Monday, April 26, 2010

Still growing and learning

I continue to be intimidated by the mantle that has been placed upon me, meaning that of a district leader. However, I'm not about to shrink from my responsibilities nor slacken my pace. As with any assignment in the Church, those whom the Lord calls are also qualified. This has given me comfort as I've reflected on it over the past week, and I recognize that such a call brings tremendous responsibility to do my absolute best so that the work in Cincinnati can reach its full potential. Not that this is the first time I've been asked to give my best effort. :) I like something that President George Albert Smith said that Pres. Monson has often quoted:

"It is your duty first of all to learn what the Lord wants and then by the power and strength of His holy Priesthood to magnify your calling in the presence of your fellows in such a way that the people will be glad to follow you."

I believe this is true not only of the missionaries in the district, but also of the Cincinnati Ward, our investigators, and really ALL the people in this area. The most powerful message we can send is the in the way we live. Our district also encompasses the elders serving in Norwood, who have been on their missions for 7 and 3 months, respectively. My companion has been out for about 4 months, so I feel like a really old man!

However, it is a great opportunity to train and motivate younger missionaries, and I kind of feel like an MTC teacher. That'd be cool if I got a chance to do that, but first I'd have to get in to BYU. That's a while off yet, but it would be a cool experience. I've had a few companions who also served as district leaders, and I've discovered in just a week that they were right about two things: You spend a lot of time on the phone, and you have more paperwork to do as well! Not a whole lot of paperwork, but more than before. Oh well, doesn't bother me too much.

We are seeing great progress particularly from Michelle Baker. She has been drug-free for a week now, came to Church yesterday (despite the adversary's attacks), and set her own baptismal date for June 26th, which is the day after her birthday. Likewise, Shawntae has been fighting the temptation to smoke as well as dealing with some health issues, but she and her family came to Church yesterday and she was glad that they did. She had to watch a few of her nieces and nephews over the weekend and was very tired when we talked to her on Saturday night. However, she was able to get up early and get everyone ready for Church on time. It's an exciting thing for me to watch people we teach make important decisions on their own, and thus discover the promised blessings. We are also pushing ahead with our transfer emphasis on finding through the members, and a few of our families are actively working to invite people to be taught.

One of them is Bishop Tensmeyer and his family. Their son, Bob has a "girlfriend" who will graduate this year and who spends a lot of time at the Tensmeyer's home. Well, last Sunday we set up an appointment with the bishop's family to talk about their family mission plan, since effective member-missionary work starts with the bishop. We went over and were introduced to Bob's friend, whose name is Mel. I hope I got the spelling right, and it could be a nickname too. Anyway, we watched as Sis. Tensmeyer perfectly invited Mel to take the lessons from us before she would leave for Penn State later that year. WE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO ROLE-PLAY WITH THEM, THEY JUST DID IT!!! Man, faith sure goes a long way!! So we returned the following night on FHE and taught the first lesson, and we are going back tonight for the second. Once again, it's an exciting thing as well to see the members put their trust in the Lord and invite people to hear the restored gospel.....especially when we as missionaries hadn't even talked to them about it yet! So, all in all things are going real well right now!

I was very surprised to read about your phone call from Bro. Brooks from the ward here. They are a really cool family and willing to help us with whatever it is we need. We told them likewise! He served his mission in Salt Lake City several years ago and they were allowed to get on, and he had compiled a huge list of talks that he loaned to me to look through. I came up with a list of talks that I'd like him to make copies of for me, and he was more than happy to do so. I've read like every Ensign in our apartment repeatedly, and so it was good to get something new for a change. :) We also came in contact with a less-active named Chris a few weeks ago that waved at us from his back porch while we were walking past. We went over and found out that he was a member, and he wants to come to the fireside next week and is planning on bringing his non-member brother! I can't tell you how excited I am for the fireside next week and the harvest that I am sure is going to result! Wow, I'm using a lot of exclamation points in this letter!

I'm grateful to hear of the many spiritual experiences you are having, it is a definite highlight in the week and a good way opportunity to see the Lord answering my prayers in your behalf.

I hope and pray that you may continue to see evidence of the Lord's tender mercies each and every day, and that you will be a light to those around you! Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Companion, New Calling

I'm healthy, happy, and still trying to move the work forward in Cincinnati! I am now serving with Elder Kirk from Shelley, ID who has been out for 4 1/2 months now. He previously served right across the river in Northern Kentucky and is excited to be in Cincy now. I'm grateful to be serving with him, and I can tell he is a good missionary, anxious to get out there and serve the Lord's children. We are on the verge of accomplishing a lot of really good things here, but it will take faith from us, the people we teach, and also the ward members. With that last thought in mind, I was pleased to see that the focus for district meetings this transfer is on working with members to find people to teach.

I definitely feel that the member work could be improved drastically here, and we have already started coordinating to teach the Book of Mormon class together with the Norwood elders. I was extremely surprised and humbled this Sunday by the call to be a district leader. Such an assignment brings plenty of responsibility and especially accountability to the Lord, Pres. Robbins, and the zone leaders. I know the Lord will make me capable of doing His will and helping this district become one in unity and purpose, but only if I'm striving to do that for myself. Zone Conference last week was absolutely incredible, the mission leaders did a fantastic job of getting that put together. I felt the Spirit strongly during all those testimonies that were shared, and it didn't hurt that we had some good food as well.

Since the whole mission was there, we were doing a lot of group pictures of past districts and missionaries we came out with. For me, that meant like 17 other elders for a picture! A bunch of missionaries were taking lots of pictures of us, and most of them were asking if we were a zone or something. They were pretty shocked when they found we all came to the mission at the same time!! It's just crazy to think that I'll be home in 4 1/2 months, but don't worry.....I won't become "trunky," in the sense that I won't become lazy and slothful in the work. As for the part about thinking of you guys, that's an everyday thing. :) Heck, if I didn't think about you, you could call President Robbins and tell him to keep me here past my departure date!

My heart is full as I read about all the many tender mercies of the Lord towards you; it really is incredible how much the Lord cares for the families of His missionaries. Among the many lessons I've learned in the mission field, the one that has come to mind frequently during the last week is that of agency. It is a grand, eternal principle which has given me a lot of comfort, especially when people we're teaching have made a choice contrary to that of the Lord's commandments. Well, being the "quote-hunter" that I am, I came across a great one from Elder Oaks:

"Some of our most important plans cannot be brought to pass without the agency and actions of others. A missionary cannot baptize five persons this month without the agency and action of five other persons. A missionary can plan and work and do all within his or her power, but the desired result will depend upon the additional agency and action of others. Consequently, a missionary's goals ought to be based upon the missionary's personal agency and action, not upon the agency or action of others."

That statement pretty much sums up all my feelings right now, and one that helps me to press forward inspite of other people's choices, especially because my happiness does not and should not depend upon the decisions of other people. Not to say that I will become indifferent to these children of Heavenly Father, but rather that I will feel sorrow when they choose not to repent, as it states within Preach My Gospel. Some of our investigators have definite potential to be baptized within the next transfer or two, and if that is the Lord's will, I sure hope I'm around to see it happen. Also, I think that we are allowed to attend the Gladys Knight fireside next month, as long as we have investigators going. That's something I'm really looking forward to, so hopefully we are able to go. We have a few investigators who are committed to going, and we're going to try and invite anyone we can throughout this week. Onward, ever onward! Send my congrats to "Elder" Wilbur and his family on his mission call! New Jersey, huh? That'll be cool! Thank you for faith, support, and prayers for me. I feel it everyday! Have a great week!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sun-up in Cincinnati

Good morning from downtown Cincinnati! We're at the library down here today because we are going to see the sights in and around Cincinnati! I'm pretty excited, and I will take plenty of pictures too. Glad you enjoyed the ones I sent last week! We've been downtown a couple times when people were headed to a Reds game, and boy was it tempting for me to follow them and maybe try and sneak in. Thankfully I didn't, but I'm still hopeful that I can go to a game before the mission is over. There are people who stand around holding signs that say, "I need tickets," and I think it would be funny if I held one of those and took a picture with a really forlorn look on my face!

Thank you for your heartfelt and informative e-mails this morning!! It sounds like a lot is going on in everyone's lives, both spiritually and temporally speaking. I suppose that the same could be said for here, although there isn't much in the way of temporal things. That is crazy that Jordan gets home in 12 days and that Donovan is about to get his mission call. I'd laugh if he got called to Norway like Cameron and Jordan did. Heck, I'd probably fall over if he was sent here!!!! Not a high chance of that, but it's got as good of a chance as all the other missions.

Pres. Robbins sent us all some notes from a talk by Pres. Benson about member-missionary work, and so of course I took the time to write them down in my planner. They now join the billions of other notes I have on the subject of member-missionary work! Speaking of which, we were successful in reaching the goal I set of 3 FMP set-up/follow-ups per week. They all went extremely well, and one of the families was able to successfully follow-up on their friends' reading of the Book of Mormon, and received a positive response! I don't know what it is, but I just get really excited when I see people applying the things we teach and then seeing it work out, whether they are members or investigators. This past week was probably our most productive of the transfer so far, as we taught 23 lessons (high quality too) and found 4 new investigators. The Lord has also blessed us with several referrals to visit, so we certainly aren't lacking in things to do right now.

We set a new baptismal date with Shawntae for May 15th (significant date, isn't it?) to give her something to work towards. She had digressed a bit after her original date fell through, so we felt we needed to do that so she has extra motivation. Michelle Baker has good and bad days, meaning the days she uses crack cocaine and the days she doesn't. She really wants to overcome this and is supposed to start treatment on the 15th. We gave her a flier for the fireside in May, and she posted it on the bulletin board in her apartment complex and wrote her phone number on it in case anyone else is interested. Non-member missionary work, now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

Oh yes, I suppose I'd better expound on what I said about a fireside in May. Well, on May 6th, the Saints Unified Voices choir, under the direction of Gladys Knight, will be at our stake center to give two evening "performances" for anyone within the tri-stake area and whoever else wants to show up. It isn't a concert, but they are asking us to refer to it as a fireside instead. We will be able to go to that as long as we have investigators there, and we know of at least 5 people that have already committed to it! I'm rather excited for it! This choir has performed in other places in the States and the result has been a whole lot of referrals for the missionaries. That's what I like to hear!! Man, first the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert last June, and now this!

All in all, things are moving along rather smoothly here in Cincinnati. We'll see how this week plays out. We're having our Zone Conference tomorrow rather than next transfer, and this time the WHOLE mission will be there! That is going to be really good, I just know it! Aren't they all? I really love this area!! I know I say it every week because it's true!!! I believe we are on the verge of seeing a lot more success, if we will only do those things we've been asked to do. I look forward to seeing what other valuable pieces of knowledge that the Lord is waiting to give to us, and I hope that He is doing likewise for each of you. Have another great week!

" If at this moment each one of you were asked to state in one sentence the most distinguishing feature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer? My answer would be divine authority by direct revelation."- Pres. David O. McKay