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Monday, February 24, 2014

DELAWARE STRIKES AGAIN

Well, well, well.
It's been a good week. I love Elder Wendt. He's awesome. He's unlike any of my other companions that I've had. But I feel that he's a lot like me. And we're a lot different. Point is - he's a good guy. We've had a good first week together. Here's what I know about him: Elder Samuel Wendt is from Bear, Delaware. He's skinny and about my height. He has short brown hair. He likes to wear sunglasses and a coat. He ties his ties a little above the belt. He plays the piano and the saxophone. He likes the band We Came As Romans a lot. He's quiet but very, very observant. He's been out for about 17 months. His favorite things to say are  " 'mer'ca " (America) and "to each his own." He's 21 years old and is the 2nd of 5 children. When he grows up he sees himself designing Corvettes. His favorite food is spaghetti. He doesn’t like chocolate or ice cream.

That's about it.



MONDAY! Our appointments fell through but we saw Sister T. (the one from forever ago) walking on the street and she was super excited to see us. She said that she wanted to give me a hug. That was nice. We talked for like 10 minutes and she invited us over the next day for dinner! It was good to talk to her and it was nice that she remembered my name. It was cool. It was cool how we found her because we went a way we wouldn’t normally go but we felt like we needed to go that different way. It turned out pretty well for us. Then we went to the Mag's house for another one of Robert's new member lessons. It was awesome; no spectacular manifestations of the spirit, but it was a good family experience. We just sat in a circle and discussed the Plan of Salvation. Bishop Remer led the discussion. It felt really good. It was the new member in the home of the member fellowshippers with another recent convert there and then the bishop and his wife and the home teacher. Sitting there I really felt that that is how it is supposed to go. Too often the new member lessons don’t get taught and if they do it's because the missionaries do it themselves. Just participating in the process of Robert's conversion has really helped me to grow so much. It's raised my vision and my expectations.



TUESDAY! Transfers. It was a crazy day, but a good one. I got to meet Elder Wendt and then I went to the district leader training meeting. It was super good. I learned a lot and it helped remind me of what I'm supposed to do as a district leader, how to really help the missionaries progress. It was at the mission office so I got to see a few of the departing missionaries. Like Elder Ledezma and Elder Bishop. I love both those guys. It was nice to have one last talk with them before they go off to Mexico and Michigan. Our lessons in the afternoon fell through which was a good first impression of the area for EW. We had a crazy lesson with Deshon. He and his sister had tons of questions. Good ones, but ones that were difficult to answer. EW and I hadn’t had time to really prepare for the lesson so we just spent the time answering questions. It was good. The T. family cancelled because of church obligations.



WEDNESDAY! We had district meeting. I forgot how much work goes in to preparing a good district meeting. It's hard but exciting and fun all at the same time. I've got a sharp district, lots of potential. We visited a less active man in the ward in the afternoon. He's a good guy. He's pretty much less active as he says because his wife died. We taught a cool new family. It was a single mom and her two children. The family has been through a lot of hard times. They shared some of their stories with us and it was really sad. We talked about what blessings they want from the Savior and the mom and daughter started crying as they expressed their love for each other. It was a really touching experience. The daughter wanted her mom to not be sick and to be able to overcome her smoking problem. The mom wanted to quit smoking, to be a good example and to give her children a better life than she had. We talked about families and prayed with them. It was nice to hear. We gave a blessing to a less active guy. That was cool. Giving blessings is a super cool experience. Then we visited some members of the church to introduce Elder Wendt. That night I got to do a baptismal interview. It was awesome. I love, love, love that opportunity to talk with people about their conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It always strengthens me. 



THURSDAY! We visited some members in the morning. We went out with Brother Odulio and we talked to a lot of people. We went to the Marx's and talked with Vicki. She's awesome as well. I hope she gets a calling soon!  We then taught a mother and son about the Book of Mormon. It was cool. Both were interested but the son grasped the things really quickly. We would teach stuff and then he would explain the things to his mom. After hearing about the Apostasy and Restoration he said it was like the blueprint of the house. When the prophet is on the earth we can work off the blueprint, when there is no prophet we have to build without it. It was a pretty cool imagery. He's a smart kid and he said at the end of the lesson, "I think what you said is true. I’m glad there is a prophet." That was pretty neat. We then had a lesson with Suzie. She's great. But she's going through a hard time. She told her parents that she wanted to be baptized and they told her that she wasn’t allowed to while she was living in their home. She's 19. She asked why and they wouldn’t give her any reason. She came to the lesson really upset because apparently there has been tension all week about it. She said that she wants to get baptized soon but if not, as soon as she moves out she'll get baptized. Suzie is a really special girl. I'm sure I've said that many times, but whenever we talk to her or teach her I always think of John 10:4  "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." She just heard the voice of the Lord and she responded. I pray for her every day.



FRIDAY! We had a great weekly planning. We got things organized so that we can plan more effectively and more efficiently each night. It's cool. I'm proud of the organization that we have in the area. We set some companionship goals. We had a lesson with Deshon. We taught him the Plan of Salvation. He asked a ton of good questions and he committed to be baptized on 22 March. So we'll see where things go. Deshon is a really smart guy. He thinks a lot and he thinks deeply too. We had like 20 minutes between appointments so we decided to walk around the block and we felt that we should walk down a specific street. So we did and while there we talked to a part member family that had been looking to come back to church. They'd been feeling that they needed to get their kid into Primary. Then we showed up. She said they’d talked about the missionaries that morning. It was pretty cool. They invited us to come back the next day. It clicked right then why we work with part member families. So often I’ve talked to the families where the non member(s) weren't interested but the missionaries kept pushing and just made everyone mad. But in this family, the non-member was interested so we were welcomed. It seems stupid to type that out, but it was a big deal. It finally makes sense what we are supposed to look for when dealing with less actives and part member families. It's not our job to try to spend countless hours trying to convince people that they want to come back to church, we are to find those who are seeking the truth and ready to act. This new family definitely fit that category. I hope that doesn’t sound bad... We went top visit a referral we got... dang. It was a youth pastor who got super intimidated and started preaching to us. He like hardly stopped to breathe. His point was that the devil was real and that if you weren’t part of his church then you were following the devil. He was super excited and gung-ho about his church so it was interesting to hear him preach. We asked him what made his church different from all the others and he just got flustered and couldn't tell us. He just kept telling us that he knew the truth and that one-day we'd come and thank him for telling us. "One day you guys probably wont even be Mormons! You'll just come back to my church and thank me for telling you the truth and helping you find Jesus." We asked him repeatedly to tell us what "the truth" is. He couldn’t. It made me think about all the times I use the phrase "our message" or "the truth." Why talk about it when you could just explain what it is! I learned a lot by listening to him.



SATURDAY! I went to my 8th breakfast at President Jarvis' house. It was good. We saw Sister Thayer and her grandsons and we watched The Restoration with them. They're smart kids. We took Bishop Waite out with us to visit some people but no one was home. We had a good dinner with the Cotner’s. I'm grateful to have met people as generous as they are. They're a cute couple still. Then we visited some members. Then we visited that pmf [part member family] and taught them about the Restoration. It was super cute. The little daughter sat next to us and held the Book of Mormon and showed everyone the pictures. She also insisted that we play the telephone game when we were talking about the Apostasy. I had a pretty cool experience. We were teaching and it came to a point when I didn't know what to say. As I always do I said a little prayer in my heart and I had this unique feeling come over me that tons of people were praying for this family. His family is active and I think that her brother is a member. I'd never felt anything like that before but it was cool. My testimony of the gospel being about families and for families was strengthened. 



SUNDAY! We ordained Rigdon an Elder today. That was incredible. The Spirit was so strong. I think that everyone was crying. DESHON CAME TO CHURCH!!!! We haven’t had investigators to church in a long time and so that made me super happy. I went to a PEC in FH and I was blown away by how good Bishop Remer is. He just holds and directs effective councils focused on people and desired outcomes. I want to be a leader like him some day. We visited some members. 



It was a good week. It's always a different experience with a different companion. We'll see how things pan out this transfer. Whatever happens, I'm happy to be serving the Lord.

I love you all so much,

Sam

This is a picture of some members of the zone last transfer.


Monday, February 17, 2014

PITTSBURGH - THE FIFTH - HOLLE & LUKE

Well, well, well. It's been the most interesting week of my entire life. I can literally say that nothing has ever been like this one.
I can't properly explain over email though. But I've had a great time. The Lord has really been shaping me. I'm grateful for that. Things aren’t easy because if they were then we'd never grow. We should be grateful for the trials that God gives us.

MONDAY! We had an appt in the middle of the day, which threw everything off. It went okay. It was with a woman and she kept asking us tons of questions so it was hard to teach effectively. I really enjoy answering people’s questions because it is about the things that they are interested in. We had a kind of sad experience. We went to pick up one of our members who said he'd come out with us and we walked up to the home and it just reeked of weed. We could hear rap music blaring from inside. We knocked and he opened the door and we were just pummeled with the smell. The member's eyes were totally red and he just hazily looked at us and said "W’as up elders?" and then it hit him why we were there. He said he was really sorry and couldn't come right then because he was in the middle of getting a tattoo. He opened the door a little more and there was the artist at his table and his three little kids were running around the house. It was a crazy sight. He's someone who has been trying to go to the temple and stuff. We went to the Mag's to teach Robert the Restoration again with Brother and Sister Brown. All of the aforementioned people are awesome; such good examples. I'm grateful for all the righteous examples I've seen here in Vegas, people who are just dedicated to the Lord and their families. We went that night up to a taco stand on Main and Bonanza. It was so good, authentic, slightly sketchy, and completely delicious.

TUESDAY! Elder Janke gave his last district meeting and it was the best I've ever seen. I think it was exactly what the Brethren wanted. Focused on the fundamentals and a large amount of time to practice the skills we discussed. We had a sick appt with Nick. We had a super cool experience. He wasn't fully grasping what we were teaching because of the language barrier. Idk if I mentioned this, but Saturday before Elder Smith and Elder Murphy taught him how the Book of Mormon and the Bible go hand in hand. So we were trying to help him today understand why the Book of Mormon is important to us in our lives. He says "wait, wait" so he walks off into the other room and comes back and hands me a copy of the Book of Mormon. It's old. Covered in dust and in Romanian! 
"Nick, where did you get this???" 
“You gave it to me yesterday” 
"No, nick we didn't" 
“Yes you did” 
“Nick, this is dusty and in Romanian. The one we gave you was new in English.” 
“That one is in English.” 
“No, it's not. Look!” 
“OH! This is in Romanian! Where did I get this???” 
“We don't know, you tell us!"

It was crazy. It was if God had placed that Book of Mormon years ago in his home for that exact moment in time. He opened it up and started to read and you could just almost see the light bulb come on in his head. We had him start on the intro and we read along and he kept saying, “Oh I understand now! Oh!” Then he read Moroni 10:4-5. He felt the Spirit super strong. He said, “This is true. This is true. Thank you Jesus. I understand now.” He touched his heart and said, “It's full.” It was super cool. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that everyone would hear the gospel in his own tongue. We had dinner with the Thayer family and we taught her grandchildren the 10 commandments. That was fun. They loved learning them with the hand signs. We taught Deshon and Sassidy and their family about the Holy Ghost. It was a lot of fun. They are super, super cool. We have a really good relationship with that family, kinda like Amelia and Leo. I just hope that they get baptized... 

WEDNESDAY! We visited some of the older families in the ward and talked with them about the work and stuff. It went well. We visited one family who was so, so sweet and gave us tons of life advice. I loved it. Advice from old people is like gold. Their hindsight is a lot greater than mine. We saw Brother Taylor and he showed us his ward's new mission plan and it was awesome. It's a four-week member missionary class, kinda like weekly district meetings for small groups of members during Sunday school. It seems awesome. It is based off of Clayton Christensen's book and another class like it done in Maine that had 80 baptisms or something like that in a year. It's pretty sick. We then went to Sister Rosser and made root beer batter onion rings. We then went and taught Nick again. We read the Book of Mormon with him and he loved it. He just might not be ready to progress right now because of his circumstances. He watches his mother in law so he can’t leave the house and he has no job because of that. It’s a sad, sad situation. We had dinner with the Bunts family. I like Brother Bunts a ton. He's a good guy. We played bball with the sons of one of our investigators and that was pretty fun. They schooled Elder Smith and me though, hahaha. We visited members and set up a lot of appts.

THURSDAY! We saw a lot of members in the morning. We saw a ton of juxtaposition, hoarders to minimalists. Peace to insanity. We taught Nick again. He's so, so stressed and we want him to read and pray and do all these things but all he can think about is surviving and keeping his mother in law alive. We saw Toni and talked to her and encouraged her to ask for a calling because she feels like she isn't growing anymore. We saw Jenny who is the daughter of a less active and had an amazing lesson. She's been searching for answers about where her husband is because he died a year ago. She's searched many religions and she doesn’t feel like any of them have taught her the truth. We talked about the Plan of Salvation and about eternal families and she cried and cried and cried. She's a good woman and she wants answers. The Spirit really spoke to her there. It was touching. Then we taught Suzie. Oh man. Everyone was crying. We watched a Mormon message and then Suzie told us how she knows the church is true and she wants to be baptized but she wants to do it with her family. We all encouraged her. She said that it makes her sad to go to church with her family because she said that they just go out of obligation. Suzie is so special, strong spirit. She's going to institute, going to church, reading the Book of Mormon, praying, all of it.  After that, we went out with Mike and he shared some spiritual experiences with us. That was cool.

FRIDAY! We talked to a ton of people. We sent out a bunch of referrals. I love doing that. Whenever I get a referral I'm so happy, so when I think about all the others that get referrals, it makes me happy to think about. Rigdon got his call! We had dinner with Brother Deleon. That was good. He makes bomb food. Thinking about the quality and quantity of the food, dang, it would have been a $100 dinner. Then we went and taught Jenny the Restoration. The lesson was all over the place because she was so curious.  She just wants to find out where her husband is, and what God wants her to do to raise her daughter. It's inspiring. She felt the Spirit super strong as we taught her about Joseph Smith and living prophets.

SATURDAY! We got our transfer doctrine. I’M STAYING IN BONANZA VIEW-FRENCHMAN HILLS for a 5TH TRANSFER!!!!! Whatttt???? Elder Smith is getting transferred to be the zone leader of the new Central/Sunrise zone. I'll be the new district leader and my new companion will be Elder Wendt. He's from Delaware, and I've had pretty good luck with Elders from Delaware. So things should be good :). We went to the Spanish DM it was good. We took out a ton of members. We had 11 appts., nine fell through. I have no idea why this happens so much here. It's crazy. Sure the people are flakey because of the circumstances but I've never had anything like this happen before. I think I need to improve the quality of my contacts so people want to be home more and so they are more accountable. We'll see how it goes. We saw Melissa and Bailey. We blessed a cool family's home ... in Spanish. Oh well. We taught a cool lesson outside to a mom. When we told her the Book of Mormon had the power to change her life you could tell that she felt it. Her eyes lit up. It's hard to describe it but it was cool. We visited some members. One of our appts flaked and then I saw GEORGE AND CYNTHIA??!?!?!!!! That was crazy we just passed them on the street and they flipped a u-turn and we talked for like 30 mins. That was crazy! I was so happy to see them. Then we went to the German family's house (from Montebello) and I saw LUKE AND HOLLE!!!! Formerly Elder Alvarez and Sister DeSpain respectively!!!
Luke and Elder Anderson (photo courtesy of Luke Alvarez)
I was so happy to see them. We talked for a long time. The Lord knew we had a hard day so he put both of those people in my path. Luke and Holle and Elder Slik are like people that I would consider close friends. I was ecstatic. Although they did say to me – “Elder Anderson, we can't wait till you get home!” That was hard to hear. But it made me feel loved.
(photo courtesy of Luke Alvarez)

SUNDAY! We had church which was good. Then we went and had a few appt's. Then we had dinner with the Iverson's.
Elder Smith and Elder Anderson at the Iverson's
They are awesome. They make me feel loved. I'm grateful for them. Just the fact that they accept me makes me feel good. Then Rigdon opened his call. He's going to Pittsburgh!!! I'm so proud of him. He's going to have a great time.
 


Okay that's all the time I've got.  
Life is good. I'm happy where I'm at and with what I'm doing. 
I love you all so much 
Sam

Monday, February 10, 2014

In a galaxy far, far away

What up homies?
I’m really grateful for the power of conversion. I've felt it in my life. I wrote a little bit about my goals last week and this week I’ve been thinking about how my heart is little by little becoming more turned to others. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says that to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole duty of man. I'm not wholly there yet, but it's something I want more than I did last week and more than I did last year. I can feel the changes within myself. I won’t preach about how awesome I am, but It's nice to know that I am changing. It's more than just my behavior. I have undergone a change of my nature. That is the Atonement in my life; the power to change my heart.

People have said some nice things to me this week. Compliments are an amazing tool the Lord has given us to "lift up the hands which hang down" and to strengthen the feeble knees. I've felt that this week. Through us the Lord can lift others. Sometimes it seems like people know just the right thing to say to cheer you up. I have grown so much in my appreciation for sincere compliments. When they are heartfelt they can be something to lean on and push us forward. When I was a district leader in one of our trainings they talked about the importance of complimenting those in our stewardship. It came to me that the compliment wasn't then end goal, love is; for us to express it and for the missionaries to feel it. Compliments are just a means of expressing that care and respect. If you compliment insincerely then it's kinda like bearing false witness. So I decided that I knew I needed to compliment people but in order to do so I needed to develop love for the people first. Moroni 7: 48 is true. Charity is a gift from God, as we ask for it, He will give it to us. I guess that's a long way of saying that I feel good when people say nice things to me and mean it.

Life is good out here in Vegas. Things are warming up and the work is moving forward.  
RIGDON GETS HIS CALL THIS WEEK! Oh baby!
But that's enough of that. Let's get down to the nitty gritty.

MONDAY! We had a great lesson with Deshon. I can't remember if I talked about him last week. He's black and in a wheelchair. He's really smart and thinks a lot. We blessed his apartment last week and that went well and he and his family really felt the Spirit. They are some of those people that you can tell really recognize us as representatives of the Lord. We went and taught him the Restoration very simply and he grasped it very well. I think it's because of his deep knowledge of the bible and his humility. We invited him to be baptized and he said that as soon as he felt that this was true he'd be baptized. That was super exciting. We talked about authority and he asked some great questions. Anyone who reads the BoM and is humble enough to ponder it's message and ask God if it is true will come to know that it is. I know I say that frequently, but it's because it's something that I really believe. I know it's true and that God wants everyone else to know that as well. We then went to the Mag's and taught Robert about the priesthood because he'd be getting it the following Sunday. That went well too! The Magdaluyos are such great people

TUESDAY! We spent the afternoon with Rigdon. We always have such a good time with him. I'm very excited for him to get his mission call this week. He's in for an incredible experience. I'm very grateful for the good relationship we have with him and I really hope that we've been a good example to him and that our influence will help him We went in the morning to Brother Odulio's house to do some coordination and there we talked about how to help the ward "catch the wave" and he and the Egans told us some cool stories about experiences with the Book of Mormon. I like the Egans a lot. They are solid people and really good examples to me. I want to be like them when I grow older. We went to visit a family that had said we could come back but weren't there when we went by and so we were pretty sure they weren't interested. We went by with the intention of seeing whether or not they were interested in our message; we knocked and the man invited us in right then to teach them! It was crazy, I was so surprised. There I was bracing myself for rejection and I get invited in right then. We set a time for the return appointment and the mother asked if her daughter could be allowed to sit in the next lesson. We graciously accommodated her request hahaha. Then we went to Deshon's house and taught him and his whole family the Restoration in more detail. They're an awesome family. They have a lot of faith and want to grow closer to the Lord.  Deshon expressed to us that he's been seeking God and he feels that this is the path he has been looking for. We had dinner with a less active family, great, great people but it's a single mom and she's a convert of a few years and she has like 5 kids to take care of and it's hard for her to keep things going stable enough in the home to go to church. It's families like that that have shown me the importance of home and visiting teaching. She just needs a little support. All of our appointments cancelled that night. We get so many cancellations. We've been thinking a lot about it. We're being obedient and trying our hardest but we have like an average of about 25 missed appointments a week. Sometimes the investigators are smoking weed and don’t wanna hear about God, sometimes they went to jail earlier that day, sometimes they are hiding in the house and other times their family randomly showed up in town. Our area is very, very small and the majority of the people we find are those who we talk to on the street. We spend a lot of time in the apartments and the thing about them is two of the complexes are like the projects so the lifestyle of a lot of the people we meet is not very conducive to keeping appointments and feeling the Spirit. So we don't feel like it's our fault, we just have to be extra persistent. After we couldn't make anything happen we visited the Iverson’s. I like them a lot. They are like my family away form home.

WEDNESDAY! MLC was today from 8:45 – 4:30. It was a long meeting. All the DLs went to this one so it was a totally different feel. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. I always come out of those meetings with a renewed desire to be better and a clear vision of the many things I need to improve. I got to talk to Elder Slik which was nice. We sat by ourselves and talked about our areas and things. I'm grateful for his love and good example to me. Then we taught Joey. We've taught him three lessons. Like one a month for the past little while. He lives in Arizona and when he visits his girlfriend in our ward we teach him a lesson. We taught the Restoration and he committed to be baptized. It's always exciting to invite people to be baptized. Even now after doing it so much it's still a big deal. I've grown a lot in my confidence in it. Now I worry more about the members being surprised and offended than being rejected by investigators. We watched the Restoration movie with Deshon and his family and that was awesome. They all felt the Spirit as we sat and talked about the Savior together. They really like us a lot. It feels good to be respected and loved. They ask us a lot of questions about the Bible expecting that we know all the answers. They told us even before we invited them that they wanted to come to church. That night I got to do a baptismal interview. The man was so prepared. He probably knew more of the gospel than I did. He had read Jesus the Christ, The Miracle of Forgiveness, The Teachings of Thomas S. Monson and other church books, including the cannon of the scriptures. There are so many elect people in the world. It was crazy that in God's plan, I was the one who we assigned to interview this man. I felt like the roles should have been reversed. 

THURSDAY! Our six lessons flaked today. It could have been way worse though. It was still a good day. I'm very thankful for all the tougher many opportunities the Lord has given me. I've learned and grown so much. I'm learning to be patiently faithful and faithfully patient. I need to consistently do all I can and then trust in God that what happens is his will. Whenever a lesson or something falls through, other things almost always happen. We talk to someone new, or we get to help someone. Maybe the cancels are just us being redirected to the people who need us most!  In the morning we went to a member's home and they showed us a presentation about the Joseph Smith monument and how it was made. It was pretty cool. They had some really old pictures and a cool story about moving the 40 ton piece of granite to the site. Pretty neat stuff. Church history, both modern and ancient, fascinating to me. We used a lot of time to plan for our ZTM. That night we started an exchange with the APs. I went to the Bermuda ward with Elder Fuller.

FRIDAY! We got things started off with watching Green Valley's ZTM. I got to see Elder Slik again. He is such a good trainer. I've now sat in on eight of his zone training meetings. He's a good, good missionary. Elder Fuller and I had a great day. We talked to a ton of people and he gave me a lot of good suggestions for me and for my area. I'm grateful that people love us enough to guide us. The coolest part of the day was in the evening when we read the Book of Mormon with one of their investigators. The Spirit was there very strongly and she is one of those people that has been guided by God to be in the right place at the right time to hear the gospel. She was praying to find the path she wanted for her and that day as she was walking her dogs she met the missionaries in a part of their area that they didn’t usually go to, but because they had felt impressed to be there just then they met. It was a cool story. Seeking for truth and willing to listen and prepared to act. After the exchange ES and I stayed up till like 1am planning our ZTM.

SAUTRDAY! ZTM went okay. I've given better trainings. Then we taught Suzie and talked with her about baptism. She's doing really well but she's still not sure if she should be baptized. I've been praying a lot for her that we can see miracles like we saw with Vicki. We saw Deshon and had a good lesson with them. They said they wouldn't come to church that week because they all want to come together. Which is pretty cool I guess. Deshon asked us who is going to baptize him, which was pretty cool because he's been thinking a lot about it. It was a good lesson. We read the sacrament prayers and he and his mom were super into it.

SUNDAY! Church was good. Robert got the priesthood. Suzie came to church. We had a good afternoon even though all our lessons fell through. We talked to Melissa whose son's bike had just gotten stolen. She was totally ticked. We had dinner with the Martinez family. That was great. They are such good examples to me. I wanna be like Brother and Sister Martinez. We visited some people at night and set up quite a few lessons for the week. We also went to a stake missionary meeting, which was pretty cool. I like feeling important.

It was a great week overall. We got to teach which was good but not as much as we wanted to.  I am learning and growing. Life is really good. I hope that things aren't too cold back there. I find out about transfers this week. Saturday will be an interesting one. I think there is a chance that I could stay another transfer (which means I'll have spent a year in the central stake) and there is a chance I could leave. It's like 50/50. I feel good about the work we've done in the area. If I left I would feel confident that the Lord is proud of all the work I've done here and that I completed all He sent me here to do. It's a peaceful feeling to know that the Lord is proud of you; nothing else matters.
I love you all so much.
Hasta la vista
Sam

Monday, February 3, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

What up familia?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!
It's been a good week. 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

I think the biggest thing that happened was that I set a lot of goals for myself. I've been thinking a lot lately about goals. You can thank Elder Slik for that. Maybe it's because I did that job application a week ago, maybe it's because we didn't have as many appointments this week. Whatever the case I've really been counseling with the Lord about my goals for the future. It's been a great experience. 

Since I can remember my goal has been to be a father and to raise a righteous family. That was the extent of my life goals. Being out here has given me a new perspective and helped me see other things that will go into being a husband and father. The goals are simple. For example I want to be a 100 percent-er in home teaching. I never want to miss a month! I liked going with Dad, although I seldom did complain, and in college I slacked off and missed a few times. But now, being knee deep in God's work, I understand why He asks us to do it! It makes a difference into the eternities. Almost as confirmation of that goal yesterday in fast and testimony meeting a man got up and thanked his home teachers. He was less active (inactive) for 40 years. 40 YEARS. But because of the contact of his home teachers two years ago he got back into church. His grandchildren have been baptized and he changed his whole life around. He noted that they probably thought he'd never get active but they still reached out to him. Now he's in the Elders quorum presidency. That was just the most recent story. There are so many. Home Teaching is divine. 

Another goal I set is to read the Book of Mormon each year (at the very least once!) As my testimony of it has grown, and my understanding of it has deepened, I really see that it is the keystone of our religion. It is the evidence of the Restoration. If it is the word of God, then Joseph Smith was a prophet. I want to always be renewing and strengthening that testimony. 

Those are just two of my goals. I won't bore you with the rest of them. I recognize that I might sound crazy/ or like a diehard, but these things are important to me.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! MONDAY! Monday night I started a new journal. That was a new experience. I really felt accomplished flipping through the pages of the journal and looking at and thinking about all the experiences I've had over this last little while. Just imagine what the next two years of my mission will bring!.. I just hope that someone will be able to decipher my chicken scratch. Before starting a new journal we had FHE with the Magdaluyos and Robert. We read Enos 1:1-15 and talked about prayer and progression. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! TUESDAY! It was pretty funny I made all these commitments to write in my journal every night... but then life got crazy and I couldn't get around to it. It's funny how that works out. Just when you decide to go on a diet, someone makes you cookies. That's what it felt like. But anyway, it was a good day. We had district meeting and that went well. I really see the blessings of role-playing. It's how we learn as missionaries. I'm grateful for the inspired training model that we have that helps our meetings and studies to focus around role-playing. It's made me such a better missionary. I wish I would have role played more at the beginning of my mission. We went out with Rigdon afterward and had a great time. --UPDATE!!-- RIGDON'S PAPERS ARE IN. He had his interview on Tuesday night with President Jarvis and then sent them in on Wednesday. So he should be finding out pretty soon what the deal is. I was so happy I almost squealed when he told me. Rigdon is a great kid and serving a mission is going to be so good for him. We didn't teach any lessons that afternoon but we had a woman reprimand us for not tracting. NOT tracting. She said that we were taking a risk on missing people. She said that in our efforts to be effective we might miss or pass by those who need our help the most. It was interesting. Then we saw Norma. I like Norma a lot. She's super cool. It's tough though because of the circumstances we have more of a friend relationship than a teaching relationship. Like when we go over she expects us to just talk and joke and eat and have a good time. Of course that wasn't the intention but because we didn't establish firm expectations the first time it's hard to get on track with her. She needs the gospel real bad, she needs to find healing, but right now we have to change things up to help her to make commitments. That's another thing I've learned a lot of, expectations. How important it is to be on the same page; as your companion, as your investigator, as your member. Unity. We had dinner with the Marx family. They're awesome. Sister Marx is a real good example to me of commitment to the Lord. We visited a few members. We went to one part member family's house and they had a huge tarantula. As soon as I saw I just knew that I had to hold it. So I spent like five minutes working up the courage... and then I did. I held a big, fat, hairy spider. I was surprised how heavy it was. I wish I would have taken a picture. It felt good to conquer one of my fears like that. That night we started an exchange with Freedom Park. Which is the English ward that covers the same boundaries as Montebello West. I was with Elder Brinkerhoff. He's a real good missionary. He's been out for long time and he really gets it. He works hard, and he is a master of the basics. I learned a lot from him.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! WEDNESDAY! We biked so much, back and forth and back and forth. I am so out of shape. But it was good. I enjoyed all the exercise. We probably talked to 100 people. We gave out like 25 referrals to the Spanish missionaries and Elder Brinkerhoff filled up three pages in his planner of new potential investigators. It was awesome. We talked to one guy who flipped out and yelled at me. He asked me to read something from 'that book' and so I read Helaman 5:12. He jumped up off the bench and got about 3 inches from my face and just screamed. I was just grateful he didn't shank me. Then he asked me if I was ready to get in the box for that book. I can’t remember how he put it but he was referring to a coffin. It was pretty scary. We got out of there pretty fast. We taught a lesson in the Las Vegas Library to a guy named Lucky. It was super powerful. He said that hearing about the Restoration made him feel full of the Spirit. He lived a tough life and has changed a lot. He's been looking for "the real deal church" and last week he came to one of our chapels. He said that he felt the Spirit there and knew it was God's church and he wanted to join. I'm really grateful that I've been able to meet so many prepared souls. People who are ready to hear God's voice and respond. It's such strength to my testimony. Alma13: 24 is a reality today. Some people on the street that we talk to yell at us and disrespect us and others say that they've been waiting for us. This work is more than just numbers and another religion. It's the work of the Lord and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! THURSDAY! Elder Smith and I reflected about how different our lives were before we became missionaries. It's crazy. We took out Brother Odulio the WML [ward mission leader] in BV for a while in the afternoon and he expressed to us a lot of his frustration. He is an incredible man, with a vast knowledge of the scriptures and the organization of the church but he is being underutilized. He feels like he has no support from the ward council and there is no enthusiasm to council and coordinate. He showed us a cool video that was shown in last summer's worldwide broadcast http://bcove.me/fxedfdyr I'm always amazed about how perfect the organization of the church is. We just fall short in applying the principles. We blessed the home of a family and they asked us to come back. That has happened a lot in the last little while we just can’t seem to make contact with these people again. We had dinner with a big bunch of members and that was really fun. The member reprimanded us for being late in front of everyone and that was hard. It wasn't our fault what happened but all we could do was sit there and take a public beating. BUT! We got to teach Suzie right after and that all made up for it. We get into the lesson and she is super excited to tell us something and then she says this (I’ll paraphrase her own words. -- "So I went to the institute building today (she is a student at UNLV) to get some peace and quite while I read the Book of Mormon. Just as I started reading a young (cute returned missionary) man came up and invited me to come to institute class with him. I did. We watched a movie and I had goose bumps the whole time. I really felt like I was connected to God."  My jaw like hit the floor. She's absolutely incredible. She told us how it helped strengthen her testimony of the Savior and after the class she felt like she could say that she knew that Jesus died for her. I was so happy. It's not everyday that you get to hear an investigator say something like that. I think I smiled all the rest of the night. Chelsea was there and she was awesome. She is converted to the gospel and she and Suzie have such a good connection. It was pure revelation to bring her into the lessons.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! FRIDAY! We did some weekly planning. It's hard to do WP when you don't have many investigators. When you have a lot it's cool because you can plan pretty specifically what you will do the next week. But without lots of investigators it’s more like weekly goal setting and brainstorming which is good. We went out with Brother Faught. He's a young man, probably like 35 with six kids, his own company, a house, and he's on the high council. He's not super rich, but he works hard and loves the Lord and I wanna be like him. We went to bless the home of a young man, and to be honest I didn't have a lot of faith in his real intent but we get in there and he was so excited to meet with us. He is really open and he said like three things (not all at once that blew my mind) one was that God loves us and I can’t see him wanting to send anyone to hell. I think that everyone will go to heaven but there will be like different levels depending on what we did and our opportunities. Then he said that a lot of people in the world pray but that is only half the equation, we have to take time to ponder and listen for God's answer. He said something else but it escapes me; another person who seems so prepared from the Lord. We visited the Jewitt and the Martinez families - more of just my favorite people, my role models. That night we went out with a returned missionary and suffered through the cccccold. it was like 50 degrees and I was dying!!! :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! SATURDAY! We went on exchange with the Desert Sage ward. I was there with Elder Martinez, great, great elder; humble and so positive. We had a long day of biking and talking to people. We found a ton of people who were ready to hear the gospel. We had one weird experience. We were biking past a man who was sitting on the side of the road and we stopped to talk to him. As we talked about prayer he looked us straight in the eyes and said, will you pray with me right now? He was kinda challenging us, almost saying, right here in the street will you pray with a homeless man who looks crazy??? You wouldn’t do that! But we did. We got down on our knees right then and held hands and blessed this man. He was shocked and in tears. He apologized and said that he needed that and then told us his story. He was a smart guy, but he thinks he's smarter than everyone else and that's why he's on the street because his pride lost him everything. That's what he told us. Interesting dude. A lot of wasted potential in that man. We had dinner and I got so, so sick. I think there was some cat hair in the soup because as soon as I ate it I got suuuuper sick. Coughing and wheezing and dizzy. We had to end the exchange early and as I biked back to the chapel I was puking everywhere. Just like the time I puked on the dog.  Bike a lil bit, stop, vomit, rinse, repeat. Sister Stevens brought me some oils and I felt way better in the morning but it was a hard, hard night. I coughed so much that I could barely sleep. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! FOR REAL THOUGH! :) SUNDAY! We had church, which went well. I love being loved. None of our investigators came to church so that was a tough blow, but it wasn’t the first time that'd happened. We had a ton of appointments fall through but it was still good. Overall throughout the week we had like 30 appointments flake. But it's all good. Nothing can bring us down!

I love you all so much
Sam

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!