Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 21, 2013, Passaic

Can someone send me Jaeho's email address? I really wanna talk with him.

Thanks so much for all your emails these past weeks, everyone. It's nice to hear what's going on in everyone's life.

This past week was another amazing week for our zone. We've been finding new people like crazy and striving to follow our zone goal of contacting 1 person after every single appointment. It's been really good, we've had lots of contact with everyone in the street these past few weeks. We found a lady from Veracruz, Mexico, who has talked to the missionaries in Passaic before but was really skeptical about what we teach and how we are "just another church". So we broke it down for her, explained how the gospel was lost and restored and how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is what she needs to be happier. After a little persuasion and long-suffering (D&C 121) she set up a return appointment with us for Thursday.

We had another awesome lesson with Edwin, our new 19-year-old Mexican investigator. We met at his house, and Hermano Bello actually was working, but it turned out to be such an incredible lesson. Elder Nielsen = spiritual giant. I have much to learn from him. We taught Edwin about the Restoration of the Gospel and explained Priesthood authority to him in the way that a child could understand (PMG). He loved it and told us that after the lesson he was questioning his Lutheran church. He said he felt "different" as if his "perceptive [had] changed". It was amazing. I love WATCHING the spirit change people and enlighten their minds, right before our eyes. 

This week really wasn't that exciting. We had about 130 people at church yesterday (insane for a BRANCH) so that was cool. Also sometimes we get to help take the tithing to the bank with Gus (Colombian, 1st counselor, coolest, slightly balding guy on the block), so that was fun. Also, Presidente Lazaro, the elders quorum President, gave me a pair of ostrich and crocodile cowboy boots. They are super rad but a little wide for my jeans to be tucked into them. I'll send you a photo soon.

(family): COOOOOOL that Greg Moffat is the new bishop. Let him know how much I love him and Steve Harper and Dan Daley. Man that's gonna be a powerhouse bishopric. Good luck to them all. Who is the new Elders quorum President?

Love and blessings to all. The gospel is true and we have been redeemed!


October 16, 2013, Passaic

NEWS: our mission got 22 baptisms last week. That's a record for us! Zone 3 contributed with 4 of those. I got to interview one of them, a sweet, 10-year-old girl, named Nikki, who's living with her aunt and uncle in the Fardale area (very green, very rich). I actually went on an exchange on Friday, so it was convenient that she needed to be interviewed for her baptism on Saturday. 

I was with Elder Page for the day, an 18-year-old, 1st transfer missionary from Centerville, UT. He's awesome, and he's gonna be an auto-mechanic. He's a bean pole, has lots of freckles, and light brown hair. Looks more like a lizard than I do, in fact. The exchange was wonderful, we drove into the depths of West Milford and Ringwood, NJ which reminds me of Lothlorien (or Sundance). It's really strange being away from the city for a short period of time, but it was beautiful up there with the leaves having changed. We taught several lessons and had a miracle lesson / encounter with a woman in her 50's named Michelle. She took care of her insane, 88-year-old mother, who is blind, and mostly deaf. When Michelle was SHOUTING at her, telling her that "church people" had come in to help out (cleaning the basement, people have no shame in asking you to do menial things), her mother said, "I don't need to pray, it's Friday. I don't pray on Fridays," with following phrases like "Tell them to go out and get a job!" with strings of curse words in between. Mouth like a sailor. Elder Page and I were dying of laughter.

On Sunday, we confirmed Richard de la Cruz a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Monday: we went to Paramus (had to get special permission from the assistants and sister Jeppson because EVERYONE has been leaving their respective areas for really absurd reasons, so Pres. Jeppson had to crack down and say NO MORE LEAVING your areas). We went the spectacular yet worldly Garden State Mall. That thing is MASSIVE, it's not even funny. I went to Macy's and bought a new suit. IT's the coolest suit ever, but I had to order the pants online. So I'll be able to wear it in a week or so.

Tuesday (yesterday) was transfers!! Here's the lowdown: 
-Elder Dahl left (sad). HOWEVER! He went to Paterson, which is in our zone, so I'm now Elder Dahl's zone leader. Fun. 
-Elder Braxten Nielsen, from Roosevelt, UT, is my new companion. He just came from serving 1 transfer as a zone leader in Newark. He is a cowboy, rides rodeo, loves roping, cowboy boots, and just being cool. We get along really well. I was actually his zone leader about 2 transfers ago, him being in Paterson. Pretty strange that we are companions, but man we are doing excellent and on the car ride home from transfers, we set a bunch of goals to better our zone and our companionship. It's going to be an amazing transfer.
-We lost the two companionships serving in Fardale. Bummer. The good news is we got two more companionships doubled-in to Paterson spanish and English, AND Elder Murray (my buddy from Perth Amboy) is Elder Dahl's companion, serving as a district leader. Our zone is STACKED.

You all know how much I love each and every one of you. More so, I love my Father in Heaven. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the CHURCH of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Missionary work is the work of the Almighty.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 7, 2013, Passaic

This week was memorable. 

On Monday, we had one of the most spiritually intense lessons I have had on my mission. We went to see our investigators, the Acosta family. Jose (father) and Sofie (wife) were just hanging out the living room when they let us in, Sofie cradling Alana (2) in her arms and singing a lullaby. 

We started to discuss and teach the importance of coming to church. We taught that for about 10 minutes as the lesson became focused on Sofie, who was obviously the more engaged of the two (but honestly they're both great listeners). Jose quickly jumped in and began talking about sins, and what people tell you do, the faith of your fathers, and family, which then lead into him beginning to weep in front of us as he spoke for about 45 minutes without stopping about his family, his feelings of exclusion, sin, past mistakes, the idea that God chooses the way for us and we can't change that, Jesus Christ, and more topics. We just let him speak his mind. It seemed like he had a lot on his chest. After sitting and listening for a while and striving to discern his needs, Elder Dahl simply pulled out the Book of Mormon, read Alma 36, and talked about repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And when Jose read a verse, even with his dyslexia, the spirit testified to all of us that what he was reading was true. We made bold promises, promises in the name of Christ, and we testified with all our hearts of the power of repentance and change and forgiveness. It felt like we were rebuking his doubts and fears and sorrow with the power of our words. The spirit was strong.

We walked out feeling like we had been working in a field for 8 hours, absolutely exhausted. But we felt great and talked about that lesson for the rest of the night.

Tuesday was zone meeting. We didn't have enough time to prepare it but it went surprisingly well. This month's theme is FAITH. I had this crazy idea to tear up an old shirt, write faith on it, put it on a pole, and wear my old army jacket I found at a less-active member's thrift store. So we did. Elder Dahl carried the banner and a real sword he had. He represented US, the saints, the Fighters of Faith. I wore a BK crown (which we actually gave them out to all the zone) and represented the government, or the world, of FEAR. Our goal is to find more people this month  to join us in this grand revolution of FAITH. It was funny, spiritual, and got everyone pumped. Viva la REVOLUCION de la FE!!!!!!!

ALSO, on a really lame note, I got sick for two days. Then Elder Dahl got sick the day after I recovered. Now everyone in the apartment is sick but me. I spent my time sleeping, eating home-made smoothies and oranges, and blowing my nose.

CONFERENCE was incredible. It's better than X-Mas. Who cares about material possessions, right? Honestly, it was a weekend of revelation, love, inspiration, and learning. I realized that I need to improve my studies, correct with loving kindness, teach my zone about Christ-like service, listen to the spirit, and many more things. I need to improve, is what it all comes down to. That's what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. BECOMING MORE PERFECT. I love knowing that we have a loving Heavenly Father woh cares for us and demands only the best from his imperfect children. And why does he require so much? He knows we can give it. He wants us to hold NOTHING back. I love the gospel and I love all of you.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

September 30, 2013, Passaic

I'm sick of trying to create clever names for my "subject". Bleh. I'm just going to jump right into my letter.

RICHARD GOT BAPTIZED YESTERDAY by Elder Dahl. I don't even remember if I've told you about him. Oh wait, yes I have. Anyway, he's 21, Dominican, dating Jenni Bello (19), an active member, prepping for her mission. Last week at District Conference, he cried like 4 times and KNEW he needed to be baptized. So he did and it was great. We techincally only taught him 2-3 times and the Paterson elders 2-3 times more, but he was taught everything again in about 1 week and a half. He told the Paterson elders during an appointment as they taught ALL the commandments. "Of course I'm going to live all the commandments. I'm just getting baptized no matter what happens." Super awesome. And when I walked into church yesterday, there was this amazing, electrifying feeling in the chapel. I saw Richard in a white shirt and tie sitting with his ENTIRE family. You could tell they were happy to be there. All 3 of this sisters cried at the baptism. OH and Andrea bore her testimony at the baptism, which made it 10x better and more spiritual.

Other than that, we had a really busy week: Another amazing mission leader council with a new focus on FAITH, LOTS of teaching appointments, creating baptismal program and asking a bunch of people to participate in it, giving the final combined priesthood/relief society class (and basically just doing a little sketch/fake role play that made everyone laugh), teaching Jason (investigator.. more info on him later), exchange with Elder Harris, the new assistant. He's awesome. He's from Delta, UT, and we listen to the same music. FINN - he listens to old school rap and then Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, etc. We get along really well and he's an amazing teacher.

The gospel is true. Being a missinary is the greatest opportunity I've ever had to grow and learn and CHANGE lives.


Last day in Plainfield

Passaic day of service—we just cut down bushes and cleaned up trash

September 23, 2013, Passaic

We had District Conference yesterday in the Paterson District. IT was a really good meeting, though some of the female speakers spoke for a REALLY long time, so the district Presidency kept their talks to 5 minutes each. President Jeppson got up there, stood with power and authority and said in a thunderous voice: "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God... and I'm a mormon. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." He is the human closest to God that I have met. 

After the conference, we went up to talk to Richard de la Cruz (21, Dominican), one of the Paterson Elders' investigators (though he attends church in Passaic). WE know him pretty well and he actually loves us. The reason why he attends in Passaic is because he got to know the church through his girlfriend, Jenni Bello (18), who is our member. She talked to him about the church little by little and tried pushing him to get baptized, but he quickly lost interest. So she decided to put the preaching on hold and just be an example and invite him to church every week. He had been coming 2-3 months consistently when he came up to us after a wedding last week and said he was seriously thinking about getting baptized. We were excited, to say the least. THEN, after the conference yesterday, he came up to us and told us that NOW he was ready and wanted to be baptized. So we set him right then and there to be baptized September 29th. Pretty amazing. EXPERIENCES LIKE THIS make your mission the most sacred and wonderful time of your life. The gospel changes lives.

Another cool story: Last night, E. Dahl, Diaz, Daniel, and I had the opportunity of having a part in one of the greatest gifts Christ gave us: the act of USING the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I haven't had a lesson like this one in a long time, so it was wonderful to show our love and help this man, named Jose. 
Jose is a member's boyfriend, from Puerto Rico. He is not a member, he's actually a former investigator who came to church a few times in the past. Needless to say, in the past month he found himself working too much and with negative influences which lead him to make some negative choices. He came to US finally, believing that we could help him get out of what was slowly destroying his life. We told him when we went to teach him last night, that it was Jesus Christ and His Atonement that would heal him, not us. The spirit guided the entire lesson as we praised him for his humility and desire to change, invited him to repent, and watched him cry and feel "Godly sorrow" right then and there. We left the appointment smiling, him too actually. I remarked to elders in the car, "One thing I loved about that was we SAW, first-hand, the gift of the Atonement on that man's face. We are in an eternal work, we are literally changing people's lives and helping them to USE the Atonement through personal repentance." Just amazing. This is why we are here.

OTher than that, everything is going SMOOTH. We love LIFE because we get to teach people how to make everything better. I love you all and I'm grateful for your membership, activity, and love for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


September 16, 2013, Passaic

Passaic Pasttimes

1. Coke or water pong.
2. Drink Pre-workout and lift a lot of weights (elder Dahl and Diaz exclusive)
3. Body waxing, in the apartment
4. Getting your eyebrows done at a salon (don't judge)
5. Uno! and Dominos (Dominican style)

Just a list of recent things. I failed to mention "the-constant-battle-between-elders-and-the-infamous-lunch-coma".

Anyway, we had an amazing week. We taught a LOT, saw all of our progressing investigators (miracle), and baptized Andrea yesterday. Here's the crazy miracle part of it:
We went to teach Andrea at the Garcia's house on Tuesday. We taught about faith in Christ, reading Alma 32:15-16, and committed her to the 22nd of September for baptism, as she was still feeling uneasy about her date. The whole family was there as well as her brother Juan, who is not a member, and isn't really "investigating" anymore. We went over again on Thursday. We watched Finding Faith in Christ, explained to her that she needed to take this step of faith and be baptized.
Elder Dahl: "Hermana, how do you feel about your baptismal date?"
Andrea: looks over nervously at Lupe (her sister) and sheepsihly says, "I feel like they already baptized me."

We were a little confused but then Lupe coaxed Andrea into telling us about a dream that she had on MONDAY night. She didn't want to tell us about it because Juan was there and she knew he would "judge" her for it, in a sense.. She told us that she woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't tell if she was awake or dreaming. HOWEVER, what she saw made me glad. She said she saw her and Elder Dahl and I all in white and we were baptizing her. I was holding her head and Elder Dahl was holding her arms. She said that she KNEW this was a sign from God and that she would not wait anymore. So we asked her when she wanted to be baptized and she replied that it did not matter anymore. So we we set her back with her original date for September 15, and boy did she get baptized. It was a really beautiful service with the entire Garcia family tearfully testifying of the Restored Gospel. Some days are just happy. I actually got to baptize her, which was even greater of a blessing.

Other updates:
-We saw MIguel again. He's quitting his job because his bosses are racist Japanese people (his words, not mine). Hopefully this opens up windows for him to go to church and commit more to the gospel.
-Hermano Navarro (old, African/Ecuadorian hermano) drives stick-shift like a madman, barreling through residential streets at 45 miles an hour. He's like 70-years-old, ex military, is sealed to his family but they're still in Ecuador, and loves God with a fiery passion. He picked our inv/less-actives: incredibly beautiful twin sisters from Panama and after seeing them he said he would pick them up every week "with anticipation!" HAH. THAT's how you work the system, if you've got attractive investigators.
-Giovanny Rosero (19-year-old Ecuadorian kid) is our best friend. He came out to teach 4 appointments with us for about 4 hours.  He works at a factory and is prepping for his mission. He's such a good example to me of enduring to the end. He is the provider for all his siblings and he stays stalwart in the gospel, reading his scriptures, praying, and taking his brothers and sisters to Church every week. We went to go teach an inactive mexican family and the father was yelling at their 2 dogs and 2 cats saying "Ay these animals never listen to you when you tell them to do stuff. HOW MANY TIMES MUST I TELL THEM!?" We were all busting up after the appointment saying "Hey man, they're dogs, they don't understand you." Haha. Elder Dahl and I feel like our spanish is boosted every time we spend time with Giovanny (cause he's only been here for 3 months, so he's got a gnarly accent).

I love the Lord. The gospel is the truest thing I'll ever know. GOD IS THE SOURCE OF TRUTH.