Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Miguel stinks..."

This week flew by as fast as the year went by! We had our Mission Christmas conference on Monday and MLC on Tuesday, New years Eve on Wednesday and Christmas on Thursday. We were still able to have some solid lessons during the end of the week and the lady who came to church last week is now preparing for baptism on January 10th and was there again on Sunday. Another guy we've been working with was supposed to come to church two weeks ago but didn't have church clothes and felt uncomfortable. So last week we brought him church clothes but he bailed just before church started because this time he felt uncomfortable going to church with the gnarly beard he's been sporting. We were wondering what his excuse would be this week but he actually came! He tried to leave before sunday school because he felt like he smelled pretty bad and needed to go home and put on some deodorant. I convinced him to stick around for class and my companion Elder Belnap sat next to him. After the opening prayer he wrote a note to me on his Ipad that said, "Miguel stinks, he really should go home and put on deodorant." We let him go after class got out :)

Take advantage of this time of year to reflect on where you're at and what progress you've made this past year. President Monson gave a talk in this last conference entitled "Ponder the Path of thy Feet." I would encourage you to do just that.

Love Elder Janis

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Like, I REALLY liked some of my ties!!!

Sent on December 15, 2014

Haha (Tiffany here: I got a text from someone I know in his mission telling me about this experience and he's commenting on it.) when I was in their ward I was noticing in myself that I was becoming very selfish about my ties. Like, I REALLY liked some of my ties!! But I also knew how powerful it could be for some of the young men to receive a missionary tie to help them think about a mission in their future. But the tie couldn't be just any tie! It had to be one they would want to wear! So I told God I would give my best ties away if he would provide for cool ties to find their way to me so I could give them to youth in the wards. The night I gave those two ties away was the same night the missionaries we live with came home with a bag full of really nice ties from a kind member who wanted to bless the missionaries. I gave 2 sweet ties away and got 7 sweet ties back. :)

I had one of the most spiritually powerful experiences this week!!! I was on exchanges with a missionary who has only been out for 3 months and we were walking around an apartment complex in his area looking for an address and I saw this older lady walking her dogs and I immediately knew God placed her there so we could go talk to her. We talked for a minute about her dogs because people love talking about their dogs and then we told her we had a beautiful video about why we celebrate Christmas and we wanted to show it to her. Her name was Mary and she said, "That's funny you say that because just before coming outside, my good friend who is a Jehovah's Witness showed me a video about why I shouldn't celebrate Christmas! It really upset me because I love Christmas so I prayed to God and told him that all I want to do is do what he wants me to and if he doesn't want me to celebrate Christmas I won't. So then I came out to get my mail and here you are telling me you have a video about why we celebrate Christmas!" And then Mary started to cry. She invited us to come into her home to share the video and we had a powerful lesson. It was my privilege to recount the first vision to her and it was the most powerful experience I've had yet testifying of the first vision!! The spirit was so strong and Mary felt it. Even though she is older she has a very open heart and mind and because of that she can recognize the spirit. I will be following up with the missionaries that serve there to find out how she progresses :)

On Saturday we were out and about pretty early to do a service project and we saw this guy on the corner of Priest and Broadway on his knees with his hands clasped together like he was praying but he had his head up and his eyes were open looking at the people driving by. About 3 hours later we saw him again as we drove through the intersection but he was just standing there. Later in the afternoon as we drove past again and saw him we decided to park and go talk to him. As he saw us walking towards him he took off across the street to the other side just before the light turned red. We took the opportunity to give a Book of Mormon to this guy named Juan (yeah, another Juan! Haha it sounds like I'm saying "another one"). #Caringforthejuan. Unfortunately we weren't able to talk to our elusive street corner prayer man. Well the opportunity finally presented itself around 8:00 that night. As we pulled up again to the intersection this guy was on my side of the car close enough I was able to roll my window down and say hello. He glared at me so I asked him what he was doing on the street corner. He replied that he was waiting for the President to come. I almost laughed at him but I didn't.. I asked him what he needed the President to do for him. He said he was waiting for the president to bring him drugs. The light turned green and we drove on. We haven't seen him since. Perhaps President Obama came!

Well we had transfer calls last night and I'm staying but Elder Maughan who has only been here for one transfer is stepping down to be a trainer somewhere else in the mission! I'm going to miss him. I'm glad to still be in this area because there is so much work left to do! This coming week is shaping up to be a very very busy one! I won't be emailing until Tuesday next week since we are doing a mission conference all day Monday. Start thinking of a time on Christmas we can Skype! We'll have 30-40 minutes to talk.

I love you all! Have a wonderful week!

Love Elder Janis

A LOT of groovy things

Sent on Dec 8, 2014

This past week we challenged our zone to go tracting!! It was so much fun and we saw a lot of success from it! As we tracted this week we found some awesome potential investigators. One of them is named Juan and he's trying to get a job so he can get his children back from CPS. Well later that day we got a call from him telling us that he got the job! We were so happy for him we went back and celebrated with him! This coming Friday is our wards Christmas party so hopefully Juan and the family he's living with will come out! As we tract we are using an approach with the "He is the Gift" initiative in mind. One of us has the little pass along card to give to the person and the other missionary holds the ipad with the video already up and ready to go. When people open the door and we start talking, we then just push the play button. When the video is already going people don't say no. They are immediately interested. It works like a charm :) The most common response we've heard from people about the video is, "It's true." Then we ask them who they know who could use a message about Christ this Christmas season and when we can come back to share more of our message.

We also had zone conference this week. The theme of the conference was two fold: 1 Am I consecrated to my purpose? 2 Live up to the covenants we've made in the Temple. Before the conference started President Toone had all the missionaries who were finishing their missions in the next month to bear a departing testimony. I am pretty close with a lot of the missionaries who stood up and it was such a surreal experience to be witnessing their departing testimony. Elder Stiles who was my zone leader for 6 transfers bore his testimony and so did one of my previous companions Elder Hyer. That experience will last with me as one of the most memorable experiences of my mission.

So we visited with our former Army Ranger southern baptist man again this last week and he shared some more insights! Ready for this?

"The first time I jumped out of a plane in the Army Rangers my butt was so tight you couldn't drive a pin through it with a sledge hammer!"
"A man is a leader of his flock. His family. That man has got to be dedicated to God, which gives him a lot of man points."
"A man is like waffles. He only goes two directions. A woman is like spaghetti. She goes all sorts of different directions. As a man it is our duty to be bad a** but you also have to be the kind of man that understands the woman's side. Not the alternative lifestyle guy, but the kind of guy that can understand a woman nonetheless."
"I love Jesus Christ. He's done a lot of groovy things for me. A LOT of groovy things."

What a guy.. He's awesome.

The work continues to move forward! I'm sprinting through the last few months of my mission! I'm loving it!

Love Elder Janis

Send In the Big Boys

Sent on December 1, 2014

So many great things happened this week! #1 we found a whole ton of new investigators by..... Tracting! Yes, tracting! (Our mission doesn't typically ever tract because it's more effective to work through how many members we have.) The church has this huge Christmas initiative rolling out and we challenged our zone this last week to start tracting. We have pass along cards that say "He is the Gift" and there's a 2 minute video about Christ being the gift of Christmas and it's really powerful! So when we knock on someones door we get to know them a little before giving them a card and showing the video. Then we invite them to participate in sharing the gift by thinking of people they know we can share the video with. Then we ask when we can come back and share more of our Christmas message with them. It's working quite nicely :) One funny experience we had was this one door we knocked and this guy wearing girl clothes opened the door. He was totally high and asked what we were up to. We started to share our message and this other guy sitting on the couch by the door yelled, "We're not interested! Can't you see we're trying to get high?!" Then the guy wearing girl clothes smiled at us and slowly closed the door. Weird huh?

We've been working with this Marshallese family the last few weeks and we've been really trying to get them to come to church! On Saturday we stopped by and they said they were coming. We stopped by again on Sunday morning and they said they were coming. Then when Church started we got a text from the dad saying, "We're not going to make it because I have really bad diarrhea and it's getting worse." Poop. :/ 

We had a great lesson last night with our good friend Charles, Chuck, Papa... He opened the door and said, "I'll give you 10 minutes to say what you have to say." An hour and a half later we were laughing and slapping each other on the back and high fiving on our way out. We found out he is a free mason and he asked us if we knew about the two angels that stand as sentinels. "For sure" I said. He asked me what I thought they looked like. Then he gave us his idea. "I bet they're about 7 or 8 feet tall weighing 300-400 pounds of solid muscle. Those are the angels I pray for when I ask for God to send me defending angels! 'Please God, don't send me your wimpy ones!, I want the big tough ones!' JC (jesus christ) up above then turns to his main man Gabriel and says, 'that Chuck guy is praying for angels again. Send in the big boys.' And then all my problems go away". What a character! He also gave some great marriage advice! "If you 'win', you lose. If you 'lose', you win." That means if you're arguing with your wife and you win the argument you've created a rift between you and you've really just lost. Now, if you are humble enough to let go of your pride and work it out, you win! I love that!! 

Thanksgiving was sweet! We had dinner with our recent convert Jennifer and her family and the food was so good! I think it's my favorite holiday now. We played some games as a zone in the morning and the evening and had a blast.

My birthday went great! Mom sent me a Halloween package a month ago that finally got here so that was fun to open on my birthday :D I'm now 21.. Man, that night was so crazy! It's sort of a blur, I can't really remember what happened.

I love you all so much! Thanks for your prayers and support!

Love Elder Janis

A 50 billion Year Old Knat

Sent on November 24, 2014

Well another week has come and gone! Here's the update:

There's this cool black family we started teaching this week and they have a garden. They grow watermelons. :D I include that only because it's another indicator I like to point out to Dad how Watermelons, Kool-aid, and chicken are big time favorites. Are you convinced yet?? :) This other guy we talked to this week called New Testament Peter an atheist for denying christ 3 times. That escalated quickly!! He also boldly rebuked the Darwin theory of evolution: "Sure there are some pretty hairy humans who haven't made the jump to light speed yet and there are some monkey's that look a lot like some people I know.. But don't tell me I evolved from monkey's! If a gnat was born 50 billion years ago then today it would still be a gnat. It would be a 50 billion year old gnat but it would be a gnat." Ahhhhhh priceless mission memories... :)

All in all it was somewhat of a discouraging week because a lot of our investigators were sick and some of the people we've been helping prepare for baptismal dates didn't come to church. Regardless of the challenges, there was SO MUCH to be grateful for this week! In fact the challenges themselves are a huge blessing! And applying President Uchtdorf's council about being grateful in our circumstances, I can be grateful knowing I've made covenants with God that will bless me in the areas that truly matter. I love the gospel!! This is truly God's church! I am a witness.

Love Elder Janis

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Had a Cigarette Smashing Party!!

November 17, 2014 Letter

I'm REALLY excited to tell you about my week!! It was so fun! First off we met this crazy guy in his 70's that told us he is going to send lasers into the sky on New Years Eve that will write a message saying "If you do not repent before midnight you will not be part of this world." Hahaha. And then he claimed to know everything about electronics but he was asking us to help him download the Gospel Library app on his new Samsung tablet. After we finished we were leaving and he called out to us, "How do you turn this thing off?!" It was hard not to laugh in front of him!

We saved an apartment from burning down this week!! We were eating dinner with some members and we heard an alarm going off. We walked out onto the balcony and saw smoke billowing out of the window of an apartment across the courtyard. We ran over and knocked on the door. No one answered so we knocked on the neighbors door to see if they knew what was going on. This lady opened up and saw that we were missionaries and was actually pretty rude and wouldn't listen to us even though we were pointing at the smoke pouring out of her neighbors window! After calling 9-1-1 when the firemen showed up, they knocked on her door and she sure listened to them!! 3 fire trucks showed up about 5 minutes later and to get into the apartment they had to break the door down with a sludge hammer! It was pretty cool!! No one was in the house which was a blessing! A minute later they came out holding a pot that had been left on the stove and had ignited in the kitchen! No flames had caught the rest of the house yet and all they had to do was clear the smoke. Sweet huh?!

There's a lady we're teaching that we stopped by this week and knocked on her door. A little time went by and then she answered the door. She was very startled to see us there so I asked if she had heard us knock. She said she hadn't but she was just coming outside so she could smoke. I told her God had sent us to her house to tell her not to smoke. She was pretty mad I said that and told us she had had a terrible day! So we asked why it was so terrible! After telling us a few things we would pry deeper and ask, "Well what else went wrong today?" until she got it all out. By the time she finished she had gotten so intense she had crushed her cigarette! Before we could celebrate she had already gone in to grab another one. We told her she wasn't going to smoke that one either. By this point she just started to laugh and we were able to convince her she didn't need to smoke anymore. We talked about her motivation to quit smoking and she expressed a strong desire to quit. We challenged her on the spot to bring out all her cigarettes so we could break them all into pieces. It was REALLY difficult to get her to do this but she finally did and we had a cigarette smashing party!! That was fun for all of us :)

We had our transferly based Mission Leadership Council this last week and our mission president prefaced his comments by introducing his topic as "Covenant Keeping" and then proceeded to read specific portions of the white handbook. He introduced his topic so subtly that I almost missed that when he was talking about covenants he was talking about what the white handbook refers to as "guidelines". This is a pattern I'm beginning to notice in the church. Less and less are they saying what we can and can't do. They are providing guidelines and asking us to use our best judgement. For example, Green tea is not explicitly against the word of wisdom. There is an argument for both sides and the church will not make a rule about green tea. We have to be spiritually mature enough to govern ourselves.

Also the Phoenix Temple was dedicated this week! President Monson was very humorous. During the Corner stone ceremony the wind was gusting and it was blowing President Monson's tie around. He looked down at it and said, "George! Get down George!" He then buttoned up his suit to keep it down and then looked up with a big smile. Lynn G. Robbins spoke at the dedication and talked about patterns. Almost every program in the church has a specific pattern of how often we participate in it. Church is once a week, seminary has it's schedule... But we are not told how often to attend the Temple. They leave it at, "go often." It's significant that they allow us to show Heavenly Father our appreciation for Temples by how often we go there.

Have a fantastic week!!

Love Elder Janis


November 10, 2014 Letter

I had an awesome week!! I got my new companion. His name is Elder Maughan from Rigby Idaho. He's been out for one transfer longer than me so he only has 2 transfers left after this one. Crazy how time flies! I am loving serving with him. He's such a good teacher and is very focused. He's really good at planning and setting goals and I'm learning a ton from him.

Last Monday night we went back to that southern baptist bible group. They let us take 20 minutes to preach and we talked about Peter's conversion. In Matthew 16 Peter testifies that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." But at the end of Christ's life he denied him 3 times. It wasn't until Jesus came back and rebuked Peter for going back to fishing that he was finally converted. The group loved it and we had a really good relationship building experience from that. The lady who then did a sermon was so funny! At the end of every sentence she would said, "amen?" kind of like how Canadians say, "eh?". Hahaha.. At the end of the bible group we all held hands in a circle and the preacher prayed for 10 minutes straight practically yelling her praises to "Father God". Here's an example: "We just want to thank you Father God for your goodness.. For your spirit Father God. You are awesome Father God. We worship you Father God, we are your humble servants Father God...". I It was different :)

I hope you have a great week!

Love Elder Janis

He Hasn't Frozen Their Brains With Popsicles Yet

November 3, 2014 Letter

I had a super week!! Jennifer and her son Johnathan were baptized!! A whole ton of people came and she brought a ton of non member friends which was sweet! We will hopefully start teaching them soon! :) Well... I will.. We had transfer calls last night and Elder Jolley is leaving already! He was only here with me for 1 transfer!!! We're both trying to figure out how we can convince President Toone to keep us together just once more.. Maybe we'll walk into his office wearing a sackcloth and smeared in ashes. Stay tuned.

Halloween night was really fun!! We had an early curfew and had permission to play board games and just hang out so we played clue, drank root beer, and made up raps. It was fun to unwind a little bit. It's easy to get build a lot of stress!! We saw our good man Charles, chuck, papa, southern baptist human killer earlier in the day and his house was all decorated for Halloween. When he answered the door he was in very poor spirits and told us it was a bad time to talk. I wanted to talk a little longer and lift him up a bit so I complimented him on the Halloween decorations but said that the scariest part were his little dogs that were yapping at us in the window. (He hasn't frozen their brains with popsicles yet). He started laughing super hard until his wife pulled into the drive way. Instantly his demeanor switched from jovial laughter to somber dread. In a quiet voice he said, "She's the scariest part. I gotta get goin' fella's." I squeezed his shoulder to bolster him up and we left.

The work continues!!! Onward and upward. The work is true!! It changes lives. We just have to have an open heart and open mind. God can perform miracles. 

Love Elder Janis

Then He Went Crazy Too

October 27, 2014 letter

Well this week was probably the absolute BEST week of my life :D  We were blessed to get 7 new investigators this week from a variety of sources, most of which were referrals from members or other missionaries. My favorite person is this guy named Charles. He also goes by Chuck, Papa, "or anything young too." He's a 57 year old black southern baptist, ex Army ranger, and ex drill sergeant. He's about 6'0 and is pretty stocky and has a cowboy mustache that goes all the way down his jaw like a handlebar mustache hahaha. It was easy to tell that he used to be a drill sergeant because when we first knocked on his door his dogs went crazy and then he went crazy too screaming at them to "SHUUUUUUDUP!" He was eating a Popsicle and before even introducing himself to us he said, "I'm going to feed my dogs Popsicles so their brains freeze and they die." Later in our conversation with him he said that he wishes he could go back in time and slap Jesus Christ's apostles who fell asleep while Christ was praying in Gethsemane. I am SO determined to get this man baptized it's not even funny. The church needs this guy. He's great :)

I had the opportunity to go on an exchange with one of the District Leaders in our zone this week. I learned a lot from him... A lot of things NOT to do! I normally wouldn't write about something like this but it's so funny I have to share. When people ask him where he's from he says, "I'm from heaven." Usually they would laugh and say, "that's cute, but really, where are you from?" Then he would say again, "I'm from heaven." Then it would just get super awkward. Anyways, he did this at our dinner appointment and it totally ruined member trust with this family. There were some guests there eating with us who were cousins of the family and one of the ladies asked me how long I've been out on my mission. Immediately, this Elder aggressively rebuked her saying, "Don't ask him a question like that. You should ask him about something that is important to missionary work like who his investigators are so you can pray for them by name". If it wasn't awkward before, it was awkward then. The lady did as she was told and asked me who my investigators were. I told her we were working with some super cool people but then answered her first question about how long I've been out and then I changed the topic. Also Elder Jolley and I spent most of our food money this month on matching ties so food has been a little scarce. For lunch, this Elder ate 4 bowls of cereal and 2 burritos which pretty much wiped out our milk and cereal supply. I can just say I was glad to get Elder Jolley back the next day! He was so mad that the milk was gone because he is a dairy farmer from Vermont and likes his milk :)

This weekend we have two baptism, Jen and her 8 year old son jonathan. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. Jen is such a good lady and she has gone through so much in her life. 3 weeks ago she quit smoking after being addicted to it for the last 30 years. She has no desire to smoke and is so excited for her baptism. The ward loves them and they love the ward!

I have a testimony that this work is true!!!! It is God's work!

Love Elder Janis

Friday, October 24, 2014

I Almost Yelled At Him From Across the Chapel!!!

October 20, 2014

I had an amazing week!! Last night was one of the greatest miracles of my mission! I had a really really really super awesome experience last night at the monthly mission presidents devotional! When Elder Goates and I were serving together in the Grove 1st and 2nd wards we found, taught, and baptized a guy named M who moved to New Jersey a week after his baptism. My whole mission I've been depressed any time I've thought about him and his situation because we lost contact with him and his life was in a really tough spot. I was sure he was inactive and that the gospel hadn't sunk deep enough to change his life. WELL last night guess who walked in.... M!!!!!! I almost yelled at him from across the chapel!!! I was able to sit by him and catch up and he just moved back and he is strong in the gospel!!!!!!!! I can't believe it!!!!! It's a super huge miracle that I wasn't even expecting! Seeing him last night was one of the biggest highlights of my mission. We both were shocked to see each other. He expressed deep gratitude for Elder Goates and I and for what we did for him in sharing the gospel with him. 

Elder Jolley and I had the opportunity to take an investigator and her son to the Phoenix temple open house this week! It was SO pretty! Everything in that temple is stunning. It's one of my favorites for sure. It's been a huge blessing to have been able to go through two temple open houses in such a short amount of time! Especially being on a mission, it's really incredible! The work is hastening!

We were super busy this week and taught a lot of people!! We've been refocusing on street contacting as a zone and Elder Jolley and I had some really funny experiences this week. We also tracted a little which was fun but we didn't get any return appointments.

I love you all!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, October 13, 2014

What's the Craziest Thing You've Eaten On Your Mission?

It's been a great week full of miracles!! We have an investigator and her son who we put on date last week in our members home but later this week after she had gone a day without smoking she texted us wanting to call the whole thing off. She said she felt like everything was moving way too fast and needed to slow down. She promised she would come to church but didn't want us to come over until aftersunday. Let me tell you, that was very frustrating!!!! We gave her the space she asked for and prayed and prayed and prayed! Sunday finally came and by the time sacrament meeting started she still wasn't there! Then we got a text from her saying that she had parked in the parking lot and as she watched people walking in she felt totally inadequate and unworthy to go in so she left. She said that she felt like she was trying to be someone that she wasn't. By the way, this was her 5th full day without a cigarette! I asked her if we could come by later to talk to her and she said that was ok. 

We knew that she was having an extra hard time because of the withdrawals from the cigarettes so we brought a member with us that has professional experience helping people quit. That helped a lot!! We were able to have an open and honest conversation about how she was feeling and then bear powerful testimony of aspects of the gospel to help her resolve her concerns of feeling unworthy. We read part of President Monson's talk from the Preisthood session this last conference about the German warship called the Bismark which was deemed indestructible. What eventually destroyed the Bismark was a torpedo that damaged the rudder. Now it had no way to choose which way to steer. We explained that she was like the Bismark and self doubt was jamming her rudder and keeping her from improving her life. She felt so much better and is refocused and committed to working towards her and her sons baptism!

Funny story: While street contacting in the ghetto yesterday, we talked to an african american teenager and what looked to be his 8 year old little brother. We asked them if they had gone to church that day. The little boy said, "I've got my own church. I'm a Hebrew Israelite!" Elder Jolley asked him if he even knew what that meant because we were a little confused. He said, "I'm a Hebrew Israelite! Of course I know what that means!" Before we left we gave them a pass along card with a picture of Jesus coming out of the tomb. He took a look at it and said, "This aint my Jesus! My jesus is black and has dread locks!"

People always ask us, "What's the craziest thing you've eaten on your mission?" Up until this week all I could really say was maybe Little Caesar's.. Well we had dinner with a Spanish family in our ward and they had made us..... Menudo!!!! :D Immediately I thought back to Damon's first experience with Menudo on his mission and he wrote "I can stomach Menudo!" because menudo is cow stomach cut into chunks and boiled in a pot of some spanish word I can't pronounce. It was awful.. I can't say I can stomach Menudo. So how did I get out of that dinner without offending the family?? I'll tell you :D They gave us tortillas to dip in the menudo and so I asked if people ever put the cow stomach on the tortillas and ate it that way. They said yes and encouraged me to try it. I loaded all that menudo on that tortilla!! I took a bite and then drank some of my Hawaiian punch to help it go down. Pleased that I was eating, they turned their attention back to my companion who wasn't chewing at all, he was just putting the menudo in his mouth and swallowing it down with his Hawaiian punch! While they were distracted I slipped my menudo taco into my sock! I do feel a little bad and I'm very embarrassed to be writing about it.. One day Menudo and I will face each other again and I will conquer.. But I have lived to fight another day. 

My challenge wasn't over that night though because for an extra treat the family brought out.......... Cow foot!!!! Whoo hooo!! Basically it's the ankle of the cow and it's been prepared in a way that the meat and cartalige all look the same and it's really slimy and you kind of have to slurp it to eat it. It's basically the consistency of phlegm. Alakhsdsg;alkhsdg;l.... I shudder when I think about it. I was able to eat that better than Menudo though. Plus the cow foot was bigger than the menudo tortilla and I didn't think I'd be able to hide the cow foot in my other sock and get away with it :) I hope you don't think any less of me from being so weak!

Well, I'm still alive and ready for another week! I love you all!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Investigator We Call ZZ Top

We started emailing later today because Elder Jolley and I got permission to make a trip out to Chandler to shop for ties and an outlet! The result was two matching ties that we can wear to zone meetings to show unity. We also have a bunch of other really close matching ties so we basically match every day anyways but now we have 2 identicals. :)

Yes, conference was truly amazing!!! There was a strong theme throughout the conference that we need to gain our own testimony of Christ, Prophets, and the Book of Mormon.

This was a crazy week because we had to teach our investigator we call ZZ Top (because of his cool beard) all the lessons get him interviewed, and then get the baptismal program ready to go by Thursday. His baptism was very uplifting. At the end of the program he was asked to share a testimony. He managed to start by saying that when he gets really nervous he just starts to laugh and that was it, he laughed for a solid minute before trying to pull himself back together just to start laughing again. His wife used to be a patrol officer and doesn't mess around. With a very stern face she said, "Dave, do you need help?" He instantly was able to compose himself and finished his testimony. No one wonders who wears the pants in that relationship!

On Friday night Elder Jolley and I got a text from our mission office secretary of a referral from HQ. We went to the house and knocked and a kid inside yelled, "who is it?" Elder Jolley responded, "Elder Jolley" (I'm sure they were very confused when they opened the door. Mentally they were probably picturing a really old guy that is super happy.) The lady we went to contact opened the door and invited us in. We hit it off immediately and had a powerful first lesson about the restoration of the gospel. 

This lady was first introduced to our church by her co workers who are almost all LDS. At the end of the lesson we invited her to pray about our message and then asked if she would like to watch a session of general conference with us the next morning. She agreed and we met up with her on Saturday morning early enough to do a church tour before the session started. As we listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing the opening hymn she leaned over to me and told me that all through the night she was having dreams about the things we had taught her and what her friends at work had shared with her and she felt like God was answering her prayer. Then in President Uchtdorf's talk he mentioned that one of the ways God communicates with us can be through dreams! That was really neat for her. The next day we watched the last session of conference in one of our members homes. At the end of conference we invited her and her 8 year old son to be baptized on October 25th. She started to cry which made her son start to cry and they both accepted the invitation. It was a very powerful experience. It's frustrating to try and write these experiences out because there's no way for me to be able to describe such an experience. You just have to be there.. Missionary work is the most rewarding and spiritual work in the world. I love it.

I love you all so much!!! Have a great week!

Love Elder Janis

The Terminators

September 29, 2014

Well let me tell you about my week!

The dream team is back!!! Me and Elder Jolley are reunited and we're taking Tempe over!! Our ward mission leader has no clue what to do with us.. He really likes us though and he's trying to think of a nickname for us. All he's got right now is the Terminators but he's trying to think of something else because he doesn't think that's a good term to use for missionaries :D

Remember the lady with the beard I told you about two weeks ago? I took Elder Jolley over there this week and we had such a funny experience! First thing that happened was Elder Jolley offered his chair to S. S said, "shut the h*** up and sit down." (S is the king of first impressions. He's actually a really sweet guy!) Later, Elder Jolley asked him, "what's the most important thing to you in the world?" S turned to me and made me answer for him. I know S well enough to confidently answer "Money". S got a big smile on his face and said to me, "I like this guy." And then he came over and shook my hand. He and Mr. Crabs would get a long really great!! Later in the evening he told us he needs to raise 15 million dollars to uncover Noah's Ark which is buried under mount Arait apparently. At another point I asked them if they were sealed together. S got ticked and said, "No, and don't you ever bring it up again. My father keeps bugging me about. As soon as he stops asking when we're going to get sealed is the day I'm going to get sealed! Well I brought it up again at the end just to bug him and all he could do was laugh. I like S and Betty :)

I don't know if I told you but we also have a car now!! It's a 2014 corolla and it's pretty sweet! The weather is also cooling off which is amazing! I'm done with my last summer!!!!

My testimony of following the spirit grew this week. I believe it prompts us a lot more than we recognize. After giving a priesthood blessing to an investigator who has gout in his knee, there was a really powerful spirit so we invited him to be baptized. He said yes! The only problem is that was pretty much our first lesson with him and he was leaving town next Friday and won't be back until thanksgiving. He's been to church twice now so he just needs to be taught the lessons and have an interview. We explained why it's better to do it sooner than to delay and he made the decision that he wants to do it on Thursday. WOOT!!!

Last Monday morning I received a call from my mission president asking me to clear my schedule for the evening and he wanted me to come to the mission home. When I got there, the newly arriving missionaries were there getting situated. President Toone had prepared an evening devotional and he wanted me to participate but didn't tell me how. A few other missionaries from the mission came in a little later and then we started. When Elder Christofferson came there was a musical performance sung by 8 missionaries to the song "My Savior Will Supply My Need." President had brought them all in to sing it again for the new missionaries. He then asked a Sister missionary with only 1 transfer left to speak for a few minutes about beginning our missions with the end in mind. Another sister who has 2 transfers left also spoke. Elder Bressler, a newly called assistant was then asked to speak about accepting leadership assignments. As the final speaker, President Toone asked me to speak about dealing with unexpected challenges on the mission. I was very open about Mom's situation. The point I wanted to get across was that we can make the decision that we will never let our faith be shaken by challenges and that no matter what comes our way we will turn to God. I was grateful for the opportunity to share and it helped me to cement my own resolve to turn to God no matter what may come.

I love you all so much!! Have a great week!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, September 29, 2014

We Got Permission To Use a Guitar and Write Lyrics

September 22, 2014

Our mission came together as a whole twice this week! The last time we were all together was for Christmas last year! On Friday our mission president had everyone come in for a special training by him on things he's been trained on lately by the apostles at mission president seminars. VERY POWERFUL. Then, on Saturday, Elder D. Todd Christofferson asked to be with just our mission for two hours along with Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge who wrote the talk on becoming the fourth missionary and Bishop Dean M. Davies 2nd counselor in the presiding bishopric. Needless to say it was a VERY spiritual meeting. I would have to say it was the spiritual highlight of my mission. Before the meeting started, the brethren wanted to shake everyone's hand. That was neat! Bishop Davies then spoke about letting our light shine and not getting the D.I.M.S (Discouraged, Idle, Murmur, Sin.) Elder Corbridge talked about how the greatest human condition is to have the spirit with us at all times. This is available to everyone. The worst condition is to be separated from god. It is the most common human condition. The human universal need is for a savior. During the meeting I had very powerful memories brought back to my mind of events on my mission that have led me to where I am right now and it was a witness that God is intimately involved in my life. Literally everything that has happened to me that involves my mission was the right place, the right time, with the right people. I am very aware of my relationship with Heavenly Father and know that I am a son of god. I know this not because someone stated these facts but because the spirit showed this to me. So have the patience through the hard times and know that God really is directing your path.

At the meeting on Friday I had approval to play a song to our housing coordinators who are finishing their mission here earlier than expected due to an unexpected health issue. When Elder Diaz and I found out we took it upon ourselves to write a thank you song to them and we got permission to use a guitar and write lyrics. We picked the tune from the song Time of Your Life by Greenday. Here are the lyrics!:

Oh dear Davenports this's not our last goodbye,
You've been a blessing and we want to tell you why.
Nobody else knows how to treat bed bugs,
After the mission we will give you lots of hugs.

Chorus: There are things unpredictable but in the end are right,
we hope you have the time of your lives.

There're many memories that still are in our minds.
You taught us how to clean and make the apartments shine.
Just let us tell you that there's someone who'll be glad,
you're going to meet her when we finally come back.


We will miss you two doing cleaning checks.
We want to apologize for all the things we've wrecked.
You are our hero's and it's very hard to show
how we all love you more than you could even know.

We had everyone sing this last verse with us: Oh dear Davenports this is not our last goodbye.
We love you so much and you know we couldn't lie.
We want to thank you for the service you have done,
the hearts of all of us you certainly have won.

The Arizona Tempe Mission wants to thank you now,
with you we've had the time of our lives.

Everyone loved it and it was really special for the davenports. I'll see if I can send the video!

Oh, transfers are this week. I got called to be a zone leader again so I'll be leaving. I'm really sad to leave, this was the best transfer of my mission.

I will have to write the rest of my week in a letter!

I love you so much!! Have a great week!!!

PS: Transfer news just changed! I'm going to be staying in my area but I'll be a zone leader and elder glencoe is leaving! Now I don't know what the heck is going on! I won't know until thursday who my new companion is!

The iPad will only let me send parts of the video at a time!
(If you can't see the videos on the email, go to  Elder T. Janis to see it.)

She Had a Scraggly Beard Growing

September 15, 2014

I had a wonderful week! The work we have in this ward practically doubled this week from solid referrals we received from the members, including our bishop. It's so nice to have a teaching pool with multiple solid investigators who want to progress! I have had the feeling that the members in this ward haven't had a whole lot of trust in the full time elders and so we've been working hard to change that by offering to give talks in sacrament, bearing our testimonies last fast sunday, and bringing members out on splits to awesome teaching appointments. It has taken the last 5 weeks but this last sunday was very rewarding as multiple members were making comments about the good job we're doing. We had a very detailed progress record for our ward council too which is something the missionaries haven't brought to ward council in months, maybe even years. A councilor in the bishopric commented that they know more about the investigators we're teaching now than they ever have in the history of this ward. It's paying off and we had a lot of investigators come to church.

So one of the individuals we're teaching is this inactive guy name Joseph but he looks like Steve Nash to me and so that's what the picture on Facebook was about :) he was supposed to come to church but didn't make it. He's a cool guy though and his job is to bake cookies at paradise bakery! That place is so good! He also is overly addicted to Pokemon.. There are some crazy people in Tempe.. Speaking of crazy people, get this! Right after our first visit with Joseph we were on our bikes waiting at the light so we could go and this older guy in a truck rolled his window down and started yelling at us. It's not super uncommon that this happens but this guy was really emphatic! He yelled at us to stay where we were because he wanted to talk to us. Bracing ourselves for hell fire and damnation we patiently waited for him to park his truck and storm over to us. As he approached us he said, "I've been a member of your church twice and I've got a few things I want to tell you." We
waited for him to continue and he said, "I need you missionaries to pray for me. I'm out of work, out of money, and I've got bills to pay! I need you to pray that I get a job RIGHT NOW. I don't have time to wait. I need it NOW! Second thing, I always have something to give to the missionaries when I see them. But I don't have anything for you so I'm sorry." I was so confused! Of course we agreed to pray for him and we did it right there on the street corner! Right then his wife came up and as we got acquainted we learned that back in the day she had been a pro wrestler. I believed her because she had a scraggly beard growing!! It was all so weird! Anyways, we told them we needed them at church and hey! They came!

We are working hard and staying very busy! Also the weather is getting close to cooling off which will be nice since our area is strictly a bike area!

A motivating thought I've had this week is this, "Discipline weighs ounces and regret weighs tons." Regret is the price we pay when we don't pay the price of disciplining ourselves. I love that quote!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm Not Joking People!!

This week was awesome!!!! This past Saturday night was one of the craziest experiences of my mission.. Elder Glencoe is the man, he should be in Ripley's believe it or not.. So we visited a member to figure out how we could get her brother to approve his 9 year old daughter getting baptized. While there, she fed us each a plate with 2 chicken legs, a side of mashed potatoes, rice, and corn. She then gave each of us a big slice of cake. I was a little concerned because we had our dinner appointment right after! My companion elder Glencoe asked for a second slice of cake before we biked over to our dinner appointment.

When we got there, it was with a hispanic family and the mom had made these big sandwich kinda things called tortas! Imagine a big chicken fried steak sandwiched between lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avacodos, all smashed between two huge buns! One would be plenty and I was already full. My companion downed the first one and asked for a second one even before I was half way through my first! The mom made him a second and assumed I'd also like a second. During my last few bites of the first one I was sweating and really struggling to keep it all in. Boom, she dropped number two on my plate. Elder Glencoe had already finished his second AND HE ASKED FOR A THIRD..... I'm not joking people!! He went for it!! This was real life. I'm a witness. As I neared half way through my second he had already finished his third. At this point he stopped but then the attention was back on me. I had really been struggling and honestly I hadn't said a word for the last 20 minutes because I was trying so hard to eat! They asked if I would like a third. It must have been the look I had on my face but the husband said, "elder janis, if you're full you don't have to eat." I was so happy but angry at the same time! He could have said that a long time ago!!! ;) Anyways, this was probably the closest experience I've had with death on my mission. Let me repeat again everything my companion ate: 2 chicken legs, a side of mashed potatoes, rice, corn, 2 large slices of cake, and 3 monster Tortas!!!! I'm still in shock..

We met this cool old guy this last week. He's 87 and staunch catholic. While we were contacting some in actives I felt a prompting that we should tract out the row of apartments we were at. When we came to the second door it was open and inside was this sweet old man who looked at us and said, "You're the mormon boys! Come on in!" We talked about the similarities between catholicism and mormonism and had a really positive interaction. He's somewhat nervous about passing so I read to him the words of Paul to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:52-58 which talks about how the sting of death is conquered by Jesus Christ. He really appreciated the visit and asked us to come see him again.

I love you all so much!!

Love Elder Janis 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

He Pulled His Cell Phone Out and Started Recording Me!

The area I'm serving in right now actually has the most poverty I've seen on my mission. We have absolute ghetto dumpy apartments and rural areas that are dirty and gross. It makes me appreciate so much good ole Katy Texas!!! ;) Cinco Ranch is so nice!!! Earlier this week we were biking through one of the dumpiest areas and there was a lady changing her clothes in the middle of the parking lot completely unconcerned that it was a public place. In case you were wondering, we did not street contact her :D

What a strange week this has been! Since I wrote on Wednesday some amazing things have happened. On Thursday we had a zone conference with half the mission to be trained by Elder Gregory L. Schwitzer of the second quorum of the 70. His training was amazing and I received a lot of inspiration on how to bear testimony and how important it is to facilitate friendships between our members and investigators. BUT the most powerful talk during the whole conference was the 10 minutes our mission presidents wife, Sister Toone, took to talk about who we should be becoming as missionaries. It goes right along with what Elder Robbins said last week. Sister Toone shared the story of how one of her boys was very proud in high school and took the gospel for granted. When he left on his mission she prayed every day that he would be humbled and appreciate the blessing that the gospel is. In his letters he wrote of how difficult every single one of his companions was. He was convinced that by the end of his mission he had served with the most difficult missionaries in the whole mission. When he returned home he had completely changed and is so Christ-like that Sister Toone sometimes can't believe that he is her son because he is such a good man. She was more emotional than any of us have seen her and of course it made me think of Mom and her hopes for me. I wish I could listen to her prayers for me sometimes  just so I can know what things she hopes that I learn from my mission. I hope that I am becoming everything she wants me to be and that I don't lose a second.

On Friday this week our Mission President called us up and asked if we would take an Elder with us at least until Tuesday who is in the process of finding out if he will be leaving the mission or staying due to disobedience. It has been an interesting few days with him. At this point he's working hard and is trying to stay but it isn't genuine. If there is any way he can stay President Toone will keep him here. We'll see if he's still with us by next week!

As I was street contacting two guys a few nights ago, one of them pulled his cell phone out and started recording me! I was sort of like, "what the heck guy!" and he explained that for the past few months, he has recorded 2 seconds of memorable experiences from each day and then at the end of the year he will combine it all together and play it all together. I'm glad I made the video and I also like the idea! Kind of a cool way to keep a journal of sorts!

I love the gospel so very much as I experience it changing my nature to be a more pleasant person to be around :) Especially at night when I'm tired and get grouchy. I love the Book of Mormon which brings the much needed peace I seek for on a daily basis.

I love you all!!

Love ElderJanis

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nothing Will Slow Us Down

Written on 9/27/2014

This week was just as good as last week if not better!!! The highlight was getting a special invitation to an MLC with our mission and Gilbert mission to be trained by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the presidency of the 70. Since I stepped down to a District Leader I don't go to the Mission Leadership Councils but President Toone invited me and Elder Diaz (I lived with him in my second area!! We are living together again and are having so much fun!) who is a former Zone Leader on a special assignment as well. 

The training by Elder Robbins changed my perspective a lot on why i'm out here. His topic that he trained us on for 3 hours was taking responsibility. We started off by talking about all the reasons people use to avoid responsibility (see if you have used one before :)): self-denial, excuse, hide, anger, blame, procrastination, entitlement... The list goes on. He made the point that because we have 100% of our agency, we have 100% responsibility for how we use it. Anytime we resort to that list we will hurt ourselves. People who can't forgive EVEN IF THEY ARE RIGHT will be hurt in the end. Of course, we don't have control over other peoples actions BUT we have control over how we react to their actions. Elder Bednar says, "sometimes the best reaction is no reaction at all." I love that quote. So everyone out there who isn't taking responsibility for your life, I would invite you to repent and take control of your life.

There is a story that illustrates this point. There was a newly wed couple who got into a petty argument about something they later couldn't even remember. It got to the point where the husband and wife were giving each other the silent treatment. The wife who wrote the story says that she remembers thinking "It's his fault and he should say sorry first." Near the end of the day she got on her knees to pray that her husband would humble himself and see how wrong he was and apologize to her. She heard a voice in her mind say, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?" She then went to her husband and apologized and they made things right.

Elder Glencoe and I received a ton of referrals this last week and we're having great success contacting them! We have a lot of really good work going and nothing will slow us down!

I'll write again next monday and I'll have a story or two from the week to share!! I love you all!

Love Elder Janis

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We Looked Like White Ninjas

I am now serving in the Tempe Zone with the awesome Elder Glencoe!! We're having a blast!!! He's been very positive and has helped me a lot in getting to know the area. I think I'll learn more from him this transfer than he will from me!

There are some sister missionaries serving in Tempe that found a family of 5 while riding a public bus that started taking the lessons and began preparing for baptism over the course of 3 months. They live in our area though so about a week ago the sisters turned them over to us and just this last week we finished up the lessons and baptized them on Saturday. The mom is in her 50's and she has two sets of twins that were baptized with her. The twins ages are 9 and 10. I asked the mom what her favorite thing about the gospel has been as she's been meeting the missionaries and going to church and she said, "One of the sister missionaries explained that the gospel is a process that we go through, not a one time event." I feel like that was a very profound comment. We don't just learn about a principle once and then move on. We review over and over again and continue to grow.

30 minutes before sacrament meeting started our bishop called me and asked if I would be willing to speak as one of 2 speakers. That meant I would have to speak for about 15 minutes :) This is the first time I've been put that much on the spot! It went really well! I shared some of the things I've learned from members of the congregation and investigators in the area already and I felt like it was well received. I made a joke at the beginning of my talk I had to repent of and ask forgiveness of the bishops wife for after. Our bishops wife is in her late 60's and has stark white hair. In fact, many of the members of the congregation have gray and white hair so I commented how wonderful it was to have so much gray and white hair in the congregation. I mentioned that in High School I thought it would be really really awesome to dye my hair white and so I was going to ask sister addison after the meeting where she got her hair dye. Everyone laughed except sister addison who looked like she didn't know how to respond. I apologized after and she was very forgiving and said she was just happy to get some sort of a shout out!

I'm in a bike area again! Whoopie! It's the worst. Arizona is hot. I'm not used to biking. My legs are sore and my glutes are probably bruised. The huge positive is that we get to talk to so many different kinds of people in the street all day long! I REALLY enjoy doing that. It's fun to street contact people and pass out copies of the Book of Mormon. Despite the negatives, I'm thoroughly enjoying this new area and new chapter of my mission. Our Mission President talked about how important moments are in our lives at the transfer meeting last week and he challenged each of us to fully enjoy and appreciate each moment as they come, the good and the bad. They all become good memories after awhile. I challenge each of you the same thing.

This church is true! I know it with all my heart!

Love Elder Janis

From left to right S, Ch, D, C, H (yes, h is a boy. He looks like the football player Troy polamalu.)

My jump-suit makes me look chunky. It's lying. I still have a six pack ;) on the far right is elder glencoe and our bishop, bishop Addison.

I had the privilege of baptizing S and C! C said we looked like white ninjas so here's the ninja pose!

After everyone had changed! Beautiful family!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We Were Sharing the Sidewalk With a Million Elementary School Children

I'm doing great!!! This last week was amazing!!! It was the last week of the transfer and we had transfer calls last night. I spoke with President Toone earlier this week and knew what my assignment would be. I'm leaving Maricopa but taking with me the incredible lessons learned. I will never forgot these wonderful people. I'm taking a special assignment to help a missionary who is having a tough time right now and wants to go home. My goal is to make the last year of his mission the best year of his life! I know I can do it.

Earlier in the week Elder Richards and I decided to save some miles and bike to our appointments and get in some extra street contacts. 5 minutes on the bike and I ran into difficulty.. While Elder Richards was up ahead a ways my front tire popped. School had just gotten out and we were sharing the sidewalk with a million elementary school children (which is a very awkward situation for a missionary to be in). Elder Richards assumed I was behind him and kept going to the house we were headed to. I got off my bike and started walking. About 15 minutes later two missionaries in our zone drove past and saw me. They turned around and asked what the heck I was doing "lone wolfing" it! I explained the situation and we laughed about it. They went off ahead to see if they could track down my companion. I was wondering how Elder Richards hadn't noticed at this point I wasn't behind him! Finally I got to the house and made a joke about Elder Richards forgetting he was on a mission and we went in and taught the lesson.

There are many opportunities in front of me! I'm excited for the challenges and experience I'm about to have.

Love Elder Janis

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Felt the Unmistakable Prompting

This was the quickest week of my whole mission!! It's been such a huge, busy week that I've been looking forward practically the whole week to when I could tell everyone about it!!

I had one of those crazy spiritual experiences this week that missionaries who come home always talk about that make all the young men and women want to go on missions. We had had a very crazy day and after dinner we didn't have any set appointments so we had the opportunity to decide what exactly we wanted to do the whole evening! A large (but hardly populated) area of our ward extends south of Maricopa into the desert. Pretty much all that's out there is a couple of large cattle farms and houses for the workers of the farms. We decided we'd explore the desert a little bit and stop by an inactive man who we've seen before. 
There was a little beaten up dirt road off the high way we were traveling on that I was prompted to go down (honestly the prompting was more for the adventure of off roading than looking for the elect). We saw a lot of cool cactuses but nobody lived out there so we turned around to go back to the highway. On our way back there was another small dirt road (it looked more like a trail to walk down than a road to drive down) and I felt the unmistakable prompting from the Holy Ghost to drive down that path. I immediately acted and a minute down the road we found a house. There was a big "No Trespassing" sign out front but I drove in anyways. Whenever the spirit tells you to do something you should do it. I bet Satan put that sign up anyways ;) We got out of the car and were greeted by about 10 angry little dogs!! The owner of the house opened the front door and came out and called out across the yard to us, "Are you guys Mormon?" I yelled back, "Yes sir! And we have a message for you!" He hollered back, "Well come on over then!" 
He's an older man and he introduced us to his grandson and his girl friend who are about in their early 30's. They told us they had some cool goats in the back and asked if we'd like to look at them. We agreed and went around back to see the goats! They confided in us that they are very unhappy with the baptist church they're currently attending and have been looking for another church to go to. They had so many questions about why Christ seemed to have left us without direction and we were able to teach them about the restoration and prophets! It was such an ah-ha moment for them and by the time the grandson finished the closing prayer he felt like God was already speaking to him that this was God's true church. I can't wait to see how the rest of this plays out! They will be coming to church with us this next week and we've had one other lesson since this one.

Earlier this week we had just started an exchange with one of our District Leaders and his companion when President Toone called us and asked us to make the 2 hour drive to Ajo where the companionship serving there had gotten into a big fight and weren't speaking to each other. He needed us to go down and make sure everything was okay and resolve the conflict. When we got there one of the missionaries was laying on his bed stiff as a board with his mouth shut as tight as it could be. His companion had opened the door for us and seemed a bit mellower. Apparently they had gotten into an argument about something silly and now they were at wits end with each other. Step 1 was to get the missionary on the bed to open up and talk. It took a lot of coaxing but he finally opened up and we were able to talk things out. After 3 hours of "He said this" and "He said that" they had forgiven each other and were ready to go back to work. I learned that a lot of things about us don't change when we get out on our missions.. I can guess the same thing about marriage. We won't all of a sudden become super patient and understanding and mature. It's a process that starts with a decision that needs to happen long before the commitment is made.

I wish I had more time to tell you more stories! It kills me sometimes how much I'm not able to write about! I think I have had the most rewarding and fulfilling mission anyone has ever had up to this point. Every week there are new opportunities and experiences that stretch me to the limit and help me become a better person.

I love you so much!

Love Elder Janis
Oh, I forgot to mention that I had to hold a king scorpion and tarantula to get a kid to take the missionary lessons! I did it and now he's preparing for baptism on August 30th! I'll try and send some pictures!