Monday, September 28, 2009

It's not where you serve, but how

I'll tell you what, this whole e-mail thing is a headache! We're at a technical college now, they just happened to have public access to the Internet, so hence I am able to e-mail still. This won't be that long, considering my milk is still in the car. :)

Well, I'm getting adjusted to this new area. I have to say right off that Hazard isn't what other missionaries have said it is. I'd hear other missionaries say that Hazard was the one place that they didn't want to serve in, and I'm not sure why they'd say that. Yeah it's different, I'm not going to lie about that, but people here need the gospel just as much as the next person. I do remember when I was set apart that I would be sent to humble and unlearned people. And by unlearned I think that means in the ways of the gospel, and that is evident here since the Church is reasonably small. Thought I'd clarify that, in case you thought I was judging the people here as being dumb or something. I definitely saw a fulfillment of the humility part in Wilmington, but that's no reason to believe it couldn't be the same here. In Alma 32, we learn that Alma changed his focus from one group of people to the other, in large part due to the fact that their afflictions had humbled them, and therefore they were prepared to hear the word from God's prophet. The missionary efforts here have been pretty successful the past few months, and with the vast swarm of referrals the Lord has blessed us with, Elder Bittner and myself plan to continue moving the work forward!

I can sense that there are many people here that are just waiting for us to find them and teach them the restored gospel. The only trick will be if we can track them down on the seemingly endless and hidden array of Kentucky roads. :) It makes driving an adventure, let me tell ya! The other day it rained non-stop, and it was just pouring down the mountains turning little creeks into raging rivers! It was pretty close to flooding the roads in a few spots. Didn't stop us from teaching though, we got a lot done this past week. We still have something like 200 referrals to contact, but with the Lord's help we'll get it done! Hope all is well with the family, wherever they may be, and the ward as well. Thank you for your continued love and encouragement during this new phase in my life, I couldn't be more happy!! Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Hazards of Missionary Work

Hazard: Approx. 5,000; Perry County: Approx. 29,390

Hazard is located in the heart of the Appalachian Coalfields in Eastern Ky. It is found at the crossroads of Highways 15 and 80 and the Hal Rogers Parkway (formerly the Daniel Boone Parkway).

The City of Hazard was founded in 1884 on land deeded to the town trustees by Elijah Combs and his wife, Sarah. Hazard is the seat of Perry County, founded in 1820, the 68th county to be formed in Kentucky. Both the county and the city were named to honor Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, a naval hero from the War of 1812.

Dear Family,

You are probably worried sick as to where in the world I am, since it usually doesn't take this long for me to e-mail you. The answer to that is I am no longer in Wilmington. After 9 months there, the Lord has sent me to the most southern area of the mission: Hazard, Kentucky. Yep, from the all the way north to all the way south, in one day too! As such, we spent pretty much all of yesterday driving, and on top of that the library here is switching locations and won't be open until October 15th or somewhere around there. Currently, I'm sitting at a members' computer writing this. We're still trying to figure out what we're going to do about e-mail until the library opens, and if we don't find anything we'll have to resort to the old days before technology and write snail mail instead. Not that it's a bad thing, even though it would take longer for you to find out how things are going. But I remember Mom saying she likes hand-written letters better, so perhaps this will be a good thing. Obviously, I don't know the area yet, and I really doubt I will ever know it near as well as I did Wilmington. The reason being is that there are roads EVERYWHERE....literally! What would seem like just a narrow dirt road turns out to be filled with houses that somehow are still standing on the side of the mountain. That's pretty much how it is all over the place, and we cover like 5 or 6 counties or something like that. I don't know exactly, my head is still spinning trying to get used to things. Once you find this place on the map, you will discover just how far removed from everything it is! On a brighter side, we will be plenty busy this transfer as there are a lot of investigators and an unrealistic amount of referrals. The number of referrals is seriously in the neighborhood of 250 at least! This came about because of a festival held here last transfer in which the missionaries set up a booth. They encouraged people to sign their names on a list to have a free Church DVD or Book of Mormon delivered to them. Hence the huge list of referrals! Pres. Robbins already told me I won't be here near as long as Wilmington(no surprise), but I'll probably be around these parts for 3 months at least, 4 1/2 at the longest. Here's my new address:

409 Cedar Street Apt. B

Hazard, KY 41701

Oh, and my new companion is Elder Bittner from Centerville, UT. He has 3 months left on his mission, so it's very likely that I could be his last companion, which would make 3 altogether! He has a very interesting personality which will definitely take some getting used to. He's a pretty creative person and doesn't have any problems talking to anyone, so I'm planning on learning from him just as I have any other companion.

I suppose my current trial is how quickly I will adjust from Wilmington to Hazard. :) Congrats to Dad and Mom on your talks/garage sale managing/yard work/making dinner by yourself! Woah, that was a mouthful to say! I'll have to measure myself to see just how tall I am so Caleb's inquiries will finally be answered. Sounds like from Mom's pleadings that he has been asking about that a lot. How's Ellie doing with preschool? I'm sure she's enjoying it still. Well, I'm not sure if there is anything else to report at this time. I managed to get all my stuff packed pretty snug in my suitcases and backpack, but if I was going home I'd definitely be paying extra for them 'cause they were heavy! I'm continually amazed at how the Lord has blessed you with basically everything you need and then some! I can't think of any better knowledge to have than to know that my family and friends are safe and happy! This area will be a unique experience for me, but I'm looking forward to the things the Lord would have me do in the short time I will be here. Hope all goes well for you this week, and hopefully I'll be able to communicate via e-mail next week as well. If not, keep an eye on the mailbox! God Bless!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Some highs, some lows - it's all good!

My goodness, what a week this was! We taught a grand total of 22 lessons, the most I have ever had in one week! I felt great about it for a couple reasons: First, was that the Brethren have asked us to reach this on a weekly basis; and second, the quality of our lessons was very high for virtually every one. The downside to the week, though, is that Judy and Shawn will not be getting baptized this coming Saturday. This has been tearing at me ever since we had to break the news to them. The reason is that Shawn is struggling with the Word of Wisdom and will need more time to begin living it fully. Judy is definitely prepared, but naturally she would like to wait for Shawn to be ready so they can be baptized together. It's amazing how you can have everything else in place to have a spiritual experience for all who attend, and yet those who the baptism is for are one problem away from being worthy to make that covenant. I have had this happen more than once on my mission, where it comes down to pretty much a week before the baptism and it has to be postponed. I admit, it would be easy to get down and discouraged and feel like it's your fault, but I know that this is God's work, and He is ALWAYS in charge. I feel as did Alma when he faced a very difficult situation with a group of people(the Zoramites) who had strayed from the right way; and yet, he sought the ability from God to bring them to a knowledge of the truth:

"O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people." (Alma 31:31)

Missions are extremely challenging, and as I've gone through the months I've recognized that the sorrow I've felt has not been for me, but for the people around me. I want more than anything for them to know and understand the truth....but THEY have to want it for themselves. In fact, I'd say the only negative about having a car is driving past countless numbers of people and realizing they need the gospel as much as the next person! This current challenge with Judy and Shawn is just another one of the Lord's tests to see if I will continue to persevere and help prepare them for the time when they can make those covenants, and more importantly, understand the significance of them. In times like these, all I can really say is, "Onward, ever onward!"

First off, Christina Coleman's baptism went great! This was the first time she had ever been underwater, and I could tell she was a little nervous. Everything went perfect, we got her all the way under the first time. It was especially great to have Bro. Coleman worthy to perform the baptism. When I first got here, he was struggling with the Word of Wisdom and only coming to Church every now and then. However, with the help of Pres. Anderson (first counselor in the stake presidency and a member of the Wilmington Branch) and our efforts to reach out and serve, he has done a virtual 180. He's even accompanied us to a few appointments and taught and testified very well. THAT'S what missions are really all about: Seeing people make significant changes in their lives, which brings greater happiness. You don't have to be an investigator to change. All of us need to become who the Savior wants us to become, and it's a lifelong process but one that is definitely worth it.

Now the second item, which I believe was about my companions. Elder Remington heads back to Montana in just over a week, and he's excited but also sad to be leaving. He's really looking forward to jumping back on his racing bike, which his brother has been working on since he left. Anything with wheels, Elder Remington is on it! Elder Parker is way into trucks, and he has a great sense of humor that is much needed in missionary work. He isn't afraid of trying anything, and I suppose that could be both good and bad depending on what results. :) Nonetheless, I've really enjoyed serving with these two and can hardly believe that another transfer is almost over. Once again, I have no idea if I'll be leaving or not. The odds are good considering I've been here 9 months, but if the Lord still needs me here, I will be more than happy to stay.

Well, the work in Wilmington continues to go ahead despite the constant challenges we're up against. But, just like Mom pointed out a couple weeks ago: NOTHING WORTH HAVING IS FREE! I am thankful for your constant prayers and letters you send, it is probably the greatest thing I could ask for right now. I know without a doubt that I am NEVER alone in this work, so there is no reason to become discouraged. Things will work out, they always do.

Anyway, have another great week, and I'll look forward to e-mailing you again next Tuesday, wherever I am!