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! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Was Sent To Arizona To Find Him

This was a remarkable week! We saw so many blessings! The greatest blessing of the week was being able to baptize a man that's nick-named Moose. He's an AWESOME guy. Me and him have created a special bond and I know I was sent to Arizona to find him! We have been teaching him for about 2 months. When he was 19 (10 years ago) he took the lessons and couldn't quit some addictions. For the next 10 years he led a very worldly life and acted on any temptation that came his way. 

About 4 months ago he went through a really tough break up and hit rock bottom. He decided it was time to start listening to his heart which scared him because he had never had the will power to listen to his heart before. The lessons helped him build faith in himself and in his savior. Through attending church he was able to feel the spirit and feel loved. Finally he was able to throw his addictions behind him and get baptized. The light that always comes into the eyes of new converts stands as a testimony to the freedom from guilt he now feels. 

Tonight he will be going with us as a member present to teach others how to gain a testimony of the truth of this church. It reminds me of the words in Luke when Christ says to his senior apostle Peter, "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." That lays our purpose out very simply. If we aren't converted then that should be the goal we are working towards. If we are converted, we should be strengthening all around us.

I apologize my letter is so short today! I wish all of you could spend a week out here doing what I get to do with me so you could see first hand all the miracles and blessings God is pouring down on us!! I know I'm doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons and for the right people and that makes me very, very happy :)

I love you all!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm a Chocolate Chip Cookie and Vanilla Ice Cream Guy

Elder Richards is awesome. We're having way too good of a time together! We're on the same page on just about everything except which cookies and ice cream we like. I'm a chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream guy and he likes everything but plain chocolate chip and vanilla. 

On Saturday night we had a lesson with a guy I'll call Greg for confidential purposes. Greg grew up in the R-LDS church (now called the community of christ church) and has been meeting with us for about 2 months. He has been out of town for a family reunion and a wedding reception in his home town. He has a few children from a previous relationship and his new wife has a few kids from her last marriage. She is LDS and before they left we were really close to setting a baptism date for Greg. Since it had been awhile we asked Greg how he wanted to move forward with the lessons, baptism, and church (we always had a tough time getting him to church). He told us, "Well, I believe God gave me an answer and you aren't going to like it. God told me I've been saved and I need to start going back to my own church." I told him that was his decision and we would respect it but inside I was ticked because his church didn't make any sense to me so I decided I would question him a bit. I told him there were a few things I didn't understand about his church. 

For example, they believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet but they believe in the Trinity. I asked him, "If you believe Joseph was a prophet, do you deny the first vision which teaches that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are separate beings?" He looked a little confused and didn't say anything so I kept going. "Your church doesn't believe in baptisms for the dead but that came as revelation to Joseph Smith. Also you believe that the prophet has to be blood related to Joseph Smith but your leader isn't even blood related anymore! How do you explain that?" Greg couldn't answer our questions so he changed the subject. After we left Elder Richards and I were a little discouraged because he was set on going back to his church and his member wife seemed like she was just going to do whatever he did. The next morning at church we were very surprised to see them both walk through the doors into sacrament meeting!! I greeted Greg and expressed how glad I was to see him there. He looked a little embarrassed but smiled and took his seat.

We had interviews as a zone with our mission president this past Tuesday. It was a very powerful meeting! While individual missionaries were interviewing with our mission president our Sister Training Leader, Sister Segura, gave a training, Elder Richards trained, and I finished with a training. Sister Segura focused on finding families to teach and had a few missionaries come to the front and hold their breath as long as possible. The example she made was that we need to want this as bad as we want to breathe. Elder Richards trained on using the pictures in the front of the Book of Mormon to teach people what the Book of Mormon is about. 

In my training I focused on personal conversion. On the chalk board I drew a line representing the pre-mortal life, mortality, and the post-mortal life with an arrow pointing both directions to show eternity. I then compared that graph to another graph depicting pre-mission, mission, and post-mission. I made the point that our missions represent a very insignificant amount of time but how consecrated we serve will largely determine the rest of our lives. I shared the story of Cortez who landed on the Mexican coast in 1519 to conquer Mexico. The first thing he did when he landed was command his men to burn their ships so that each man would be 100% focused on their mission. The only option was victory. Although the odds were 300 to 1 they conquered. I then gave each missionary a piece of paper to write something down that was holding them back from giving their missions their all and then we went outside and burned all the papers on a paper boat I made and named the S.S No Retreat :D

Thank you everyone for your prayers, love, and support!!

Love Elder Janis

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

His Street Name is Blaze

I had an amazing week! It wasn't an easy one but it was one of the most rewarding. A lot of our solid members who go out with us to teach lessons were out of town for the 4th of July and a lot of our investigators were gone too. It was a great opportunity to talk to a lot of new people and invite them to hear our message. As a result we have more people to teach!

Half our zone is brand new this transfer! Almost every companionship had a change and some areas have 2 new missionaries serving! My incredible new companion is Elder Richards from Sandy/Draper Utah. This is his 3rd mission and he only has 3 months left before his accumulative 24 months has finished. His first mission was to Taiwan where he served for a month before family challenges took him home. His second mission was in Oregon where he served for about 11 months and was sent home for a mistake he made at the beginning of that mission that other missionaries were using to justify their disobedience and the mission President decided it would be best for him to go home to be an example for other missionaries. Now he is here serving as a zone leader and is amazing. He's an awesome teacher, really hard working, very personable, and has fun while working. President Toone always gives me the best companions! 6 days into the transfer and we're close friends. Because our relationship is awesome and we both are pumped up and excited the whole zone is becoming even stronger and is catching the contagious enthusiasm!

We had a very interesting lesson this week with a young man who is trying to decide if he wants to be baptized or not. His main concern is that he isn't sure if he's ready to make such a big commitment and leave his old life of smoking and drinking behind. Just so you have an idea, his street name is Blaze. He wanted us to show him where the bible said he has to go to church or where it says he can't do drugs. As we talked things through Elder Richards said to him, "If I held in my left hand a bag of drugs and in my right hand I held the gospel, and you could choose one or the other, which would you choose? One would bring temporary pleasure and one would bring eternal joy. What would you choose?" As Blaze thought you could see the struggle in his face. As I watched him think deep and hard about what he would choose my testimony of the commandments grew so much. How is it possible the decision between 2 hours of pleasure and an eternity of pleasure can be so hard? And yet it is. We all make this very choice at some point in our lives. The temporary pleasure is so appealing and tempting. Satan makes it seem so much greater than it is, to the point where it looks equal to the blessings of the gospel or even more rewarding. Finally Blaze answered that he would ultimately choose the gospel over the drugs. I can only imagine the joy Heavenly Father feels when his children struggle to make this decision but overcome and choose the right. These are our most powerful moments in mortality. That is the test: will we, of our own free will, choose God's plan? Or will we yield to the devils plan?

I love you all so much! Remember that we walk by faith and not sight.

Love Elder Janis