Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August 26, 2008 -- The Best of Weeks, the Worst of Weeks

This is the second time I am typing this. My computer died right after I finished the first time, so I don't have as much time to write as usual this week.

Unfortunately, there was some kind of problem with the mail, and I didn't get a single letter this week (yes, that hurt).

This week was a microcosm (or however you spell it), of the common saying that a mission is the best two years and also the hardest two years of your life. I won't bore you with a long description of the bad. Suffice it to say that an angry landlady, companionship drama, lots of rejection, and no mail are not very fun. I will, however, tell you why this week was so good for me.

The best part about this last week was that I was able to attend two baptisms. I am very blesssed to be in a mission and area where their is so much work and where I have such good companions. The first baptism was of a young girl named Jenny from my last area. I was able to get permission to go back and see her baptism. It was wonderful. Not only was her baptism a spiritual expereince, but I loved seeing the streets I used to walk down, the members I used to work with, my old companions, and most especially the people I taught. It felt kind of like going home.

The second baptism was last Sunday here in this area. It was of a woman named Angelica Montague. She is from Colombia, and is the one we fasted for to get to church (she actually lost her job because of it, but has been blessed with a new job where she doesn't have to work Sundays.) Her baptism was a miracle and was a wonderful experience. I found it interesting that she was late to her baptism because she stopped to buy pizza for everyone (yes, we did teach the Sabbath Day). We plan to teach her more about the Sabbath this week, but I think that her actions show her kind heart and her excitement about her baptism. It also got me thinking. Baptism is also known as being born again. When we are born physically, we are not born knowing and understanding everything, but just the opposite. Such is baptism. It is the begining of our spiritual life, a life of growth, experience, learning, and maturation.

This week despite our many rejections we were given 15 new investigators from the Lord, many in miraculous circumstances (such as a referral for a family of 5, or tracting into a family of 6.) New investigators means new people to teach about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am so excited!

This week was also wonderful because we were able to go to the temple (we can go every week as long as we have transportation.) I love going to the temple, every time I learn so much and feel so renewed. I often end up writing poems or new verses to hymns after I go.

The latest on the visa is . . . nothing. People who came into the MTC three weeks after me are starting to leave, though, so I imagine my time will be soon. It comes when it comes. I love it here, and I'm excited for Mexico, so I'm content to wait.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August 19, 2008 -- 69,500,000 seconds

Things are going very well for me here in good ole Kearns. Although to be honest, they weren't so good a few days ago. Last week was without a doubt the hardest month [week?] of my mission so far. I won't go into much detail, but let's just say I tracked A LOT, worked very hard, but didn't get any results. The only rewards I recieved were dropped appointments, slammed doors and companionship issues. It was hard.

By Sunday afternoon, I was feeling very discouraged. It was especially hard because it was Mom's birthday and I couldn't even call her. So while my companions slept durring our lunch hour, I was in the room praying and reading my scriptures, trying to overcome the negative feelings I was having. It worked for a while, but by that evening I was once again feeling down. We didn't teach a single lesson that night, and we got home late which really bothered me. I just didn't feel good, and nothing I did seemed to be helping.

Monday, however, I received several tender mercies from the Lord. The first came in Zone Meeting. The Zone Leaders, my companions, gave a training about self-motivation and enduring trials, drawing from D&C 121 and 128. I think they were aiming it right at me and I think they were inspired to do so--it made me feel a lot better.

Tender mercy number two came when I was able to work with Elder Robledo for the afternoon while my companions were in meetings. He was in my last zone also. He is from Chile and is the type of missionary I want to be--full of zeal for the work and never discouraged. As we walked and worked, we sang the hymns of Zion, something which never fails to cheer me up.

That afternoon I recieved six tender mercies in forms of letters, most importantly from mom and dad, as well as from my three best friends who are all on missions. By then, I was feeling better than I've felt in a long time.

My final tender mercy was also an important lesson for me. I found out that afternoon that Jorge Lopez from my last area had been married and baptized last weekend. I knew he was going to get married, but I had no idea that he would be baptized that soon. (I didn't get permission to go to the wedding, unfortunately.) I would have liked to have gone to his baptism, but instead of feeling sad or jealous, I was very happy to know that he had made that important step, something he had been wanting for a long time. Not only did it lift my spirits, but it also taught me that sometimes it takes a while for things to pay off. It has been three weeks since I left that area and he is now getting baptized. Maybe all my work this last week didn't have any immediate effect, but that doesn't mean I didn't start anything. It will takes weeks to years to really know that. Its a lot like all those plants I planted before I left--the full growth won't be visible for a long time to come.

Today, I couldn't be better. There is sunshine in my soul, for Jesus is my light. That light will shine independent of whatever else is going on in my life, no matter how stressed I feel or busy I am, as long as I trust in and rely on Him. What an amazing blessing!

To switch gears, you are probably wondering why the subject of my email is 69,500,000 seconds. According to another elder in my zone, that is approxiamtely how many seconds are in a mission. I don't want to waste a singe one of them more than I already have. To God, my mission is only 175 seconds long (if 1 day to God is 1,000 years to us.) Like I said before, I plan to sprint the whole way.

Speaking of sprinting, my companions and I have been doing well at exercising. Unfortunately, some of my old eating habits that I thought I had under control are creeping back up on me, but I'm working on it. I try not to worry about that stuff too much though, only so much as I stay healthy and fit so that I can better serve the Lord.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August 12, 2008 -- A Good Week

Things are going well for me here in Kearns.

It seems like the Olympics are everywhere I turn this week, including on our land lady's TV everytime I walk in. I have also seen copies of "Breaking Dawn" [the recently-released book by Stephenie Meyer] lying around in several people's houses. I can't deny that I have been tempted with both a few times, but I'm content to wait for 22 more months before I worry about that stuff again (although minor updates from the family wouldn't hurt.) ;-)

This last week my companions and I had a wonderful experience with one of our investigators. We have been working with a woman named Angelica for a while. She is incredible--she has read half of the Book of Mormon already, she accepts everything we teach her, she has a testimony, and she wants to get baptized. The only thing that is holding her back from making that important covenant is her inabillity to attend church. She really wants to come, but she has to work on Sundays. Two Sundays ago, we thought she would be able to come, but things changed at the last minute and she wasn't able to.

This week my companions and I decided to have a fast for her. As we closed our fast on Thursday, I felt strongly that the Lord would help her be able to attend church. However, the last thing we heard from her on Saturday was that she would have to work on Sunday morning. But we didn't loose hope and we kept praying.

Sunday morning, we waited by the doors before church started, but Angelica wasn't there. Five minutes after the meeting started, we decided that it was time to sit down. About 15 minutes later, however, Angelica came in and sat down right in front of us!

She had gone to work that morning as usual, but when she got there she was informed that someone had taken her shift for her and that she was free to come to church. She came immediately.

What a miracle! I can't tell you how happy I was to see her at church. The experience really strengthened my testimony, both of the power of fasting, and of the fact that the Lord always provides a way for us to keep his commandments (1 Ne 3:7).

Last weekend my companions and I were also blessed with two baptisms. They are two little girls, 8 and 9 years old, and are sisters, and the daughters of a recent convert. They are very smart and sweet and were ready for baptism. Their baptism and confirmations were a sweet experience for me.

I don't know if you remember Clifton Dudley, but he was my friend from BYU who got his call on the same day as I did to the same mission. He left the MTC last week and is now also in the Salt Lake South mission, in my zone. Yesterday, while my companions were at zone leader meetings, he and I were able to work together. It was incredible. He is an incredible missionary. We worked hard together and it was one of the most successful days of my mission so far (we taught a total of six lessons, found two new investigators, and gave one of them a baptismal date.) We were also able to reminisce a little about BYU, although we were careful to not get carried away and distracted from the work. I really hope that he and I can be companions in Mexico some day.

Speaking of Mexico, I still love it here very much, but I am now more excited than ever to go. And if rumors can be believed, that could be happening in a week or two. (More detail to come as more information comes to me.)

Last Saturday, my companions and I had a shift at our mission's booth at the Salt Lake County Fair. Fairs would be a great place to talk to people almost anywhere, but my honest opinion is that they don't work too well in Utah. We talked to many people and tried to get referrals, but we didn't have any success.

About halfway through my shift, I noticed a group of people in front of my booth who I recognized. I went up and said hello, and they stopped and looked at my name tag. It was [mom's] Uncle Earle and Aunt Carolyn. It was nice to see them, we had a good conversation, and they told me to say hi. (I also asked them for referalls, but they didn't have any.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

August 5, 2008 -- Ghetto Greetings

Transfers last Wednesday was a suspensful event. As I said in my last letter, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but I was very wrong. You never know when and why President Laney will change his plans.

I thought I would be leaving my companions and going to a far corner of the mission. Elder Zobell had requested to President that I stay with him, but I didn't think that that was very likely to happen. The forth or fifth slip of paper out of the treasure box (which they use to announce transfers), however, said that Elder Zobell and Elder Jarvis would be the zone leaders for the Oquirrh Mountain Zone, serving in the Kearns 2nd area, and that Elder Rowley would be their companion.

My area is again on the Northern border of the mission, more to the west than my last area. A lot of people call Kearns the ghetto of the mission, but I don't think it is at all. I love it here. There are so many hispanics and therefore so much work to do. My Spanish is increasing dramatically, and I am improving in my missionary skills everyday. My companions are very hard workers and very good misisonaries, and we are busy all the time finding and teaching people, and we never run out of people to visit.

You have already heard about Elder Zobell, and I am very glad to still be his companion. Elder Jarvis is also a very good missionary. He has been out 21 months, but is not at all trunkie. He is actually from Greensboro, NC, and knows [our relatives there].

In my last area we lived in an apartment, so this is the first time I have experienced living with members. I live in the basement of the house of an older widow named Sister Gray. For the most part, I like it better than living in an apartment--there is a lot more space.

I still haven't heard anything about the Visa. Some say it could be two weeks, others say it will be until at least the end of this transfer. I prefer the latter. I didn't think I would say this, but I love it here so much that I am considering asking President Laney if I can stay here. I don't know, though. I am very excited about Mexico still, but I love it here. We'll see.