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