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! 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, 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 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! I write my own little thoughts here and there and it would mean a lot for people back home to follow it as well!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5 Letter

So let it be written, so let it be finally freakin' done. Justin Lingle is now a baptized and confirmed member of the Church of Jesus Christ! And what an awesome night it was! All of the missionaries who have taught him and are still in New York came down, as well as a bunch of their companions, so there were eleven missionaries in one room. Then, he's part of the biggest Mormon family on Earth, so we couldn't even fit everyone in the primary room like normal and had to move into the chapel. Possibly the coolest part of the whole program was when all of his nieces and nephews and his son sang "I Am a Child of God" together. About 15 kids from ages 3 to 19--pretty powerful! Here's the picture of all of the missionaries who taught Justin, along with his wife, Tanya, daughter who was also baptized on Friday, Savannah, and his son, Buddy.

Oh, happy four month anniversary! Haha I've come to decide something. Time is definitely only going to get faster from here. When I got to New York, a new Assistant was called, and I was told he still had six months left. Even just to me, I'm more blown away that he's gone from six months left to two months than I am that I've gone from 24 to 20. Haha time seems to get more and more significant as it goes on.

Goodness, I'm jealous of any of you at home who get to vote and watch the news all day tomorrow! It's going to literally kill me to have to wait until Wednesday at Noon or so to even know who won. Gah!!! So ridiculous! Just remember to protect your liberty!!! Pleeeease!

Anyways, more mission stuff...

Well, I guess I should follow up on last week's fear of Hurricane Sandy. I think the worst damage I saw out my way was the lawns were just covered with leaves. Yeah... kind of a let down actually. I didn't want to die like they were predicting, but I hope for at least a good heavy rainstorm! Luckily they let us free the next morning, which is good because I'm not even sure if it rained at all that day.

Then on Wednesday we had our p-day since it was Halloween and President didn't want us out on the streets for Halloween. Personally, I wanted to go tracting then. Just imagine how many people would actually answer the door for us! But alas, obedience and whatnot kicked in, and instead we went to the Palmyra Temple with a family from our branch who was doing the temple work and sealing for their son who was killed in a car accident a year to the day before his work was done. It was very cool to be there for, first because I haven't done an Endowment session for over four months now, and second because just obviously it'd be a cool thing to witness a family being sealed to their son! 

Yesterday, we finally met with Amy and her kids again. We talked about the calling of a prophet, the purpose of commandments, and then about eternal families for a while. Again, we had about ten people at the discussion, which makes my job super easy because people end up just bearing testimony left and right. It's actually a discussion like it's supposed to be instead of just us giving a lecture! Haha, it was definitely a really cool conversation though. She just needs to accept that she is ready to be baptized. She was talking about how she definitely does want to, but wants to wait for a more perfect time. She acknowledges that she doesn't need to be perfect to be baptized, but she is waiting for the perfect situation. Finally, Sister Forester let her in on a secret: That time isn't going to come! She told Amy that Satan is going to work like crazy to keep her from feeling comfortable with baptism and that things were never going to be perfect. What will unquestionably help, though, is having the Gift of the Holy Ghost and having the Spirit's constant comfort to help Amy get through those imperfect times. It was so important for that to come from Amy's friend instead of us. Ha it was a really awesome lesson though. We had visited her earlier in the week, and both Elder Frost and our new senior missionary, Elder Western, asked me why she wasn't already baptized when we came out of the house. Hopefully she'll crack down on it soon!

Krissa is in much the same boat. We've invited her to be baptized, and she's been thinking about it a lot. She comes to church every week, she reads the Book of Mormon every day, she even came to Justin's baptism! She has a testimony and doesn't even deny that she does... she just won't commit to baptism. I think Matt is causing a lot of her apprehension. Even though he says he will let her do whatever she wants to, him not doing it with her leads to some reasonable worries. Grrr.... Both Amy and Krissa are just so ready! I wish that everyone was like Mosiah 18:11. Missionary work would just be so easy!

Haha sorry if I seem very scattered in this letter.... I was through about four paragraphs when I looked outside and saw snow. That made me really furious, so I stopped writing so I wouldn't sound too grumpy. Instead I wrote President Christianson, which may not have been the best idea... Then, I was halfway through Amy's paragraph when Amanda and the girls walked in. Kaylee and I had a miniature boxing match, then Melody and I went and did puzzles. But hopefully now I can write without distraction! Haha I feel like my big emails have really decreased in excitement lately.... sorry about that!

So, I just need to say it: I love tracting! I swear it's everyone's biggest nemesis out here, or in any mission, really. But I think it's the coolest thing ever. When am I ever going to be able to knock on someone's door, and say, "Hi, I'm Bracken, and this here is my friend. I haven't ever knocked on this door before so I just wanted to introduce myself. What's your name? Well, nice to meet you, so let's talk about the things so personal about you that no one else ever brings it up!" Haha, it's just never going to happen haha. Especially to have people actually invite us in! I wish that it was like the olden days when unexpected visitors were normal... 

On Saturday, for instance, we were tracting for about three hours. We just did one street and we met Cory, who has three girls, hasn't ever been very religious, but thought it sounded really interesting to be with his family for all eternity and is talking to his fiance about meeting with us in the future. We met Amy, who has four daughters and a son (plus her son's friend, who she says stays there pretty much all weekend), lives in her grandpa's old house on his old farm, has been out of work for quite some time and would love talking to us just because it will give her something to do. Then, we met Toby! Haha what a guy he is! We knocked on his door, and just heard from inside, "Come in!" We timidly opened the door and introduced ourselves. Well, one thing lead to another and we were there for the next two hours talking to him and his wife! Haha he is a recovering crack addict and alcoholic with three sons who came to realize real quick that there is some higher power out there and that there has to be a purpose to this life when he was going through rehab. In those two hours, we went over the entire Plan of Salvation, half of the Restoration, read all of the Articles of Faith, and committed him to come to church next week! Haha I don't get why people complain about tracting! 

Except... it's cold now. And it gets dark really early. Everyone should pray that Winter gets over in the next few days... or at least pray that I can survive it!

Actually, pray for something else. I was reading Mosiah 24 this morning, where it talks about the Nephites and former Mulekites after Mosiah read the records of the Mulekites, especially the words of Abinadi. It says in verse 10 that they thought of the "immediate goodness of God," but yet in verse 11, it says, "When they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls." Alma 6:6 reads, "The children of God were commanded that they should... join together in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not god."

If there's one thing I could really use you to pray for, it's for all the people in my area who don't understand God and haven't received His restored gospel, yet. Your prayers make my job a lot easier!

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