Southern California is a magical kingdom full of people, young and old, trying to find their way from fantasyland and adventureland to gospelland. Remember how I just ran around in Disneyland, but had a serious problem finding what I was looking for and unable to recall direction? My path was not clear and my destination was ofttimes obscured by all the people around me. If I ended up somewhere that looked good enough then I would just stay there. Here in Temecula, (Oh, by the way, Anaheim (Disneyland) is less than an hour away) lots of people are in their lives lost and desperate to find the "right" and "best" and "true" destination on this roller coaster of life. The point I am trying to make with all of these analogies, silly metaphors and idioms is that Elder Lake and I are teaching some great people with some real problems. One investigator is waiting for her "black and white" answer about which church she should join, another lacks the faith to read and pray, and yet another dear child of God is happy enough where he is.
We had a choice experience this week in meeting someone prepared to hear the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We were biking to dinner from an appointment and a man mowing his lawn asked if we were Mormons. What a great question to ask the missionaries!! His name is Matt and he is full of bright and thought provoking questions. We had to go, but he asked us to come back that night which we did. As we knocked on the door, something was not right. He answered and was very nervous, scared even. he slipped out to the porch to talk to us. In contrast with the excited and interested attitude he had previously displayed, now was shown on his face an expression that necessitated thrifty use of time. He said hi, but he also informed us that his wife did not want us in the house. His wife came to the door, looked at us three, addressed us, saying "Dude, we're busy" and told Matt "Your mom is on the phone" We knew we had to improvise. Matt said "Ok hun, ok man" and hurriedly turned back to us. The following sequence of events felt like a drug deal to me. He motioned for us to give him a Book of Mormon, Quick! We slipped him a copy and Elder Lake furiously wrote down our phone number. All the while his upset wife was yelling that his "Mom is on the phone!!" he hid the Book of Mormon in his shirt and ran inside, saying to us "no more services please"
I find this funny now, but it is scary to think of the adversity that the devil gives to us. He knows the converting power of the Book of Mormon. I have 10 seconds left!! I know the church is true!!
Hello! Holy bologna, that summer went fast! I hope it cools down soon. I have run into a bunch of people who were up in the Portland area and said it was getting into the 100's there too. That is unusual. This week was a tad cooler: mid to high 90's for the most part. I don't mind to much. My shirts are gradually changing colors; from white towards a rather dirty polar bear hue. Bleach is retarding the deterioration, but the inevitable will come to pass, that I am sure of. I really can't wait to get to Mongolia, where I can just cover every inch of my shirts under my suit, jacket and heavy coat!
This week Elder Lake and I had some amusing moments with people. I hope you find them as enjoyable as I did.
Driving to an appointment we passed our investigator on the road walking to the park so I called her and she said that she had just seen us. I said "Oh, was that you with the white dog?" she replied, "No, that is my black daughter". I unfortunately mistook a stuffed animal for her daughter, because it was obscuring our view of the little girl.
At a house to visit a part member family we pulled over to check the address, because the house we were currently in the driveway of was obviously deserted. An elderly woman was walking down the sidewalk and Elder Lake said "Hi!" and she glanced up, but then continued walking, head down. I asked if she was having a good day and she reacted the same to me. Elder Lake asked if there was anything we could do to help her out and she hardly even slowed down. When she was right in front of the house where we were she hollered (we were about 8-9 ft away) "THE HOUSE IS EMPTY YOU KNOW!" I said "Oh, we must have the wrong address and just smiled at her and she bustled away and Elder Lake said, "Well, you have a good day now!" I think she was hard of hearing.
It was Elder Lake's birthday on Wednesday! We made lots of balloon animals and I knew that his favorite candy is butterfingers, so I wrote notes on a dozen and hid them around our room: in his bed, in his shoes, in his pretzel bag etc. Then the members we had dinner with gave us a cake that we just finished on Sunday. I think I ate about 2/3 of it. I weigh 188lbs just for your information. There were lots and lots of other funny moments, but I can't think of too many right now.
I have been particularly impressed with a few things that I studied this week. I spend about a half an hour everyday putting people in our area into geographical sections, so that we can more efficiently plan our days and touch the lives of as many of heavenly Father's children that we are able to. I know that He loves each and every one of His children. Then the second half hour of personal study, to wake me up a little bit I read in the Book of Mormon. Now, I know that you think I am kidding, that the Book of Mormon puts people to sleep, but I am not trying to make a joke. I have decided to do as Elder Bednar counseled and take a blank, soft cover copy (I am using one I bought in the MTC) and think of a question that you want answered and read the Book of Mormon from lid to lid and you will have an understanding of the answer. I want to know basically, who the Holy Ghost is, what His mission is and how to recognize His influence. My Book of Mormon is getting really marked up and I get really involved in each verse and the way that the prophets of old have talked about the divine comforter. I have so much more to learn, and many more verses to explore, but I am more fully understanding the answer to the question that I came with.
The other big lesson I have started to learn is the value of the kingdom of heaven. I read Jesus the Christ on days when I feel really rested and awake, because I will not profess that I stay completely concious and alert during that segment of my studies. I find that when I am concentrating then I pick out a lot more, and I have this week. I started reading the last few weeks in the MTC and now I only have about 200 pages left. I have listened to parables for the last couple hundred pages and the last one that really struck me was about men giving up and forsaking everything for the kingdom of heaven. It is very difficult for a wealthy man to strip himself of his possessions and give himself completely to service of others and God. I know that it is possible however, for anything is possible with the help of God. I have seen miracles already happen when people have faith and trust and hope in God. I know that I need to more completely and with renewed zeal devote myself to this sacred labor that I have been called to perform. I know that through carrying out this work, lives are being changed. I am so grateful to be on a mission. I am even happy to be in southern California! Thank you for your support and I hope you have a great week.
Greetings from Temecula in Riverside County California!
I am here with my new companion Elder Lake, and living in the same apartment as my good friend and former companion: ELDER HEGLAND! I got your package in the mail, thank you so much! The pepperoni sticks are great! Well they are gone, but they were delicious! How is everyone at home doing? I was just thinking about everyone as I have been talking to people here and them talking about their kids and how old they are and I found myself wondering how Kennedy and Harrison got so old so fast, and when did Jackson graduate middle school!? I am excited to hear about every one's adventures while I am on this adventure of my own.
This week reached a tame 113 degrees here in Temecula and most of the time has been spent on our bikes, or mopping sweat off of our faces before we enter people's houses. I think that this is a wonderful place to be though, and I really am loving getting to meet new people. Elder Lake was just serving in Laguna Niguel and so neither of us know anything about anyone here, because the previous companionship didn't leave much at all. However, I think that is a blessing, because now Elder Lake and I get to figure it out and in the process of doing so we become more familiar with the area through getting lost and then finding our way back! We inadvertently left the mission the other day, because we missed a turn and kept going into the Riverside Mission. Whoops!
I just got an email from Elder Hegland and my first companion, Elder Omori, he got to the MTC the same day as us and was temporarily reassigned to Phoenix, AZ about 6 1/2 weeks ago. He told me that he has now been permanently reassigned to Oakland/Sacramento. That was really hard to hear and I am sad that we won't see him in Mongolia. I am still very hopeful that the other 4 of us will be there soon. No news, but same as always: patiently waiting and serving the Lord while I am on His errand, no matter where it is.
At church on Sunday Elder Lake and I were invited to give talks and teach the Elder's quorum lesson. We were asked about 10 minutes before sacrament started and we said "Of course". It was one of the better talks I have given in any setting, in my opinion! I usually need to have my talk outlined and written out and all of my jokes planned, but this time I thought about what direction to take my thoughts and who to direct the message to. I am grateful for the time that I have had so far on my mission to put a few things together in my head. Meaning: throughout the course of my studies, both personal and third-party instructive, I have seen things, doctrines, in a more "big picture" mentality. With all of these deeper connections that the Spirit has helped me make, I found that it was easier to focus my remarks and express more clearly what I wanted to. Of course I included some humor and people remembered that, but I think my testimony, also, is very different and people were able to feel that.
I spoke before Elder Lake, so I took that opportunity, as the designated domestic junior companion to introduce us as "The new couple in the ward" and explained that we just moved in on Tuesday, we had no children, so we can both keep up on our full time jobs. I also elaborated that we had met in the pre-existence and then once again one memorable afternoon in Vista, California and the rest is history. I am glad that "Mormon Culture" is pretty much the same throughout the United States!
A quick message for the week, and coincidentally the topic of my talk, is what I would like to conclude with. As I have been pondering about this and learning more about my Savior I really think that I want to do everything that I possibly can to be as closely like Him that I can. President Eyring offered great counsel to "Think of Him". As we go through our days and try to accomplish all of the to-do list items for the day, it is common, for me, at least. to become frustrated, tired or even overwhelmed and feel defeated. How do we feel when we finish a particularly prickly project? I find this occasion to be joyful and take a breather, perhaps put my feet up and relax. Everyday in missionary work there are these times. I reflect on the superhuman feat that my Savior did on my behalf. Even in the darkest and most trying time of His work He never thought of Himself. He was focused on completing His Father's glorious work. I know that He was thinking of me, and of you and each of His brothers and sisters that He was dying for. When I "think of Him" at this time and in this sense I feel strengthened and even emboldened to physically press on and work as hard as I can because He never took a break and He never deviated from His Divine purpose. I love my Redeemer and am striving to do the things that he would do if He was on the earth at this time. I am honored and humbled to have the sacred privilege of representing Him at this time. I hope that we may all have a great week as we turn our thoughts to our Savior and remember to press forward with faith.
This week was fantastic, and we had a lot of hard work and a lot of success! I get mail once a week, but I haven't gotten anything since I have been here. Hopefully that gets worked out, because it sounds like you have sent some things! Transfers are this afternoon. I will not know my future location until 4:00 today, but I will let you know via Email next week from somewhere new!
It has been hot here, and I am a little sun burnt from yesterday, but I am thinking that I will be put closer to the beach where it is cooler. I didn't know that you all went to Lake Tahoe! That sounds way fun! It was cool to see those pictures. I have my camera today and I will try to send the pictures as attachments. I don't take too many pictures though!
I have not lost any weight. We frequently have 2 dinners a night, I don't know if I already told you that, but even walking 8-10 miles a day I am staying at 190 lbs, but I have been doing my push ups and I think that my master plan will come to fruition as planned!
We set two new baptismal dates this week and they are scheduled for August 25 to enter the waters in covenant making! Something special that I wanted to share this week is not about that though. As a quick background set-up I need to recount an experience from my last day at the MTC: I was running (I mean purposefully and swiftly walking) around the residence hall with Elder Hegland looking for a scale to weigh our suitcases, and there is, on every floor, and trash/give-away/please take area from Elders who had left recently and could not take all of thier acquired goods with them. On the second floor I came across a children's picture Book of Mormon reader. I felt like I should take it, even though it was in English, because I felt like someone might need it. My first day in San Marcos we walked to a house that had two young boys there who were not that interested in reading the scriptures and church in general. So I thought that maybe they would be the people that needed the children's Book of Mormon. I kept this thought in my head until we visited a less-active (inactive) member of the ward who was 55 and living in an independant assissted living facility. He has a lot of health problems and does not talk to people much, nor does he recieve visitors to help with that problem. He asked for two things: That we stop by once a month and chat, and he asked for a Book of Mormon with the square pictures, so he could read it. I told him that we have one for him. I am so glad that I had picked up the one that I did. I have not seen one like it out here.
I konw that the Lord is working through me as a missionary to touch the hearts of the people in this area that I had the chance to serve in; even if it has barely been three weeks. I am sad to go and I have made some great friendships. The ever approaching arrival to Mongolia occupies my mind occasionally, but I am grateful to be here at this point in my mission. This is God's work throughout the world. I know that I have a purpose here, even if it was just to give Ron a way to come closer unto Christ through a simple book that he can better understand. I know that I am a son of God and have been called to preach repentance to His children. I never want to lose this desire that I feel within myself to spread the word.
I love being a missionary and I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that only through His grace and our works can we be saved. Thank you for having been a good example and for your continued encouragement and support. Have a great week.