Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 17 Letter


This week... was kind of a downer in some ways haha. We had a lot of people cancel appointments (if they were even nice enough to let us know they couldn't meet), not follow through on their commitments, and who knows what else. It was pretty frustrating, actually haha. Especially when someone ditches an appointment when it's dark outside and we can't tract. We kind of sit there and say, "Well...... now what?" It's ridiculous. Haha it also definitely changes the emphasis of weekly planning. We went through all of our investigators and essentially started from scratch on deciding who was worth special emphasis. It will make the next couple weeks especially interesting to see what comes of some of our "investigators" who for a while we would just stop in on every few weeks in hopes that something had developed.

It wasn't all bad, though! We had a really cool meeting with Krissa, where we went WAY in depth on the Restoration. We read scriptures left and right, from the apostles predicting the Apostasy to all about Joseph Smith's account. Sister Owens also came and gave her testimony of the importance of having the restored gospel in her life, even though she'd been Christian all her life. It was a way cool lesson! In my opinion, it might have been one of the best! Plus, at the end, she said that it is her personal goal that, if she is going to get baptized, she is going to do so before I was transferred!

We also had some cool luck with contacting random new people we'd been referred to. They're hard stories to explain, though.... haha I have tried phrasing them about three different times, and I think I am now just giving up on it. Haha we have three new investigators this week, though, all referred to by members or other missionaries. It's definitely a cool feeling when you knock on someone's door, and they say, "Oh, I've been waiting for you!" Hahaha that happened once this week! Haha

It has really been a weird week, though... On Thursday, Elder Jones wasn't feeling well, so we spent about half the day inside, which made it feel like we had two Tuesdays. (For those of you in the real world, a Tuesday after P-day is very comparable to a real person's Monday. It is pretty hard to feel motivated for a good chunk of the day.) Haha I feel like I'm being such a downer in this email! I am sorry, I promise! I just can't think of much that went on haha.

We did do a lot with less active members, though! That was good! The funniest was the Bradt's house. It's way out in the middle of nowhere, so we don't go there a ton, but we did on Friday. We knocked on the door, and Pinky Bradt came to the door and said, "Hmm... sorry guys, this is kind of an awkward time..." It was 2 o'clock, so I was kind of confused about what would be a better time. Then we heard her husband, John, holler, "Oh, let them come in!" As we did, we realized they were in the middle of eating. Haha not only were they eating, but we'd actually walked in on John's birthday meal, but he invited us to sit and eat meatloaf and spaghetti with them (he admitted himself that it was a very odd combination). They're a really frustrating family to have in inactivity... He has been the branch mission leader, the Young Men's president, and a handful of other things and everyone says he was just the most active person ever. When he was Young Men's president, Pinky was Young Women's president, and they would take the youth all over the state on their own expense to see all sorts of cool things, from NYC to Niagara Falls. It seems he gives a different reason for falling away from the church to everyone he talks to, though, so no one really knows the full reasoning. It's really too bad, though.

This week is going to be interesting, for sure, because we are going to be putting our new plan in action as far as who to focus on. Hopefully it goes as well as we think it could. If not... we'll have another brutal weekly planning session once again!

I'm WAY stoked for our Christmas week, though! Haha for one, we're spending half of it with my favorite family out here, Matt and Krissa. But our schedule is just going to be awesome. On Monday, we're going to a Christmas Eve breakfast that a man in Cattaraugus (the next area over) has put on for the missionaries in the district since 1982. Then we'll go over to the Owens' for pretty much the whole afternoon and a good chunk of the evening, where we will have a ginger bread house competition, caroling, and who knows what else. Then we are going over to Sister Forster's house for the rest of the evening to play some games and whatnot. Then, on Christmas, we're spending just about the whole day with Matt and Krissa. They come home at about 1, and we're going over to hang out, call home, watch movies (President Christianson allows us to watch animated Disney movies on Christmas!), and eat dinner. We were planning out dinner, and Matt said, "Look, it's Christmas. It's not supposed to be a day that everything is awesome until you eat. We're going to eat well." Haha so we're having T-bones and potatoes and whatnot. Then, we've agreed to help him the next day to replace the tiles in his ceiling; our job is to catch the debris falling down in a garbage bag haha. Then of course the next day is the TSO concert! Haha it'll be quite the week. Just hopefully the week leading up to it (this week) is more eventful and exciting than the past week has been haha. 

I have been doing a lot of studying on the concept of grace lately, and whether good works precede or follow our faith. Still haven't come to one conclusive answer because more and more, it's becoming obvious they kind of work hand-in-hand, but I am still trying to figure out a more definitive explanation of how they work together, and what should receive emphasis where. Anyways, that is useless, except that you should all go read "His Grace is Sufficient" by Brad Wilcox. If there's one good talk on grace out there, it's this one. So do it!!

Also, since I can't post these type of things on Facebook anymore... I wanted to share this picture with someone :)

(The picture obviously goes here).

Oh! And check out my blog! A few recent additions are a list of some of my favorite scriptures, as well as a whole bunch of Christmas thoughts! Check it out and have fun! Woooo blogs!

Annnnd write me! Please!

I love you, but I don't miss you!

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10 Letter

Well it's been a heck of a week! Haha tons of ups and downs, but luckily we ended on a high note.
I might as well just throw it out there from the start so that we can get it over with: Amanda didn't end up getting baptized on Saturday. There were a few little hangups, not the least of which was that she was busy on Saturday. Haha, I obviously can't say too much, but I will say that she has been a huge testimony builder to me by showing just how far the gospel can take someone and how important it is that we really recognize and understand that we are literally sons and daughters of a Heavenly King. The baptism is now rescheduled for December 29!
K, got that outta the way.
Honestly, I can hardly remember what happened before Thursday. Hopefully it comes to me as I write. Come to think of it, I don't really remember Friday either. So, the first paragraph was Thursday, now onto the weekend, I guess.
Saturday was one of those weird days when, as you look at your completely empty planner, you just say, "Crap...." and keep staring. Haha but by the end, it was one of the most fun days I've had in a long time! We ended up bouncing from one former investigator to another (or some current investigators who just have never made any progress), and we ended up teaching five lessons, sharing three Book of Mormons (two of which to people who seemed legitimately interested in it), picking up two new investigators, and setting four follow up appointments! It was so much fun to just go all over the place and essentially force a lesson. Investigators like those are fun because you don't really have a relationship you're worried about damaging. Sometimes with slowly progressing investigators, you're close enough friend you try not to be too bold because you're afraid of being off-putting. With people like we visited on Saturday, you can just be straight-forward and they'll either take it or leave it, and it doesn't change much for you if they decide to leave it.
Probably the coolest lesson we taught on Saturday, though, was to Gene, the son of Sue, who we have been meeting on and off with since I first got here. Sue is a very strong Baptist who we tracted into, who really has little to no interest in the church. We have talked all about the Plan of Salvation, eternal familes, the Restoration, prophets, the Book of Mormon, you name it. While she is never antagonistic or even openly doubting what we talk about, she has never even seemed remotely interested in it. She's always been very friendly to us, though, so we always make sure we stop by when we're in the area just to keep us on her mind. Well, this time, Sue was gone, but her son opened the door instead. He'd just moved home from Niagra Falls because "things didn't work out there." He was a pretty nice guy, probably in his twenties or so, and we talked for about ten minutes. Finally, I figured it wasn't like we had any appointments to hurry off to, so I started talking to him about the Church, especially about the Book of Mormon. When we explained that the Book of Mormon was about God's dealings with the ancient Americas, we asked if he would like a copy, and his exact words were, "Yeah! That actually sounds pretty cool!" Haha I am glad that our church is now becoming the "cool thing to do" without even trying! Haha it was a very fun day, though!
Then yesterday, we taught the first lesson to a kid named Kodie, who is dating one of our recent converts, Danielle. We met up at the church and talked with him and Danielle's dad, Terry. Now, the lesson went pretty good (we even set up a tentative baptismal date!), but I think the most exciting thing was to see how much Terry has changed. Terry had been there for all of our lessons with Freddy, Liz, and Kathy before, but it was one of those things where we kind of held our breath hoping he wouldn't say something.... weird. Haha he has always been very enthusiastic about the church, but he was a little more open about it sometimes than he actually knew. Haha for instance, one lesson before I got here, he spent five minutes explaining to an investigator that the church "can buy all your groceries if you want." It was so awesome on Sunday, though! Terry bore his testimony in all the right places and it was just so cool. At one point, Kodie had made some smart alec, normal 16-year-old comment, when we were talking about the point in praying about the Book of Mormon, because of how much it would prove if it were true, or how much falls apart if it isn't true. "So, you're saying there's basically a 50-50 chance of it being true?" he asked. "No," interrupted Terry, "There is a 100% chance that it is true." And he went on to explain how he learned the truthfulness of the book and what it has done for him since reading it. It was great!
Oh, I remember what happened Wednesday! Or at least part of it. We finally got back to meet with Amy, and we had one of our best lessons with her. I was a little bummed, because a couple weeks ago, she was asking questions that essentially showed she didn't remember hardly anything about the Plan of Salvation. But, she was very receptive to it this time around. (It probably helps that this wasn't my first time ever teaching it, like it was the first time we went over it with her.) Now, where normally it would be demoralizing for one of your best investigators to not understand one of the more important lessons, it actually is pretty relieving. We've been trying to figure out why she didn't feel ready for baptism yet and what we could do to help her. But, well, if she doesn't understand the doctrine, naturally she wouldn't feel ready for baptism! Haha, still, it is cool that she does have baptism as a goal. My favorite line from the whole day was when she talked to her 9-year-old son, Alex, and started a statement off saying, "Alex, when you go on your mission...."
We also had a way fun lesson with Krissa again. As always, she loved learning about the gospel. The problem is we really are running out of discussions to teach! But, we played off of the Christmas Devotional because she was so impressed with President Uchtdorf (who isn't?), and ended up watching a few of his older conference talks. Ha it's so cool to go over there because it feels almost like home teaching. We are able to just focus on whatever questions she has and aspects of her life, because we've gone over all the required teaching points. I just want her to commit to baptism, already, though! Haha if it doesn't happen before I'm transferred away from Freedom, I don't know what I'll do!
Oh, I found a way cool scripture this week! First, let me refer to another Book of Mormon scripture that is often controversial in the mainstream-Christian world. It's in 2 Nephi 25:23, and reads, "It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." People like to throw around scriptures in Ephesians and Romans, where Paul essentially says that there's nothing we can do, because grace is all up to God and our faith in Him. However, I found a remarkable scripture in Alma 24:11, that uses interestingly similar verbage. "It has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all minkind) to repent of all our sins... and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain." So, what is it we can do? We can repent! We are going to make mistakes, but we need to repent, which is much more than just asking for forgiveness. It's a constant process of restructuring our lives and making them more and more in line with Christ's. I think we can all,constantly be improving ourselves, don't you?
Well, hope to hear from any and all of you soon! You're all grand, and I like you a lot!
I love you, but I don't miss you,
Elder Allen

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3 Letter


This week consisted of a ton of driving. Literally, if you could weigh driving, what I drove would weigh 2,000 pounds. Rochester and back three different times, plus Palmyra and back once. Jeez, it was absurd! But, a fantastic week nonetheless.

On Tuesday, I picked up my new companion, fresh from the MTC (my first-born child, as we call them). His name is Elder Jones, and he's from Virginia, though lived in England for 11 years and has a sick accent. Haha he's the first person I've ever met that, as we drove through Arcade, said, "Wow, this is a lot bigger than home!" Haha, he's from a small part of VA, where he raised 200 pigs on about 80 acres! They have them free-roaming, and it just sounds crazy. Sometimes, he says they'll just feed the pigs whole deer! He says they will eat the whole thing, except little bits of the spine. He says they are really tame and you can pet them and everything, but you'd just better not pass out in the fields, because they will eat you if they think you're dead. Hahaha anyways, he's a nice enough kid, and definitely is striving to be a good missionary. You can definitely tell he's not used to talking to random people, though, and he is verrry nervous. What is training for, I guess, though, eh? Haha

Well, like I said, we spent a lot of our time just driving around, so my stories won't be as numerous. Most of our time in Freedom also just went to introducing Elder Jones to all of the important people in the area. BUT! we still had some very cool experiences.

One of the funniest for him was tracting, we knocked on a guy's door and started talking to him. When the guy said he was a Seventh Day Adventist, Elder Jones started to kind of give in and close the conversation. I interjected and asked the man about what Seventh Day Adventists actually believe, even though I already knew from all the other Adventists we've met up here (it's really pretty interesting, actually). And, what do you know, he let us in the door to talk! Actually, he was looking for a church about six years ago pretty earnestly, so he already had a Book of Mormon. We ended up giving him the whole Restoration discussion, which is remarkably easy with Adventists since they already believe in an apostasy, a restoration, prophets, and the priesthood. We're planning on going back sometime this week, but I think it caught Elder Jones off guard that in our only hour of tracting this week, we got in the door!

On Saturday, we took Amanda to Palmyra. She's been struggling really understanding the Restoration, so we decided to take advantage of our strategic location and teach her in context! (Oh the joys of the New York Rochester Mission!) Well, the Sister Missionaries did a very good job, and between the Grandin Building, the Hill Cumorah, the movieJoseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, and the Sacred Grove, I think she finally gets it! As we were walking towards the Grove, we talked about the sequence of things leading up to Joseph Smith becoming a prophet, and the clear lack of coincidence. Then we compared it to the sequence of events that finally lead us to meeting with and teaching her. It's cool the things that she picks up on and finds important, especially given her incredibly rough past.

Then yesterday, we went to Krissa's house to watch the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional with her. Of course, between the First Presidency and a golden investigator, it was a great experience. But the best part of all was when it finished up! We started talking about Christmas traditions, the meaning of Christmas, and so on, when Matt came out from the other room and started talking with us! He told us all about his family's Christmas traditions, the church services he would go to with his parents or grandpa, and the reasons he stopped going home much for Christmas after a while. For someone who usually books it into a different room as soon as anything churchy gets brought up, this was awesome! Then, we invited him to the Dec. 23 Sacrament meeting, and I think he's actually considering it! Finally, we had to leave, but asked if we could have a prayer first. I really expected him to say we could, but leave the room himself. But no! Instead, he asked Marcus (Krissa's son) to come in, took off his hat, and even called on someone to say the prayer. I was ecstatic!

Now, for a cool scriptural thought that started off as the subject of a discussion with Krissa and will soon become a blog post!

So, in 3 Nephi 11, we all know the story. It's the climax of the Book of Mormon; the resurrected Christ comes to the Nephites. God didn't forget His chosen people, regardless of where they lived. Jesus can teach His gospel no matter where they are. It's a marvelous story. But, I picked up on something new this time around. 

Often times, I kind of breeze through the first few verses until I get to verse 7, where Heavenly Father announces His Son, then Jesus descends, etc. Well, I need to stop that!

K, so in verse 3, it says the Nephites were conversing with each other, when "they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven... it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center." All right, what do we refer to as a "small voice," or rather a "still, small voice"? The Holy Ghost. So the Holy Ghost is saying something, but no one understands it. (Anyone who remembers my rant about Luke 24, also note that verse three says this voice "did cause their hearts to burn.") In verse five, the voice came again, but still no one understood it. Finally, in verse seven they understand the voice, saying "Behold my Beloved Son..." (The whole thing is great, but you can read it yourself.) Soon, Christ comes down, declares himself and His divinity. He also invites the Nephites to come up and touch His scars, and leads into one of the most beautiful sermons on His doctrine in the Scriptures. Then, after Christ leaves, 4 Nephi 1:15 says "Surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God."

Ok, my point is this: How often do we not understand the small voice whispering to us? How often do we not understand Heavenly Father's instructions to us? It's only when we really do understand the Spirit that we can truly see Christ, and even feel Him! When we do, we will understand His doctrine, and we can be among the happiest people every on the face of the Earth. Who wouldn't want that? No one! We just need to constantly listen and heed the whisperings of that small voice!

You know, sometimes, I question the soundness of my own testimony. Not necessarily if I have one or not, or if I believe it, but just how sturdy it is. I realized something a while ago, but really thought about it this week. Whenever I come to really love someone, I naturally want them to accept the gospel. Whether that is investigators out here or friends back home, it seems that it's the people I've come to really know and understand that I have the easiest time relating the gospel to their lives and showing why it would help them. Now, if I didn't believe what I was sharing, would I do that? Psh... that would be pretty ridiculous. But, since I know how I fit into the Plan of Salvation, I really want people I care about to know who they really are: sons and daughters of a King. Hopefully someday soon I can develop the love and charity enough to feel that way with everyone; I'm working on it. But for now, feel really lucky if I try hard to help you build and develop a testimony!

I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26 Letter

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I did, and only gained eight pounds while doing it!

Haha, but really, the holiday was great, and it showed something really important. Like I said last week, we just bounced from house to house... to house.... to house. Four members' houses, four dinners (although, I will admit... I had to pass up on the fourth...). But, it ended up one of our most successful proselyting days. We had two lessons to nonmembers with members present, two lessons to less active members, and a lesson with a recent convert. Not only that, we got a new investigator out of it! All because members just invited us over along with some of their nonmember friends and family. We don't need to have a feast everytime we go over, but man, you have no idea the miracles that could happen if people would just have us around their friends and family! (Of course, it did help that Thanksgiving naturally makes people a little reflective anyways.)

Well, this is going to be one heck of a week! Last Wednesday, I found out I was going to be training a new missionary, fresh out of the MTC! Haha I'm a little nervous, because I haven't necessarily gotten along with my companions the greatest thus far, and I'd hate to find out it really was my fault and end up ruining this kid's experience in his first area. But, I'm looking forward to it, because it seems like about 80% of the missionaries come out of the MTC just ready and rearing to work hard. Sure, they are usually a little awkward for a while, but that's a lot easier to fix than a missionary with one transfer left who has grown more and more complacent his whole time out. Haha I'm really looking forward to that kick in the butt to get things moving in Freedom! But, as far as why this makes me busy this week, tomorrow I have to go to Rochester to pick him up, and then back to Rochester on Friday for me to learn how to train him and for him to learn how to be trained. 

Then on Saturday, we're heading to Palmyra with Amanda. It's been the weirdest thing teaching her. She has never been religious at all, and her testimony is awesome but incredibly basic. Like so basic I don't think she can pass her baptismal interview with it... haha. She knows God exists and that He loves her. Then she knows that she feels that love the strongest when she comes to church, reads the Book of Mormon, and prays. And that about sums it up... We've gone over the Restoration with her multiple times, but I just don't think she cares too much if Joseph Smith is a prophet or not, and I don't know if she could tell you who Joseph Smith even is right now.... We're hoping that learning it all on the spot where it all happened will help her out. Haha I sure hope so, because I'm running out of ideas of how to teach it to her! Either way, the first Saturday in the field being in Palmyra with an investigator and the second being a baptism is going to be a heck of a start for the new guy, huh?

Haha it'll be weird in our district, now, though! As of Thursday, I'm going to be the missionary who has been out the longest! Haha that right there is absurd. 

It's really nerve-wracking out here sometimes. I have found that I do a lot better teaching people once I've really developed a good, solid friendship with them first. The issue there, is it really makes it hard when they drop you or when you don't hear from them in a while. Alicia dropped us this week, Jesse keeps on cancelling or rescheduling appointments, and we haven't been able to get back to Ron and Stephanie's since our first visit. I was almost completely distraught when we didn't see Krissa for over a week! Luckily, we saw her again, and she had even been reading the Book of Mormon in that time. So that was a huge relief. It just really hurts when things don't work! 

We're also getting a little overwhelmed here! We have soooo many investigators, we really can't spend as much time on each of them as they deserve. I know that's not the usual problem for missionaries, but I feel like it's considerably more stressful than when Elder Inkley and I hardly had any investigators and spent all of our time trying to find people to teach. At least when you are looking for people, you never feel like you're letting someone down. It's really hard to create good, strong lessons for all of our current investigators or less-actives we're working with. Haha I guess this could be classified as a "Freedom problem." But still, it stinks!

Hahaha wanna hear a funny joke? You know you're a Mormon when you have eight great-grandpas... and 60 great-grandmas. Hahaha thank you President Miner!

Hmm... I wish I could think of other things to talk about, but I'm drawing a blank. We spent a lot of time this week bouncing from investigator to investigator, from potential to potential, so everything is kind of melting together.

Well, you should all check out Mormon.org/Christmas! It's a page that's only up for the next month but is way cool. You can download free Christmas music, send eCards, get free Bibles, and--in my opinion, most importantly--share your testimony about Christmas. Everyone should go check it out, share their testimony, then post it on Facebook! Yay Chrsitmas! The whole theme of the campaign is "Christmas is Jesus Christ." It's awesome, I promise. Also, follow my blog brackenallen-thinkonthesethings.blogspot.com, which will be primarily, if not entirely, Christmas themed for the month!

Write me and stuff, too, eh?

I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 19 Letter


Probably the most exciting news I have is actually from the day of my last email. I'm debating whether to write about it now, in chronological order, or save it for the end. But.... because I've rambled on about it already (I really don't know why I always write my thought process down, I'm sorry if it's irritating to read), I guess I will just talk about it now.

We went on exchanges with the other elders in my district on Tuesday, which was really good, because well... my current companion doesn't really talk much. So it is really nice to have a second testimony as we teach. So I was with Elder Munnerlyn and we went over to Amanda's house to talk to her a little bit. As we got going, I asked about how her Book of Mormon reading was going, even though I knew she was reading just about every day. We got talking, though, and I hadn't realized she's already just about through Jacob! Holy! Anyways, we got talking about things, and Amanda kept talking about how much nicer days are when she reads the Book of Mormon or goes to church. We explained that that is because she can feel the Holy Ghost when she does these things, and we lead in to talking about how after baptism she can have those feelings with her always as long as she lives worthy of them. "I need that," she said almost instantly. Haha well, Elder Munnerlyn asked her if she believed this was God's true church, which she said she did. Sooooo.... she's getting baptized on December 8! Haha now for the awkward conversation this week.... She's the one whose boyfriend lived with her until he went to jail about a month ago. Well, he gets out on Christmas Eve, and as of now I'm sure is planning on moving back in with her. Well, obviously that and the Law of Chastity don't really agree... So, we get to talk about that and see what her plan is as far as that goes. I honestly don't know if she'd prefer getting married, having him move out, or just not being baptized... Oi vey... Missionary work is weird sometimes.

We also had a way cool conversation with Krissa that night. We first talked about the Word of Wisdom, which we'd awkwardly left a pamphlet about. Like most people, she asked us about the purpose behind the coffee and tea rules. At first I was a bit nervous... but man did I relax when she said that she'd already stopped drinking coffee just because she read that! Haha, I was blown away. That doesn't happen very often. We then brought up baptism with her, too. She is still a little hesitant, and did say that it is primarily because she would rather be baptized with Matt and Marcus coming along with her. We talked with her a little bit about how she'll have the opportunity to serve as a lifelong missionary for him if she's baptized and lets him see the change in her, which I don't think she'd really thought of before. I then asked her if it would help if she set a date as a goal to be baptized, whether it was the end of this month of the middle of June, and I loved her response: "Well... there's not much point in that. If I were to set a date, it might as well be today." Hahaha clearly she knows she's ready, she just needs to move forward! It'll happen soon enough, I'm sure. It's hard to maintain patience and not be pushy, though, let me tell you. You see someone so ready and it takes all you have to not sit there pleading with them!

Well, my companion leaves next week! It's crazy to think it's already been almost a whole transfer since I wrote about him coming here. Haha one of the elders in my district had talked about how you only think your first two transfers go fast until you've had a transfer afterwards. I don't know if my phrasing there made any sense.... Anyways, time flew these past five weeks!

Oh, Thursday was way cool! We had a specialized training with President Christianson at the Peter Whitmer Farm. I'd never realized what all had gone down there! The Church was officially organized, the Sacrament was first performed (in this dispensation, at least), the Three Witnesses became the Three Witnesses, twenty sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were written, and the completion of translating the Book of Mormon all happened there! Haha you would never guess it, though. It's out in the middle of absolutely nowhere! I wish I were in the Fayette Ward, though, because their meeting house is right on the farm! How cool is that?!

But, the training was based on this crazy Christmas campaign the church is going to start on November 26. Get ready for it! It's going to be awesome! They are going to flood YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. with ads, add a page to Mormon.org all about Christmas where you can download Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas music for free, send free eCards, you name it. It's all based around the theme, "Christmas is Jesus Christ." It's awesome. Get ready.

Hmm... it's been kind of a slow week though, aside from Tuesday. We spent all freaking day yesterday in meetings, which wasn't any fun. Saturday was kind of cool, though. Not that a ton was accomplished, but we just went to a few people who we hadn't seen in a while just to talk with them again. We ended up having five different conversations that were all over an hour! Haha I'm going to miss being able to do that in a couple years. 

Thanksgiving will be pretty funny this year. We weren't really sure what to do with our time, but house after house kept inviting us to dinner.... Soooo, we decided what the heck, we'll just go to all of them! So far, I think we are at four dinners. We'll see where else. Man am I glad that I'm in an area with members in the branch (and even some investigators!) who like us! The Cattaraugus elders had to ask someone in their branch if they could come over! Haha, oh Freedom, how I love you! Haha and oh diets... how i'll love you soon..... :/

Well, I've been thinking a lot this week and I guess I'll just throw my plea into here. Please do your home teaching! Harold B. Lee once said, "Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members." As a missionary, I have definitely learned the truth of this! It is soooo frustrating when new members fall away from the Church within months of their baptism. As missionaries, we try to keep relations with new members, but we can only do so much. Gordon B. Hinckley included having a friend in the Church--primarily through home teaching--as one of the three most important things in keeping members active. One of the most common things I've heard when visiting less active members, whether they are recent converts or have been members since they were eight, is a feeling that no one in the Church really cares if they are there or not. Can you believe that?! People literally think you don't really care if they come to church or not! Preach My Gospel says pretty bluntly that there is no point in baptizing people if they aren't going to keep their covenants after baptism. PLEASE do your part in helping people keep their covenants and stay active in the Church! The missionaries in your area would highly appreciate it, I promise.

Haha that was a pretty irritated rant... I can't end on that. Hmm... Oh, Go Aggies! I'm ridiculously jealous that I don't get to see them play football well... Oh well, I'll get over it I guess. Haha serving the Lord and stuff, you know.

I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 13 Letter

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

Sorry that this is a day late, but Veterans Day gets in the way of library time... But I'd never thought of that scripture relating to veterans until now... so I decided to write it down here.

Anyways, it's been a fun, exciting week! First, though, I want to share something almost completely non-spiritual, but that really got me stoked! On December 27, I am going to be going to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert in Buffalo with Matt, Krissa, and Marcus! We got President's permission and everything! Haha I love that family, and am sooo excited for it haha. Matt was a little bummed when we told him we'd still need to wear church clothes, but we got him to accept it. Hahaha man... missions are tough sometimes ;)

But really, I do missionary work, too, I promise. In fact, we had a really cool tracting experience last week. We were out knocking on this street full of really nice duplexes. (We found out later in the week that actually wasn't allowed... woops.) Well, we got three new potential investigators out of it, which is pretty good for an hour or so. But then, we came to this one house where we knocked, and almost immediately a man yells, "Come in!" Hahaha.... if you've ever been tracting or even heard of the stereotypes surrounding it, you understand our shock/confusion/slight timidity. But, we cracked the door open a little and said, "Hello...?" Haha Toby, the guy who had yelled to us, was actually expecting it to be some of his sons' friends, not missionaries... but he let us in anyways! Well, long story short, we ended up talking with him for two hours. Toby is actually a recovering crack addict and alcoholic (don't worry, Mom, he's been clean for nine years), and said that AA's emphasis on God made him realize that "something had to be up there," he just couldn't decide what. Likewise, he realized that "there's gotta be something after we die, otherwise what's the point of being here right now?" We ended up giving the whole Plan of Salvation discussion, part of the Restoration, talked about the Book of Mormon, read all of the Articles of Faith, and who knows what else! It was awesome! He was planning on coming to church on Sunday, but that fell through... not sure why yet. But we'll keep on him. It was way cool.

Oh, other cool story that hopefully someday materializes! We were coming out of the library last week, and the man walking in front of us was limping. I looked down, and realized that he was wearing a boot, so I asked him about it. He told us that he was diabetic, had a cut that had gotten infected, and the doctors were amputating bits of his toe. We felt bad, so asked him if he could use any help around his yard or house while he was in pain. He told us that his nieces had been doing a good job watching out for him, but you could tell in his face he was surprised by the offer. He thanked us for asking, and we each walked to our cars. As we were getting into our truck, though, he pulled up in his car and rolled down the window. "Are you guys from a church or something?" he asked. Of course, we said yes, and explained our calling. "Where and when do you guys meet?" Hahaha again, he didn't come to church this Sunday, but that was definitely a huge testimony-builder to me of the power of service, even if you don't actually do the service. 

Of course... sometimes it doesn't work out so well haha. We had tracted a street and found a lady who said she didn't have time, because she works night shifts and is just scattered all over during the day. To make it worse, her husband was out of town, so she had a lot of stuff she needed to do. We offered to help her with yardwork or something, but she turned us down and said she was good. As we walked away, though, we immediately decided we were going to come back later in the week and rake up her leaves, since her yard was covered. It seem like a nice, yet low-profile thing to do. Well.... that backfired haha. We got about 2/3 of the way done when a car pulled up to the house, and the lady's sister got out of the car and started tearing us apart. The lady we'd met tracting had seen us outside, and instead of either being thankful or even just asking us to please leave, she called her sister in a panic. So, the sister started yelling at us, cussing at us, everything. Haha It was quite an experience. Oh, Western New York.... hahaha.

Oh man! Tell me this isn't way cool! Earlier last week, we went over to talk to Krissa. Like always, we asked her how her Book of Mormon reading was going. She apologized and said she hadn't been reading much, because Matt's new schedule (he moved to second shift) was throwing her schedule off, too. We understood, and were about to offer solutions, when she interjected, "But, last night I did watch the Saturday morning session of General Conference." Wait.... what? Hahaha we hadn't even suggested that to her! I have no idea how she got the idea, but geez! Haha she loved it too! Of course, she laughed at the "Ask the missionaries" talk, because of how many random things Elder Inkley and I have done over there. Even more than that, though, there were two different talks that she decided she really wanted Matt to see. Haha she has such a testimony, she just needs to act on it and get baptized already! Haha I really need to develop patience....

Hmmm... other cool stories...

Well, this isn't really a story about anything I've done, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately. About thirty or so years ago, the missionaries here in Freedom knocked every door in Arcade (the village we live in). From every door, they only baptized one person. I can just say as a missionary that that would leave me very frustrated. However, that woman's name is Helen Owens. Eventually, Helen's husband, Joe, was also baptized. When Helen had taken the discussions, Joe had actually threatened a divorce, and even when he lightened up, he wanted nothing to do with it. After many years, though, he took the discussions himself (in private, not telling Helen), and was baptized. Also, Helen and Joe's two sons were baptized. One of those son's name is Kevin. Kevin married a girl named Sandra Lingle. He didn't push the church on her, but eventually she was drawn to it, and was baptized herself, despite some opposition from her strongly Catholic family. Since that time, not only have all seven of their kids been baptized (all of whom have it as a goal to go on a mission), but Sandra's sister Patrice and Patrice's six kids, Sandra's mom, Sandra's sister Angie, and most recently Sandra's brother Justin and Justin's family have been baptized. Kevin is also the Branch Mission Leader, and three of his kids and Sandra are all branch missionaries. I can think of four members of the branch who were brought in solely by the Owens, and I am sure a number of converts were very impressed by the Owens family. Now, going back to the beginning of this grotesquely long paragraph. The missionaries knocked every door in Arcade, and got one baptism. Literally half of the Freedom Branch has stemmed from that one baptism. Makes the work seem a little more worthwhile!

As a sidenote, we've started to talk a lot to Helen Owens about advice for Krissa because of just how many similarities there are between Helen and Joe's story and Krissa and Matt's. I hope that moves things somewhere.

Hmm... There really have been some cool experiences this past week that I'm sure I'm missing... Oh well. I guess this is what you're getting!

I do want to share one cool scripture thought, though. As a mission, we read Alma 26. Essentially it is Ammon's homecoming talk from his mission. He looks at what he and his brother's accomplished on their missions, and is high on life. However, in verse 10, his brother, Aaron, says, "Ammon, I fear that thy joy doth carry thee away unto boasting." Haha I love Ammon's response though! You'd almost have to read it, but here are the highlights of his answer, comprised of parts of verses 11-16:

"I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold my joy is full, year, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing, as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things. Behold, have we not great reason to rejoice? the Most High God has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell, he has brought them into his everlasting light, and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."

Wow! Haha I love that chapter!! It really helped me, because--if you can't tell from my emails--I get really excited about some things, but I often almost acted as my own Aaron and made myself calm down to avoid being boastful. Ammon's response, though, was huge for me. I not only am allowed to be excited, I should be excited, because "who can glory too much in the Lord?" Haha I really had a full-on adrenaline rush the whole time I read that chapter. I definitely know how Ammon feels when he says, "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." Missionary work is so crazy sometimes!

I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

P.S..... it's snowing outside :'(

Oh, also, be sure to go to my blog brackenallen-thinkonthesethings.blogspot.com! I write my own little thoughts here and there and it would mean a lot for people back home to follow it as well!