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Monday, March 17, 2014

What a week

I think this has been the craziest and fastest week of my whole mission.
But it also seems like a month since I last emailed.
Uhoh, MTCitis again!

MONDAY! After P-day we had a lesson with a new family that just moved in from Pennsylvania. We had met them a few days before on the street and just talked and they invited us to come back. We talked about families and the Restoration and how faith carries us through trials. One of their sons was born premature and wasn't expected to make it out of the hospital, but he did. They were a cool bunch, definitely a family that the gospel could bring so much hope and happiness to. Then we went to eat dinner with ... THE SCHWENKE FAMILY! What upppp??? Because the Sunrise and Central Zones were combined now they're again part of my zone. They're actually just right north of my area. It's pretty crazy. We ate and "talk story" and it was a really good time. I don't think I'd ever seen Elder Wendt eat so much! It was a nice dose of nostalgia and then we went to the Mags for a lesson with Robert about patriarchal blessings. Patriarchal blessings are so cool. I love to read mine and see all the parts that are coming true. I've come to appreciate mine a whole lot more. It's been a huge blessing for me.

TUESDAY! We had zone conference on Tuesday. It was pretty awesome. I love missionary meetings, getting together with other missionaries and learning from our leaders. It was cool there is a new sister in our mission Sister Kraus, she's serving in the Paradise stake right now. What's cool is that she was in my BYU ward two years ago. She lived like kitty corner to me and we were on the same intramural team AND she was there when I opened my mission call. And now she's here in Vegas, pretty small world. So it was cool to talk to her for a few moments. We went over a lot of the fundamentals. It's good to be reminded of the simple things we're supposed to do. I know it helps me. There were some addiction recovery missionaries that came and spoke to us about the psychology of addiction and how to best help those struggling with addictive behaviors. That was super interesting. I neglected to include a detail from my last week's email. After church we went to visit a man who stopped us on the street. Idk if I even wrote about that last time. Last Saturday we were talking to a woman on the street and a man came up to us and said, "Sorry to interrupt, but could you teach me?" We set up a time to go by and then on Sunday we taught him. He said that he'd seen us a few times and something had told him to stop us but he'd ignored it, but Saturday he couldn’t resist. His fiancée had been our server at Olive Garden with the Cotner’s a few weeks ago and she too had wanted to ask us to come by but chickened out. On Sunday we answered a lot of his questions and got to know him a little better. Elder Wendt described to him what the gift of the Holy Ghost was and he said I want that in my life. It was pretty cool. So anyway - after zone conference we went by to teach him again and we had an incredible lesson. We began by telling him that as he came to know that what we teach is true he will want to be baptized. And then he says, "Alright. When can I be baptized?" It totally threw me for a loop. I know that God prepares hearts but I wasn't expecting him to ask about being baptized. We taught him and his fiancée the Restoration and they loved it. They said it answered so many of their questions they'd had growing up in the Catholic Church. So we at the end formally invited them to be baptized and they both said yes without even a moment’s hesitation. That was cool. He shared with us a lot of stories that were just proof after proof of God's hand preparing him to receive the gospel. Like he described the group of friends he's always wanted to have - men who are trustworthy, united, committed, who want to be tools in God's hands, who love their families, and the list went on. It sounded like an elder’s quorum. It was awesome. That night we talked to a drunk woman through her screen door and she was petting it while we spoke.... it was super weird. We started an exchange with Desert Sage and I went with Elder Martinez in my area.
WEDNESDAY! We had an awesome day. Elder Martinez is a great missionary. He is probably one of the most powerful teachers I've ever met. It was awesome to serve with him all day it really set my sights higher for the kind of teacher that I want to become. I think that we really touched a lot of people. We visited Severina who got back from the Philippines’. She's doing well, a little sick, but well. She went and shared the gospel with her family and got the missionaries to start teaching them the gospel. THAT was cool to hear about. We went out with Rigdon and we talked with a few people, some of who were interested. Sharing the gospel really comes most naturally out of friendship and mutual respect. When we talk to people quickly on the street, it doesn’t always go as well, but when we have a chance (when people give us a chance) to talk with them and really get to know them it is a much better situation. They are always more receptive. We stopped in to see Tiffany and we went at the perfect time. She was really stressed and was babysitting her kids and her sister’s kids and she didn't have anyone to talk to. So we came in and she like vented to us all her problems and it was like she was deflating and all the pressure was being lifted off of her. Wooosh. She was so happy after. We talked to her about forever families bc her brother just had died like a week prior and then we prayed with her and her children. All our other appointments fell through but we had dinner at the Marx's with Vicki and a non member mother and son. It was good. Sister Marx and Vicki are like the best examples ever. I'm super grateful for them and their love. The non member woman gave me a hug after dinner, I was super taken aback. I'm sure I looked so awkward hahaha. Then we taught Deshon and Sassidy the Word of Wisdom. Surprisingly they took it well. They didn't super firmly commit, but the lesson was all over the place. Then from there we went to give a tour of the church to Oscar. It was Wednesday so the bishop was there and he gave him a picture of the Savior and a ton of other members were there because of mutual and stuff. He loved it. Then the Toblers’ took him up to the temple and gave him a tour there. It was their three year anniversary of their sealing, so that was pretty cool. He said, "I need to get out my goal book and make some changes. I want to get married here."  Then we exchanged back for 10 mins and then EW and I went up to Beverly Glen to start another exchange!

THURSDAY! I was with Elder Fagersten in his area. He's a good missionary. He's been waiting here for his visa for what seems like forever. But he is still working hard and doing his best. We had a good day talking about his mission and his plans for it. He's got a lot of potential. We prayed with a woman who broke down in tears. She was really scared for her and her husband and you could see that she was looking for something to bring them closer together. We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a guy who fell off a ladder at around Christmas time and now is handicapped because of it. Sad. We delivered cookies to a few families. Then we taught Nadia, a 25 year old college student. We taught her the WoW and I was very impressed that she committed right then to live it. She was going to Starbucks with friends after the lesson, but she said that she wouldn't drink coffee; she'd just get a hot chocolate. We had dinner with a middle aged couple who met online and had been married for a little over a year. They were so cute together, it made me happy. We had a lesson then with a family and we met Brandon, the most spiritual 10 year old I've ever met. When we met he asked me for my testimony of reading the scriptures and praying daily. It's not a question you expect often, especially not from a 10 year old! We had a powerful lesson with him and his family. 

FRIDAY! We did some service in the morning. We helped a family move out. We taught Nick about church. We was so excited to go. He said he couldn’t wait to go (something happened with the mother-in-law and he didn’t end up being able to go.) Then we went with the bishop to teach Oscar and Abby. That went really well. Oscar committed to come to the baptism and Abby said she'd go to the RS activity Saturday.  Then we went to Jacob and Niko's baptism.
Jacob and Niko's baptism
It's such an honor to be able to perform the ordinance of baptism. Whenever I do, I more fully understand the phrase, "in the name of Jesus Christ." It's cool that he allows us to do things like baptize and bless.

This is his church and he's in charge and through revelation he authorizes people to act in his stead for the salvation of God's children. Heavenly Father has blessed me with so many cool opportunities. Elder Slik came and so I got to drive him home so it was nice to be able to talk to him about how things are going in GV.
Then we went to a baptismal interview for the elders in Los Feliz. It was an incredible experience. I got there at 8 and had three people to interview.  It was a couple and they were both super ready to be baptized and excited. They had testimonies and were converted and love the church. Then I got to interview her mom. I started the interview at about 8:45. I asked her the first question and she went off, talking and talking and talking. It took us more than 1/2 an hour to get through the first two questions. It was hot, my back hurt from sitting for so long and I was tempted to rush things because it was getting later. In retrospect the Spirit prompted me (and most definitely helped me) to stay focused and alert and charitable. I guess I gained her trust because she told me how her husband had an affair and it destroyed her and caused a lot of pain. I listen and the gift of tongues helped me understand. Again I wanted to rush things but I felt prompted to let her continue talking. As the interview went on we talked about repentance and she shared with me some serious transgressions. She told me the situation. She had been forced to do some things she didn't want to and didn't fully understand what was happening anyway. She said that she'd felt bad every day for the last 40 years. Elder Murphy told me that he'd already screened her two times, which means asked her the baptismal interview questions to make sure that there weren't any problems, but she hadn't said anything about this. By this time it was 10:15 at night and I was exhausted. You could feel that she had 40 years of pain and guilt she'd been carrying around. She'd begged Heavenly Father every day since then for forgiveness but had never told anyone and she still felt pain. So I called President Neider and he told me what to do and gave me some ideas of what I could say. I taught her about the Atonement, how it heals us from our sins but also it heals us from the effects of the sins of others. I got to tell her that she was forgiven. That was an incredibly powerful moment. Then I taught her how she could apply the Atonement and find spiritual healing after her baptism. As we talked it was as if a light was turned on behind her eyes. You could almost see new energy in her. IT was incredible. I watched as the Savior helped lighten her burden. After that I could just feel that the spirit emanating from her had changed. The rest of the interview was a breeze. I was grateful for the influence of the Spirit. If I hadn't have been guided, she might not have ever told anyone about her past and she might continue to carry that pain for who knows how long. The Spirit prompted me what to say, when to say it, and when to just sit and listen. It was definitely a life changing experience. God knows his children. He has provided a way that all that is unfair about life can be made right.

SATURDAY! Crazy, crazy day. We went to a stake Relief Society activity. We got to be waiters and then light jockeys. It was pretty cool. I loved being a waiter. Serving is heck of a ton fun. We wore bow ties.
Serving at Relief Society party
Abby came and lovvvved it. Then Elder Wendt went to a baptism in Blythe (4 hours away) so I three packed with Fagersten and Jacobs. We had a great time. We taught Jessica about the Book of Mormon and she loved it. I pray she reads it. Then we went to Martha's baptism!!!!!!!! Whattt???!!?!!?!!! :) :) :)
Martha's baptism and the missionaries that worked with her
I got to see Gissel, the Lopez family, the Murray family, Elder Johnson, Elder Campbell and tons of other friends and acquaintances. Loved it. The Desert Bloom branch has changed so much. I'm grateful to have been a part of the hastening of the work there. During Martha’s testimony after the ordinance she called up her member fellow-shipper and put her arm around her and said, "I want to thank Sister Thompson. If it wasn’t for her good example and sharing with me I wouldn’t be here." Everyone was crying it was so touching.
 


SUNDAY! I met up with Elder Wendt before church just long enough to split back up to go to church. It was good. We went to the Gammon's to wish Taylor good luck on her mission. She'll be an awesome missionary. Then we had dinner with the Iverson’s. They're so good to me.
Celebrating his birthday with the Iverson's
I feel like a part of their family and I'll be forever grateful to them for their good influence. 
That's the week!
I'm trying to get a lot done today.
I love you all so much
Sam


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