Dear Family and Friends,
Gilbert, Scottsdale, Mesa....the Tempe mission has been cut into pieces! Today President Toone starts as the new Tempe mission president and the day that President Howes hangs up the tag. I'm going to miss them but we're all excited about what lays in store for the future.
We're teaching a young couple expecting their first child. The husband struggles with alcohol and the wife is all ready to get baptized. It's the worse when we go over there and see him struggling with a beer and see her in tears because of it. We sat down with just her last week and taught just her and then the next day just him. It was a pretty bold lesson but, again, it's great to see how bold we can be if the spirit is there. Things like, "you're letting your future family down," don't offend people if the spirit is there. And it helps them change. They've committed to get baptized on the 13th and we're going to get them married the same day! The next day when we taught them, they held hands and asked, "What do we have to do to get baptized?" MUSIC TO MY EARS! Afterwards we knelt in prayer and had the him say it. It was such a sincere prayer and afterwards we knelt in silence and they were beaming with joy as they continued to pray in their minds. At church yesterday the soon-to-be-wife said, "I'll never stop coming here."
Speaking of weddings...one of our investigators got married this week! He was supposed to get baptized this Saturday but they planned their honeymoon on top of it...Bah! I realized this was the first wedding I've ever been to.
We are also teaching someone who told us a crazy story about how he had been involved in some bad things and got on a truck to "do a job" and the people kicked him off the truck in the middle of the desert. He wandered in the desert for two days without shoes and lost 20 lbs. His feet were all bloody by the time he finally got back to his family. He had pictures to prove it and all. I've heard some of the craziest stories of my life these last few weeks...
We moved to this apartment complex near an Intel factory. Tons of Indians live near us. We taught one a lesson the other day and asked her to pray. When she prayed she chanted/sang something in her native tongue - it was awesome!
For my birthday this past week the Bishop and his family called and all sang happy birthday, it was great haha. They were out of town on vacation too!
This past week I got a package full of gummy bears. But they weren't bears. They melted into gummy globs hahahaha. Arizona!
The bears weren't the only things melting this week. 117 degrees on Thursday and since then it has been over 110 every day. Not fun. Especially on bikes. I think the worst part is biking at night because for some reason my eyes just dry out and tear up. Whoever decided to settle Arizona was crazy.
Our apartment complex has a tiny gym inside. We've been going in the morning and leaving super super super sore. 3 days later and I still can't raise my arms.
Remember the guy who was supposed to get baptized two weeks ago who cancelled the day of? Well, we hadn't seen him since then. We hadn't even gone by after he told us his path was elsewhere. But two days ago I felt like we had to go see him and so we did. As we knocked on the door, he opened it slowly and we saw his TV. The "Special Witnesses of Christ" DVD that we gave him was playing and he was listening to the testimonies of the 12 Apostles. The Restoration DVD was also out and open and he had seen it too. In the time that he had decided not to get baptized, he had been fired from his stable job where had was payed more than anyone else for the same amount of work (that he found after we started teaching him), his family is going through a crisis, his house has fallen back into a mess, the cockroaches are back, and he hadn't left his house in a week. We talked to him, helped him recognize the difference between having the gospel and not, and invited him to a baptismal service and church. He went to both! We're going by tonight and will invite him to get baptized this next Saturday. Miracles! Every week!
We've been really bold with lots of people this past week and we're seeing the blessings.
Someone we're teaching told us another crazy story. He lives with two people, we'll call them Jose and Pedro. Jose is a drunk but also 'is very religious.' Pedro is his brother, very religious and doesn't drink. Two nights ago our investigator and Pedro woke up because Jose was screaming, "I'M THE DEVIL, I AM GREATER THAN GOD!" They told him to quiet down but Jose got violent and tried to kill them. He told us that his said his eyes were all red and he was stronger than normal. Pedro and our investigator tackled him to the ground and yelled, "In the name of Jesus Christ, in command you to be gone!" Immediately Jose quieted and apologized. That's a crazy story eh?
Last night I finished the Book of Mormon. 5 weeks exactly! That book is true. I think my favorite part of being a missionary is seeing people gain a testimony of it. There is so much power in those pages and I know that it was translated by a Prophet of God.
Yesterday morning we had a meeting at 6:30am with the stake presidency, the high counselor over missionary work, and all the Ward Mission Leaders in the stake. Ours was in Mexico. They trained on how to get the members involved and use the video segments we saw in the broadcast from last week. It was awesome. The ward mission leaders spoke about programs they're using. Some of the ones that stuck out are, "let your mormon swagger shine," a program where the missionaries and ward missionaries visit members and give them arm bands with "mormon swagger" to remind them to share the gospel. They hand a tie off to a family each week to remind them daily to do missionary work. Other programs included getting the missionaries to speak in church, perform musical talents, and more. They talked a lot about ward council and how it needs to be focused on missionary work and have the 15 name program working constantly. It was super inspiring to see wards so organized and the members so involved in missionary work. We heard stories of wards with historical yearly baptisms of 3, 4, or 5 jumping to over 50 due to involvement from the members. We left inspired. We have been praying for ideas and yesterday we got an answer. The Gospel Principles teacher came to us and said, "Elders, I've been praying a lot about what my family can do better to help you and I thought of this idea for a ward activity! We used it in Mexico and it worked miracles!" She then went on to explain it and called it, "Trip to Hawaii," or something like that. Sounds great!
Spanish wards have a reputation for not being so organized and members being not so involved. It is an unfortunate reputation that in many cases is earned. Well, we're going to change that. We met with the Sisters and we're making a plan for what we can do to get the work moving. For two hours yesterday we brainstormed and finally have a basic rough draft for our plan of action. It will take lots of refinement and practice but we know the ward can do it. It's going to be really hard to follow up and stay on top of things but we're committed to it. Bring it on!
We also met with one of our members, a branch president who implemented a plan like it and had 50 baptisms his first year. We talked a lot with him and his overarching advice was, "help them set goals." Duh! Why didn't we think of that?! He said that they as a family set a goal for how many families they're going to help come to the church per year. This year their goal was one. Not a high number but a number they committed to. Want to know how they're doing? They are the fellowships for the young couple we're teaching. I don't mean we just take them to the lessons, I mean they've become true friends. Yesterday they had them over for dinner. Last week they took them to the temple, took pictures, framed it, wrapped it in gift wrap (with a bow!) and gave it to them. They visit with them during the week and give them advice, help, and are there for whatever they need. They're helping our investigators find a car so the soon-to-be-husband can get to work and church. Take notes! They're the best fellowships I've seen or heard of in my entire mission! We asked him how we could help others catch the same spirit and his answer was humbling. "I'll never be able to pay the Lord back for what he did." And then he said, "When you ask the members to fellowship someone, say, 'will you take this person with you to exaltation?' Then they won't be able to say no!" Hahahahahah. Ah, such a great family. He gave us a ride last week and when we thanked him his reply was, "I made a promise to give all I had to the Lord. I intend to keep it." No words can describe how great he is. And then said, "behind every man is a better woman." Just an exemplary family.
We had four investigators at church yesterday and a family we helped return to activity. The ward is getting excited about missionary work and things are going great! The Sisters had an investigator there and a family they are also reactivating. The ward hadn't had more than 2 investigators at church for 'many months' months and now the work is flourishing.
How do cars make cold air for the AC? How does an AC work?
Thanks Sister Hines, Mom, Dad, Eric, Will, and Brother Aegerter for the letters this week!
Love you all lots and thanks for all you've all done for me!