Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Have a "Hazardous" Halloween!

These past two weeks have been very productive here in Hazard! We've taught a whole bunch and been able to contact plenty of referrals that have some potential. The biggest highlight was that we finally got an investigator to Church! Joey Couch came yesterday and had a great experience all around. It was especially nice to see the members take charge and fellowship him. If everyone did that constantly, baptisms AND retention would improve drastically. As for Joey, there doesn't seem to be anything keeping him from getting baptized as early as next month. He's a very smart and attentive guy, and the fact that he is blind isn't an issue at all. The benefits of regular study, prayer, and Church attendance cannot really be condensed into this letter! There is a huge difference between those who do those things and those who don't. I am a witness to that, and am thankful that the Lord has taken the time to help me understand and apply the gospel better. As a result, He has used me to bless His children virtually everyday!

We also had a unique experience on Saturday, as we went with some members to a Civil War Reenactment a little ways south of Hazard. Of course, we wouldn't have gone if there weren't a bunch of people there, and we took advantage by talking to whoever we could and offering them pass-along cards. It was a rather appropriate mix: Great missionary opportunity, and a big piece of history! In addition, Elder Bittner got called on to say the opening prayer before the battle began. He was dressed like an 1860's missionary with a first edition reprint of the Book of Mormon in hand. Yeah, I have a very interesting companion, to say the least.

Wow, you all had a full week from reading your letters! It's indeed crazy how fast this year has gone, for both me and you. Nevertheless, the Lord has given us the needed experiences in that time that will truly benefit us in the long run. No matter how He does it, you can't help but thank Him for being anxiously engaged in our lives. He can only do that if we let Him though, as I've learned. I like this quote from President Joseph F. Smith:

"We should carry with us the spirit of prayer throughout EVERY duty that we have to perform in life. Why should we? One of the simple reasons that appeals to my mind with great force is that man is so utterly dependent upon God! How helpless we are without Him; how little can we do without His merciful providence in our behalf!"

I have learned during my mission the need to make my prayers very specific, and therefore they are more from the heart and also greatly acknowledge my dependence on the Lord. Transfers are at the end of this week, so I look forward to seeing what happens and what the Lord's will is for me.
Well anyway, thank you for continuing to motivate and encourage me in my efforts. The things you share set the tone for the rest of the week, and it helps tremendously! I love you all and wish the best for each of you for another week! God Bless!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Funny stuff

Be sure and check out the city and street names that Isaac sent our way - very funny!

Shotguns in the "Hollar"

Well, things are moving along fairly smooth here in the land of Hazard. We still have a ton of referrals to contact, and some are so far out there that we can't do it without members. Ideally, we shouldn't be trying to do the work without members anyway, but it's difficult when the closest ones are a good 20 minutes away. I know that as we have faith and make a real effort, the work will accelerate as never before. Truly, we are the only ones that keep the gospel from sweeping quicker over the earth. The Lord is in charge, but if we aren't doing our best, we will miss out on some choice blessings.

Our branch president, President Phillips, is a very knowledgeable guy and understands what missionary work is about. He served a mission and thankfully is endeavoring to keep that same spirit today. He comes with us every Tuesday night and always takes us to dinner as well. I'm not gonna complain about that one! I was also introduced yesterday to a new fast Sunday tradition: Potlucks! They have one every fast Sunday, and there is usually a great deal of food to be eaten. Not as much food or people as usual yesterday, but plenty to eat for those of us who were fortunate to be there! On another positive note, the branch ordered a ton of copies of Preach My Gospel to give to members who don't have them! As you may be aware, I have been striving to help members study and apply the teachings in this book, for it promises that unity will come between members and the missionaries. Also, I have to respect members' time because they have lives to live too, so pushing them to do missionary work doesn't help at all. Only by loving, serving, and teaching them can success come.

Currently, we don't have any investigators who are progressing, but there are several that are extremely close. The only thing stopping them is Church attendance, and as I said earlier, some are so far out there that it has been a challenge trying to see our investigators regularly. We basically pick an area or two each day to contact and follow up with these referrals, and we've actually had a pretty good deal of success in teaching them and getting a return appointment. The people out here are very gracious and will usually invite us in....once they figure out who we are. I say that because apparently this is the time of the year in this part of Kentucky for "certain people" to harvest their drugs that they grow back in the "hollars." That's a slang term for a narrow, windy road, and they are EVERYWHERE! Anyway, some of the people have been surprised that we found their address and a few have asked if we were from the government, the reason being that, well, they obviously were growing illegal drugs or something along that line. One guy said he was about to get his shotgun until we told him who we were and why we were there. Yep, that's Kentucky!! All those circumstances aside, the people are pretty open-minded and interested in hearing what we have to say. They may not all understand it or even believe it, but the thing I've understood more on my mission is that the Spirit knows no boundaries....anyone and everyone can be influenced by that power. If we create an environment where the Spirit can be present, boy do the lessons go a whole lot better!

Let's see, the weather here is slightly more consistent than Ohio, but not by much. It rains a whole lot more, and floods are apparently frequent in this part of the state. The weather is still decent, but it's slowly starting to turn colder....which I'm not looking forward to. I'm doing fine with warm clothing and garments also, I even inherited a scarf from Elder Janiec when he went home! The leaves are starting to change color, and it's more evident in some places than in others. I'll have to take pictures so you can see it. It appears that fall is trying to skip past Utah from what you were saying. I miss those drives up the canyon during this time of year, it was always very nice. Then again, pretty much this whole area is nothing but canyons, so I guess it's all right. Let's see, what else could I say about this area? Oh yes, we live right next to the rec center in Hazard, so we get to go there every morning to work out in the weight room! I was pretty excited to discover that, and so I'm enjoying sweating again! I am doing my best to keep both feet planted in this area as well. It isn't easy when you were in your last area for 9 months, but your continued counsel and encouragement has helped me the past few weeks. Thank you for your letter, and thanks to Kenz for hers as well.

So, Bro. Heaton finally got released, did he? I was thinking he'd serve in that calling forever! I just might write him as well! Bro. Rogers will do an excellent job in that calling. Both of them have had a great influence on me and were definitely influential in helping me prepare for a mission. There are so many people that I could thank in that regard, and I make it a point of doing so each night in prayer. I would not be where I am today without family, friends, and leaders to point me in the right direction. Only now have I understood how important their examples were to me. It will stick with me for the rest of my life, I can promise that. There are many ways that we can "consecrate [our] performance" to God, and through selfless service and sacrifice we can accomplish wonders. I can testify to that, being a missionary and all. I hope that this week holds many such blessings for each of you, and that the things we learned from General Conference will not be forgotten anytime soon! Love you all, and God Bless!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The blessing of The Book of Mormon

WHAT AN INCREDIBLE GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!! It seems that it Conference can only get better each time, but of course that's true since the Church is still growing....and always will be! I would give anything to sit at the feet of the Lord's anointed and be instructed like that EVERY day! Then again, that's why I like listening to and reading their words so much, because I never seem to run out of things to apply. I was especially excited on the talks that were given regarding the Spirit and in particular, personal revelation. This is something I've been studying quite frequently this past week. The Spirit confirmed to me during those talks that this was something I needed to focus on. I suppose all of us have had experiences when the Spirit prompted us and we didn't follow it immediately! The Spirit is absolutely necessary to be able to do this work, and I don't want to EVER get to the point of not being able to follow a prompting. As always, each of the talks given had something for me, and therefore I have many things to work on. Elder Holland's testimony of the Book of Mormon was exceptionally powerful, wasn't it?! You could've heard somebody breathe in the Conference Center, it was dead silent. It caused me to reflect on how much I've used the Book of Mormon thus far and what I need to do differently. Preach My Gospel states it best: "The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is the most powerful resource in conversion. Use it in EVERY aspect of your work." I haven't forgotten the challenge that was issued by Bro. Farmer, but to be honest I haven't followed through on it yet. Praying about it should help solve it, don't ya think?

Anyway, back to my "speech" about the Book of Mormon. The fact that people reject it is perhaps due to two things: First, we as missionaries aren't clearly explaining it's purpose and what the person must do to know it is true. And second, we as missionaries aren't giving them something to read, ponder, and pray about after each meeting. There are, of course, other outside influences that cause people to set the Book of Mormon aside as something not of worth, but in essence we have a divine mandate to bear testimony of the truthfulness of that book! And if people don't accept it, well, Elder Holland made that pretty clear. :) Truly, those men are prophets, seers, and revelators! I know that this is true and am thankful each day that God has blessed me with that knowledge. There are many people in this area that are seeking that, but they don't know where to find it. Luckily, we are here to bring it to them, or God can also bring these people to us.

I have to say, Mom, I'm slightly jealous about all the time you've been able to spend at the temple lately. I wish I'd taken better advantage of having one so close when I was still home. You don't appreciate something that great until you don't have it anymore....well, at least for a little while. It was also exciting to hear about the new temples announced by Pres. Monson. Hard to believe that ANOTHER temple will be built in Utah. If anything, it shows that the Church continues to grow there. It's kind of comical to me about the all the fun members will poke at Utah, but who wouldn't want to have a couple million members and countless temples in their state? Regardless of where you live and how many people are members, the Church is still true no matter what. I pray that we may never take for granted our membership in the Lord's Church, and with that knowledge may we be an example and share it with others. I can scarcely believe how quickly this year has passed by, I almost want it to slow down. My mission may be slowly winding down, but I plan to lengthen my stride and enlarge my vision.

Neat to hear how successful the garden was this year, quite the harvest! I kind of caught the garden bug in Wilmington seeing the members plant their own stuff. I may try planting something when I get home. Mom and Dad, hope your anniversary was a good one! Hope the kids are all still enjoying school and life in general. The days are so short, I hope we continue to make the most of them. May heaven's blessings continue to attend you all! Have another great week!