Here we go!
Monday was P-day, but in the evening, we got to visit Jacob for a little bit with a member and taught about baptism. She bore strong testimony and talked for a while about the blessings that had come to her when she was baptized and with her continued membership in the church. She actually taught pretty much all of the lesson, but they were really focused on everything she said. When we teach, sometimes they zone out or we don’t ask enough questions, but when members teach, they have a genuineness about them that is hard to get as a missionary because you teach the same things over and over again. She connected with Graciela (Jacob’s soon to be wife) well, and it helps that she speaks Spanish, so she can help out in times when it is a little tougher to understand. Near the end of the lesson, we realized that we were going a little late, and had to get to an appointment on the other side of Hartford. We were a bit late, but we had another lesson with Brother O’Bryant, another one of the ward missionaries. We were teaching Floyree, who was a media referral, but she has come to the church before to do family history. Floyree is so awesome! She has tons of questions, has a lot of Bible knowledge, and wants to find answers. We had a powerful lesson on the Book of Mormon with her, which turned into one of the best lessons of my mission! Brother O’Bryant took hold of questions that she had and provided a support system for her when she comes to church. He taught principles simply and clearly and made big difference in the lesson. The biggest lesson that came out of it though was the importance of listening. We can naturally be a little jumpy when questions come up, and while our natural desires to answer their questions may be good, it is better to sit back and let them talk for a bit so you can hear the full story. As we listen, they trust us more and we show that we care about the questions and concerns they have!
Tuesday was exchanges! Elder Felt and I went all over Hartford! We only had one scheduled appointment the whole day, but we worked and tried to find people to teach from our lists. We stopped by some media referrals, and on the way to one of them, we talked to a guy who had had missionaries over before and we had a good conversation with him. I think he was truly interested, but it was because his heart had been softened by previous missionaries. We didn’t pick him up, but we gave him a Book of Mormon and a pamphlet, but it made me realize that our work isn’t in vain if nothing comes from it. God works in His own ways, and if that is for us to remind him of the two Elders that he came across a while ago, then I am privileged to be able to do that. We did a ton more stop bys, but actually had a lesson in the morning with a new investigator named Natalie. She lives in East Hartford, but works in-home in Hartford, so we had a lesson with her on the Book of Mormon and Elder Felt taught just a little bit, but the bit that he taught was simple, focused, and genuine. That’s how I want to be able to teach, so it was a great learning experience for me! We tried a few more people, and ended up just having our dinner with the Hernandez family. They are awesome! Lou isn’t a member, but Lorena is and their daughter Aimee has been baptized. They always welcome us into their home and provide a great atmosphere for us. Lou has seen missionaries in and out of the house for about 20 years, and so after dinner, Elder Felt and I shared a message about Baptism. We shared scriptures on why we need to be baptized and the qualifications for it, and it was stressful for us, but the time came for us to invite him to be baptized. He looked us in the eye and said that he had already been baptized and that this had happened before, and the missionaries were always trying to push him to get baptized. After a little back and forth and hearing his beliefs and talking unproductively about the priesthood, we just closed, with tears in our eyes, and let him know that the reason missionaries had tried so hard was because they loved him, not because they were trying to be pushy. He gave us hugs, and he is ok with everything, but it really was a tough moment for me. Here is a man we have grown so close to and he is so close to baptism, but he just won’t take the step. You get a lot of rejection from random people on your mission, but the toughest ones are from those that you love. It hurts, but you never know. Maybe one day, someone will change his life and he’ll take the step on his own. That’s all you can hope and pray for. Later that evening, we had a member present stop by with Temera. Brother Hyatt came with us, and started the conversation off well. He talked to her about her health difficulties, and we all shared insights about why God gives us trials. We shared personal experiences, lessons learned over the years, scriptures, and scripture stories. It was great to see how we all meshed and how she understood everything! At the end of the appointment, Brother Hyatt was talking to her and just offered her a ride to church and gave her a reason to come! That is where we love members being there! When they take the initiative and really work to help fellowship the members. It was such a great evening and a great end to an interesting, but blessed day.
Wednesday was kind of a rough day. We didn’t have much in the morning, but met a drunk guy and talked to him for about 30 minutes! It was pretty crazy, but it was good for him. Then we had an appointment that fell through….Then Elder McIntyre and I had a great companionship inventory when we were able to get through a lot of small roadblocks and it really helped us! That evening, we had a lesson with the Rodriguez family on The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It was great! Then we headed home, but were able to do a quick stop by with Temera, which topped it off well. So Thursday was Zone Conference, so the AP’s bunked with us and we were able to have a great planning session with them. They pointed out a lot of good things that we should do and that it should be a nightly planning and not a nightly scheduling time. We need to plan what we will teach and how we will do it, not just what appointments we will have. It was really good for us and helped us get a jump before Zone Conference!
Thursday was early! We got up at 4:45 and played basketball with the Zone Leaders, the Spanish Elders, and the AP’s! Elder Nixon was dunking all over the place, Elder McIntyre swooshed some threes, and I put up about 20 points worth of layups, so it wasn’t too shabby 🙂 We set up tables and then went home to get showered. Breakfast was great as always, and then the training started. They started with two talks on the Power and Authority of our Calling, which were both fantastic. Some points shared, in order to have the power of our calling, we have to live the way that brings the power and we have to love those we teach. Also, are we using the authority we have been given wisely? We only get it for a short amount of time! President Miller talked about how when he was trained, he didn’t get to talk much, but his companion gave him a chance to teach once, and he truly felt the gift of tongues and he spoke with words he hadn’t had learned before, but because he was testifying and doing the Lord’s work, he was given help to teach it to them. We learn the Language of the Spirit and the Language of Faith on our missions and need to be fluent in them! He also talked about how Isaac was a miracle, but Abraham had enough faith to bring him up to the mountain and literally put him on the altar, and had the knife raised before the Lord stopped him. We often have to go both the first the second miles in order to get answers to our prayers, but it is only be diligent effort that that comes. In James 1:5-7 it talks about not wavering. We can’t waver in our testimonies or our faith! The training was on the new Standards of Excellence, 3 new investigators a week, 2 Investigators at Church, 3 Member Present Lessons a week, 600 Convert Baptisms a year!, and then 75%of Recent Converts going to the temple withing 2 months of their baptism with family names. We need to be like those in Alma 17:2-3!! The training by the APs was on finding and increasing our faith. They encouraged us to work on finding new ways to find and not being discouraged! We came up with tons of ideas for finding and then set a goal to find 65 new investigators for this next week as a Zone! That’s a lot! We set a goal for 11 ourselves! That’s a lot, but we can do it! President encouraged us to be Master Teachers and to work on making our Restoration Lessons super spiritual. He shared a video from the Mission Presidents’ conference a year ago when two RMs shared a 4 minute Restoration with Elder and Sister Cook. It was so spiritual and everything they said had meaning. It wasn’t a fluffy lesson. It was packed with power. It was a powerful and exhilarating day! We really got a spiritual boost from it! That afternoon we had interviews with president. I was able to talk with him about stresses that I was having and he encouraged me to relax. 🙂 That was his assignment to me and I am so grateful for the fact that he is in tune with the Spirit. He knew exactly what to say right when I needed it and listened to everything I said. It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful for him! That evening we had splits with Brother Buck and we got to see the Perraults, and Elder McIntyre got to see Jacob and they taught the Restoration again. Great, great day!
(The letter drops off here because Elder Davis ran out of time when getting to the weekend’s accounting and was going to get the rest of this week’s adventures to me later — they went to Heublein Tower today and had a great hike! Anticipation makes us wait for the weekly wrap up!)
HERE IS THE REST! Added 1/30/17:
Saturday finally came! Nicole Santos, Jacob’s daughter, was going to go to the temple! We went out to the car in the morning so we could make calls and bask in the shadow of the temple for a bit before the Recent Convert Temple Day, but I couldn’t unlock it with the key fob. I tried it again, and we finally got the door open, but when I tried to start the car, it wouldn’t even turn on….we tried flagging down some other people in the garage, but none of them had cables, so we eventually just called Jacob, since he had offered to help us in any way the other night. He drove down, and we eventually got the car started after charging the battery for a couple of minutes. He went to go pick up Nicole, and we got our stuff and went to drive away, but two minutes in, we checked for our recommends, and Elder McIntyre couldn’t find his. We rushed back to the apartment, and time kept ticking. It got closer and closer, but no luck. We eventually decided that we would be ok, and something would work, so we drove to the temple. We were about 15 or 20 minutes late, and said hi to Jacob, who was parked right across from us, but he told us that Nicole had already gone in. We ran in and President Taylor, the Temple President, was sitting at the desk. We told him about our predicament with the recommend, and he needed to get President Miller’s authorization, but President was baptizing already! So President Taylor asked Elder McIntyre if he was worthy to enter the temple, to which he truthfully responded that he was, and we went in. As we walked in, we saw Nicole in the font with President Miller! We got to watch her be baptized (by proxy for others)about 10 times, and then waited in the viewing room for a bit. Sister Buswell was there, and so she had walked Nicole through getting ready, so a lot of our fears about that went away. She didn’t look too nervous, and with a man like President Miller there, I’m sure she loved it. A temple worker asked us if we wanted to do baptisms, so we went to get clothes, and when we went to go through the viewing room to get changed, Nicole was there! We had a brief conversation, but she loved being able to be baptised (for others who have passed away), and later she was confirmed. We suited up and then while waiting to be baptized, we saw Nicole in the viewing room, and she left, so our time with her there was short, and that was sad for us, but we were so glad that she got the experience to be baptized (for others who had passed away) and to feel the spirit of the temple! A man who was behind us in the line went up to President Miller when it was time for us to be baptized, and asked if I could baptize him, Elder McIntyre baptize me, he baptize Elder McIntyre, and then he could baptize one of the Spanish Elder’s Portugese Converts (again, baptisms for those who have passed away). He said that sounded just fine, so I went into the font and baptized President Miller. It actually wasn’t a crazy experience like you would imagine. It was actually just pretty normal. I called him Brother Miller, which was a little different, but it was just normal. I really do see the special relationship that I have with President. I have really realized that “famous” people in this world and in the church are different and talented in some ways, but they are people just like us. I do really appreciate strong spiritual members of the church, especially with the wisdom and maturity that they hold, but they are also just faithful members of the church as well and partake of the same sacrament emblems that I do each Sunday. It was a great and really special realization. I honestly love this church, and especially the gospel that holds it together, so much. I could not survive in this world without it. It is a breath of fresh air and new life in this world of competition and nose diving morals. I hope you feel the same way, too. I has blessed me so much, and striving for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is one of the most important quests we will have in this life.
Sunday was powerful. Our car died again, so we had to get a ride and we were late for our Stake Training given before Ward Conference, but it was still really good. Ward Conference itself was great. Bishop talked about our goal for the ward: Ohana. Bishop O’Donnell grew up in Hawaii and so did his wife, so Ohana to him means more than just what Lilo and Stich say. It is much more than that. He hopes that as we change the way we Home and Visit teach, that we will be able to grow closer as a family. The goals we have for a ward are focused on Home and Visiting Teaching: to know your companion, to know your families, and to be able to grow closer to them is the basic idea of his vision. To make it more of caring for them rather than just showing up for a monthly visit with a message out of the Ensign. He references Elder Holland’s talk from the Priesthood session in General Conference a ton. That is what he hopes for our ward, especially since there are so many Less Actives. We have almost 750 people on our ward directory, so having all of these people accounted for and cared for seems like a huge task, but through small and simple means, great things are brought to pass. The Stake President than talked about the Stake Goals: Never Stop Knocking. The three they have are Watch Over the Church through Home and Visiting Teaching, Wear Out the Temple, and Make a Christ Centered Home. These are basic ideas, but have so many things that we can do to accomplish them. Going to the temple, doing family history, family prayers, scripture study, home teaching, texting and sending messages to our families that we watch over. I love how they share basic principles and goals that have such large ways of affecting families and homes. The training in the other classes were also good, but after church we had a Ward Council Training by President Nielson, who is the spitting image of Brother Walker, the tall one. We talked about how the ward council goes, and what we could improve on. What we came to the conclusion of was being able to refine what we already have. It was a cool training and helped us to be more efficient and to be able to talk about more people and issues while still coming to conclusions on how to be able to help. After that, we waited for a while for the Sisters to be done with Church, and then they dropped us off at our apartment. We then started walking to our dinner, but talked to a lady for forever, and then she wasn’t even interested, so that was hard, but the Biggers gave us a ride to their home, and we had a wonderful dinner to end the evening. I am so grateful for all of the loving people across this wonderful world who cherish Christ and his gospel and don’t only preach about it, but who live it. The living is what makes a difference, and even though it may be a small one, even the smallest smile to someone who is feeling bad can make the biggest difference. Continue living the things that you talk about and hold dear in the scriptures. It will make all you feel the Love of Christ.