Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24 Letter

First, if any of you missed the broadcast last night, you missed out BIG TIME. If you fit that boat, hurry and go watch this video:

And then later on, you can watch the full version of it here:

Really, though, it was great. They nailed it. (Ha, go figure, six apostles of the Lord know what should happen?) We can knock on doors all day long, or even contact referrals, and get nowhere. But when a member of the church talks about their beliefs with a friend, invites them to learn from the missionaries, has the missionaries and their friends over to their house for the discussions, and remains their friend throughout their investigating and in the church, things are so much easier. It's always so hard when we start teaching someone to find a fellowshipper for them, because we're kind of shooting in the dark on things, plus it's almost like people feel like as long as they are there for the lesson, their job is done. And really, it's hard for us to find someone who is naturally going to be your best friend. The solution? We teach your friends! It's perfect!

The downer of the whole broadcast? In attendance at our branch was a young man we dragged along, and two couples. (None of whom were the branch mission leader...) Haha broadcasts about member missionary work are MUCH more effective when members are there to hear about it. I was sitting there when Elder Nelson told us that we shouldn't have time to knock on doors wondering how much time two families could fill. Anyone who is reading this now, though (mom, dad, Megan, Emily, especially), you had BETTER listen to the Apostles and get to work! There's actually a high counselor out here in the Rochester Stake who is still pretty young, and has had 26 convert baptisms stemming from his invitation to attend his family's Family Home Evening. Get to work, guys!!

Now as for this week. Really, it was a pretty weird one. Tuesday we spent most of the day in Palmyra at the base of the Hill Cumorah for our last transfer meeting with President Christianson. Friday we were back in Palmyra with Drew and Wesley. And Saturday we spent most of the evening at a birthday party/wishing President Christianson goodbye barbeque at a member of the branch's house. I'll talk a little more about each of them and some of the other things we did, but when you have things like that that fill up such huge chunks of the day, there are fewer stories to tell.

First, the transfer meeting. It was crazy. President had all of the missionaries in the mission attend. If I'm not mistaken, my MTC group made it so the NYRM had 88 young missionaries. This newest group made us top 180. But President is such an incredible man. I don't think I've met too many more spiritual people than him. He also gave us a bookmark with two pretty cool quotes on it. They read:

"Faith is the power,
Love is the motive,
Obedience is the price.

"The Spirit is the key,
The Restoration is the message,
The Members are the means.

"Christ is the reason,
Baptism is the way,
Joy is the reward."

Then the other one is from Bruce R. McConkie: "Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness. It is always given when righteousness is present, and the greater the measure of obedience to God's laws, the greater will be the endowment of faith."

The whole time he was talking, I was thinking about things I need to do better at. We need some miracles out here, so time to really crack down!

Then of course, we went to the sites with Drew and Wesley on Friday. I don't think I've ever spent as long in the Sacred Grove as we did with them, which was very nice to be able to just walk around in it for a while. We probably also got the best tour of the Joseph Smith Farm that I've ever had. It was good to see them!
While in Palmyra, we went to lunch at this pizza place called Nima's that the missionaries always go to. The waitress there was actually a girl who Elder Thueson and I had taught a little bit one of our times there. When we'd first taught her, we gave her the Palmyra elders' number and she said she'd get ahold of them. Well, as of Friday, she still hadn't! So I harped on her a while, and she committed to setting up an appointment the next time they were there after a District Meeting. Will she? I don't know. Luckily for both of us, we get to use Facebook! So I searched "Megan in Palmyra, NY" and she came right up! Haha we'll get her learning soon enough.

Almost without question the best part of my week was before the barbeque on Saturday, President came down to meet us at the church. He and I just went and talked for an hour about all sorts of questions I had. I don't know what I'm going to do without that man! Be watching for an Elder Christianson to be called to the Quorum of the Seventy sometime soon haha. He's got my vote!!

Also at the barbeque, I had a fantastic conversation with Amy. We've been spending a lot of time at her house with her sisters. One of them, Jenn, is a member of the church, but had a very bad experience with her young women's leader, and hasn't been back for years. The other, Meghan, never got involved at all. Their mom is a less active member, too. But their relationship with her is strained, at best, and it seems to a large extent that is part of why the girls don't want anything to do with the church, because they associate it with their mom. But, Amy and I talked about how to go about things with Jenn and Meghan. Amy is working on getting their uncle's name ready for the temple in the next few month and invited both her sisters to come if they could get prepared for it. Surprisingly for both of us, neither were nearly as opposed to the idea as we expected. We've both been praying and searching the scriptures for how to open their hearts to hearing the gospel, and I'm very excited to see where it can get us. Really, Amy is probably the best one in our branch at doing exactly what last night's broadcast is all about. She will always text us whenever her family is coming over or whenever her friends are coming over. It's great!

We also finally met with Renate this week. I get so frustrated with her. She can't wrap her head around the idea that she can know the truth. We'll talk about something, and she'll always say that everyone has their own interpretation of things. So we read 2 Peter 1:20-21 with her, then talk about praying to know the truth. Annnnnd then she doesn't. I just don't know what to do there. She's willing to read the Book of Mormon with us and come to church, but then doesn't really seem to want to know at all. It's like people out here don't really comprehend what we are telling them. We are telling them this is the way. And they just go about their lives. It's aggravating haha.

But we really got teaching a guy named Tim! I don't even remember what I have or haven't said about him yet... But a couple weeks ago, he walked right up to us on the street and asked if we had any reading material that he could have. Yeah, that doesn't happen too often to us, so we weren't really sure what to do. But, we did get his address and gave him a Book of Mormon. Well, we met with him last week and really started talking to him about the Restoration. He seemed slightly interested, but almost in an academic, "I like to learn how other people see things" sort of way. He's a crazy kid. Our first lesson with him, he told us all about all these drugs that he does, but said he was realizing how artificial of a life and friendships it was creating for him. Haha he also somehow related the Apostasy to humans creating a batch of robots that became smart enough that the could override the computer control system and fight back... not sure how that happened.

We weren't really sure how serious he was taking anything, but then this week we got a call from the Batavia elders, asking us about Tim. We were really confused about how they knew about him at all, but apparently one of the recent converts they have been working with is good friends with him. Sam, the convert in Batavia, said she kept getting texts from Tim asking questions about different parts of the Book of Mormon. We hurried and called him up and set up an appointment for he next day. He had read all of 1 Nephi, and was halfway through 2 Nephi! Haha of course, when we asked him what he remembered, he said, "Umm... tough to say. I'm a stoner, remember." Haha but as we got going, talking about Lehi's family leaving Jerusalem, he really seemed to remember just about everything. When we were talking about how straight-forwardly obedient Nephi was, he told us, "Yeah, the whole definitely restored my faith in commandments a little bit." Haha I would have never thought after our first lesson with him about robots that he would be one of our fastest progressing investigators, but I'm pretty stoked to see where this ends up taking us!

Well, I would send some pictures, but I lost my cord somehow. No clue where it is. So, until Amazon can mail me a new one in "3-5 business days," you won't get to see me with Drew and Wesley or with President and Sister Christianson.

Annnnd, I do believe I'm out of stories. But, in President Christianson's favorite words, "Hurrah for Israel!"

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 17 Letter

Whoa, fastest transfer of my life! For it being one of my most unfruitful, it zoomed on by! And now I'm starting my third transfer here in Warsaw, yet again with Elder Westwood. I'm thinking I'll just stay here as long as I did in Freedom. Oh, and I'm District Leader again, but in the silliest district in the whole mission. It's me, my companion, the two Zone Leaders, and two different senior couples. It's just like it was in Freedom, only the other area has more authority haha.

So this was a marginally frustrating week. I didn't talk much about last week, but we started making some real progress with Ally. The resemblance between her situation and Amanda's (from back in Freedom) was glaringly obvious. So, I talked with Amanda about it (Which was awesome!!! She recently moved, and hadn't gone to church for a bit, but the day I'd talked to her was her first Sunday going to the new ward, and I don't think I've heard her sound so happy in months!!) and she got all excited about helping Ally. I think wheels were really starting to turn in Ally's head...... and then she moved to Lancaster, just outside of Buffalo, to live with her mom again. It's sooo aggrevating. I finally thought we'd found someone in a situation that they would actually accept the gospel, and then it all crashes in one day. That is the selfish reasoning for me being upset, but even more, it's going to be REALLY rough for her. Living with her parents, from what she's told us, is not a good situation for her. Saturday night, when we heard about it, I could only find solace in Jacob 5:21-22, when the Lord of the vineyard and his servant come to a branch in the crappiest part of the whole vineyard, seemingly dooming it to fail. It reads:

And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.
And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.

So, I am trying to stop counseling the Lord, and let Him do His thing.... but it's still frustrating haha.

I'm trying to think of good stories to tell about any of the people we're actually teaching right now, but I'm not coming up with a whole bunch. I swear, my strength is in finding people and helping them see that the gospel is something they want in their life. When it comes to actually helping them get it into their life, I struggle...  Elder Inkley and Elder Thueson were both really good at that. Elder Westwood.... just doesn't really talk. Haha he's from a town of 130 people, so even though he's as nice and easy-going as they come, he is perfectly fine not saying a word haha. So, it looks like I have to figure out how to help people progress longer than three weeks at a time. 

Yesterday we sat down and laid out what we thought each of the people we're working with need. Pretty much, we decided we need to be a little bolder. We have sort of allowed our investigators to accept where they were at, which we definitely shouldn't. We pretty much let people plateau. So, hopefully we'll have some more exciting stories in the near future.

We do have a whole bunch of potential investigators who make me pretty excited, though. We have had more luck getting to be friends with part-member families than I have had my whole mission. We have four right now who I think have tons of potential. It's just tough with them, because they are relationships that we don't want to ruin at all. I guess we don't want to ruinany relationships, ever. But it's easier to be bold with someone you tracted into or met on the street. But when you're with a family who is already a part of the church, we're always super nervous about offending anyone, because you kind of realize that if they don't gain a testimony now, they'll have another opportunity down the line. We also have a couple referrals where the member who referred them is doing most of the coordinating, which always works better. 

I don't know. This is a kind of lame email, I guess. But good things are coming, I think!

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

P.S. This is my 50th weekly email home :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 10 Letter

Hello everyone!
In 1820, a young boy was confused about religion. His whole town was in a religious revival, and different preachers were pulling him all sorts of directions. As a 14-year-old, the young Joseph had been taught Christianity by his parents growing up, but was concerned at how often the different sects completely contradicted each other. He just really wanted to know what God actually expected of him.
One day, he was reading the Bible, and found James' testimony of personal revelation. It is interesting, because I bet when James was writing his epistle to a Christian church that at the time was almost entirely still Jewish, he had no idea what his words, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God" would inspire. But, Joseph, at that time, doubted that any scripture had ever had so powerful effect on any person in history. He knew that wisdom was exactly  what he lacked, and suddenly came to the realization that the only way he could gain that wisdom was by asking God.
So, on a nice Spring morning, he went out into the woods behind his family's farm. Apparently he'd been thinking this all through, because he went to a spot he'd "previously designed to go." He'd never before prayed aloud, and was clearly taking it very seriously. When her arrived at his decided private location, he knelt down and started explaining his concerns and worries with his Father.
At first, the Adversary of all truth and light constrained him. Nevertheless, Joseph persevered, calling upon his Lord. At that moment, he saw a pillar of light above him in the air. This light descended from the heavens, illuminating the woods around him. As he gazed into the light, he saw two separate beings, "whose brightness and glory defied all description." God the Father called out to Joseph, and introduced His Son, Jesus Christ.
Joseph entered the grove confused about the path that he should take in his pathway to eternity, clearly concerned the path that he was on would not cut it. Christ answered this concern promptly, saying "Joseph, thy sins are forgiven thee." Essentially telling him that all his past was behind him, so long as he would adhere to the counsel he was about to receive. This counsel would change the world forever.
The Savior explained that, at Joseph's time, no church was accepted of God, for all had lost their way. Doctrines and ordinances, and even scriptures, had been twisted and manipulated to fit better with man's philosophies. Even those sects who earnestly sought to interpret God's word as He would have them do were unable, as they were without the authority of the priesthood. This being the case, Joseph was commanded to join none of the churches. Instead, he was to open up a new dispensation as a prophet of God, being the Abraham, Noah, or Moses of his age. Just as Jesus didn't reform the distorted religion of the Pharisees, Joseph was not to reform any existing church, but to restore the Church of Jesus Christ back to the Earth.
Because of this prayer and this prophetic calling, we know why we are on the Earth in mortality.
Because of this prayer, we know what we need to do in order to return with our Heavenly Father, and we know that we are returning, reuniting.
Because of this prayer, we know that amid all the strife and struggles in the world, God is fully aware of each of us as individuals.
Because of this prayer, we know that God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Because of this prayer, we know that God is truly the God of the world, and not just of a region.
Because of this prayer, we know that God hears and answers prayers, and that He knows us by name.
Basically, because of this one prayer, the works of God are again rolling forward. We can once again be on a path pleasing to Him. We can be with our families forever. We can always look forward with hope, and some amount of clarity. Isn't it just great?
'Twas a great week!
I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 3 Letter

Guess what! I learned some things this week!

1) When you are leaving the church at 9:20 or so to try and get home on time, you are considerably more likely to get home on time if you DON'T lock your keys in the church! A two mile walk home takes much longer than a two mile drive.

2) While warming up a spoon in the fire of a stove burner so that you can scoop ice cream easier is a reasonably effective idea... Using that same spoon to eat the ice cream with is definitely not. You know how you feel when you drink hot chocolate that is too hot? When your tongue is burned? That's how my entire tongue and roof of my mouth feel, plus I have 2nd degree burns on my lips. Hahaha should've thought that one through better hahaha... Now NO girls are going to kiss me this week ;) hahaha. But really, it hurt. So don't do it.

Hmm... missionary work from this week. Haha it was service extravaganza this week, that's for sure. We spent two different mornings/afternoons cutting, moving, and/or stacking wood. One of them was at the Parkhurst's, which are the parents of Sister Tozier (the house we called from on Mother's Day). Sis Tozier has been trying to get the missionaries over to her parents for years now, and it hasn't worked too well. But hey! Everyone wants service done! Haha we had a real good conversation with them, too, and they are having us back over this week to do more. Sooo, hopefully it turns into a teaching opportunity somewhere down the line. Hahahaha also, we were talking about the animals he has on his land, including some ducks. He called them "New York Ducks." Haha think about what that might mean, and I'll tell you the answer later! hahaha

We also did a bunch of wood over at the Livingston's. Fran Livingston is a member who hasn't come to church in some time. Her husband, Gil, isn't a member, but will come to church with Fran usually when she does. He hasn't ever taken the discussions, but has read all of the pamphlets which are basically the lessons in less conversational form. We had a really good talk with him while we were there. Well.... I had a really good talk with him while Elder Westwood was using the chainsaw... I felt kind of bad leaving him hanging, but Gil and I were having a really good conversation! In the end, as we were leaving, he said, "You should try to convince Fran to go to church tomorrow." "If she does, will you be there?" I asked. "Yeah, of course!" he replied. Unfortunately, I think she wants to go to church considerably less than he does, for some reason, and they weren't there.... but still, we are making some exciting progress!
Haha but really, people and their freaking agency!! This week we had FIVE people committed to coming to church. FIVE people who flat out said they would be there. We also had four others who said they would try. Know how many were there? One. Grr... I get so frustrated on Sundays! Reading, praying, or any other invitation that we give, they can accomplish anytime. Church, there's kind of one time that they can do it. Annnnnd, they don't. Haha it is so aggravating! JUST COME TO CHURCH!!!!

Anyways, now that that's said, I'm trying to think of some other people we visited. Oh! I should probably say the one person who did come to church was Ally! So it was her first time and as far as I could tell she enjoyed it! There's some crazy family drama, though, so it will be interesting to see what all goes down there in the near future.... but for now I am very optimistic about working with her!

The other day we got a call from Jay. He's the one who randomly came up to Elder Kelly and me about two months back asking about baptism. He's been bouncing back and forth from Geneseo to Warsaw, which has made it almost impossible to meet with him, but he is finally moving back and staying in Warsaw! He's an interesting one to work with, because he doesn't seem very willing to follow up on any commitments, but yet he has, without fail, let us know every time he's in Warsaw so we can meet up and talk. It's been frustrating to figure out quite what to do with him haha.

Then there's always Dolly! We went there a couple times this week, and I think it's starting to click what we mean by "this is the true church." She kept on telling us that she already knows that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true... but yet she went to her church on Sunday. Without being harsh, we tried to pretty straightforwardly explain to her why that doesn't make much sense. She wouldn't pray with us there (haha I tried convincing her to for a solid 15 minutes), but she committed to really praying to know for herself last night. We'll make it over there in the next couple of days to see how it all went! I think she'll need to pray with us there, though, so that we can help her recognize her answer... But we'll see how things go.

We had probably our best discussion with Renate on Tuesday. At first our reading went almost exactly the same as it always does: informational, but not incredibly enlightening. But then we started talking about the Holy Ghost. She told us that she didn't think she'd ever been prompted by the Holy Ghost before, so we helped her recognize multiple times in her life that she had. Now, I hope she can put two and two together and start recognizing the Holy Ghost answering on the truthfulness of the gospel. Buuuut, she's kind of stubborn (haha she's 73, German, and a woman, what can you expect?) so it will probably take a little more teaching than that.

Tonight, we're going over to Amy Vrooman's house for what hopefully turns into a tradition. We were over at her house earlier this week to give her a blessing, and apparently when her two-year-old son, Grant, found out we were there without him, he was pretty mad. So, I suggested we just plan on weekly family home evenings there! This'll be great, because a) family home evening is important for young kids, b) it'll be really good for her whole family since her husband is usually working on Sundays, and hopefully her sisters make it on occasion, c) I love Grant!! haha Amy says he and I are too similar..., and d) it'll be good if this can stick so that we can take people we're working with over to her house with us on occassion. It'll be like the Owens family: Warsaw Edition!

Well, I should probably go. We are helping a less active lady move today, so we have a lot to take care of in the next two hours... Then tomorrow we have zone conference in the Sacred Grove, so that'll be way neat. It's President Christianson's last one (he leaves in less than a month... holy crap!), so it'll be interesting. Apparently, he's planning on BIG changes this upcoming transfer. His exact words at one of the other zone's conference were, "We're doing transfer meeting at the Hill Cumorah, and everyone's invited. Because, well... almost everyone will be getting transferred." Haha I guess he wants to get everyone exactly where he wants them before President Francis comes in! It'll be interesting for sure! 

Hey! You should also read some of my new blog posts from the past week or two!!

This one is from Orson Scott Card, but it is a VERY cool look at the adulterous woman. I liked it a ton:

This one is about why we keep commandments in the first place, and the danger of getting to nit-picky with them:

And this one is about how patience perfects us and refines us:

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

P.S. Why were his ducks New York ducks? "They are both male, but they don't seem to realize they're both male. My wife hates it when I say that." Hahahahaha
And here are a bunch of pictures of Warsaw that he sent along this week!