Tuesday, April 29, 2014

His Hairdo is Pretty Wacky Too

Yes, I'm back in a two-some! Elder Hyer is the man!!!!!!! Elder Karl was an incredible missionary and I miss him a ton. But the work goes on!

I seriously had such a great week! Maricopa is such great little town I'm just loving it. My companion is an amazing teacher and great example of quiet dignity (something I struggle with but am trying to develop) and has helped me learn a lot about leadership.

I wish you all could meet this man we met this past week named B. For our purposes i'll just call him Jimmy. We met Jimmy while he was pumping rap music from his garage late at night just before our curfew. He's a solid 240 pound guy about 6'4 with beefy hands. All his knuckles are crooked from fights as a kid growing up and especially from jail fights. He's spent 20 years of his 40 year life in prison starting from the age of 12. It's been 8 years since he's been in jail and he's made the changes so he'll never go back. His hairdo is pretty wacky too, the sides of his head are shaved and the hair on top is super long and wavy and he has it slicked back. That first night we met him he was pretty stoned but he told us we could come back so yesterday afternoon we did! This time he was sober and really opened up. He's got a lot going on in his life and is really wondering if there is a God or not. We told him what our purpose as missionaries is and promised we would be his guides to help answer his questions and find God. He was willing to offer a prayer at the end of our lesson which was really cool because he hasn't prayed in a very long time. One of my favorite things as a missionary is still to hear people pray to God either for the first time ever or for the first time in a long time. Repentance is a beautiful thing.

The highlight of this week was a big zone meeting with our mission president President Toone. He and 17 other mission presidents got together in Texas with Elder Bednar for 3 days and received training. President Toone is now meeting with all the zones and giving us the condensed version of the training. The main message was that we as missionaries serve two missions: one to the people here in our mission, and the other is to the missionaries we serve with. This world is about to get a lot worse and we all need to become converted. We discussed how very often even we as missionaries compromise rules to keep the peace with members, investigators, and even other missionaries. Peer pressure from companions and the missionaries we live with can often times be the toughest to deal with as a missionary. The message from President Toone's training was this: If you can't learn how to stand up to others with courage on your own two feet you will not be able to stand up to the opposition you will face when you return home. That hit me super hard and has caused me to reflect on my level of conversion and how committed I am to being loyal first to God and then loyalty to others second.

I actually had my year mark this past week. Funny how quick time flies. It has motivated me to pick up the pace and work even harder!! I don't want to waste a second!

Thank you for your letters and your prayers. It means a lot to me. I love you all and hope this is the best week ever!

Love Elder Janis

This is a picture of when me and my two comps became comps at transfer meeting. It was super funny because they called my name and usually you'd go give your new companions and hug and go sit down but these guys pulled these flags out, gave me one, and then we basically went up in front of everyone and took a selfie!! Priceless moment captured right here!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

He Brought All the Color From the South With Him


Sometimes I love reading your letters so much I wish I didn't have to worry about writing an email to go on my blog so I could just tell you what's going on and respond more fully to your letter. In fact that is mostly what I'm going to do today so I apologize if you don't get too much detail on my week. Just know that of course it was obviously the best week of my mission because it was the most recent :) I love all of it. Everything.

I love the word "warpath" you used to describe Dad and his research! That sounds just like him! I'm so glad you were able to find a place in Mexico that feels right. I feel good about it too and will support you as best I can! Here are some motivating quotes I've written on different diet and work out plans for missionaries:

"It's just like anything else, if you want it bad enough you'll get it." (Me)

"No pain no gain" (I'll claim this one ;))

"No victory comes without sacrifice" (Optimus Prime from Transformers)

"Aint nothin but a peanut" (Ronnie Coleman)

"If you want it, get it" (Me)

"Without goals there is no improvement. Without improvement there is no progress. Without progress there is no happiness. Hallelujah" (Elder Diaz)

"Doing hard things builds mental fortitude which is a God-Like attribute." (Me)

"Your body is the instrument of your mind and is the foundation of your character" (President Packer)

Hahahahaha funny story from last night. There is an african american guy named M W who gave a prayer at an Easter Devotional Elder Karl, Hyer, and myself organized for the Maricopa zone and stake. We had invited recent converts to share their conversion story and asked our bishop to finish with his testimony of Christ. It was a super awesome event and it was my first opportunity to conduct any sort of meeting like this. So back to M. He is one of our recent converts in this area and his background is southern baptist. He is all in with the mormons now and brought all the color from the south with him! By that I mean that he does the "Mmhmmmm's" and the "Praise Jesus" during meetings and prayers. He gave the closing prayer and in the middle of his prayer he said, "I just want to thank you Heavenly Father for the all the testimonies that have been born today and you know what? I want to bear my testimony too!" He then proceeded to testify of the love of Jesus and the gift of the restoration and the Plan of Salvation. It was my favorite prayer I've ever heard :)

It sounds like pass over was a huge success!!! I'm sure everyone loved it! You are so fantastic at pulling big events like that off and you do it flawlessly! Everyone can't ever tell if you had everything prepared hours in advance or if the final preparations were happening as the event was happening! I remember when you were the relief society president you did amazing things all the time. I am grateful for your example :)

Mom, you're the most amazing person in the world. I'm so thankful for you. You really are an angel in every way. I know that everything you're going through will be made right. Everything will work itself out. I'm learning that over and over again. For example with the devotional last night we didn't have anyone who could play the piano until the devotional had started. Also, one of the speakers was 30 minutes behind schedule and the first speaker was some brazilian guy and I wasn't sure If I knew how to pronounce his name. As people were coming in there was no one playing prelude music so it was honestly super awkward. So I got on the piano and busted out a couple hymns like choose the right and god be with you till we meet again (both of which don't really apply to easter but it worked :D). Once the meeting started a sister missionary who I knew could play some hymns walked in and I announced she would be the pianist and we'd be singing hymn 116. Without missing a beat she took the seat. Half way into the program I announced a special musical number followed by two speakers, one of which was the guy who was late and still hadn't shown up. Literally 60 seconds before the speaker before him finished he walked in, sat down, stood up, and took the podium. WHEW. So now I really can say that everything works itself out. All the stress, the sweat, and yes the tears (no i'm just kidding, I wasn't crying on the stage haha) was all for nothing because the program ran perfectly.

For the blog you can use whatever you want. Sorry again it wasn't as focused on my week but I felt like I should talk more to you today.

I love you so much and hope you have an amazing week!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, April 14, 2014

Optimus! Transform!

Mom, I'M SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I've worked harder this week and more intensively than I ever have in my life and on my mission. I LOVE MY NEW AREA. I'm convinced that the people in Maricopa are some of God's most choice and elect people on earth. We are teaching so many people that are soaking our message up. The gospel is healing people left and right! It's AMAZING what the gospel can do for the people who have soft hearts.

There are a few experiences that I had this week that will have changed my life forever. One of them happened last night. As we were walking into our church building to get stats for the zone, we noticed a car that was stopped by the entrance to the church parking lot. I felt the undeniable prompting of the spirit to go to the car and talk to whoever was in it. My incredible companion Elder Karl acted before I could making a B-line for the car in haste. (Elder Karl is a huge hero of mine for how quick he acts on promptings and how committed he is to serving with all his heart, might, mind, and strength. He also goes home in the middle of this transfer because he's finishing his mission.) We came up to the window of the car and asked the man in the drivers seat how he was doing and if he needed help. He was looking for his son but had just gotten off the phone with him and his son was on his way to meet him at the parking lot. The Dad got out of the car and we started building a relationship by asking simple questions about his belief. We shared a powerful scripture about faith getting us through hard times and that's when he broke down and cried. In a pained voice he asked us, "How do you explain all of life's suffering?" The spirit took over as we testified that before we came to earth we knew the sufferings we were going to have and we still chose to come. And we came so that we could become stronger people through life's challenges. 

At this moment his son was walking up to the car so I intercepted him to keep the other conversation going where it was at. His son was in obvious stress too and we didn't talk for long. I was able to get to know him a little and we friended each other on facebook. The conversation on the other side of the car ended a bit abruptly because the father had become too emotional to keep talking. His son offered to be the driver and they got in the car and drove away. As I had been talking to the son Elder Karl and Elder Hyer had been told by the father that his daughter had recently over dosed on drugs and had died. We meet people every day that have been through severe trials like this one but this one touched me more than the suffering of anyone else because of the love you could see this man had had for his daughter. I am sure this is not the last time I will meet this family.

Wow. It's tough to write about some of these experiences sometimes. To lighten things up I've got a really funny story for you! We were visiting a family coming back into activity and they had a little boy about the age of 4 running around in his underwear. At the close of our meeting we asked the little guy to say the closing prayer. He crouched down in a tight ball and loudly yelled, "Optimus!" Before we could react he yelled louder, "OPTIMUS!!!" and then leaping high into the air with legs and arms extended he screamed, "TRANSFORM!!!" When he landed on his feet he sprinted from the front room to the back of the house most likely I think to fight off evil.

Maricopa is a town of maybe about 40,000 people a few miles away from any big city. It's kind of by itself in the middle of the desert and it's awesome. There's a railroad that runs through the middle of town and there's an AM track that will park there for a half hour that will take people from California all the way to Louisiana. There are A TON of african american people here which is awesome because they're way funnier than the Caucasian people back in chandler. The neighborhoods here are quite nice and the homes sell for really cheap so people have nice houses but they're super humble. EVERYONE wants to hear the gospel. It is a huge blessing to be here.

I've been thinking a lot this week about how God calls us to fill assignments and helps us accomplish those assignments. It seems so obvious that if God would ask someone to do something, like serve as a bishop of a ward, he wouldn't set them up to fail but would actually help them accomplish the task. Can we all look at our lives like this? We knew what we were getting into before we came to earth because we talked about it and chose it KNOWING that God was the one inviting us go to earth. He didn't send us here alone. He gave us Christ and his atonement, the Holy Ghost also known as the comforter, and prayer. He is there every step of the way. As long as we don't give up we will be successful.

I love you all! Especially you Mom!!

Love Elder Janis

Elder Janis with his two companions: On the top "higher" (Elder Hyer), on the bottom (Elder Karl)

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Motivational Pep-Rally!


The picture of Tommy made me VERY happy :D I want to be missionary companions with him!

Transfer news: BOTH Elder Jolley and I are getting transferred! I received a new leadership assignment and will find out where I'll be serving this coming Wednesday morning. I'm super sad to say goodbye to this ward, our investigators, and Elder Jolley. I have seen the biggest miracles in my life in this area. As I reflect on all that happened here I know that I was supposed to meet certain people and either touch their lives or be touched by there's. I will never be the same because of the experiences I had here. I have become more obedient, more humble, more patient, and much more grateful. BTW I loved President Uchtdorf's talk on being grateful IN all circumstances rather than being grateful FOR our circumstances.

Elder Jolley and I had a miracle lesson this week with our investigator with the alias name of "Frank". Frank has taken the lessons two times and never could set goals to keep the word of wisdom and accomplish them. He also never agreed to a baptismal date. As we prepared for our lesson with him we discussed how we could help him overcome his addictions. We were inspired to know exactly what he needed to hear: that he needed to know that he doesn't need to be perfect to be baptized. Our goal was to invite him to be baptized on April 26th and then help him set word of wisdom goals. 

The lesson started O.K and things were going along great. As the lesson went on it got more and more intense! We were teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and Frank was trying to wrap his mind around it and he was getting frustrated! As we helped him understand, the spirit began working on him and deep within he started making commitments. Eventually the lesson was turning into a motivational pep-rally! Fists were being bumped, backs were getting slapped, hugs were being hugged, and hands were being crushed in Franks iron fist grip! At the height of the energy and enthusiasm we invited him to be baptized on April 26th. He said yes! We then invited him to avoid all his addictions for the next 3 weeks as he prepares to which he also said yes! 

We finished the lesson by giving him a priesthood blessing. Franks mom (who is 77) became very emotional. Frank is in his 50's and has caused her much grief over the course of her life because of the choices he's made. At this point she has given him the ultimatum that either he cleans up and shapes up or she can't take care of him anymore. Her tears were tears of hope and joy. Earlier this week we had stopped by to talk to her and she had confided in us that she has been angry at God because she feels like God hasn't answered her prayers for Frank for the last 30 years. I was able to testify to her that God had heard her prayers and her son will be O.K. She is now committed to reading the Book of Mormon and coming to church. In the past she wouldn't even allow the missionaries to do the lessons with Frank at her house.

My time is up! To finish I want to testify that we have living prophets! The best cause to be involved with is missionary work! I promised Damon I would write a brief thought on how we can possibly accomplish Elder Ballard's challenge to invite someone once a quarter to hear the missionary lessons but because of time he's just going to have to pray about it :)

Love Elder Janis

first pic is one of me, elder stiles, and elder jolley on the way to the temple. You gotta love Elder Stiles face!

The third picture is mostly of Elder Fredrickson. He's about the funniest missionary I've ever met. The word he would say if the picture was a video would be, "Mm, yes, indubitably" in an english accent.