Monday, December 30, 2013

A New Tradition: Hash Brown Flipping

Christmas was the highlight of the week. Christmas eve was a lot of fun too. Our zone leaders came and stayed the night so we could all open packages and presents in the morning together. For Christmas breakfast we started a new tradition: hash brown flipping! Elder Goates was the chef and he was tossing the hash browns in the air to flip them and after daring and challenging his manliness he tried flipping the hash browns flipping them under his leg, over the head, and from one side to the other side which resulted in hash browns finding themselves all over the kitchen!

I had the unique privilege of spending Christmas dinner with my awesome family!! Mom prepared an amazing Turkey dinner and we even did our Family Christmas pageant. My favorite part of the night was taking care packages to a house of recovering drug and alcohol addicts. We got to know some of the women living there who gave my brother Spencer the nickname "Afro-Man".

We had an awesome lesson with B this week! We taught him the law of the fast and had to explain the difference between going without food, and moving quickly. "Fasting". He's still learning English. He said that hopefully fast sunday really is "fast" so it isn't miserable. We told him it should be called slow Sunday and he got a kick out of that! B is still helping us with our Chinese missionary efforts. We met a lady walking down the street a few weeks ago and he's been communicating back and forth with her. After hearing her excuse that she has to stay home with her kids all day every day and can't come to church, B told her that "if all you do is stay home all day, you're never going to have any friends and your life is going to be disgusting." I think the word disgusting wasn't quite the word he used when he was talking to her in Chinese but that's what he translated it into for us.

Sometimes when I need strength I reflect on my testimony and how I gained it. My belief in the gospel is so special to me. It's something I treasure and hold very sacred and personal, although I share it often. My testimony has grown experience by experience over the years. Most of the experiences are small, some leave a greater impression. I do know that I have my own testimony and it gives me courage and motivation. If you are having a difficult time, I would encourage you to think about your testimony and what it means to you.

Love Elder Janis

Saturday, December 28, 2013

merry CHRISTmas!

DEC 23, 2013

This week was sick. But not just because I got sick!!! After 3 short weeks, M was baptized on Saturday December 21st!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The change he has gone through has been absolutely unreal. I have learned so much about the power and affect the spirit has on people just being an observer of his conversion. The first day we met him he had a very depressed spirit. His eyes showed the pain and loneliness he felt in his heart. Now those eyes radiate with life, purpose, and joy! As a witness of this process my testimony has grown deeper in the power of the atonement. It changes lives. It's changed mine and I've watched it change others. During our lessons we learned a little more about his life and story leading up to our meeting him. His family life was, and is, in shambles. His wife recently took the kids and ran away leaving him no way to stay in contact with them. He hit bad luck with his job and has been looking for work for awhile. Through the difficulties he resorted to renting the cheapest housing he could find which brought him to renting the room J rents out. J is the old retired man with the amputated leg we're teaching. Unbeknownst to us, 1 week after J's leg was amputated, Elder Goates and I felt prompted to call the man named J who was listed as an investigator from years previous but was dropped because he wouldn't progress. He was humble and invited us to teach him again. While installing adaptive equipment for his new needs at his house in preparation for his return, we met M. At this point in his life, M was truly searching. Nightly he would pour out his soul asking for guidance and help. He contemplated suicide and was barely hanging on. He accepted an invitation to hear the message we share and it changed his life. He now has the Holy Ghost helping him overcome his depression and he has a new perspective and understanding about why he's on earth and what happens to him when he dies.

One of the hardest things of my mission was missing M's baptism and confirmation. On Friday night I got sick with the flu and wasn't able to get out of the house. Of all the days to be sick, December 21st and 22nd were the worst.

I want to end with humor :)

Early this week J ran out of his pain medications. We offered him a priesthood blessing and he replied that "Absolutely no blessing you, or anyone can give, will help me. Nothing will help me but medication." Now, J's medication was on back order and was supposed to arrive before the last bottle was empty and it still hasn't come. Late Saturday night J called us up very humbled and asked for a blessing :) I feel so bad for him because he's in so much pain. I guess it's bad of me but the humor in this story is that J is very proud and constantly puts his faith in the arm of flesh rather than in God. He literally wrestles with God daily and always looses. He's been thrown bigger challenges in his life than any person I've yet met on my mission and he still hasn't let God win. Occasionally he'll humble himself but as soon as he get's back in control of his life he throws God out. If he would just let God in and allow him to influence his life, he would be a thousand times happier!

I love you all so much and wish you a merry CHRISTmas!

Love Elder Janis

Friday, December 20, 2013

Letter from Elder Goates

Sent Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013

Wow, what an amazing letter! I will forgo writing my personal weekly letter to be blasted and copy Elder Goates rendition (which is way better than how I write! He's hysterical!) so you can still read our highlights from the week and when we see each other I can tell you more of the details.

I'm writing today because we had a Christmas mission conference Sunday night through this morning. We were told to write today so here i am being obedient! Also we don't have as much time today so it will have to be brief.

Elder Goates Letter to his family:
It is seventy-five degrees right now. The Christmas season has a different feeling with such warm weather. The entire mission got together for mission conference and Christmas family home evening, spending all day at the mission home.
           There are approximately two hundred missionaries in the Arizona Tempe Mission, and they are all very different. There are the missionaries that act like they are still in high school. There are the missionaries that are ready to be CEOs. There are missionaries that won't speak unless spoken to. Overall, there is a wide spectrum of elders, but I can usually count on all of the sisters being good missionaries. Additional sisters is really benefiting the mission. 
            We did an a very interesting activity with the whole mission. We drew a name from a hat, and each of us got the name of a random missionary that we were supposed to observe that day, then write a one page letter to them describing their Christ-like attributes. So we all had to stalk each other. I didn't know the guy I drew out of the hat at all, so my letter was the most insincere thing I have ever written. It was pretty funny. On a more serious note, everyone has Christ-like attributes, because we are all children of God and we have a piece of his divinity and creative power. As Jesus said, we should let our light shine. Nobody is without merit. 
            For the family home evening we had about thirteen musical numbers given by various missionaries around the mission. We have a very impressive piano player in our mission, Elder Apsley, that can play what seems like all of the hymns by ear. A missionary from the Tempe zone wrote a song about the restoration, accompanied by the ukulele. We performed "O Come, O come, Emmanuel" as a quintet. We added Elder Beck to the mix to help cancel out Elder Stiles. I was furthest away from the microphone, so there was not enough base part, and some of the tenors were a bit too loud. I was pleased with how it sounded, however, the audience seemed to like it, and Sister Hansen invited us to perform it in sacrament meeting. Sisters Marquez and Funke gave us a standing ovation from the back of the room, which didn't spread to the other missionaries (Marquez and Funke are in our zone.)
           Mateo will be getting baptized this Saturday, even after expressing some concerns. Jim, our one-legged investigator, is Catholic just like Mateo. Jim loves when we come over, and he openly tells us that coming to our church meetings is far better than the Catholic ones, but he swears up and down that he will never get baptized in our church. In fact, he actually told Mateo that getting baptized into our Church would be a "mortal sin." It doesn't matter, however, Mateo has felt things that he cannot deny as he has learned about the gospel.
            Michael has moved. We planted a seed.
            Bruce will become a certified pilot in the next week or two.
            I would encourage all of you to organize a service activity this Christmas, even if it merely serving each other. Before my mission, the Christmas season was actually a fairly depressing time, because I was focusing so much on what I personally wanted. Don't fall into that trap. Gifts have destroyed Christmas in this country, don't let them ruin Christmas in the Goates house.
           Christmas is a great time to reflect on how we are aligning our lives with the example of Jesus Christ. Faith, hope, charity, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence and obedience are the Christ-like attributes that are listed in Preach My Gospel. Will each one of you identify one of these attributes that you will work on between now and Christmas? Write them down on a piece of paper with everyone's name and hang it up somewhere. Every night before you go to bed, tell God in prayer what you have done to improve in your chosen area. I promise that doing this activity will make a more spiritually uplifting Christmas for our family. I will be doing the same thing. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

I've had an absolutely awesome week!!! We were surprised with 3 missionaries moving into our house on Wednesday which has been a lot of fun. I'll send a pic soon. All 3 of them are pretty big dudes. Elder Goates and I got a car this week and whenever we drive around with the 3 big boys in back we have to be careful when we go over any bumps or dips in the road because we scrape the cement!

A few nights ago me and Elder Goates were biking around and we came across a Chinese lady walking a dog. We had a great conversation with her on the side walk and then told her that we're teaching two guys from China and wanted her to meet them. The next day in church we told our investigator B who's from China about her and asked if he'd be comfortable talking to her on the phone in Chinese and invite her to church! He said he'd do it so I gave him my name tag so he could wear it while he did missionary work and called the lady. She answered so I put her on the phone with B. They had a great conversation and she agreed to come to church! I'll post a picture on Facebook.

A little more background on the three missionaries who moved in with us. One of them is a former zone leader who is now a district leader training the two new missionaries. The other night while we were getting ready for bed the two new missionaries were arguing about something super petty. Honestly they fight about the dumbest stuff and it's hilarious. As they were bickering I started a chant, "Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!..." One of the Elders cracks me up every time he starts talking. The way he combines words and the way he says them makes me laugh. As I was chanting for them to fight, mid argument he quickly looked at me and held up a finger and said, "not yet." They ended up resolving the conflict.

I have been thinking deeply this week about who we really are. I believe that the more you learn and understand about who you are, the happier and more at peace you will be. You will have more confidence in yourself and be more successful. Ponder the question this week: Who am I?

Love Elder Janis

Photo: Me and the other elders enjoying a crammed ride to the library

Photo: Bruce the missionary! Action shot with my name tag on inviting the Chinese lady we met last night to come to church!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

He's One of a Kind...

We're emailing earlier this morning than usual because we have a lesson in 22 minutes with J.! I'm going to have to cut my email short this morning as a result. I may be able to finish my email time later, I'll let you know.

Oh mammy, it was so good to see you on Thursday!!!!!! It was such a tender mercy.. I feel like God organized that entire day. I don't think anything happens by coincidence. I feel like a big part of why I was called to this mission was so that our family could get together on Thursday. How incredible.

Transfer calls were last night and I'm staying with Elder Goates for a 3rd transfer here in Chandler!! The rest of the district is mostly getting gutted out so that should be fun to have a bunch of new faces next transfer!

The man who we invited to thanksgiving but wasn't able to come is awesome! His name is M. and in the first lesson he accepted a baptismal date for Dec 21st! Yesterday he came to church and had a great experience there! Also another new investigator named M. came to church! We've had one lesson with him which was definitely the most interesting lesson I've had on my mission.. The reason being he is just a very quirky guy. M. has had a super hard life. He has some very big challenges and problems to over come so it will be a long road. As he told his life story I'm sure he spiced some stories up past reality. For example he told us he beat some guy to a pulp and then cut off his hand... But then because he is such a nice guy, he drove the guy who he beat up to the hospital.

I would like to share my testimony this week on change. So often in life we encounter change. In fact we are constantly changing and so are our circumstances. We seem to be very good at getting comfortable with how things are and we wish that they would stay that way. I believe that change is always good. The reason why it's always good is because change is the essence of growth. Every time we encounter change we have the ability to grow and as we adapt to our new situation we become more experienced and stronger.

Love Elder Janis

We were able to make it back to the library after our lesson so I will finish my letter :)

First let me say THANK YOU for the jacket and sweaters!!! They have been AWESOME! Plus a style boost ;)

I'm glad to hear Heather's lip is healing!! 

The lesson this morning was with J., and let me tell ya...... WHEW! What a character! We taught him in his living room with GQ magazines splayed out on the coffee table. J. lives with M. who is renting out one of his rooms. M. was unfortunately not there. Before we started he had to have his TV remote by his side even though he had the TV off. I think it's a man thing.. We taught about the restoration of the priesthood and also about the spirit and half way through the lesson he asked if anyone was thirsty. Elder Goates replied that water would be nice so Jim got into his wheel chair (He's the one who had his leg amputated a few weeks ago) and rolled over to the fridge. After opening it up, he yelled an expletive and then said, "Matt drank all my pop!" He rolled back over infuriated and said, "He drank all my pop. That pi**es me off." He then pulled out his phone to call M. and said, "Excuse me one second, I'm going to raise He**." Trying my hardest not to laugh my head off, I asked him if he'd wait till we finished the lesson. He was agreeable and so we continued. A few minutes later he paused the lesson because something wasn't quite right. He said, "something's bothering the sh** out of me." He rolled his wheelchair over to the coffee table and adjusted a decorative bowl LITERALLY an inch and then rolled back to the couch he had been sitting in and sat down. He's one of a kind...

This week I had the unique privilege of eating thanksgiving with my wonderful family!!! An awesome family in a ward I serve in invited me and my companion Elder Goates and my entire family over. The best part of it all was being able to teach a discussion to our two Chinese investigators with my family there. What an absolute treat! We taught the first lesson on the restoration.

Well that's all for this week!

Love Elder Janis  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Unbelievable! You Speak Chinese?

Well HELLO everyone!!

Spiritual experience first: Elder Goates and I reached out to a former investigator this past week because we felt prompted to as we were looking through our area book. Former missionaries dropped him because he had been investigating for years and wasn't progressing. He didn't want to make commitments and was kind of in a bad stage of life and was pretty sour. We gave him a call on Wednesday and the first thing he said when he answered was, "Who are you? I just had my leg amputated and am in therapy right now!" Somewhat surprised and concerned we let him know we were missionaries and we wanted  to visit with him and he said, "Call me back tonight." 20 minutes later he called us back and asked if we were affiliated with the Mormon church. We said we were and he asked how soon we could come see him. We were available that night so we made plans to visit him in the care center he's staying at in Chandler. We went out to see him that evening and boy was he glad to see us! He said that he had thought that we had forgotten about him (which is kind of true!) and was very grateful to see us. He seemed very lonely and probably doesn't receive many (if any) visitors. He had had his leg amputated just a week or two before we called due to an injury from years before that had become infected. After the surgery he was actually a lot happier and optimistic about life because the infection had caused him to have a lot of negativity. He Is a good man and wants to progress in learning about the gospel again. We shared a Mormon Message about having hope in good things to come by Elder Holland and he felt like God was really reaching out to him.

Funny story: We were teaching our Chinese investigator who speaks broken English in one of the small classrooms at our church building the Plan of Salvation. At the end of the lesson I gave him the Plan of Salvation pamphlet in Chinese and pointed out on the last page where it talked about the 3 degrees of glory and what their names were. He looked at me in amazement and said, "Unbelievable! You read Chinese?!" I explained that I was just very familiar with the English pamphlet and knew where it would talk about the kingdoms and absolutely didn't know how to read Chinese at all! It was very funny and we had a good laugh.

Earlier this week in the morning we were teaching another lesson to our Chinese investigator! We were on Facetime with two fluent Chinese speakers and had other members with us teaching. The lesson was going really well!! (And that's because the Chinese speakers were doing most of the talking ;)) At one point our investigator was talking back and forth in Chinese with the members on Facetime and he was getting very excited! He turned to me and started talking in rapid Chinese without missing a beat! I looked at him very confused and told him, "Bruce, I don't speak Chinese!" He had gotten so excited about the lesson and being able to speak in Chinese he forgot that I couldn't speak it!

I crashed into the back of Elder Goates on Friday night! It was dark and rainy and I was looking down to keep the rain out of my eyes and looked up just in time to process that Elder Goates was at a stop at the red light 6 inches away from me. At nearly full speed I slammed into him. We both miraculously stayed on our bikes with absolutely no incident! In fact on my end it was a comfortable crash because he had a jacket in his backpack which during the collision was a pillow for my face :)

Thought for the week: Everyone has goals and desires. What is the key to achieving our goals? Here's the key to success: Willpower. Christ taught, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." To walk the strait and narrow path to our goals (keep in mind a straight line is the quickest path to any destination) we have to be willing to limit, restrict, overcome, and do without things that are tempting. We have to set an undeviating course to achieve our goals if we ever want to achieve them.

I love you all, have a great week!!!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wrestling a Steer

To start this weekly letter off I would like to relate a very unusual experience! Elder Goates and myself pulled up on our bikes at a red light and coming from behind us in the right turn lane, a muslim woman with a head-shawl on driving a maroon SUV blazed past us with the windows down and rock music blasting!! She ran the red light to make her turn and sped off. We looked at each other and I said to Elder Goates, "I will never stereo type again." I did NOT expect to ever see such a sight nor do I ever expect to see it again!

     The highlight of the week was participating in our stake's annual rodeo. The event is held at a ranch fully equipped to host a large scale rodeo. An estimated 2,000 people came with their family and friends. There was free food, a petting zoo, and pony rides leading up to the rodeo event. I have to mention that it was very dry and dusty and all the kids seemed to think it would be fun to kick the dirt and dust. The result was a thick layer of dust in the air standing it stark contrast to the clean air above it. In fact an older lady in one of our wards blacked out due to the amount of dust and was rushed to the hospital that night!!

     The rodeo was organized kind of like a swim meet. The 3-4 year olds rode sheep, the 5-11 year olds chased chickens, the 12-15 year olds chased a greased pig, the 16-18 year olds chased steer with money tied to their horns, and 18 and up did an event called branding the steer. When the younger kids chased chickens I honestly felt some sympathy for the chickens. Imagine the horror stories the older chickens tell the younger chickens year after year: "The humans will put you in an arena with 200 of their little ones intent on grabbing you. In the chaos you will be stepped on, pulled, grabbed, and strangled by little hands. You may not live. You may not want to live." I honestly am shocked none of the chickens died of heart attacks when all the kids began stampeding them!

     The branding the steer event consisted of a team of 3: 2 held a rope that was tied around the bulls neck and 1 was the grabber who's job it was to grab the horns and wrestle it to the ground. The rope holders would pull on the rope quickly pulling it in close and then the grabber could grab the horns. Once the grabber made contact with the steer one of the rope holders would join the struggle and once the steer was on the ground the third member would grab the unheated brand and touch it to the steer to finish. My zone leaders and I signed up for the challenge with Elder Kloepfer acting as rope holder and wrestle support, Elder Stiles acting as rope holder and brander, and myself as grabber. When I first grabbed him I got tossed around a bit. Once I got a better grip and Elder Kloepfer attacked his rear (literally. His shirt was covered with the bulls manure  Elder Kloepfer got branded, not the bull!) we brought it down. On top of me. :) It didn't hurt but getting out after it fell on me was a challenge!

On a spiritual note I would like to share that all of us can receive a testimony of the gospel. Each of us can receive a witness of the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. God promises that if we truly desire to receive a witness and we intend to act on that gift, we will be given it.

Facebook and skype is great! I've been messaging back and forth with a friend from high school and she accepted to take the first missionary lesson over skype!! Me and Elder Goates will be teaching that lesson this afternoon with her roommate at UT Tyler who happens to be LDS! I don't believe it's a coincidence! The Lord is so intimately involved in this work and he places certain people where they need to be to share the gospel. Take the challenge and invite a friend, work associate, acquaintance, or family member to hear more about the gospel!! You will be inspired with how to do it if you ask God who is a really big fan of missionary work :)

Love, Elder Janis

(Elder Janis is the one on the ground:) )

Saturday, November 16, 2013

We Learned to do the Polynesian Hakka Dance

We are very busy! We taught the most lessons this past week than any other week we've been in the area!! B is such an amazing man, he has taught me so much in his broken English. He has so much faith and is willing to forfeit a very good career to join the church. If he get's baptized he will never receive a promotion and will not earn very much money for his career. The reason is because religion is looked down on and anyone who is religious is discriminated against. He signed a contract with a company that forces him to work for them until he's 60 (he's 24 now) and if he's baptized he will jeopardize his career. It's a sacrifice he's willing to make.

The greatest experience this week was teaching B with the help of our mission president's son and his Chinese wife. He served his mission in Hong Kong and after his mission he moved back for work and found his future wife. Her conversion story is incredible due to the fact that outsiders are not allowed to preach or teach religion so all he could tell her was to keep studying when she came across a concern. She was able to bear a powerful testimony to B in Chinese and after the lesson B kept talking about how amazing it was to hear someone bear a testimony in Chinese. He was very inspired and touched by the spirit.

This last weekend our zone threw a party for the youth in our stake. We held the party at the Catmulls barn (my old house) and had a bunch of stuff set up on the property's field. While people were arriving we had volleyball and soccer set up with a snack table. Later we busted out 70 boxes of pizza (we had a budget approved from the stake for $400) and learned how to do the Polynesian Hakka dance by 3 Polynesian missionaries in our zone. As it got dark we set up a projector and watched Forever Strong. About 250 youth came to the event and a lot of them had brought their friends! It made me miss being a youth but I guess when I get home I'll still be a YSA and can still do cool stuff :) Plus I'll always be a kid at heart!

There's my report for the week!! My final comment is this: If you're sad or down for any reason, have a missionary experience! It will make you happy, I promise :)

Love Elder Janis

I forgot to tell you about B and T!!!

We met some black people! The man that lives in the house, his name is B, not to be confused with Chinese B. The lady that lives there is named T. We first spoke to T, and she had previous ran into missionaries in California that helped her with her family history work. We have also learned that T was a volleyball player at the University of Arizona. 
            B seems to be a drug addict and an alcoholic. He is 56. The second time I spoke to him, he was sober, and a lot more normal. B has the thickest Ebonics I have ever heard in my entire sheltered life. This is a direct quote, "ain't nobody do me like Jesus do me." He has a lot of faith in God and the Bible. We got on the subject of kids, and I said I was excited to have kids. He then went on to teach me the law of chastity, in his unique way. I won't go into detail, but George of the Jungle was mentioned in his words of wisdom. 
            T's kids love us, and they want us to come over everyday, because we threw the football with them. By the way, T's brother is Lance Briggs. Lance Briggs is a starting linebacker in the NFL, one of the best, if I remember correctly. 

Anyways, have a great week!!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An Experience I Can't Adequately Capture

Let's start this letter off with some humor :) This was a funny week!

The laughs started on Monday (Elder Goates rocks, we are both sarcastic and laugh about the same things). There is a priest in one of our wards who is awesome because he gives us rides when we need them and also comes to teaching appointments sometimes. Well on Monday night he reserved the evening to go out with us. Not only did we have a lot of success making contact with part member families that we normally don't make contact with, but he said the funniest things! Quote #1: "If I don't marry a girl who drives aggressively, I'll go nuts!!" (Andy is an aggressive drive. I've rebuked him for it and he's settled down when he drives us.)

Quote #2: We were looking for somewhere to park and he avoided parking in front of a fire hydrant because he said, "weird things happen when you're doing things for the Lord." I wonder what he thought might happen if we parked in front of the fire hydrant..

Quote #3: "I like female country singers. You can hear the estrogen in their voice." HAHA

This Saturday we had the blessing of baptizing a 9 year old boy. He is the one who told me that being baptized was a dream come true. After he was baptized and he was sitting in his chair again, He told everyone present, "After I was baptized I was so wet and I didn't have a towel so I used paper towels." Later he raised his hand during the bishops closing remarks, took the front of the room and said pointing to some gifts members had brought him, "My mom told me I wasn't going to get any presents. Well I did." Profound. What a great guy :)

The highlight of my week was something that not many missionaries ever have the opportunity of having. I was blessed to see my sweet, beautiful mother, my Dad, my brothers Damon and Spencer, my little sister Emily, and Damon's girlfriend Haley. My parents have been in Scottsdale receiving cancer treatment for my mom. My mission President was made aware and I was given permission to see them. It worked out great that they were able to come down for the baptism on Saturday. I have such an incredible family. Seeing them motivated me to accomplish as much as I can while I have the opportunity to be a missionary. A kind sister in the ward took our family picture which was hysterical (Dad being told to do poses he didn't want to). After the baptism and pictures, my Mom, Dad, and myself had the opportunity to spend some time together while my companion went on splits with our Zone Leaders. We were able to see the newly built Gilbert Temple and then I was able to give them both priesthood blessings. I am so grateful I was able to give them those blessings. I can testify that they were completely directed by the spirit. I felt true power and authority as I spoke the words God wanted me to speak. Giving your parents a blessing while serving as a missionary is an experience I can't adequately capture.

Earlier this morning we taught the first lesson to a man from main land China. He's been here for a month and a half and struggles speaking and understanding english but enough that we are able to communicate. He has a background of going to church but in China it was more for fellowship than learning any sort of doctrine. He's heard of God and Jesus Christ but isn't very familiar with who they are or what our relationship is to them. We taught him about God and Jesus Christ and the atonement and how to pray. At the end of the lesson he uttered the first prayer he's ever offered. It was beautiful. Two weeks ago we gave him a Book of Mormon in Chinese and he's 100 pages into it. He is incredible! He has a strong desire to be baptized and an even stronger desire to be a missionary. In 1 year he will be going back to China and he is already preparing himself to share what he's learning with his older brother, mom, dad, friends, neighbors, and anyone else who will listen to him. He has been coming to church for the last 3 weeks with a few other friends he's living with and one of his other friends has also agreed to take the lessons so I will have a report of that lesson by next week. What a great example he is of prizing a testimony by wanting to share it with others! He couldn't stop talking about how good he felt and how comfortable he felt. He is feeling and recognizing the spirit and it is changing his life.

I would briefly like to bear my testimony on the subject of how important YOU are. There is a point in each of our lives where we wonder if we really matter. We wonder if the decisions we make are important and if anyone is affected besides ourself. We could easily rationalize sin by telling ourselves that it will only affect our own life and no one else's. That is such a lie. You matter more than you think you do. There are people who need YOU. You are SO important!!! Your choices affect the history of this world and of eternity! I bear testimony that you are important.

Love Elder Janis

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cooking the hot dogs fell to me, and I'm a PRO!

Every week here is crazy but this week has been CRAZY!

Last Wednesday was transfers and me and Elder Goates stayed together covering the same two wards which i'm super happy about! They did move us out of the barn though but they haven't finished aquiring new housing for us so now we're about 6 miles out of our area living with our zone leaders in kind of a half barn. One of our Zone leaders has bronchidus so for them it's been a blessing for us to live with them so we can go on splits now and then so their area doesn't shrivle up and die.. And BTW for anyone unfamiliar with Arizona, LOTS of things shrivle up and die here. Infact I have seen birds in mid flight die and fall to the ground. Over the summer our bike routes were obstacle courses of dead birds we had to swerve around that had fallen into the roads bike lanes.

On Thursday night one of our wards threw a Halloween Party that we were invited to serve the food at. We were serving Senoran hot dogs (we were combined with the spanish ward so the food was legit) but we also had the opportunity to help prepare. The duty of cooking the weiners fell to me and after cooking 270 of them I'm a pro. At one point the grill was really hot and I kept getting burned by grease from the weiners and I almost gave up because no where in my call letter did it say I'd be required to burn my arms for a Halloween Party.

We had the opportunity to teach multiple lessons this week. We also are now teaching some guys who moved to Arizona a month ago from China and randomely showed up to church two weeks ago. They came to America because they are helicoptor pilots and their program sent them here for more training. They're airport is a mile from our chapel and every day they fly over our chapel and as they come back in, it's a location point they use as they come in to land. After a month of flying over it they wanted to check it out so they just showed up!

Thus far on my mission I've spent the majority of my letters writting about all of the positive aspects of serving a mission. It's seriously the greatest experience I've had in my life! I have not written very much about the difficulties or challenges that come while serving a mission and I'd like to talk about a few of those this week.

The most difficult challenge I've had as a missionary has been waking up at 6:30am. Especially because we're supposed to work out from 6:30 to 7. I LOVE working out. But not when I'm tired. The other challenge is that especially when you feel discouraged you really don't want to wake up and face another day with the exact same challenges.

Talking to strangers in the street is hard. Just because you have a name badge on doesn't mean it makes it magically easy or even easier. Rich people are also pretty rude and and are usually comfortable where they're at. We get looked at funny, yelled at, "anti'd", ignored, and accused.

Another challenge can be a companion you don't like/relate to/or get along with. You are with them 24/7 and especially if you're like me and really enjoy alone time now and then, it can be almost clastrophobic.

These are some of the biggest challenges of serving a mission. They are universal challenges every missionary faces. On top of these there are personal challenges unique to every missionary. There are also happy missionaries and depressed missionaries. Everyone goes through the same experience. So why does one missionary come home saying it was the best two years of his or her life while another comes home feeling like they wasted 2 years? We cannot control the experience. But we can control our attitude. Wether it's a mission, a calling, a particularly difficult semester, an unexpected medical emergency, or whatever, YOU control your attitude and with that control you also control wether you learn and grow or sink and fail. I believe you can be happy and successful regardless of your circumstances. How is that possible? Listening to and following the enticings of the spirit of God. The Holy Ghost teaches a man to be happy, to be grateful, to pray, to serve, to think of others instead of self, to build and create, to be obedient, to accomplish, to succeed regardless of the obstacle. As a missionary, if I am listening to and following the spirit, I am happy.

Family and friends, brothers and sisters, I testify that you can find greater happiness in life by following the spirit. Do those things that are right and true. Point your life towards God. I testify that Christ fulfilled His purpose in life and because He did, you can too. Some problems we can fix. Other problems we cannot fix here in this life. But I testify that because of Jesus Christ, we all can ENDURE the challenges we can't fix until we leave this life for an inconceivably better one.

Love Elder Taylor Janis

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Ate Raw Eggs This Week At Our Zone Meeting

The best experience of the last two weeks was when we were inviting our 9 year old investigator to be baptized. He was a little stubborn and asked why he should choose to be baptized anyways? So I told him that he could be washed clean of all of his guilt to which he replied, "then YES!!!! It's like a dream come true!"

I ate raw eggs this week at our zone meeting. I had made a bet with one of the Elders we live with that we could get more investigators than him that day and it's a good thing he didn't accept because we got more :) Anyways, I thought it would be awesome to pump everyone up at our zone meeting by starting off with a raw egg challenge so I convinced him to do it with me and we both drank 2 raw eggs. It really wasn't that bad and if you've done it before you know that they don't really have a taste. But everyone got super pumped so it worked!

Yesterday at church me and Elder Goates had the opportunity to participate in the primary sharing and singing time! Waaaaayyyy too much fun for missionaries! We were each made a team captain and given a tie to be used to keep score of the games. If my team answered a question right and then sang the song well, we got to cut Elder Goates tie twice! I got way into it which was super fun but I probably went a little over board. The biggest mistake I made was giving a piece of chocolate I had been given for helping the primary to one of the kids in the front row. MAYHEM. I may have accidentally made enemies with all the primary teachers and leaders..... BAD MISTAKE.

I've been thinking recently about how experience truly is the best way for us to learn and grow. And that's what this life is all about. This life is an experience we couldn't have as spirit children that will transform us (if we allow it to) into true heirs of the kingdom of God. We will progress to become what we never would have been able to without this experience.

I have such a strong belief in this church and its truthfulness. I am so thankful for that testimony. It gets me through the hardest times. I absolutely know that anyone is able to receive a witness of the truth of the gospel if they truly want it. It takes faith, sacrifice, and obedience. The blessings are happiness, confidence, and purpose. The purpose of our life becomes clear as we draw closer to God.

With all my love,

Elder Janis

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Can't Wait to be Old and Baptizing All My Old Buddies

October 7, 2013

Wasn't conference incredible??? I was thinking of you the whole time. I felt like a huge focus of the conference was how challenges are essential to our progression. It's almost unbearable to listen to President Monson speak while he goes through this difficult time but it gives me so much strength to know that even a prophet has challenges.

Yes, I got the package with the squirt guns, subway card, brownie mix, cups, and my FAVORITE OATMEAL!!!!! Strawberry and Cream oatmeal..... Yesssssssssssssssssssssssss........ You ROCK. :) I also got the 2nd package!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so grateful for you putting that together! The packages always seem to come at the least expected and most needed moments :D Elder Goates has been sick most of this week and I was struggling a little as I've had to stay in the apartment for most of the week. It's very unusual that my last two companions have had sicknesses that have put them up for so long. The Lord is teaching me a very important lesson of patience, love, and service. I have such a strong desire to serve the Lord and build up the area I'm serving in and it kills me to not be pounding the streets as much as possible but this is what the Lord is requiring of me right now and I am grateful to learn the lessons he wants me to learn. Elder Goates is getting better quickly now too so we should be able to start working consistently this coming week.

I had the sickest experience this week at our weekly planning session with our zone. The zone leaders asked me to give a 5 minute motivational speech/pep talk at Zone meeting on Tuesday but because Elder Goates wasn't well enough to go, I gave it on Friday. I'll have to write it up and send it in my next letter cause I forgot to bring it with me :/ I got so pumped up though. As I was practicing the speech I was having a fun time experimenting with different voices. My two favorite I seriously considered using for my speech was the voice of a black southern preacher calling down Hell fire and the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I ended up using my own voice though and it still went well :)

Even though we were in the apartment most of the week, we were able to build up more work this week than in previous weeks! We have 3 new investigators, 2 of which are progressing really well! We will be extending a baptismal date invitation on Tuesday which I'm confident they'll accept. Also we taught our 90 year old investigator G** last night and halfway through our message he interrupted us to tell us he's ready to be baptized!!! This will be my 2nd 90+ year old baptism and it's such a wonderful thing to be a part of. I may need to be a life guard again for this one because he asked his 89 year old friend to baptize him :D HAHA. I can't wait to be old and baptizing all my old buddies :)

I also had the opportunity to go on exchanges with one of our zone leaders. He came into my area and Elder Goates went into the zone leaders area. The highlight of the exchange was going on splits with a priest after dinner. We drove over to a part-member families home and found the nonmember husband smoking on the drive way. We got chatting and he told us all sorts of stories from his career in the Navy. He's a really cool guy! He grew up in LA and then moved to detroit. Yikes. Joining the Navy was something everyone told him he would never be able to do but he did it anyways and he accomplished his goal. We shared Alma 7:11-13 with him and set up a time to come back and teach.

From conference, one powerful thought has really stuck in my mind. In our lives, we have challenges we can solve and challenges we cannot solve. Some challenges will not pass until we pass to the next world. The atonement gives us the power to endure these challenges until we do pass. I would encourage anyone who is going through a challenge to rely on the atonement to help them ENDURE their challenge until it passes, for it surely WILL pass IF we persistently ENDURE. What solace this can bring to the troubled heart. It surely has brought peace to mine.

Being a missionary is the best. Seriously THE BEST. I mean, we're fed delicious meals daily, meet super funny people all day, baptize old men, and develop the strongest friendships with missionaries, members, and investigators. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. Love you all!

Love Elder Janis

Gummy Bears at District Meeting

September 30, 2013

I love to laugh. I have laughed a lot this week. I find humor in lots of things most people might not find humor in. But that's okay because at least I benefit :) Last Tuesday in District Meeting we were training on how to teach more effectively on Facebook and I had brought a bag of gummy bears to throw to people that responded to questions and we got derailed for a minute cause I wanted to see who all could catch one in their mouth. In our district there are 5 companionship's: Elder Goates and myself, the Zone Leaders (Elder Stiles and Kloepfer), Elder Kauhi and Lavulavu (they live with us), and 2 sister companionships. All the elders caught a gummy bear in their mouth. Sisters turn: Sister Hudson nailed it. Sister Spendlove caught it in her hand then ate it. Still counts. Next was sister Madsen and she did NOT want to try! I didn't care though, this was a District unifying activity and NO ONE was going to leave without trying to catch a gummy bear in their mouth! I told her to open her mouth as wide as she could and lean her head back. I threw the gummy bear from across the room and, BOOM. Perfect shot. Sister Roth was last and she missed it. Wat. At least she tried :)

We met an AWESOME guy this last week! In our area there's a retirement community that's super nice and gated and there was a less-active member inside we needed to contact. The guy at the gate let us in because we were "with the church". Bad idea >:D Now all our sins inside the development would be upon his head! Anyways, while we were biking through we saw a guy doing yard work and asked if we could help him (we're not allowed to proselyte in the neighborhood but we are allowed to offer service). He said "no" but he continued talking to us until it got to the point where we were illegally proselyting. He was going through a pretty tough time in life and had had a pretty hard life up to that point. I wanted to share Heleman 5:12 with him so I pulled it out. Right as I opened my mouth to start reading, this guy drove up in a golf cart and identified himself as the owner of the development. Next thing he said was, "Get out right now or I'm calling 9-1-1. This is a no soliciting neighborhood." Elder Goates replied, "We're not selling anything". That made the guy even madder! "You guys need to get out right now" he said. To the rescue the guy we had been talking to stepped up and retorted back, "no they don't." They went back and forth for a minute and eventually we just said we'd leave so we hoped back on our bikes and left.

The work is starting to pick up! We came in to this area with just 1 investigator but we have a few more now and more on the horizon! I love this area and the members are SO cool! If you ever wonder where all the good people in the world have gone to, they're right here in Chandler Arizona and at any Janis/Scott house :)

I love you all. You're all wonderful. I feel strengthened by your prayers. You're all missed. Keep the faith. Share missionary experiences you have with me!

Love Elder Janis

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Funny Lady's Golden Rule

I had such a good week! :) We were finally able to meet with our 1 investigator and we had a great visit. We had planned to teach the restoration and while we were visiting and getting to know G. and his wife, I felt prompted to bear my testimony of the restoration rather than teach it. My companion followed suit and so did the member we brought with us. G. has been taught for the last 3 or 4 years and our member said we made the most progress with him in our visit just sharing our testimonies. He opened up and shared personal things which he hasn't done with missionaries for a long time.

I met a funny lady this week who's golden rule is, "Do unto others before others do unto you." It was funny enough that I had to write it down :D

Stake conference was this weekend and during the Saturday night adult session me and my companion were sitting up near the front of the chapel. Our stake president got up and started speaking about missionary work. At one point he was talking about facebook and he turned to me and my companion and asked us how we were liking this new change. I answered, "It rocks!" and everyone laughed. I like it when I make people laugh :)

Last Saturday, me and my companion had a very open day between 1:00 and 5:00 to proselyte. We planned to use the time to contact as many part-member families as we could. At about 4:00 we stopped by the church building for a quick "pit stop". (We're drinking water all day and we don't sweat all of it out!). As we were walking into the church my companion saw his reflection in the door and realized he wasn't wearing a tie. We both hadn't realized he wasn't wearing his tie for the last 3 hours of proselyting!! We were able to call a member and borrow a tie. It was definitely our dunce of the week experience!!

I love you all a ton!!! I've got the family covered in my prayers so there's nothing to even worry about. Stay strong and stay faithful.

Love Elder Janis

Scorpions glow green under blacklights!

 I'm standing in front of my living quarters :)

I Live in a Barn

Transfers were crazy!!! I'm training a brand new missionary named Elder Goates from Salt Lake City proper in a city called sugar house. He's 18 and graduated High School this past summer. He's a stud. He was a wrestler and lacrosse player in HS and likes Jazz music. We get along incredibly well. He has such an open heart and mind and just wants to learn how to be the best missionary he can be. That's how I am too and he's teaching me way more than I'm teaching him :)

We live in a small but rural area. The area we cover is actually 2 and a half miles away from where we're living right now which is in a members barn :D I mentioned to Emily that the roosters are our alarm clock (not literally, I still set one just in case) and by the time we're eating breakfast the cows are mooing. Soon we'll have the opportunity of feeding the cows which i'm excited for! We also live with two other missionaries: Elder Kauhi and Elder Lavulavu. They're both from Hawaii and they're a lot of fun! Elder Kauhi has been serving for 9 months and Elder Lavulavu is waiting for his visa to Australia and has been on his mission for 2 months. This past transfer a missionary came in from the MTC who ended up being Elder Lavulavu's cousin which caught them both by surprise!! Neither one knew the other was in Tempe waiting for their visa so it was funny to see their reaction!

Right now we cover two wards, the Grove first and second wards. They're both REALLY good wards. The members are the most missionary focused of any of the wards I've served in. We have next to no work right now and me and Elder Goates are new to the area so we're having a blast getting to know the auxiliary presidents and meeting the people who live here. I love probably 10 minutes away from the area I covered the last two transfers but half our area is farm land. We cover about 5 square miles.

Elder Goates and I had a really good experience with prayer this week. We had set a goal for talking to 20 people on the street that day and by the time it was 8:00pm we had only talked to 9 people. I felt like we should say a prayer so I asked Elder Goates to offer it and ask for the ability to achieve our goal. After the prayer we started biking through a neighborhood looking for people to talk to. We biked the entire neighborhood and saw no one. A little bummed we biked out of the neighborhood and saw a family of 4 walking on the sidewalk. We went over and talked to them and ended up finding out they were a less active part member family our bishop had wanted us to visit at some point! We had a really good conversation and were able to invite them to church the following day. After that we saw another family walking into a developing neighborhood so we biked over and struck up a gospel conversation with them. Proceeding forward there was another family working out in their garage that we shared the gospel with (no interest but it always feels good to bear our testimonies). 

By this point we had already surpassed our goal and it was time to head back to our home in the barn. As we were biking a past a house the garage door started to open so I slowed to a stop to wait for the door to fully open. There was a woman in the garage and I struck up a conversation. She was working through recovering from having just delivered a baby girl and was really nice. She mentioned she was working as an MMA instructor at a dojo in Chandler and the people she worked for were mormons and were the nicest people she's ever met! She was very interested in hearing our message and we set up a time to come back this Monday (today!!! We're PUMPED!)

Life is so good. The gospel is true. Joseph Smith is the prophet God gave his authority to to usher in the last dispensation and spread the gospel to the whole world in preparation for the second coming of Christ.

Love Elder Janis

Monday, September 9, 2013

Met a Celebrity

This was a sweet week! We had I**'s baptism, met a celebrity, had transfer calls, and met some really special people!

I**'s baptism was incredible. Here's his story: At the end of last transfer me and Elder Wilcox were riding our bikes through an apartment complex and we saw a young man walking from his car to his apartment. We biked over and had a short conversation with him in which he agreed to take a copy of the Book of Mormon and said we could come back another time. Elder Wilcox transferred out and then me and Elder Caldwell tried multiple times to make contact with I** with no luck. Finally we were able to catch him at home and we were able to sit down and have the first lesson. It turns out his best friend was mormon and he had a bunch of other friends who were mormon too. We set up another appointment to teach the 2nd lesson and coordinated with his friend to teach with us. In the second lesson he accepted an invitation to be baptized two weeks later. So now two weeks later he was baptized by his best friend. SO COOL.

Have any of you heard of the band "Yes"? They're famous for recording "owner of a lonely heart". Turns out the Bass player lives in our area and is married to a less active woman! How cool is that! He just came back home from a tour in England. Sick.

Transfer calls were last night and we were up till 12:30am waiting for any call from either our mission president or zone leaders. Nothing came so we went to bed. This morning we got a call from our President and I'm transferring out of the area (I have no idea where yet!) and second half training and Elder Caldwell is going to be TRAINING!!! He's a stud! He's so ready even though he's only been out 6 weeks. He's pretty nervous but he's confident. I'm pumped for him :)

I have a firm testimony that the Book of Mormon is true and we enjoy the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Love Elder Janis

Monday, September 2, 2013

3 Parts Water and 1 Part Fire

What a week!!! There's never a dull moment out here! The big events of the week include getting hit by a legit Arizona dust storm, baptizing T**, getting a car for the area and then losing it, getting Facebook and the incredible opportunities that are coming with that, and finding a delicious drink at the grocery store: it's the simple lemonade brand with mango in it! Genius!
The dust storm rocked cause we were in a mission car so we still made it around to different appointments and we were trying not to laugh at everyone who was running home as fast as they could to get out of the storm!
T**'s baptism was a really good experience!... Except for one thing: when I filled the font up I left it on just the hot water figuring it would cool off by the time T** was getting in the font. When our member who was baptizing him put his foot in he pulled it out really fast and looked at me and said it was really hot. It got quiet and really awkward. I asked if it was too hot to do the baptism but T** was adamant and didn't want to wait. So they slowly eased into the hot tub and T** got baptized in 3 parts water and 1 part fire. He told me he's never gonna let me forget my mistake but he just jokes about it so it's cool :)
We got a car last Sunday because Elder Caldwell has been on medication for his ear infection and can't bike while he's on it so we got a car. Fortunately his ear is mostly better now and we don't need the car so our assistants took it back yesterday.
Here's the scoop with Facebook: 12 missions in the world are on Facebook now with Ipads and iphones coming to all the missionaries shortly. We will be spending an hour every day to spread the message of the restoration. The coolest thing about it for me is that if I start teaching anyone from back home I'm encouraged to set up a 3 way Skype call with Mom and Dad. SWEET! We'd be a super power companionship!
This week was tough which was good! Difficulties give us opportunities to become better and stronger as long as we exercise more faith in Christ and depend on him more. Without struggles we wouldn't be motivated to put our trust in God. Once again smiling is a wonderful remedy for every bad situation :D What makes you smile? Do you need a reason to smile or can you just smile? I think giving service is a great way to find more happiness too.
I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. It really does bring peace and happiness. God is real and he hears and answers our prayers. Love is powerful and can cross boundaries nothing else can. Put your faith in Christ and he'll carry you through whatever vale of sorrow you're currently in to a far greater place.
Love Elder Janis

Monday, August 26, 2013

Three of Us Stuck In the Font

Let me tell you about B**.... Hahahaha...... So the picture my bishop sent you is of B** on my left and P** on my right. P** is B's best friend and was the one doing the baptizing. B** has been investigating for 50 years and this past week he had a stroke, got scared for his mortality, called the Bishop, and told him he's finally ready to be baptized. So on Tuesday at exactly 7:23pm, me and Elder Caldwell were sitting in the living room (he's still on medications and we weren't able to get out much this week) having a nice conversation over some pistachios and a mango when the phone rang. Elder Caldwell was closest to the phone so he picked it up and said it was a private number. He threw the phone to me and I answered.

Bishop was on the other end with some "important news". The important news was that B** was ready for baptism! It was going to be super "unusual" though. People invited to attend included and were extremely limited to; P**, Bishop, Brother S (bishopric member), and me and my companion. He didn't even want bishop, brother s, or me and my companion to be involved in the first place but bishop said it wouldn't happen otherwise. Well it did take place and it was definitely the strangest most un-orthodox baptism I've ever beheld!

I was asked to be in my white clothes sort of as a "life guard" in the font in case the two 90+ year old men went down instead of just B** :) Once we got in the font I helped position P** and B**. The next thing that happened was P** raised his arm to the square and began saying the words for baptism. At one point he messed up so he had to start again. He started again by saying B's full name and then continued by saying, "having been commissioned of Jesus Christ", and B** who is hard of hearing interrupted at this point and said, "What?" I laughed out loud on accident :D I don't think they heard me though! Finally we got through the words and it was time for him to go under. P** and B** got confused how it would work. It was so silly! Three of us stuck in the font trying to figure out how to put B** under! He wouldn't go backwards and he couldn't go forwards! We eventually led him to the stairs where he sat down and slowly went under. Right before full submersion his hand shot up and latched onto the railing next to the stairs! It took a minute to detach his grip but FINALLY the baptism was done.

I caught some cold this week and was feeling pretty sick for a few days. I'm almost 100% better now! I went and saw a doctor this week and when I asked him about how long he thought I'd be down for, he said, "after last election I stopped trying to predict the future."

We taught our investigator T** this past week and at the end of the lesson I asked if he had felt the spirit during the lesson and how it had felt. He said, "Yes I did. It felt so good that if I could bottle it up and sell it I'd be a very rich man!" T** is so awesome. He's getting baptized this coming Saturday and he's only been investigating for about 3 weeks. His girlfriend lives in Vegas and she's a recent convert and that's how he heard about the church. They've only been dating 2 months but he's ready to change his life.

A few mornings ago I was pondering what President Toone (our awesome mission president) had recently taught us about the difference between conceptual understanding and experience. I was considering how I conceptually understand that exact obedience brings blessings but i wanted to experience it. So I prayed for the experience and made extra sure to be 100% obedient. That day I was able to set up a member to go with me to two lessons (one with I** and one with T**). I** accepted a baptism date of September 4th and T** accepted a date of August 31st. The last time that ward has had a baptism has been 2 years. It's incredible how the Lord is guiding the work here. Now I understand by experience.

I love you all and want you to know I'm happy and mostly healthy but mostly happy :D Have a great week!!!

Love Elder Janis

P, Elder Janis, B

Monday, August 19, 2013

We Called Them the Devil's Pups

This week DOMINATED. Again... :) Is it just me or does every week seem to be the new best week of my life? I attribute that to the marvelous work I'm involved in. I also think a huge part has to do with my attitude. I believe that no matter where we are or what our circumstances are we can find TRUE peace. President Eyring said, "The peace that passeth understanding does not depend on a geographic place. The place of refuge is finally in our hearts."

My FAVORITE experience this week was teaching a new investigator I. He just graduated High School and is a STUD! When I first met him he was walking into his apartment with his two younger siblings and we stopped to talk with him for a minute. He was interested in a copy of the Book of Mormon so we gave him one and set up an appointment for a visit. For about a month we've been trying to catch him but he hasn't been home. We were finally able to get in contact with him and he invited us to come over and teach him this week. The lesson started super great, the spirit was strong and the things we felt inspired to share came easily. As we continued teaching the restoration we kept feeling it was important to point out how critical the Holy Ghost is in him finding out for himself if our message is true and how he can feel the spirit. At the end of our lesson we asked him how he felt and thought about our message. He told us that he had been trying to hold back tears of joy as we spoke about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He said that he knew he was feeling the spirit and it felt so good! We then invited him to offer the closing prayer. We each got on our knees and he gave the most sincere prayer I've ever heard. After the prayer he jumped about and shouted, "THIS FEELS SO GOOD!!!!"

Elder Caldwell came down with an ear infection this past Saturday. I guess he had an ear fungus from a job he did 2 years ago and has been fighting it on and off for the last two years. It's acting up and he's been in a lot of pain so we've been in the apartment the last two days. I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve him though. Every situation life throws at us gives us an opportunity to learn a new Christlike attribute. Please pray for him to get better though!!!

This week we had a member of the quorum of the 70 come speak to us. His name is Elder Craig A. Cardon (he spoke in the last general conference). From 9am-4pm we had the privilege of being tutored by him. A few things I pulled away: Something great happens when we cross the threshold of conceptual understanding something and actually experiencing it.

You can be as bold as you are loving.

As teachers, there's a huge difference between pouring information on your pupils and drawing application out with effective questions.

I finally got chased by dogs!!!! I was on exchanges with my District Leader in his area and we were biking through this ghetto neighborhood and these two little yappy dogs started barking at us as we passed them in the front yard. As we continued, one of them took off after my companion who started freaking out and biking faster! I was laughing so hard I didn't realize the second dog was chasing me until it almost sunk it's tiny mouth into my leg!! So then I was freaking out and biking like heck! They chased us all the way down the street, followed us onto the next street, and chased us halfway down that block! We called them the devils pups cause they had to have been possessed! 

I was reading in the scriptures this morning and came across this insightful scripture: "And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction. Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in their faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God." (Heleman 3:34-35) It struck me how tribulations are a huge opportunity for us to grow and develop. If they didn't have persecutions, they wouldn't have needed to turn their hearts completely over to God and thus would not have been sanctified. Whatever it is you are going through, know that if you turn it all over to God - your hopes, dreams, desires, fears, and trials - he will "fill [your] souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of [your] hearts". This is my testimony.

I love you all, have a wonderful week!

Homemade, authentic mexican tacos!! (A kind lady just gave them to us!)

One of our member's SICK golf cart!