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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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