As everyone knows already, conference was last weekend. And I bumped into fifteen people that I knew including half my family! The highlight of the weekend was getting to meet my niece Emma, though. It was a little weird and unexpected, but I am still working hard and being a missionary.
The week started out awesome having two people pay for us at Farr's ice cream, our new favorite place. Across the street from our house is the original Farr’s! Then at Costco, two people offered to pay, but we only accepted one, because we were too full to eat anymore. As always, it's a hard life. (I bet y'all think I am just so obnoxious from the way I write these letters, ha-ha. Well I guess I am). We drank six gallons of milk this week...Costco milk was too cheap to pass up. We got sick of cooking and now live off of leftover pizza, toast, milk, and lots and lots of cookies.
We taught Robin a couple times this week, but teaching him the law of chastity was the funniest lesson of my mission. A few quotes "Woah, woah, woah. I don't know you guys that well to be discussing this." "Men have needs; you have to understand." "Sometimes you got to do what you got to do," and a lot of other ones that are not rated g that we had to just flinch through and try to bring the Spirit back. He is such a weird guy, but we love him. We have sent Elder Pyne to do lessons by himself (just with the member present who is an 18-year-old kid) to Robin which is the best way to train: having to let the Lord teach you to do it yourself while Elder Ward and I make visits or tract. He set him up with a baptismal date for the 21st, and we haven't even trained him on that so Elder Pyne is still the best visa waiter ever.
We laugh even more than we did before. We had a really funny companionship inventory last week. Essentially, in a full functioning companionship with prideful people you just sit down and make subtle jabs at the things you find annoying and are forced to bite your tongue and take it. So Elder Pyne very UNsubtly told Elder Ward he isn't allowed to talk longer than 30 seconds ever again, ha-ha. So that’s been the joke this week.
I had a new skill I was trying to work on this week on bringing the Spirit better. I was reading about how to invite the Spirit in preach my gospel, and it said to express love for the Lord. I realized I never do that directly to people. I just say the Lord loves them and me which is kind of unfair and one sided. So I started trying that, and it is the best. We were walking and talking to everyone we saw one night, and the three of us were with one guy talking, and I saw Jane like forty feet away packing up her stuff to go in since it was getting dark. (I didn't know her name was Jane yet.) I went over and had her sit down and talked to her. She was a member and very active, but I could feel the loneliness in her voice when she talked about how she lives with her dog and cat, and it just hurt to hear. So I got out a Restoration pamphlet and taught her a five minutes restoration while my companions talked to other people walking by. The best part was when I showed her the picture of Jesus holding the lamb. I talked about her finding that peace that the Savior can bring and said how much I loved Jesus Christ, and it brought the Spirit so fast it surprised me. So I have stuck with that. It made me love her to talk about that. She has leukemia and not a lot of friends. I hope she is ok.
I went on exchanges this week with one of our district leaders, Elder Harper. He is from Vegas and has been out a little longer than me. He started his mission with not the best examples and over the past few months has done a complete 180 and is one of the best missionaries I know (which is why he was put in Jefferson1). He is very obedient and works hard. He is one of those that is disappointed with himself when he comes home with anything less than exhausted from a hard day's work. Seeing turn around like him is inspiring to the rest of the mission. Elder Graham is similar. He is the other travelling trainer along with Elder Ward (starting next week) and was one of the worst at obeying rules and is now a spiritual giant and has no tolerance for not taking your mission seriously.
So Elder Ward is leaving next week. I am not sure who my new companion is, but if we can petition for Elder Plowman to join me here, I would be one happy missionary. Elder Harper showed me how to work harder at talking with everyone and counseled me to spend less time getting to know members and just asking for referrals and knocking the next door. That will help me. Spending even three to five minutes can be time consuming when 7 out of 10 houses are in the relief society presidency and want you to come in and try their homemade jam they just made. As much as that is easier, there is a smarter way to work.
We talked to three kids one of which was thrown out of the state of Georgia for seven years (he is 18). I was surprised how well he connected and set up a lesson with them after church on Sunday. I have been recently slacking on talking to everyone, so seeing that and remembering Elder Mackie or Elder Hamilton gave me motivation to cross the street even to talk to the white people. Sister Ramirez should be getting baptized this Friday. We go on lots of lessons alone now with member splits since there are three of us. I have taught her two lessons by myself, and she is sure about baptism now. It took some coaxing, but she is there and will stop worrying about drowning in the font. She is still kind of borderline crazy, but she is great. Her two kids are as frustrating as ever and refuse to help us set up lessons even though she doesn’t have a phone. We were supposed to have one last night, but we got there, and she was still at work. So tonight we should have one and get her interviewed tomorrow when we go on exchanges with Elder Ardaya, one of the assistants.
We had a zone blitz last week. Basically it is when all the missionaries of a zone (except the stubborn ones who refuse to participate in anything that won't help them) go for two hours into one area setting up lessons and visiting people. So we had 10 people in the sisters’ area last week on Friday afternoon. (These don't happen too often, but they are an idea being tried out to build zone unity.) I went with Elder Burke. He is a new missionary that is working on being confident at qgc's. So I helped him out with that. The best way to force someone to talk is go up to apartments and knock on two doors at the same time. It kind of results in the greeny freaking out, but assuming they both open, they are forced to take care of it on their own. So he got lots of practice talking that day with me, ha-ha. We found four potentials in two hours- which isn't too great, but with all the combined efforts, I think it will help the sisters out. Elder Burke is a good guy. He is an 18-year-old from Florida that has been out like two months.
My companions were very happy about their new pens they got from Dad, as well as Dad giving us money for dinner so thanks again Dad!
So a cool thing happened while we were at conference. We sat in the back row and an old lady doing security came up to Elder Ward and showed him the pamphlet they carry around. It has several pages of the anti-people that they can't let in to the conference center. It had the layout for every speaker of all the sessions. So that was cool. We knew who was speaking in every session on Saturday morning.
We wanted to go to Chipotle but were misinformed about the location and had to go to chik-fil-a instead ruining my New Year’s resolution of no fast food. We stood on the corner for all three Saturday sessions and got tickets since we gave all the ones we could find in our stake to less actives/recent converts.
So this week is good. Luis had a lesson last night and is iffy about baptism, but he is praying about an answer to see if this is the true church. Our youth fireside is this Sunday quickly followed by the departing missionary fireside where Elder Isla will be sharing his testimony before he goes home on Monday. Crazy, crazy. Love you all and hope all is well.
PS Sorry again I couldn't see you mom. Miss you and love you!
*Side note from Mom...I thought I'd include part of this letter he wrote to Mark.*
I hope one day I get the necessary skills to be such an articulate letter writer, ha-ha.
Thanks Dad. I still look to my Arizona Mesa mission trainers as the ones who taught me how to be a missionary. I still feel like I didn't once get trained out here until Elder Martinez, which is why I loved being with him so much, and it also shows how important Arizona is. I have always noticed how much people value their missions and the experiences that it gave them. I have always wanted that from this mission. Being out a little bit longer, I have begun to learn that MY mission (it was OUR mission, but I had different things to learn there than the rest of the family) in Arizona was just as valuable as mine in Ogden. Granted, the difference I make will be greater here I am sure, and they are two completely different experiences, but 20 years from now I will value both my missions as the learning experiences that they were.
I don't know if I have made a huge difference in other missionaries’ lives, but I certainly hope so. I have wondered if that was my "job" out here, and maybe the Holy Ghost is communicating that to me through you as His way of confirming that. Regardless, I am happier than I have been in my whole mission even without big numbers. I don't know if big numbers will ever really be my thing, and it's disappointing to the natural man in me, but not to the man that I am trying to become. I will keep the faith and keep doing what you taught me. I am pretty lucky to have been raised by two people that value obedience to the Lord and His gospel as much as you and Mom do. I wouldn't be the missionary I am without having seen the way that you acted with your Arizona missionaries.
I'm always reminded that my example coupled with my words will cause many to come unto the Savior and receive His blessings. I guess that can apply to fellow missionaries. It's not what I expected, and it's a little/lot disappointing that I probably won't ever see those other kinds of results, but again I guess that's the natural man in me. Sometimes I forget I am not even halfway done with my mission though and still have so many experiences to create. You were more right than I can ever say about how the mission would have different trials than I'd expect, VERY different. But I know I will value them one day. Thanks for everything Dad (and Mom, I'll copy this to you). Keep working hard and inviting others to come unto Christ!