Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 20 Letter

I always hate sitting down and writing these, because I can't think of anything that we did. But then, of course, I think of 5,000 things that we did, and end up writing for the next hour and a half. Sooo.... here goes.
It was definitely a week of a whole lot of service. Now that Summer is here, everyone wants to clean out everything from their yards, and therefore we clean out everything from their yards! Haha one of those service projects essentially involved us raking up a bunch of twigs and leaves, loading them into a wheelbarrow, and pouring them out in an essentially identical pile about 15 feet away. We did that for about three hours haha. But, she was happy with us, so what can you do? Haha Monday night was a lot more effective. We went to Dolly's and pulled out a whole bunch of fallen limbs from a small wooded area surrounding her house. We ended up making two piles, each about four feet high. She was definitely very grateful for it, which was good, but the coolest part of it all was that Jimmy, another investigator, was there helping. We had a great conversation with him as we worked, but it was really good for him because he's been through a ton of crap lately. He had actually asked us to let him know whenever we were doing any sort of service, just because he wanted to feel like he was helping someone. I think he was especially impressed when he realized that Dolly wasn't a member of the church. I don't know if my rambling is making any sense.... haha but Monday night was a good one!
We haven't been able to get ahold of the Zieglers hardly at all this week, which has us nervous. On Monday, Tina went to the hospital with chest pains, and apparently was ambulanced over to Buffalo on Wednesday. I can obviously understand why we aren't sitting down meeting with them right now, but we haven't even heard from them since Wednesday. So, hopefully everything is all right there.
Renate is being just about as frustrating as always haha. She has nothing she would need to fix in order to be ready for baptism. Heck, she's been coming to church on almost a weekly basis for 17 years by now. She keeps on saying that she is waiting for that overwhelming assurance from the Holy Ghost, which I wouldn't argue against whatsoever. The irritating part of it is that she won't pray to know! Grr!! Revelation quite rarely comes from nothing! Hopefully she'll understand that soon enough haha.
Well, Friday, we took Gila and Josef to Palmyra! All the sister missionaries were very jealous that we get to teach a Jewish couple! We didn't make it to the E.B. Grandin Building, but did go to the Hill Cumorah and to the Joseph Smith Farm and Sacred Grove! Gila especially really enjoyed it, from what she said, but she definitely has some strange ideas about things haha. She has a very strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet, now. Buuuuut, now she decided that since there was a number of years in between him receiving the gold plates and the Church being officially organized, that he was actually convinced by Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and others to form a religion. I guess she fully believes that the fullness of the gospel wasn't on the Earth in 1820, and that Joseph Smith restored lost truths.... but those lost truths didn't involve an actual church? She then started talking about a whole bunch of Jewish customs that we don't observe, ranging from Pentecost to eating pigs. I don't know. I don't think I've ever met someone with such a strong testimony of Joseph Smith's calling and such a "testimony" against the Church, itself. But, hopefully we'll be able to sort that one out bit by bit, haha.
Oh! But not only were our Jews at the Sacred Grove! But these guys!

If you don't know who they are, it's the Killers. Haha I didn't get my own picture, because I decided I should be more attentive to my own investigators. So, instead, I just awkwardly looked out the window of the Smith cabin as they walked down the road, and stole one of the pictures from the Sister missionaries. But still, our mission is the best.
Haha yesterday, we went to the Boccichio's for a little party after Veronica's First Holy Communion. We mostly just played games and whatnot, but it was pretty cool to even be invited to it. Pretty much the only people there were the Deacon from the church, a monk from the area, a couple other members of their church, and their whole family. When we got there, Mrs. Bo walked us around introducing us to everyone as her "adopted sons." (Haha I'm really glad she did, because when we first walked in, I felt pretty intrusive and like everyone was wondering who these Mormons thought they were hahaha.) They are just such a cool family! Their three sons are back from college now, so we got to meet them. It's just crazy at how the three sons are all best friends, and then the five girls are as well, even though there's a five year difference from the oldest boy to the youngest and an eight year difference in the girls.
I know I already kind of talked about Jimmy, but he is just awesome. He went to our service project with us on Monday, but then we also had our regular appointment with him on Thursday. We had an awesome conversation about why the Book of Mormon is so important. I don't know if the Woodworth's are just significantly better teachers than we are, or if he's just significantly more elect than anyone I have ever taught, but he picks up on things like no one I've ever seen! It's insane! But yes, we taught him about the Book of Mormon, and how it is much more than just a history of other people who have had a good relationship with God, but it really answers questions that we have. We turned to a list of "questions of the soul" in Preach My Gospel, where it gives a chapter of the Book of Mormon that answers that question. We ended up reading Alma chapter 5 with him, to answer if God really knows us as individuals. What is cooler than the fact that we read there and had a good time is the fact that he went home, he ended up reading for two hours with his girlfriend! Holy cow! Haha it's funny, because apparently as she read, she said, "You know, it really sounds like they're talking about the American Indians." He then came to Stake Conference with us on Sunday, and was very interested in everything. It was a special broadcast from Salt Lake, with L. Tom Perry, Boyd K. Packer, Donald A. Rasband, and a couple others, with some very cool messages. One that I think hit him the hardest was President Packer talking about baptism, and a man who said he wishes he'd had the gospel his whole life. President Packer pointed out that when we are baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we have been "born again" as explained in John 3. So, in all reality, we have had the gospel our whole life--our whole, new life as a disciple of Christ. it was a very cool conference, that's for sure. Then, after the conference, we went to the Woodworth's for lunch, and had another great conversation with him. He started talking about one of his kids, who had died only a couple week old. He said he had heard that kids went to heaven, but hadn't seen anything firmly stating that as a fact. Right away, I pulled out Doctrine and Covenants 137, explained Joseph's story with Alvin his brother and Alvin his son, and then read the section with him. It was so powerful! He's such an incredible guy to teach!
Oh, and then on Friday, we had a fireside with the stake patriarch talking about the history of temples. We got there a little late, since we were coming from Palmyra, but as we sat down, I noticed that Dakota and Ciera Van Ocker were both there. They are the kids of Brother Van Ocker, from the Warsaw Branch, but live with their mom in Bliss, which is in Freedom. The parents have been going through a pretty tough divorce, and Sister Van Ocker, Dakota, and Ciera haven't been to church for at least a year, since they moved. But, about seven months ago, Elder Frost and I started going over there a little bit and built up a little bit of a relationship with them. Eventually, they became more and more elusive and wanted less and less to do with the church. Well, it was their weekend with their dad, and he somewhat made them come to the fireside with him. Afterwards, I went up and started talking to both of them. Dakota warmed up a little as we talked, but was still fairly standoffish. Ciera, though, really opened up. We talked all about school and sports and her getting her tonsils out. Eventually, we transitioned into talking about the church. She said they hadn't made it out because her mom was working on Sundays. We got talking some more, and she finally promised me that she would be at church once she had her driver's license in a few months. (To be specific, she pinky promised. When her dad heard that, he said, "If I'd thought it would be that easy, I would have double dog dared her a long time ago!" hahaha.) We kept talking, and I told her, "Your dad would pick you up in a heartbeat if you asked him. You know that, right?" She said she did, but seemed a little unsure. A couple hours later, when we were back home and in for the night, Brother Van Ocker came to our apartment, thanking me. He said on the ride home, she kind of out of nowhere asked him if he would pick her up for church the next time she had work off. He said after he regathered himself from his near heart attack (haha his kids have been VERY opposed to church the past little while), they had a great conversation about church and everything.
It's cool for me, because I have a relationship with the two Van Ocker kids that no one else in the mission has. I am the only missionary in the mission now who has built up any sort of a friendship with them in the environment of their mom's house. There is one other missionary out here who has met them, but that was at their dad's house, after the divorce, so it was always a kind of contentious setting. It was just neat to be able to carry on work that I started seven months ago in a completely different area. I don't know if I'm making any sense, but it was definitely all very exciting!
I don't know much else to say. It was a weird week. A lot of the people we've been working with a longtime are starting to really plateau, which means these next few weeks are going to involve a lot of finding... yay!! Haha
I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

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