Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 18 Letter

Woo-hoo!! Stephen set a baptismal date!! Mark your calendars! Haha

He is the funniest guy to teach. We were planning on teaching about obedience to commandments, with a brief introduction to tithing, word of wisdom, Sabbath day observance, and so on. We figured we would start by talking about the blessings of obedience and the purpose of commandments by reading Mosiah 2:41 ("consider on the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments") and Alma 41:3 ("wickedness never was happiness"). Well, we went in and started with normal casual small talk, and asked him how his day at school was. He started talking about a debate he had in his philosophy class about whether it was possible to be moral and happy at the same time, and how flustered he was that people didn't seem to understand that morality was the only way to lasting happiness. Hahaha it blew our minds.

Anyways, after our lesson, we talked about how covenants a) are very important commandments and b) open up the opportunity for even more growth, both of which he knew. So, we invited him to choose a date to be working towards, and we set it for December 8th

Our only concern is that his wife has never been too involved. So far she hasn't put up any real resistance... but it's tough to say how long that will last. She works nights, so most of the time that we are there, she's just sound asleep. When she is awake, she just keeps to herself and doesn't say anything. Ideally she will get involved, but at the very least we hope she will be okay with him moving forward. The kids love church... she just won't come. I don't know. Pray for that family!

We also had a great day with the Asians. Literally, a day. Haha they'd asked us to come over earlier this time, we assumed so they could have their evening to themselves. So, instead of 6 or 7 like usual, we went over at 4. Logically, that would mean we'd be leaving at 6 or 7 instead of 8 or 9, right? Nope. Instead, it just meant two extra hours with Asians! We went over, talked, had a lesson, and were about to go when Andrea acted really upset that we weren't staying for dinner. So we sat there while she cooked dinner, actually left with Guo Jian to teach a lesson, and came back for dinner until it was time to go home. They're some of my favorite people ever!

Over there, we taught them the plan of salvation. It was pretty hard because it feels like we were just throwing new term after new term at them. Premortal life, the Fall of Adam, Agency, Spirit Prison and Paradise, Judgement, Resurrection, Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial, and on and on and on... It was rough. But it ended up all right, mostly because we then really focused on what our obligation was on this Earth. We talked about the Doctrine of Christ, which was easy enough because they'd both read 2 Nephi 31 that week. We asked them if they felt their faith had increased over the past couple of months since we'd been meeting with them, and they both said yes! Jerry jumped right on it and explained how much and why, where Andrea was a little more hesitant. After a little talking, though, she admitted that he faith was being strengthened. She had told us a while back that she's always believed there was some higher power, and she still maintains that she doesn't know quite who or what it is, but did admit she felt closer to "it" lately, especially as she prays. Sounds about right! They both then agreed that they would get baptized when they were ready, which sounds pretty obvious, but when we floated around the idea of December or January, they both thought that sounded reasonable. Hopefully we'll set a more firm date with them this time around :)

Other than that... we really don't have much to report. Ha, we've been dropped a lot lately. It's like we have Stephen and the Asians... and everyone else investigates and progresses for somewhere between two days and two weeks, then disappears. It's frustrating. Buuut at least we have Stephen and the Asians. They're a lot of fun!

I feel like I should have more to say... but I'm really drawing a blank. We had stake conference this weekend, which was great. Our stake president is the most missionary-focused man I have ever met, and pretty much the whole conference emphasized missionary work. So hopefully that works out well! He's been having us go around to all the members' homes, reading this section from Elder Ballard's talk:

"Brothers and sisters, fear will be replaced with faith and confidence when members and the full-time missionaries kneel in prayer and ask the Lord to bless them with missionary opportunities. Then, we must demonstrate our faith and watch for opportunities to introduce the gospel of Jesus Christ to our Heavenly Father’s children, and surely those opportunities will come. These opportunities will never require a forced or a contrived response. They will flow as a natural result of our love for our brothers and sisters. Just be positive, and those whom you speak with will feel your love. They will never forget that feeling, though the timing may not be right for them to embrace the gospel. That too may change in the future when their circumstances change.
"It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand. While the outcome is a result of the exercise of one’s agency, sharing the gospel is our responsibility.
"Trust the Lord. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep, and His sheep know His voice; and today the voice of the Good Shepherd is your voice and my voice."

and then acting on it! So, we've been going around praying with members all over. It's slow work, obviously, because it's not like tracting where you can get three new investigators an hour. But, hopefully it opens things up to get really solid investigators more. Should be great, especially with this last stake conference.

Haha the stake primary president also spoke in conference. She has been working in primary for some 20 years or something by now, and is now moving to Ohio. At the end of her talk, she had all of the kids who had ever had anything to do with primary while she'd been there (so all of the current primary kids in the stake, any of them who graduated within the past four years or so, all of them in her home ward who are now 15-20 or so, and a few other random groups) stand up and sing "If the Savior Stood Beside Me." Good grief, tear jerker. I'm not much of a crier, but I wimped out there. 

Well, like I said... I don't have much else to report. So, have a great week! I love you all!

But, of course I don't miss you ;) haha 
Elder Allen

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 11 Letter


Well, it's been quite a week. Before I get going on what happened, I think it's really interesting to look at the difference from one companion to another. With some companions, it feels like you are teaching a thousand people a day, but the lessons are only marginally effective. Others, it seems like you might teach one or two a day, but you really get somewhere with them. Elder Holmes and I definitely fit into the latter. Even with Elder Hirschi, less than a month ago, we were teaching about 20 lessons to investigators a week. Elder Holmes and I are hovering around 12-15 so far, but yet I feel the lessons are actually going somewhere. It's pretty interesting. At least to me... you probably don't care. But it will make my email home longer ;)

Anyways, Andrea and Jerry are the greatest. We went over there on Thursday, and finally taught them the Restoration. Generally, we don't wait until we've been teaching them a couple months to get to that, but when they have to gain a testimony of God, you rearrange things a little bit haha. Anyways, it went pretty well. Andrea was a little confused for a while on what happens to other Christians, but I think we explained it about as well as we could without teaching the whole Plan of Salvation along with it. It was a unique lesson, though. Normally, we kind of skim through the first half of Preach My Gospel's "Lesson One," by saying, "Time and time again, God calls prophets. People like Noah, Abraham, Moses. They speak for God, bring His gospel, and bring people together. Eventually, though, the people reject the prophets. Look at Israel! How many times have they rebelled?! So what does God do? He calls another prophet to restore everything back. Eventually Jesus came to the Earth, and brought His full gospel, but somehow people even rejected Him. But, He passed on His authority to the apostles, who tried to keep things together as well as they could, but just look at the New Testament. It is almost entirely the Apostles', especially Paul's, attempts at keeping unity and rejecting false doctrine. When they were killed, the authority to run the Church was no longer on the Earth." Now when you are teaching someone who doesn't know who Noah, Abraham, Moses, Israel, or the apostles are, and when they have a very limited understanding of who God and Jesus are... things change. It was pretty cool to teach it all from the very beginning and really explain it all out to them.

When we finished, all of the sudden Guo Jian (the member), Andrea, Jerry, and some other Chinese woman who lives in the house who doesn't speak any English started bickering back and forth in Chinese for about 30 minutes. We had zero idea what was going on. (We found out later from the other elders that apparently Guo Jian said that if they didn't start reading the Book of Mormon, he was going to stop coming over anymore hahaha.) But at the end, Andrea said something really cool! She was talking about how her friends and family really want her to get married. "I know it would make me happy," she explained, but then said that even if the perfect guy came around and wanted to marry her, she would probably get so nervous that she would avoid doing anything that would lead to their marriage. She compared this to the Church. Essentially, she is acknowledging that the gospel can and likely will make her happy and change her life, she is just scared of doing the things that she knows are going to help her accept it. While it isn't exactly the best outlook on it all, it is cool to see her recognize for herself that what we are teaching can and will change her life, entirely. 

This would all be a much bigger downer if it wasn't for the following ten minutes! After we explained... actually, I really don't remember what I explained. But I talked to her about the comfort and confidence God gives us as we move forward, step by step. At the end of it all, I asked if we could close with a prayer. Andrea looked at me terrified, assuming I was asking her to pray. I assured her I would say it this time around, and did. At the end, I stood up, only to have Andrea look up at me and say, "Can I say one, now?" Whaaat??! Normally it's taken quite a bit of reassuring and encouraging for her to pray; for her to volunteer is unheard of!

Now, to make us even happier, we are planning on going to Palmyra with Guo Jian, Jerry, and Andrea the Friday after Thanksgiving! One of the Sister Missionaries is from Taiwan, so she will be taking them on all the tours and everything. It'll be so great!

We also had a really great lesson with Stephen. We went over covenants, and yet again he pretty much just sounded LDS the entire time we talked. He talked about how covenants are something we need to make throughout our lives so that we can grow closer and closer to God. It was mindblowing. We are getting closer and closer to baptism with him!

Then we have a new investigating family! Two weeks ago, we were tracting, and a lady opened the door. There were a thousand kids inside, and we could tell we definitely were intruding on something. The lady's daughter came to the door and said that it was her daughter's birthday party. We asked if we could come back some other time, and she said yes. We asked if there was a good time, and they said pretty much any time would work. That is never a good sign. That means they are essentially saying, "Do whatever, we really don't care at all..." But, we were in the area on Tuesday, so we stopped by. When we knocked, we heard, "Who is it?" "The missionaries!" we hollered back. "Oh, one second!" was the surprisingly pleasant reply. As Destiny (the mom whose daughter was having a birthday party) answered the door, we talked to her for a few minutes at the door, then she went into another room to talk to her husband. From around the corner, we heard, "The missionaries are here." "Oh, I'll be right out!" We ended up talking to them for some thirty or forty minutes about everything from hunting to the Restoration! It was fantastic, and we are headed back on Wednesday!

Well... I'm sure there's more to be said... but I'm drawing up a blank and I've probably rambled on enough for one day!

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 4 Letter

Well, this week I might have even less to report on than last week. When you have two Halloween parties and a temple trip, your evenings are pretty well booked. Then figure in the fact that every single person went into hiding on Saturday, and the week was pretty dull. But I'll try to come up with something thrilling to report on, no need to fear.

Hmm... oh! That's a good one! I don't know about thrilling, but it was exciting, nonetheless. On Thursday (Halloween), a member invited all of the missionaries to go to her place for dinner. It probably wouldn't have been worth the travel time (about 45-60 minutes each way) otherwise, but on Halloween it was either be at an appointment or be at your apartment, and who really wants missionaries who can't listen to music, watch TV, or have fun at their house for Halloween? Well apparently Murr does. (Her real name is Mary or something... not sure why she goes by Murr.) Really, there'd be nothing to report on, except Andrea came for her first American Halloween! Haha it probably wasn't a very typical Halloween, so she probably wonders what the fuss is about, but it was cool to just spend the whole evening with her.

While there, she and Murr had a conversation that was half great, half super awkward:

Murr: So, are you a Mormon?
Andrea: No. Not yet. (That was the exciting part. I almost choked on my soup as she said "yet." Well, that's partway because the soup was really gross anyways. But it made me really excited!)
Murr: China is communist, though, right? (then, turning towards us) So what is the point of even teaching her?

Haha that was one of the more awkward things she could have said. But, we dealt with it well, avoided saying something sarcastic like, "I don't know, to allow her to know her true identity as a daughter of God, allow her to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and give her the choice of making covenants with him," and instead just focused on the part where Andrea, who has always been much more resistant than Jerry, said YET! 

While we didn't end up meeting with them this week because of how busy they are with school, I had a really cool conversation with Jerry over text. We were talking about his upcoming fluid mechanics exam and I wished him good luck, and he said, "Thanks :) I will be sure to pray for help :)" When we were talking on the phone later that day, he said he's been praying every day and has been working with Andrea to help her feel more comfortable praying, even saying nightly prayers with her! It's fantastic! We have an appointment with them this Thursday that we are planning on inviting them to set a baptismal date for the middle of December or beginning of January. It's a ways off... but when you're still trying to help them get faith that God exists, we could use a little bit of time haha.

The other cool event of the week was the temple trip! Patti, from Freedom, received her endowments on Friday! Even though I was nowhere near New York when she got baptized three years ago, we did a lot of work with her to help her get over some recurring habits haha. When they picked Elder Holmes and me up, and we got into the car, the first thing she said was, "Well Elder Allen, this is your fault." After trying to figure out what she meant by that a little more, she said it was because I was the one that encouraged her to get her patriarchal blessing, and she said one thing lead to another from there. Haha not to make her temple trip about me, but I quite liked hearing that. After hearing about one convert after another going less active down there, it is good to know that I made a lasting impact with someone!

All of the missionaries in the mission who had worked with Patti were there! We aren't all in this picture, but I think it came out to 17 or so!

The temple was cool, of course. I actually probably had one of the most revelatory experiences from the temple that I've had in quite a while. Haha obviously I can't go into it much here, but it was great! And while I was in the Celestial Room, I was reading from Doctrine and Covenants 109, and a little bit stood out to me:

"And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power (vs 13)... And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power (vs 22)... But thy word must be fulfilled. Help thy servants to say, with thy grace assisting them: Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours (vs 44)."
Anyways... I really don't have much else to talk about. We have a pretty exciting week ahead of us, though! So hopefully it all plays out!

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