Friday, March 28, 2014

March 24, 2013, Brunswick

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

24 February 2014, East Brunswick

I am more familiar with Jersey hospitals than my own area.
Not really. But I felt like that last week. Elder Wood got sick with some stomach problems and we had to go to the hospital to get him hydrated.
This was the conversation when we (Elder Bellevance and I) were dropping him off (keep in mind that there is literally NO PARKING IN ALL OF NEW BRUNSWICK):
Me: Alright we'll drop you off at the corner and you go in.
Elder B: But he can't be alone.
Elder Wood: Ooooooh I feel like I'm gonna die! (continues groaning)
Me; Ah shoot you're right.. what do we do?! (car behind us starts honking)
Elder B: I don't know!
Me: We'll just watch him walk inside and give him the phone!" (getting really stressed out)
Elder B: Alright then.
Elder Wood: (groaning, stumbles out of the car holding an empty trash can for a barf bucket and walks into the emergency department)

Totally dishevelment.  Then it takes Elder Bellevance and I 20 minutes to find a parking spot. Finally we park on the 8th floor of an expensive parking garage (cause we're cheap missionaries) and head down to find Elder Wood in a hospital bed in the emergency room, still wimpering. 

So they can't find anything wrong with him except he's nauseated and can't keep food down so at about 8 pm, they move us up into the Pediatrics department, in the CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL. Elder Wood just looked like a big baby, sitting on the beg with an IV in him. It was hilarious. I had to spend the night there on Tuesday night and then we went on an exchange with one of our zone leaders on Wednesday night so I could get a good night's sleep. ALSO, while Elder Wood was sleeping/getting tests done, The zone leaders gave me permission to leave my companion. I definitely took full advantage of the situation: went to the cafeteria, got breakfast, chatted with nurses and doctors, looked at hospital photos, contacted Elder Wood's nurse and invited her to church, (she was from Trinidad & Tobago, pretty rad), and just wandered the hospital halls. Also, I pretended that I was asleep while Elder Wood was getting "checked" in his hospital bed at 12:00 at night. I heard the whole conversation and I as dying.

As far as real, gritty missionary work this week: We had a couple solid days of work. yesterday, for example, a Peruvian lady named Lourdes took us to some of her Peruvian friend's houses in Jamesburg (corner of our HUGE area). She said that she was super willing to come out "knocking" with us. I LOVE MEMBERS like her. Anyway, the people we knocked let us right in, of course, because they knew her, and we then taught a really good lesson on the Book of Mormon. After, we went to another house, and her inactive friend and his 17-year-old daughter came outside. The mother of the house didn't want us in there so I taught my very first car-lesson ever. It was actually really spiritual. The 17-year-old girl is really struggling with a belief in God. She feels like he's never really answered her and she's looking for "a physical sign". IT was cool to teach someone young that is at that point in their life where they are confused, yet humble and willing to experiment upon our words.

We are doing well. The work is growing. Pedro de Jesus is on date for the 16th. Pray for him, he really needs to ask his boss for work off. He's learning to play the piano, and he works at a diner. I love that 20-something-year-old man from Oaxaca, Mexico. We really need to focus on finding and talking to everyone this week because I feel like our area NEEDS it. 

O let me shake at the first sight of sin."


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.