Monday, April 20, 2015

The Last Letter

This last week was so crazy! We did 3 exchanges. The first was in Yuma, the second one I went to South Phoenix, and the third I went to Tempe. President Toone was gone Wednesday through Friday at a mission presidents seminar in Dallas and when he got home late Friday night sister Toone called us to tell us she was checking him into the ER because he was super sick. He's been in ICU all weekend and Sunday afternoon was finally checked into a normal hospital room. Added to all of this we still have a lot of preparations to do for transfers: Finishing the transfer board, 21 departure interviews, 5 visa waiters leaving our mission for theirs, and preparing for the new group of missionaries arriving from the MTC on Tuesday. With all of that on your mind let me go back to where I started and tell you about Yuma.

Yuma was AWESOME! One of the missionaries I was with has only been out for a few months and explained at the beginning of our exchange that he feels like everyone around him has really cool mission stories to tell but he doesn't. As we went through the day nothing was really happening. People weren't opening their doors and I could tell these elders were getting discouraged. Finally in the afternoon I suggested we say a pray and ask God to help us find someone to teach. The new elder said the prayer and 20 seconds after he said amen, we met a lady by her apartment that wanted to hear our message. We taught her about he restoration of christs church and asked her if she would be interested in receiving her own copy of the Book of Mormon. She was very interested so we set up an appointment for the following day and left her with a prayer. When we got in the car we had a little celebration. The new elder was pumped he had experienced a little miracle.

In South Phoenix I got yelled at by some drug dealers. Other than that it was a pretty sweet day :)

Tempe was also a great experience! I actually ran into a convert I had taught over a year ago who is still active in his ward! It was a very sweet reunion.

So today President Toone is doing a lot better than he was on Friday night. He had caught an infection that was shutting his organs down and the doctors all said that if he had waited 24 more hours he wouldn't be alive. They were able to treat him and he is recovering quickly and hopes to be out this afternoon. We're still waiting to hear back from him if that's going to happen or not. In the meantime he is practically delegating the rest of the transfer board to us and figuring out the logistics of everything that needs to happen for transfers to be a success. The biggest concern now is wether he will be well enough to do the departing interviews before the incoming group arrives because when they get here we spend all our time with them until transfers getting them oriented and welcomed to the mission. It's pretty stressful but it's going to all work out :) right now the only reason I have time to email is because we're waiting for the doctors to tell president if he's staying in he hospital or if today he can go. We can't move forward until we know. Please pray for him!

With this being my final email as a missionary I would just like to close by sharing how much my mission means to me. I wouldn't trade these two years for anything. I have come to know God better and my commitment has grown a lot deeper. My face is set, my goal is heaven. Covenant keeping is the test. My decision had been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Love Elder Janis

Monday, April 13, 2015

"I Need Your Help!" + Pictures

This week was so awesome.. I'll start by telling you all that for the first time in my mission I got bashed for celebrating Christmas by a fellow Christian! Then a seventh day Adventist joined the mix and bashed us for worshipping on Sunday. I was really tempted to just laugh at them because it reminded me so much of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Christ's time that were so hung up on little details that they lost sight of the important things. Anyways.. It was a good reminder to keep my focus on the Savior and also keep an open mind. The only kind God can teach is an open one. I tried asking the Christian woman that if God asked her to do something if she would do it. Avoiding the question she said, "I don't worship God, I worship the Most High." Alright.... Time to move on.

Dad, you'll like this! A Brazilian lady at in-n-out grabbed my companions arm as we were leaving and dragged him to her table where her mother and her daughter were sitting saying "I need your help." What she needed was to know the scriptural reference in the New Testament where Christ talks about the mote in your brothers eye and the beam in your own. We gave her the reference and she said, "Yes! I'm going to send it to my husband. Thank you!" Hahaha I love being a missionary in public! People are so funny.

We started working on the transfer board this week. I've been looking forward to participating in this inspired process ever since I received the assignment because it's talked about so much. We've spent about 9 hours with President Toone talking about the mission and what needs to happen. We're combining two zones because we're losing a lot of missionaries these next few transfers and we're creating an all Spanish zone. I'm impressed with how well president Toone knows individual missionaries and knows what they need. This whole transfer I have been really surprised with how frequently missionaries are talked about. When I was first out I didn't think any of the leadership of the mission knew me. My experience has totally disproved that.

I'm really looking forward to this week. We're finishing up all the exchanges with zones we haven't gotten to which means we get to go down to Yuma! That's the only part of the mission I haven't seen yet.

Thought: Discipline weighs ounces. Regret weighs tons.

Love Elder Janis

P.S. - "I totally forgot to write in my email that we got to go to Phoenix for a specialized training for all the Spanish missionaries! We didn't participate in the program but president Toone wanted us there for the beginning and for dinner. For the rest of the meeting he let us see the area a little bit and since elder Wallentine served here before we found the corn guy and some cool graffiti."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Being Held like Zoram

Yes, I have time to explain how president called me! Typically the Saturday before transfers president Toone makes a phone call to the assistant he's assigning to be an assistant and you would have about 30 minutes to get everything packed so you could get to the office and start training. I never thought I would be called as an assistant especially this late in my mission.

Saturday came and went with no phone call which i was expecting. Transfer calls came on Wednesday night and the current assistants called to let us know what was happening in the zone. Elder Belnap and I were both being transferred and we were shocked! Because president hadn't called either of us we assumed there would be no leadership change and we'd both be zone leaders somewhere else in the mission (president will call anytime someone is being called to serve in any leadership capacity the missionary is not currently serving in: Trainer, district leader, or zone leader).

The next morning was transfers and we arrived a little early to pick some things up in the mission office. President Toone was in and when I walked in he grabbed my arm and said, "Elder Janis, do you have a moment you can meet with me in my office?" "Oh boy", I thought. "I'm in trouble!" I of course told him I was actually busy picking things up and didn't have time to meet with him in his office. That's probably why he was holding my arm so I couldn't say no.

It was kind of like when Nephi who is large in stature "seize[d] upon [Zoram], and held him, that he should not flee." My agency seemed to be held in the hand of my 7 foot tall mission president. In his office he told me that he wanted me to serve as an assistant. He explained that in a way it was a demonstration of lord sealing my mission with a stamp of approval. He went on to explain that he wanted me to get out on as many exchanges as possible. After that he told me not to say anything about it to anyone until he announced it at transfers.

The most surprised person besides me was probably elder Belnap since we had just been companions and so he was ticked I hadn't said anything to him about it! I told him that I had only known for an hour and wasn't supposed to say anything about it! It's been chaos since the assignment but I'm really enjoying it!!

This week we were so busy! We got out on exchanges into Maricopa and Tempe South. While in Maricopa the elders were pretty lost as to what to do since they didn't have a lot of people to teach. They asked what I would do if they had already visited everyone in the area book, worked brought lists from bishop, and visited every member of the ward. I suggested we tract. So we did! And it rocked!

We found a part member family who's records weren't in the ward and we found two new investigators.

One house we went to was outrageous though. The floor matt said "GO AWAY" and then peep hole had been converted into a video camera. We knocked anyways. Then the owner spoke through a speaker on the camera. He said, "who is it?" We replied, "the missionaries!" He responded back, "can you read?" We answered in the affirmative that we indeed had the ability. He then yelled at us, "Then BEAT IT!". No use pushing it so we left.

That evening we visited the bishop of the ward who said, "Elders, you guys are blowing up my Facebook page!" Super confused we asked him what he meant. He pulled up his Facebook and showed us a neighborhood group page of the development we had been tracking in earlier that day.

The guy who was so rude to us had posted a picture of us on his front porch from his camera with a caption about how ticked he gets when people bother him. The entire community then jumped on the post and everyone was sharing their thoughts, most of them positive, about the LDS missionaries. One lady even said we had knocked on her door and when she looked at us through the peep hole she was intimidated and didn't open the door. The bishop sent her a personal messaging apologizing and introduced himself as the bishop of the local congregation. She replied back that she would really like us to visit but would appreciate a message in advance to let her know we were coming.

We also went to the Mesa temple Easter pageant this week! It was awesome! I actually saw David and Chelsie Barwick!

General Conference was so inspiring and up lifting. I am so grateful for modern prophets. I was hit with a greater determination to turn my whole will over to God. It really is the only intelligent thing to do.

I love you all! Have a great week!

Love Elder Janis

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Left to right: Franky (a member who helped teach the kids), Matt, me,
Kyle, Raymond. AWESOME KIDS! They always asked hilarious questions.

Fell Asleep Writing in Journal & Other Stories

This week ROCKED!! It was the busiest week of my mission for sure! In fact two nights ago before I closed my journal and passed out I wrote, "This is the most exhausted I have ever been my whole life." That was supposed to be the first sentence of my entry but I fell asleep because I couldn't finish it. (I got it done the following morning, don't worry :)).

Two days before the experience of passing out while writing we had to wake up at 5:20am to get packed for an exchange in Casa Grande with some companionship's there. What we'll do is go into a zone and split up into three other companionship's and spend the day with them. I went with two missionaries that are pretty new to their missions. We had a really successful day and taught a lot of the people they're working with and were able to find a few new investigators too.

Two days later we went on exchanges with the Chandler zones and we had to wake up at 5:20am again to get down and get everyone where they needed to be before an appointment we had back here in Tempe. I brought two zone leaders from one of the Chandler zones with me and we had a blast!

Part of the reason I brought them up was because there was a baptism in my old ward in Tempe that I was asked to go to. The baptism was for the three kids of the single mom I had been working with while me and Elder Belnap were companions. The mother said the closing prayer and she couldn't control her emotions. We were all in tears by the end of her prayer. She expressed her deep gratitude to the Lord for bringing the gospel to her and her family EXACTLY when she needed it.

Those are the moments that make all the trials worth it. At the end of the day we drove back through Chandler to pick up and drop off and didn't get home until 10:15pm. I was driving and I think Jesus took the wheel because I was sooo tired! Yikes! :)

In our area we killed it this week! We set a goal for 30 teaching opportunities even though we had a district leader training we had to prepare for and conduct and 2 exchanges and we still hit our goal! Any time we could we did 3 way splits with members and we found 7 new investigators and put someone on date! It was nuts!

It's awesome to see the fire it is lighting in all the zones of the mission because the assistants area has always been known to not get much done because of all the office work. My biggest desire is to set an example of finishing a mission strong and if I can break the stigma that assistants don't do missionary work I think it will make a big impact. It totally kills a lot of missionaries excuses about why they don't have anything going on in their area too.

One night I was street contacting in an apartment complex with a member and a group of kids ran up to us and asked, "are you the paramedics?" We of course lied and told them yes because it would put us in a great opportunity to teach. Just kidding. We were honest and told them no. They said, "ok, we're waiting for the paramedics because an old guy just jumped of the 2nd floor balcony and broke his ankle!"

Just then an old man hobbled up and asked us who we worked for because he also must have assumed we were the paramedics! We told him that we worked for Jesus and he liked that. Just then the real paramedics showed up and got him to sit down and started asking him questions like, "Why did you jump off your balcony?" I guess he served in Vietnam and used to do stunts like that all the time and thought he could still do it. Always a good story to share each week :)

Love Elder Janis

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pictures of the Giants

Elder Babcock, Elder Wallentine, President Toone, Elder Janis

(The joke in our mission is that you have to be over 6 feet to be
an assistant. President Toone is 7 feet tall!)

Called as AP, Better Than a Foot

I tried last week to be undercover but I really can't tell you much about this past week without telling you I was called as an assistant at transfer meeting. I'll have to tell you the story of how President Toone gave me the assignment some time.

The week of transfers was so crazy getting the departing missionaries to the airport and figuring out housing and car problems throughout the mission. We spent a lot of time in the office working things out and getting organized and spent just about no time sleeping. Writing in my journal is harder than ever but I'm all caught up on that too!

This week we prepared our training with President Toone for MLC (Mission Leadership Conference) where all the zone leaders and sister training leaders come in for a 6 hour conference where we set the vision for the mission for the coming transfer. The meeting was on Thursday and we were able to start planning for it on Tuesday morning.

We spent the entire day brainstorming and writing things down just to crumple it up and start all over again. It's really important that our companionship is on same page and feel good about the direction of the trainings and it was really frustrating for all of us to feel like we were getting nowhere. By Tuesday night we were back to square one. Wednesday we fasted and got back to preparing. Things were slowly coming together but still didn't quite feel right. Finally around 6pm we felt inspired to split the training into two parts to be able to cover more topics. It flowed really well from then on and we were ready by 8 and got to go out and do real missionary work!

The conference went really really well. We received really good feedback from some zone leaders that really appreciated the new approach with the MLC training with doing the two groups. The fun part of the day was that last Monday we bought matching ties for us and President Toone. We had to buy an extra tie for president that a lady in the ward used as extra fabric to widen and lengthen his because he is so big and tall! I'll attach a picture so you see what I mean :) He's 7 feet tall!

The last half of the week was the best. We got to spend quality time out with the members teaching investigators. We have two that are showing real progression and we have plans this week to put them on date and find new investigators. We will be doing a lot of exchanges this next week into Casa Grande and some of the Chandler stakes (Chandler East, and West) and I'm really looking forward to that. Especially going back to chandler for a day! Chandler holds a special place for me. I spent a total of 9 months of my mission there.

There is this funny recent convert in our ward that we had a conversation with this week. She is slightly crazy:

She was dogging on me and Elder Walentine who are new to the ward and was telling us we were worse than even her stuffed animal hippopotamus. So we asked, if we're worse than a hippopotamus what are we better than?". She answered, "A foot." A foot? Yep. I'm better than s foot. Thank goodness! There's another missionary she really doesn't like and we asked her if he is better than a foot. She said no. He's not. I'm glad I'm not that elder :) When she found out I was from Houston she got really excited! She told me she is also from Texas. I asked where and she said, "Humble Texas. That's where I was created."

Impactful thought for the week... (This will change your life! And if it doesn't..... Nothing will. :l)

You have time to do whatever you want.

If that is true then you just need to determine what you want. Too many people make the excuse, "oh well I don't have time for that", or, "I'm too busy to do that"... I don't have time to attend the temple or read my scriptures or go to the gym or write my brother/nephew/cousin/soon to be uncle(Damon and Macall?) who's on a mission ;P That's not true. We have time to do whatever we want. So what do you want? You choose.

I love you all!

Love Elder Janis