Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 25, 2013, Passaic

It's cold, in the 20's and 30's. The temperature just seemed to drop out of nowhere and now the streets are bare and it smells like exhaust on every corner. 

I'm NOT leaving Passaic. I'll stay for another transfer with E. Nielsen, which will be my 5th transfer here (in total about 7.5 months). That's a long time, but I wanted to stay so we can baptize Jasmin and her daughter Andrea. I'll tell you about them:

Jasmin just got here 2 weeks ago from D.F., Mexico. She is the daughter of Andrea Salas (recent convert) and we have been consistently teaching her since the week she arrived. She responds so well to the discussions, always has good questions and concerns but she's already ready to be baptized. She accepted the invitation in the first visit, but we confirmed it in the 2nd. She'll be baptized on December 8th with her daughter, Andrea, who is 9 years old. Before we even met her, she had read 530 pages of the Book of Mormon (there are around 650 pages in the Spanish Book of Mormon). She felt the spirit as she read and she knew it was true, THANKS to Hermana Guadalupe Garcia (Jasmin's aunt) who is a strong member and a dear friend of mine, who constantly spoke to her about the church and about how it was the most wonderful thing in her life. In a few years, I won't be surprised if the entire extended Garcia family is baptized. They are humble, Mexican people with an unbelievable ability to feel the spirit and recognize the need for spiritual growth.

We had the branch Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday night. We had a few investigators there, as well as less-actives, and TONS of active members. We make jokes around here that the head-count at activities is DOUBLE than that of normal sacrament meeting attendance: Hispanics love their parties. 
It was great fun though. Hermano Lazaro (looks like a Mexican bear) hired a mariachi band and I was in heaven. They played multiple old classic Rancheras (typical Mexican music). The band consisted of a singer that played the guitar, a bass player (HUGE, 6 string acoustic bass... I need to get one), and two trumpet players. IT was the raddest thing ever. DAD and CHRIS - remember how we used to always change the radio station to the Hispanic music station? Well... I am now in love with all that type of music. Make fun of me, if you dare. Anyway, the band played a song called "El Rey" that Elder Dahl and I learned to sing (I don't even remember how) and as the band was playing it, I was sitting in my chair singing LOUDLY with the band and bobbing my head, acting like a depressed Mexican drunk and all the members were howling with laughter. It was pretty great. All those songs are always from the eyes of some depressed guy singing about how his girlfriend just left him. Unrequited love. Where would we be in music without it?

The Acosta family came to church yesterday again and Jose had his LONG hair in a bun, trimmed up his beard, and was wearing slacks and dress shoes. He's such a cool guy. We found out the other day that he's a fist fighter, a pretty big, scary one too. 

Life is sweet in Passaic. I will stay here for Thanksgiving, the temple trip to Manhattan, Christmas, and New Years. It's going to be marvelous.

I love every last one of you and I miss you. The gospel is true.


ps - Bayley - you're on a mission and I couldn't be prouder. Love you tons.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013, Passaic, NJ

Hey everyone. This week was wonderful.

1. I'm probably getting released from being a zone leader in 2 weeks. Sad day, I will miss zone 3 and Passaic.

2. We taught Jo-Jo Acosta (14) about the power of God and trusting in him. He's a boxer, a really cool kid and he's really starting to trust us and enjoy the time when we come over and teach the family.

3. Saw Maria again this week: Maria has lots of family problems, fights all the time with her mother-in-law (who lives upstairs), has 5 kids, a husband with an alcohol addiction, and lots of desires to better her life. Her good friend is Hermana Bravo (who lives in the other elders' area) and she has SEEN a  huge difference in the 3 short years that the Bravo family has been in the church. 

4. We visited and taught the Ascencio family which consists of Tio Elias (Uncle Elias) and Angel (Elias' nephew). They are HILARIOUS. They're always trying to speak Spanish in a hard-core gringo accent saying things like "como estarrrrrr elderrrrrrrrressss?" Hah, also they call us REBELDERES (rebel elders). Angel is 18 and preparing to go on a mission. Elias is in his 40's, returned missionary. Great family, very strong testimonies.

5. We MOVED this week into a part of Clifton (we cover Clifton and Passaic). IT's a nice little 2 bedroom house (we live on the first floor). It has an amazing vibe to it and we hope to be getting some framed pictures of Christ to put on the walls. Elder Nielsen and I worked HARD this week, because time was taken out to move out and carry stuff from house to house. But turned out well.

6. Jason's dad came up to us the other day out of the blue and said "Hey I want to get baptized. But I want to study a little more with you first." AWESOME. Today is his birthday, and we're going to give him a card and set him with a date.

No time. Gotta run.

Christ lives, we are redeemed!


November 4, 2013, Passaic, NJ

"White tongues hang out, God is good."

This past week at Zone Conference I played the first religious song I've ever written. It actually ended up being a medley of that song (Untitled at the moment) with hymn 163 "Lord Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing" (favorite hymn, go listen to and sing it). I really like the way it turned out and I got lots of good feedback from Elders and Sisters, asking for lyrics, recordings, etc. I'm working on it. 2 weeks ago I laid down my first recording on the tapes the family sent me for Christmas last year. More to come. Some songs are religious, some are not. My goal is, by April, I want to have about 7-8 religious songs recorded, sent to Chris so he can digitize them and put them on CD's, and then distribute them before I'm gone. I realize the power of music like I never have before.

MORE on music: Sister Dunning (senior sister) and myself are in charge of the entire Christmas Fireside in Union City this year. I have been calling and texting like crazy, recruiting missionaries to sing, play, speak, and participate in the program this year. It will be on the 15th of December. 1) I work with our zone, 2) I need to work in my area and keep finding prepared people like the Acosta family (more on them later) and 3) now I have to organize a speech and music program for all the Hispanic members in our mission boundaries. It's going to be awesome. Elder Blanco, Elder Romrell, and I are going to be doing a trio spanish song with guitar and trumpet. We'll see how the composing goes for it. I'll keep you updated.

Anyway, let's move on to the Acosta family. I know I've talked about them before but I just wanted to discuss them a little more: THEY ALL came to church yesterday. One reason why I love church is because it's such a rich environment for revelation and establishing relationships. It can be stressful when you have a family of 6 that come, but it's so worth it when you work through your members and they strive to shepherd your investigators through classes and meetings. I loved watching Hermana Laluz (Dominican gospel principles teacher, returned missionary from 20 years ago) start to fellowship Sofia, talk to her about nursing (they're both studying and in the medical field), and embrace her warmly when the family left after church. ALSO, Jo-Jo is good friends with the Relief Society President's oldest son. They box together and hang out at school. Man, life is good. They loved church and we'll be helping them progress toward baptism in the coming weeks. We had an amazing lesson with them the other day as we read Enos and talked about the importance of praying correctly and striving to better our personal prayers; making them more heartfelt and sincere.

E. Nielsen and I set a goal to speak in spanish whenever we're not in the apartment and it's gone well, so far. It could be better, but we're striving to be more obedient, up our Spanish, and be better examples for the whole zone. We love zone 3.

Christ is our King and Savior. I watched a baptism in darkness the other day and it was still incredibly inspiring and spiritual. A whole family was baptized in one month (De la Cruz family!) and everyone, except for Richard, was baptized in darkness, meaning the light to the baptismal font was burned out. It turned out to be a cool metaphor to me. As those people were baptized, it seemed as if the font literally lit up, especially as they rose from the water. Richard baptized his little sister Sara yesterday and I was close to tears as they embraced in the water after she came up out of the water. The priesthood is real and it is GOD'S power.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

October 28, 2013, Passaic

Elder Townsend, new missionary

1. Tanner - write me man.

2. It's getting colder. I like it and I don't. I get moody when the weather
is changing drastically like this.

3. Family, how are you? Thanks for the email, Dad. Those pictures of you
and Jed mountain biking are AWESOME. Hey, also, I was wondering if for
X-Mas I could just a little something from each of your brother's and
sister's family. At least a photo of each person. Because I don't even
remember what some of them look like... Talk to them, and let me know. MOM,
you too. I wanna see if Marlo, Duane, and/or Bonnie have changed at all.

Alright let's kick into the letter now:

This past week was the baptism of the de la Cruz family. Here's their quick
As I I've told you: Richard got into the church because his GF Jennifer is
a strong member. He got baptized about a month ago. His family started
investigating shortly after and they all received witnesses by the power of
the Holy Ghost that this IS the true gospel of Jesus Christ and His
restored church. His mother, Jacqueline, and sister, Shantal, got baptized
in Paterson yesterday and we got to go see the baptism. Also, a
companionship of sisters in our zone baptized a 9-year-old Ecuadorian boy.
But anyway, it was really cool to see almost the entire family get
baptized. Elder Nielsen and I were having a short discussion about how the
gospel changes lives and how even when we teach people that don't get
baptized during the time that WE are teaching them, we've got to have the
faith that they will join the church later on. So, it was really cool,
because E. Nielsen was the first missionary to teach the de la Cruz family
and I got to teach Richard a couple of times and prepare him for baptism.
Lots of missionaries helped this family become members of the restored
Gospel of Christ.

Other marvelous note: I got to give Richard the priesthood yesterday, and
ordain him to the office of Priest. He's an amazing person.

The Acosta family is progressing little by little. They didn't come to
church yesterday because Sofie was sick, but they will be coming next week.
I learn so much from E. Nielsen as we teach them. He teaches with a power
that comes from his over-arching surge of sympathy, compassion, sincerity,
and love. I admire him and am trying to be like him. Last night, we read
part of the story of Enos with them and talked about how we can receive
answers for our prayers. Then, this morning, I was reading in 1 Nephi 15
(just started the Book of Mormon in Spanish again - 2nd time) and there's a
part where Nephi says to Laman and Lemuel:

"Have you inquired of the Lord? And they said unto me: We have not; for the
Lord maketh no such thing unto us. Behold, I said unto them: How is it that
you do not keep the commandments of the Lord? ... Do you not remember the
things which the Lord hath said? - If ye will ... ask me in faith,
believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments,
surely these things shall be made known unto you." ASK GOD. Ask Him about
everything. Give Him your questions, doubts, weaknesses. He'll answer.

I know the church is true. May God bless you all.


Shantal and Jaqueline's baptism