Monday, April 20, 2015

The Last Letter

This last week was so crazy! We did 3 exchanges. The first was in Yuma, the second one I went to South Phoenix, and the third I went to Tempe. President Toone was gone Wednesday through Friday at a mission presidents seminar in Dallas and when he got home late Friday night sister Toone called us to tell us she was checking him into the ER because he was super sick. He's been in ICU all weekend and Sunday afternoon was finally checked into a normal hospital room. Added to all of this we still have a lot of preparations to do for transfers: Finishing the transfer board, 21 departure interviews, 5 visa waiters leaving our mission for theirs, and preparing for the new group of missionaries arriving from the MTC on Tuesday. With all of that on your mind let me go back to where I started and tell you about Yuma.

Yuma was AWESOME! One of the missionaries I was with has only been out for a few months and explained at the beginning of our exchange that he feels like everyone around him has really cool mission stories to tell but he doesn't. As we went through the day nothing was really happening. People weren't opening their doors and I could tell these elders were getting discouraged. Finally in the afternoon I suggested we say a pray and ask God to help us find someone to teach. The new elder said the prayer and 20 seconds after he said amen, we met a lady by her apartment that wanted to hear our message. We taught her about he restoration of christs church and asked her if she would be interested in receiving her own copy of the Book of Mormon. She was very interested so we set up an appointment for the following day and left her with a prayer. When we got in the car we had a little celebration. The new elder was pumped he had experienced a little miracle.

In South Phoenix I got yelled at by some drug dealers. Other than that it was a pretty sweet day :)

Tempe was also a great experience! I actually ran into a convert I had taught over a year ago who is still active in his ward! It was a very sweet reunion.

So today President Toone is doing a lot better than he was on Friday night. He had caught an infection that was shutting his organs down and the doctors all said that if he had waited 24 more hours he wouldn't be alive. They were able to treat him and he is recovering quickly and hopes to be out this afternoon. We're still waiting to hear back from him if that's going to happen or not. In the meantime he is practically delegating the rest of the transfer board to us and figuring out the logistics of everything that needs to happen for transfers to be a success. The biggest concern now is wether he will be well enough to do the departing interviews before the incoming group arrives because when they get here we spend all our time with them until transfers getting them oriented and welcomed to the mission. It's pretty stressful but it's going to all work out :) right now the only reason I have time to email is because we're waiting for the doctors to tell president if he's staying in he hospital or if today he can go. We can't move forward until we know. Please pray for him!

With this being my final email as a missionary I would just like to close by sharing how much my mission means to me. I wouldn't trade these two years for anything. I have come to know God better and my commitment has grown a lot deeper. My face is set, my goal is heaven. Covenant keeping is the test. My decision had been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Love Elder Janis

Monday, April 13, 2015

"I Need Your Help!" + Pictures

This week was so awesome.. I'll start by telling you all that for the first time in my mission I got bashed for celebrating Christmas by a fellow Christian! Then a seventh day Adventist joined the mix and bashed us for worshipping on Sunday. I was really tempted to just laugh at them because it reminded me so much of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Christ's time that were so hung up on little details that they lost sight of the important things. Anyways.. It was a good reminder to keep my focus on the Savior and also keep an open mind. The only kind God can teach is an open one. I tried asking the Christian woman that if God asked her to do something if she would do it. Avoiding the question she said, "I don't worship God, I worship the Most High." Alright.... Time to move on.

Dad, you'll like this! A Brazilian lady at in-n-out grabbed my companions arm as we were leaving and dragged him to her table where her mother and her daughter were sitting saying "I need your help." What she needed was to know the scriptural reference in the New Testament where Christ talks about the mote in your brothers eye and the beam in your own. We gave her the reference and she said, "Yes! I'm going to send it to my husband. Thank you!" Hahaha I love being a missionary in public! People are so funny.

We started working on the transfer board this week. I've been looking forward to participating in this inspired process ever since I received the assignment because it's talked about so much. We've spent about 9 hours with President Toone talking about the mission and what needs to happen. We're combining two zones because we're losing a lot of missionaries these next few transfers and we're creating an all Spanish zone. I'm impressed with how well president Toone knows individual missionaries and knows what they need. This whole transfer I have been really surprised with how frequently missionaries are talked about. When I was first out I didn't think any of the leadership of the mission knew me. My experience has totally disproved that.

I'm really looking forward to this week. We're finishing up all the exchanges with zones we haven't gotten to which means we get to go down to Yuma! That's the only part of the mission I haven't seen yet.

Thought: Discipline weighs ounces. Regret weighs tons.

Love Elder Janis

P.S. - "I totally forgot to write in my email that we got to go to Phoenix for a specialized training for all the Spanish missionaries! We didn't participate in the program but president Toone wanted us there for the beginning and for dinner. For the rest of the meeting he let us see the area a little bit and since elder Wallentine served here before we found the corn guy and some cool graffiti."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Being Held like Zoram

Yes, I have time to explain how president called me! Typically the Saturday before transfers president Toone makes a phone call to the assistant he's assigning to be an assistant and you would have about 30 minutes to get everything packed so you could get to the office and start training. I never thought I would be called as an assistant especially this late in my mission.

Saturday came and went with no phone call which i was expecting. Transfer calls came on Wednesday night and the current assistants called to let us know what was happening in the zone. Elder Belnap and I were both being transferred and we were shocked! Because president hadn't called either of us we assumed there would be no leadership change and we'd both be zone leaders somewhere else in the mission (president will call anytime someone is being called to serve in any leadership capacity the missionary is not currently serving in: Trainer, district leader, or zone leader).

The next morning was transfers and we arrived a little early to pick some things up in the mission office. President Toone was in and when I walked in he grabbed my arm and said, "Elder Janis, do you have a moment you can meet with me in my office?" "Oh boy", I thought. "I'm in trouble!" I of course told him I was actually busy picking things up and didn't have time to meet with him in his office. That's probably why he was holding my arm so I couldn't say no.

It was kind of like when Nephi who is large in stature "seize[d] upon [Zoram], and held him, that he should not flee." My agency seemed to be held in the hand of my 7 foot tall mission president. In his office he told me that he wanted me to serve as an assistant. He explained that in a way it was a demonstration of lord sealing my mission with a stamp of approval. He went on to explain that he wanted me to get out on as many exchanges as possible. After that he told me not to say anything about it to anyone until he announced it at transfers.

The most surprised person besides me was probably elder Belnap since we had just been companions and so he was ticked I hadn't said anything to him about it! I told him that I had only known for an hour and wasn't supposed to say anything about it! It's been chaos since the assignment but I'm really enjoying it!!

This week we were so busy! We got out on exchanges into Maricopa and Tempe South. While in Maricopa the elders were pretty lost as to what to do since they didn't have a lot of people to teach. They asked what I would do if they had already visited everyone in the area book, worked brought lists from bishop, and visited every member of the ward. I suggested we tract. So we did! And it rocked!

We found a part member family who's records weren't in the ward and we found two new investigators.

One house we went to was outrageous though. The floor matt said "GO AWAY" and then peep hole had been converted into a video camera. We knocked anyways. Then the owner spoke through a speaker on the camera. He said, "who is it?" We replied, "the missionaries!" He responded back, "can you read?" We answered in the affirmative that we indeed had the ability. He then yelled at us, "Then BEAT IT!". No use pushing it so we left.

That evening we visited the bishop of the ward who said, "Elders, you guys are blowing up my Facebook page!" Super confused we asked him what he meant. He pulled up his Facebook and showed us a neighborhood group page of the development we had been tracking in earlier that day.

The guy who was so rude to us had posted a picture of us on his front porch from his camera with a caption about how ticked he gets when people bother him. The entire community then jumped on the post and everyone was sharing their thoughts, most of them positive, about the LDS missionaries. One lady even said we had knocked on her door and when she looked at us through the peep hole she was intimidated and didn't open the door. The bishop sent her a personal messaging apologizing and introduced himself as the bishop of the local congregation. She replied back that she would really like us to visit but would appreciate a message in advance to let her know we were coming.

We also went to the Mesa temple Easter pageant this week! It was awesome! I actually saw David and Chelsie Barwick!

General Conference was so inspiring and up lifting. I am so grateful for modern prophets. I was hit with a greater determination to turn my whole will over to God. It really is the only intelligent thing to do.

I love you all! Have a great week!

Love Elder Janis