Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 27 Letter


So, this week. Haha it was fun.

First, the unfun lesson that really just sets the stage for a much better lesson. We went over to Vinnie's. He's the one who is prepping for the end of the world. Haha he is odd.... He is pretty ticked off that only the government gets to go hover their UFOs over the ocean and drink a glass of wine while watching the dolphins... And by ticked I mean REALLLLLY mad. There were a few curse words when he was explaining that. I finally just made up that we had an appointment to get to when he started going off on 9/11 conspiracy theories. I can't handle those, at all, and it was all I could do to bite my tongue. But, we spent most of the in between time of those two conversations talking about Revelations, the mark of the beast being a computer chip the government was going to force us to put into our hands, etc. It was odd, but at least it was kinda churchy. Like I said, though, eventually I couldn't handle his 9/11 crap so we left.

But then, fantastic lesson with Randy a few days after! He's the one who had to spend weekends in jail the past long time. Well, we went in and had some small talk... and all of the sudden he started talking about Revelations. I was about to run outside and beat my head against his concrete porch, due to my flashbacks from Vinnie. But, I hung tight. Well, we talked a little about it, and it suddenly took a really cool turn! He had just finished reading the New Testament cover-to-cover for the first time, so we asked him what he thought the purpose of the epistles was. He agreed with us that the apostles were essentially going all over trying to correct false doctrines and hold everything together. We read in 1 Corinthians when Paul chastises them, asking "Is Christ divided?" and emphasized the need for a church that was united, which requires apostles, prophets, pastors, and evangelists, for the "perfecting of the saints" until "Till we all come in the unity of the faith." We then pulled it into the Restoration. 

But to make it even better, we went to Doctrine and Covenants 45:2 about men's hearts failing them because they will panic at the horrors of the second coming. We talked about his brother, who passed away within the past few years. He says his faith is the only thing that has carried him through, while the event destroyed his mother's faith. We said that would be similar at the Second Coming; some would be emboldened, others would be terrified, depending on their actions leading up to the event. We then jumped to verse 35 of the same section, which reads, "And I said unto them: Be not troubled, for, when all these things shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled." And so the conversation shifted right to making covenants! Finally, we invited him to pray and ask God if this church is the one for him, to which he responded, "I don't think I have to." He has always resisted the idea of "one true church" so this didn't sound good. But he continued, "I have been thinking a lot about this since I finished Revelations. I wanted to know what churches would stay together during all of this, and who would scatter. It hit me that the Church of Mormon [don't worry.... we're working on helping him stop that.... haha] would come together. That's where I need to be with my family." The Mormon Church is for him!!! Unfortunately, we still have MONTHS until he even can get baptized, and he is struggling getting to church. He isn't allowed to drive, and his wife won't come to church yet, and he's too proud to ask for a ride. Huff.... well, pray for him!

Then we had a really old less active lady, Beverly, who hasn't been to church since the 90s who made progress!! She lives about 25 minutes from the church, and has bounced around to every church imaginable (Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, random no-name church, Jehovah's Witness, and LDS) and really doesn't think of herself as LDS. But she doesn't like going to church at all, let alone driving all the way to ours. She is satisfied with reading the Bible. So, a week ago, we talked with her about how all those churches use the Bible yet all get their own ideas somehow. We talked about how invaluable the Book of Mormon is in that regard, because it clarifies so much of what the Bible teaches and points us in the right direction. She admitted she hadn't read it in decades, so we invited her to... and she DID! It was thrilling! She was definitely a lot warmer with us this visit, too, which is promising. So hopefully that pans out!

Haha but ohhhh my. We had a dinner appointment with the Larsen family this week. They are great. They have four kids who are absolutely adorable, and the best of friends. Oh, and they are all under the age of two. Oh... because they are quadruplets! Haha they talked about when they first learned. She was doing fertility treatments, so in the back of her mind she knew that there was about a one in five chance they'd have twins. So when they were getting an ultrasound, the nurse asked her husband to sit down before she explained anything to them. "Well," she started cautiously, and pointed, "this is Baby #1... and this is Baby #2." Brother and Sister Larsen were stoked! Twins!! "... and this is Baby #3...." Their thrill kind of turned into shock. They didn't know what to think. ".... aaaand this is Baby #4." They said they just laughed for about fifteen minutes, not sure what else to do. She said that is pretty much how she felt the next two or three months, before they told anyone. It was a constant cycle between laughing hysterically and crying uncontrollably. Haha I can't even imagine. But, all four are healthy and they sleep at the exact same times! Hahaha it's pretty funny to hear the parents talk about them.

Well, this week should be fun! We have an appointment with Randy and a member of the bishopric, which will be great. Then, we have our first appointment to meet with Bishop in the past 11 months, at least! He apparently had a bad experience with missionaries in the past. As such, he wouldn't meet with us, won't let us into ward council, won't really do anything directly beneficial to missionary work haha. But... hopefully our meeting with him helps that! Then we have a lesson with Shane, a guy who has come to church regularly for the past two months, even though the missionaries haven't ever really taught him. Should be good!

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 20 Letter

Hello world!
Writing from Geneseo College! 'Tis a happy place. Just a heads up, my "t" and "y" are awful on this computer. So, I'm trying to pay attention to it... but if a word doesn't make sense, look for places that a t or y would help out.
That being said, it's been an interesting week. First weeks in new areas are always weird, because you know no one, and everyone just relies on your companion for everything. Haha, but then to make it more confusing, Elder Ryser hates talking (I think at least partially because he doesn't like English haha) and so he wants me to give most of the answers, even if he is being asked most of the questions! But, it works out nicely, because normally it's harder to really get to know people the first few weeks because you just ride your companion's coattails. But, as it is, I'm catching on quick!
Haha his English is pretty funny. He was in the part of Switzerland that spoke Swiss German, which is a random conglomerate of about 75% German, 15% French, and 10% made up words. To make it even better, they don't have a grammar! Haha but, it makes listening to him pretty funny. Not only do his w's turn into v's, sometimes he over compensates and makes his v's turn into w's. Then his sense of plural and singular gets a little skewed, so we go and visit lots of mans and womans. And probably the best is how all of his j's turn into ch's. I was QUITE surprised when "Chong Moon" turned out to be a white man named "John Moon" and we spent about 10 minutes searching the ward list before I realized that "Chudy Torture" was actually "Judy Georgier." Haha but I like him a lot. He's a funny guy. Plus, we get an extra hour of study so he can learn English. He said when he got to the MTC, he knew how to say "I am Elder Ryser," but didn't know how to say, "I just got here." Still, they decided that was enough and put him in the 2 week class with all the other fluent foreigners.
Anyways... Geneseo. Haha when I was in Warsaw, Geneseo seemed huge. Warsaw had about 4,000-5,000 people in it; Geneseo had about 10,000. After half a year in Buffalo, a city of almost 260,000.... I feel like I'm right back in the country again! Hallelujah! It's funny to be in this weird mix of students, professors, and people exactly like Warsaw and Freedom. They are two very different cultures just mixed right in together.
So, we are working with a few recent converts. Both Bridgette and Barbie got baptized within he past month. It's funny, though. Bridgette, who didn't even know who Moses was before meeting with the missionaries, knows all the answers when we teach her. Barbie, who has been going to church her whole life, really can't answer any of them. But, they're both nice... so all is well.
Then we have a pretty funny teaching pool right now. We have people like Tommy, who has been meeting with missionaries for over a year and is a marijuana enthusiast. Then there is Sharon who has been meeting on and off for about 13 years and got really upset at us this week because we only spent one hour with her and TWO hours with Barbie (we went over to Barbie's a second time this week because her grandma passed away...). And then there's Vincent who is actually progressing pretty well and has come to church multiple times, who started getting "famous" on the radio when the government shutdown because he is a big end-of-the-world prepper; he especially likes to learn about the Church's stance on the Second Coming.
Really, though, we have some pretty legit prospects. Linnea, who is Vincent's wife, is apparently even more into learning about the LDS Church than him. She has come a few times even when he hasn't, which is especially cool because when the missionaries go there, he absorbs all their conversation.
Then there's Randy who is a stud. He has spent the past few years by going to jail on the weekends. But, about a year ago, he asked the missionaries to come visit him. Since then, he's read Genesis, Matthew through Jude, and 1 Nephi through Helaman 6. He also read part of Exodus... but thought God was kind of mean so he skipped to the NT hahaha. But, he is really cool. He used to not care in the least bit about religion, but now is all about God, and loves how all the books weave together so well. He said he and his wife have been struggling getting along, especially while he'd been in and out of jail, but kept on emphasizing how much he wishes that she would just read the Bible with him. His jail time ended last week, and so now he's excited to come to church finally! Unfortunately, we'll have to wait at least four months before he can get baptized, because of his probation.
Then there is Shane, who I actually haven't me. But he is really good friends with a member of the ward, and called a DIFFERENT member of the ward who works on a radio show and is very open about his Mormonism on air to ask about where and when church is! He has come five times since and went to the sites with Elder Ryser and Barlow last Sunday. He is pretty booked this week, but we have an appointment with him the following week and he is already planning on coming to church on Sunday!
Finally, there is Jenn. She came to church for the first time with her mom yesterday. She's probably in her 20s, though. We didn't talk with her much, because Elder Ryser spent most of his time with Barbie who was crying for 2 and a half hours, and I was brand new and had no clue who was always there and who was new. But, that worked well, because I was teaching SundaySchool (baptism by fire, eh?) and just treated her like everyone else in the class and she was as involved and interested as anyone! Maybe even more, actually! I was great. We're going to call her mom today and see how Jenn felt about it all and see what her thoughts are on how to approach Jenn from here.
Oh wait, not finally! We also went tracting on Tuesday (my first day in Geneseo) and met a lady named Valerie who we are meeting with tonight. Haha it was one of those awkward times when you knock and they yell out, "Come in!!" Haha luckily, we had a wonderful conversation with her about the Book of Mormon and a miniature Restoration lesson. She even wrote our appointment for today on her planner!
Well.... I should probably go. I took some pictures of Geneseo. But then it snowed. So, this is a poor representation of my area at the moment. It looks prettier now and will look even better by the time it turns green!
I love you, but I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 13 Letter

I'm headed to Geneseo!! I'm actually super excited about that. Geneseo was in my district back in Warsaw (Haha I really haven't left this little corner of my mission... ostracism? solitary confinement? quarantined?) and I love it there! It's a big college town, and is actually kind of the "honors college" for the State University of New York system, and it's such a fun town. It's like this weird oasis of brilliance right in the middle of Western New York farmers. Plus, I'm with Elder Ryser, who is from Switzerland! He's a way funny kid. I'm pretty excited. PLUS, I completely called where I was going about two days before.  PLUS, Amy Vrooman already agreed to bring Grant (the coolest 2-year-old in history who is from Warsaw) to visit me from time to time!  PLUS this will probably be my final area, which is a good one to end on!

Haha really, it's a pretty good thing that transfers happened when they did, though. Any other week, even Geneseo with Elder Ryser probably wouldn't have gone over as well as it is now. It's been a rough week. Just to show it, we were doing our weekly planning yesterday, and we really had like four people to even try to set up appointments with. And most of those are just in hopes that they'll start moving forward sometime soon. It's not that nothing has gone on, it's just that in the past few weeks a lot of less actives and recent converts have progressed past where we usually help them and just hand them to the ward, and then this week, we had a few implosions. Blech. I was pretty bummed, and then got transferred which picked up my spirits a little bit.

I am trying to think of happy, uplifting things to share... so while I am thinking I'll share my pure depression. The Asians finally got back, right? Well, we went over and had a fine and dandy lesson. It was wonderful! They talked about how they'd been reading the Book of Mormon their whole five week trip. Then they talked about how helpful that was. We went over the importance of the Restoration. They both nodded in agreement. Everything was going great! So, we invited them to set a goal to be baptized the final Sunday of the month, and just read and pray everyday from now until then. Jerry was nodding that he would do that; Andrea, unsurprisingly said no. We figured it was her same reasoning from before of not wanting to commit to anything she didn't feel perfectly comfortable with. But then she went on a long explanation that I really didn't fully understand... and as she went on she said she thinks she needs to study on her own for a while and that she didn't want to meet with us or go to church anymore. Whaaat? She said she felt like she'd grown the most when she really started to read scriptures and think about things and ask questions; somehow she equated that to the fact that she started doing that only when she wasn't going to church or meeting with the missionaries. We tried to help her see that that was exactly what we'd been asking her to do all along. We tried to help her realize how much she'd learned in church. She even readily admitted that she felt "inner peace" at church! We read Alma 32, and talked about how the seed of church attendance had "swelled, sprouted, and began to grow" and that now she was doing exactly what it warns against towards the end of the chapter. We would talk to her, the Spirit would be sooooo strong and then she would just say the exact same thing over and over again. It was so frustrating. We didn't want to beg her... but it was just so heartbreaking. To make it worse, Jerry pretty much always just goes along with what Andrea does. So, by the end, he agreed with her

On my mission, I have been told by a companion that he had specifically requested to get transferred from me. I have been falsely accused of very inappropriate relations with an investigator. I was transferred from my first area after being there and getting to know people for over eight months. I've had signs hanging up at doors telling us not to come back. I've had a less active who I'd gotten close to tell me that if came over anymore he would shoot me. I could go on and on. But still, I really don't think I have ever felt as frustrated and hurt as I did Saturday night when this all went down. It kind of felt like I put all my eggs in one basket, only to have that basket get run over by a dump truck.

It has brought my attention to Alma 28:8: "And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi, their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their INCOMPREHENSIBLE JOY."

So, with that, I've tried to remember a lot of the things that have brought incomprehensible joy this past year and a half, and even more so these past six months. Haha without going into details, there's been a lot of it! There are a number of families in the ward who told me this week that I "can't" get transferred. One of them even said that they used to never like missionaries coming over to their house until we came along!

Then of course there was Stephen! Hard to beat tracting into a guy who was as prepared as he was!
And Guojian! We went over and watched the CES fireside with him yesterday and it reminded me of how much I love that guy! I really don't think there is a more humble man on the whole planet. And he said he would name his first son after me!! ;)

Then of course there's good old Kevin! Haha crazy as that man is, his faith is incredible. Granted, in one conversation, we'll probably go off on a thousand other tangents... but he's awesome.

And interviewing the Santiago's and just seeing how much they absorbed what they taught. And their ability to quote scriptures and prophets without knowing the quote even existed. THAT is being prepared by the Spirit!

I could ramble on about some of these things for a while longer, but I've probably already written about them at some point or another, so it would be redundant. Haha I'm glad that I am leaving Kenmore the one weekend that I really don't care that I am leaving. I'm upset that I am leaving on a bad note. But I'm very grateful for the six months that I have had here!

Aside from that... I survived a legit blizzard! It was Buffalo's first blizzard warning since 1993! I don't know if it was in November or December, or if it was somewhere between January and March... but this could have been Buffalo's first blizzard since I was born! And I survived! Haha granted, President didn't let us go outside... It was about -30 degrees with the windchill. Especially given our lack of a car. Haha pretty much we spent the whole day indoors. Lots of reading got done though! I now finally understand Galatians 3! And it is SICK!!! I could explain it all and have it make little to no sense to you... but the Church is legit. Abraham had the fulness of the gospel, the same as Jesus brought and the same as was restored by Christ through Joseph Smith. That's HUGE! Anyways, enough of that tangent. Yes, I survived.

Then the next day,  I spent a large chunk of the day finishing my Huntsman Scholars application. Finally finished. Phew! I hate applications.

Annnnd that's pretty much all the excitement I have to update on. Plus, I gotta go pack.

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

Elder Allen

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 6 Letter

Ready for the most pathetic email in history?

I have spent literally all day working on my Huntsman Scholars application... annnd now my ride is leaving. Soooo I love you, but I gotta go! I'm still alive for now!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December 30 Letter

Well, I really only have a handful of exciting things to share.

First and foremost: I am down to 180 pounds now!! Haha something real nasty? I maxed out at about 195! Haha ooof. Missions. Now I'm really only 5-10 more than I came out at. Luckily, Six Months to Sexy starts soon.

Unfortunately, the fact that Six Months to Sexy starts soon means that I hit my 18 month mark this week :/ can you even believe that? I think I might extend an extra 3-15 years. That seems like my most reasonable option.

Well, I'm going to have to make this one quick. Luckily I already talked to you on the phone this week so you pretty much know everything already. I have spent the past little while emailing Bill Shughart and Shannon Peterson from the Huntsman School to make sure I have a future. I also bought a calculus book from Barnes and Noble so that I won't be a mathematical idiot when I get home. Haha p-days will just be glorious from now on.... whoever's decision it was for me to minor in math was an idiot. (Just so we are clear, it was mine.) But, we are going to Niagara Falls, so I only have another 10ish minutes to write!

So, I'll just express my love for Asians! Guo Jian's wedding was on Saturday, and he invited his whole research department, which turned into about 45 Chinese, 6 Indians, and a white guy. Ha they are my favorite people ever. First, I love how awkward Guo Jian is. Especially when they kissed... haha it was the most hilarious thing in the world. He's just a super awkward guy. But then all of his friends are just so nice! I think I'm marrying a Chinese woman. It's the best way to happiness. We seriously had the coolest conversations about religion with everyone we ever talked to. I think we ended up teaching six lessons to different Chinese people. I love them!

I really don't know what else to write about though, since Christmas was so recent. It's crazy to think that I don't get anymore Christmasses. Haha I kept making fun of Elder Christensen, though. We are allowed to watch animated G-rated movies on Christmas, and we were trying to decide what to watch, so I told him, "You decide. It's the last movie YOU get to see for another 365 days!" 

I've been reading through some of my other mission journals. I'm on my fifth one!! Haha the problem is that when you write everyday, you REALLY get a picture of what my mission is like. Hahaha I'm sure I'll appreciate that a lot more someday. For now, I really like about 65% of it, but it definitely includes a lot of my frustrations, angerings, and distractions haha. I may have to do some serious editing before I ever let my posterity read them.

On Thursday we were on exchanges. So, while we did some great work, most of it is with people I'll never work with again. It definitely made clear that being bold is a good thing, though. I feel more chicken in my own area, because it's with people I don't want to offend at all. But, for instance, we went to a less active man's house, and I was able to be super upfront with him and really encourage him to come to church, and, lo and behold, he was there! He's a really great guy, that seems fully Mormon still, even though he hasn't come to church in some 25 years.

Oh!! We also had a great experience with David Payne. He is a returned missionary, son of the last bishop, everything, but hasn't come to church in years. He married a member of a different church, and went from always being there on Sunday to sometimes to never. Well, his mom really felt like he was ready for us to stop over, so a few months ago, we did. To his mom's surprise, he let us in and really started talking to us. He's kind of an awkward guy, so it's hard to explain why this is so surprising. Well, this Friday he had us over for dinner, and we were able to line up a whole plan for hopefully introducing his wife to the gospel soon! He came right out and said that he really wants an eternal family, and that he feels like she's finally to the point where she might listen to us. It's so exciting! The whole ward is pretty pumped about it, actually. Bishop Van Ry actually went through Young Men's with David, so he's stoked. The Paynes are obviously excited. Everything about it is just wonderful!

Well, I really am out of things to say.... so I guess I'll depart!

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