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