Friday, April 25, 2014

April 21 Letter

Hello!

Well good streaks can only last so long out here, I guess. Haha we are
back to everyone not wanting to meet with us... Luckily yesterday went
really well and we had probably our best
teaching-pool-at-sacrament-meeting turnout yet. But, it was a long,
quite depressing week for a good chunk of it. I'll share the crappier
parts to start, so that I can end on a high note :) hahaha feel free
to just skip down to the pleasant parts if you so desire :)

We weren't able to meet with Randy, Shane, Cassandra, Debbie, Nona, or
a whole slew of other people at all. Luckily Randy and Debbie at least
were at least willing to keep in contact with us and let us know, and
Cassandra had given us the heads up. Still though. To make it better,
Nona kinda dropped us and a college student we'd tracted into gave us
the most demeaning drop I've ever had. Nona's "kinda drop" sounded a
lot more "full drop" on the phone, although it was a nonsensical
reasoning. We'd stopped by Monday night for an appointment we had set
with her, but she wasn't there. We left a card though, and she called
back, leaving a voicemail that said, "Sorry I wasn't there Monday, I
had an appointment that I had forgotten about. But, I'm not interested
in being a Mormon. I'm a Methodist and I go to the Baptist church here
in Avon." I don't know why a Methodist going to the Mormon church is
more illogical than a Methodist at the Baptist church, but whatever.
Luckily, when I called her to try to talk things over, she said she
didn't say we couldn't come back, just that she wasn't interested in
converting. So, we'll go over a few more times and hope the Spirit can
touch her someway or another.

Mike's drop was aggravating, though. We'd tracted into him a month or
so ago, and had a great chat on his porch. He said we could stop by
sometime and even gave us his phone number to coordinate it. We had
texted him once, and his response was "Hey sorry, big lab write up due
tomorrow." We told him good luck with the lab write up and let it be.
A few weeks later, we texted him to see if he was in town or home for
Spring break, to which he responded, "No sorry, already home!" Again,
no worries there. Well, this week we texted him to see if we could
swing by, and here's what we got THIS time: "I would appreciate it if
you didn't continue to take advantage of the fact that I'm too nice to
tell you guys I'm not interest. Please stop trying to conscript me to
your faith." Haha just look up the word conscript if you don't know
what it means. It was so irritating. Three interactions that all
seemed quite pleasant... and suddenly we are coercing people to follow
us by taking advantage of their weakness. If at doesn't make you
second-guess your interactions with every single person you talk with,
nothing will.

Aside from that, a huge chunk of the week was just spent driving to
person after person and having them not be home. Fun!

Now for he transition from crappy to semi crappy, and later will come the good.

The semi crappy is that we were able to meet with Jenn! Unfortunately,
it was on Friday because we got out to her house on Wednesday when we
normally meet with her to find out she wasn't there. But, we had a
great conversation with her mom, and came back Friday for the real
lesson. We decided that the Book of Mormon wasn't getting anywhere
with her because she wasn't giving it much effort. Maybe reading a
time or two a week, but that's all. In the two and a half weeks since
our last visit, she actually hadn't read at all. So we decided to
really emphasize church now. We came up with his dramatic lesson plan
with Elder Christofferson's talk and the new Because of Him video, a
discussion on the meaning of the Resurrection and the sacrament and
how church and the Restoration and everything draws us closer to him.
Then we were going to focus on it being Easter Sunday and hope she
would be inspired to come to church. Wellll, it fell pretty much
completely flat. Nothing about the videos phased her, she didn't have
any emotion in our conversation, and she didn't come to church. So now
we get the fun conversation as a companionship about how much longer
we teach her without her really putting in effort or even showing
enthusiasm until we have to spend our time elsewhere.

The other semi crappy involves Shane and Sandy. They both came to
church again this week for the second time in a row, which is great!
So, long time back he said we could start meeting towards the end of
March, right? So back then we tried getting in contact with him and he
wouldn't respond to anything, be it calls, texts, anything. So we'd
try to get in contact with him two or three times a week, until one
day he texted us "I know you have a job to do, but you guys are worse
than bill collectors!!!" I apologized (even though I still don't feel
like we were the least bit overbearing since a simple "sorry guys, I'm
still pretty busy" would have sufficed) and explained (truthfully)
that our phone is odd and a lot of times we can send texts that never
get to their destination. And, we got no response in return at all. So
we let it rest and didn't contact him for weeks and weeks. Last
Sunday, he was at church and talked to me saying he thought we could
meet that week and he would let us know. We texted him Tuesday to see
if he'd found a good time... no answer. We texted him Friday... no
answer. He was there at church again Sunday, and I swear it's like he
won't even acknowledge how much he's blowing us off. I would really
just like to be treated like a human sometimes, even if the only
response he can give is "Can't meet this week," at least give us the
dignity of a response, especially since we know from a member he is
close with that he definitely isn't one to never text back. Grrr...

But, let's move on to happier things! (Sorry if this email has been
depressing haha... It's been a depressing week, to be honest, so it is
only representative!)

The highlight, no doubt, was our attendance at sacrament meeting. We
had five investigators there, including Shane and Sandy. The most
exciting of those were Vinnie and Linnea! Vinnie decided with it being
Easter that he should go to church. Well, at the end of it, we went to
talk to him and the first thing he said is that he had decided he
wanted to get in the habit of coming regularly! Ha we're okay with
that!! So that was good. We also had our two recent converts we've
been working with there as well as an elderly less active couple who
came. (She even brought us special Easter chocolate just for the two
of us hahaha.)

Another high point was helping Dan paint a room of his for a good
chunk of two separate days. His health is just getting worse and
worse, which is really sad. Especially because he's a small business
owner alongside his pastoring, so every day he is feeling too sick
(which has been all of them for at least the past month) is a day his
shop is completely closed and that much closer to going out of
business. Sooo, all sorts of things are just piling up for him. But,
we were able to go and paint a room that he is transitioning into a
guest bedroom, which was actually pretty fun. He of course had us stay
for lunch both times and is just the nicest guy, so it was quite
enjoyable to spend so much time at his house, even in kind of sad
circumstances.

And finally, probably the biggest highlight, is kids are still always
nice to us haha. We spent a decent amount of time with Barbie again
this week, and Matthew (her two-year-old) and I have gotten closer and
closer. Haha he has developed a habit of walking over to me, standing
in my lap, then just falling on me and falling asleep almost instantly
while cuddling up to me haha. Then we have also developed a new game.
He isn't talking hardly at all yet, but is really good at pointing and
either grunting or doing a weird whine sound. I started imitating him
a few weeks ago, and now it has become a favorite game of ours, as you
can see from the attached video. Haha now he will come up and just
start it all on his own!

video

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 14 Letter

Wow! A successful week!! Haven't had one of those for a while!

This week, we met with Nona, Randy, Cassandra, AND Vinnie. Then Shane and Sandy came to church and said that we could (hopefully) meet up later this week. And Michael, the man from Buffalo I've been working with online, is starting to really recognize the importance of cracking down on Book of Mormon reading. All in one week!

So, Nona. She was the lady who I helped shovel her way into her van a month or so ago. Well, we finally got in with her again! We talked about all sorts of stuff at the start, but then we watched the Mormon Message "Your Potential, a Your Privileges" by President Uchtdorf. We then connected that to the Restoration, emphasizing that we have divine potential that can only really be tapped when we get as absolutely close to the Savior as possible. We can develop relationships with him in all sorts of ways, but the fullness of the gospel and the ability to make authorized covenants bind us closer to him than anything else. It went super well, and we were able to just go right through all the points of the restoration nice and easy. Then, when we invited her to read a chapter from the Book of Mormon, her response was, "Should I do that right when you leave?" Haha it was pretty great! Then when we invited her to be baptized, she said she'd always wanted to be baptized by immersion. Ha she didn't necessarily say she would be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS, but still. MUCH better reaction than we often get :)

Then Randy finally met with us! First time in six weeks! We mostly talked about him and some of his family struggles, but really highlighted "let your light so shine" to him. He desperately wants his wife and kids to be more God-fearing, but I'm afraid he might come across as critical or demoralizing to them, so we're trying to help him teach with his actions more than anything else. Overall, though, it went great! And he is planning on meeting on Saturday again, hopefully this time with his wife there!

And Cassandra! We met with her yesterday, FINALLY. We talked a lot about her son who she is really worried about, but really emphasized the need for agency and how we can never force someone to make correct choices. But then we kind of transitioned into a Plan of Salvation/Gospel of Jesus Christ combo lesson, really digging into the Book of Mormon. Haha she isOBSESSED with the Book of Mormon. We'd asked her if she'd read from it in the month or so it had been since we saw her last. She hadn't, except for Mosiah 3:19... which she reads everyday haha. Well, as we read through things in 3 Nephi 27, Alma 42, and 2 Nephi 2 today, she was just getting more and more and more excited about it all. She was highlighting verses, making me reread the parts she liked, putting bookmarks all over, the whole shabang. Then she kept commenting on how much she liked the book. Haha it was like she didn't know how to express how much she liked it, and so she just kept saying that she liked it a lot. Haha she even invited herself to come to church with us sometime. Haha of course that's not the slightest problem, but it just doesn't happen that way... ever. When we wrapped up, she excitedly asked, "When are you coming back?"

Next up: Vinnie. Haha I probably shouldn't have saved him until the end because I don't have much to update on him. He found a house in Pennsylvania that he is probably going to buy and move into in about a month, so that has been taking up a huge chunk of his time. But we talked to him briefly about his Book of Mormon reading, and he says he's been reading it pretty regularly. "Yeah man, I like it. I think I actually like it more than the regular Bible. It's just, I dunno man, easier to understand and it makes more sense." Haha I don't want him doubting his testimony of the Bible, obviously, but the fact that he says that shows that he is taking the Book of Mormon seriously which is exciting. Hopefully we'll get somewhere more concrete with him before he moves so we can hand him off pretty safely to the PA missionaries in his area.

And finally Michael. As I said, he's finally catching on that he needs to read the Book of Mormon instead of just things about the Book of Mormon or the church or who knows what. Haha still, he has his questions. Hahaha he recently wrote Sandra Tanner of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry - one of those great organizations out to save us crazed Mormons - with one of his questions, to which he then had me respond. Haha I was able to respond pretty easily as she didn't give him anything that hasn't been asked and answered a hundred million times. However, Michael May now have entered an elite group of investigators who go as far as writing some of the world's best known anti-Mormons AND an Apostle in order to truly gain both perspectives hahaha.

Hmmm.... Other interesting things to say.... Hmm.

Oh, I know I already told Mom this, but I got into Huntsman Scholars, again! And I got ahold of Marsha Hunt from the USU geology department and asked her if I could do their yearly alumni newsletter again, and she said the department head was excited to hear that I was still interested in that! And my class schedule is pretty much finalized! I just have to decide if I want to take a tennis PE class or not... It sounds like a ton of fun, but takes up four hours a week for half a semester. Oh well. Point is, I might actually have a future! 

Oh yeah, and I'm 21! How bout that! Haha thanks for the presents! Pants fit, tie's a good one! I'm halfway through the book, and we've listened to the CD at least 20-25 times. Oh, and Emily, the cookies are gone. Haha so much for losing all my blubber before I came home.

So, here's your task for this week! The Church is doing a big Easter campaign called "Because of Him." There's all sorts of cool YouTube videos and whatnot, but the even better part is everyone is posting a real short testimony of Facebook using #BecauseOfHim. For example, "#BecauseOfHim I am able to make my weaknesses into strengths" or "I know that my family will be together forever all #BecauseOfHim." So, you all surely have a Facebook... So do it!

Well, I'm blaming our random spurt of success on the good weather, so pray that it sticks around! Two Sundays ago we cancelled the last two hours of church because no one could get to the chapel because of the foot of snow that fell overnight. Yesterday, it was 87 degrees!!! (According to our car, at least.) Keep it there!

I loooove you, but don't miss ya!
Elder Allen

-- I spoke too fast... 75 degrees today.... 1-3 inches of snow forecasted for tomorrow

April 7 Letter

Hallo,

Well, looks like I've got another six weeks in Geneseo! Which really
probably translates to another twelve weeks in Geneseo. Elder Holt is
staying here, too, so nothing too exciting to report as far as
transfers go.

Anyways, how about General Conference, eh!? I'm gonna miss watching it
as a missionary, that's for sure. Haha I'll give my mini analysis of
it all, I suppose, since that was probably the most eventful part of
our week.

In all honesty, the first few sessions almost seemed based around
answering questions from random infighting within the church. I was
reminded of a quote from Brigham Young where he said that if the
saints would ever stop living beneath their privileges, we'd be blown
away by what the Lord is willing to reveal to us. I felt like
Saturday, instead of having things revealed to us, we more or less
were chastened for not living up to our privileges.

But then came priesthood session! That was fun. Haha I was highly
confused for a second because President Uchtdorf, when going through
the program, said the second counselor in the Young WOMEN's presidency
was going to speak. I wondered if the Church was kind of giving a nod
to Ordain Women or something. And then Elder Oaks came up! Haha it
made much more sense when a counselor in the Young Men's came to
speak. But still. Elder Oaks talk was great, President Uchtdorf's was
great (of course), and I loved President Eyring's. Eyring's talk sent
me to all sorts of Young Men's leader flashbacks.

Really, though, my favorite session has got to be Sunday Afternoon. To
make it all the better, that was the only one we had an investigator
at! Well really, he had us. We went to Dan's to watch it with him, and
I couldn't have asked for a better session for him, first we have
President Packer basically just testify of what the gospel has meant
to him, personally. I was reminded of a few quotes from the Middle
Aged Mormon Man blog: "If Samuel the Lamanite were still alive today,
he'd want to be like a President Packer when he grew up." And "I bet
Satan has a dartboard in his game room with President Packer's face on
it." And his testimony at the end! Ooof! "I know the Lord. I am His
witness." Then later, "I bear my certain witness... with absolute
certainty." Elder Holt and I decided that President Monson might be
the most Christlike individual on Earth, but President Packer is the
biggest warrior for Christ.

Anyways, then in that session, we got the greatest lesson of all time
from Elder Corbridge. It's been hard with Dan, since he is a pastor,
to REALLY teach what makes us different. We can talk about doctrines
and principles, but it's not like we've had full-on lessons. Luckily
Elder Corbridge took care of that for us! Really though, that was a
sweet talk.

And, almost definitely my favorite talk of all, Elder Christofferson
sealed the deal! Just straight up Jesus to reassure Dan that we don't
just talk about obedience and Joseph. It was perfect! I need to go
back and really study Elder Christofferson's talk, though. There
weren't enough easy one liners for me to just have a refined copy of
it now in my notes like I can do for Uchtdorf. But it was sooooo good.

I realized afterwards, though, that I need to do some repenting! I
have the worst tendency to watch Conference and say in my head, "Oh
man!! I hope such-and-such person heard that!" or "Whoa, I wonder how
this group felt about THAT ONE!" "Yeah, Elder ______!! That's just how
I always explain it!" It's like I used conference for confirmation
instead of exhortation. Maybe exhortation for others, but certainly
not for me! I just got done reading the Samuel the Lamanite chapters
of Helaman as well as a really in depth analysis of it. Samuel really
emphasizes in it that sin is when we don't recognize that our actions
today are largely a result of our choices in the past, and therefore
are going to affect our future. But then he goes on to condemn the
Nephites for only accepting as true prophets those who are saying
things that are comfortable to them, and rejecting all others as false
prophets. As I was thinking about all of this, I decided that I really
need to work on my one-on-one relationship with God. A mission has
done wonders for me in seeing the gospel work in the lives of all
those who will just try it out, and I've seen it. I've spent a lot of
time trying to solidify my testimony of the Restoration, and that is
definitely coming along. But this conference, I realized that in the
process of all this, I've slacked in the real relationship that gives
any of this stuff meaning to me personally. The Restoration is just
hollow history without a familiar relationship of Him whose gospel was
restored. As such, here are some of my goals based and the talk that
prompted them:

-More personal of prayers. (President Eyring, Priesthood Session)
-More openly expressed gratitude to the Lord. (President Uchtdorf,
Sunday morning)
-More faithful reliance on God in my trials. (Elder Bednar, Sunday morning)
-Apply the gospel to my life more directly and personally. (President
Packer, Sunday afternoon)
-A more comprehensive understanding of the Savior's life and the
implications of it. (Elder Christofferson, Sunday afternoon)

All in all, good stuff!! Dan seemed to enjoy it, too, which was great!

Well... I guess most of you probably watched General Conference
anyways, so this might just be really boring. I guess I should talk a
little about New York since most of you AREN'T here.

Wednesday we were able to see Jenn again! Unfortunately, she didn't
read every day like she'd planned on, but was able to read twice that
week. It's definitely progress... but I'd really like to see her just
get a big adrenaline rush one of these days! I think it was Joseph
Smith who said it would be impossible for us to develop enough faith
to be saved if we weren't keeping commandments. Well, I have seen that
as a missionary, big time! If people won't read the Book of Mormon or
go to church, nothing you say is going to sink deep enough into their
heart to really push them to change. This week Jenn committed to
reading at least four times AND watching President Monson's Sunday
morning talk. Hopefully she follows through on that. She has sooooo
much potential and is in the perfect spot to really seize onto the
gospel, she just needs to act!

Really, doors might be opening for Dan, too! A week and a half ago, he
mentioned that he would like to come to one of our services sometime.
Well, now it looks like he's going to be resigning from his ministry
position, and is leaning towards not even attending the church he is
currently pastoring at. Maybe he'll feel at home at our church :)

We also had a remarkably successful thirty minutes of tracting on
Wednesday. Literally thirty minutes and we wound up with two follow up
appointments! Haha it was pretty cool. Unfortunately, then we tracted
Saturday on a street that had probably forty doors and fifty cars
parked outside. People HAD to be home. But, after all those doors, we
only even had human interaction five times. It was rough haha. But oh
well, at least we had Wednesday success!

Well, next time you hear from me, I'll be a changed man! We already
have the bar lined up for me to get wasted on Tuesday! Kidding of
course... but if anyone wanted to mail me my White Owl burger.... I
wouldn't complain.

I love you! But I don't miss you!
Elder Allen

Friday, April 4, 2014

March 31 Letter

Hola family!

This week was a good'un, even though I have come to give up on Spring
ever actually coming. For about the fourth time, we will have a day in
the 50s or even 60s... Followed by a day that is in the 20s or lower
and snowing. Saturday night and Sunday morning, we went from
completely clear of snow to about eight inches... Haha as a result,
less than a third of our ward was at church and so we cancelled second
and third hours. Regardless, I don't think Spring is going to exist
this year. I was looking at pictures of my birthday over at the
Boccicchios from last year since it is at about the same time of the
year, and everyone is in shorts and tank tops, we were in short
sleeves or had our sleeves rolled up, we were all sweaty, the trees
were green, we were playing in the yard, it was great. This year, it's
either going to be white or muddy!

A vast majority of our success came from online haha. Good stories
there, but only a few I can really go into detail on here. So over the
past 21 months, I've built up a strange network of friends, including
some people who quite honestly just seem to be real Facebook Mormons,
where this is just how they fulfill their "every member a missionary"
role. Well, two of them run a number of Facebook groups. One in
particular, Alex, runs a group designed only for members of the
Church, "UK LDS Singles." Then, whenever nonmembers request to join,
he refers me to them. Vast majority of the time, it goes nowhere. But
one of them, Simeon, has been pretty interesting! He isn't religious
really, but he is full of questions. Many of his long-held beliefs are
our long-taught teachings, like Jesus' Atonement including more than
just the cross. We've talked three or four times now, and it's
interesting to see the similarities and differences of teaching
someone online. It's great because, for instance, Saturday morning I
taught four people in an hour and a half! But it's hard to really hold
them accountable to act on their own. Hopefully,
Though, Simeon will act and we'll see where that takes us! Aside from
him, I've been teaching a handful of people from past areas who I
started losing contact with, as well as even some friends from home
who have been asking questions! Good stuff!!

Unfortunately, most of our regulars fell through again this week :/
It's rough because transfers are this upcoming week, and I'm afraid
that if we don't see most of them this week and if I get transferred,
they just go off into nothingness because Elder Holt hasn't met them!
Ugh... Still,we had some exciting lessons.

Easily the most exciting was with Jenn. We opened up having her mom,
who got baptized three years ago, 45 years after meeting missionaries
for the first time, share what finally lead to her baptism. It wasn't
directly correlated to what we were going to teach, but man did it set
the mood for the lesson! We then had her write on a small notecard the
biggest stressor in her life. She's going through a divorce, her older
son is still with her ex, her younger son has some learning
disabilities, she's going to nursing school, and who knows what
else... so I couldn't really tell you what she wrote down. But after
she did that, we watched a video about a lady whose son died in a
sledding accident. After the accident, she got really depressed and
was having all sorts of anxiety attacks. Then, someone challenged her
to read the Book of Mormon in 90 days. As she did so, she was struck
by how much the people in the Book of Mormon deal with loss, and how
they always fall back on God's plan of happiness in order to get
through that. We then talked to Jenn about some of our own experiences
when the Book of Mormon has been able to speak right to us. How does
God manage to apply all the scriptures to us so individually? Well, we
read most of Alma 7 together. Obviously we read verses 11-12 about how
Jesus felt everything we felt so that he can succor us when we need
it. But then we talked about Alma's statement the next verse that this
is the testimony in him. Finally it transitions to talking about
really utilizing the Savior and making covenants with Him. We
explained that God can speak to us through scriptures because He had
been right where we are and knows exactly what we need, so He knew
what needed to be written and He knows what we need to read. We then
invited Jenn to get a testimony of the Savior like Alma's. So every
day this week, she is going to pray about the stressor that she wrote
down then read from the Book of Mormon. She acknowledged if she feels
that God is using it to speak right to her, she would gain a testimony
of Christ and of the Book of Mormon. If this happens, she said, she
would get baptized!

Haha we also followed up with Vinnie from last week. We weren't able
to have a real lesson, but he's reading the Book of Mormon! "Yeah, I
like it," he said. "It's like it gives me a feeling of peace when I
read it." Haha I don't know if this was this week or last week that he
said this part, so I might have already mentioned it, but we were
talking about his upcoming move to New Jersey, and he said, "Are there
guys like you down there? Maybe you could get in contact with them and
just tell them, 'Hey we have this guy coming to your area who wants to
join the church.'" Hahaha it was pretty funny. He was coming up on his
deadline for his magazine, so he was pretty busy last week,but
hopefully we'll be able to sit down again this upcoming week, and
teach again!

Transfers are this upcoming weekend. It's odd, because there is no
"likely" situation.pretty much here are the options:
-I get moved which means I have two areas with only two transfers each.
-Elder Holt gets moved after only being here one transfer.
-We both stay until next time, when I get moved and have only one
transfer in my last area.
-We both stay until next time, when he gets moved after only being
here two transfers. (Probably the most likely)
-We stay together three transfers.
None of those scenarios are logical at all, except one of them has to
happen. It will be interesting to see which one does! I hope I don't
get transferred, because I don't feel like I've had much of an impact
here, and I don't feel like two transfers is enough to make an impact
in my next area either. On the other had, if there's one area I
wouldn't mind leaving after only a few months... it'd probably be this
one. Not because of the area or the people or anything - I love all of
that. This transfer has just been rather frustrating haha. But, I
still vote that I stay put.

We did have a really cool tracting session on Saturday night! No one
that is usually home was home, so we had to fill up an hour and a
half. So we went to the church and each said a quick prayer and
scoured a map, writing down any street that stood out to us. After a
few minutes, we compared lists. One of the streets, Melody, was on
both lists, so there we went! After an hour of tracting (in freezing
rain, mind you haha) we have three solid potentials! One girl, Mickey,
was just getting home so we awkwardly met her as she got out of the
car; while she didn't have much interest in religion, she actually
scheduled an appointment with us haha. Then we went to Larry; he was
just headed to work, but it was hilarious! He explained that he was
leaving, but wanted to ask his wife if she was interested. "Honey, do
you want to talk to the Latter-day Saint missionaries?" "Tell them to
come back when you're home so we can meet with them together!" we
heard from inside. Haha no shpeel necessary! And finally we went to
Sheila, who didn't want to open the storm door because she was sick,
but when we habitually asked if we could come by another time, her
response was a surprisingly pleasant "Please do!" Haha so hopefully
Melody turns into our miracle street!

The weather this year is killing me. For the fifth week in a row or
so, we will have a day in the 50s, followed by........ Shoot. I just
realized I opened up this email with the same complaint. Hahaha no you
see how much I really hate weather. Haha

Well, I guess to close, I'll just say that I'm happy :) haha I might
have complained a lot about how stupid a lot of our investigators have
been lately, but I'm still quite enjoying myself! Promise!

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