This week ROCKED!! It was the busiest week of my mission for sure! In fact two nights ago before I closed my journal and passed out I wrote, "This is the most exhausted I have ever been my whole life." That was supposed to be the first sentence of my entry but I fell asleep because I couldn't finish it. (I got it done the following morning, don't worry :)).
Two days before the experience of passing out while writing we had to wake up at 5:20am to get packed for an exchange in Casa Grande with some companionship's there. What we'll do is go into a zone and split up into three other companionship's and spend the day with them. I went with two missionaries that are pretty new to their missions. We had a really successful day and taught a lot of the people they're working with and were able to find a few new investigators too.
Two days later we went on exchanges with the Chandler zones and we had to wake up at 5:20am again to get down and get everyone where they needed to be before an appointment we had back here in Tempe. I brought two zone leaders from one of the Chandler zones with me and we had a blast!
Part of the reason I brought them up was because there was a baptism in my old ward in Tempe that I was asked to go to. The baptism was for the three kids of the single mom I had been working with while me and Elder Belnap were companions. The mother said the closing prayer and she couldn't control her emotions. We were all in tears by the end of her prayer. She expressed her deep gratitude to the Lord for bringing the gospel to her and her family EXACTLY when she needed it.
Those are the moments that make all the trials worth it. At the end of the day we drove back through Chandler to pick up and drop off and didn't get home until 10:15pm. I was driving and I think Jesus took the wheel because I was sooo tired! Yikes! :)
In our area we killed it this week! We set a goal for 30 teaching opportunities even though we had a district leader training we had to prepare for and conduct and 2 exchanges and we still hit our goal! Any time we could we did 3 way splits with members and we found 7 new investigators and put someone on date! It was nuts!
It's awesome to see the fire it is lighting in all the zones of the mission because the assistants area has always been known to not get much done because of all the office work. My biggest desire is to set an example of finishing a mission strong and if I can break the stigma that assistants don't do missionary work I think it will make a big impact. It totally kills a lot of missionaries excuses about why they don't have anything going on in their area too.
One night I was street contacting in an apartment complex with a member and a group of kids ran up to us and asked, "are you the paramedics?" We of course lied and told them yes because it would put us in a great opportunity to teach. Just kidding. We were honest and told them no. They said, "ok, we're waiting for the paramedics because an old guy just jumped of the 2nd floor balcony and broke his ankle!"
Just then an old man hobbled up and asked us who we worked for because he also must have assumed we were the paramedics! We told him that we worked for Jesus and he liked that. Just then the real paramedics showed up and got him to sit down and started asking him questions like, "Why did you jump off your balcony?" I guess he served in Vietnam and used to do stunts like that all the time and thought he could still do it. Always a good story to share each week :)
I tried last week to be undercover but I really can't tell you much about this past week without telling you I was called as an assistant at transfer meeting. I'll have to tell you the story of how President Toone gave me the assignment some time.
The week of transfers was so crazy getting the departing missionaries to the airport and figuring out housing and car problems throughout the mission. We spent a lot of time in the office working things out and getting organized and spent just about no time sleeping. Writing in my journal is harder than ever but I'm all caught up on that too!
This week we prepared our training with President Toone for MLC (Mission Leadership Conference) where all the zone leaders and sister training leaders come in for a 6 hour conference where we set the vision for the mission for the coming transfer. The meeting was on Thursday and we were able to start planning for it on Tuesday morning.
We spent the entire day brainstorming and writing things down just to crumple it up and start all over again. It's really important that our companionship is on same page and feel good about the direction of the trainings and it was really frustrating for all of us to feel like we were getting nowhere. By Tuesday night we were back to square one. Wednesday we fasted and got back to preparing. Things were slowly coming together but still didn't quite feel right. Finally around 6pm we felt inspired to split the training into two parts to be able to cover more topics. It flowed really well from then on and we were ready by 8 and got to go out and do real missionary work!
The conference went really really well. We received really good feedback from some zone leaders that really appreciated the new approach with the MLC training with doing the two groups. The fun part of the day was that last Monday we bought matching ties for us and President Toone. We had to buy an extra tie for president that a lady in the ward used as extra fabric to widen and lengthen his because he is so big and tall! I'll attach a picture so you see what I mean :) He's 7 feet tall!
The last half of the week was the best. We got to spend quality time out with the members teaching investigators. We have two that are showing real progression and we have plans this week to put them on date and find new investigators. We will be doing a lot of exchanges this next week into Casa Grande and some of the Chandler stakes (Chandler East, and West) and I'm really looking forward to that. Especially going back to chandler for a day! Chandler holds a special place for me. I spent a total of 9 months of my mission there.
There is this funny recent convert in our ward that we had a conversation with this week. She is slightly crazy:
She was dogging on me and Elder Walentine who are new to the ward and was telling us we were worse than even her stuffed animal hippopotamus. So we asked, if we're worse than a hippopotamus what are we better than?". She answered, "A foot." A foot? Yep. I'm better than s foot. Thank goodness! There's another missionary she really doesn't like and we asked her if he is better than a foot. She said no. He's not. I'm glad I'm not that elder :) When she found out I was from Houston she got really excited! She told me she is also from Texas. I asked where and she said, "Humble Texas. That's where I was created."
Impactful thought for the week... (This will change your life! And if it doesn't..... Nothing will. :l)
You have time to do whatever you want.
If that is true then you just need to determine what you want. Too many people make the excuse, "oh well I don't have time for that", or, "I'm too busy to do that"... I don't have time to attend the temple or read my scriptures or go to the gym or write my brother/nephew/cousin/soon to be uncle(Damon and Macall?) who's on a mission ;P That's not true. We have time to do whatever we want. So what do you want? You choose.
I was transferred. It was a huge surprise to me, my companion, and our ward!! In fact they transferred both Elder Belnap and myself. We were devastated to learn we were both leaving. I know it is God's will though. The families we've been working with that have recently joined the church or that are preparing for baptism are all actively attending church and are connected with the members so I don't think they will slip through the cracks. I am now serving in a YSA ward on ASU campus and I'm in a trio with Elder Wallentine (he transferred in with me and has 3 transfers left) and Elder Babcock who has been here for 2 transfers already and has 2 transfers to go before he finishes his mission. YSA work is so different! We have been so busy since transfers though that we have hardly even been able to spend time in our area. I've only met one investigator and one less active. Church was sweet though and I was able to connect with a bunch of members. This is the most impressive ward I've served in so far because it is so organized. The ward council works like a fine tuned machine. Everyone knows their responsibilities, accomplishes them, and reports back. Missionary work is discussed first and everything is focused on the individuals needs in the ward. The bishop speaks only a small part of the time and mostly when he speaks it is to thank people for their incredible effort or to make an assignment. I'm learning A LOT.
This Sunday we had the monthly Mission President's Devotional. My companions and I were responsible for putting the program together and we had a lot of things going on that we weren't able to call and ask converts to speak until Friday night. One of the ladies from my last area was preparing her first talk for sacrament so I figured I could give her a call and ask her to speak. She was so mad at me!!! (We have a good relationship so it was cool :)) But she said she would do it and she did phenomenal! Afterward she was really grateful for the opportunity but I still owe her so when I get back to Arizona after my mission I owe her and her son dinner :) Can't wait.
Sometimes we feel like heavenly father is far from us. We may experience the great blessing of feeling the spirits presence in our lives and then all of a sudden we feel like God has perhaps abandoned us or left us to figure out our problems on our own. I would invite you to consider that God does this to teach us that we CANNOT go through this life alone without his help. Without his spirit we can never experience deep happiness and peace. The spirit will come back as we repent and listen to the promptings of the spirit but we have to make the effort.
This transfer has flown! I can hardly believe it but today is the first day of my last transfer. If this transfer goes as fast as last transfer I'll be going home before I know it! I have taken some time the last 24 hours to set some lofty goals for myself to work as hard and as focused as I can. I'm anticipating that this will be the greatest transfer of my mission. I do not know yet whether I will be transferring or staying but will find out on Tuesday night. Transfer meeting will be on Thursday. I almost asked you all to wait for a Facebook post on Thursday to find out what happened but that would be straight apostasy since our mission is taking a few months break from Facebook. ;)
On March 4th the whole mission was brought together for a 5 hour training meeting from a member of the 2nd quorum of the 70 and a representative from the missionary department. The meeting was the 1st of a 3 stage training program the church is rolling out with all online proselyting missions throughout the world. Stage 1 is being called a restart in our mission since we have been an online proselyting mission previous to the meeting. The main topic was spiritually protecting ourselves while proselyting online. A lot of interesting principles were shared. One of my favorite quotes that applies to anyone with a weakness (that means everyone reading this letter!) said, "When we struggle with a weakness we are disappointed in ourselves. The Savior, however, is not disappointed with us if we seek true repentance. He is grateful for every decision we make to follow Him." They also talked about how iPads are just tools and you only use it when you need it. There are a lot of situations we use technology way too much when we should just put it away and focus on the people we're around or the meeting we're in. People deserve the gift of our attention.
Family and friends, a miracle occurred this week. A man I've been working with ever since I got into this area 7 and a half months ago and who missionaries have trying to get baptized for the last 20 years was baptized Saturday night with his two grandsons. His wife is a member and they would have us over for dinner fairly often and I would always challenge her husband (who speaks better Spanish than English) to take the lessons. It never worked. Finally after having finished another meal, I told the husband that at 2:00 the next day the Spanish missionaries would be knocking on his door to teach him the first lesson. He didn't tell me not to do it so the next day at 2:00 the Spanish sisters in our zone were teaching him the first lesson in his living room. More lessons followed and he started going to church. In the meantime we were introduced to two of his grand kids who had previously been taught all the lessons and just wanted to be baptized. We over viewed the lessons with them, got their interview and then put them on date for March 7th. Later that same day the Spanish sisters went over to visit the grandpa. The wife brought up the fact that the grandkids were preparing for baptism for March 7th. Instantly the spirit touched this man and he too accepted an invitation to be baptized on that day. As a zone we have been praying for families to teach and baptize. March 7th was the last weekend of the transfer and we had a family baptism. To celebrate we invited all the missionaries in our zone to come watch and our mission president and his wife came too. It was a special experience for sure.
I will quickly tell you a few other things that happened is week. One investigator I visited on exchanges in another area was feeling pretty depressed so after the lesson we picked her some flowers to cheer her up. It worked. Also on that exchange I was able to bike again for the first time in about 6 months! On Monday night we took the three boys of a family we're teaching to fhe at the church. The lesson was the plan of salvation and the 10 year old boy raised his hand at the end and said, "there's only one problem... Who judges Jesus?" Hahaha this kid is so funny, he always has off the wall questions. We also taught a man in a hotel room later in the week... That one was interesting! We got a text for a referral and the address showed a hotel. We took the elevator to the 5th floor and knocked on the number that matched our text. I felt so weird being in a hotel knocking on a random door. Well it opened and the man seemed to recognize who we were and he welcomed us in! It turns out he is a recent convert from Guatemala and wanted to find the church building.
This is the home stretch! I appreciate your love, prayers, and support! I'm giving this mission all I've got!