I learned something interesting this week that I had never heard before. I always see pictures of the inhabitants of ancient America eating and drinking out of bowls. Our mission president told me why that is when I spoke with him on Sunday:
"Because Moroni buried the plates!"
Just wanted to pass on some knowledge this week and express gratitude for humor in a world of trials and tribulations.
This world is so beautiful! Thank you for the picture of the garden, looks like it is growing quite a bit. God's work is also growing here in Laguna Niguel. This week I just feel jubilantly joyful in all things, and I want to share that! We had quite a few ups and downs: Rocio was not baptized we attended a funeral, Elder Barton had some sad news from home and one of our investigators did not come to church. On the other hand, Rocio received a powerful confirmation that she needs to be baptized we invited three people to be baptized, we are healthy, and we rebuked and evil spirit!
Here is the latest on Rocio: she is wonderful and an incredible woman and mother. I will keep my comments positive and not too personal, but she really, I mean REALLY wants to be baptized so she will. She is in for surgery today, but perhaps will be healed enough before November to be baptized Why wasn't she baptized? We have been teaching her son for quite a while now and ever since his mom started investigating and he met this "new friend" he does not keep any commitments and is not progressing. There is a rift between mother and son that Rocio will not allow to be widened. The gospel is a message of unity and baptism should not be a wedge, but a sealant to a relationship. We are waiting on the son to come back and employing every honorable mean to provide him with a fair opportunity to choose between liberty or captivity. We love them both dearly, and pray for them every day.
A few fun moments of the week:
We had three dinners on Sunday and they were all really good, so we had to keep eating - just preparation for Thanksgiving!
We met some people in the middle of the parking lot, we came from the Wendy's side and they from Patsy's Bar side. One was the designated driver and was the member who had gotten civilly married last week. She invited a few of the guys there to be baptized and one said yes and came to church! Another one "Jeremiah Peter" requested us to say a prayer all together, so we huddled around and football style came in, hands stacked high, to listen to Jeremiah Peter say a prayer. It was interesting to see how every type of person needs God in their lives.
One more drunk man story; we were leaving our apartment to go to a lesson, and before we could get to the car a man missionaries used to teach yelled "Oi, Brothah!" and marched over with a phone playing "Death and Destruction" by a band I never want to hear again. He bellowed a few lines of the song for us, and then said: "I know you can't listen to music, so I brought you some to listen to, because you can't stop me from listening to it next to you, right?"
We said: "Sure, Super Dave." Super Dave is his alias name when he is intoxicated. Then he showed us the intro to a Ramones song, and we really tried to leave, but then something unexpected happened. He talked about how he is going to become a Catholic and wants to stop drinking, but knows that "no one can ever change me!" We invited him to church to feel of the spirit, and counseled him, quoting President Monson that "Leopards may not be able to change their spots, but we are working with men. Men can change!" That was neat, but here is the best part: right before we left he said "We need to fight against Satan"
We agreed and I said "We are all part of God's army"
Then I stood right next to him, shoulder to shoulder and stood up at attention, like a soldier. His slumped form instantly straightened and dignified. We saluted and he said, "I feel like we are all brothers. Can I say a prayer with you"
We said "yes, please."
He draped his arms onto our shoulders and we bowed our heads while he pleaded with God for strength and deliverance.
Immediately following the word "Amen" he started twitching a little and got really scared. He told us that he felt tingly where any part of his body had been touching us. He came to church and cried because he really felt the Spirit. We are going to meet with him later to day and he wants to get baptized now. I'm telling you, missionary work is a blast!
My personal studies have been enlightening and I feel the fire of testimony burning inside of me as I read the scriptures. I know this is God's work and I am not sure some days how we do what we do. There is a fun phrase I really like that helps me be a better missionary: "Lovin' out loud is what it's all about" I love being a missionary and helping people overcome the influences of the world through my words, actions and testimony is what it's all about! Sorry this is so long this week! I know that through "Lovin' out loud" we will be happier and everybody wants that! Let's bring joy to the world.
We had a thunderstorm on Thursday! The heavens opened and let loose; I took pictures, but I brought the wrong cord to connect to the computer, sorry I often do not send pictures. This was quite a week.
Elder Barton and I were able to attend two weddings. A temple sealing on Wednesday and a civil marriage at the bishop's home on Thursday. Also a great man who was instrumental in bringing the family that got sealed into the church passed away the night they were sealed. Then it rained and rained and rained until a full and beautiful rainbow arched across the sky. His funeral is this Thursday and we are going to help with food.
I am surprised that the ward still trusts me with food. At the stake hoedown my first week here I carried a big tray of baked beans into the park, but my bag got caught on a rope and I lost my balance just enough to spill the beans onto the grass. I quickly recovered my balance but just as suddenly lost my composure and dignity. Fortunately the beans were nearly all salvaged and properly placed back into the pan and, with some added-all natural flavors, were consumed by the hungry pioneers. Then on Wednesday we had dinner at a restaurant after the temple wedding and as I was sitting, talking to the family another member of the ward approached us and I stood up to shake her hand. In the process of moving my body into an upright position my center of gravity swung around and tilted an adjacent table just enough tumble all of the plates and silverware onto the floor. Usually when people clink glasses like that at a wedding reception they are informing the guests that they would like to propose a toast. I had no such intentions. I shook the woman's hand and busily went about picking up my mess. We are accident free now for 6 days.
That is not the important part about my missionary work in the Marina Hills ward though! We have a baptism this Saturday for dear, sweet Rocio. She is doing great and is excited to follow through in her desire to covenant with God that she will serve Him. Stay tuned - more to come on that front.
We started teaching a Hispanic family this week. We have three other investigators with baptismal dates: Chris, Ioannies, and Eddie, but they all are going to start going to the single's ward, so we probably won't be teaching them anymore, but hopefully we can go to their baptisms. On a typical day we spend about 4-5 hours teaching lessons and I have only tracted a total of 30 minutes so far on my mission. I tracted more at home, just on splits! We spend the rest of our time contacting referrals, visiting potential investigators, doing service, eating and sharing a message with members and meeting with members of the ward council to coordinate activities and appointments.
A few other new and exciting developments that we are starting to implement are as follows: (DISCLAIMER: These are exciting to ME as a missionary, but that is not to say that you normal people living normal lives will find them invigorating in the least)
1. Bi-monthly family home evening in the park for investigators and new move-ins and less active members and long time members as a casual way to get to know people. We had our first last night and it was a big success! Our assistant ward mission leader provided treats, and we thought he was hosting it. Until he told us to "go a head and start whenever" We had a prayer, activity, spiritual thought and refreshments!
2. Weekly splits with members of the ward. We were able to bring two young men to lessons with us this week, and are setting up a system with the high priest group and the elder's quorum to get more members of the ward involved in the missionary effort.
3. We are teaching hang-gliding classes from the roof of the stake center.
Not really, I just wanted to see how you would feel about that if it were true, mom :)
Other than that Elder Barton and I are doing well and life is good. I have been thinking about Elder Ballard's talk from general conference wherein he related the significance of each worker bee in a hive. Throughout the duration of the bee's life he/she(?) contributes a mere 1/12 of a teaspoon to the total amount of honey in the comb. We each have the responsibility to bring our 1/12 to the place we are serving as missionaries, members, or just human beings. God has allotted us all a set amount of time on this earth. Each day we have the opportunity to make choices that will help us progress of hinder our growth. I have tried to eat better, act more wisely and become more like Christ. I feel that some days I live my day up to its full 1/12 of a teaspoon worth! Other days I know that I need to strive harder to work better and and become more Christ-like. I pray that each of us, myself included, will be busy bees and industrious insects and Christian Christians. We can do that by serving, reading the scriptures, praying and going to church. Keep on buzzin'.
I heard it was Columbus day yesterday when Elder Barton and I tried to visit the library to explore Mormon.org and genealogy resources, who knew? I need to get myself a national holidays list so we can avoid that mistake again! It is good to know that life goes on and that this mission is not just one long day, but that time is moving and changes are happening. Sometimes I feel like I have been on my mission for about a week, and some days I feel like I have been up for months.
Conference was quite the spiritual boost and I have a lot of spiritual and temporal action items I want to implement. I think you are exactly right, mom: I really should eat around the gluten and dairy items at people's homes, but most especially in the apartment. I let myself slide into complacency in my diet, Ramen is a stable and Nutty-Buddys for breakfast have been my life the past month. Whoops... No wonder I got sick. Anyhow I definitely feel that I will be less "foggy", as you like to say, if I can refrain from the bad and fill myself with the good.
I was inspired by the impressions that came to me as a missionary while watching conference, for my investigators as well as for myself. We had a man named Chris with us on Saturday morning who we invited to be baptised the end of the month and he enjoyed the talks. I feel like Elder Nelson's "Ask the missionaries" talk was really good for him specifically. There were many many times when I wrote down notes for myself that seemed completely unrelated to the talks, but for me were somethings that the spirit whispered I needed to remember and learn about. A BIG impression was to ask Father in heaven what I need to do to become a better servant of the Lord. I am astounded over and over again and filled with wonder and gratitude that the Supreme Being of the Universe has a personal concern and so much individual understanding for me. I need to keep refining myself and listening to the guidance of Him who sent me here.
A few weekly highlights:
Ocean in view. On exchanges with Elder Bradley we biked up a mountain in my area and saw the ocean from the top! Hearkened me back to the treks with Grandpa Craven retracing Lewis and Clark's trail
Old man's FHE. Last night Elder Barton (my full-time companion) and I went to a member of the high priest's house for dinner and family home evening. This was memorable because there were about 20 people there, all over the age of 40 and none currently married. Next month they asked us to give the lesson, so that will be fun. I hope that when I am 40 I will still be able to have the energy and attention span of a 15 year old in the right circumstances.
Bashin'. Tuesday we had a lesson with a family of a different Christian faith. The man's name was Rich and he is very nice. My favorite thing he said was "Intent comes before content" referring to receiving answers from prayers. I agree with him. he was pretty hung up on the Trinity, and doesn't really want to learn so we are not going to teach him anymore. He thought he proved and God is everywhere and nowhere and that He is 3 in 1 and 1 in 3, but he just wouldn't accept that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are 3 separate and distinct personages.
I am having a fantastic time on my mission. I am a happy Carlsbad missionary! We are still looking for Mongolians to teach, but no one knows anyone! Imagine that. I know that this is not my work, but the work of the Almighty, so whatever He has for me is what I shall do. I am grateful for correct knowledge of truth and I do my best and work my hardest everyday so that I may do the work that He has given me. There is no better place for me to be at this time and I am grateful to be a missionary.
The work in Laguna Niguel is going well! Thank you for the email and snail mail this week! It got hot again here and we bike a lot of hills. I haven't been on a scale for a while, but you saw from those pictures yesterday that I still have my insulation. My companion is wonderful and we have seen much success. Our investigators are progressing and I love meeting with and teaching them! We had a really neat experience that I will share in a minute. I also really enjoyed the message on LDS.org about the currant bush by Elder Christofferson. Some advice and direction to change is really not so fun to hear. Just like Matt Lorenzen*, the pro golfer had to start from scratch at the height of his success and re-invent his swing, we must accept the Will of the Lord to change. At times we may feel restricted by the imposition of a model of behavior and lifestyle, the Lord know how to help us bring forth fruit to bless us in our lives and aid us in our journey home again to the Being who created us.
*(name has been changed to protect privacy and not bring up a taboo subject [Tiger Woods]:)
This week we went to a back to school BBQ at the bishop's house for the youth and shared an impromptu message about missionary work. The youth especially enjoyed it when I bore my testimony in Mongolian. I feel more comfortable sharing what I believe in another language. I sometimes think that I was called to Mongolia and learned Mongolian so that I could learn from the beginning how to say the core beliefs that I hold dear. At times I would rather not say anything in English, but I would not hesitate to share my faith in Mongolian, so now I need to apply the skills and courage I gained in that learning experience to bless the lives of everyone who has ears to hear.
I can't think of any amusing stories to share, but I do have two experiences I want to talk about. I was feeling a pretty sick during the week and was not being as effective as I wanted to be. The Lord has blessed my tremedously with a desire to serve and to dedicate myself more to this than I ever have to anything else before. The Lord also has provided a standard that is to be upheld and lived. The Lord does not want His servants to try to outdo that standard. I was not taking care of my body and did not sleep as much as I should have and the Lord reminded me that He know what He is doing better that I do. I prayed and asked for forgiveness and strength. As I changed my ways and relied more on the Lord and leaned not unto my own understanding He provided ways for miracles to happen and work was accomplished that my companion and I could never have done on our own no matter what manly means we may have employed. I think that is actually a kind of funny story, but maybe that is just me.
The second experience was last night and my highlight of the week! We have been meeting with Ioannies (I-O-neighs) and his mother Rocio (Ro-ci-o). Last night we had dinner and a lesson and talked about priesthood authority. She asked if she could have a blessing for her back and we gladly did so. Elder Barton did the first part and I gave the blessing. I was a little nervous, but I asked God to help me and He provided His words for me to say. After the blessing she described what she was feeling as calm and peaceful, but hot and burning. All in the room could feel the Holy Ghost. We testified that the sensation was the confirming of truth by the Spirit of God. I know that the Spirit testifies of true ordinances. The priesthood has been restored and I am grateful to have the opportunity to lose it. Then we invited her to be baptized on October 20 and she basically yelled YES! That was an example to me of how the gospel changes lives. People just need to be invited, because most do not know what to do. Even if they know the church is true they need to be given direction. Baptism is the first step and we can begin our journey back to God through it.
I know conference will be a revelatory experience and I am stoked! Hope home has happiness. And all homes throughout the world.