April 7th, 2014
Wow. I didn't think things could get much crazier, but they just did. Holy cow. Craziest week of my life. I'll go day by day so you can catch the full effects.
Monday we had a final lesson with J and R. Both of them were some of the best lessons I've had with them, so it was a good way to go out.
Tuesday was crazy. Basically this whole week we didn't eat at a normal time and didn't take more than 10 minutes to do so. Tuesday we helped Sister D for a final time with her fence. We came back in a few hours and taught her the Word of Wisdom with Sister S and A too. It was a really good lesson. We committed her to live the entire Word of Wisdom (she just needed to quit coffee and tea) and she easily accepted. She said she doesn't even like either of them and it made sense that she would be more in tune with the Spirit. Yes! We tried committing her to baptism, but she wouldn't accept a date, but said when she gets there she will. We said good-bye and she was very thankful for all we did. She told me that I helped her understand things better than anyone has ever done in the past. She said the Book of Mormon has been much more powerful and meaningful since we've been teaching her. I'll send pictures of everyone when I have my camera and a cord (long story). We had a lesson with M as well on the Word of Wisdom. It went well too and she asked me if she can visit in a few years once I'm settled in Utah again. She gave me a really nice note and I think I'm one of three people she trusts. We brought Sister W and she was sad to hear I was leaving, but she started crying and thanked me for the things that I had taught her. She said she was so impressed by how much I have matured and she was thankful to know me. That was a little shocking from her, but it was cool. We ended up taking R out to dinner one last time which was fun. We had a lesson with S before mutual and it was a great lesson on baptism. We have been working with his mom to set a goal for his baptism and they should find out soon when her work schedule gets figured out. We had a lesson with the Ss too and it turns out that Sister S went and bought a cake that said "Elder Pew is the best." That was too nice and I felt really bad for Elder W. I've been getting so much attention. We had a great lesson on Easter and Sister S asked if I could say the opening and closing prayer and she just really loves me. We got picked up by McNeil because Elder J drove me, and Elder S down to the trainer/district leader meeting. That night I heard a rumor from Elder V down in San Antonio that I was going to be the new moving Elder. I'll explain more later.
Wednesday we drove down to San Antonio because Elder J was training and me and Elder S were becoming District Leaders. It also turns out that Elder I was at the District Leader meeting so that was three of the eight were from our MTC district. After the meeting President asked me if he could talk to me and he confirmed the rumors that I was becoming a Moving Elder. I was absolutely shocked! The moving Elders are usually two of the biggest, strongest missionaries that travel the mission and pick up and deliver furniture, pick up new cars, new missionaries, run errands for the mission office, and do many other things. Basically we are the assistants to the assistants and mission office. President Slaughter told me that the moving Elders have developed a reputation for being disobedient because they do have more freedoms because of the assignment. We can go in sister's apartments, drive separately, wear normal clothes, miss studies, etc. as needed. He said that they wanted to pick someone they could trust with obedience to basically change the reputation of the assignment. He told me that I needed to be smart and safe and not hurt myself. It was cool too, because he said that even though we would have less time to proselyte that the Lord would bless us for our sacrifices and we would be able to have a normal area. I was kinda freaking out because it also so happens that my district will also be me, my companion, the assistants, and one sister companionship. He also told me that my companion, Elder N would be out longer than me but I'm still Senior Companion and District Leader. It was a little intimidating, but I was excited to do something new and that President Slaughter trusted me. The ride home was fun and me and Elder S talked like the whole way. That night we had a lesson with A and the S were sad to see me leave, and boy I love their family. They said I'm welcome back anytime. We had a lesson with the Ms, and then to close we had a really killer lesson with the Fs. We talked about the characteristics of Christ's church and actually had them build a house out of cardboard and each piece represented something from Christ's church. They liked it and I did start crying when I bore my testimony at the end and expressed my love for them. They got me a pie for all the times we gave them something and a nice letter. I also gave them a letter and we took pictures and I told them I'd be back someday. It was sad to leave them, but it ended on a really positive note. H was actually getting teary-eyed when I bore my testimony too so I know that she felt the Spirit and is really close to just giving it all a shot. I hope they do. I told them in my letter I hope to be there when they get sealed in the temple.
Thursday morning I had to pack basically everything because I hadn't had a chance yet and I wasn't able to fit hardly anything in my suitcases. I had to leave out my blanket and my nice jacket, but I can easily get it sometime we have to go to Round Rock. When I said a final prayer in the apartment I was crying too as I thought over the great experiences I had in Brushy Creek. I asked a special blessing on everyone in the area especially those that are still investigating. I really am sooo thankful for the experience I had and I love the people so much and I'm filled with gratitude over all that I was able to be a part of. I don't think I could have the area at a bigger peak and I can't express my gratitude that I was able to make such an impact for these "precious souls" (Alma 31:34 I think). Elder W was almost near tears when we did our final companionship inventory which is unheard of for him. We had a lesson with E and we basically just bore our testimonies of the church and L was yet again considering baptism and asked about her family though that would hate her for joining. I told her that sometimes we have to make hard decisions but if we know it's the right thing to do, we should do it anyways. It was a good meeting. We went to transfer meeting and I think that EVERYONE was surprised to see me as the new moving Elder. Everyone was really excited for me, but it was a shocker. My companion is Elder N. He is from Gilbert, Arizona and has been out for one transfer more than me. He is really cool and of course really strong, although he's only a little taller than me. We had to go straight to work once the meeting ended and we put everyone that was going to Austin's bikes into the trailer. Yeah, I drive a huge Chevy truck with a trailer on the back, who would have thought? I always told myself when I came into the mission that if there was one thing I knew I wouldn't end up doing, it was being a moving Elder. You have to love working out, being strong, driving trucks, and carrying things. I still chuckle about it when I think about it. When we got back to San Antonio we had a bunch of things we had to deliver to missionaries all over, and we had to stop at the missions' storage units that I have to keep track of. We didn't even have time to proselyte that evening. Our area is the S ward, and we are in northern San Antonio, pretty close to the temple, mission home, etc.
Friday we got up really early and worked out pretty hard. Elder V and Sister C were both saying that I better be 185 lbs of muscle soon. At this pace I probably will be. I'm still sore from working out. We are in the mission office a lot and we work with the Senior missionary over apartments and finances. We didn't even finish companion study and we had to head out to run errands. We didn't get back until about 5 for dinner. We proselyted that evening and we did teach a less-active guy. He said he was interested in coming back though. We really don't have a ton going on here, and we really have one investigator who is solid, but he already has a membership record but doesn't remember being baptized at all, so that situation needs to be figured out before we can baptize him. We have a few active non-members too, but I have the faith that those can get worked out.
Saturday was just a Conference day which I absolutely loved! Conference was incredible! The talks that stuck out to me the most were of course Elder Holland's pulpit pounding, Linda S. Reeves, Richard G. Scott, Quentin L Cook (I was waiting for one on family history), Dallin H Oaks in Priesthood (that was a really cool talk), M. Russell Ballard (of course), David A Bednar, and my favorite was Elder Corbridge. That was such a good talk. I felt the Spirit very strong with the message of the Restoration. I can't wait to share that one with investigators. It was also pretty cool to see Brynn! I counted four times and everyone was asking about her, so that was fun to see! What a neat experience to sing in Conference! We didn't really have time to proselyte because the extra time we had we weekly planned. We watched all the sessions except Priesthood at the Stake Center, and we went to our building for Priesthood. I met a few people from the ward and they were really friendly. It was strange since I met a few of them before at the baptism me and Elder T went to, but I don't think any of them recognized me.
Sunday was similar except we had time to proselyte afterwards. We were able to have a lesson with this cool less-active couple, the Ps. They seem pretty open to coming back, so hopefully they do.
We have a lot of work to do. It's also tough because Elder N has been here way longer (this is his 4th transfer) and has been out longer, so he's led the way so far, and I'm not sure how to tactfully lead more. He's determined to do better this transfer and once I get the hang of things here I think he'll let me lead because I have a lot of ideas on how to help the area and he has done things differently in the past. He's a really good missionary though and has a solid testimony of the gospel and is really effective if he's doing the right thing and puts his mind to it. My point is, we need some extra prayers to know how to handle the situation and to pick things up in the area. I want this area to still be proselyting focused despite our other duties, instead of it taking the back seat, but it will take time to change the culture. Anyways, thank you for all the support and I know that if we have the faith we really can accomplish miracles. I know that we do have living prophets and Apostles and I loved hearing their words. It's up to us whether we will be quick to remember or forget their counsel. I know that God knows us and watches over us. Despite the crazy changes and heavy load ahead (pun intended) I know that In the Strength of the Lord I can do what is required of me like Elder Bednar said. Have a great week!
April 14th, 2014
This was another crazy, crazy week, but that is the life of a Moving Elder. It has been pretty tough for me to not proselyte very much, especially since there is not much going on in the area and we don't have a ton of time to get things going, but it's been a fun new adventure. Basically every morning is the same. We get up at 5:50 and work out. Hard. I've put on a bit of muscle weight and I've already gotten stronger. Elder N calls it the Swol Factory and I am definitely swollen, but it does feel good to work out hard. My body feels great and awake. I bet none of you expected me to come home super in-shape and ripped, but that might be what happens. I know I wasn't expecting it. We study at 8 and then have to leave at 9 to go to the mission office. We talk to Elder W about things missionaries have called him about, upcoming moves, etc. and then we head out to do our deliveries. We usually aim to be back by 5 for dinner and then proselyte the rest of the evening. The hard thing is that there is no "set" rules or agendas for us. We have a lot of liberty and a lot of people who want things. One of my possible suggestions has been to go to each zone just once a month on a date they know and they can just request the things they need and we bring it out in one big load, that way we don't have to drive all the way to R just to deliver a shower curtain or something. My other idea has been to do a bit of companion study in the car and to call people in the area book, investigators, or less-active members while we are driving around to be more efficient. I want the area to be more focused on proselyting than Moving Elder stuff, and do that when needed. It will be a slow process, but I think it will work.
Monday night we stopped by a lot of people and ended up having a lesson with this less-active guy named B. He's like 64 but really energetic and funny. He has been coming to church off and on the past few months and his wife isn't a member. He said he's working on her, so that would be cool to teach her.
Tuesday we had to run a bunch of errands. We organize everyone's orders and mail for each zone to pick up after MLC (Missionary Leadership Conference) and then we ran around picking up a bunch of things and buying supplies at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Office Depot. It's pretty strange going to stores like everyday. We had a lesson with our only kinda investigator Brother H. He is the one who we have records for him but he promises that he's never been baptized. He started trying out our church a few weeks ago and has progressed pretty well, but we need to have our bishop interview him and find out if he really remembers or not. If not, President Slaughter has said to treat him like an investigator. We watched a CES Devotional that I saw a few weeks ago on P-Day called "the Blueprints to Christ's True Church" by Tad R. Callister in January of this year. It is an amazing talk. Super powerful, I highly recommend it. Anyways, he really loved the talk and the only things holding him back is he is in leadership in his other church that's falling apart, his wife isn't interested, and he needs to know more doctrine. I asked him though at the end if he believed that our church is Christ's true church and he said yes. The more I've thought about the situation the more I've thought that he doesn't have a very strong testimony, but he loves missionaries and the way the church is run, so he's got a good start. We just need to help him understand our purpose, help his wife, and teach him doctrine. He's a good guy. Also a free-mason.
Wednesday we had to deliver some things to East Zone and take some bikes different places. We were able to finish by dinner. We had dinner with the Ms, a super nice older couple from South Africa. They are really cool. They said they knew several Louws, but they didn't know for sure. They are really awesome. We had a lesson with a recent-convert J and he is a solid 20 year-old with a member wife and two kids. They are going through some rough financial situations but they are holding on to the gospel which is great. We had a good lesson and then we had a lesson set with a lady whose husband doesn't live with her and isn't a member but comes to church every week, so we were going to talk to her, and we asked J if he could come so we could go inside and he came. It was sweet and he bore some solid testimony. Sister G is really nice and has recently become much more active. She made a deal with her husband that they would go to church every week. He doesn't live with them because of conflict with the daughters. She is trying to figure the situation out and she said he's been taught before, but we asked if she would invite him to be taught again. She agreed and thought he would be willing, but I guess he doesn't like being pushed. We'll see how that one ends up.
Thursday we were really busy. We had to go to Lockhart and Bastrop, which is like an hour or more away. It was cool to drive and the cities are SO cool! They are really old and there are like these manor looking houses. I loved it a lot. We went to a super good BBQ place called Blacks. They have delicious brisket (?) that just melts in your mouth. Gotta love Texas. We also had to go to pick up all the furniture and supplies for the senior couple that moved into Eagle Pass on the Border because they needed to move in on Friday. We had a ton of stuff to do and then we had to go to East San Antonio again to pick up some more stuff and we didn't get home unitl after nine. It was a crazy day. We just have to eat whenever we have a second.
Friday we had zone meeting. Our zone is much bigger and it's really impressive. The Spirit was strong the entire time. As usual it was a bunch of things that I need help with. After the meeting we actually had a Zone Council with the leaders in the zone. There are a lot. There are the zone leaders, three district leaders, two sister training leaders, the Assistants, and the Sister Assistants. It was an intense meeting and they have a really high vision of what they want to accomplish. We were talking way above where I'm even at, so I came out of there feeling pretty insufficient and a lot of things to work on. Sometimes I do get discouraged hearing where the leaders of the mission want us and where we are. I know I'm not the only one who is far below the bar. President Slaughter has been talking a lot about "breaking the ceiling" which I basically explain as having the faith to work and witness miracles. I am curious to go on exchanges with the zone leaders and Assistants to see what they are like and if we are all just talking about a level that none of us are really at or close to, or what. I know that's bad to compare but I just know that the level here (at least talked about) is waaaay higher than the zone I came from, whether that's just a hope and vision, or a reality, I'm not sure. Anyways, we had to hurry out of there to make it to the Border at Eagle Pass. It was pretty exciting to get to go. You take the 35 south which is pretty well populated until you move out of San Antonio, then it's more country. Then you get off and take a little country highway the next 99 miles to Eagle Pass. There is absolutely nothing. There is lots of trees and shrubs and things, but no people. There is like 1.5 towns in between. Our car got caked with bugs. It was much different than I expected. Eagle Pass is a pretty nice place. It looked like any other city, unlike the shack, dirt road streets I was expecting. The zone leaders there did say it is much more ghetto once you leave the main city, but it was cool. You could see a huge Mexican flag waiving just across the border and we were about a mile away from it. The apartment was pretty nice and we got everything in and assembled by about 8. They got us Super Tacos which is a famous place down there and it was really good. Steak and chicken tacos. Also my pants ripped at the crotch while we were working which was pretty funny. It was super noticeable. We had to make the long 2.5 hour drive home afterwards. It was a little freaky flying down the one-lane road with no street lights at like 80 mph. We were about halfway back the 99 mile stretch and I got pulled over. The officer said I was going 84 on a 75 mph road which wasn't true since I had the cruise control set at like 78, but we were just really polite and he asked what we were doing and we just told him that we help other missionaries move their furniture and things and that usually we are suppose to be home by 10:30 but because we have a special assignment we have some leverage but that might be why we were in a hurry. He was a nice cop so I think he realized it would be ridiculous for giving someone a ticket for only going 9 over on a completely empty road and just gave me a warning, so that's three times getting pulled over with 0 tickets. Yes. We got back around 10:45 which just feels super weird.
Saturday we had to go up to Austin to deliver a book-shelf, filters, chairs, etc. to some missionaries up there. It was weird because we drove on the 45 which goes through Brushy Creek a bit and goes right next to the apartment. That was kinda freaky. We got back around dinner and headed out to proselyte for the first time in a few days. We weren't able to teach any lessons, but we made a lot of visits. There are a ton of less-active and part-member families that we don't know so we are hoping to find new people to teach through those, but no success yet.
Sunday I had my first time at church which feels weird since it feels like I've been here for awhile now. It is a really cool ward and the bishop's funny and a great guy. It's a great ward and I'm excited to be here. We stopped by a bunch of people again to no avail. It's has been a little difficult because Elder N hates anything but stopping by those people and won't street contact or knock, so have spent a lot of time in the car driving to the next house. The few people I have been able to contact have been really nice and we taught one guy a bit about prophets, but he wasn't super interested and we left a pamphlet with him. I understand the effectiveness of member work over street contacting, but since we have so little time, we need to talk to as many people as we can. It's been difficult but I am confident that the Lord will bless us for the efforts we are making and things will pick up in this area.
I know that this church is true and that this gospel brings us true happiness now, and in the eternities. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and love us and that everything they do is for our benefit. I know that trials are given to us to help us grow and develop into who we need to become. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and is the word of God. I love the gospel and everything it teaches and I know it will help us through the whirlwinds of life. Thank you for being such a great support!
p.s. I should be able to send pictures next week hopefully