Thank you for the email! Sounds like your Thanksgiving was really good with all the family, I am happy that everyone was able to be together! My birthday was very nice, thank you for the ties and treats! Elder Barton made me a muffin/cake and we put the 20 candles in it, we aren't allowed to use lighters so we just admired it, photographed it and then devoured it. I have lost 10 pounds since I have been in this area, I just realized this after I weighed myself after Thanksgiving to see the damage. It has been good to run in the morning and I think that has trimmed me down. I still weigh more than I ever did before my mission and I still look chubby, but that is okay, because right now my body is just a tool of the Lord, a vessel for His spirit to be worked and worn out in the service of others.
When I come home, I am not going to recognize you with a head of grey hair! Wow, sounds like this week has been busy, but I am glad to hear that everyone is safe. The Lord is in charge. Andy, who we meet with, always tells us that "No one messes with heavenly Father" because even though the heavens and earth may pass away, [God's] word will not pass away (citation needed)
I am grateful for the lovely birthday cards I got yesterday as well and I will be writing back soon! I wish I had some funny stories to tell. One miraculous event happened last week that I neglected to mention: Eddie Shin was baptized and that was cool, but then the next day we went over to meet with him and his friend Iaonnies. We talked for a little bit and were about to start the lesson when sister Shin did something out of the ordinary and quite incredible. I have never seen anything done the way she did this. She looked at the ceiling and squinted her face up and sang the alphabet song backwards! I was mesmerized and astounded! It totally made my day! Just wanted to share that.
This week is looking good. I love being a missionary and we are super busy! A quick insight that I had this week was about serving others and how the Lord will consecrate our performance if we act out of love and Christlike care. I gave a training in district meeting and President Cook was there so I was nervous but I talked about how if we know exactly what our investigators need then we will know how it will help them. This seems silly and irrelevant, but in order to testify and promise specific blessings, we need to know that yes, what we are sharing is true, and not only that - it will bless your life! It starts with deisire. If we can discern the needs and desires of those we serve we can more perfectly serve them. Love you all lots and lots and I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Baptism of Chris Allen
Elder Barton Eddie Shin (new convert) and Elder Chandler
Thank you for the wonderful update about the family! Sorry to hear about grandma Dickinson; she was such a wonderful and humorous woman. I am just sad that I won't be able to listen to her stories on the earth, but I am happy that she will be just as witty when I see her next.
Today we were able to go to the temple and enjoy the rejuvenating spirit that is there. Work is going well. I feel an infinitesimally small portion of the burden that the Savior felt as he worked out the salvation of His brothers and sisters. I am grateful for the advice that dad gave me in his email that by doing the Lord's work and being His servant I can please God. By giving all that I have I will become who I need to become. God is easy to please but so very hard to satisfy. I never do enough to justify my sins. I need to rely on Jesus Christ to carry me on His shoulders when the load is too heavy. I now He is there and even more than that I know that God is mindful of me as he is of each of us.
I didn't mean to get into the heavy stuff so soon! It has just been weighing on my mind. But this week was super fun! Missionary work is a ball. As serious as it is, it is so rewarding and we have a grand time! Yes my birthday IS this week, but it is on a weekend which means the whole day is considered "prime proselyting" hours. So I doubt I will be able to open my birthday box until about 9:30 after planning or maybe 10 because we need to make a progress record for ward council the next morning, but I for sure look forward to it! Thank you for thinking of me and thoughtfully sending me a package! I was planning on being in Mongolia and not receiving anything for 2 years, so this is way nice!
The Thanksgiving Turkey bowl is out of our area, so I won't be there :(
I lined up 5 dinners for Thursday... Elder Barton wasn't too happy about that. He was on exchanges 3 out of the 7 days this week so I set up a lot of appointments with less-actives and investigators and families that wanted us over. He appreciates my effort and enthusiasm, but he is very detail oriented and methodical (which keeps me in line) and doesn't hesitate to remind me that we will be on bikes that day and we need to eat at each house. We had 3 dinners last night, but we had the car, so it worked out. I just tell him that it will all work out and he shakes his head and sighs in resignation. That is how most of our conversations go. We teach really well together though!
"Kennedy! Happy birthday on Thursday I hope it is wonderful. You can be a missionary in 6 years now! Love you sister."
Rocio heads back to Colombia Thursday at 2AM and so we won't see her until January 14. Then she will be baptized on January 26. She is doing great, but really just needs this vacation. Her son Ioannies is scheduled to be baptized on December 17. We had a baptism on Saturday and so Ioannies really felt the spirit there and is progressing towards a strong testimony.
"To celebrate your birthday we will be having breakfast at Dean's restaurant on Saturday. Looking forward to ringing in your 20th year with bacon!" -Mom
Just know that my spiritual mouth and stomach will be there for the left overs! Feel free to send them to my physical mouth and stomach if you want.
I love being a missionary and my testimony is that miracles happen everyday. I feel bad that I don't share miracles that much in these emails, because they are just all over the place! Some are very personal, but little things happen everyday that are changing me and those that the spirit comes into contact with.
Happy Thanksgiving and I will give you a weigh-in next week.
Thank you for the update and great diet advice. I will definitely recommit myself to eating right! Last Monday got up to 100 degrees and yesterday was down to 38, so I am enjoying wearing my sweaters, they sure do keep me warm. Yesterday was 80 again, so I am not quite sure what the man upstairs has in store for the week, but I am excited!
Rocio is still recovering from surgery and she has a lot of stitches, and unhealed incisions that cannot get wet. The doctrine of immersion is true, therefore we had to postpone her baptism for the second time. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and has such great faith and a strong desire to be baptized, that we are not worried, but continue to be patient and rely on God's timing.
One of my favorite experiences of the week was talking with a 21 year old, bed-ridden young man who has not been out of his bed for 8 months. His name is Andy and he is one of 8 special needs kids that has been adopted by a member of the ward. He is really disappointed that he cannot serve a mission, so we try to bring the missionary spirit to him. We stop by every Monday for about 40 minutes and read scriptures and just talk. At the end of our meeting his 5 year old little brother, Matt, came in and we asked if he wanted to pray with us and he said he would say it. He started saying a great prayer, but quickly ran out of things to say, so Andy helped him out and Matt repeated word for word every sentence that Andy said. It was a great testimony to me of the love that God has for us that he will help us whenever we run into a roadblock. Andy helped Matt when Matt was unable to go any further. There were many, many small experiences this week that helped me feel God's love for each of us - including every person on this earth and me individually.
Last night Elder Barton and I taught a short family home evening to a group of single adults. We talked about service and we talked and gratitude and how giving service, any time of year, but especially now, is a great way to show our gratitude to God for all that He has given us. I thought the whole venue was rather enjoyable. There were about 12-15 people there and they were all single and aged from 35-55. I hope my next comment is taken in the spirit that it is intended: each of them have reasons why they are not married and when they were all together it made for a humorous evening. I felt right at home!
Sorry all I can remember is stories from yesterday, but time is a little strange out here; last Tuesday feels like it was a long time ago, but June feels like only a few days ago. The work is moving fast out here and a quick stat to emphasize this is that the California, Carlsbad mission will be increasing from 170 missionaries to 250 in the next 3-6 months. Wow. I am stoked!! The Lord is preparing people here and everywhere to hear about the restored gospel. A hard part of this work is talking to every one and opening my mouth when I feel apprehensive or uncomfortable about never having met a person before, but I have found the Lord trusts me more and more as I simply do what He asks. We are promised in the scriptures (D&C 31?) that our tongue will be loosed, as we pray always. It is true.
Thank you for the email this week and for the package last week, the healthy foods have been a wonderful alternative to Halloween candy. People seem to think that missionaries need their left-over candy. We really don't!
I have really been loving the work here and the service that we have been able to provide, no matter how hard it can be at times. We had our investigator, Chris get baptized on Sunday! I met him my first night here in Laguna Niguel and have been amazed to see his transformation over the past two months. The gospel has given him confidence and most importantly direction. He still constantly asks us, and he is 33, what it is that he is supposed to do. As we have consistently and earnestly given him the primary answers to read his scriptures and pray he has had experiences with Christ, his heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost. It took me years and years to understand many of the things that we must do in our lives, and I am so happy to see the spirit working miracles in the lives of those who let it in.
Elder Barton and I are having fun and working hard everyday. I have sometimes felt ineffective and useless being in America. For so long my heart was in Mongolia and I had a vision of what it was that I needed to do as a missionary to fulfill my purpose and be about my Father's work. I have always loved being a missionary and exerting every effort to do God's Will, but I took a long time to feel like a true missionary. I still am working on how I can be better, and I know that will never end, but serving in the same country I was raised in seems like I am still just being a good example and doing my best, but not becoming a new person. The work here stretches me in different ways and builds my personal testimony and conviction of the truth. I want to influence the lives of many and help them receive the enabling and empowering rock of the Atonement in their lives. I pray each and every day that I may reach my potential and do good and be good. I am grateful that I am here and know that there are many reasons for each circumstance.
Rocio is doing great, she is going through many trials and struggles and we have spent some time trying to help her through some difficulties. She is being baptized (if all goes according to plan) this Saturday, November 10 and we are excited for her!
There was a neat opportunity for a few of us full-time missionaries to help teach and train prospective missionaries for the 4 stakes around here. They put on a "Mini-MTC" and had speakers, classes and even taught discussions. One companionship taught Rocio! Two highlights for me:
I carried two ironing boards up into a room for a demonstration. Then I was setting them up and as I was setting one down the other slipped and fell, so I quickly and instinctively reached back to grab it and I caught it! That felt good. But the moral of the story is that when I grabbed is the middle and ring fingers of my right hand got caught by the sharp metal on the bottom of the board and it sliced them open to the bone. My ring finger would not stop bleeding! We went into the bathroom and washed it out and stuck some paper towels on my hand to keep the finger together and moved on.
Part 2: Then we taught some of the 16-18 year old young men how to teach the first lesson. My finger stopped bleeding for the time when we were demonstrating and instructing. There was a great spirit in the room as I got to work with a few companionships and help them teach in unity and with power. My finger should be fine, but everytime I look at the scar that will be there I will remember how I felt working with those young men. I don't think I told the story very well, but it really had a big impact on me.
The time that I have as a missionary to serve is very short and limited. The time we have on this earth is as well. I pray that we may be able to make everyday aligned with the will of the Father. He has placed us in the places that we are in for a reason. The most helpful thing that I have done in order to understand what it is that I should do is to pray. Praying for help and protection is one way God will help us. Praying for direction and confirmation of truth is another. I know that God listens and grants unto each of us according to our faithfulness blessing and guidance in this life because He loves us. I know that prayers in behalf of others have been heard and answered. The love and light of Christ can give us comfort and I am so grateful to be sharing that message of hope and peace as a servant of the Lord!