Monday, April 27, 2015

Two for one

Oh, hey.  We didn't hear what happened with transfers.  Are you still in JB?
-- Mom and Dad
P.S. We didn't get a letter last week . . . if you thought you sent it.
We assumed transfers were crazy and you didn't have time.

Yep, I'm in JB, where I'll almost definitely stay until the end of my mission.  My new companion is Elder Hanks.  He's from Kaysville, UT.  He was an athlete at Davis High School, and is just really good at everything.  He's really outgoing, talkative, and personable.  He's really focused and obedient, but just does some little things in a different way than I've ever done, so we haven't quite found a groove yet.  I'm confident that I'll learn a lot from him, and learn to love him quickly.  I think he really likes being a zone leader, and I'm really grateful for his help with everything so far!!

Oh yeah... Stuff has been rudely interrupting my recent email sessions.  Sorry!  I hope you weren't too worried about me!  I'll find the draft I saved from last week and send it to you right away.

Dear Family,
Wow, lots of crazy stuff has been happening lately!  Last week at email time, one of our best investigator families had some issues, and needed our help immediately.  We enlisted the help of the Bensons, and helped them move from their house to their friend's house nearby.  We cried a lot with them because of all the trials they've been going through and the decisions they've made recently.  We thought all was settled down and we'd probably not go to meet and teach them again.  The very next day, they moved themselves back into the place they'd just run away from.  All this drama that's been happening is not over yet, and I'm just really confused.  Anyway, thanks for being patient with me last week.
Great things that happened this week:
We found a miracle new investigator who

Our Investigator, finally given the code name Hannah, was baptized and confirmed this week!!  HOORAY!!!  She reads the Book of Mormon every day, says the most sincere prayers, and she hasn't missed a week of church since the day we met her!  After her baptism, she gave one of the best testimonies I've ever heard at a baptismal service!  She testified that she is anxious to continue to learn in the Church and come closer to Heavenly Father for the rest of her life!  She's the only one in her family that's a member now, but her mom and brother attended her baptismal service and I hope they were able to feel the Spirit and know of Hannah's sincerity.  Hannah flew back to Korea with her family yesterday.  Because she'd been planning on baptism for a long time, she arranged in advance for a flight in the evening so that she'd be at church for her confirmation.  She's awesome!!
At the same baptismal service, another investigator whom I worked with last year, Rosie's son, was baptized, too!  Because he's got school Sundays (the weekend in Johor state, changed by decree of the sultan, is still Friday-Saturday) I confirmed him a member of the Church on the same night, just after his baptism.  I'm so happy for his whole family!!  This night was one to remember.  I'm just so filled with gratitude for the miracles the Lord has let me witness recently!  I know the gospel has blessed, and will continue to bless the lives of these fantastic people whom I love so much, and that just brings me so much joy!
Joy.  That's something that I've been thinking about lately.  I promise people all the time that living the gospel of Jesus Christ will help them come closer to God, and bring joy into their lives.  I really do feel that the Gospel has brought a lot of joy into my life, but I sometimes struggle with promising people specific blessings if they will obey a commandment or keep a commitment.  I hope this is just a bad habit of being a little too general in what I say, and not an indication that I don't truly love or care for these people.  Where do your biggest joys come from, specifically?

[Mom’s note: I think the above letter was written but not sent last week, and the following is this week’s news.]

Dear Family,

Here's a quick excerpt from my letter to President Mains:

This past week, I felt a bit low on faith that I could be a successful missionary.  However, my faith has increased dramatically since Elder Hanks and I made a transfer vision, including goals that we really wanted to accomplish and plans to help us accomplish them.  To be very honest, I don't feel like my faith is incessantly burning in my heart, moving me to tireless action, but I do really believe that the plans we've made and the actions we're beginning to take in order to achieve our goals are in line with what God wants us to do in our area this transfer.  This has lifted my spirits and strengthened my faith in the enabling power of the Savior's grace.

An amazing miracle I saw this week:  Our investigator family of focus from two weeks ago, which had been separated and all but destroyed, is back together, living happily and humbly with each other again!  It broke my heart to see our favorite family split up, desperately trying to get away from each other and reject the things that we were teaching them just a week ago.  Miraculously, they have come back together, deciding after all to stay as a family, and to learn and apply the things we teach them.  The mother is on date to be baptized again, and is diligent in reading and praying each day.  I have seen the healing power of the word of God in the lives of people I love, and it strengthens my testimony that the Lord is able to help us overcome any challenges we will ever face in life, no matter how terrible!

I have nothing more to send to you today!!  I've been answering emails from the mission office to me just now - I've never had so many before.  I feel bad if you're all just waiting around the computer or something, and then I never send you mail.
I hope the next few weeks of email time won't be so packed with other stuff, so I can actually write to you!  Maybe I'll start taking pictures of written letters and sending those again!  (Oh yeah, I've even been so busy that I don't have time to write my journal at nights, so we'll see.)
Even if I don't send you a lot of mail, please know that I love you all and I think of you often!!
Tons of love,


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waiting for transfer news

Hi again!  I'm still on now.  Transfer news hasn't come yet, so I'll probably log off for a little while, then get back on for a few minutes to check the news and let you know.  I'm including the miracles and a few details in my other letter that's in the works now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Miniscule Miracles

6 April 2015
Hi Family!
I looked at the pictures from this week, and I can tell that there were lots of adventures!!  I haven't read all the mail you've sent me yet, but I'm really looking forward to reading it!  Thank you so much for just being so great!  From your pictures, (and from living with you all forever,) I can tell you all get along well, are really helpful, know how to work hard, and still have fun with each other.  I like you guys!
I don't know what's gotten into me lately, but it just seems like I have nothing interesting to share with you anymore.  I'm racking my brain, but it still seems like nothing happened this week.  I know it's not true, though.  I've seen more and more miracles as my mission goes on, including several this week.  All my recent miracles are miniscule, but they help build up my testimony and help me to remember and rely on the Lord.  I'll share a couple of them here:

I was surprised by how much the Spirit spoke to me and many other missionaries at MLC, and I strove to listen more carefully for the Holy Ghost's promptings throughout the rest of the week. I noticed several times when I was prompted to say something to my companion that I didn't want to say at first, but as I let the words come out of my mouth, we counseled together, and found solutions to problems that we wouldn't have arrived at any other way. My faith was definitely strengthened as I learned to trust that the Lord is much wiser than I am and that I need to say what He wants me to say, even if I can't see how it would help my situation at all.

One investigator, who is looking forward to being baptized before the end of this transfer, has been unable to meet with us for a few weeks because of his work. Just last week, he resigned from his job, for several reasons. As we met with him in his new-found free time and taught him about the guiding voice of the Holy Ghost in his life, he began to recognize times he's felt the Spirit speaking to him. He said that he now knows he followed a spiritual prompting to quit his job. A couple of days after that lesson with him, he followed a prompting to come to church even though he knew it would be hard that morning. He had a good time, felt the Spirit even more strongly, and has been in a great mood ever since then. I know that the Spirit is working in his heart because of his desire to follow Christ, and has been providing him with miracles as he's followed subtle promptings with a sincere heart.
Is it true that there's going to be a temple built in Bangkok?  This will be a HUGE deal for all the Singaporean and Malaysian saints!  This will allow many members to drive to the temple!  There are many members who are unable to go to Hong Kong or the Philippines, but they will be able to get to Thailand a little more easily.  I think Asia really needed this.  I'm so happy!!

How did you like General Conference?  I'm SO looking forward to it!  I can't wait to hear what the prophets have to say!  I haven't been so excited for something in the last 6 months!  What were your favorite parts?  What kind of direction or personal/family revelation did you receive as you listened to and thought about what was taught?  I'll let you know what I liked best when I email again next week, and I'd love to learn from your insights as well!
Pray for me and Elder Mitchell as we [frantically] prepare our zone training for Zone Meeting tomorrow.  We'll be studying chapter 11 of Preach My Gospel as a mission this month.  Tomorrow, we'll be looking at how Jesus Christ lived the principles we find in that chapter as He faced some of the same challenges as we do in missionary work.
Well, I've got to send pictures to you now or never.  Until next week!
Love and prayers always!!

The baptism of an awesome 8-year-old convert in the JB Branch!

One of our better lessons at the church, with a lot of fun props:)

My attempt at a selfie at MLC in Singapore this week.

Nothing to say?!

March 30, 2015
Dear Family,
For some reason, I have absolutely nothing to say.  I can't even remember what happened this week.  I'll give you almost a direct quote from my letter to President Mains, and try to think about my week a bit in the meantime.  I hope you have had a great week!  Have fun in Washington, and send pictures!

This week, I have increased my faith as I have tried to tune in to the Spirit and follow His promptings.  I don't think there was one spectacular event that stands out brilliantly against the rest of the week, but I do feel that I have a stronger testimony that God is anxious to guide His Children here on earth - both missionaries and investigators.  As I sought to ask inspired questions, I did feel the influence of the Spirit in lessons with investigators.  Most of the time, I didn't see fabulous effects of the questions asked, but I did take comfort in knowing that they were the right questions at the right times, and that the investigators we taught could feel the Holy Ghost's influence as a result.
The branch BBQ was lots of fun!  We slow-cooked chicken wings, and had a lot of fruit, sandwiches, and curry.  The kids got to play in the pool, and the others had a good time talking and laughing together.  One uncle blew and twisted balloons for everyone.  He was the life of the party!  Elder Benson and Elder Lundahl-Wolford played the guitar and taught us some fun sing-along songs.  All in all, it was a fun gathering, and I believe it served to strengthen relationships between members, missionaries, and investigators.
I spent a day in Melaka, walking the colorful streets with the Chinese Elders there, searching for new investigators.  We didn't have any outrageous miracles, but we did meet a lot of great people, and even a few monitor lizards.  That's just the way things have been flowing along, lately.
I gave a talk yesterday about the Resurrection.  It made sense in my head, but when the words came out, they were so repetitive and I spoke for so long that I was afraid a few from the congregation actually would be resurrected before I finished.  Oh well.  I learned a lot as I prepared the talk this week, though.  Firstly, because of the fall, we have two big problems to overcome before we can go back to live with God: spiritual death and physical death.  We could never overcome either of these on our own, but Jesus Christ can deliver us from both.  His atonement takes care of both parts - delivering us from spiritual death (sin) by taking the punishment for our sins, and extending merciful forgiveness to us if we repent, and delivering us from physical death by giving us the free gift of resurrection.  I found it especially interesting that all the scriptures I read say that Christ's death (as opposed to His resurrection) broke the bands of death that would otherwise bind us forever.  I always thought that they would have been broken by His resurrection.  Do you have any insights as to why this is? Maybe because as the Son of God He wasn't supposed to die, and no one could take His life, but He gave it willingly?  I'd love to hear what you think about it, or what you find in the Scriptures.  I'm filled with gratitude for the amazing gifts that come from Christ's resurrection: hope for the future, the chance for a fair and merciful judgment and reward after we're taken back into the presence of God, a promise of deliverance from the awful doom that would otherwise await us as spirits (2 Nephi 9:8-9), the opportunity to progress, learn and improve eternally, and a perfect, glorified body, never again to taste of pain or death.  Wow.  I just realized what a big part of my testimony the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ really is.  It's so awesome to think about!  Life can get mundane, sometimes, (as evidenced by my total lack of anything interesting to tell you about this week), but thinking about Christ's life and atonement can really shed a new light on my current perspective, and help me to remember the wonders of my life, as a part of God's grand plan, as well as remind me of my purpose and motivate me to keep going!  I hope it can do the same for you, too!
Until next week,
Tons of Love!