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.


EC


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


NOTIMEASUSUALBECAUSEWEREGOINGTOSEEANAPOSTLE

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 lds.org 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

EC

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


EC

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.
-Still not warm. I want SUNSHINE. "AIN'T NO SUNSHINE WHEN SHE'S GONE"
-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.

THIS IS CHRIST'S CHURCH AND HIS WORK.

EC

 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.

EC 


Friday, March 28, 2014

March 24, 2013, Brunswick

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

LOSE YOURSELF IN SERVICE

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.

EC


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.

EC

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

Monday, March 10, 2014

10 March 2014, Brunswick


Let's just go with numerical list this week:

1. District Meeting last week was AWESOME. I created a HUGE Book of Mormon out of poster board and everyone took turns writing their testimonies and signing it in Spanglish (whatever they could). It was pretty spiritual and we focused on having a testimony of the Book of Mormon and using it to contact people on the streets.

2. Had zone meeting. Our monthly focus is a continued focus on the Book of Mormon with a switch to TALKING TO EVERYONE and contacting. So we did a lot of practicing, which was rad, but the BEST part was in the middle of our role-play, a sister who was cleaning the chapel came and asked us for a blessing. So our group (3 elders, 1 sister) went out into the chapel where it was tranquil and gave her a blessing in the middle of zone meeting. The spirit in a chapel, when it is quiet and almost empty, is indescribable. She was having problems with her asthma, so Elder Wood blessed her to heal and for her breathing to be calmed. It almost immediately was.

3. We contacted this incredible Guatemalan guy in a Dunkin Donuts in South River. He came in for a coffee after work, at about 4:30. Part of our new zone goal is to ALWAYS have a Book of Mormon in hand, and as I was in the bathroom, this man (Carlos) sat down at a nearby table and sipped his coffee and drummed his fingers on the tabletop. He looked over at Elder Wood, saw the Book of Mormon on the and said something like, in a heavy Hispanic accent, "The Book of Mormon, I have seen that book before." Elder Wood began a conversation with him and as I came out of the bathroom shaking my hands to dry (all bathrooms in NJ are ALWAYS out of paper towels) he addressed me and started asking questions about what we do as missionaries. We then sat down and taught him about the Restoration of the Gospel for about 30 minutes. He was fascinated, then curious, which curiosity and fascination turned into a real desire to know what we were teaching him. We're planning a dinner with a family so we can teach him at a member's house. Carlos is one of the most sincere people I've met.

4. Taught 27 lessons this week. We worked our tails off this past week. 

5. Found some cool doctrine in the Book of Mormon the other day in Alma 12 (I can't believe I used to think that the Book of Mormon wasn't that deep or thought provoking.. paahhhh): In verse 31, it reads, "... they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good..." We, as humans, are beings that have the power and disposition to act upon other forces. It's because of the Fall that we have that power to a certain extent. Before the fall, Adam and Eve's power to act was not as strong. But because they chose to eat of the fruit their spiritual eyes were opened and they became "as the gods". It's cool to know that we are VERY similar to our Heavenly Father and we have the power to choose and act. That's a God-like gift, and it's the most important thing he's given us. AGENCY. It's everything, along with our faith. FAITH brings POWER.

6. I have to start sending some small things home from here on out. I don't want my suitcases to be HUUUUGGEEE so I'll just have to send a couple of extra boxes home. Then I won't have to be running around screaming the day before I'm gone trying to figure out what to do with all the junk I have (it's really not that bad).

That's about it for this week. Thank Natalie and Dad for the pictures this past week. I loved seeing the family and Nad's friends in New York. THEY'RE SO CLOOOOSSEE.

God lives.


EC

Friday, March 7, 2014

3 March 2014, East Brunswick

Me and Elder Woods' first day as companions, Short Hills, NJ at Transfer conference

We found the COOLEST investigator last week that came to church yesterday. His name is Samuel. he is from Peru. He was an engineer in this country but now he rides his bike every day to the Costco warehouse where he works with packaging and shipping with a lot of other Hispanic men. The first lesson we had with him we could barely understand him because his vocabulary is dizzying. But on Wednesday morning the Spirit helped us understand what his real desires and worries are. We taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it is NECESSARY for us to return to live with Heavenly Father. He readily accepted a baptismal date. He happily came to church yesterday, showered and ready to go at 11 am, wearing his nicest shirt and shoes.

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HEAVENLY FATHER NEEDS. I've had so many conversations with missionaries about the PEOPLE that God wants us to find. They are those that are WILLING to accept and act on the truths that we share with them. They are those that you grow to love in sucha  short time because of their humility.

 I had to give a training the other day in Morristown to all of the brand-new district leaders in the mission, and I trained on effective meetings. I felt the spirit as I realized that the best way to know that revelation is being received by those you are teaching is if their is a flow of comments and feedback from your listeners. For anyone that's a teacher, I'm sure you understood that as of 20 years ago, but for me it was revelation from on high, and I was grateful to understand that. There was a lot of commentary going on in my training and I was happy and content with it. I LOVE TRAINING.

Thanks for all the feedback from friends and family this past week. I feel so blessed to have a small crowd of faithful friends and family that continue to be in contact with me. I can't express enough gratitude.

Missionary work is the most amazing work on the planet. There is lots of work to be done this week in Parlin, South River, East Brunswick, Sayreville, Jamesburg, etc. 

God lives.


EC


Jose Mercado in Jamesburg
Elder Bellevance, Elder Wood, and me, visiting Silvia Rosero's sick mother, Carmen

Me and Hector Rodriguez from Columbia
Me and Silvia Rosero in the hospital elevator
L to R: Elder Wood, Elder 
Elder Guijarro, Hermana Haddock, Hermana Schwendimann, Me, Elder Aspinall



10 February 2014, East Brunswick

Purification Fast = a fast from everything mundane, worldly, and of the natural man. That's what I've been doing this past week. It will last for 40 days and I already feel more constructive, more spiritual, and just happier in general. 

We miraculously found 2 less-active members that are not even on the ward list here in Brunswick. We went to go teach a recently re-activated member named Hermana Perdomo, but when we were talking to her on the found, she told us to come visit her at her niece's house, who lives just down the street from her, (in South River). So we went over, met her niece, Heidy, (a blonde Hondurian girl) and her niece's husband, Jensen. After chatting with Hermana Perdomo for a few minutes, we turned the discussion towards them, and Jensen began asking us about a hundred thousand questions so we taught them the Restoration of the gospel. Then in the middle of the lesson, Heidy turns to us and says that she remembered that she was baptized when she was 10 in Honduras, in a Mormon church. So that was cool. After the discussion they invited us to eat with them, which we gladly did, and then exchanged numbers so we could set up a time to see them again. They are really interested in the message and we've going to teach them again soon.

Another miracle story: Elder Wood and I were in a member's taxi, as he was giving us a lift to our appointment, and he told us that he had to pick up someone else to take them somewhere. We said that that was fine, so he picked up this young Dominican lady who was going to do her laundry. Elder Wood started chatting with her and asked if she knew anything about the church or missionaries. She said YEAH and then told us that she was baptized in New York 5 years ago. Whhhhaaaaaaaaaa????? Cool. So we set up an appointment with her and we plan on seeing her this week. Her name is Kelly, and she told us her husband is NOT a member, and we found out neither is her sister who lives with her. MORE PEOPLE TO TEACH.

Got your emails, Mom and Dad, thanks. But parents, I literally have no idea how to notarize anything. I might need help on that and ALSO, on one of the papers, it asks for my license #. I don't have that  because my license was LOST. Duh. Love you guys though and I really appreciate all your help.

This week, other than the typical, life-changing experiences, was pretty normal, and a little slow. Mostly because we had to spend one entire day driving and in pharmacies, getting medication for Elder Wood. So I was a little frustrated, but all is well, I learned something about myself. The only times I REALLY get anxious and frustrated is when we don't spend as much time as we can doing missionary work, or when outside thing impede us from working hard. It's the worst. 

Transfers are next week. I think things are gonna be changed up but we'll see. Elder Wood has been here for about 6 months so he's probably going to go. 

Spanish is going great. I still wish I was Mexican. Can you wait until there's a mustache above my lip? Me neither.

Love to all.


EC

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

4 February 2014, East Brunswick

Ritzy East Brunswick

My area is rich and white. Of the 8 cities we cover, the only city that has a larger Hispanic population is called South River, which is where most of our work is done. All of the contacting, knocking, and teaching is done there, because it's filled with Mexicans from Oaxaca and Ecuadorians from Quito.

This past week was filled with more visits to the hospital to be with Hermana Rosero and her mother Carmen. We actually had a really good lesson on prayer with Hermana Rosero's daughter, Maria, who is 23 and applying to go to Rutger's University this fall. We stopped by the hospital and she was there working on applications. So we sat in with her and watched Carmen sleep, as we talked about school, life, future, etc. Eventually we brought in church and religion and testified of the Church, invited her to come and committed her to pray every night. It's so easy to discern whether people are actually invested in their belief in God or not and so it was incredible to see Maria change a little, just in that short discussion we had on prayer. ANNNND we followed up today and she happily said she's been praying every night. She'll be baptized in no time.

We had a great lesson on Wednesday night (after frantically making calls for an hour to find an hermano to come out with us because our original guy bailed on us) with Karla (from Puebla, Mexico - MY PEOPLE!), who is a recently returning less-active member. We also taught her friend, Brenda, the mother of the family that lives with Karla, and the lesson was filled with teaching and testifying about the gospel and the way it specifically blesses us. Karla supported our teaching with a testimony about the Plan of Salvation and how when God took her father from her, she had to remember who she loved more: her Heavenly Father or her earthly father? Brenda is now investigating and we are going to start teaching her husband and family as well.

ALSO, Jose Mercado drove down from Plainfield and took us out to Maria's Taqueria in Jamesburg. Spectacular Mexican food down there. I ordered carne enchilada with rice and beans and fresh lettuce and avocados, with a cold Cola on the side. It was so good to see Jose and he was better than when I saw him last. He said he goes to church 2-3 times every month (which is considered active) and he is working on receiving a calling right now. 

The gospel is real. It's not some made-up story, some fabricated idea of man. It's the way we get back to Heavenly Father and I know it's true.

EC


ps - I'll say it again : ALL MY FRIENDS ARE MISSIONARIES.

Monday, January 27, 2014

27 January 2014, East Brunswick, NJ

Bring your buckets by the dozens, bring your nieces and your cousins...

This week we went to hospital 4 days consecutively. The mother of our member (Silvia Rosero, from Ecuador) just barely came to the States from Ecuador, and as she was coming over, the plane ride caused her to have several serious health conditions (on top of the fact that she already was a little sick, AND is 84-years-old). Poor Silvia. We went to the hospital every day from Tuesday to Friday, starting off visiting her in general medical on day one. We gave her a blessing of healing, promising her that she would feel better the next day. Silvia texted us the next day saying her condition had worsened and she was moved to the ICU (BY THE WAY, all 4 days I was having these insanely vivid flashbacks of feeling like I lived in the hospital when Mom was in UVRMC. It was strange yet comforting being there). So we went up to visit her and she said she felt better, but there were more problems and more tests to be done to determine what her condition was. We just stayed and talked with her, (let HER talk to us) until she fell asleep. Elder Wood and I both felt that we should be there mostly just to be a support for Silvia. We continued to visit them until the weekend when Carmen (mother) started doing a better and remembering more things. I learned a couple of things from these experiences:
1. The priesthood is real and it has the power to bring people to investigate the true gospel and eventually join it. We are praying for Carmen, who's heart was really hard before we gave her the first blessing.
2. The spirit in the ICU is incredibly intense. There are lots of tears and pain, which makes it an emotional place, but I think it's because so many of those people are being kept alive with machines and medicine. The veil feels thin, as if God is just waiting for some of those people to come back to Him.

Other than our hospital experiences, the week was slower, but still a good one. I spent some considerable time pondering repentance and the importance of it in our mundane lives. I've been really trying to internalize it, understand it, and use it every single day to feel purer and cleaner before Heavenly Father. I've noticed that I have had several spiritual experiences where I really LOOK FORWARD to my nightly prayers, that personal time I get to spend with Him, where I can throw down my fears and sins on the table, where we can "reason together". Through personal purification, I think I've become a more sober-minded person, but still completely me, still loud and obnoxious and always making jokes. It's strange. I feel like my Father (though I don't have piercing blue eyes) in the sense that I've realized the seriousness power of our message. It's not something to joke about. "Missionary work is hard because S A L V A T I O N  I S  N O T  C H E A P . "

May God bless every one of you in your endeavors to serve Him.


EC

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

21 January 2014, East Brunswick, NJ

 HEY Mom, Dad, Natalie, Kai, Finn, Lars, Grandma, Grandpa, ALL UNCLES AND AUNTS ON MOM's and DAD's side, Lydia, Chris, Bayley, Tanner, Bekah, Hayley, Jaezo, Kent, and EVERYONE ELSE I love.

Here are a few of my thoughts about Christ and the Atonement:

Christ was chosen to suffer for us, not because God loved Him more than he loved us, but because that was His calling. I carry a different calling, but Heavenly Father still loves me dearly, enough that the price was paid for me, and God, in the very moment of Christ's greatest pain, chose not to reach out his hand and help Him. That requires more love than I can comprehend. I understand and believe whole-heartedly that the Atonement of Jesus Christ does not just cover my sins, pains, tribulations, weaknesses, misunderstandings, and temptations, but I think it also encompasses the good things we experience. That Atonement is EVERYTHING, and it represents everything good in this life. There's a quote I love from a recent Mormon Message, given by Elder Christofferson: "Maybe the greater blessing for us is to have to walk through it with Him." He's talking about trials and when he said this the first thing I thought of was having to walk WITH Him in the garden, having to walk WITH Him to where he was being crucified. Maybe the greatest blessing we can have is to have to experience the Atonement for ourselves and understand the pain that Christ was feeling.

I'm a happy man. I've changed a lot and I've lived in New Jersey for more than 20 months, which is insane (EAST COAST!), and I wake up every day around 6 to an alarm to go outside and run in the winter morning. That's how every day starts. I was talking to President Jeppson yesterday and he was telling me that WHEN he felt that his son changed on his mission is when he stopped writing about all the trivial THINGS he was doing, and started writing about HOW he was doing things and his understanding of WHY he was doing things. This work is all about our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Yesterday, I wrote a new song and it's called Blue Room (LYDIA THINK ABOUT IT) and it's nice. I feel like my P-days are being cut down shorter and shorter every week and when they're over, I'm stressed and I just want to get back to work. 

My district meeting is going to be rad tomorrow (cancelled today due to a blizzard) cause I'm training on the importance of using the scriptures while teaching and I'm pulling a bunch of scriptures from the Old Testament to show that ALL THE flipping scriptures do is testify of Christ, which shows us how important He really is. 

This week I got cold water poured on me while i was in the shower by Elder Guijarro (mexicano visiting from the other Brunswick area) and then after he felt bad so he tried to hug me (and I was naked still). Also, we helped a Taiwanese family with car trouble last night and when we asked if we could send English missionaries to visit them, the mother of the family, Shuying Lee, kept saying "yes yes yes yes yes!!!" so that was awesome/ They're probably going to get baptized. On Sunday, the teacher in Priesthood was teaching that there have only been 5 dispensations since Adam, and then we had to correct him. HAPPENS on a weekly basis. We visited a mother and her young son, Rusty, who are awesome, and they want me to bring the guitar every time I come over now, because they LOVE IT. Had ZONE CONFERENCE, and I felt more love for Heavenly Father and the Jeppsons that it hurt. I don't think I've ever felt that before.

Love you all dearly. The gospel is true.


EC

13 January, 2014, East Brunswick, NJ

Life is great here are the updates:

1. I'm a district leader in East Brunswick, which is a huge Spanish driving area. LOTS of cool people here. It's also right next door to Perth Amboy which means I can VISIT people I baptized and love and miss.
2. My new companion is Elder Wood, yes, the very same Elder Wood that lived with me in Passaic for 3 months. He's hilarious, and a little disheveled, but I'm so excited to work with him.
3. The area had not passed 15 lessons in a week since Elder Blanco served here back in July. This past week we taught 20 which is the mission standard. Party on Wayne!
4. There are lots of amazing members, including our Ward Mission Leader, Carlitos, a chubby Guatemalan guy that LOVES the gospel and the missionaries, and we crammed 6 missionaries into his car the other night because they decided to have Coordination meeting on a Thursday night (which is our WALKING DAY) and then we were all sitting on each other's laps and Carlos was sticking pieces of paper into Elder Hughes' ear and giggling like a little boy and I was dying of laughter in front seat.
5. We're spending time working with all our members. So we've been busy because previous missionaries were a little disobedient and spent a lot of their time HANGING OUT at members houses, including the Bishop's house, so a bunch of the members think we're lazy and don't take our callings seriously. I'm KILLING those missionaries with my thoughts right now. 


The church is true, Christ lives.


EC

6 January 2014, Passaic, NJ

Cold, sick week. Ya he tenido chorro por seis dias. I've been horribly sick, I don't know how, but it's been lousy. I slept about 3 days in a row and have lost 10+ pounds, because I've been on a pure liquid diet. I look like a malnourished holocaust survivor again. 

We baptized Andrea on MONDAY. It was a beautiful baptism and the water was warm. Poor Elder Nielsen was having a hard time getting her name right though - it took him about 3 tries before he finally said her name and the baptismal prayer correctly. He then submerged her and pulled her out of the water. She loved it, and she was a little pillar of light after the service was over. She's so shy and timid, but she's starting to warm up to us and she prays so simply and sincerely. We love her. 

On New Year's Eve, we had tacos with Alfonso and Mari and man do they LOVE US SO MUCH. It's great to be there in their home and feel of the spirit there. We explained to them the simple reasons why they feel so wonderful when we come over to their home - because WE, as servants of Christ, bring the Spirit of the Lord with us, and THAT Spirit is what lets us feel His presence and more truth and light. We tied it into scriptures and how reading the Book of Mormon is a way to experience those same feelings when we're not here. They are still having doubts about the church and the Book of Mormon, but they're learning a lot and really coming to know Jesus Christ. By the way, we're pretty sure Alfonso listened to the WHOLE Book of Mormon on his phone at the work the other day. He was talking about Laban and how Nephi cut off his head, and then he jumped into where the Lamanites and Nephites separated, and then he talked about Christ coming to the Americas and then was talking about Mormon and Moroni. He loved it, he just needs to break it down a little bit and pull out bits of the doctrine, meditate, and then pray and ASK God. Speaking of asking God...

We had a really cool lesson with Roman this week where I felt completely divinely guided to give him an extremely specific way of asking God if the Book of Mormon was true. we invited him to read Alma 40 (we have been discussing Plan of Salvation the past 3 lessons) when it was quiet in his apartment (which is hard, as he lives with his two nieces - 4 and 9 years old). After he read it, we asked him to sit and THINK about what he's read for 5-8 minutes. Afterwards we invited to go to the bathroom, kneel down (yep, on the hard tile floor), and give a sincere prayer if the book was true. We both felt strongly that IF he did it like that, he would get an answer. It's cool, how Heavenly Father guides commitments like that, even if they seem a little ridiculous.

Last bit of info: 1. I have 4 months left on the mission. 2. I am getting transferred. I have no idea where I am going. But I got released as a zone leader and a call to be a district leader, so that should be fun. I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for me.


God lives. THIS is His church. Keep on keeping on.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

December 30, 2013, Passaic

Reindeer sleigh, come our way, ho ho ho, cherry nose, cap on head, suit that's red, special night, beard that's white.



I got Bob Dylan's Christmas CD this last past week (practically on Christmas day) and I listened to about half of it. I love that man and his gritty, 70-year-old voice.

This week was memorable to say the least. It passed by really quick, due to all the parties and conferences and dinner appointments that we had. Comimos como chanchotes. Honestly, we had more than 3 eating appointments on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But all the food was so good. Often times, I think members get confused about how much even a LARGE human being can actually eat and they give you three plates of food and cry if you don't finish all of it. There are SOME who understand and actually command us to stop eating, as we have converted into eating robots that just shovel in mouthful after mouthful. So that's nice.

 We went and saw the Santiago twins on Tuesday afternoon because Carmen called us and was telling us about some problems and stressful times she was going through. So we went over and chatted things out, taught her from Doctrine and Covenants 121 and by the end of the lesson, she was smiling and glowing with a stronger understanding of the gospel, of the Atonement, and of God himself, our Heavenly Father. I LOVEEEEE being a missionary because of that reason: I get to see the Atonement change people right before my eyes. I get to watch people CHOOSE to TURN towards Christ, kind of like how a sunflower turns toward the light of the sun.

 So going back to food, here was the menu for Tuesday:
 Familia Bravo: Tacos de carnitas, posole (Mexican party soup with HUGE chunks of chicken and corn)
Familia Garcia: Pernil (marinated and boiled/sauteed pork chunks), macaroni salad, rice
Familia Gonzalez: Pork chops, rice, salad, other mexican food.

Here is the menu for Wednesday: Familia Gonzalez: Posole, rice, tostadas (you can't eat posole without tostadas AND avocados, chili, lime, beets, and onions)
Lazaro: Chicken and pasta, tamales (con salsa verde ooooooooooh), and a never ending supply of Coke.

Needless to say, I was in heaven and hell at the same time. (heaven = so delicious, hell = too much food)

Moving on. On CHRISTMAS MORNING, Wednesday, we cooked a HUGE breakfast for our zone (20 other missionaries) in the Paterson elders apartment (Elder Dahl and Murray). We also stayed the night and played another round of SODA PONG even though we swore we wouldn't ever play it ever again. It was great fun. The whole zone loved the breakfast, and afterwards, I played a Christmas song for them (Bring A Torch, Jeanette Isabella) and then we had a little White Elephant Party. I got a bx of assorted Mexican candy, which got me STOKED, because I've grown to love mango and watermelon and corn suckers covered in lime and chili powder. Later in the evening we went to a baptism of a 9-year-old girl, named Shaddy. Yep, she's Dominican. But, the baptism was beautiful and President and Sister Jeppson attended. All the missionaries and Shaddy sang "Soy un hijo de Dios" (I am a Child of God) to close it and the Spirit was super strong.

I realize that I'm just droning on.

Alfonso and Mari are progressing really well, but we realized that they're not married, which is FINE, because they are totally in love and want to get married. So we're working with them on that. Yesterday Mari rebuked Alfonso for not reading, and said that BEFORE in another church, it only lasted 45 minutes and she ALWAYS fell asleep, but the 3 times that she's come the LDS church, she LOVES it, and never gets tired, and stays incredibly engaged the whole time. They're amazing and they jsut invited us over for New Year's Eve to eat tacos with them and teach them more about the gospel! Oh and ps, they're 7-year-old son, Aldo, is obsessed with Ninja Turtles and was showing us his NEW 3-DS game, which was great because he's quiet and shy.

Elder Harris came on another exchange with us (he's our boss, the assistant). He really taught us how to work on our comp unity when teaching, and how to be stronger, better zone leaders. He got me super psyched to get transferred and hopefully continue to be a leader and be able to bless other missionaries' lives. I love him and I think he's so intelligent and such a powerful teacher. Me and him stayed up talking until about 2 in the morning about the Building BLocks of the Universe (a talk from Cleon Skousen) and life and the mission and pretty much everything good in our beautiful lives.

Well, I love you all. Happy New Year. God lives, He sent His Son, and we are REDEEMED.

EC

Shout out to all my missionary buddies. There are lots of you now and it's nuts nuts nutz.

Pres. and Sis. Jeppson

With Sis. Fisher and Elder Nielsen

The famous Chilly Willy Burger at the Bello's house

With Elder Nava from Mexico