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Monday, March 24, 2014

So we listened to this Kenney Chesney song...

So we listened to this Kenney Chesney song called Baptism.
I liked it a lot. 

I guess I turned 21 last week. It's weird to think about. I don't feel 21. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been a missionary for that long. It's odd.

But it's been a good week, full of growth. It's my opinion that anyone who says missions are easy is either confused or lying. I think they are supposed to be hard (see https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/03/missionary-work-and-the-atonement).  I'm grateful for the difficulty though, it's made me step up to the plate and it's because of that I've grown so, so much. I'm beginning to feel what it's like to be converted and the hope, healing and happiness that comes from it. I think of the peace that I have now, and it is infinitely more than what I had two or three years ago.

MONDAY! At night our lesson fell through and as we started to go to our back-ups we were in our apartment complex and we walked close by Deshon and Sassidy's house and Promise (Sassy's four-year-old) saw us and started screaming, "The Mormons are here! The elders are here!" she ran out and grabbed our hands and pulled us into their apartment. It was super cute. We brought Sister Marx with us and we had a great lesson with Deshon and Sassy about the Word of Wisdom. Sister Marx dropped the bomb on Sassy. She just went all mom mode on her and used every technique of persuasion in the book. She was super intense but super loving. It was a perfect example of using boldness but not overbearing, after getting reproved, because it was done with love, Sassy thanked Sister Marx. That was cool. I want to be like Sister Marx, converted, committed and convincing -  plus cool. Then we went to FHE with Robert at the Mag's. He's now done with the new member lessons. That's how it's supposed to be. The lessons taught in members homes, the bishop and ward council overseeing the teaching of the new member lessons. You could just feel that this was the way that it should go with every convert. He prepared the sacrament yesterday. That was cool. I don't have any fears for Robert. He's got a deep foundation and great fellowship.

WHATUPMYBIRTHDAY! It really wasn't super exciting, just felt like every other day. We had a good district meeting in the morning, maybe the best I've ever conducted. Lots of discussion and I felt like there was real learning that took place. We went out with Rigdon for the second to last time. I'm happy he's going but I’m going to miss him a lot. We went to a woman named Kathleen's house and taught her the Restoration. It didn't go bad, but you could tell she wasn't understanding, or at least fully grasping what we were teaching her. If people aren't actively engaged in learning, the full importance of what we teach goes over their heads. We need to do all we can to prepare to teach well and teach by the Spirit, but we can't force other people to learn when they don't want to. We went to see Nick and we went over the Restoration with a pamphlet in Romanian. As we read that with him he began to understand way more clearly than when we were teaching him just in English. He speaks English but doesn’t comprehend when you speak back to him. It's like me when someone starts to speak in Spanish about something that I’m not familiar with. He wants to leave LV so bad but he doesn’t have enough money and he's trapped taking care of his dying mother-in-law. It's too big of a job for him but no one helps him. It's sad. We went to a family in the ward who is less active and talked with them. The brother in the family shared some of his experiences before and after getting baptized. He said that he's been clean for years now but he still is feeling the effects of drug use. He said that people always told him that it was dangerous but as he told us, "You've never done it before, how would you know what it's like? I feel great." Now he says that he wished he would have listened. It's sad. He's repented, and God has forgiven him, but the natural consequences of his disobedience are catching up with him. He's literally dying because of what he did to his body years and years ago. :( Then we went to Sister Lindahl's house and she made me Thai peanut chicken! It's was pretty good but nothing beats your food mom. That night we taught Isaac, not sure if I've talked about him before - he only has one arm, about the Plan of Salvation. It was a cool lesson. He had a lot of questions and as we answered them his excitement grew. We talked about a lot of things and as we taught the resurrection we told him that he could get his arm back and he was so happy. He hungered and he was filled. Then that night we started an exchange with the zone leaders. I was with Elder Johnson and we stayed up wayyy too late talking. Hahah

WEDNESDAY! EJ and I had a really good day. We visited some members and some less actives. It's interesting how the less actives are usually more controversial than the nonmembers. They're the ones with a bone to pick and something to prove. We visited one family that recently moved into the ward that is big into drag racing and they showed us their cars. It was pretty cool. You can find anything here in Vegas. Even a dragster that runs on beer with paddle tires made for racing in beach sand and shallow water. OH man. We had one of the coolest experiences of my whole mission Wednesday night. Many months ago Elder Slik and I met a young man named Brian. Brian is in his mid 20's and has had a hard life and is looking to change his life. His girlfriend was then pregnant and so he was really wanting to make a change in his life. We set up an appointment to go by and when we did his dad ran us off the property. Disturbed yet unperturbed we went back a month later and again had a great talk with Brian and again set up another appointment and again his dad rejected us. This happened a few times; us talking to Brian and then his dad being super rude to us. Finally we went by one night with their neighbor and the dad yelled at us and was mean. We talked to the neighbor, Brother Faught, and he said that he'd go over sometime by himself and try to figure out what was going on. We get a call two days later from Brother Faught saying that the dad had no idea that Bro Faught was with us. He was super apologetic and invited us back. We went by and the dad, Nino, was so nice to us. Invited us in, got us water, and apologized like 10 times. We taught him and as we did he cried the whole time, like a constant trickle of tears. Then we taught him how to pray and receive strength and he prayed vocally for the first time in his life and he was just sobbing as he did so. He was so, so thankful to us. It touched me, and changed me. This man who went from someone we were convinced would let the pit bulls out on us became someone who wanted us to come back and teach him more about how he could repent. The kind of person who you would assume would not want to hear the gospel, became a golden contact. What was the difference? The influence of the member. Granted Brother Faught is an amazing example of living the gospel, but I know that every member of the church can have that kind of softening effect on their friends and neighbors. It was incredible. Member missionary work works! Then we visited Deshon and Sassidy. We talked about the Book of Mormon and the commandments with them. I love their family so much, but I don't think they fully get it. I don't know what we need to do to help them see that this is more than our church, and a great church, and the church they want to join, it's the Church of Jesus Christ and it requires a change. I guess that's the Spirit's job though. Repentance, forgiveness and conversion don't come just by talking about it.  

THURSDAY! Nothing much happened in the morning and afternoon but that night we had dinner with a member of the high council and he taught me a lot about church disciplinary councils. It was fascinating to learn about it. The Lord is very serious about commandments especially those we have covenanted to keep. Then I got to do a baptismal interview. I love doing them. It's cool to hear and feel the excitement of new converts as they prepare to be baptized. This was a woman who had been going to church for six years but hadn't been able to be baptized because of some things in her past that she had to get cleared up. That was cool. It didn't beat last week’s though. That was a chart topper. Our lessons cancelled that night so we visited members.

FRIDAY! We did service in the morning, moving boxes of paint. One thing that I don't want to do is hoard. I have tons of hoarder tendencies and I recognize that but I'm trying to get rid of them. So many people are just burdened down by the massive amounts of material goods. Almost like ... actually idk I don’t understand the level we've seen here. We'll just leave it as some people have a lot of stuff. And I thought our garage was overdoing it....We did our weekly planning. We went to Deshon's but he was out so we talked with Marcus, Sassidy's 'baby-daddy'. We had a good talk about the bible with him. Then we went to the Brown's house. They are another family that I'm really grateful for. Such good examples, such good people. Brother Brown is the new ward mission leader and I want to be like him. I know I say that about a lot of people but it's true. I wish I hadn't been so prideful before my mission, I could have learned so much from all the great examples that I grew up around. 

SATURDAY! We did some weeding in the morning for a family in the ward that is struggling. It was interesting. Nick called us and said that the nurses had evaluated his care giving and now he is no longer allowed to accept visitors at the house and he is not allowed to leave, only to get food for the 'old lady.' It's super sad. He sounded like he was going to cry on the phone. I wish there was something we could do to help him but money doesn’t grow on trees. He's a good guy and with a little help he could be so happy but he's being duped I feel. It's pretty sketchy the whole situation. But anyway, we talked to Parole's brother who is not crazy. It's cool the guy is pretty solid; he just says he can’t meet at his house because there is no way for it to be peaceful there. So hopefully we can work with him if we just find a place to go that is closer than the chapel. We visited Alma, a potential investigator. She wasn’t really interested but we talked to her and her whole family about the gospel and she told us the story of her divorce and the horrible fallout from it. It's sad. It destroys families. It’s like the mom and dad fighting and the kids are the ones that take all the blows. We actually saw a lot of families that were struggling. I wish that all of them would come to church. It's funny how when times are hardest people pull themselves away from God the most, not all people but some. With the missionary perspective it's so clear to see how going to/being active in church would help everyone solve the problems they so desperately want to get over. We went to the Banks’ for a farewell party for Rigdon. Then we went to Oscar's house. We taught the Law of Chastity and Marriage and it went really well. Mike just laid it down nice and clear hahaha. We were about to commit Oscar to getting married early April and then his neighbor walked in. Well she didn't walk bc of her wheelchair. It was just so weird. She totally took over the lesson and started cracking jokes and telling weird stories. So we left ahaha. Then we went to Deshon's and talked to them about church and stuff. They made us dinner which was nice. They all committed to come. 

SUNDAY! 5:30 am Deshon texts us and says, "Elder we're not going to make it today because we're still out [partying]." Broke my heart. Rigdon gave his farewell talk and he did a good job. There were a ton of people there to listen to him. Oscar and Abby came to church, but we haven't had a chance to talk to them about how they liked it. I’m sure they did. I hope they did. Marcos came too. It was a pretty good day. We had dinner with the Kuhn's. I’m grateful for so many families that have really taken us in and made us feel loved.  Like you all back home :)
 
I love you all so much!
Sam

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