If you've seen the Disney movie, "The Sword and the Stone" you might recollect the scene where the scruffy skinny man gallops to the castle to tell the chubby red-headed man that they are determining who will be the next king. He says, "Big News!" In his words, I have big news:
The Lord is preparing the people of Malone to enter into the Kingdom of God. The work is hastening at a hastened pace! Elder Hawkes and I are the lucky ones the Lord has chosen to harvest the exquisite joy!
Jim's baptism was miraculous. We were rushed to get back from a service project to fill the font in time before the service. We could have used another hour or so, because when Jim got in the water, it only filled to his knees. Luckily after a few tries, he was still able to be fully immersed in the water, and Jim remained calm and patient. It strengthened my testimony of the importance of baptism by immersion! Regardless, there was a good turn out and a couple of our investigators were in attendance! It was powerful to see Jim's glow after he returned in the Relief Society room after being remitted of his sins.
I had the opportunity to confirm Jim a member and help him receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It was a very spiritual experience for me, and very powerful to feel the promises fulfilled from the scriptures that the spirit would tell me all the things I should say. It's been a huge blessing to be able to feel the Lord's power work through me and to be able to mature with my the priesthood I've been entrusted with.
Dan Foster told us he's been praying about baptism and knows he needs to do it. He told us that he felt a strong spirit confirm that he should be baptized on the 3rd of October. We are so happy for him. It's amazing how the spirit "pricks" our hearts, no matter what our background is, and tells us all that we should do. He has already picked out some family members he wants to do temple work for as well as the hymns for his baptismal service. Hehe.
We prayed about a date that Deborah Reed would be able to prepare to be baptized on and we both felt September 13th would be good. She agreed and is now preparing for that day. She still loves the Book of Mormon and Geneology work. Family History work is a very effective missionary tool! Both Dan and Deborah have been coming to church weekly, church activities, service projects and to Jim's baptism. We had a big volleyball game at the Potsdam District Picnic and Dan, Elder Hawkes, and I played a heated match against President Wirthlin and others. Not sure who won.
On Sarturday, we were volunteers at an event with the Senior couple at the Almanzo Wilder Farm, the place where "The Little House on the Prarie" series was written. 'Twas why we were late filling the baptismal font.
Another miracle is that we now have a Branch Mission Leader! We are so excited to work more closely with him and receive his inspired aid. I have no clue how to work with a branch mission leader, so it will be a learning experience for me!
The Lord's work is hastening! Everywhere! I'm so grateful for my worthiness to be part of it day to day!
I love you all! You are in my thoughts and prayers.
I am going to try to make this speedy so I can respond to your personal emails!
Remember Dan Foster? He is the man we have been teaching who has a Buddhist background. This week he went to Palmyra with the senior missionary couple serving here and had an incredible experience at the Hill Cumorah pageant and Temple Visitor's Center and Sacred Grove. He said his experience in the grove was unlike anything he had ever experienced. He came to church on Sunday excited to meet with us and told us that he "needed" to be baptized. It was shocking, but very exciting. We invited him to ponder and pray about a date he can work towards, and he accepted. Oh, the Excitement!
Deborah Reed came to church on Sunday! She is now progressing towards baptism on a date will be praying about this week. We should have done that a lot earlier! But she is very excited about hearing more of the gospel and she loves the Book of Mormon.
Jim Stone's baptismal interview was on Saturday and he lit up like a giant light bulb afterwards. He was so excited and expressed so much gratitude (as always) in being able to feel the Holy Ghost change him. Stay tuned for his baptism this Saturday! I will tell you about it and send pictures next week!
Elder Hawkes and I put up another good fight this week in this battle against sin and evil here in Malone. Satan doesn't stand a chance. We were able to have a lot of success this week just like last week, and we are reaping the blessings of being in the Lord's service, much more than we deserve. We experienced a great miracle I am excited to share with you..
First of all, I would like to tell you a little bit about the Malone Branch. We meet in a tiny fully functional LDS building that was built about 5 years ago. About 20 people show up each week to church, so the missionaries play an active role in the unit. Yesterday I spoke about covenants and was just in awe the whole time how small of a congregation I was speaking to. I'm sure the branches in Brazil are even smaller. The units on the west coast are gargantuan. We are part of the Potsdam District, consisting of 6 or so branches. Teensy! We are working to get the members motivated to share the gospel with their friends. Many of the members do a great job of giving us referrals, we just need to continue earning their trust! Our branch president, President Nicholson is the MAN. He looks like Pierce Brosnan and he lives the life I want to live in the future. He is a mechanical engineer in Massena, but lives in Potsdam. He was the branch president of the Potsdam Branch (which was a ward before the stake broke off from Montreal and became a district) but received a special assignment to serve as branch president here in Malone.
We are teaching an elderly couple, Charles (Chuck) and Joyce Gardner. They believe strongly in our doctrine and want to be baptized. The only thing keeping them is that Chuck is the pastor of a church he organized many years ago, and that is his main source of income until he retires in just a couple years. They are the coolest. They feed us each week and love to read the Book of Mormon with us. Chuck takes the things our church teaches and preaches it to his own church. I love them.
A Happy 14th of July from the young Hawk.
I went on an exchange this week in Massena, which is the northern-most area in the mission. I got to look at the beauty of Canada. We worked in an indian reservation part of the time where the native americans are obsessed with lacrosse, and lacrosse stores are everywhere. Kinda made me want to LAX! with some native american blood.
We found an investigator named Deborah Reed sitting on her porch. She is extremely interested in her family history and wanted to know about the ancestors of the native americans. GOLDEN. We've met with her a couple times now and she wants to be baptized! We are giving her a tour of the church this week.
And now.. on to the grand miracle.
While I was working in Massena, Jim Stone dropped us. He said that he felt that everyone was tugging at him and there was too much pressure between the church and the many issues he has going on in his life. It was one of the saddest and most discouraging things I had experienced on my mission I would say. It was really hard for Elder Hawkes and I, he was SO close and had gone so far, but we both realized that the Lord had other things in store for us and him, and that the Lord wanted us to reflect, learn, and move forward.
A couple days later during our companion study, Jim called us and said he wanted to talk, so we met at his house later that day. During our visit, he very humbly told us that the real reason that he dropped us was because he felt a ton of temptation to turn back to his past sins and addictions, and he really understood that Satan wanted him to abandon us and give up his soberness. The way he expressed his darkness and misery and lack of sleep those two days strengthened my testimony of the light the Gospel brings. Even though the temptation to sin was extremely high, he was able to stop himself, so he is still clean. He told us he wants to keep meeting and his goal is the baptism on July 26th. It was the most spiritual visit I've had my entire mission- a true tender mercy of the Lord. An incredible gift to be able to see an ex-deputy sheriff be humbled through true repentance and turn his life completely around.
I have learned so much about true conversion and humility though repentance throughout my life. I have been warned so much of the consequences of sin that I have no desire to even come close, but I know that repentance gives us a fresh view of God, ourselves, and the world. It is a gift to have the opportunity to change and gift up our pride to become humbled. Let's repent every day!
Malone is the coolest! But I have to apologize because this email will be teenzy. I will explain why next week and also tell you all about Malone! First I'll give you some pictures to prepare you. It's a lot like Richfield-everybody knows each other and participates in community gatherings. The movie "The Little House on the Prarie" was filmed here in this area, so hopefully that can give you a sufficient description for now.
Elder Hawkes is the best! He is a humble, submissive, and diligent missionary who gives the Lord his best. He is a great pleasure to work with. We have had a lot of fun already!
This place has a ton of potential. We are teaching a man named Jim Stone who is preparing for his baptism on the 26th of July! He is such a solid guy who is so prepared. He used to be the deputy sheriff here in Malone, and made some choices that brought him to the lowest of lows, but he has turned his life around 180 degrees and is living on the pathway to descipleship. He gives all the credit for abandoning his addictions to God and is just so appreciative of the happiness he now has in his life. He will be the third convert in the Malone Branch in the past 2 or 3 years. I am indeed lucky to be here at this time. So so lucky.
From Jim's example, I've learned a lot more about the joys of repentance, and how it can make us so humble. When counseling his son Helaman, Alma said that nothing was so exquisite as was his joy when he tasted of the sweetness of repentance, and nothing was so tormenting as was his pain. If we repent daily, we will be humble. We can't preach repentance unless we are working on ourselves!
So sorry this was so short! I promise to give you a good description of Malone next week! I love you all.
I'm not going to lie, when I first got here in Malone, I had just higher than a tinse of culture shock. It was an adjustment.. but now, this is THE PLACE. The main source of entertainment here is bingo and rubber duck derbies. We do a lot of service with the community as well. The people here know the missionaries well, even though they don't believe in our religion, but do thank us for our kindness. We spend a couple hours a week here at soup kitchens, food pantries, and helping old people play HOY (whatever that is) at the local hospital. It's a different experience than the skyscrapers and city lights, but I love it! This week I swerved around two amish families in carriages along the highway. Don't worry father, I didn't forget to say, "oh gosh" seconds before swerving. I was kept safe because of that. Yes, President Wirthlin made me a designated driver. I never would have thought I would be trusted to drive one of the Lord's vehicles on my mission. Sadly it's not a black 1990 Nissan Maxima with really squeaky windshield wipers.
The last elder here prepared me for a whole lotta work here, that I've just been lucky enough to continue doing.. There is some really good work going on here. Tons of families! Elder Hawkes and I were just shy of reaching President Wirthlin's standards of excellence. We were very busy, which was wonderful!
We met with a Less Active girl who Elder Sam Bybee (Salem, OR) baptized, and met with here whole family. We read about Abinadi from the Book of Mormon stories book she is reading. Her mother and father were pretty in tune and enjoyed the message contained therein. The father, Joe, attends his uncle's church but asked if we could work out with him in the mornings. We accepted and we get to plant a gospel seed in his heart in doing so. He asks good questions and is a very nice christian man who is buff. He's going to make a man out of me, and in return the young hawk and I will exchange with something that will change his life! It's been really fun working out like a champ.
Jim Stone is probably the most humble and willing to learn investigators I've taught. He understands why we make covenants and why they are important to be worthy of. He is counting down the days until his baptism, and won't let Satan stop him from getting there. A little temptation has crept in with some of his past transgressions, so we are meeting with him every day now!
We picked up a few investigators this week as well! One of them was found in the ideal way, at a dinner appointment. His name is Dan Foster. His religious background is Hindu. (I believe) He believes everything we teach him except for resurrection. He is devoted to believing in reincarnation. We are just waiting for the holy ghost to touch his heart and change his mind through our short lessons with him. He is keeping all of his commitments and agreed to be baptized if he can still believe in reincarnation, so that's a good start.
The last thing I wanted to tell you about is that there are A TON of people here in Malone who love the missionaries and spoil us to death, but aren't willing to accept our teaching visits. It's weird, but cool. Right now I am at the home of a guy named Dave Nichols, who is mission famous. He owns a guitar shop that is pretty famous. He makes guitars for some of the biggest rockstars and celebrities. He is really wealthy so he buys us whatever we want and mails things for us for free. He loves missionaries because of their dedication for what they do. He has tons of respect for missionaries. He's extremely funny, he thinks that everyone in the world should be LDS so that it can be held together and not turn to garbage, but he is set on being a Mason. He and President Wirthlin are good friends. There are other non-members just like him who want to take us out to eat and buy us things. It's like I'm a missionary in Utah.
I'm so grateful to be a member of this church and this country! I know that the Restoration of Christ's church was needed in a place with so much religious freedom. Our forefathers have done so much for us so our lives can be so much easier. Be part of the restoration and build the kingdom! "Be an active member in your community"-Billy from Adventure Time
Elder Kunzler SR!
The gravesite of Joseph Smith's grandfather. Read the quote on the bottom!