General Conference help him to change. How good was Bednar's talk??? But anyway, as we talked with him he really committed to sharing the gospel with his friends. The Spirit was super strong as we invited his family to join him. Priesthood session was great too. No burritos, or shwarmas, or burgers, but it was still good.

SUNDAY! GC was good. We had a good follow up lesson with Toni. Slowly but surely she is grasping these things. Idary really wants to be baptized. They don't have a specific date yet but soon. Probs in the next 2 weeks. We'll see. That night we had a bomb night of visiting the members and extending challenges for them to share the gospel and invite their friends to meet with the missionaries. It went really well. Better than most times. It’s hard to turn down the invitation of the prophet and the apostles. 
That's the message of GC - repent and gain power through the Atonement and share and bless others. And stand strong. 
LA OBRA MISIONAL!
Sorry that I never have too much time. 
I love you all so much!
Sam