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Monday, December 9, 2013

Walkin’ in a winter wonderland

It's pretty cold here in Vegas.
Yeah, yeah I know that other places it’s like below 0 and such but I think I've acclimated to the temperature here. It's odd. Forty degrees feels like my nose is going to fall off. Everyone gives me a hard time because I’m from Michigan where it gets 'really cold' but I still am freezing up here. But it's all good. With my gloves and sweater and stuff I’m all set. 

I must say, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, minus the snow. Lights and decorations are going up and people are talking about it. Finals are coming up and the stores are getting busier. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

I have a lot to be thankful for. I couldn't possibly list all the blessings I’ve received but they are many. 
To name a few though! 
I’m grateful for the Savior. This morning I was overwhelmed as I read from the New Testament of the breadth of the Atonement. Christ truly felt my paper cuts and he felt the pain of losing a loved one. And everyone's everything in between. He suffered and he can help us. It's hard to express what that means without sounding redundant. But when he said he descended below all things he meant it. And he can carry us when we don't think we can anymore. He loves us a lot. So I'm thankful to my big brother for that one.
I'm grateful to be serving him. There is so much joy in the work. I've seen miracles as people's hearts have changed. Mine has. We get to watch as people grab the rod and are able to pull themselves up onto stable ground. For all the work I do for others, I’m the one who benefits the most. I'm grateful for the Restoration. What a glorious time to be alive, when the priesthood is on the earth and we have a prophet who guides and warns us. We don't have to live in darkness. There are answers to the questions we have. I'm grateful for inner peace. 
I feel like as missionaries we don't do very much. Like don't get me wrong, we bust our butts to find and help the 'one soul' (see D&C 18:15). But we do what we can but everyone loves us so much. More than we ever deserve. I'm grateful for that. So many people have really taken us in as their own. Really cared for us and loved us.
I'm grateful to all you troopers reading this right now. :)

Anyway. That's all a long way to say that life is good and that I’m happy. I wish the world was as happy all the time as they are at Christmastime. What if we were always friendly and serviceable and gift giving and family oriented? 

It's been a good week. Lots happened. Spark notes attached free of charge.
MONDAY! Remember how when I was in the MTC I talked a lot about how the days felt like weeks and the weeks felt like days? It's kinda the opposite and kinda not. Last Monday feels like a year ago. I did a double take when reading my journal entry. But the days go so fast. I think it just feels like so long ago because so much has gone on this week. I remember before I left people telling me not to worry because "it'll go by fast." Curse them all. Time flies far too fast. But anyway. The highlight was going to the Magdaluyo's home to teach a lesson to Robert, our newest, solid investigator. We've found others but they aren't "low hanging fruit" as Brother Mag describes him. Anyway. Robert is a half Japaneese man about the same age as Dad. He doesn't come from a strong Christian background but he has a lot of faith and he has grown up with members of the church for practically his whole life. We met him on Thanksgiving. He's a really bright guy, quiet, funny and humble. We sat around in the Mag's living room and discussed the Restoration. He openly told us at the frontend of the lesson that he thinks the Book of Mormon is true and that he has a testimony of prayer. That's what we love to hear. We taught the doctrine and he understood. When we were talking about prophets he said that it only makes sense that we would have another prophet. I wish everyone thought like that. A lot of our time is spent with people explaining that principle. God has always called prophets to guide his church. We aren't saying that Joseph Smith was anything more than that, a prophet. He was a modern day Jeremiah, or Noah, or Moses. He just is part of the grand pattern of God's plan for his children. But so we taught Robert and it was a great lesson. Brother and Sister Magdaluyo were great, just humble, happy people, living good lives and being good examples. I love that family. Robert has a lot of real intent and he understands the role of the Book of Mormon and the Holy Ghost in coming to know the truth of what we shared with him. His prayer really touched my heart. It was simple and sincere: really asking God to let him know that what he heard was true. :)

TUESDAY! He had a great day. We did some errands for the Zone in the morning and then in the afternoon we visited members and referrals. The first place we visited was pretty interesting. It is a great, great family who is only less active because they have no fellowship/ their home teachers aren't doing their assignments. Nice people still with a testimony, it is just collecting dust. True, they should be coming on their own, but with a little help they could grow a lot. With them, the littlest bit could go such a long way. That's true for a lot of people. But they were really nice. They liked video games a lot. Since Elder Slik and I cared about these people we were able to talk with (mostly just listen to their stories and then about their video games) them and pray with them and really lift their spirits in such a simple way. It was pretty funny though - they were talking to us about all these video games and stuff and the woman loads up Zelda on the new Wii and hands it to me and is like "see its super fun, try it out!" It wasn't really a temptation to play and it was easy put it down but it was kinda funny. Now that I'm writing this I sound super video game trunky. I'm not. But it was funny to just feel how different things are now that I'm a missionary. Ugh. I sound dumb. Anyway. Then we followed up on this referral and the girl was so happy that we went by. She invited us in right then. She was like a 20 year old college girl so we had to decline and set up another appointment. It was cool though. It was the referral that I think I talked about last week. The member was super tense in giving it to us. But the girl, after we left, texted the member and was sooo excited. It was funny. Twenty minutes after leaving, our member texted us saying, "You two are the best!" That made us feel really good and it strengthened my testimony of member missionary work. It was hard but everyone was happy. So anyway. We visited Sister Rosser, who I think is the coolest. She's so smart and just so real. She also loves helping. She gets on our case when we don't let her serve us. I want to have an attitude more like that for the rest of my life. We saw Tyrone for a bit. Then we had a weird experience where we visited an old couple in the ward that I visited with Elder Taetakua a year ago. I have weird dejavu a lot here. We had a really good visit with Toni when she told us all about her time in the hospital and her experiences with getting a blessing. She was really stressed because of her son. She told us all these problems he's been causing. Dang. It was nuts. God gives us commandments for a reason. Then that night we went out with Chris Marx to go see a new part member family. We had a great lesson. The wife got very emotional as she told us how she wants to come back to church because she wants her daughters to be raised with Christ as the center of their lives and so they don’t have to go through all of the hard things that she had to go through. Her daughters were crying too. I don't like it when girls cry. But it was really a good lesson. And a good experience for Chris to see how much this means to others and to help him recognize what a blessing it has been in his life. We had a great lesson with Stephanie too. It’s funny. We don't even bring up baptism but she talks about it because she's always praying and reading the BoM. She told us that she's "ginna surrender," referring to baptism. She says that she knows that the Lord wants her to get baptized but she's just being stubborn. It was pretty funny. Stephanie is such a great woman. But she's going through such a hard time. I wish we could do more but I’m grateful to the members of the church who do so much to serve those around me.

WEDNESDAY! We had Mission Leadership Council. It was really good. It was largely focused on the scriptures which I liked. How we could use them more often and more powerfully in our lessons. Those were the two trainings we received. Then we had a cool time to counsel with the other leaders about what to do to help our zones. I like counseling. It's a powerful experience. We had most of our appointments fall through but we had good backups to still get things done and be effective. MLC is awesome. I'd talk more about it but there's no time.

THURSDAY We drove a missionary down to Henderson for his doctor appointment. It was weird being back in my old area. It's almost like I never left even though it’s been like three months already. We had a great lesson with Norma. She's the one whose brother committed suicide and she referred herself after Gladys Knight. She cancelled the last lesson but this one was powerful again. We brought Rigdon who knew her brother and Sister Faught who is like super mom. Both were able to connect better to Norma than we ever could. She shared with us how the Plan of Salvation pamphlet and things she was reading on lds.org and what people were telling her about our beliefs were helping her to feel at peace. She had a lot of questions so it was hard to explain properly that the peace she was feeling was the Spirit telling her it was true. It's difficult. She has real intent but she has so many questions is hard to present the doctrine effectively so she will make commitments. She's really a special and prepared investigator but we have to set the expectations. Not that we will talk and be teachers but that full understanding will come with time. Teaching effectively is hard work but it makes a big difference. Anyway.  Then we saw the clan. It's hard to go there because they just aren’t doing anything to change their situation. Even Rigdon recognized that it's draining. Just because we give them all we have spiritually and they are content to sit and do nothing all day. After that we took a lot of time to plan for our ZTM. It’s very different team training than doing a solo thing like for a district meeting. Then we had another lesson with Robert that night. We talked about the Book of Mormon and he told us that he prayed and felt peace from God. Boom. Simple experiences like that are so powerful. Those are the foundation of testimony. See D&C 6: 22-23. After he shared that with us, we invited him to be baptized and he committed to do so! Wahoo! It's always the most exciting to invite new people because they either commit or we quickly discover their concerns and know where to go from there. 

FRIDAY! We had our ZTM which went really well. Not perfectly according to plan, but things went well. We went to see Toni and we talked to her about baptism and it was good. You could just tell how excited she was. She told us that Satan made her sick last week and he tried to do it again this week but she wasn’t letting him! She's funny and we love her a lot. We had some other good lessons. We went to both our ward's Christmas parties. They were verrrrry different. It's interesting to see that kind of juxtaposition in two wards that are kitty corner to each other. Both were good times to mingle with the members. Oh and we also got a picture with Santa!
Slik, Santa, and Sam
SATURDAY! Wow. Today was a crazy day. I was severely humbled this morning. Not in the ways that I usually am either. A member of our FH ward, Brother Cotner, called President Neider and got permission to take Elder Slik and me to the mall to buy us new suits and shoes. Both of ours were really beat up from use. It was one of the nicest things I've ever had done for me. I don't think I've had a new suit before and I've never had any shoes that nice. It was crazy. Then we went to the chapel to fill the font and set up the room. We had two back to back baptisms and the room was packed for both of them, like 80 people. It was awesome! I've never seen a crowd like that before. We were pretty happy.
Toni and Idary's baptism
Toni and Idary and then Bailey. Bailey was a kid I met a year ago with the zone leaders. When Idary got baptized he inhaled a bunch of water and that freaked him out. Also when he did he kicked a foot out of the water. So that was a little bit of a new experience. He ran up onto the women’s side and we couldn't even get him to cross over the water to get onto the men’s side. He was totally immersed so bishop said it was okay but Idary said real loud, “I'm never getting baptized again.” It was cute. After he was dry and changed he was all smiles though. Then we ate with the Jewitt’s. I love them. Such a cool family. Sister Jewitt told us some of her theories about education and schools. She said that because of the ways schools are going more and more children are not understanding or liking math. She says that math is truth. There are no theories or hypotheses. It's about solving and proving with facts. She said that because kids aren’t learning math they aren’t learning to understand truths, and absolutes. So it makes facts less valuable in children’s minds. It's hard to explain but she explained it well. I’ll try one more time. Math is absolute facts. It doesn’t change. Schools are having problems. Kids don't like math. They don't learn it. Because they don't learn math, they don't believe in absolutes and question truth. Ugh. Google it. Then after that we did a blessing on a woman’s home. A while ago we set up an appt with a woman for Friday but we totally spaced it. We didn’t think it was big deal bc she didn't seem too interested.  Saturday morning she called us and asked why we didn't come by! We were super taken aback bc that's never happened to either of us. So that night we went by and prayed with her and her family. It was cool. Then we met with Susana, that referral we contacted on Tuesday. She's pretty cool. She asked us a ton of questions about missionary life and she accepted the invitation to take the lessons. We’ll see how it goes!

SUNDAY! Church was good. We coordinated. We watched the devotional. Tyrone invited a friend to church and Sunday night we had a good lesson with him. He was super interested and he said that now he knows we don’t worship aliens. He only knew us by the title “Mormons” and he "had no idea what a 'Mormon' was." He was cool and shared his life story with us. He said he really felt the difference at church and he wanted to have that peace in his life. It was cool.

Life's good.
Sorry that I kinda tapered off at the end.
No time.
I love you all so much!
Sam
PS. Merry Christmas!!!!


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