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!

Monday, August 12, 2013

He Was Sniffing His Watch

This was the craziest week of my life! We met so many awesome people and are seeing incredible work! Let me tell you about my companion Elder Caldwell first:

Elder Caldwell is 19, came from Georgia, is the youngest of 8 children, is wayyyy into war history and wants to join the Rangers when he's home from his mission. After High School he worked for a year to save up money for the mission and to stay busy. He's a solid missionary. Earlier this week he was sniffing his watch and said, "I've determined my watch smells like our mission: cigarettes, dirt, and hand soap."

I'm SO HAPPY. I'm just happy. This area is really starting to pick up. Elder Caldwell and myself get along super great, we're accomplishing our goals, we're having spiritual experiences, we're working hard....! I'm happy because I'm confident the Lord is pleased with my efforts. The Lord's hand is evident in this area. When Elder Wilcox and myself finished the last transfer we had 3 investigators. Two weeks into this transfer, Elder Caldwell and I have 14 investigators. We got 8 new investigators this week. The Lord is DUMPING blessings on us. Peoples hearts are softening and their looking for the gospel. We taught 18 lessons this week which is more than this area has ever taught to my knowledge. I attribute this to the faith and diligence we are putting in. The Lord has truly blessed us.

Yesterday we biked all over Chandler inviting our investigators to come to church. One of the investigators we met with was B. B is from ST. Louis Missouri, is about 6 foot 7 and weighs close to 350 pounds. BIG MAN. He's also one of the funniest people I've met in my life. When we walked in he started interrogating us. First he asked if we celebrate any holidays. "uhhh.... Yeah.." Next he asked what bible we use. "King James....". He then admitted he thought we were Jehovah's Witnesses in disguise and so did his wife. We ended up having a super good lesson with him about faith and repentance and he committed to come to church even though his wife said she'd divorce him if he came. He told us not to tell. We're thinking we should though cause if they got a divorce she wouldn't be holding him back :D Just kidding! We're trying to bring families together, not tear them apart!

Earlier this week we had a funny day in this one apartment. First there was this guy who came up to us and said, "Your church was started by a guy who was talking to a lizard!" I told him that was foolish and if he thought about what he had said he would realize it was foolish. He kept saying it over and over again, "Your church was started by a lizard! Your church was started by a lizard!" As a lady was walking by I asked her, "Do you think our religion was started by a lizard?" She replied, "No, I'm a mormon!" 3 against 1! Anyways, none of us won because we were being contentious and that NEVER works! Right after this guy left there was an old lady throwing a bag of trash away. I asked if I could help her with the trash and she denied me very rudely. I asked if she was having a good day and she said she was having a horrible day. I asked her why! She replied she was dealing with back problems and started walking away. Wanting to help but not really knowing how I followed her and asked if I could pray for her. She said sure but kept walking. I stopped my bike, took my helmet off and prayed saying, "Please bless the old lady with back problems who won't tell me her name and is walking away from me that her back will feel better." I promise I was being sincere! It just came out different than I wanted it to!

I'm out of time but there's more I want to write! I have a type writer in my apartment so I'll finish my letter there.

Love Elder Janis :D

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


August 5, 2013

So here's a bold statement to catch everyone attention! Last night one of our bishops almost got to ride to jail in a police car!! Here's the story:

We were invited by a member to help him teach the mission prep class for the stake last night and while we were there we got a text from our bishop. He wanted to know where we were so he could swing by our apartment and drop something off. He asked which apartment we lived in to which we gave him our # which recently changed from 1104 to 1115 last transfer. I guess he didn't know that. He texted back saying, "not 1104?" After repeating 1115 we got a text from him saying that the people at 1104 didn't appreciate a strange man breaking onto their porch to "take back his cookie sheet pan, spatula, and $20 that he had previously put on their porch for the missionaries." They threatened to call the cops on him and he quickly got in his car and drove off as they took his license plate #.

So many great things have happened this week. Half a week into the transfer I have seen the hand of the Lord bless myself in a way so tender I can't find words to express how I feel. I will be the first to say I am not the most talented missionary in the world and my confidence in leading the area I'm in is very daunting. I testify that I have a new understanding of the enabling power of the atonement now because of the undeniable fact that my skills as a missionary have been magnified to fill the responsibilities the Lord has put me in. I am nothing without God.
I have learned a lot about accountability this week specifically to myself. All of us are accountable to so many people. I would suggest writing a list of all the people you are accountable to for how you are living your life. Examples include your parents, children, husband, wife, God, bosses, God, and yourself. Think of how you are accountable to yourself. How does who you were and the hopes and dreams you had for yourself before coming to earth affect your accountability to self?

To all: Joseph smith SAW God, the Eternal Father and Jesus Christ!!!!!!!!!!!! This is INCREDIBLE NEWS! Christ's church and authority is on the earth!!!!!!!!!! Nothing can keep us from being successful in life except our own choices. Stay strong. Be true to who you are and were. Put your faith in Christ and put everything on the table. Give him your will. If you do, you will overcome every challenge man can face. God is real and LOVES YOU. He wants what is best for you. Look for the good things in life. Smile. Stay positive. Why not be happy?

I love you Mom. You're the worlds greatest :) This week was a special one.

Love Elder Janis

(pics: Me and Elder Caldwell. HE ROCKS. He is super powerful and knows why he's here. WE WORK HARD)

2nd pic: me at church with the funniest man in the world. We're both wearing red ties.