My emotions are close to the surface. I can't believe all that has transpired in the past two years, but I can't express my gratitude for the blessing of it all. We are too blessed by our Father in Heaven. I could not have imagined at the outset of my mission the spiritual feast that has been laid before us. My greatest joy is to look at each one of my wonderful siblings and see how faithful each of you are to the gospel. I am practically brought to tears when I think of the faithfulness of these beautiful families. Can we possibly imagine the joy that we will have when we meet our family that has passed on from here?
I know, I'm getting sappy. But I just can't help it. And none of you can interrupt me because it's an email. So I'm sorry, but I just love each of you.
I'll have the chance to go to the temple with the nine other missionaries that I will depart with tomorrow, and I look forward to renewing my covenants there. Temple worship is something that is an infrequent thing on a mission. I'm grateful for the restored blessing of temples.
I don't have much to add. I'll have all of the stories to tell later. This week we were blessed to meet a single mother of 5 named Heather who has been seeking out spiritual direction. We hope to be able to help her!
We also taught a young lady who yelled at us through her window as we were walking down the street. It's so cool to be a missionary!
I love you all!
Picture: We found this place while contacting a potential one day. As we were walking up, Elder Swainston said, "Do you feel like this belongs in a Call of Duty video game, or is that just me?"
The weather here in Iowa is finally holding! It's become warmer and warmer. The humidity is out in full force today, and it's pretty thick outside! It's wonderful to experience.
Right before coming to email today, we went grocery shopping. On our way in, a lady in nurse scrubs was standing by the grocery carts, rubbing two coins together. When we approached, she said, "Do you guys have any quarters by chance?"
"No," I replied, "But I can go back to the car and get one!"
"Oh! I'm sorry! Do you not work here?" She replied, a bit embarrassed. We explained who we were, and she released us, saying, "Ok, I'll go ask this guy!" She proceeded to ask a different man for a quarter.
I felt a bit bad for not inviting her to learn a little bit more about the Restored Gospel. We began to shop. Suddenly as we came around a corner, a woman spun around and looked me right in the eye. "Where is the cottage cheese?"
I was a bit startled by the abruptness of the comment so I paused, then I responded, "Uh... I don't really know. Maybe by the other cheeses?" I pointed in their general direction in the store.
"Do you not work here?" Queried the woman.
"No, I'm sorry!" I responded, chuckling a bit. She went over to where I had pointed. I thought to approach her about the gospel, but my companion had already moved on, and I justified my decision away.
Feeling now DOUBLY bad for not "Talking with Everyone" as PMG tells us to, especially with such soft ball opportunities, I sent up a prayer of repentance. That was when we were approached a third time.
"Where are your coffee beans?" Asked an old woman pushing a cart. Now, lest you be confused, this is MAYBE a once a month occurrence. It never happens three times in one visit to the grocery store. I got the hint. Circumstances weren't veiled enough to slip past THIS time tested elder! (More than twice... hahaha)
We started to talk with her and shared a bit of the Restored Gospel with the lady. Her name was Rita, and she was so pleasant! She invited us to her home to share with her the message.
So, despite my hardheadedness and timid nature, the Lord's work in Iowa moves forward! Turns out that here in the Midwest, old ladies and corn are both harvested when the time is right.
Hope that analogy wasn't too much of a stretch... haha
I loved seeing the pictures of the birthday party! As I was looking at them, I was reminded of just how good looking my family is! You all are just beautiful. I love to see the kids as well and how happy they look.
Isn't that weird? I remember when the Aunts and Uncles used to call US "the kids". Now we ARE the Aunts and Uncles, calling all the other ones "the kids".
I love you all so much. I always have to stop myself from telling people too much about my family. It is an amazing thing that we get to all be connected for time and all eternity. What a marvelous blessing it is to be sealed! I cannot imagine how much joy must be possible in the hereafter. There is so much to look forward to in an eternal family in heaven. Like Dad taught at Stake Conference last year, it truly is the "treasure of heaven".
We've experienced some decent growth in our area. We found a few new investigators and were able to meet with one of them again. We have another appointment with one of them later on today. I realized this morning that I have been way too focused upon the lessons and not on the people. This whole transfer I've continually felt to study the fundamental principle of "Teach People, Not Lessons". I'm really trying to focus in more on that. I was studying in "Learning to Recognize the Spirit" in Preach My Gospel, and it talks about how if we are not careful, we can become "preoccupied" and miss the promptings of the Spirit.
I realized that some of my preoccupations involve the lesson itself. I get so caught up in the next principle, or how to tie it back into the lesson or how to get the person to commit that I forget to actually focus on the person! It was a good moment of spiritual tune up for me.
Scripture study is like that. It's like a spiritual "Jiffy Lube".
I have to just start writing this week. I have no clue really what to say. We've had a busy week with transfers having happened on Thursday. We had a couple of District meetings and some really wonderful new missionaries came into our district. Our new district leader is Elder Todd! I was his zone leader in Davenport, then when I left he came over to Kirksville and was in the Quincy zone, and now he is in the Clinton Zone with me! I love him and he is really wonderful. I'm glad to have him back with me.
Bill had a really weird week this week. He smoked. On Thursday we began to teach him, and he started complaining of some pain, and then began to put on a show and told us to call 911. It was really hard, because we could tell that it wasn't 100% real, and we didn't know exactly why he was doing it. He has regressed a bit.
But then, out of nowhere, he showed up to church. Maybe he could make his date of April 25th after all? We are doing our best to help him and not just hope he makes it.
There is also a part member family we've been working with. Both the Less Active wife and the Investigator husband came to church! It was a miracle. This area has taught me how much of the work really comes directly through the instrumentation of the Spirit. We did hardly anything to inspire these two men to do what they did. We simply invited them to come unto Christ, and then helped them in the feasible ways. Being a missionary, you want to force people to do things, but the most effective thing was inviting and helping. Agency was completely in their hands the entire time.
I'm so grateful for the lessons of the Lord.
We also found a few more investigators this week. We look forward to Mission Leadership Council tomorrow.
I know this is the work of the Lord! It moves forward and will not be frustrated. I know the Lord will come again to the earth "in power and great glory." I look forward to that day. I hope He will recognize me. I desperately hope I can show that I loved Him. I know that each of you will, and I expect we'll see Mom there too.
I love you all!
Elder Leavitt came back to visit! He was doing awesome:)
I feel like all week long things are happening left and right, and then the moment I sit down to email, I come up blank. "Nothing happened this week!" My mind protests as I dig through the filing cabinets of memories. I have to say, this week, I agree with it.
There were some shake-ups in the zone this past week. The bottom half of our stake had the ward boundaries change fairly drastically yesterday, and it caused one of our areas to be absorbed completely into the other zone. This means our zone is now only composed of 7 areas. Isn't that ridiculous? One of the transfers I was in Fort Madison, the district alone had 6 areas! The mission is slowly stabilizing and shrinking. It is really sad to see a lot of the missionaries go, but it's the way of life out here.
Also, Bill came to church this week! It's been a long time coming, but he's committed to his date of April 25th. He is a great guy, but he'll need to overcome smoking if he's going to be baptized.
Hm... What else to report... I lost 4 pounds! Elder Swainston is a huge perfectionist, so he's making me diet with him. We run every morning and drink smoothies with spinach in them. It's weird. No comment. But hey, I'm getting good habits. I'm going to be buff as buff can be when you see me again!
We also went on exchanges in Dubuque with the Marshallese speaking elders this week. It was super fun, and I ate a bajillion different weird foods. I had tuna jerky! It's just like beef jerky, except made out of tuna. What did it taste like, you may ask? Do you know that smell when you are walking along the beach with a slight breeze coming off the water? Smells like salt and freshness, right? Suddenly, you catch a whiff of dead fish. Mix those two smells together, and you've got yourself some fish jerky!
Oh! By the way, make sure that you get some of those "BecauseHeLives" cards and start handing them out. I wanted us to be united in doing this. It's such a powerful tool! One of the best ways to motivate yourself to do it is to set a goal for yourself, such as, "every week, I'm going to hand out at least one." Then, report to Heavenly Father on your goal at the end of each week. Use this tool to share the gospel!
I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. He is the Son of God. I know this is His church on the earth today.
Picture: This is Kirby Heyborne from all the Mormon movies! He is on an ad in Dubuque.:)
We were nutso busy this week. We had an exchange sandwich with zone conference in the middle. I practically didn't even SEE Elder Swainston for 3 days. It was really strange because I was in our area both times, and there is just something cool about splitting the work between two people. I just had an eye opening moment that Elder Swainston was supposed to be my companion and we were supposed to be teaching these people at this time. He is a great missionary and I look up to him a lot.
In other news, at Zone Conference I gave my departing testimony. It was a little bit weird because I'm not departing with nearly any of the other missionaries that gave their testimonies. Out of like 9 missionaries, 7 of them go home on April 10th, and Elder Allred, my MTC companion, and I go home the next transfer, so it was like giving your deathbed advice before you've even been admitted to the hospital. I felt like I should stand up there and say, "Just in case something changes between now and Summer, don't write any of this down. I'll be here all transfer. And then I'll STILL be here next transfer."
I don't know. I'm not really complaining, it just felt a tad bit premature.
But enough of my boohooing. We found quite a few new investigators this week! We just need some work on retention. We've found bajillions of people to teach, but a lot of them just fall off the map. We set up specific return appointments and leave them the appropriate commitments, but we're just sifting to find those who are willing to follow the Savior.
Which brings me to another thought. This morning I was reading in the scriptures, and Helaman 14:13 stood out to me quite a bit. Samuel the Lamanite makes a statement about those who will believe on the Savior. Look at what he says they will do if they truly believe. "And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits." I testify that that is true. The Atonement has a natural draw to it. If you understand how much Christ loves you and has done for you, sins become a lot less appealing. If you believe and have faith in Him, a natural result is repentance.
I'm so grateful for you guys. I love you and am so grateful for your testimonies. I trust that anyone with a sincere faith in Jesus Christ will eventually become purified and sanctified. The plan is a lot more simple than we sometimes make it out to be.