Wednesday, May 7, 2014

April 28, 2014, Brunswick

Brenda's baptism

Saturday evening. We drive to the church. The font is being filled by our valiant and cheery Ward Mission Leader, Carlos Ibarra. We spend our time laughing and joking with him as we watch the font being filled. Javier walks in. He tells us he has just got off work but he wants to be in the chapel. "Here in the church is the Spirit, is you guys, the Elders. Outside there is temptation, evil, and difficulty." What he says has a strong impact on me. We leave the care of the slowly-filling font in their hands to drive to South River to teach a lesson. It begins to gently rain outside. We are happy as we walk in the dusk and knock a white door looking for a woman we contacted on the street the day before. No one answers. We need to return to the chapel.

Brenda arrives in a white blouse and a skirt. She has made so much progress in the last 3 weeks and we are smiling with her. She is nervous but ready. Members of the church begin arriving. I dress myself in white. I have forgotten my tie, so I put on a used one, probably worn by a worthy Priesthood leader years ago. The baptism starts. We sing, we pray, we listen to a well-prepared talk by Brenda's dear friend and fellowshipper, Karla. Time. We step into the baptismal font. Brenda is baptized and is clean.

EVERYONE. It's a wonderful life.

This week has been one of the most spiritual weeks of my entire mission. We had zone conference on Wednesday and I wept like when I was a little child when it came to a close. It gave me strength and desire. I want to serve God for the rest of my life. President and Sister Jeppson sang their hit song (not really, it's just the song they sing to close every zone conference) to close it up and Sister Jeppson began crying and couldn't finish but President just kept singing his harmony as he stared at her with the biggest loving smile on his face. I was a wreck during the song as well as into the closing prayer. I felt the most intense spirit of power, unity, and love. Another testimony to me that we are supposed to spend time and grow with one another. God lives. Even if others say he doesn't, truth it truth. He lives.


I put too much ceviche on my tostada. It broke in half and exploded.
Brenda after passing her baptismal interview
Language study in the park
Elder Bennett attempting to play the guitar 
Elder Bennett and I cruising

April 21, 2014, East Brunswick


Yes, Elder L. Tom Perry is in the mission RIGHT NOW. So in 15 minutes, we're driving to Morristown to see him. It's the second Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ that I will be seeing on my mission. I never would have thought. I have been studying up on him recently, you know, reading his profile on and whatnot so I'm beyond excited.

This week was great, we taught a fair amount of lessons and went on 2 exchanges. Elder Perez and I listened to "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens and I wanted to die I was so happy. Also, we listened to songs from Son's of Provo (Yeah I know, I'm a nerd) and they were hilarious, especially because I actually GET IT now. 

Elder Bennett's Spanish is getting soooo gooooood and he's always so humble, asking me for advice and tips and he actually WANTS to role'play because he just UNDERSTANDS. I couldn't have asked for a better companion. This week we were role-playing for Eulogio, our new Mexican investigator, and obviously, his name is a little difficult to say say he said, "So Eulogio.......... just pretend that I said your name right, ok" and I busted up laughing and we had to restart. 

I'm still going strong. It's great how focused I've been, I actually really can't believe it. I thought I would be a trunky piece of garbage by this time. By trainer, Carson Storey (Grandpa Storey to Elder Bennett), who is home now, sent me an email that just said *Trumpet playing taps*. Made me a little depressed but I laughed too. 

I love you all. 
I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. John 11: 25-26


April 14, 2014, Brunswick

Week 2 is now over. Lots of miracles and work done. But there's so much more to be done, it can be frustrating sometimes.

We started out our week teaching Maria, out 16-year-old Guatemalan investigator. SHE IS AWESOME. She literally listens and does everything we throw at her so she's pretty golden. The funny thing is we met at her... Guess where? DUNKIN DONUTS. AGAAAAIIIN. I swear, we should just go into Dunkin Donuts at 6 pm every day and teach/contact. She happened to be there with her friend Sam and we invited them both to come and sit by us and chat with us (OBVIOUSLY our intention was to TEACH THEM) but Sam kind of felt awkward so she slinked away into the rainy evening. It's nice not having fear and being immune to the word "awkward" and everything that it entails. Because inviting someone to sit down in a Dunkin Donuts, pray, and listen to a message about Jesus Christ and Prophets is PROBABLY A LITTLE STRANGE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC BUT IT'S TOTALLY COOL AND NORMAL TO US. So Maria came and sat down next to us and listened as we taught her about the Restoration. This is the best part: As we stand up to leave she asked us if we were allowed to party. We said "define party" and she then INVITED US TO A RAVE NEXT WEEK AT A LOCAL STARLAND BALLROOM VENUE. We said SORRY NO. But she still loves us.

Later on we set Brenda with a baptismal date for the 27th of APRIL. Go Brenda! She's been reading, she came to church AGAIN this Sunday, and she's been TELLING people about her baptismal date, which is a HUGE sign that she's confident and happy about it.

Ate posole with tacos dorados for lunch yesterday with Hermana Puon, my favorite Primary President. PARENTS: We should make posole and tocos dorados for my homecoming. Call RITA, DAD, and have her invite her amigas over. I WILL PERSONALLY PAY THEM. Actually can you shoot me Rita's email?

Found a new investigator named Eulogio (EH-OOH-LO-HEE-OH) from Mexico! He's a BOSS. We contacted him several weeks ago and I felt dumb because I called him a set up an appointment and didn't even remember who he was. But we walked about an HOUR in the sun (not complaining, SPRING IS INCREDIBLE) and finally knocked on a larger house that we didn't really think was his. A younger tattooed up Mexican guy answered and let us right in. We entered the house which was filled with Catholic trinkets, shrines, baby Jesuses, Marys, and crosses, complete with brightly colored paint on the walls. He said some words that I've never really heard in my mission before. We said hello, introduced ourselves, and asked him how he was doing. He responded "Bien bien hermanos, aqui ESPERANDOLOS". That means "Good good, [I've been] waiting for you." We taught him about prayer and he was super kind and anxious to listen (by the way, the younger mexican guy was Eulogio's son) and learn. Eulogio is Catholic, has 6 kids, works as a cook at a restaurant and LOVES praying and talking about Christ. He's a great guy, hopefully we see some good progression with him.

Gotta run. The Church is true. Love youuuuuuus


Friday, April 25, 2014

April 7, 2014, East Brunswick

This is going to be quick because I have to sign up for classes!

-FIRST: GEMSTER. Thanks for your letter. I loved it.
-New companion. NEW MISSIONARY! Elder David Bennett from Cardston, Alberta Canada. He is a baby, barely 18 years old, and he's so ready to work and be diligent and talk to people. He's an example to me of who I need to be to finish out strong.
-I got stressed out on Thursday when we went to go grocery shopping because he wanted orange juice and that's EXPENSIVE, but I let him do it and now we're happy and chugging smoothies every morning. HIGH ROLLERS, I KNOW.
-Got contacted by a 16-year-old Guatemalan girl named MARIA who asked us if we knew a previous Elder that had served in this area, to which we responded YES. She told us to tell him "hi" and then we started talking about the missionaries and the gospel and if we could visit her again. All she said was "can I see your phone" "Uh sure... " I said. She punched her number in and told us to call her and that we could visit her on Thursday. We were STOKED. She is awesome and has sincere desires to learn, and it's GREAAAT teaching her because she loves using big words and complex sentences and we smile and nod and then deliver short, simple statements of truth that punch her in the face and shatter all intellectual capacity. She's going to progress, I can feel it.
-Not as much contacting this week. We got side swiped on Monday night so our car is not really supposed to be driven around right now. And then we had meetings all week long and weekly planning which takes 4 HOURS with new missionaries having to explain all your investigators, elss-actives, etc. But it was still a good week, we found a couple new awesome people and Elder Bennett's Spanish AND confidence is getting BOOSTED just in these first few days.
-WE INVITED BRENDA TO BE BAPTIZED AND SHE SAID YES. WE went in to the lesson having role-played the baptismal invite about 12 times and then, during the build-up, I looked at E. Bennett and gave him "the nod" and he invited her right there and then. She said YES and we were so happy. We left the lesson and Elder Bennett was saying 'THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE." The gospel changes lives, yours and mine.
-CONFERENCE WAS INCREDIBLE. I was stunned to receive so many messages about repentance, change, and authority, ESPECIALLY in the Priesthood session, which is practically always my favorite. I loved every talk from Henry B. Eyring, Elder Oaks' talk in the Priesthood session, Elder Holland's talk about "comfortable gods", and Elder Corbridge's talk in the Priesthood session. I teared up in E. Corbridge's talk, about Joseph Smith and the Restored gospel. 'Truth will always be opposed," he said when talking about J. Smith and Christ when both were preaching the gospel.



 36 And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and atell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.
 37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The aheavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.
 38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no aend to my works, neither to my words.
 39 For behold, this is my awork and my bglory—to bring to pass the cimmortality and deternal elife of man.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 31, 2014, East Brunswick

Infamous words of Ill Mitch, my favorite Russian rapper.

WEEK 6 just ended, and it was pretty good. We spent all day Wednesday doing WORK. We contacted tons of people, gave a blessing to a less-active, got taken out to dinner by an awesome member, who's recovering from a rough patch in his life. He's coming back to church, reading the scriptures, and loves being with us. Before, he would almost always refuse to come out and teach with us, but he looks forward to it now. ALSO, he is a boss soccer player (no surprise, all Hispanics are). He took us to a Mexican restaurant and I got their "special" quesadilla with spicy guacamole and fresh Mexican cheese.

Some of the other days we had to stay in because E. Wood was not feeling well, so not as much missionary work was done on those days, but overall our week was good. We have begun to establish some REALLY tight bonds with the members and they are sad that Elder Wood is leaving but I'm excited to get a new companion.

OHH YEEAAAHH! Great news everyone! I'm training again. My companion is either Hispanic, Samoan, or Canadian. We'll see how it goes. I'm so excited to train again, especially since I've grown and learned so much since I trained Elder Leon, Whitton, and Sailsbery in Plainfield. They are three amazing missionaries, and I KNOW that the new Elder will be incredible.

At the trainer's meeting on Saturday, Pres. Jeppson talked about setting expectations for your transfer and for being a trainer. 
Here are a few expectations:

1. We will follow the white handbook.
2. We will work as hard as we can every single day.
3. We will be best friends.

I learned an important lesson when I was out running with Elder Packer, who was the assistant at the time when I was a zone leader in Passaic. He told me that he had set a goal to not just be companions with every Elder he served with, but to reach a point where he could call every one of them his friend. I really love and respect him, so naturally I love his point of view. That's my goal and expectation for our companionship this next transfer.

I will be staying in East Brunswick. 

BRENDA and her daughter Brenda Jr. came to church yesterday! It was the best. They loved every minute too, even though Brenda thought it was a little long. Heh... well, she'll get used to it. HOWEVER, Brenda Jr. (11 years old) told Karla (the member that lives with them) that she wanted to go church with Karla, she didn't care if her Mom went or not, because she was going to be singing in the primary. YES! I love the church. It's the most amazing environment for families. Even if the church wasn't true, there are countless "good fruits" that stem directly from it and it's teachings, or the teachings of Christ. But GUESS WHAT?

I  T   I  S   T  R  U  E  .  

God is our loving Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And Joseph Smith saw them both.


Friday, March 28, 2014

March 24, 2013, Brunswick

Hna. Sevilla, Elvin, Andrea, Bishop, Daniela, Me at TEXAS Roadhouse for my birthday.


For whoso findeth me findeth life.      Proverbs 8:35

Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people i know are those who lose themselves in the service of others. By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.

-Gordon B. Hinckley

That is a quote from "Stand A Little Taller", a book by President Hinckley, with daily thoughts and scriptures. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.

This week was really great because we FOUND 3 brothers, ages 18-25, from Oaxaca that want to listen and learn. Omar, the 25-year-old, as really excited about us coming back and teaching them. We talked with them about the importance about 1 true church and how that church was restored by a prophet named Joseph Smith, an instrument in the hands of the Lord. We're gonna go see them on Wednesday, I'll let you know how it goes. 

ALSO, found Antonio again (from Honduras, has a ROUGH life) and Elder Wood and two other elders (I was at a meeting) taught him about the gospel. He's going to start weekly visits with us and wants to come to church. MIRACLE.

Went on an exchange on Friday AND Saturday. Friday I went to Perth Amboy again, but this time with Elder Mull. We worked HARD. I had a cool, somewhat ironic experience with one of the investigators in Perth Amboy named Chino. 

Chino is from Mexico, but was raised here in Jersey. He's bearded, drives a BMW, and is the most changed person I've ever met. He picked up E. Mull and I at the end of our night, around 8:30. I opened the back door of his car and was exposed to some bouncy rap music. I ducked my head into the car, sat down, and closed the door. I caught a glimpse of Chino's face in the rear-view mirror. He was wearing a long sleeve thermal shirt, leaned back casually in his seat, one hand on the wheel, Tupac's "My Town" blazing at a high level. And for some strange reason, I felt the Spirit really strong telling me that THIS was a good man. His heart was pure. He stuck his hand back and shook mine, cooly introduced himself, and jetted off into the traffic. As we drove he talked about the impact that music had on his life, that it made him feel more different than anything else. That night, we taught his friend Angel, and he acted as the fellowshipper, as the member present. He testified about the Restored gospel to Angel. He's not even a member, he's working on it, but MAN, I can't tell you how I felt just listening to this man bearing his testimony of Heavenly Father, and the Restored Gospel. I laid in bed that night and just PONDERED on how we can change through Christ. 

The next day, Elder Jester and I went on an exchange in his area (which is actually my area, just working in ENGLISH). We worked like monsters. It felt like pure therapy, especially because I've been feeling a little trapped recently with not being able to be out and work to our full potential, (E. Wood's health problems, etc). So we talked to literally EVERYONE that we could have, and I remember following every single prompting that came to me. THAT IS SUCCESS AS A MISSIONARY.

Then on Sunday, we visited ZELIA, a Brazilian recent convert. She's hilarious. 72-years-old and always smiling and hugging us. She LOVES the Book of Mormon and always gives us Vanilla ice cream when we visit her. She just barely got home from Brazil. I'm leaning PORTUGUESE with her, it's rad.

That's about it for this week. This morning Elder Aspinall and I JAMMED some folk music and and sang out guts out until another elder came in and told us that that was BURIED music, so we stopped.


ps - I actually wrote letters last week for the first time in about 7 months. TAN I wrote you one, but I  need more stamps (you know, those sketchy foreign ones?)

Elder Pacheco (my grandson) in my apartment
Mateando on P-Day mornings
Birthday picture (with a VANILLA BEAN, courtesy of E. Wood)
Me and Elder Wood
Me, Hermana Marsela, S. Schwendiman
Me lighting the candles on Sister Schwendiman's cake at our birthday party.
Hector Hernandez and I in his backyard. It's just a field and a forest. It's awesome.

March 17, 2014, Brunswick

Watch this video. It's the best. I am obsessed with the idea of sacrifice and consecration. 

Elder Nielsen, one of my best friends, is serving in Plainfield right now (YES MY OLD AREA!) and he came over to the Brunswick chapel for a training there for two days in a row. We had to go to pick up another missionary to be out companion for two days, while his companion was at the training. So I got to SEE Elder Nielsen again, which was phenomenal. THEN, the next morning, about 16 Elders from a few different zones got together and played basketball on the morning of day 2 of the Leadership training. It was the best. 

Anger and envy and jealously were all very evident on the court but they also all have pretty good sportsmanship. After, about 6 Elders came and showered at our apartment. I then decided to give Elder Nielsen one of the FAVORITE ties. It's the raddest tie ever that I got at a thrift store, and NORMALLY I'm super "codo" when it comes to giving things I love away but I decided to do it and NOW I want to give away all the things I love to people because it shows that you really care about them. Connor Oberst said "... if you love something, give it away." I'm basically just doing that with the gospel too. Man I love Elder Nielsen, he's the best.

We had a long week. My best friend Peruvian engineer, Samuel, dropped us because he simply just doesn't have enough interest. After he dropped us (Wednesday morning), we decided to go drown our sorrows in greasy Hondurean food so we went to our investigators restaurant called "El Catrachito" (The little Hondurean) and had some mad-good home-made baleadas (BEK you know what I'm talking about oooooohhhh). Thick homemade flour tortillas with egg, beans, cream, and cheese. Fresh made horchata to drink. 

We have been trying to focus on contacting this week but we mostly just ate a lot. We got a LOT of contacts down and I realized that I LOVE talking to people in the street. Elder Wood is really good at it, so it's easy because we're both always down to contact and talk to EVERYONE. Speaking of eating a lot, a member took us out to his family's restaurant in Jamesburg, a Peruvian place called "Don Pepe's". I had Lomo Saltado, the BEST. We taught a rad lesson about the Atonement to our member afterwards and he was weepy and gave a really powerful, sincere prayer.

I feel like my letters are boring now. Give me a break, I've been out 22 months. If you haven't heard everything by now, you haven't read all my letters. You all KNOW that I KNOW that Jesus is the Christ, and that God lives.


ps - Tanner I wanna write you today.
pps - Happy Saint Patty's day

ppps - more basketball and song-writing today. P DAY is the greatest.

Hector Rodriguez (from Columbia) at my birthday dinner at Olive Garden

Me and Lomo Saltado (Peruvian food)
Me punching myself at Paul's house (Dominican RM)
Elder Wood, Sterling Jones (YSA Branch), and me 
Sis. Jeppson pretending to be a pirate