Sunday, June 28, 2015

Q & A

22 June 2015

Dear Family,

Perfect!  Thanks for the questions!  It's just easier for me to write what you want to hear if I have questions to answer.

1.  Did you travel out of your city for any reason this week?  
Well, I'm in Melaka today.  Elder Hanks and I took a bus for 3 hours this morning and arrived just in time to email you all.  I just realized that my camera batteries are low and I didn't bring extra, so I may just have to borrow Elder Hanks pictures of this P-Day and send them to you later.  (We're actually here for baptism interviews - my two favorite Elders, the only companionship in Melaka, are baptizing more people than the rest of the zone combined - but it just so happens that we were also able to come for some P-Day time, too.)

2.  Tell about a good experience placing a Book of Mormon.
Last Monday, Elder Hanks and I met and taught a boy, code named Vincent, who told us he believed there was more scripture than just the Bible.  We told him about the Book of Mormon, and he immediately said, "I already believe this is true!"  I was ecstatic!  That never happens!  We gave him a copy and he committed to read it and ask God to help him know it really is true.  On Thursday, we went back to Vincent's house for a follow-up visit.  To my disappointment, he hadn't read the Book at all because the English was too hard to understand, and he had apparently heard some untrue things about the church, which left him with some doubts.  By the end of the lesson, however, we seemed to have cleared these things up and he was once again excited to read the Book of Mormon on his own this week.  He even stopped by the church on his way home from work one day when weren't there to let him in, so I hope that's a good sign.

3.  Tell about a sweet [finding] experience this week.
A big miracle we had this week was that we were blessed with six new investigators!  Since we were conducting exchanges almost every day this week, we attribute this blessing to the unfailing "exchanges miracles."  We found a fabulous young family that has obviously been prepared to receive the gospel at this time; three of them became new investigators this week.  In addition, we found 3 other individuals who became new investigators right away!  One of them, Leon, a young Chinese man, was sitting at a bus stop, looking away from us.  When Elder Allen and I opened our mouth, he immediately asked, "Hey, are you from a church?  Do you hold any activities that I could join in?"  We talked with him for the duration of the bus ride, learning a bit more about him and his family.  Leon got off at the same bus stop as we did, and asked for information about the Church and its regular programs.  We went with him the short distance to the chapel to show him the place, gave him a name card and  some information, and went over to his house the next evening for a first lesson!  I have high hopes that the gospel will touch his heart and he will have a desire to join the Church!

4.  What are you reading in your personal study?  
    Have you had any insights recently?

I use all my personal study time reading only Preach My Gospel and the scriptures, because that's what helps me be most prepared for investigators lessons during the day.  We taught a record number of lessons this week, and on top of that had almost a record number of lessons fall through at the last minute.  This means that I've been studying Preach My Gospel Chapter 3 extra hard.  I actually don't feel like I've had any amazing breakthroughs into new realms of gospel knowledge, but I have been reminded of just how pointless the plan of salvation would be without a Savior and Redeemer.  Take Jesus Christ out of the picture, and the plan goes something like this:    We lived with God, as spirits, before we came to earth.  God, our loving Father, sent us to earth to learn and gain experience, as well as a physical body.  While in this mortal state, we all make mistakes and we're not perfect, so we're disqualified from our Father's perfect, glorious presence.  Furthermore, we will all die, which will result in an eternal separation of our bodies and spirits.  This will be the end of our progression and the beginning of a long, miserable existence elsewhere.
I'm sooo  thankful that Heavenly Father sent His Son, and that Jesus Christ made a perfect atonement for us, so that the plan really is one of happiness and salvation!  I know that as long as we follow Jesus Christ and live His gospel with full purpose of heart, then His merciful atonement can take effect in our lives and we will be able to overcome anything and everything with His help!

5.  Tell about an experience you've had where you've felt the Spirit this week.

6.  What have you done for P-day recently?

7.  What is one thing you imagined the mission would be like (before you left) that has been really different than you imagined.

8.  If you could sum up what you've learned from your mission experience in one word, what would it be?  (A short phrase or two would also be okay)
There are definitely hundreds of one-liners that could describe my mission experience, but because I have no idea how to succinctly sum it all up right now, and because I only have 2 minutes left, I'll say  "Heart-opening."  I'll have to explain in more depth (and with the aid of your questions) when next I see you.  It won't be that long.  AAaagh!  I love you all so much, but I think I'm just beginning to love the mission even more!!  I wish I could do this for longer than just 3 more weeks!!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Short powerful lessons

Dear Family

Oh man, I only have time enough to copy part of my letter to President Mains this week.  Each week there have been more things coming in from the mission office for me to handle, and I feel like I don't really write anything interesting or personal or specific to you anymore.  Sheesh.  Well, I still love you a lot!

This week, my faith in the converting power of the gospel increased as we had short, powerful lessons.  I found that as Elder Hanks and I went into a lesson with the mindset that we would be out again in only 30 minutes, we were forced to preach the doctrines of the gospel with more clarity and power.  I felt that we were following Elder Ballard's admonition to preach with more power and authority because we really focused on what our investigators specific needs were, then addressed their concerns and questions in a short amount of time, and invited them to learn the truth of the answer for themselves by reading the Book of Mormon and praying on their own time.

I saw several small miracles throughout the week, and I believe they came because we taught short lessons and followed up with our investigators daily.  At the beginning of the week, we set a goal to teach 30 minute lessons, but we were both unpracticed in keeping lessons so brief, so we had to have faith enough to plan our next-day's lessons as though they would all be 30 minutes.  As we tried our best, we found that the Lord helped us to see more clearly the concerns that our investigators and less-active members had.  Not only did He help us in our lessons that day, but He sent us a taxi at exactly the right time, as we walked out the door from a 30 minute lesson.  He also put other people in our path whom we probably wouldn't have met if our lessons had gone longer.

The JB zone, although smaller now than before, is still working hard.  The thing that is most interesting to me is that all of the 6 predicted baptisms in the next 3 weeks are Elder Lallemant's and Elder Ebeling's investigators.  They are working very well together and with the members of their branch, and they are bringing many unto Christ.  Elder Hanks and I went to Melaka to interview three of their candidates on Saturday.  We found that they were well-prepared for baptism - they are overjoyed to have found the true church of Jesus Christ, and they have all gained a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  I was also filled with joy as I interviewed them, because I could tell that they'd been searching for the Church and they'd finally found it.  I'm also proud to have such good Elders in our zone to teach them and help them to baptism.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Still in JB

Dear Family,
Once again, I don't have much time, (this time, I'm trying to prepare some stuff for tomorrow's zone meeting), but I'm really happy to receive your letters this week!  I'll do what I can to fill you in on some of the more eventful events of my week.
Last Monday, about 2 minutes after my email time was up, the transfer news arrived.  Elder Lundahl-Wolford and Elder Pierce, my housemates, were transferred to Kuching and Miri, respectively.  They were a bit upset, because their area was closed and no new missionaries came in to replace them.  I was very surprised, because now Elder Hanks and I are responsible for their area in addition to ours.  This means that we have a lot more investigators and members to meet and we'll never have an empty hour again.  However, we already hardly had a free hour in our own area, and now we have a huge distance to travel and cover.  Our area, being bigger than Singapore, is the biggest proselyting area in the mission now.  I'll try to find a picture of the map we made to try to keep on top of things, to let you see.  I expect to learn a lot about managing time wisely and working with members this transfer!
Aside from transfers on Monday and packing drama from the other two Elders on Tuesday, the most memorable event of my week was meeting with a potential investigator whom I'll call Larry.  Larry approached Elders on the MRT in Singapore, desperately trying to communicate with them in Chinese.  They couldn't understand what he was trying to say, and they discovered that he lived in JB, so they passed him to us.  Elder Pierce and Elder Lundahl-Wolford met with him, taught him a bit about the Book of Mormon.  In the first lesson, he ate up everything they said, and even accepted a baptism date!  He excitedly called us back after they had transferred, and asked when we could meet next.  On the afternoon that he called us, Elder Hanks and I were in Masai, which is very far away from the city center where he wanted to meet us.  We told him there was no way we would be able to get there in time to make it worth it for him, but he insisted that he would wait for us as long as we needed.  We ended up taking an hour long bus ride back to the city center to teach him the gospel as he had requested.  When we met him there, he met us happily and took us to meet his father who had accompanied him there.  We asked if his father wanted to learn about the church, too.  He said "Yes, he does!"  I was thrilled!  The mall in which we met them was too noisy to try to teach a lesson, so I was pleased to hear them offer to take us "to the other side" (which usually means "across the street," in Chinese), to Larry's computer kedai.  We got in the car with Larry and his father, but we didn't end up just going across the street.  After about 5 minutes of driving, I began to ask, "Where are we going?" repeatedly.  Larry wouldn't give us a straight answer anymore, so I began to panic a bit.  He also mentioned that he wanted to learn about the church, but he didn't want to talk about it at the moment.  If I had been in the car alone with Larry, who was an "interesting" guy in the first place, I would have been on red alert at this time, but I trusted his dad, who seemed to be a calm, respectable person.  Eventually, after a lot more questions on our part, mostly about what in the world they wanted to do with us, we arrived at "their shop":  Amway.
Well, they took us in, straight to a table at the back and handed us the papers to sign, but we just told them that we cannot join Amway because we are missionaries and our purpose here is to bring others unto Jesus Christ.  They didn't get it at all, and they were more devastated than I've seen any potential investigator when we just got up and left after a while.  I learned a valuable lesson about setting expectations from this little incident.  I also got to feel exactly what a potential investigator feels like, especially when what I want is not what the missionary wants.

One miracle I experienced this week was meeting a former investigator who'd lost contact with the missionaries months ago. Ray, a humble Filipino man, talked to us on the phone this week and agreed to meet us on Sunday at a member's home. As we talked to him we learned that he had received a copy of the Book of Mormon last year, which he's been reading for a little while now. He's been asking God in prayer what the right way to go is, and which of all the Christian churches is true. As we shared Joseph Smith's sacred experience that followed his asking the same question of Heavenly Father, Ray asked, "Is there any proof that this actually happened?" I was so happy to testify to him that the Book of Mormon is the proof that he was looking for. He said that he was anxious to find out for himself that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that Heavenly Father anciently spoke to prophets in places other than Jerusalem, and whether all that we shared with him is true! I'm so grateful for miracles that Heavenly Father works in the lives of His beloved children in order to prepare them to receive the fullness of the restored gospel. This miracle came at such a perfect time for me, as I was beginning to question, again, whether or not prepared people really were searching the gospel. Heavenly Father really does hear and answer my prayers, in addition to the prayers of my investigators (or soon-to-be-investigators!)
I've got to go, but I love you all and I hope you have a great day and a fabulous week!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Scenes from Singapore

June 1, 2015
Dear Family,

This week, my faith has increased that the Spirit will carry my sincere testimony from my heart to the hearts of those I share it with.  As I have been consistent in searching and feasting on the Book of Mormon each day, and praying with real intent, I have felt an increased urgency to share the gospel.  I can feel my testimony growing stronger each day, and I find myself more able to speak what I really know, from my heart, as I follow the Holy Ghost in opening my mouth to invite others to learn about Jesus Christ.  I am trying harder now than ever before in my mission to consecrate myself to this work and to the Lord, because my love for Him is deepening each day!

I have begun to feel and recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost more clearly lately.  (I wish I'd learned to do this earlier in my mission.  I could have been working so much more effectively from the beginning!)  I feel that each time I recognize and follow the voice of the Spirit is a small miracle.  Another series of miracles has happened to me and Elder Hanks lately - amid all the "zone leader work" we have had to do, including long hours of travel to exchanges in other areas, zone conference, and baptism interviews for our district leaders, we have still had a steady income of potential investigators.  Most of these people have been given to us from Elder Lundahl-Wolford and Elder Pierce as they contact them on the buses.  We've had no shortage of people to meet with and teach lately, which is a big miracle for us.

I've been inviting members to become involved in missionary work by inviting members to be present at each lesson we teach to investigators.  We've also been having a weekly coordination meeting with our branch mission leader, in which we discuss ways that specific members can help teach or fellowship investigators, then make and accept assignments to invite these members to do so.  Our branch mission leader, has also made sign-up sheets for members to meet, feed, and be taught by the missionaries.  I hope to see a few names on those papers soon! :)  I'm actually very impressed by the church members here in JB.  They are always so willing to help, regardless of how far they'll have to travel or who they will help us teach.  I admire their faith and constancy in living the gospel, and I love them a lot!!
Man, ... every time I get online for emailing, my mind just goes blank as to specific experiences to share with you.  I guess I could try to recall all the people I've contacted this week, and share with you exactly how some of them listened sincerely, some of them pretended to listen for a minute or two before walking away while we were still speaking to them, and some of them just flapped their hand at us and refused to say anything or even acknowledge me as I said "hello," but I kind of don't think that would fascinate you.  I'll quickly send you pictures instead.
I really love you all, and I'm happy to hear about how/what you are all doing each week.  Thank you for praying for me!  I hope you can feel my prayers for you, too!



 Just go back and forth between these pictures like a "flip-o-rama."

Mom: Oh! "Pounding the pavement," right?

Took me a minute . . .

Yeah.  It wasn't really that funny or realistic, but it was all I have from this week.  I'm working on sending you pictures of my most recent trip to Singapore.

Panorama shots from the top of Singapore.

More from the top of the Sands hotel.


Elder Hanks at the Singapore Botanic Gardens
("Is that what my hair looks like from the back??")

A giant rainforest fig tree.  When I was little, it was my dream to walk through the rainforests and find the biggest flowers and the tallest trees.  I got a taste of that dream in Singapore!

Well, I'm out of time for today, and I still don't know the transfer news.  I guess you'll just find out next week where I am for my last 6 weeks.
Tons of love to everyone!