Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 24, 2013, Passaic, NJ

Dear Family and friends,

I think I'm getting sick. Total bummer. I have woken up the past few days with a cough, sore throat, and a constant head and stomach ache. I HATE being sick. It makes me super angry and I just wanna punch and kick stuff (sometimes I do but then it makes my head feel like someone is beating it with a Chinese gong and I have to stop). I think I got sick from going on an exchange with the Caldwell Elders. They have a super nice apartment with central AC and it was turned down to about 50 degrees (63 actually) and I was shivering during studies. Come on guys! I've been getting used to 90 degrees with high humidity and then I get thrown into that?? Other than that, everything is going pretty well. I'm obviously maintaining a high happiness level and continuing to work.

This week was pretty good but a little weird. Yesterday we got to work with Gus, the Colombian second counselor of the Passaic branch, in working with and sorting the tithing and I almost had a hard attack because I thought I threw somebody's check in the shredder. But I didn't so everything was alright. It was pretty hilarious how stressed I instantly got when I thought I did. 
We've been meeting with our investigator Jose Ramirez, a Dominican guy with a thin wispy beard on his cheeks and chin. He's the most studied person I've ever met when it comes to the Bible. He studies it for about 6 hours a day. The only problem is he creates all of his own religious and theological theories about God and the Bible, which really just confuses him. He wants to be baptized, but he refuses to go to the Gospel Principles class, and won't say whether he believes Joseph Smith was a Prophet or whether the Book of Mormon is true. He's been asking and asking, but we think he might lack a little sincerity. We love him and want him to progress so we're working very closely with him to see what he's willing to do. His baptismal date is next week, June 30th.

We went to the temple again on Friday. It was amazing; I feel like I received TONS of revelation. I love the temple because I feel, because of it, I am 100% committed to the gospel. I feel like it gave me a greater knowledge of MYSELF specifically, the reasons why I exist and what I must do to live the gospel to the best of my abilities. 

Spanish is coming along super great. I can't help but LOVE speaking Spanish all the time. This week, two different people asked me if I was from Mexico and Colombia. Awesome. Nothing like unintentional compliments to boost my confidence. We had an activity on Saturday night in the chapel where we watched some church videos and discussed them and then ate fruit and soda afterward. As the missionaries and the members were mingling, I was pretending to talk like a Dominican and Jose (our investigator) starting laughing and demanding that I do more impressions of accents. So I tried to do Peruvian, and Hno Cruz (a short little Peruvian man) came up to me and started laughing so hard he was almost crying, and then I did Colombian, and then they wanted to hear a Southern American accent (Lydia, I NEEDED you there). I got like 3-4 people to be totally busting up. It was hilarious.

Did anyone else see that "Work of Salvation" leadership broadcast last night? AMAZING. I am constantly astounded with the church's media productions. The gospel is true. Jesus Christ is our Savior.


Kent: When do you leave again? Tell me when you go through the temple.
Tanner: HOw do you FEEEEEEL? Gaaah man I can't believe you're leaving so soon.
Chris: What have you been up to?? I'll try and write you a quick letter today. Sorry it's been so loooong. (But you're not KING.... not yet...)
Bayley: mission call?????
Parents: wow, Dad, I think this is the first week in my entire mission that I have't got an email from you. Love you. MOM: how is everything going? I saw awesome photos of you guys camping a while ago. Looked awesome. Love you tons.
BEKAH: SOrrry it's been so long since I've written you. I've been swamped... You're my favorite I'll writ eyou sooooooon.
Jaezo: are you leaving soon? Email me, brobro.

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013, Passaic, NJ


*The Dominican word for 'bus" is "wawa", which is what we'll be taking on Friday to get to the temple.*

Good morning everyone. This past week was probably the longest in my mission. I got called to be a zone leader, transferred to Passaic, got a new companion, Elder Dahl (looks like a little blonde Danish child, talks like a 22-year-old Tom Waits), from Phoenix Arizona, had to do a bunch of paper work (that's all zone leading IS), and met with several families in the ward. Life is fast paced and brilliant, like yellow fireworks. 

Passaic is a city just off the Passaic river (which smells like feces all the time) and is about a 15 minute drive from my first area (Kearny/North Newark). The streets are crawling with dark skinned Poblanos and Dominicans. It feels like I'm in another country here. There are always kids out in the streets with their rusty bikes, torn polos, and ratty curly hair, loud Ranchera and Bachata music on every corner (yard parties every weekend), and lots of broken beer bottles everywhere. We live in a nice apartment on the second floor, with wood flooring, lots of windows, and not enough air conditioning. 

My companion is Elder S. Dahl, from Phoenix, Arizona. He has been out for about 17 months and is training me to be a zone leader. We get along incredibly well, which is a relief and a huge blessing. He's a baseball pitcher, wants to be a fishing and game warden, and is definitely more shy and reserved than me BUT he's a total goof. We live with 2 other Elders that serve in the Passaic branch as well. ALSO, there are two sisters in the Passaic branch. Almost all the missionaries in the branch right now are more quiet and reserved so I was confused when I got there and everything was just kind of mellow, as far as the relationships missionaries have with members. I basically just went crazy trying to get to know everyone and telling everyone how happy I was to be there (it didn't help that Elder Dahl gave me some gross, rootbeer flavored, probably cancer causing, energy drink before members started arriving at the building). The branch President is named President Sanchez, from Colombia. He's amazing. While giving announcements, he make known to the members that we, as the missionaries, were not here to do missionary work. He very clearly said that we were here to help the members with their missionary work. They are the missionaries. That was awesome and amazing. The ward mission leader here is named Ramon Contreras, a Dominican brother, and he does everything he's supposed to, which was a massive shock. The branch is incredible, but the work is a little slow. Our zone is a slower zone, partly because we have so many sisters training right now. But it's going good. I had a great first week in Passaic and I am so happy for the direction that the work is going to go.

We went to leadership training this week to give a training on the role of prayer in conversion. It went pretty well, in my opinion. Elder Dahl gets super nervous when he has to talk in front of people.  We were training about 100 missionaries and I look over at him while giving a Preach my Gospel quote, and he's all sweaty, with his eyes darting back and forth. Man I love him so much. When Elder Koelliker came, he said that if we had kneeling prayers at the end of every lesson, and our investigators prayed with "real intent", our baptisms would triple. Quite a promise, right? So we committed everyone to do that. I learned a ton from all the different trainings from all the new zone leaders and I took a bunch of notes. It was really weird to be on the upper end of things, as in, I was one of the older missionaries, giving trainings and mediating in the role-plays and whatnot. I even had to stand up with the group that had been out "longer than a year". Geez that was a slap in the face. President Jeppson's trainings were amazing as well. Jesus Christ loves us as missionaries and this is truly his work.

Funny story: visited a mexican family named the Bellos family. We had just eaten like 20 minutes before and we get there and she serrves us up good mexican food from Puebla right as we get there. I ate and ate and wanted to die, so I took the Mexican meatloaf type of stuff, discreetly wrapped it in some napkins, and stuffed it into my pocket. Elder Dahl totally saw and started busting up laughing. Then I went to the bathroom because it was starting to put a grease stain on my pants, so I stuffed it into the bottom of the garbage can. Embarrassing, but man I wanted to explode, I had eaten so much food that night.
Cool story; On Thursday, we were sitting in weekly planning, and we said out of the blue: "Let's find a family today". So we go out to work and a less active member gives us a referral. We go see the referral after we teach her and BOOM. A family of 3 ready to hear the gospel. 

The Lord answers prayers, feels our desires, and gives us what is needed in the moment. I love the Lord


Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013, Plainfield

So many things to tell . . . 

Man this last week of the transfer was, as usual, totally nuts. We called and set up too many appointments this weekend so we were constantly busy, going on splits, teaching investigators, teaching English class, memorizing scriptures and participating heavily in transfer gossip (I blame primarily myself for that last one). Elder Leon got a call to follow-up train Elder Whitton, who is still waiting on his visa to go to Peru and will probably stay one more transfer. Elder Leon is the man, and he'll do a wonderful job follow-up training Elder Whitton. I mean, he's been his companion for the past 6 weeks so they already know how to work together.

Also I GOT A CALL. President Jeppson talked to me right after he spoke with Elder Leon (which is weird because leadership position calls, other than trainer, usually come Sunday evening) and briefly asked me if I would serve as Zone Leader. I said I would be delighted. So I am getting transferred and moved to a new area. I've narrowed it down to Pasaic, West New York, or an unknown new ZL area. Should be fun.

This week, we taught Bryan and Jasmine again. We have continually tried to set up appointments with their dad but he keeps bailing on us. Ugh frustrating. We're just going to keep praying and hoping that this man's heart is softened by the Spirit. COOL MIRACLE: we found out that our recently returning less active member Jhonny is good friends with Bryan's dad and Jhonny's girlfriend, Adriana is his Bryan's dad's cousin. So we will work with that. I know the Elders that stay here will work wonders with the resources that they have. Carmen, our 67-year-old Cuban is progressing NOW. More on her later. This week, we spent a lot of time visiting members, teaching them about the doctrine of Christ, strengthening their faith, and asking for referrals. They're been pretty cool to us lately. I got money yesterday from some members because they found out I was leaving. Angry. 

We have barely had time to see the Manzano Family, but we're stopping by tonight to say goodbye to all of them. I am going to miss them so much. I love every single one of them and everything about their bright, divine characteristics. Christopher, Anthony, Saliza, Oswaldo, Guillermina: they are my family and it's been absolutely incredible to see them come closer and closer to Christ in the short time that I have been here. ALSO, Louis (investigator: baptist, husband of a less active Guatemalan woman) accepted a baptismal invite yesterday (but not a date) due to Elder Whitton's strong sense of Louis' needs. I literally just sat back and let Elders Leon and Whitton teach the lesson. It was powerful and to me, a manifestation of God's eternal love and ability to prepare people when they are ready. After we extended the baptismal invite Louis shyly looked over at Beverly (wife) and softly asked, poised deep in thought, "I don't know... what do you think?" She smiled and smiled and smiled and nodded her head but then said "I don't know/ They asked YOU the question.." He laughed and accepted because he KNOWS it will strengthen his marriage and his family. Being a missionary is like LIVING under God's magnifying glass: you see things every day that grab your attention so much more than if you would have been living above it. That was cheeeseball. But true... moving on.

We had a stressful, hungry Sunday yesterday. We fasted without thinking about it (oh the perks of being in a walking area and not being able to go home after church for lunch because you live TOO FAR AWAY), spent all of companion study preparing for our Branch Family Home evening, argued a little about how to execute the ideas we had (Restoration puzzles, egg and fire demonstrations), and finally ended the night meeting a new investigator who would ask the gnarliest questions and change the topic of the conversation literally every other sentence. Finally we just testified, gave him a pamphlet and set up an appointment for the sisters that will be arriving in Plainfield tomorrow 9we had to split the area last week). But the Family Home evening turned out to be a huge success. Carmen came and was beaming the entire time. All the members love her so much. After the program, we were all sitting around eating arroz con leche (basically Peruvian rice pudding with cinnamon), and Carmen called me over. I jogged over to her seat, knelt down next to her and said "What's up?" She peered at me over her glasses and wisely smiling through her crooked teeth said, "I'm gonna get baptized." I was so so so so so happy. She said she knew it was right, she had had a dream, and she was always so happy with the members and coming to church.

I love you all. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior. I testify of the truthfulness of this gospel and the ability it has to touch and bless the lives of all humans; sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven. I know it's true. It brings out families closer together. It softens the hearts of the wicked and brings the sad to a higher level of joy through comprehension of Jesus Christ, our eternal Redeemer. 
Love you all.


ps - I hate packing.

June 3, 2013, Plainfield

Spam and Eggs

Can't think... I spent the last 30 minutes looking at old photos because some other Elders wanted to see pictures of the family. So I searched through all the messages I've received in the past year from Dad, through all the photos he sent me. Fortunately there's one of every member of the family.

So there are a few items of business to discuss:

1. Elder Sailsbery got his visa and left to Peru 3 weeks ago. So WE (Elders Leon, Whitton, and I) have been in a trio for the past 3 weeks. It's been good. We got 31 lessons last week so the work is going smoothly, apart from a couple things.
2. I think I might be leaving Plainfield next transfer (1 week). But we'll see what happens. Life in Plainfield has consistently been amazing for the 3 months that I've been here. All the people I've met have become some of my best friends ever. 
3. Our less-active member Jose Mercado (chunky Salvadorian guy that speaks the messiest Spanglish ever) has been giving us tons of rides lately AND taking us out to eat. On Saturday he took us to his "tia's" house (aunt) to eat pupusas. Oh mah goodness. The best pupusas I've ever had. This lady, Maria, cooks straight out of her kitchen and sells pupsuas, quesadillas, tacos, and other incredible Salvodorian food on Saturdays and Sundays. We went and it's just a little kitchen and a huge table in the dining room where people come and eat and she's just constantly cooking, chatting in Spanish, and wiping her sweaty children's faces with her apron corner. It's a wonderful, HOT home. AND there's unlimited drinks. You can just keep ordering and she just keeps throwing food in the pan and serving up old bottled Coca Cola. It's amazing. 
4. We also stopped at a thrift store while waiting for Jose to pick us up and they were having a sale on records so I bought 6 records; including Lizst, Schubert, and then Frank Sinatra, West Side Story, and Bryan Adams. (MOM! Bryan Adams totally reminds me of you.. remember how you had that greatest hits CD that I listened to like a thousand times when I was little with "Cuts Like A Knife", "Straight From The Heart", and "Summer of '69"?)

Anyway, those last two weren't really items of business, but it was something fun that happened.

Bryan and Jasmine were doing so goood... and then they asked their parents for permission to get baptized and they said NO. I was super bummed because Bryan wants it really bad. He has told us multiple times that he knows he needs to be baptized and that through prayer and study since we've been coming over, (about a month and a half), he's learned more than he has in his entire life, and I quote... "Before when I was baptized Catholic and stuff i didn't even care about religion and God and stuff, but now I see how important it is. Like, our salvation depends on it." He's the man. He says he's going to have to wait until he turns 18 (about 20 months) and we silently said NO. There has to be another way. So we're going to start meeting with his parents separately (they're divorced) and really hope the spirit touches them. I love Bryan and Jasmine like my brother and sister. I KNOW they'll be baptized but I also know that Lucifer is going to work on them. I pray that future missionaries will keep up with them and continue to testify to them of the doctrine of Christ.

Oh man. I was just thinking about the lovely fact that NOW all my friends are starting to go on missions.
(old) Tucker Sanders: West Virginia
Me: Jersey
Lydia: Mississippi
Bekah: Honduras
Gemma: California
Tanner: Chile
Jaezo: California
Kent: Michigan

I love missionary work. I was studying the other in Hebrews 11 the other day about faith. Man I think I wept like a babe when I read the scriptures relating to Abraham and Adam and Abel and Enoch. It talks about how through their faith, the Lord kept that particular covenant of OBEDIENCE to them. "These all died in faith, not having received the apromises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were bstrangers and pilgrims on the earth.     "  
I love that scripture. 

It makes me think of the Thrice song "In Exile" which is probably not missionary appropriate (good thing I'm not listening to it) and how it talks about all of us being exiled here on earth, how we must pass through this journey, and how we WILL make it home, where we belong with our loving Father in Heaven.

I realize that my emails have been lacking in spirituality lately. So there you go. Jesus Christ lives. God is our Eternal Father. LISTEN to the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord's work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.