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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

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