I have a new companion. His name is Elder Ledford. He resembles almost perfectly the blonde band member of Rascal Flatts. I found that out today when we saw a Rascal Flatts poster at walmart today. He didn't think so though. It turns out he doesn't have a country boy accent, except when he tells people where he's from. He always says, "Chattanooga, Tennessee" in a southern accent. Radical. He and I are going to teach the gospel to every creeping thing that creepeth in downtown Albany. It will be swell!
Transfer weeks are a bit slow when someone leaves, but the Lord blessed us with a few tender moments this week. Even though I've spent my entire mission in this area so far, there always seems to be new spiritual experiences to enjoy and new people to meet.
Shortly after transfers, we met a way solid potential named Julia on the bus on the way to our appointment with Ben Foote. She expressed a lot of interest of what we do, what differentiates our religion from others, and why we devote two years of service to God. She said she wasn't religious, but talked with us later in the evening over the phone and we set up an appointment for this week.
Speaking of Ben Foote, he is still soaring. We taught him about the Word of Wisdom, thinking he would have a hard time accepting it since he collects wine corks and bottles and a coffee maker in the kitchen. He had no problem accepting to live the Word of Wisdom, and even said that it was "common sence" to live it because God doesn't want us to put harmful substances into our bodies. THIS MAN IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
Christian Yarleque will be receiving the Priesthood this Sunday. We prepared him yesterday by teaching him about the authority and covenant of the priesthood. He will be able to baptize his two yound children soon. It gives me the chills thinking that their family will be sealed in the temple while I am still a missionary.
Being a missionary is not only a sacred duty, but a priviledge. It is hard work, but very fun and rewarding. I am so grateful for the opportunity I've had to do this and increase my testimony each day. I cannot believe Josh is about to finish his 2 years. His mission went by very slowly before I came on mine. And now he is going home. Josh, the seeds you planted in France will continue to grow forever.
I've finally found Elder Bybee from the Salem Oregon Stake. He's such a bundle of joy
Elder Hougaard is leaving me. There comes to a certain point when you've spent every moment for 6 months with a person that he becomes part of you. That part is leaving me, and it feels WEIRD. I have learned so much about diligence, obendience, persistence, and so many more things from him. He is a solid rock.
Elder Hougaard went with his MTC district and President and Sister Wirthlin to see the church history sites so the first half of my week was spent with in Utica with Elder Watkins. He is a great friend of mine, not only because he has the same taste in music as me and is going to BYU, but he has a heart of gold. I learned a ton from him. I had always thought that the assistants just worked in the mission office all day and ate with members, but we spent those days working in a bundle of different areas and even picked up a couple new investigators. Working in a different part of New York gave me assurance that I can have success even if I'm not serving in a big city.
I'm staying here in downtown Albany and my new companion's name is Elder Ledford. I will my begin time with him on Wednesday, but I've heard he's from Tennessee. I've never known anyone from there so I'm excited to meet him! Hopefully he has a southern accent and cooks good ribs.
Ben Foote is amazing! We met with him 4 times this week, and each time we visit his prayers get stronger and stronger. His comprehension of the Book of Mormon has skyrocketed and he's reading every day. It's amazing that someone without religion or prayer in their life can change in just a few weeks. I really hope to be able to see his baptism this transfer!
God is a God of miracles. He leads us exactly where we need to be if we are obedient, submissive, and meek. No one can tell me otherwise because of the miracles I witness every day. God loves us and always helps those who love him. When we feel we are in darkness we can pray to feel his love and feel it. I know this. It's happened to me.
It was such a blessing to see most of you yesterday. I could feel of your light and it's so good to see you all so happy. Jonah and Jaden are old and talk like teens from the teen hub on the Disney Cruise.
Boa sorte esta semana!
Emack Attack Ice Cream challenge victory. We brought the church out of obscurity by getting our picture on the wall of fame. Ziggy Piggy
On Saturday night Christian Yarleque, the man who has been investigating the church for longer than I've been a full-time missionary, made sacred covenants that will forever bond himself with God. It was a beautiful service, even though we were rushed to get it started since the printer went "ballistic" (as father says) when printing the programs. My favorite part of it was when Christian bore his testimony of the Atonement and the offering of a broken heart and contrite spirit to God. The following day Maritza bore her testimony with a translator because she was really scared. She bore a powerful testimony of eternal families and expressed thanks to the people who helped them along their way as well. A few tears were shed in the mix. Baptism are the greatest!
Ben Foote, our investigator who rules the earth, brought like 75 cookies to the baptism. They were delicious. Just a few fun facts about Ben- he is already a member on the outside. He is well groomed, he can sew, he feeds us weekly, he cans his own fruit, quite the cook, shows up to church in a classy suit and tie, bakes his own bread, and even collects food storage. We helped him with some yard work this week and found that he had planted some Peas. I love him, with every fiber of my being.
Not only is he better than Bear Grylls, but he is progressing so fast. This past weekend he went to Palymra to see all the church history sites there with his brother and sister-in-law, who are both members. He said it rained the whole time except when they were into the sacred grove. It began raining again when they left. That was his favorite part he said. We taught him about the Atonement this week. He didn't understand all of it, but is coming to know more about it as he reads from the Book of Mormon. He is reading and praying daily. He said he really felt good at Christian's baptism as well. He doesn't want to set a date quite yet but is positive that baptism is something he wants to do.
Remember Tiffany, whom we met on the Bus after I engorged myself into a giant sub from Andy's Imports? We called her last Monday to schedule an appointment, and she told us we should come as soon as we could, so we had our first lesson with them 15 minutes later. She and her boyfriend, Shaquille (O'Neill), are firm believers in Jesus Christ. The lesson was good practice of our new teaching method. At the end, we had a moment of silence after the closing prayer offered by Shaquille, which was long but powerful. When the silence broke we invited them to both be baptized into Christ's church and they said they had been talking about wanting to do that for a while already, so they gave an enthousiastic YES. It was grand.
Elder Hougaard and I have been praying for quite some time now that more families would move into our branch and that we could have more priesthood. We have two new families moving in, which is a delightful answer to our prayers. I don't believe that my prayers are answered so much just because I am a full-time missionary. If we all call upon God asking for specific blessings, we will receive specific answers. Prayer is real.
I love you all more than Swine love husks. Good luck with your high school, lacrosse, mission, work, and Lindsay Lamoreaux's this week. I will see you guys on Mother's Day. The rule is 30 minutes skype and 30 minutes call this time. I do not know the all the details yet, but be prepared to receive a phone call Saturday night or Sunday morning.
After Christian's baptism. Please don't be offended that Christian is not in white. We began the service 15 minutes late and didn't have time to catch a picture. We at least took the picture in front of the font so you can believe that he really was baptized. Just think of us 4 as the mormon mafia.
This weekend was stake conference. I like stake conference. Apparently it's new church policy that the adult sessions of stake conferences are dedicated to hastening the work, which makes Stake conference so much better. I wasn't sure who was sitted on the podium to speak to us, but I knew he was a visitor, maybe a seventy or something since he brought with him a large brief case and looked kind of like Bruce R. McConkie. When a member of the stake presidency announced who was speaking, my entire BEING filled with excitement. Elder Clayton Christiansen, author of "The Power of Everyday Missionaries" spoke to us for about an hour that evening. Indeed. He had just driven from Boston and was only able to speak to us that night, and boy was it a charm.
Expecting to have such power in his voice for being a Bruce R. McConkie look-alike and for being like 6'5, as he began his talk he spoke in a quiet, peaceful voice that immediately penetrated every soul with the spirit. It was the best talk I've ever witnessed in my entire short life, I'm still in shock. I wish you all could have shared this incredible time with me. I'd like to share with you a few of the things he talked about, things that I could have NEVER learned in Curitiba. I wish you could hear these things in the way he spoke that evening.
He began his talk with the story of how he came to know the Book of Mormon was true and began devoting his life to it at the verge of leaving the church while in the halls of Oxford University. He read and prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true nearly 7 times before receiving his answer, pleading with god to know if it was true, promising that he would devote his life to it if it was. He described his feeling after praying to know for the 7th time in the University, a peaceful, overwhelming feeling that overcame him and brought him to tears uncontrollably. He then went on explaining a few points of things that work in missionary work and things that don't with stories of his experiences. I will just share with you some the main points he presented:
1. Many people claim to not be interested in religion because too often they reject falsehood. Satan has done a remarkable job of painting God as someone we cannot believe in. Many people are sick and tired of rejecting false concepts of other faiths and have lost all hope in organized religion in general.
2. All people want to serve the Lord, whether or not they want to learn doctrine. They have desires to do good and want to help, but don't know where. Invite your friends to do service with you!
3. Don't ask people if they are intersted in learning more about your faith, but rather make them feel needed and wanted. He then told a humorous story about a missionary that came fresh from the MTC ready to work in Boston but wasn't able to get past the first discussion for months so he became discouraged. Elder Christiansen had a friend from Harvard whom he played basketball with in the church who he had been trying to share the gospel with, but only wanted to play basketball. After many times of asking, Elder Christiansen explained to his friend the situation with the new young missionary. He asked his friend if he would listen to the poor missionary's lesson and help him teach better. At the end of the first lesson, the missionary held out a Book of Mormon and invited him to read it. Elder Christiansen's friend begrudgingly accepted, and because of that choice he is now working in the Boston temple. Green Eggs and Ham!
4. Everyone has questions in their soul that are answered in the Book of Mormon. As you share it with them, give them specific chapters to read that answer those questions (ex. Moroni 8-Infant Baptism, Mosiah 18-Why god cares so much about Baptism, etc.) and ask them to write out the answers they receive from their reading. Writing forces you to think, thus allowing the spirit to enter more. Remember to teach them HOW to pray and read the scriptures. We live in an age where many people don't even read the Bible anymore.
5. People are only ready to receive the gospel when THEY are, not when we as missionaries are ready to teach them.
I will stop there since I feel too preachy. Take this knowledge I've gained and apply it to your missionary efforts! After the session was over, I had the opportunity to shake his hand talk to him for a moment. I told him how much his book has blessed my family in their missionary efforts. If I was able, I would love to go to Harvard Business school to hear him speak every day.
I now think I have time to share with you a story of a miracle I saw this week. On Thursdays, Elder Hougaard and I typically go to the University to man a table with free handouts and other goodies to get the church's name across the campus. This Thursday before going, I decided I wanted to get a sub from my favorite Italian sub shop. I like big sandwiches. Because of that we were a little bit late, but we got on the bus to head to the University. On the bus, a woman named Tiffany sat next to us who appeared to be under stress. She looked to me a lot like Al Fox, the tattooed mormon. She told Elder Hougaard that she felt really good from just reading "Jesus Christ" on his nametag. She said that she has a personal relationship with the Savior, but feels that God is angry with her because she tries to find happiness in the wrong places, and is unhappy about her life. She says that she is religious, but has gone for church to church trying to find the answers to her questions. I testified briefly to her of the love that God has for her, and of how we can overcome difficult things through the savior. She began to cry. It was a tender moment. She told us to "please stop by" as we got off the bus, and felt that angels were sent to her when she needed them. Our appointment with her is set up for Tuesday. After getting off the bus, I thought of the love that God has for her. Even though we were late because I made the childlish decision to get a giant sanswich, we were exactly where we needed to be.
This is not our work, it's the Lord's work, and God is a god of love. If we are obedient to the spirit, he leads us to do good to the children he loves so much. We can feel of that love when we serve and put him first. We would be nothing without him, and all he asks for is our help.
There are many more incredibly things that happened this week, but I felt you would all benefit most from these two things. I wish you all a happy week. I'm praying for you!