Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Missionary golf

We had a great Memorial Day, mostly spent with members, investigators, and recent converts and less-actives. Our branch had their annual Memorial Day picnic, and it was a lot of fun! We had been helping the members prepare for it over the past couple of months, and there was lots of people I didn't recognize there. I was happy to see that most of the people we invited showed up and had a wonderful experience. One of our investigators who came, Anthony Ingersoll, seemed to REALLY enjoy it and was spending a lot of time socializing with members. We've been teaching him for over a month, and he's had lots of questions that we've done our best to try and answer. Somehow he obtained a Triple Combination, and has been reading in the Book of Mormon and using the cross-references to the Bible, to make sure it agrees. We explained to him that in order to receive a witness that it's true, he would need to follow the pattern as outlined in Moroni 10. Well, going back to yesterday, he called us last night to confirm our appointment with him this evening. He told us that he has seriously been considering being baptized, which was totally unexpected....not that I'm a pessimist or anything. Anyway, we plan on focusing on baptism and confirmation tonight, while also stressing the importance of coming to Church. There's still some things he needs to do, but it's not everyday that someone just tells you that they've been SERIOUSLY considering being baptized, so we're excited to say the least.

It is such a privilege to still be serving here in Wilmington! Despite difficult economic times all around, opportunities to teach the gospel have only gotten better. If you are working your absolute hardest each day, the numbers will not mean anything. There is no such thing as a "dead area," just missionaries who lack faith and optimism to get the job done effectively. Truly, attitude has an enormous impact on how successful you will be throughout your life. As Pres. Robbins has said a lot recently, "Do the work with a smile!" I am naturally optimistic, as you have pointed out before, and that combined with my growing love for the people has helped tremendously in developing trust and friendship....and our teaching has kicked up another notch as well.

We focused on teaching lessons to investigators with members and in earning member trust, as a result our indicators improved dramatically! I can just feel that this transfer has some exciting possibilities that are on the doorstep! We have Zone Conference this Friday, Pres. Robbins is going to be focusing on "Finding by the Spirit" and "Teaching by the Spirit." I'm looking forward to it big time, I always enjoy Zone Conference and spending time with other missionaries!

We played some golf last week, and they let us borrow their clubs. Well, I can't golf worth a darn, and somehow I shattered the driver in half! Luckily, the Martin's didn't mind at all, in fact they THANKED me for breaking it, said it was old and useless anyway. I seriously doubt I'm going to golf again anytime soon, I think I'll just stick with mini golf.

Well, this is promising to be another successful week, we could have a couple people committed to specific baptismal dates by the time it's all said and done! As always, I appreciate your prayers in my behalf, as well as for the people in our area. Much good continues to result as we are reaching out and serving people, and many blessings are still to come! Can't wait to hear from you again. You are ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS in my prayers!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The first line says it all...

I LOVE WILMINGTON! What a privilege it is to still be serving in this one-of-a-kind area! We have set our goals high, and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve them. I really want to see some people get baptized, but the trick is not to become complacent when they are progressing towards that point. Elder Janiec is on his last 6 weeks as a full-time missionary, so we definitely are going to be "raising the bar" so to speak. I have really been studying the Book of Mormon a lot more in depth, and section 5 of PMG has a page where it lists all the chapters that contain the doctrines we teach in the lessons. It says we are supposed to teach these to investigators, so we don't even have to wonder where to look for good scriptural examples....it's all right there!

Preach My Gospel is unbelievable! Two of the families in the branch, the Taylor's and the Fear's both have families lined up for us to teach once the school year is over, and we are really looking forward to that! Our hard work with the members is beginning to yield fruit, and no way are we going to complacent about member work. We also got a referral for someone that we gave a pass-along card to, which is incredible considering we didn't think she was that interested when we first talked to her. Well, lesson learned, I guess. Or, as Pres. Packer put it," That just goes to show that you can't tell by looking at a frog how high he's going to jump."

Here's a crazy story that happened this past week. We tracted into this fellow in Blanchester named James Patton, who invited us in and allowed us to share the first lesson with him. On our second visit, we focused primarily on the need for a prophet and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He had lots of questions that ranged over parts of different lessons, and we answered them as best we could. I had a feeling that we should leave him with a Plan of Salvation pamphlet, but I didn't know if he understood the importance of the Restoration yet. He then shared with us a dream he had when he was in his 20's (now he is 60). In the dream, he died and saw his spirit leave his body. He said that he wasn't in heaven, but nor was he in hell. He found himself in this huge hotel where everybody had a room for themselves. The interesting thing was that he saw all kinds of people there, those who had lived good lives and those who had lived evil lives. He said that he was waiting, along with everyone else, to be taken to a better place, but that he felt there was something very important he still had to learn before he could leave. Elder Janiec and I were absolutely stunned. I then explained about the spirit world to him, and he pondered it for a long time. We decided to leave him a pamphlet, and he closed the meeting with a wonderful prayer in which he stated that he couldn't find fault with anything we taught, and that he wanted to learn more. It was a pretty remarkable lesson, the kind that you never forget. So yeah, it's amazing the kind of experiences you can have when you look for opportunities to teach. That's what we are called to do, is to be teachers. If we aren't doing that, we might as well just go home.

I forgot to tell you this on Mother's Day, but Jay Leno came to Wilmington and did a couple free shows in an effort to boost people's morale in lieu of the DHL crisis! Of course we didn't get to go, but I think in it's own way that it will help us facilitate conversations with people because they will be in a better mood. And we all know how pathetic it is trying to talk to grumpy people. This transfer has a couple fun things coming up as well. Next Monday will be the branch's annual Memorial Day picnic, and the members and us have been inviting people to come to that. In other words, it's a great missionary opportunity. We'll be doing some grilling as well, so it will definitely be some good practice for my future cooking skills....pray that I don't burn everything! Then, from June 10-13 is Wilmington's Annual Banana Split Festival. This is considered the birthplace of the banana split, so you can imagine how many people from out-of-state will probably be here! Hooray, even more people to talk to about the gospel. I feel like I know half the people around here, so it will be nice to see some fresh faces. Yes, we do get to go to that, in fact we're helping out in making the banana splits. The Fear's are among those that are in charge of the whole thing, so they always enlist the help of the missionaries. President Robbins will most likely be coming to that as well, so it should be cool to spend some time around him.

And lastly, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is coming to Cincinnati on June 18th, and we are looking for people that are interested in going. We have an investigator who really likes them and sounds real excited about going, so we'll probably be giving a ticket to him. And yes, the concert presents yet another opportunity to share the gospel with people. To sum it all up, things are looking really good for the work here, but it will be up to us to make sure we follow through on our commitments and goals. Thank you for your wonderful letters today, it is amazing to see how much the Lord is blessing you each day despite the difficult circumstances all around us. Thank goodness we have the fulness of the gospel, and that a prophet leads us today. I pray for your continued safety and well-being, and it is evident more and more that the Lord is granting my earnest petitions.

A special thanks to the Landrum's for their letter today, nice to see they are doing well. Hard to believe that Britney is almost done with her mission, seems like she just left! Wow! That's missionary time for ya.

Hope you all have a great week, I love and miss all of you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day

What a wonderful blessing it is to know that your family is happy and doing great! It has been that way since I came to Cincinnati, and it's an even greater privilege to hear your voices every now and then. The Lord continues to richly bless me, and much more importantly each of you. I was so overjoyed to talk with you all, and I'm sure you were equally excited for that opportunity. Congratulations to Mom on her talk, I just KNEW she would do well! Ah Mother's Day, where everything just works out like a charm! It would be nice if everyday could be like that, but we wouldn't learn too much.

One of the best things about being a missionary is knowing that there are literally millions of people around the world praying for you on a daily basis, including the First Presidency and the Twelve. This has been one of the great comforts for me, and it definitely drives the loneliness and discouragement away. As I told you yesterday, the homesickness has completely vanished. Of course, I miss everyone and think about you everyday, but that knowledge that you're doing well has actually been a strength rather than a hinderance to the work. Funny how that happens, huh!?

I still can't fathom that I've been on a mission for basically 9 months now, it's crazy! I am really beginning to feel like the Lord is shaping me into the missionary He wants me to be, and because I trust Him a lot more now, we are being blessed with many people to teach....especially families! This is the last week of the transfer, and we want it to be the best week we've had so far. We are very close to achieving the goals we set at the beginning of last month, and are excited to see the Lord bring them to full fruition. Our biggest challenge right now continues to be investigators at church(we had 2 committed who didn't show)and progressing investigators. Our boldness in extending commitments has gotten better, but there is still much we can improve on. I know that the biggest key to helping investigators progress will be in how well they are fellowshipped. The member involvement continues to increase, and we especially need great fellowshippers at this time. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Lord will provide for us, but first we have to do everything we can.

President Robbins has instructed us to start using a lesson format from Elder Jensen, and it will definitely improve the quality of our lessons. President also had to counsel us this week concerning anti-Mormon literature, as it is apparent that some missionaries have been reading it. I am extremely glad not to count myself in that group, but it is still very sad to see that some will rely on garbage for their opinions or beliefs. However, it will not tear down my testimony at all!! Miracles are happening in Wilmington, and nothing can stop the Lord from fulfilling His  "works and designs" for this area. How grateful I am to be in this area at this time! And thanks for the excerpts from Elder Perry's talk, those will definitely be helpful. Thank you also for continuing to do all you can to make everyday worthwhile for me! Your efforts have definitely not been in vain. Hope you all have an excellent week, may the Lord be with you always!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

On the verge...

Hard to believe that I will be talking to you on the phone again this coming Sunday! Seems like Christmas just happened, and yet, here we are moving through May!

All right, now to get down to the nitty gritty. One of the greatest spiritual witnesses I've seen time and time again since I've been here is knowing that my family is being blessed and well taken care of. With that priceless piece of knowledge, I am able to go through the day without any concern or fear as to how you all are doing, I just know deep down that the Lord has you in His care.

Now I'd like to see the Lord help our investigators get to Church! This is an area we are really struggling with right now, it is probably the one thing that separates most of our investigators from being baptized. Yeah, they are THAT prepared and interested in learning about and accepting the message of the gospel. I just really hope we can get them to see how important it is to come to Church each week, it is absolutely essential. However, we have nonetheless seen great blessings from God in having many opportunities to teach, and this is a result of planning and praying with faith. Planning with faith works!! This past week, we decided during our nightly planning that we would plan our indicators based on what we wanted, and not merely what the following day presented....hopefully that makes sense. In short, we planned by faith and not by sight. :) The result was that we taught 15 lessons, the most I've taught in Wilmington during a week, and found 9 new investigators! Pretty much all of them are families, and this is what we've been praying for this transfer! All of them seem really interested, and are looking to find a solid foundation to build their families around. Boy does patience pay off as well!

All this time I've spent in Wilmington, I've felt that this area is on the verge of really opening up. I haven't seen it quite yet, but am starting to see how important it is to be patient with the Lord and His timetable. The focus this week will be on a LOT more member presents, more progressing investigators, and more investigators at sacrament meeting. Currently, we are way behind on our goals we set for those indicators, so they will be the big focus these last 2 weeks. We've realized that the biggest thing that's keeping us from achieving our goals is, predictably, ourselves! I'm just so grateful that the Lord is willing to bless us continually in spite of all the weaknesses we possess.

Stake Conference was great, I really enjoyed all of the talks that were given! We had a special satellite broadcast from Salt Lake, and the speakers were President Beck (the new RS president), Elder Jensen, Elder Perry, and finally Pres. Monson. It's really interesting, though, to see someone in your ward as one of the speakers. They all did very well, I felt the confirming witness of the Spirit that what they spoke on was what we all needed to hear. I am grateful for the knowledge we have that God still speaks through His chosen servants in these last days. That knowledge needs to be declared to everyone whenever an opportunity presents itself. One of the things I tell people about the Book of Mormon to help them understand it's value is this: "The Bible is proof that God spoke. The Book of Mormon is proof that He speaks."

I have discovered the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, in a way that I never have previously. It is such a priceless, powerful gift that God has given us! And as Pres. Benson has said, we need to "flood the earth with the Book of Mormon." It is my prayer that each of us would set a goal to give away a copy once a month, maybe even once a WEEK if you feel that confident. As a missionary, I don't really have a choice. We've got tons of copies, and they serve no purpose sitting on the shelf. In fact, there's one right next to me now, with the hope of presenting it to someone during the day.

In my mind's eye, no other family or group of friends comes close to the ones I've got. May our Heavenly Father strengthen and help you, especially when you need His presence the most. As we've been told a lot these days, God will NEVER leave His children alone, but we must do all we can to come unto Him....and He has promised to do the rest. God bless you all!