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Monday, November 25, 2013

Yo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

So I guess Iron Man 3 came out

Like three times this week members have tried to catch us up on the world since ES and I left... I really don't care too much.
Time flies.
It's been a week of answered prayers, definitely. My testimony of that has been being strengthened recently. From the baptism yesterday to the feelings we've have, to the new people we've found, the Lord has really been looking out for Elder Slik and me. I really love having him as my companion. He's a good guy and a great example. It's a huge blessing because we get along well and he works hard and is focused so he really helps us be effective and powerful. I've learned so much from him;  leadership, consecration and commitment to the Savior. He's good at setting goals and he strives to help all around him to achieve their full potential. I frequently thank the Lord for allowing me to learn from him.  I really pray that we don't get transferred. Even the members were talking with President Neider and asking for us to stay when he came to stake conference. Oh man I don't want to leave and I don't want Elder Slik to get transferred. 

MONDAY! Dang! It feels like a lifetime ago. We had spam mosubi with Severina. It was interesting because it was a lot like the kind that ES and I make but it also had carrot and avocado and cucumber like the California rolls you make, mom. So it was like Michegas fusion (Michigan Vegas). Then we went to the Tobler's house for a cottage meeting. They are the greatest, such a blessing to our ward; Brother Tobler and his devotion and Sister Tobler and her bottomless well of charity. A cottage meeting is like a movie night, testimony meeting, and FHE. So the Tobler's opened their house up and we invited a bunch of our investigators and less active members and other people who support the ward mission effort. We watched Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration to help give a bigger picture to the new members and investigators. They loved it. I did too. If anyone is looking for a real easy way to be a huge blessing to the missionary effort in the ward, offering to do something like a cottage meeting could be a huge blessing. It was very simple but it went a long way I know for our people that went. We had to leave before the food and we drove up to Clara's house. We went over with Sister Jackson and Clara's neighbor and had a good little lesson. Sadly Clara is moving so now we are officially working with zero people in Frenchman Hills. It's sad, but we just can’t find through street contacting up there. I love that ward though. Clara is a great woman. She'll probably get baptized but it will be in her new ward. Then we drove down to Henderson to start my second AP exchange as a zone leader.

TUESDAY! I was here in Central with Elder Pesci. Man, he is a good missionary. I was so impressed by how well rounded he is. He has all the characteristics of an amazing missionary and he has them all very developed as well. He is driven but not a jerk or anything. He is very serious about the work but funny too. I learned a lot in just 24 hours from his righteous example and his specific suggestions for how I can improve. I'm very grateful for the organization of the mission which allows us to do things like exchanges and learn from others to constantly be improving ourselves. I'll be honest I do wish that we grew by leaps and bounds and not by line and precept. But as I look back a year or even a transfer I do see that I have grown. Anyway. We went to district meeting about how to find and create the chosen. The whole meeting was about the scriptural phrase "many are called but few are chosen." The Lord has called many but we must choose to be "chosen." The same goes with all those who we work with. The Lord has called them to meet with the missionaries but they have to choose to open their heart and "experiment on the word." If people don't want to try, and do things and keep commitments then we cannot help them. We talked about when was the right time to 'drop' an investigator, to stop teaching someone (which by the way is incredibly hard to do). But it was interesting to think about that scripture in a new way. A note in my journal talks about how Elder Pesci made me feel like his friend all day which made me feel really good. Friendship, even in the mission goes a long, long way. I think of so many people before my time as a missionary that I could have blessed by just being their friend. After all that we visited a few families in FH. One family told us about her struggles since joining the church. She talked about responding to the attacks of people who misunderstand what she believes. We had two cool experiences serving randomly. One person was picking up cigarette butts outside her apartment and we just knelt down and started helping her and it really softened her heart. As we cleaned the area in front of her apartment we talked and she told us a little of her story and how she was looking for a church to take her daughters to. She was so gracious and she invited us in and said thank you probably like 25 times. We shared with her a pamphlet and set an appointment to return the next day (sadly she called to cancel and we haven't been able to contact her since.) It was cool to feel how relieved she was. It was pretty bad but with three sets of extra hands (Rigdon was out with us) it went way faster. The next was with a mother carrying some groceries. We asked to help and she hesitated and we reassured her and so she let us help and she had tonssss of groceries and lots were really heavy. So we got to carry stuff up the stairs for her. She also was really grateful. We shared a short lesson and said a prayer with her. He husband didn't speak English so we passed the referral off. We had dinner at the Banks' home. (Rigdon's family) They are awesome too. They love Elder Slik and me a lot for taking Rigdon out and helping him prepare for his mission. Then we went to teach Tyrone about tithing. It was a pretty crazy lesson. Tyrone wanted to be baptized but he still had some doubts about a few things so we prayed mightily and talked with him about the why and the blessings. All in all Tyrone was a little afraid of putting his trust in God because of the experiences he had had in the past, little by little with him. Then we saw Toni to follow up on the movie. I'm always impressed about how much Idary understands. He's a smart kid, but just has a few setbacks.

WEDNESDAY! We had another district meeting. It was Sister Despain's last one. WEIRD! The mission ends. It's sad. Luckily I have two full years ahead of me. Then we went to a lesson at the Marx home to teach Vicky. MAN! All of these stalwart families. Strong men and women who want to serve God and improve the lives of as many of his children as they can reach. Sister Marx is a great example to me of righteous goals and self evaluation. She is always sharing goals and how to be happy. I like that family a lot. But any so, we sat down (after eating more Taco Bell.... it's interesting. Vicky is like the coolest, classiest woman I've worked with on my mission, but Taco Bell is like her favorite food,) and started off by talking about a date to be baptized. She said that she had been thinking and praying about it and at first she thought April but then thought that she could be ready sooner and thought about February because that is her birthday and then she thought about the new year’s time but in the end she decided on next week! :) I was shocked, but so happy. She's ready and she wants to move forward. She's pumped and so are we. We taught about the importance of prayer. It was a powerful lesson that made me more inclined to pray more fervently. Then we saw Tyrone and talked about prayer and the Book of Mormon and how that would be the way he can know that getting baptized is the decision God wants him to make. He wanted to but it would be the way to clear his doubts. 

THURSDAY! Okay it’s that time. I gotta pick up the pace. We had a good visit with Sister Thayer. I got to serve her non member daughter which was good. It softened her heart a little. Sister Thayer's story is pretty cool. She was sick the transfer before I came and Elder Slik promised her that if she would come to church every week and read the scriptures every day she would get better. She's not fully healed but she's improved remarkably and she’s almost done with the BofM. It’s cool to feel her excitement as she shares with us what she’s read. I love Sister Thayer. Then we went to see grandma. I love her too. She shared with us a doubt about the Plan of Salvation. She said that in the Bible it says God created the earth but we say that Jesus did. "It’s not a big deal, but it’s important to me." That’s what she kept saying. We shared with her Genesis 1:26 and Hebrews 1:2 and that helped her to understand. It was a cool experience because those are scriptures I’ve read but a topic I’ve never really studied too much, I really felt that the Spirit brought that and a good explanation to my remembrance. Cool experience. Then we went to interviews. Sister Nieder trained on effective lessons. She's such a good teacher. She uses great teaching skills to help us learn to teach better by example. My interview with Prez was really good too. I go a lot of good advice on how to be a better leader and then we talked about how I can have better prayers in the morning and at night when I'm still real tired.  We had a lesson with Toni about the BofM. She had read and actually got a lot out of it. She applied the scriptures to herself and we felt that she learned something which was cool. Then we had dinner with an RM who was in Japan when the typhoon hit. It destroyed the city he was serving in at the time. He shared a lot of cool stories from his mission with us. He made us some awesome Japanese food. All of our three lessons fell through but we had a great visit with our Gladys Knight referral. Ugh life is good. She was another answer to my prayers. 

FRIDAY! Great lesson with a new investigator. He said that he wasn’t really interested but when we went by we sat and talked with him. He shared that he had talked with missionaries before, but because of the things he was going through he wasn’t in a place to listen but now he wants to try again. It was cool to watch and feel as the Spirit prompted him to open up and share and invite us back. We planned. Our lessons cancelled. We taught Vicky all the required commandments and it was good. It was strong. She is already living the gospel. We ate with a Filipino family - we ate corn and cheese ice cream. I liked it. We talked with a guy in a motorcycle ministry, then we met with Tyrone and he was excited for his baptism! We screened him and he passed.

SATURDAY! Another great lesson with Randy. He committed to read and pray to see if Joseph Smith was a prophet. It was powerful. He's seeking so I know if he asks he will find. We talked to a crazy guy in the street who told Elder Slik and me he could feel that we believed the message we shared and could tell God put us together for a reason. He said that usually they don't put friends together but he could tell that they did this time. That made me feel good. He wasn’t totally crazy, but looking at him definitely led you down that road. He was very educated, but he used so much vulgarity it was hard to concentrate on what he was saying. Then we went to the adult session of stake conference about hastening the work of salvation.

SUNDAY! Stake conference, we sang ‘Called to Serve’ again, funny that I've done it twice. Sister Despain was here again too.  I don't think that happens too often. Then we had lunch with the Marx' and the Egan’s (the senior couple in the ward) and then we all went to Tryone’s baptism. It was great. In his testimony he said that he will probably always feel like an investigator because there is so much to learn. That was a cool thought. It was a great baptism.
Tyrone's baptism
Dante is having trouble quitting smoking so he hasn’t been meeting with us all week. We visited Stephanie and she was happy to see us and she'd been reading even though she was sick. That was cool. Then we had a great Mexican dinner. We had a great, great, great blessing contact with a young man. He really felt the Spirit as we talked and prayed with him. He wants us back and so hopefully we will get to meet up with him next week.

I love the work. I love the area. I love my companion.
It's been a powerful week and I've felt my faith grow.
I love you all so much!
Sam

Monday, November 11, 2013

Another week has come and gone

Here we are again.
It's crazy to think that only a week has passed since last p-day, but it also feels like I was just here yesterday. It's crazy.
To clarify about the phrase "the most", it is used in place of the suffix 'iest.' Handsomest becomes most handsome. Happiest becomes most happy. Craziest becomes most crazy. Just thought that I would try to clear that up. I think I just confused a bunch of people.
Anyyyyyway. 
It's been a great week in the celestial seven blocks. Lets go!

MONDAY! It was a good day. A crazy day. After the normal events of p-day we went to the Tobler's house for a surprise birthday party for Toni's son Idary. It was fun. Toni is pretty committed now to be baptized on the 30th of November. We think that she'll make the date. She won’t know everything or have a complete understanding of the Restoration but I didn't either when I got baptized. It was an FHE too so Elder Slik and I shared the lesson about following the example of the Savior and then we ran off to Severina's house to eat rice. We had a great time there with them. Brother Odulio played the omnichord for us. It was pretty cool, some songs in Tagalog and some in English. He sang the song "My Way" and that was fun. Idk if yall read the article about him but he's pretty old but we love him so much. He knows a ton. He told us some stories from his time in Saudi Arabia. He has a ring from a prince there because he fixed a machine that waters the plants and saved the harvest. He also was there during a rebellion and so the government went into lockdown with checkpoints and stuff. He was working out there but he was in the first stake presidency or something like that and so he was going somewhere but didn't have his papers and they checked him. He said that they killed people who didn't have them but he showed them his temple recommend and they let him go. It was in English. That was a pretty cool story. We visited some other members after that. 

TUESDAY! We had a cool district meeting today. It was about helping our investigators to receive revelation through church attendance. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We talked about what church is and why we go there. The blessings that we can receive from attending church and the things our investigators are missing. It was good. We didn't have a role play but at the end we all went into the chapel to do a self evaluation. We were to ponder and check our own testimony of the Spirit at church. It was pretty powerful. It strengthened my testimony of church and it was also interesting because as we sat in the chapel pondering one of the missionaries got up to the pulpit and told us all how he was committing to do better and wanted to work harder. It was cool. I'd never had anything like that happen before. I think he was pretty sincere. Then we went to Sister Marx' house for a lesson with Vicky. They had brought us some lunch from Taco Bell which was kinda funny because Sister Marx and Vicky are both like super classy. So we talked about missionary work as we ate chalupas and dorrito tacos. Sister Marx is an incredible example to me of how to do member missionary work. She loves the Lord. She reads her scriptures every day. She understands the gospel and wants to share it with everyone. So she does. She is always trying to share. She described it kinda like this, “We have the chocolate cake, it'd be cruel for us just to let everyone else look at it and smell it. There is enough to go around but it’s pretty rude of us not to offer it to everyone we know and love.” The lesson was a powerful spiritual experience. We followed up on her reading and praying and just talked about her feeling the Spirit as she read. It was kind of funny one experience she shared. She said that she was walking back and forth one day at home pretty stressed out with some things that we going and she saw her BoM on the table. She knew that Sister Marx was always telling her to read it when she needed comfort so she sat down and turned to Alma 7 where we had assigned her to read. She expressed how she literally thought that it couldn't be as simple as everyone said it was. But as she read peace came over her. The Book of Mormon has power. We talked about baptism with her and her plans. She doesn't have a specific date yet but she will probably get baptized in the beginning of December. She is such an incredible person, very driven. A lot like the A family. These prepared people who I have taught and worked with and prayed and fasted for. I've learned so much from their great examples. We went to see Tyrone after that. We taught him the Word of Wisdom. He doesn't have any problems with it. Because of traumatic experiences in his past (sadly for him I feel like that defines his past. He's had a very, very hard life) he doesn't have any addictions and when we started teaching him he stopped drinking tea. Then we did some service and dissembled a bed. Then we read some of the Book of Mormon with Stephanie. She's great. She really feels the Spirit at church and when we have lessons, but she's been going through a hard time. Sister Justice is one of her fellowshippers and it’s made a big difference to Stephanie to have a friend. We had dinner with the Iverson’s. They are like the most cool, one of my favorite families, if not my favorite. I hope something changes and Elder Iverson gets to serve in Bloomfield Hills. I don’t even know the kid but I love that family. We taught Toni about forgiveness and repentance. We visited a few members as well. We had a great family prayer with one family that made me feel good. That's pretty much Tuesday.

WEDNESDAY! My journal entry begins with, "I need to start my journal entries with something other than good day. But that’s what they all are!" We got our tire fixed which took some time. It’s a blessing to have a companion like Elder Slik. He's consecrated but fun too. So when we are stuck waiting for our car we have a great time talking and laughing. For most of the afternoon we delivered tickets to people who wanted them. We had some cool experiences. One was with our EQP [elders quorum president] and we visited him to take him a few tickets. We saw his neighbor and asked if he had invited him. He said (almost textbook) no he wouldn't be interested, but then there was a moment of silence and he changed his mind and asked the guy and he was super excited. We gave him a few tickets and then a couple minutes later after we'd left he called us to come back and give him a few more. He even offered to pay for our gas. It was pretty funny. He had called his family and they were super interested. Oh btw tickets refer to the tickets for the Gladys Knight performance. We stopped in to visit Sister Rosser and she remembers the Johansson’s. It's a crazy small world out here. Everyone seems to be connected to everyone. I like Sister Rosser a lot. She's such a good example. She is always thinking of others and trying to serve. And she has a testimony of the Plan of Salvation. She shared with us a cool story about being yourself as a missionary. She once went in to visit a part member family where the husband was less active and the wife not a  member. The husband let them in but reamed them for like an hour and Sister Rosser make quips the whole time, her little sassy clever remarks. Finally after an hour or so they made to leave and the husband physically stopped her and asked her to teach his wife. It’s was a cool story. She said it was then she realized that she didn't have to be a robot, she could, and was supposed to be herself. We had a bomb lesson with Dante. He committed to be baptized. He had read the pamphlet we left about the Plan of Salvation and had really liked the section about the atonement:
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Because Heavenly Father loves you, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for your sins. This payment is part of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ voluntarily suffered for your sins, pains, sicknesses, and sorrows. Through His grace and mercy, He can help you in your trials and relieve you of the guilt and shame that result from your sins.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16
In paying for your sins, Jesus did not eliminate your agency or personal responsibility—He will not make you clean against your will. To receive His help and strength, you need to exercise faith in Him, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and choose to follow His teachings for the rest of your life. As you rely on the Atonement, you will feel the love of God, and He will help you endure your trials. You will experience joy, peace, and consolation. All that seems unfair in life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the mercy and love of Heavenly Father. The Atonement is the central point in the plan of salvation.
He loved that part. It was powerful as we talked about the things he needs to do to gain access to the powers of the Atonement. He wants to change his life really, really bad. He has told us many times that only God makes him happy. And he's definitely been feeling the Spirit much more recently. We have high hopes for him. He wants to go on a mission too. When we've brought over priests with shirts and ties on he loves that. We went to Gladys Knight. Dang. It was good! She is such an amazing woman and she has a stunning smile. And she's pretty old too, but she can sing and she loves Jesus. The presentation was really, really bold and some people got up and left but a lot stayed and really felt the Spirit very strongly. Elder Slik and I were standing up clapping during one of the songs and this nonmember turns around and says, “Alright, can you stop clapping in my ear???” It like destroyed me. I was soooo embarrassed. I haven't blushed like that since Hna Briceno told us why all her children were born in the same month.... 

THURSDAY! DM was interesting today because it was about the exact same thing as the English district’s. It was interesting. Oh dang. Interesting thing happened after. Two missionaries in the zone were fighting and we had to go break things up. It thankfully hadn’t gotten physical yet. We brought over some food to help defuse the situation. They hadn't talked for like the last three weeks. Tension was so high and it was crazy.  It felt like we were treading on the thinnest of ice and if we missteped things would have exploded. In our lesson with Dante he said "I'm so excited to be baptized." Elder Slik did an interview with Maria
Elder Slik, Elder Puga, Maria, Sam, ? at Maria's baptism
who I found and taught a year ago. That was cool. She's ready. We also had dinner with the Jewitts and the Banks, two more of like my most favorite families. That night we talked with our bishop because our ward mission leader got released but we don’t have a new one. I gotta pick up the pace.

FRIDAY! We delivered Gladys Knight gift packets to the missionaries. It was kinda sad bc it was supposed to be a thing where you didn’t go unless you brought a non member but most people who went came alone... It was an incredible opportunity but it was underutilized by the members. We taught a  great lesson to Dante about the Word of Wisdom. He has been smoking since he was 9. But he wants to quit. He knows he can and that the Lord will help him. He read about herbs in the D&C and half heartedly tried to justify smoking weed but he knew he needed to stop smoking that too. He prayed about it and the Spirit told him. Despite his living conditions and his past, he is incredibly spiritual. It is probably in part because of his experiences that he is the way he is. It was powerful. We gave him a blessing at the end of the lesson and he cried. He really feels the Spirit and wants to come closer to God and serve him. He's a good example to me. We visited a member later in the evening who wouldn't let us in because her house was a mess from a fire more than six months ago and they still haven’t cleaned it up. She was like still traumatized. She spoke of it like it was yesterday. I imagine that living in the state she was didn’t allow her to forget the experience. She seemed desperate but unsure where to turn. We tried to help but we couldn't, she wouldn’t let us. She's at a standstill, too distressed to do anything without help and too embarrassed to accept help from anyone.

SATURDAY!  We went to a baptism in the morning with Rigdon and Dante. Those two hit it off pretty well and as well the convert bore his testimony about overcoming his addictions. It was powerful. Dante really felt the Spirit there. He wants to be baptized really badly. We did a little bit of secret service for a companionship in the zone, while they were out we really quickly cleaned up their apartment. I felt really good afterwards knowing that they could live more peacefully. We went to Maria's baptism. It's crazy that I'm here in the Zone again. Also crazy is how often I've been playing the piano. I play a few times a month for a baptism. I love Maria. She told the elders in MB west that  it'd be a sin not to baptize her on the 9NOV. We visited some awesome families that night. I am always amazed about how incredible the members of the church here are. There are some true saints, lots of people who I would like to grow up to be like. 

SUNDAY! Church was good. Interesting. For our investigators I think it was a little dull. The new member of the high council spoke about family history. One fell asleep and was snoring. Tyrone and Dante both walked to church which was cool. Tyrone really wants to be baptized. We visited the Martinez family. THEY are awesome too. Brother Martinez loves the Lord and knows the scriptures and I've never seen anyone who works as hard as Sister Martinez. She serves every waking moment of her day. If she's not working, she's ministering. I want to be like them. We taught Dante and the whole Z family about church which was good. Then we visited Sister Jackson. She's the daughter of Gladys and she is amazing too! Man she shared her conversion story and it was cool to see how prepared she was. She's 50, but with the light in her eyes you'd think that she's 30. She gets the gospel. It’s awesome to talk with those who do the simple things and see and feel the blessings of the Spirit in their life. She asked us if we have any black investigators because she wants to help teach them.

That's the spark notes of the week. It's been great. Writing this email I kinda realized how many great examples I get to serve, serve with, and who serve me. I want to be like so many of these people because they are like the Savior.
He lives.
Life is good.
I love you all so much!
Sam

Monday, November 4, 2013

Arrugala

Dearest family,
It's always hard to start writing.
There are so many things I want to talk about and never ever enough time and it’s hard to choose something to start on.
It's been a good week, as they all are. 

MONDAY! We had a good day. It was p-day and it went fairly normal. We ate with Severina which was good. Brother Odulio taught us some science and religion stuff. Like what it means to have your eyes opened and stuff, dealing with the speed and wavelength of light and things like that. It was well thought out but pretty complicated. Brother Odulio or Brodulio is super cool. He studies a ton and has great methods for recording his studies which makes a huge difference. That was pretty much all that happened on Monday. We tried to get some lessons in but nothing went through. That was pretty much the theme of the week, for one reason or another we couldn't get too many lessons. But this next week is going to be a different deal. That night we started exchanges with the Spanish district district leader, Elder Puga. Elder Puga is from Mexicali, Mexico and is one of the most humble people I have ever met. He's a soft spoken and loves everyone.

TUESDAY! Elder Puga and I stayed in Montebello West, my first area, and I loved it. It was good to see my old area again. In the morning we went out with this super driven sister. She drove in front of us and we followed her around to go knock on the doors of all her friends to invite them to things. It was pretty cool. She was really excited and faithful that we would get in somewhere and be able to start teaching some of her friends. It was kind of sad though because I could barely keep up with her Spanish. I've definitely lost some of my ability to speak since leaving a Spanish area. Don’t tell me, I know I need to do language study but ES and I usually skip language study and lunch to have extra proselytizing time ... ugh. Idk. I feel guilty okay?? But it was cool to be out with her. Her husband had just gotten baptized and ever since then she has been on a roll, inviting and inviting and inviting. It’s cool to see members flip the switch and jump into the work with both feet. I'd love to get back in that old area and get out and get it done. After a little time with that member we moved on to visiting some potential investigators. We knocked on the door of one of them and her son answered the door and said "No, she's not here, but would you like some lemonade?" a little taken back we said yes and this young man invited us in. We sat on his couch while he made us lemonade and then he asked us to share a message with him. It was crazy, but super cool. So Elder Puga and I taught a lesson right there. It was pretty powerful because the guy was a recovering addict but didn't know if he could stay clean for long. He said he knew he'd always be an addict and so it was a great chance to testify of the Savior and his Atonement. He invited us to come back every day. It was pretty cool. I haven't followed up to see what happened to him. If people will open their hearts the Gospel can work miracles in their lives. I've seen it firsthand. What was super cool is next we stopped in with Jovita! She's the greatest. Rewind real quick, last December we set up her marriage and that was great and special and then a few days before Elder Bennett and I got transferred we talked to her about getting baptized. She was excited but not ready for a date yet. (She'd been investigating for 9 years but just never got married so she could never get baptized.) But then after we got DT'ed out the new missionaries went by and reported that she said that she never wanted to get baptized and she didn't even like going to church, which had always upset me because it sounded so farfetched. Jovita came more faithfully than a lot of members. So anyway, Elder Puga said we could stop in and see her. After those first missionaries that followed  me wrote that no one really went by because it sounded like a waste of time. We get there and her husband seemed to vaguely remember me and invited us in. I only talked to the husband a few times. But Jovita came in and remembered me and that made me feel so good. She even remembered where I was from. That really touched my heart. Sidetrack -- because of the transiency of missionaries here and the sheer amount, people often just see us as missionaries and not really as people. It really means a lot for me when people remember my name w/o looking at my tag and even more when they remember things about me. Simple things like that really bring a lot of happiness to me, as well as brown paper packages tied up with string. Anyway again, so it was cool to talk to her after so long and we saw that there was some confusion because she had no idea why the elders stopped coming by. She used to feed us and stuff. My thoughts are pretty scattered but that’s mostly because of how excited I am for her. We talked about her getting baptized and stuff which was good. Elder Puga set up another appointment for later in the week. I pray with all my heart that everything can get worked out and she can be baptized. I also got to see the families of a few others of my investigators remembered me which was cool. I love all those people so much. We taught quite a few lessons which was good. I like teaching. In Spanish was a little bit of a challenge but it was refreshing and I'd forgotten how different it is. We taught two different people who were actively reading the Book of Mormon and they were both powerful. I believe that the BoM can bring real spiritual power into our lives. I've felt it in my own. That was pretty much the majority of the day. Later in the evening we taught a lesson in a tiny apartment and it was freezing and the family only had a space heater. It was humbling. My heart is always so full in situations like that. I live a wonderful life. 

WEDNESDAY! It was MLC again. It's such an intimidating experience to be there in a room full of such great missionaries and leaders. Although I look up to Elder Slik more than anyone but President Neider, it’s a big deal to sit in council with these great elders and sisters. Again a humbling experience.  We learned about some interesting things. President warned us that with our rise in success the angels in heaven would take notice and send aid, but the powers of the world and the adversary would also take notice. It was pretty ominous and very interesting. We learned about two things: talking with everyone and asking inspired questions. They seem like pretty simple missionary techniques but they are difficult to master and it was an answer to my prayers because both are things that I have been focusing on lately. In the morning I got kicked in the calf and was having trouble walking for the rest of the week. I'm fine now though. We taught a lesson to Stephanie. Her boyfriend had returned and we could both tell that it was affecting her, she was pretty distant and wasn't as receptive as she usually is. I'm not sure all the details but he brings a lot of stress and lately Stephanie has been stressing out a lot to the point of being sick. It's sad. It’s funny though, when the stress was off she was reading and praying and feeling the Spirit and being always cheerful but when the stressors returned she stopped and things started to overwhelm her. As Elder Ellis of the Seventy describes it, it’s like stepping out of the shelter when the tornado comes close. The hard times are when we need prayer and study of the scriptures the most. I know it’s been how I've (recently) gotten through the hard times. We visited an old woman who turned 91. She was old, but really nice. Our dinner cancelled and the Spanish elders called at about the same time and told us that Jovita had made us dinner so we went over there and she had made us tacos. It made me super happy and Elder Slik got to meet her and we had a nice Spanish dinner which was good because we hadn't been to a Spanish dinner together for a very long time. Not since exchanges like four months ago. We then went to our BV ward Halloween party. It was pretty crazy full. We must have had 2x as many people at the party as we have at church. It made me pretty sad. Free food will get the people out to anything but they always have excuses to come to church. But it was good that we got to serve and fellowship with these people. We talked to lots of people and it was good to see people bringing their friends out to stuff. 

HALLOWEEN! This morning we went to the DRs office for Elder Slik's ear and they gave him tons of scrips and drugs. It’s feeling a little better now which is good because he doesn’t say it a lot but I could tell that it was causing him a lot of pain. We went to the office to for some other business with the zone. Then we took a couple hours to prepare our Zone Training Meeting. We talked to a lot of people on the street. It felt good to go searching them out. We had a lesson at the Z's house about repentance. It was an interesting situation.
I'll do my best to explain the Z family. Sister Z is in her late 40's. She has four children. Monique 27, Robert 25, Jazmine 22 , and Jamal 21. Monique lives a few apts down and the other three kids live with her.  She is married to Michael who is 25. Robert's girlfriend, Starr, lives there. Danielle who is one of Robert's exs just moved out like yesterday but spends the majority of her time there. Monique has two kids with her bf and her bf's brother lives there with them. Robert, Starr, Danielle, Byron (Monique's bf) and Dante (Byron's brother) are all non members. We have taught lessons to all of them. Jazmine is pregnant. It’s a crazy situation. I don’t really want to go over all the drama though. I can better explain all that in 2 years when I get back. I love that family so much. They are less active but all want to be active in the church but it’s hard for lots of reasons. 
After that lesson we went to the big stake Halloween party (the same one I went to last year with Elder Campbell) weird huh? Elder Slik and I had a great time talking with people and we got to be on the panel of judges for the pie contest. I was pretty harsh, Gordon Ramsey status. I talked with a non member from Michigan for a few minutes but he was totes not interested. 

FRIDAY! This morning we picked up Elder Pesci, one of the APs, so he could come to our ZTM and give suggestions. We gave a pretty good meeting. It was all centered around each companionship preparing themselves and their areas to baptize monthly. It's a promise from President Neider that we can, it just takes a lot of consistent work. All the areas have that potential but they have to be ... cultivated properly and that can sometimes take time to build things back up. We had way more time to prepare than the last one and things went well. I know that anyone listening received new ideas to improve upon, I know I did. While waiting for a scrip to be filled ES and I went to Wingstop, another blast from the past. We taught Toni which went super well. She committed to be baptized on November 30th and she seems pretty set on that date. We gave Brother Tobler a blessing. Man I love that guy. Severina had a birthday party and that was fun to be at. So. Much. Food. She's great tho. Idk if I mentioned this prior but she used to be a nun. DANG! Vicky, the friend of Sister Marx, we taught her and it went so well. She's the most gold and we had another incredibly powerful lesson with her about the Restoration. She said that the First Vision erased all her doubts and she knows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It was cool. The Spirit was really strong in there and I was edified. Her husband doesn’t want her to be baptized but it seems like he's softening up a little bit. I've been praying and fasting so much for her. She is such an amazing person. At the end of the lesson she offered her first vocal prayer and it was a cool experience to hear her talking with our Father in Heaven. It was kind of like a baby taking its first steps towards the open arms of a father or mother. I’m not insinuating in any way that I'm spiritually more mature than she, but in the eyes of a bystander, that's what it felt like. Her commitment brought the Spirit very strong.

SATURDAY! Right as we began personal study, our bishop called us and asked us to drive across the zone to open up the stake center and fill the baptismal font. So we packed up and went and filled the font for the baptism of a child of record. I was really glad I went. It was a special experience and a lot of the ward participated. I felt the Spirit strongly. I know that the authority to perform sacred ordinances, such as baptism for the remission of sins, was lost for centuries, but has now been restored. We then drove across the complete other side of the stake to deliver something to some missionaries and there we 'caught' some missionaries doing things they know they shouldn't do. We didn't say anything but within moments they dispersed and went their separate ways. It was interesting to see them all so ashamed, it was almost like we could see their tails tucked between their legs as they shuffled away. It was a total accident that we ran into them but I'm glad that things got broken up. We had quite a few appointments set up but all of them fell through and none of our backups were very fruitful. We went later in the evening to teach Toni the word of wisdom and it was a really good lesson. She committed to stop drinking tea which was cool. We will be following up on that with her throughout the next weeks. We stopped in to see Stephanie because she was sick and we wanted to deliver a movie but Andre opened up the door and invited us right in. He likes us a lot. I like him too. He's so real, and so brutal, but so loving in the same way. It's odd. I can tell he trusts us and few others. Those were really the highlights of Saturday.

SUNDAY! We had a good fast. We prayed and fasted for new investigators and that night Dante told us he wants to be baptized, but from the beginning. Ward Council in BV was interesting. ES got kinda frustrated because we weren’t getting too much accomplished. Quite a few people showed up to church which made us pretty happy. One inactive member of the ward passed away and his family and friends all came for their support. His mom got up and bore an interesting testimony. The gist was that she knew the church was true she just didn't come. She's always known but she's let other things get in the way. Idari, Toni's son bore his testimony with help from Brother Tobler and that was pretty cute. We had a lesson with Tyrone and he shared with us how his questions were being answered and how he was feeling the Spirit. He has had a complex life and I'm so glad we've gotten to meet him and serve him. I've seen a large difference in him since we started teaching him,. We talked to a guy who went from not interested to asking us to call him later to set up a time to come by. That was pretty cool. We taught a lesson to the whole Z clan minus a few that was really cool. It was about prayer and it felt good to teach a whole big family like that. Dante committed to pray to know if he should be baptized. He will probably be next month. We'll see how that goes. Then that night we went to a stake missionary meeting. It is interesting to be in all the different meetings we take part in. Sare really effective and some are less effective and some end up as masked arguments. It's definitely a learning experience about time management and leadership skills. I want to be able to run an effective council/meeting, but it seems to be a hard skill to master. One day. That night we saw Andre leaving as we were going in the for the night and we talked to him. That guy has had a crazy past. He's done some pretty crazy things. "I'm not all about the guns. I don't like ‘em" and because of that he's like a choice bodyguard in the clubs because they can’t confiscate his fists. I like the guy but I don’t understand why he'd ever have to fight anyone. I wanna run just looking at him. 

Boom. That's the week in a nutshell.
I love life.
I'm pretty lucky.
I love you all so much!
Sam