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.


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.


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.


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.


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