Monday, March 31, 2014

Consecration and Conversion

I have to say, nothing feels greater than testifying to someone and feeling the power of the Holy Ghost testify that your words are true. This past month as a mission we have had a huge focus on the what, why, and how of Consecration and Conversion and there were areas I have been able to identify that needed changing and as such my power and authority to teach the gospel has increased. I hope that doesn't sound prideful but it highlights a true principle: As we consecrate our lives more fully to God, He comes closer to us and endows us with greater gifts. We were able to teach a lot of lessons this week and I have never felt the spirit stronger in any lessons than the ones we taught this week.

I want to highlight the power of the youth in missionary work. Elder Jolley and I have focused the past month on challenging the youth to share the gospel and invite their friends to Church, mutual, and to take the missionary lessons. They have responded quickly with great success! There has been a change felt in the ward we're serving in as the youth have actively become involved in missionary work.

I feel very strongly that the most effective way to feel an added measure of the spirit in your life is to become involved in missionary work. Sharing your testimony with someone who's faith is weak is one of the most faith strengthening experiences for the one bearing the testimony.

The most interesting thing that happened this week was a conversation I had over the phone with the angry and drunk grandmother of one of our youth investigators. It was so frustrating because Her grandson had been given permission to come with us to mutual and then by the time it was 7:00 she started calling asking where he was and when he'd be back. I was very respectful and she cooled off pretty quick. The tough thing was keeping her cool though because she was very unstable. It was really funny though because it was really easy to make her laugh so I spent most of the time experimenting how dull I could say something that would still make her laugh. By the end of the conversation she was O.K with her Grandson staying for mutual and me and her were best friends. Unfortunately she couldn't remember any of the conversation the next day so I still have to win her as a friend!

Thank you for the emails! Thank you for the prayers! This has been the best year of my life!

Love Elder Janis

One of Elder Janis' investigators

Monday, March 24, 2014

Frank Grabbed Our Hands With His Massive Paws

Wanna hear about the best week of my mission? This was it!! It was such a busy week it feels like it was twice as long as normal! I learned some pretty big lessons this week too which makes it seem like it couldn't have only been one week.

We started teaching this guy I'm going to call Frank. He looks like his name should be Frank anyways. On first impressions Frank looks like a wild cave man. He has a unkempt beard and wild hair that looks kind of like what Einstein's hair would look like if there was more of it and was blonde. He's as tall as I am but outweighs me by about 75 pounds. He's a construction worker and looks pretty tough. He's also 54. What you wouldn't guess is that Frank has the softest heart of anyone I've yet met. He's as humble as a child. After 15 minutes of first meeting Frank, you will have a loyal friend to the day you die. You can also expect lots of high fives, fist bumps, crushing hugs, and smashes on the back (it feels like he uses his hand like he uses a sledge hammer). Frank has tried to become Mormon two times previously and has been unsuccessful due to habits he can't quite kick. He is fired up and ready to break his habits this time because he wants to feel the peace he sees in all the Mormon's he's ever know. (WOW. Weird things always happen at this public library I'm at right now. My companion just sneezed and the lady sitting at the computer across from him said, "God bless you. Literally.") Back to Frank. My first 15 minutes with Frank was how I described it earlier. I received many fist bumps and high fives and a huge hug. Frank is also a big gardener. He took us to his back yard and showed us all the things he's growing. I can only recall him showing us his tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and beats. There was more that I can't remember. As we sat amongst the vegetables in his garden, we talked about who God is and how he can learn to trust in Jesus Christ. It was very powerful. At the end of the lesson Elder Jolley said the closing prayer and Frank grabbed our hands with his massive paws. As Elder Jolley spoke words of faith and encouragement, Frank would increase the crushing power in his hands depending on what Elder Jolley spoke. Needless to say, Elder Jolley didn't make that prayer a lengthy one. My hand didn't quite feel right until hours later.

I learned a very important lesson this week. In church I was with an investigator in Priest's quorum. Our bishop was teaching and he told us a story of a priest quorum he once visited. When the boys came in they were all talking about a movie that had recently come out. It was PG-13 and everyone had seen it. As they talked about the movie, the bishop sat quietly and listened. When they quieted down and class started, the bishop asked them if they could feel the spirit while they watched that movie. Immediately one of the boys raised his hand and said that the movie was rated PG-13 and so it was O.K. The bishop asked the question again and they were all silent. Even though we may be able to justify what we watch or listen to, if it is not conducive to the spirit then we shouldn't participate. I've heard this before but it really hit me how important the Gift of the Holy Ghost is and should be to us. My sister Emily was privileged to give a talk at my cousin Esther's baptism about the Holy Ghost and I'm sure she talked about how important it's influence is in our lives. It is a special gift and we show our appreciation for it by living our lives in a way to receive it.

The work is moving forward at a faster pace! People are interested in why Mormon's they know seem to have such a strong relationship with God. They are interested in why Mormon's they know have peace while going through challenging times. Today is a great day to share your testimony with someone who may need an extra boost. Reach out to someone you haven't talked to in a while but who's been on your mind. Ministering to the one is how the savior served.

Love Elder Janis

Monday, March 17, 2014

This Kid Has Been Tough To Teach

The highlight of my week was seeing a 17 year old we've been teaching gain his testimony. We took him down to the Mesa Temple Visitors Center where we watched the restoration. This kid has been tough to teach because he gets very easily distracted. It also doesn't help that he is addicted to his screamo music and is impolite enough to not take a headphone out during some of our lessons. His reason is that he's schizophrenic and if he doesn't have his music in he get's freaked out by all the weird sounds and voices he hears. It's tough to relate to but we're being patient. He's an emo kid who paints his fingernails black, wears all black clothing, and dyes his hair black. We call him Johnny Cash. When we walked into the visitors center, he took out his headphones and got really quiet. While we watched the video, he was intently watching everything and was asking honest questions throughout the movie. When Joseph Smith had the first vision, he turned to me and asked, "Did this really happen?" I answered back, "Yes, it did." Immediately the spirit filled the whole room and testified to all of us that truly Joseph had seen God the Father and Jesus Christ and was their chosen prophet. 

After the video this is what he said: "When we walked in here I forgot about all my problems. I honestly can't even remember what they are because I feel so happy right now. Is this the spirit you guys have been telling me about?" We were able to testify that what he was feeling was truly the spirit. For me, seeing the spirit work on him is one of the most incredible things I've seen on my mission. There is a new light in his eyes and his whole countenance has changed since that experience. He's felt the spirit that powerfully twice since then, once at church and again at our monthly mission president's devotional.

I got to go on exchanges with my zone leader Elder Stiles to the Pima Indian Reservation this week! I wish I had time to tell you all about it but I can't! We were able to teach 4 families about Jesus Christ and give 2 priesthood blessings. We had the privilege of introducing the Book of Mormon to two individuals that day and it was really awesome for them to relate in a personal way to those who wrote the book.

I've never been so on fire during my mission than I have been this week! My love for sharing the gospel increases every day!

Have a great week!

Love Elder Janis

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Couldn't Help But Laugh!

The challenges of serving in a ward that is 2 square miles in total with no investigators to start with is becoming easier. The initial challenge was trying to figure out how to stay busy. This past week we worked really hard and saw the benefits of that work. We met 3 special people this week who accepted our invitation to hear our message and one of them is preparing for baptism. Being assigned to one ward has been a huge blessing in many ways. Due to time I will share just one:

Our ability to help members with their missionary efforts: 
A big challenge for a lot of our members is knowing what to do next. The next step is difficult for them to determine and often times social, family, and work related responsibilities takes priority over figuring out how to engage in missionary work. Elder Jolley and I make a lot of home visits to members to help them determine what their next step could be and help them set a date to accomplish it by. It's been fantastic to help remind our members to share the gospel and how to do it. In Ward Council last Sunday multiple members of the council testified to how great it's been for them because the things we've challenged them to do has given them the motivation and courage to have missionary experiences which is blessing their individual and family lives in a very special and personal way. I believe that missionary work is the most exciting and invigorating work to be engaged in. It's truly tremendous! And honestly I bet each of you reading this letter does more missionary work than you think you do. Just by living the gospel you are participating in missionary work! So if you're living the gospel you're already doing a great job! If you're not living the gospel than you need to repent and live the gospel! It's for your own best interest! As you live the gospel you will enjoy peace and prosperity and you will have the priceless privilege of being a positive influence on the people who are around you. Making someone else's life better because of your influence is one of the greatest experiences I've ever felt.

Spiritual/Funny story for the week:
There is a 70 year old lady in our ward who converted to our church from Judaism (Shout out to Grandpa and Grandma Janis who are hero's to our family for doing the same). Her husband relented to her joining after many many years. He is still a practicing Jew. Well we went by their home to see if he's had a change of heart over the years. The wife answered and let us in. Upon seeing us, the husband darted into the next room and closed the door. From behind the closed door he yelled at his wife to send us away because he wasn't interested in being "proselytized". The wife told him to shut up because she wasn't about to send us away. He raved for another minute or so and she finally relented and walked with us to the front porch where she proceeded to tell us her conversion story and her master plan to get her husband converted. It was such an immature demonstration by the husband and the way his wife was paying him back was so funny! I was trying to be serious about the whole situation but I couldn't help but laugh! After hearing her story we promised we'd stop by again. We didn't realize that we'd actually see her sooner than we thought! Later that night we got a call from her and her husband asking us to come over to help them move a couch. Very apprehensive we came into the home and tentatively shook hands with the husband. Our task was to lift a couch from their living room onto a truck to be taken to a struggling family on the reservation. The husband was A LOT nicer when we were doing service for him. In fact I would go as far as to say he was polite. Such nonsense! So I said this story was spiritual and it is! Had we not been inspired to go visit this family when we had, we wouldn't have been able to have the first positive experience this man has ever had with the church! Our timing for that visit was orchestrated by the Lord. Perhaps the Lord was in cahoots with this wonderful sister and her master plan!!

What a great week! What a great mission!! I'm so happy to be here!

Love Elder Janis

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Woah! Talk About a Gut Punch!

We had a very eventful week! Last sunday night our assistants told us that our area was staying the same and nothing was changing in our companionship. The actual meeting was on Wednesday afternoon and right after it ended we got a call from a previous missionary who had served in this area for 6 months saying that our area actually split, he was taking Grove 2nd ward back, and he also needed a ride back to the area. Woah! Talk about a gut punch! We had 16 investigators in that ward with two who were preparing for baptism this coming month! Our focus had been all on that ward because the members had been giving us a lot of referrals. Now we are covering a 2 mile radius with just 3 investigators who aren't really progressing. Honestly isn't that great though?! It's a challenge! I'm sure President Toone was laughing when he made the assignment the day of transfers! My goal (which isn't too unrealistic now we've been focused the last 4 days on Grove 1st. The work is hastening!) is to teach the most lessons in the zone and baptize the most people over the course of the next 6 weeks. I'm positive I'll be transferred out of the area by next transfer considering I've been serving here for nearly 7 months.

Two very specific prayers were answered this week. On Saturday we prayed that we would meet someone that we could teach as we prepared to bike over to our bishops house to coordinate. Right when we finished coordinating, a man that I had helped teach in the past showed up with his cousin and friend to do some handy man work for our bishop. We jumped in and started helping and then started up a conversation with the cousin. (The man and his friend are both members but the cousin isn't.) I asked him about his life and his religious background and invited him to take the lessons at his cousins house. He's going through a really tough time with his family and I promised him that the gospel is exactly what he needs. He was anxious and eager to hear what we had to say so we taught him some principles on the spot and set up a time to meet with him. He is going to try and bring his mom too.

Yesterday afternoon Elder Jolley said a prayer that we would find a new investigator. About a half hour later, we got a text from the mission office telling us to visit a lady who had apparently asked for missionaries to come visit her. We went and visited her and found out she hadn't requested missionaries but she was interested in hearing what we had to say. We had a short visit outside on her porch in which she testified that our visit had lifted her spirits greatly. We set up a time to come back and thus our prayer was answered. I was reading the Book of Mormon in my personal study this morning in the book of Alma chapter 14 verse 28 where Alma and Amulek pray to God to deliver them from prison: "And they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power according to their faith which was in Christ." The principle is this: If it is God's will, then he will grant exactly what we ask for. Also, we will not receive that which is above our level of faith. Our faith has to match our request.

Missionary challenge of the week: Create a family mission plan! It doesn't have to be anything crazy like baptizing all your neighbors but make it something that will make you stretch. It could be inviting a non member family into your home for FHE once a month or maybe it could be holding a food storage class or inviting someone to hear you speak at church. It's up to you! If you take the challenge I would like you to email me what your family mission plan is!

I know this church is true and has Christ's authority. I am a witness to the power of the Priesthood.

Love Elder Janis