Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you."

ELDER HOLLAND IS COMING TO OUR ZONE CONFERENCE NEXT MONTH!!! Oh man, I am way excited; it is going to be a serious spiritual throw down. Ha, hopefully he isn't coming because we're doing terrible, ha ha. Another cool thing, we got a new car last week! And it is a new new car, like a 2015 Chevy Cruze still smells new new car. Her name is Molly because she's a Molly Mormon (don't even think about taking your seatbelt off or having the door open or she will not shut up). 
So let's see, what else have we done this week? Daniel is almost done with the Old Testament, he's about half way done and once he finishes that he'll have read all of the standard works. It's kind of cool actually, once he finishes a book he'll tell us his favorite chapters from it. But it is making me realize how much I actually do know about the scriptures, especially the Old Testament which I just I don't know assumed I didn't know anything about. What I do need to work on though is D&C, so now I know what to study right! 
Sometimes I wonder about the people that we visit, like what is it in their lives that makes them so suspicious. Is it just an Albuquerque thing or a less active thing or what? I don't know whenever someone knocks on my door at home or at school I just... opened the door. I never looked through the peep hole, or peaked through the curtains or said "who is it?!?!" (by the way, I promise you that no matter how sneaky you may think you are at looking to see who is there, you're not. They can see you or at least the movement that means that you're looking). Like why all the paranoia people? And it's not just less actives either, it's like everyone here, I don't know, what's the deal? 
Also, I was obviously too excited about Aurora and Miguel's baptism because.... that's not happening. At least, not next weekend. Ugh, agency. But they are coming along alright and I know that it'll happen soonish, or at least some day. Aurora still has made huge progress though since we met her, I think I mentioned the huge difference the word of wisdom has made, so I'm not too concerned. 
So we had dinner this week with a family where the wife had had leukemia the year before and had gotten a bone marrow transplant! I guess I never realized what a crazy process that is before but she was telling us about it and it is crazy! She basically revived the stem cells from her sister and then they were able to turn into what she needed but in the process it was basically like stripping her DNA out and replacing it with her sisters. And the super crazy thing is that she basically acquired her sister's physical features! She didn't have any allergies before but now has all of her sister's allergies, he hair color and texture changed and all kinds of crazy stuff. It's just the coolest and weirdest thing ever. On a somewhat more spiritual note, they gave us some life advice. They said that every time that you go on a trip, take time to visit any temples that you pass and at least go to the grounds if you don't have time to do any work or it's closed or whatever. But they said that your trip always goes better if you do that. So, there you go.

Hmm, I don't know why but it seems like not a lot has happened this week. We met a super cute kid who is like the most missionary minded person I've ever met. It's funny I remember always feeling like missionaries were always so much older than I was and then one day I was like "wait... they're like the same age as me..." and now most of them are younger than I am! It's funny though, to see kids looking up to you. It makes me want to do a much better job. Ha, anyway we gave her some pass along cards and we're going to stop by and "follow up" with her about it sometime this week.

We got another Washingtonian in our Zone this transfer. Washington is totally taking over the Albuquerque area, or at least the Pacific North West is. We have 4 people from Washington in the zone but still a bunch of Utah people (5 in our district alone) so Washington peeps keep coming!

This Sunday was stake conference and both President and Sister Miller spoke, as well as a recently reactivated member from our ward Sister Rodriguez whose husband we are teaching so it was pretty cool. We have as a stake really been focusing on missionary work so it's been helpful! One of the things that we are planning to start doing that I think will help a lot is teaching a little class about how member can be better fellowshipers and member missionaries and how you don't have to feel like an awkward octopus but can just do it naturally like a normal person. Ha hopefully it will go well but I think so! 
Oh, I just remembered someone else we saw this week. I don't know if I have enough time to get into it all but I'll try. We had been a little hesitant to go to the house because when we asked about the husband (who is inactive and doesn't want his family to go) we were told he was "the definition of unrighteous dominion" and... from what we've learned so far that is true. I think this is the first person or family that I've personally known who the victim of real, serious abuse was. As far as we can tell not too physical but very mental. Things like, he won't give her money for food because he works for it so it's "his money". But she also can't exactly go work because someone has to take care of their 8 kids. Things like hiding, damaging or throwing away birth control so that she'll be pregnant all the time so that she has to stay home or need more money or support to take care of herself that he is "generously" giving her (hence the 8 kids) or all these other crazy things. It feels like that episode of the hulk (I felt about that angry when I found out about it) except sadly, I'm not the hulk and I no one really know what to actually do. And since so much of it is mental games, it's hard sometimes to explain or they feel like "it's my fault" or that nothing is really wrong. I mean for myself I absolutely have no concerns. Like I said, I don't think there's any physical harm and we'll only go when he's not there and I can promise you if he ever even put one finger on my comp or I he would regret it for the rest of his life (God gets pretty mad when you mess with his messengers and like I would wait for God to do something...) but I really do worry about her and their kids.... 
Anyway, that situation is super depressing, how about something spiritual and happy... hmm.... earlier this week I read D&C section 4 which I feel sort of lame saying is my favorite section because 1) it's so close to the start 2) I haven't read the D&C as well as I should have and 3) it's such a famous section it feels unoriginal and that rubs wrong with my natural hipster but it is so what can I say. Anyway, that section was the section that made me sure I needed to go on a mission. I was thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it and I kept bouncing and forth and getting nowhere ( just ask the people I was counseling with at the time, I'm sure they'll tell you how obnoxious and indecisive it was, ha ha)  when I read that section where it says "and if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to do the work" Well, when you're looking for an answer it doesn't get much more straight forward than that. Did I have a desire to serve? YES! Then I guess I had better do it. Anyway, as I was reading through it again this week, the word desires stood out to me again but this time the plural nature of it. Desires, as in more than one. As in, we are going to get discouraged, we are going to have hard times, we are going to be tired, and things are not always going to go well. Which is why we need that desire again and again and again. We want to give up, and we recommit. We don't do as well as we'd like or things don't go as well as we hope and we recommit again. The desire isn't always constant because we are all imperfect people. So we rekindle it, gain a new desire and go to serve again. 
One other thing that stood out to me was the end, where is says "ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you." The Lord qualifies who He calls, to do any task, but you have to ask for it. You have to have that desire and then go for it. Ask, and work, and you'll find and have it. (By the way, the characteristics in the verse above that qualify someone for the work are totally the characteristics of Christ). My D&C prof encouraged us to read section 4 every time we got a new calling. It came from Joseph Smith Sr. asking his son to as God what he could do to help. It is about missionary work for sure, but it's more than that about anything God asks of us. 
Anyway, rant over! I hope you all are doing awesome and are keeping up on your studies and goals and all of that! Have an amazing week!



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hit my 2 month mark!

It feels like it has been a super long time since I wrote you last but it's only been an extra day I guess. This week is week one of transfer two! Which means that I just hit my 2 month mark! I know, not that impressive but I don't know, noteworthy I guess. By the way, guess where I ended up?? Yep! Still in Taylor Ranch! Ha, you didn't really think that I was going to get transferred did you? And it's a good thing that I didn't because Aurora and Miguel are getting baptized on the 31st!! I am super excited for them, Aurora has made like a million miles of progress from when we first met 6 weeks ago, I can hardly believe it! A big part of that really though is that she has started living the word of wisdom. I always believed that the word of wisdom was good for you and I think that most people recognize that it is good and healthy for your body but, as some teacher told me once, the point of the word of wisdom is not for you to live to be 95, that is a (potentially) added blessing. The point of the word of wisdom and really all of God's commandments,are to help us draw closer to Him! When we live the way He has directed, we can feel and understand the Holy Ghost in a much greater abundance and it helps to draw us closer to Christ. I have absolutely seen that with Aurora. Once she stopped smoking lessons with her were way different. She was more interested, more receptive, had more clarity and more confidence and was able to pick up spiritual situations and promptings and even understand spiritual things way more! It's craziness! I'll have to send you pictures from their baptism when it happens, it is going to be awesome! 

So this week I met my first philisophical Christian. Well, not the first that I have ever met, but the first that I have met as a missionary. What I mean by that is that it is like a mix of Christianity and Greek philosophy. Everything in the Bible happened metaphorically, and the "conversation" that we had with her was rather interesting. I say "conversation" because it was pretty much her talking to us and if you tried to say anything else, she would just talk louder. But, she gave us some chili so, that was nice. Ha, we also asked if we could read a scripture with her (all of this happened while we were waiting for her husband to get home who is a less active member who we were trying to meet) and I picked the one in Hebrews that talks about how God chastens who he loves, like how a father corrects his children. And she was like "Wow, I had just been thinking about that. It's such an amazing coincidence that you randomly chose a scripture that applied exactly to my situation that I hadn't told anyone about" Yep... that was an awesome "coincidence", ha ha. Revelation is real! =D 
Ha, another funny thing that happened this week was that Sister Stokes and Sister Reilley and I got trapped in a jam session. We went to visit this guy and he was like "Come in! We were just praying for good spirits to join us for our jam time!" Then he gave us all drums and we jammed with him and another girl for like at least 20 minutes until this big hour glass they had up was empty. It was a little weird but after the time was up we actually had a pretty good spiritual conversation so.... that's good I guess. 
One other thing I can think of that happened this week. We were talking to the neighbor of one of our investigators, Donna, while she was walking her dog. We had just kind of said, "hi, how are you, how is the weather" and all of that when she was like "ok, I have to go, Bye!" but the dog would not leave. Like it just sat there and stared at us and refused to move so we talked to her a little while she was fighting with it and then we had to go to our appointment so we left and I look behind us and that dog was still just sitting there,  staring at us, refusing to move. It reminded me a little of the story of Balem and his donkey but don't worry, there was no dog talking. I'm pretty sure that unlike Balem I totally would have freaked out if that had happened. 
So, investigators are doing awesome! You remember how I told you that Daniel had read almost all of the Book of Mormon? Well, by the time that we met with him last Friday he had read all of the Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price and all the stuff after that, like the articles of faith and Joseph Smith History and all of that. So he had a lot of questions but we do the best we can and things are going pretty well. He says that he still need to study more and keep praying but his goal for now is to be baptized with his wife Rebecca in the beginning of March!  
Hmm, what else interesting happened this week? We went with the Bishop to visit the Trujillos. We said hello, sat down and the Bishop was like "So, I see that you haven't been coming to church. Why is that?" and we were like "... wow" but he totally opened up and it was awesome. Apparently Bishops know what they're doing (not that I ever really doubted it you know) and don't got no time to beat around the bush. Ha ha it would be cool to be like that some day I think, as long as you knew when and how to do it and weren't a crazy person that goes around offending people. 
Well, that's about all of the real cool or interesting stuff that I can think of. Lots of people have been less cool but, you know, agency and all the jazz and what can you say? We keep on trucking. Well, Sister Stokes is apparently done and is staring at the back of my head so I'm guessing that's a hint she wants to go to zone sports. So I should probably wrap up. Let me just leave you with a thought or a challenge I guess from what we studied this week in district meeting and that is on personal study. In Preach my Gospel it says that it is important for us to learn from good teachers, but it is more important for us to discover spiritual truths on our own, and that as you do so it will mean more and you will learn more. I have to tell you, my personal study post mission life was pretty sad and I was always impressed by people who did so well like Brandi, but now I have to study for at least an hour a day. I can tell a huge difference. Not that I've particularly learned a lot intellectually, although I certainly have learned some good stuff, but I have a much stronger desire to know and to learn and I want to share what I've learned with others (and I'm always disappointed when they don't think it's as cool as I do). But, take time to personally study the word of God every day. There are a lot of different ways that you can do that, be it magazines, scriptures, conference talks, whatever. The scriptures say that as someone speaks through the power of the Holy Ghost, it becomes scripture. So find some scripture, spend at least 20 minutes a day studying and then 10 thinking about what you studied. I promise that you will learn, you might learn about what you're studying, you might learn about something else, but you will learn. You're desire for knowledge (which is one of the attributes of Christ by the way) will grow and you will as Amos says, want to rid yourself of the famon, not of food or water, but of the word of God. Your desier to be a better person will increase and your desire to share with others and discover will evolve and expound. 
You all are awesome, keep it up! 

Love April 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Some Random Stuff is going on

Hello, I hope that everything went well with the service and everything. People down here have been getting really sick as well, they are saying it is like epidemic proportions almost. (How much makes something an epidemic, I don't know, but that is what "they" are saying) so be sure to be careful, I
hope that everything is going alright. Ha it's funny that you mention there not being any grass because the first few days I was here I was getting annoyed at people just stomping through people's grass until I remembered that.... there isn't any. Cool people though have fake grass, like super fake, like a putt putt golf course. I think it looks dumb but, whatever.... oh I still haven't gotten that letter that you sent me but I'll keep looking!
So let's see this week... what happened... well, we have three people on date for the 31st so that is awesome! One of them is working on stopping smoking but I think she can do it in time! We should hopefully have at least one, but maybe two or three more in February so that is awesome! The six investigators that we are working with are doing awesome! Now I guess we have to start working on finding more. We have some good referrals to start with though so here is hoping that all goes well because I hate contacting! It's so awkward and yeah... plus referrals are awesome!
Oh, crazy fact. Someone we met last week died.... A less active member that we had met with once. We had a return appointment but she turned us away because she wasn't feeling well on Tuesday. Then apparently Friday her neighbor smelled funky gas smells from her house and called the police. There was a gas leak and she and her cat and dog were dead. They don't know if it was an accident or a suicide but we could have been the last people to see her alive. It's weird...
Also, someone this week told me that I have an "interesting aura" and that she felt like I would have a lot of strange and surprising things happen to me while I was in New Mexico. And then she gave me some peanut butter fudge so, I don't know what that means but hopefully I didn't get some weird curse on me or something! =P Now I have that King Ramses song from Courage the Cowardly Dog Stuck in my head.
Oh, by the way, it was totally snowing here this morning! And that is like a New Mexico miracle. Sister Stokes was pretty excited "It's like a little taste of Utah." It's pretty much already gone though so no worries!
So let's see, cool things that happened this week. Daniel, Rebecca's husband started reading The Book of Mormon like nobody's business. We had our first lesson with him on Wednesday and he said he was planning to start reading it the next day. As of last night he's on 4th Nephi! He texts us periodically some of his favorite chapters and so far they have all been doctrine chapters! Stuff like Alma 32 or 2 Nephi 31 so that has been super awesome! All of the baptism dates that we were able to set this week went pretty cool as well. With Aurora and her son Miguel we asked her what date she wanted. We felt like the 31st was the right date for her but when we asked her she suggested the 28th of February. We asked Miguel what he thought of that and he was like "No! I don't want to be baptized then!" (He's 1o by the way) and we were like "Ok... why?"  and he told us that he knew that it had to be in January and that it should be the 31st. We hadn't told them that was the day we were thinking of yet for them so that was pretty cool. Aurora said she thought Miguel was right and that day was better so there you go. Awesomeness. With Donna, she had a lot of hesitancy because she has a lot of friends in the church that she attends now and she's worried that they won't be friends with her if she leaves and she had a lot of trouble figuring out what she wanted to do for herself. Someone like forever ago told me that when you can't make a decision you flip a coin, not because the coin tells you what to do, but because when it's in the air you know what you want the choice to be. So, we talked to her about that and said she wanted to try it. I know it sounds crazy, flip a coin to see if you get baptized but remember that it's not about the coin it's about what you want. So we flipped a coin and I caught it and asked her what she wanted it to be (heads was baptism and tails was not) and she said "well, I guess that I want it to be heads!" (it's funny it actually was tails but again, that's not the point). We promised her that real friends wouldn't leave her just for going to another church and she plans on starting to tell them today!
Oh this week I also got a letter from Autumn that she sent me while I was in the MTC. Yeah... getting mail here is like pony express speed, so sorry if I take forever to get back to you! I promise it'll probably get to me eventually. OH, one other random thing, we have a wedding dress in the closet of our apartment. I don't know why but, we do...
Well, that's about it. Sorry no crazy stories for you this week. I still have a little time though so... here, I'll tell you about what I studied this morning. Among other things, D&C 121: 34-46. I have written next to it, Parenting, leadership positions, callings from God. The verses talk about the priesthood and what needs to be done to be a worthy priesthood holder but it applies to much more than that. It applies to all positions where we have authority over someone or something. Elder Oaks recently gave a talk about how we aren't used to calling the power that women work under the priesthood but what else could it be? Whenever we exercise God's power in any sense, but it in callings or whatever, it is priesthood power. And in order to us and obtain that, we have to be living worthy. And, what greater calling from God is there than to be a parent? And God, as our Father and perfect example, shows us the way to be a good parent if we listen and look at the way he handles and lovingly but firmly teaches us.
Well, hope everything is going well and everyone keeps on keeping on! I still haven't heard from Brandi though so I just have to assume that she still doesn't love me. =D
Have a good week!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It's a New Year

Well, it feels like it has been a month since I have last written! A lot has gone down this week! So, let me first and foremost say happy New Year! And now that that is done, let me tell you about the New Year/ Christmas miracle we had. One of our investigators, Rebecca, has been taking lessons since the start of April and has been really actively involved in the church. She hasn't been baptized though because her husband Daniel was apparently really against her having her name on official Church records. He was so against it that until this week we had never met him. Whenever we came over he made sure he was gone and apparently he wouldn't even make eye contact or look at past missionaries if he happens to run into them or something. And the last lesson we had with Rebecca before the New Year she said, "This is never going to change. I have asked and asked for months and I will never be able to be baptized so why bother." Well, Rebecca and Daniel have a tradition of going on a trip for a week after Christmas and this year they went to Salt Lake City. On New Year’s Eve we received a text from her asking us to dinner the next day. And she said "we would love to have you.”  So, of course we said yes and we were all curious about the whole we thing. We had never met Daniel before so we didn't know what to expect or what would happen. Well, let me tell you.
 We went over the night of New Years and just as we suspected, both Rebecca and Daniel were there as well as an YSA member friend of Rebecca's. Everyone was really nice and we said a prayer and started eating. So, about 10 seconds into the meal we get the shock of our lives. As you all I'm sure have deduced by now, Daniel had indeed changed his mind and was fine with Rebecca getting baptized (we were super excited and her date is for the end of this month) but, here is the crazy thing. Daniel told us that on their trip they went to Deseret and that while he was there he started listening to one of the lectures aka talks by someone. He said that for some reason, if seemed really good to him and that it felt really true and somehow it felt like more than that and he wanted to know more. So, he basically bought out Deseret. He went back there every day of the week long trip and all he listened to in the car was different talks from different people. He showed us the huge stack of audio books and talks he had bought and he told us that he really liked this guy named Henry Eyering and had we ever heard of him (guess what, we had!). They went to temple square and talked to the missionaries there and he asked us a million questions and asked for a list of other people he could start listening to. It was crazy! Amazing but crazy. I have never in my life seen someone change so quickly or have so much enthusiasm and motivation to learn. I suggested that he read a book by President Eyering called to draw closer to God and he pulled it out and was like "This one? I finished it already!" (By the way, family, have you read that yet because it is legit). We committed him to start the Book of Mormon and pray about it and we are meeting with him tomorrow!
   We've also had a lot of success talking to people about making spiritual goals. The New Year (when people were home or would let us in) has really been a good time for them to reflect and realize that they want to be better and make more changes in their lives, especially the less active members we have been visiting with.
 We had zone training this week as well oh and we had dinner at the Bishop's house this week. The layout of his house is almost exactly the same as Grandma Till's was so that's kind of weird. Also, when we came over he yelled upstairs for his two sons to come down to eat. So were were standing there I hear "Rick! Carl!" Rick comes downstairs but is alone so he yells again "Carl! Come on!" I was trying hard not to laugh at the good fortune of their names. Before we went to the Bishops we had the joy of spending forever at the auto shop so that we could get a headlight replaced. Not only did we learn how long it takes but we also learned literally how many mechanics it takes to change a Chevy Malibu light bulb. The answer is four of them and two and a half hours. While we were there we also met a man who was really, really into pumpkins. He talked to us about them for at least forty minutes....
 By the way, did I tell you all that Sister Stokes sleep talks? Like at least three times a week. The other night she sat up in bed and was like "Hey! Hey! I need a piece of paper! It's really important! I need one right now!" So I hand her one, she writes something on it and then goes back to sleep. In the morning I discovered that she had in her sleep chicken scrawled "Don't be afraid to share your testimony with everyone!" Well.... I mean that is important. And I guess it's a good thing that her dreams are gospel related? I don't know, my dream last night was that I was trying to get into Disney Land but they wouldn't let me in because I couldn't find my driver’s license.... interpret that as you will I guess.
 As far as awkwardness goes this week, I would have to say the biggest things would be when we had dinner at the part active part less active family that we had Christmas dinner with. Like I said, we have been talking to people about setting spiritual goals and as an example been using our spiritual goal of studying the characteristics of Christ more. So, we teach our dinner message and then extend a commitment because you know, that's what missionaries do. So we say, "Will you commit to setting more spiritual goals this year to help you come close to your Heavenly Father?" or something like that. And we get dead silence and a lot of stares. So after about 10 seconds of that we promise them more blessings and ask them again and we get more stares. Finally someone says sure, or maybe or something and we're like "Ok! Great! Bye!" and get our sorry selves out of there before they start telling the little girl to gather up stones like in The Lottery. Speaking of literature, every time we go to the retirement home that we volunteer at here, which is at least once a week (it's called The Beehive. Guess where it was founded...), I think of that story The Summer Kitchen.
 Well, I feel like there were a few more things I wanted to say but I'm running out of time and starting to feel like I'm getting carpel tunnel so I'll just leave you with a scripture to describe the situation we find ourselves in here. 3 John 1:13. Just substitute paper and ink for I don't know... keys and monitors or something. Well, hope everything is going well! Thank you all for writing and I love hearing from you all. Even Brandi who apparently doesn't love me anymore because I haven't heard from her in weeks and she is failing the only job I gave her to keep me updated on what is going on in the real world and I'm having to find out weeks later though back channels. Anyway! Love you all!