Sunday, December 15, 2013

[12/09/2013] Week 40: Josh and Justin Baptized!

Howdy!

This week was a blur. Seriously, I'm doing my best to think about it, and not much comes up.

But here we go!

Wait, first: Happy Birthday, Brandon!! How was it? How is it being 23 now? That's old... And to Christian, I thought of you on the 7th. But I couldn't remember what the day is officially called. I just know it was Pearl Harbor Day. Is that it?

Anyway, this week was good. We found 4 new investigators (that's a ton for us). Two of them were Tyson and Desiree, a humble couple who are currently living in a motel and doing the best they can to get their children back from CPS. Elder Lovell and his former companion had actually met Tyson and Desiree a few times at the library and had good interactions with them before a member in Lynden ever referred them to us for welfare assistance. They're really nice people, and I can't help but love them. We stopped by on Monday evening and shared with them our testimonies. We invited them to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, to which Tyson responded that he had been praying about us and our message ever since Bishop Jenkins first agreed to help them with their motel rent. He was brought to tears as he related that he has been feeling so enlightened in recent weeks as he has poured out his heart in prayer and done his best to study the Bible. He remarked that the Church just happened to be there when he and his wife had nowhere else to go.

Another was an 11-year-old kid named Andy, whose grandmother with whom he lives, Sister Tatum, is less-active. It turns out that while Andy pretends to be a punk and suffers from somewhat of a speech impediment, he's actually kind of brilliant. He followed along with the lesson quite well, used some big words for his age, and even mentioned he's read Tom Sawyer. Shesh. I haven't even read Tom Sawyer.

Since I've been in Blaine, we've worked with a couple named Joseph and Anna, recently married, the latter recently baptized, and, unfortunately, both less-active. They really love each other, but they fight a lot. We've done our best to help them learn how to continually invite the Spirit and receive revelation by reading the Book of Mormon and praying. At some point last week, they asked us not to return, on threat of calling the police. So we didn't. Not us, not the bishop, not anyone else from the Church. Suddenly, Joseph was very hostile towards any outreach from us. It was heartbreaking because just the night before, we had had an awesome lesson with them on ordinances (particularly the Sacrament) and had left them with what we thought to be a constructive commitment. We backed off, and prayed their hearts would be softened. On Tuesday, Anna called and told us she had basically kicked Joseph out for several reasons and she wanted help. Well, yesterday, we got a call from Joseph in San Diego, telling us that he was very sorry and seeking forgiveness. It was kind of awesome because of how much of a contrast this was, but it was an answer to our prayers. Hopefully, he'll continue to make progress in that direction.

On Thursday, we had Mission Leader Council, my first one as a zone leader, and it was great. All the zone leaders and sister training leaders gather with the mission president and we discuss the needs of the mission. We focused a lot on goal-setting and actually working and preparing to achieve those goals, though they are far out on the horizon.

Josh on the left, Justin on the right.
On Saturday, we went down to Everett for the baptism of Josh and Justin Copenhaver. That was awesome. It's weird how, once I went back to Seattle Hill, three weeks of having been gone seemed like forever. I was asked to baptize Justin and Elder  O'Rullian baptized Josh. The first time I ever baptized a person, and it took me three tries. Sheesh. I felt like a priest blessing the Sacrament for the first time all over again. But it was really a sweet (and surreal) experience to be standing in the font with my arm to the square administering the ordinance which grants one access to the straight and narrow path back to our Father in Heaven.

There's much more, but I'm out of time.

Thanks so much for all the support and love. I'm workin' hard!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[12/02/2013] Week 39: Canada, eh?

This was a really good week. I must apologize, for the Blaine library is more limited on time we can spend on the computer, so my letters are likely to decline in bulk and/or quality.

So I have officially been to Canada!
And this time, we didn't freak out
the border patrol. :p
Have you ever heard of William Branham? For some reason, we keep running into followers of this man and they all claim him to be a prophet. So it's exciting to hear that others believe there should be a prophet in these days and then we find out that it's this guy, and we get frustrated. They all talk about how he's been "vindicated" thousands of times and blah, blah, blah. Just kidding. That's mean. But I tell you, it's not proof or physical evidence that we should seek. It is spiritual evidence - divine revelation - that we should seek--that which moth doth not corrupt. All of these people (I like to call them Branhamites) are telling us that William Branham was a prophet because he's told the future and read people's hearts thousands of times and because he preaches good stuff. All we can do is testify and invite them to read the Book of Mormon and seek it out for themselves. So far, none have taken us up on it. :p

That's my less-than-coherent rant of the week.

Peach Arch Park - Children of a Common
Mother Memorial
Boy, do I love exchanges! We conducted a mini-exchange with the elders in Ferndale 2nd ward. I went with Elder Scott, who is coming up on his six-month mark and is still in his first area. We did a bit of tracting amongst some large plot homes and found a new potential investigator named Lois who invited us back -- after the new year. Well, on the way out of the country-ish road we had tracted, the Spirit prompted me to take a branching road to another section of the neighborhood. I turned right, suggesting to Elder Scott, "Let's go on an adventure!" We came to a large field, on the other side of which we spotted people in their front yard raking leaves. Coming from a long way in plain sight is often a difficult approach to make as a missionary, but of course we did it anyway. As we came closer, we recognized the figures as an older woman and two young children. We offered to help her with the leaves to which she responded, "No, thanks. I think we're good. But what else ya got?" gesturing at our copies of the Book of Mormon. Hot diggity! We taught and testified briefly and powerfully of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the restoration of his church through a modern-day prophet. She expressed much interest in getting to know our view and in getting back in tune with God in general. We exchanged contact information, set up a return appointment, and had a prayer.
Peach Arch Park - on the border
We not only found a new investigator, but one of the most prepared people I've probably seen in a cold contact in my whole mission, in less than two hours. Miracles always happen on exchanges!

On Thursday, we went to the Peach Arch park on the border, and had a fantastic dinner with some members. I was well taken care of. But I definitely miss my family and friends, for which I am very grateful. I love you all!

Elder Martin

[11/25/3013] Week 38: A Rolls Just Chillin'

I don't have a whole lot of time today. At all. It's not p-day, as our p-day has been moved to Thursday (makes sense). But we're allowed to take some time to email today and ensure our loved ones that we are indeed still living.

Yes, that ditch is the border and yes, those are Canadian houses.
So when President asked if I was ready to go North, he meant it. My new area is in Blaine, Washington. I am literally as far North as anyone can go in the mission, and probably even in the Western United States. I will attach a picture of myself standing steps from the United States-Canadian border (I got too close, set off some sort of detector, and a border patrol officer arrived within minutes to sniff it out).

It has recently gotten pretty cold, at least for a Texan. I don't know if that's because I moved two hours North of where I was in Everett, or if the whole state has seen this change in weather, but what I do know is that I am immensely grateful that Mom bought me a set of long johns and made me take them. They are so awesome.

Elder Lovell and I, squinting because THE
SUN IS OUT TODAY. We've had about a
week straight of fantastic weather. In the
winter in Washington, that's unheard of.
But I ain't complainin'.
My new companion is Elder Lovell from Delta, Utah. We are the zone leaders for the Ferndale Zone which makes up half of the Bellingham, Washington Stake. So far we've had a blast. When I got here, they split the Blaine Ward into two proselyting areas, so we're now sharing with sister missionaries, one of whom is fresh from the MTC. Most of the investigators and less-active members that Elder Lovell was working with last transfer ended up in the sisters' area, so that was sort of a bummer. But since I arrived here, I have felt my faith that Heavenly Father has prepared many people to receive us go way up. So I'm not worried at all. And that faith has resulted in a witness so far. We've met and talked with a lot of people this past week who are genuinely interested and have invited us back.

This weekend, we had the privilege to hear from Elder Bednar. That was so, so awesome. I think one of the biggest things that impacted me was how Elder Bednar taught us that when we do anything in preaching the gospel with the intention of benefiting or drawing attention to ourselves, it is a form of priestcraft and calls for hasty repentance. Sometimes, I feel like I am way too prideful, way too interested in the way I look, or way too concerned with how hard a time I am having. I need to forget myself and concern myself with allowing others the option of coming unto Christ and receiving the same saving ordinances I have received. Like, seriously, get over yourself!

Me with the Robinsons in the Seattle Hill Ward
Other cool (and super helpful) insights from Elder Bednar (and the Spirit) include: I need the joy of the gospel in my countenance (smile more [This one has already proven successful]). Revelation is a conclusion, not an explanation. "Baptism of fire" is not necessarily confirmation for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but the revelatory experience that comes after "baptism of water"/confirmation, letting you know that what you're doing is right. The power of godliness (remission of sins) is manifest in priesthood ordinances. Thus, forgiveness of sins is only found in baptism and confirmation by proper authority. Control is an illusion of the natural man; God is in control. A marriage is not something you find or fall into -- it is something you create. After all, God did not just find the universe or this solar system or this planet. He created them. To "challenge" is a business tactic. We must invite, persuade, and entice to do good. The Proximity Principle consists of this: revelation comes more readily and recognizable while in the setting it is related to. When you're not feeling it, do missionary work anyway and you will begin to feel it, for just as thoughts can precede actions, so actions can precede thoughts.

At the end, he invoked a blessing upon us in which he promised us success according to our desire and diligence. That definitely stood out. I have the desire. I just need to be diligent. Elder Bednar, I'm takin' that one to heart. It's time to hit it!

Having been transferred to Blaine, I'm kind of lucky. You see, Elder Bednar decided to speak to the Bellingham, Washington Stake yesterday morning as well. So we got a double-dose!

Not much time left. I love y'all!

I will pray for the Webbs.

Love,

Elder Martin

[The pic of Elder Lovell and I, we are] squinting because THE SUN IS OUT TODAY. We've had about a week straight of fantastic weather. In the winter in Washington, that's unheard of. But I ain't complainin'.

Also attached is a picture just for Dad. A Rolls Royce just chillin' at the local Chevron in Blaine. Cool.

[11/18/2013] Week 37: Finding Giovanni

Our district! Sisters Adams and Garn.
Elders Black, Martin, O'Rullian, and Payne.
It's been a crazy week. We were just running all over the place getting ready for Tia's baptism. We taught her just about every night to finish up the lessons. Oh, I don't know if I told y'all, but Tia and her family bumped her baptism up a week because that's when Grandpa could make it into town to perform the ordinance. So we had Tia's baptism on Saturday and her confirmation on Sunday.

Shot of planes ready to be delivered to customers.
On Monday, we took a tour of Boeing. Something you basically have to do if you're serving in Everett. It was awesome. Those planes are huge, and the factory is huge -- the largest building in the world by volume. Some fun facts: the Boeing plant is so big, you can fit all of Disneyland plus its parking inside. Also, you could fit 75 full-size football fields inside -- the whole NFL football season could be played in one day! And if you're looking to pick up a 747 (the largest model), plan on dropping about 359 million dollars.

Brother Lothyan and I
We learned on Monday that Elder Bednar and Elder Schwitzer (Second Quorum of the Seventy) are coming to speak to us on Saturday. Oh snap! Get ready to repent! But seriously, I think this will be a huge benefit to the mission. We need a boost. We also learned that our mission will be having no more mission-wide Temple trips. Ever. That was a huge bummer, and it's hard for me to understand, but our work is focused on the salvation of the living and not the dead. It's gonna take faith!

Justin and I
Tuesday was just great. We raked Tami's leaves for her again, which made her super happy. Investigator drops you? Just kill 'em with service. Seriously, she'll come back around any day now. :p We also taught Tia about the Word of Wisdom using the CATTS (Coffee, Alcohol, Tobacco, Tea, Substances) method. This works like a charm for any small child, guaranteed or your money back. Though, she had a hard time committing to abstain from marijuana (mind you, she's 8) and tea. After all, "it's natural though!" Man, she is growing up in a twisted world. After that lesson, we were supposed to have dinner with the Browns, but they had been so busy with preparations for Brother Taylor's funeral that Sister Brown just forgot. So she gave us $20 and we went to Applebee's and enjoyed ourselves a Two for "$20" dinner. When we were done, our waitress came and offered us dessert, which we politely refused, as we were feeling fat enough and were working with a tight budget. She responded excitedly, "Well, ok. Someone has paid for your dinner, so you're free to go!" I tell you, that sort of thing just makes a missionary's day.

Giovanni and I
 Wednesday was the highlight of my week. Why? Because WE FOUND HIM. Just before turning in for the evening, we decided to call Sister Barker and see if she'd heard anything further from her son, Giovanni. When she picked up, she started going off about the lady across the street who has been meeting with the Spanish sisters. Good to hear, good to hear. Well, what about Giovanni? "Oh, Giovanni? He's here right now actually. You wanna talk to him?" "WHAT. We'll be over in two seconds!" Sure enough, we knocked on the door and there he was, same as we always knew him. Apparently, he had been home for a few days. And no one bothered to tell us! He went down South to somewhere in Seattle to pick up some money that someone owed him - about $7000. Then he had to go pay it to someone else. Sketch... And for whatever reason, he didn't return a single one of our over 25 missed phone calls. We were worried sick! Anyway, we had a typical lesson with Giovanni, but there was a subtle difference about him. Something was amiss. His mind was elsewhere and I am worried for his spiritual wellbeing. The preceding events of the day consisted of district meeting (went well), a lesson with Gilda on the Word of Wisdom (she drinks coffee sometimes),
Gilda and I
lesson with Tia (finished up), and a dinner lesson with Anthony and Laura (requoted by Laura in his absence, he's "not going to read that book"). Cue "finding Giovanni scene".

Thursday, we had Tia's baptismal interview and helped some people move, who then paid us in Jimmy John's. Boy, do I miss my JJ's.

On Friday morning, the zone leaders sent out leadership calls. I'm going to be a zone leader next transfer (which also means I'm getting transferred) and Elder Payne is going to be the district leader in Everett District #3. So that means Elder O'Rullian will likely be on bike this next transfer, which will not help his morale. I'm gonna be praying for him to have good experiences. New leader training took place on Friday morning as well, and that was definitely edifying.
The Pasketts and I
President Bonham made it clear that he feels very comfortable with these leadership assignments. That reassurance is helpful to me. I like to know that this is right and that the Lord will qualify me, for he has called me. I'm actually super excited for this new opporunity to serve in a greater capacity. We gonna hit it hard!

On Saturday, we attended Brother Taylor's funeral. I really amazes me how spiritual funeral services can be. I walked out really wishing I had known Dan Taylor. He was clearly a great man. The baptism started
shortly after the funeral ended, and as a result, not too many members of the ward were in attendance. I stressed quite a bit about that especially since President and Sister Bonham were in attendance, but eventually the Spirit just told me to sit down and enjoy Elder O'Rullian's prelude. So I did. And it helped a lot. The baptism ended up being wonderful, as many of Tia's family members came to witness the ordinance. I even got to see Conrad again. I've been thinking about that, and it's honestly really humbling that Heavenly Father has allowed me to work with this family in both of my areas now. It's all about the families!
Josh and Justin being their silly selves.

I spent some time yesterday after church saying goodbye to families and individuals in the area with whom I have formed connections. Today will be spent with Giovanni and Brother Noll and the root beer store in Lynwood (yes, owned and operated by a member of the Church).

How's it going with Deborah? With Josue? With Walker? I need updates, people!

Me and Josh Copenhaver sporting his Halo toys.
If y'all remember Alanna Smith (Canadian ex-girlfriend from sophomore year, master soccer player, and triplet), she sent me a letter the other day with questions like, "What are Mormons all about?" and "What are your beliefs?" Oh, Alanna. Those are just the questions we missionaries love to hear!

I'm gonna send a ton of pictures now.

Ta-ta!

Love,

Elder Martin
Sister Copenhaver and Keven added.





[11/11/2013] Week 36: Sunny Days Ahead

Hey paps!

This week definitely had its highs and lows. Last Monday, we ended up without p-day plans, wandering around. Elder O'Rullian ended up feeling really sick and then really depressed all day long. It was pretty rough.

Tuesday, we visited Brother Lothyan and had a great time reading through Alma 5 with him. He opened up about his addiction struggles quite a bit and testified of the power of the Church's addiction recovery program. He hasn't ever been to church while I've been here, but he always lets us in and always loves hearing our messages. Well, we offered to knock on his door Sunday morning just like we do with the Copenhavers and he said sure! Unfortunately, he ended up with bad back pain yesterday and couldn't make it. Oddly enough though, Sister Lothyan was at church! I hardly ever see her when we visit their home, let alone at church. So that was a pleasant surprise!

District meeting was pretty good this week. I taught about how to improve contacts with people and how to turn those contacts into new investigators both naturally and powerfully. Since then, our district has really picked up on contacting and finding new investigators.

On Wednesday evening, Adam (Priest's quorum 1st counselor) joined us for an appointment with Austin, a kid that Elder O'Rullian found on exchanges. That fell through, so Adam went home to do homework and we went to visit Laura Savage (mentioned a few weeks ago in my email) and her boyfriend Anthony, who is not a member. They let us in right away and we talked a lot about their lives right now, Laura's conversion story, and even a quick lesson on the Restoration. Laura kept talking about how she wants to bring religion back into her family life because she knows it will do them good. They attend a non-denominational church bi-weekly, but she likes how much our church is focused on families. Anyway, they invited us back for dinner this week on Wednesday, so sweet!

Thursday was my favorite day of this week, as it was a legit day. In the morning, we conducted a mini-exchange with Thomas Lake (where we switch companions and both sets of missionaries work in the same area for a few hours -- what the zone leaders did with us on the morning of Halloween). Elder Payne and I spent the morning tracting, contacting potentials, and we even found them a new investigator! I tell you, it's so much easier to have fun working when you're with someone who wants to work. Elder Payne then asked for a blessing since he has had a hard time with his companion and has had some rough experiences while tracting recently. He wanted it to be unbeknownst to the other missionaries, so on the way back to the apartment, we found the nearest member's home we could perform the blessing in: the Robinsons! That was good for Brother Robinson to witness.

After the exchange, we had a lesson with Gilda on the Ten Commandments, which went alright. After that, we went and visited Sister Kovar, who's not active. Neither is her husband, who is a convert. She wants to come, but her oldest child is autistic and the others are young, so it would just be too much to handle alone. But she doesn't want to pressure her husband either. Unfortunately, he has issues with Joseph Smith or church members or something, and is alledgedly "pretty closed off right now." So we offered them service to hopefully soften his heart; we raked a ton of leaves for them on Saturday. Oh, the Fall (The season, that is...not that of Adam and Eve. I'm such a missionary.)!

Following that, we had scheduled some Daily Shenanigans. Whoop! Well, I felt impressed to tract out this little nook that branches off of the Kovar's cul-de-sac. Frankly, that was something I've wanted to do for a while. So we did. Well, what do you know but we find a wonderful young lady named Brooklyn who's just as prepared as can be! Her mom's whole side of the family is apparently Mormon, and she has cousins who have served missions. And guess what? She's always been curious and open to learning more, but she's never had the chance! We taught her a bit about the Book of Mormon, left her with a copy, and set a return appointment for tomorrow. Unfortunately, she's 22, so she'll be a referral for the YSA missionaries, but that's ok. I'm grateful we got to find her!

For our final event of Thursday evening, we went with Brother Paskett to visit Brother and Sister Taylor, longtime active members. Brother Taylor is the victim of some unknown brain-deteriorating disorder and has recently taken a severe downturn. He played halfback for four years at BYU, started and successfully operated two orthodontia offices and has five children and now twenty grandchildren. About five years ago, he lost the ability to type and within the last week, he's been moved to a hospital bed and can hardly move. Elder O'Rullian played the piano upstairs and I contemplated life, the resurrection, and the glorious gospel. Downstairs, Brother Paskett and his son-in-law helped Sister Taylor tend to her husband. Eventually we were invited down. We shared an inspirational message from the Book of Mormon that I just flipped open to: Mosiah 24:11-16. As we left, I couldn't help but notice one item in the room that stood out: a flag hanging high above Brother Taylor's head that read, "Don't give up the ship."

Friday was pretty good too. The Copenhavers weren't home for out appointment with them, so we visited the Smiths. When we arrived, Sister Smith informed us that Brother Smith was upstairs fixing a toilet that had overflowed. She said we could go up and offer help. Axel accompanied us. We came to the master bedroom and found Brother Smith working behind a closed door in the toilet section of the bathroom. Since Brother Smith hadn't heard us come up, I encouraged Axel to "go ask your dad if he needs help." He obeyed. "Dad! Do you need help?" came the lound, innocent inquisition. The response came as a strained groan: "No, Axel, I don't need any help!" Whoops. We showed ourselves out of the bathroom and down the stairs as quickly and quietly as we could.  Well, we're the missionaries, always here to help!

Saturday consisted of lots of service, including the Kovar's leaves. Then we had dinner with the Strouds, a part-member family. Brother Stroud, who is not a member, asked us to talk about Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve for our post-dinner message. So we had an awesome discussion/Q&A about that. And you know what? When you really break it down, it all just makes so much sense. I love the Plan of Salvation! After dinner, we had a few more lessons with the Copenhavers and then with Tia and Tiffany about obedience and the commandments. Tia wanted to know if she could be baptized with her favorite pet bunny. After all, it's white! We lovingly explained that the baptismal ordinance is intended to be as pure as possible, as well as focus on her commitment to follow Christ.


Sunday was awesome. We had five investigators at church! That included the Christies, the Copenhavers and Jeff, with whom we did not have a lesson this week. Then we spent a lot of our afternoon at a new ward mission leader training with Brother Noll and planning out Tia's baptismal program. In the evening, we visited Justin and had another good talk with him. I think he's making a lot of progress under the radar. We'll crack him open soon enough. :p

So, the worst part of my week is this: Giovanni has been semi-missing for the past week. The last we heard from him was on Monday afternoon and his mom has only seen him once or twice very late at night. We're all very worried about him. She said that he gets this way when he's depressed and it usually lasts until he ends up in jail again. It's very uncharacteristic of the Giovanni I know. He's such a happy guy and has been extremely stalwart in the gospel since I met him. He wasn't at church yesterday. I don't know a whole lot, but I think he might be manic-depressive. We've been praying for him a lot as he is basically our best friend. Please keep him in y'all's prayers too.

I just received word that Brother Taylor passed away this morning.

Thanks for the update on the family! It sounds like everyone is doing wonderful! I'm so proud of Margo! She's doing way better than I ever did. What a hero[ine]. Seth sent me an email personally, which (sorry) was probably the highlight of my emailing experience this morning. I will respond to that in just a moment.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Attached are pictures of me with the Smiths and of the Snohomish valley and some mountains. I don't have the names down just yet.

[11/04/2013] Week 34: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Hey, y'all!

This ended up being really a pretty good week, somehow. In all, we taught 17 lessons to investigators and less-active members, which is a hefty number for us.

On Wednesday we had so many appointments set up! Like 7! That doesn't happen. Well, 5 of them fell through. But it's ok! Because we replaced them with other valuable teaching appointments. We got to teach Gilda, who just received her patriarchal blessing, and then we taught Tia the Ten Commandments.  She got an especial kick out of the tenth commandment as listed in Mosiah 13... But what was interesting to see was when we talked to her about sharing the gospel with
others at school, she recoiled, saying, "I won't be doing that because some people might get offended if you try to talk about religion with them." Noting as well the struggle she had understanding homosexuality and happiness that I mentioned in an earlier email, Tia, who is 8, is growing up in a very different world than even I grew up in. And I just barely graduated high school! We taught the Josh and Justin Copenhaver a lesson on faith and repentance that evening. They were tired, so we had to make it simple, brief, and to the point. I've been kind of worried recently about how we're going to prepare these children for the baptismal interview when it comes time. Justin especially has a hard time talking to people he doesn't know and remembering things on top of that. I talked to Elder Stack, one of the zone leaders, about it, and he pointed out that it's just like the interview that a bishop would have with an 8-year-old child of record. If they have the desire to be baptized, and they know the basics, the interviewer can kind of help them along.

Our Halloween was bueno. We had a mini-exchange with the zone leaders on that morning, which went well. They joined us for companionship study, and then we all spent two hours in Seattle Hill. We contacted a long uncontacted former investigator, but he was busy and told us to try back by another time (story of my life!). While walking past the Lanes' (newly moved-in family from Arizona) house, one of their youngin's poked her head out the door and inquired, "Do you guys want breakfast?!" We told her we had had breakfast, but that we'd like to share a message. Of course, we didn't leave without a few strips of bacon and a mug of hot cocoa. Members like that just brighten your day as a missionary. Afterwards, we went and visited John, the wealthy man, who was home! We talked a lot about how his work is really causing him a lot of stress; how he just wants to spend more time with his family. I did the best I could to console him with the Book of Mormon (Alma 58:10-12), and I think it was helpful for him. We had a prayer with him and set an appointment for the following afternoon to read more with him.  Elder Stack and I talked a lot about Elder O'Rullian, whose family called him again on Thursday evening. Really, he knows all the answers to the issues he's facing, but he's too bitter about it all to even give it a shot. His attitude has improved quite a bit since Halloween. He was super down then, but he's still struggling now. On Thursday, we had dinner with the Johnsons, who invited their daughter's basketball coach, Dan, over for dinner (Yeehaw for member missionary work!) and we had freshly caught salmon (yum!). Dan left with a Book of Mormon and a commission to read and pray. Sahweet. On Halloween, we had to be in our apartment by six, so we did just that. We only had like three trick-or-treaters, but we roasted marshmallows over the stove and made s'mores! Yeah!

Friday was ok. Both of our lessons we had set up with investigators fell through, but we got to teach Brother Lothyan and Nalina with Giovanni at our side. Giovanni is such a stud, I tell ya. Just a few months ago, he was not active and in jail. Now he's fully active and on the road to the Temple, joining us in as many lessons as possible.

We kicked Saturday off with a lesson with Jeff Schmidt, the football coach, at 8:30am. His schedule shifted up last-minute, but he still wanted to be sure we met, so he asked if we could meet even earlier (really good sign!). As soon as he walked in, he started talking about how baptism was really his main issue now and that was what he wanted to discuss for the thirty minutes he had available. We read with him and Brother Noll in 2nd Nephi 31 and then he was on his way. Brother Noll pointed out that this was good, because he got a short, powerful shot of scripture and then he drove to Everett, which meant sitting alone in his car with his thoughts for a few minutes. That's where the Spirit works on ya! We stopped at Burger King (I know - HFCS) for lunch. In line, I noticed a man glancing at our nametags and then away several times, saying nothing. We sat down, and then he followed, sitting across the aisle from us. Shortly thereafter, he piped up, "Can I ask you guys a question?" What followed was a long conversation with a born-again Christian about his beliefs as compared to ours. He learned quite a bit, especially that we weren't too different, he and us. Though, he had a hard time with the fact that we don't qutie believe in a "hell". Hey, man. God loves us all. All in all, he was super, super respectful of our faith, and especially of the work that we do as missionaries. Gotta love true Christians! On Saturday night, we got to see Justin again, and guess what! He watched the conference talk from President Uchtdorf! And guess what else! He committed himself to watching more conference talks on Sunday! Yeah!

Sunday was super bueno. We had four investigators at church! Tia and Tiffany came and stayed all three hours. Giovanni brought his son, Mateo (9-year-old UBC). And Jeff Schmidt came as usual. But here was the weird part. Sister Burns, Jeff Schmidt's ex-ladyfriend, came in and sat down right there next to him! And they chatted like BFF's the whole time. When we talked to Sydnee Burns, she said they were way over, which was good because that sort of told us that Jeff was investigating for himself. Man, I sound like a gossip-girl right now, but it was a huge surprise to us. He's still wanting to get a lesson set up this week, so it sounds like things are still good. After church, we taught a few more lessons to less-actives and watched the Testaments with Mateo. Good day!

Apparently my whole family is going healthy on me. Working out, drinking skim milk, and shunning high-fructose corn syrup. Meanwhile, I'm getting fed huge member dinners plus dessert every night and driving around in a car all day. Sheesh. Sorry if I'm fat when I get home.

I'm glad to hear y'all are doing well. I keep praying for everyone, especially Seth and Christian. I can't believe Margo is doing so well! I'm so proud!

Love,

Elder Martin

The picture is of me with a minecraft thing on my head that our ward mission leader's wife made for his son for Halloween.

I really feel like my English/writing skills have degraded since I've left on my mission. Bleh.

Friday, November 1, 2013

[10/28/2013] Week 33: Hallowe'en

Martin Fambly!

This week was meh. We only taught like two lessons to investigators. And we taught a good amount of lessons to less-active members, including Nalina. In fact, our lesson with her this week went much better than the last. It wasn't as awkward and we learned a lot about her knowledge of the gospel. We covered bits and pieces of almost all the lessons, but spent a good amount of time on the temple and eternal marriage. Basically, there's a lot she needs to learn (or re-learn). She didn't even know that we don't drink coffee or tea! She's a very sweet lady and she loves her children a lot. I think she wants to do what's right, but we need to help her gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon so that she has motivation to progress. At the end of the lesson she made us promise to bring pictures of the pumpkins we carved last Monday and compare them to the jack o' lanterns on her front porch.

On Wednesday, we had another one of those custom district meetings where I seek revelation on what to teach and then teach it. I decided that we would read through a talk out of the Washington Everett Mission missionary guide called, "Create Success" by Elder Ballard and discuss it. The talk is about being a "creator of circumstances" (rather than a "creature" of such) and being the kind of missionary who doesn't make excuses for a lack of productivity in a certain area. It went really well, I think, because we're all in areas where we could make excuses. But if you just put your nose to the grindstone and do your part, the Lord will do His and bless you with opportunities to teach and fulfill your purpose as a missionary.

Awesome Pumpkin - The Invisible Man
From Wednesday night to Thursday night, we conducted exchanges and I spent the day on bike in Thomas Lake with Elder Black.  It was ok. Not a whole lot of awesomeness. But! We did tract into the lady whose husband started the infamous Gold Creek Community Church, which is rumored to be responsible for a lot of anti-Mormon notions in the area. It was kind of intense, but she was actually super nice and warm. When Elder Black asked a keen question, "Why did the Bible end?", she turned cold, kicked us in the stomach, and slammed the door in our face. Just kidding, but she responded with a pleasant, "You don't want to get into questions with me." That was probably wise. Bashing is never the way to go, and I could tell Elder Black was itchin' for it.

Friday ended up being practically everything but proselyting. We had weekly planning, lunch with our bishop, interviews with President Bonham, dinner with Giovanni, and then the ward Halloween party. But here's the good news! Tami, the super solid investigator who dropped us and whom we haven't seen in over two months, was at the party! It was really good to see her, and she's just as sweet and genuine as ever. Then! We saw her raking leaves yesterday, so we stopped to help her, had a great conversation about all kinds of things, ranging from family to missionary service to the way the world is going. Anyway, she invited us over for dinner on the 18th, which is likely to be my last evening in the area. Sweet!

On Saturday, we spent most of the day helping a few of the Eastmont sisters' investigators move. It's what we do best. Haha. Well, the cool part was when we went to eat lunch after that, we stopped at Burger King and while waiting on our food, a random guy named Ray approached us, having read my nametag, and started asking about our message. (We were even in service clothes, mind you!) He proceeded to tell us about how the Bible has been translated too many times and "if you want to stand on solid ground", you've gotta study Greek and read from this or that version of the Bible which came from the Vatican or something or other. So the missionary in me could not help but tell him all about the Book of Mormon, which was only translated once and helps clarify the Bible and testifies of Jesus Christ, but a lot of those comments were brushed aside as he taught us about "conciliation" versus "reconciliation" in the Bible and the difference between "justification" and "salvation". Then he left us with his number, so we could "chat more over a cup of coffee". Tee-hee. Unfortunately, he lives up in Lake Stevens, so we'll have to get the other elders on that.

We dropped by the Christies' on Saturday night, and found Conrad and Kaylin there! I'm so spoiled to be able to keep in touch with them after having been transferred away from Shoultes. But guess what! Kaylin gave birth to Conrad Jr. last Monday and they're all doing just dandy. If you remember, in our first lesson with them, Kaylin was running in and out to the bathroom and back for the whole hour. Now she's a mother of two!


Jack O'Lantern
As I noted earlier, Tiffany and Tia were at chuch, and the ward did a super awesome job in helping welcome and teach them. In Gospel Principles, Tiffany opened up the class by asking about how each new prophet is called, and that initiated an awesome discussion led by Brother Noll on the organization of the entire Church down to wards and even Beehive presidencies. Everyone else in the class participated heavily in helping Tiffany learn and understand while Elder O'Rullian and I sat and watched quietly. That is a sign of an awesome ward. After third hour, Tia came and demanded we show her the font in which she will be baptized. Unfortunately, the other ward was getting ready to start a class in the room the font doors are in, so we couldn't show her. Guess she'll just have to come to the baptism of Brother Fifita's daughter this Saturday. Oh well! ;)

We knocked on the Copenhavers' door on Sunday morning again this week, but they were sick, so we should definitely see them next week. Jeff Schmidt was also at church and was sure to talk to us about an appointment this week before he headed out. Things are picking up in the area! I'm lichen it!

It sounds like things are going well for y'all back at the homestead. For the record, Dad, I'm working out too! Erry mornin'! I don't eat as healthy though. I tell you, home cooking, imposed seconds, and dessert every night really takes a toll. But I've gotten pretty good at refusing seconds. Pretty rough, huh Brandon?

I love the news about Margo too. I was never first chair in middle school! That dang Caitlin Havins always beat me out. Margo is amazing! Keep it up!

I love y'all! Keep praying for me. Your pleas are greatly felt and appreciated!

Love,

Elder Martin

Attached are pictures of my awesome jack o' lantern!

[10/21/2013] Week 32: Dog Fight

Hey, howdy!

This week has been so awesome. It's the first time in my whole mission that my companion and I have hit the mission's Standards of Excellence.

On Monday, we helped Brother Smith (super cool less-active) move a hot tub he bought on the fly from his garage out onto his back deck. He invited us along with three or four other brothers from the ward to tackle the feat. Impressively, we used plywood and short lengths of wide PVC to jury-rig a sort of conveyor belt out to the back yard. When it was finally in place, Brother Smith cried out, "A cooked goose for everyone!" Funny guy!

Afterwards, we had arranged for the Copenhavers (PMF with twin UBC's) to join the Fairbanks for Family Home Evening. So we went to go remind them (yes, they had forgotten) and suprisingly, Sister Copenhaver got out of bed, got ready, loaded her rowdy sons into the car, and followed us to the Fairbanks'. FHE was a blast! We had a quick, fun, interactive lesson on avoiding Satan's lies and staying on the Lord's side, and then we played the paper bag game and had ice cream. It was all really good for helping Sister Copenhaver get comfortable with getting back into the swing of things. In fact, she and three of her sons were at church yesterday! For the first time!

On Wednesday, we had the privilege of hearing from Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy. There was a big focus on enduring challenges and afflictions as a missionary as well as creating synergy between members and missionaries in order to hasten the Work. It was good and inspiring. I think the main feeling I got was: when adversarial temptations to slack off set in, fight back! Do work! Vex the adversary by doing the Lord's work. Maybe that makes more sense in my head, but it sure helps!

You may remember my mention of a man named Sam that we street contacted a month or so back. Well, we saw him again this week. He's read something like a quarter of the Book of Mormon already and is keeping an open mind. He had really good questions about how we're different and what our purpose is, so I testified boldly of the Plan of Salvation and families (Spirit told me to!) and invited him to pray sincerely. It was awesome. He asked us to "keep dropping by".

Thursday was an AWESOME day. The morning was a little slow, but in following promptings of the Spirit, we caught John on his way out the door to work and set up an appointment for Friday. On Thursday, we had four different teaching appointments set up, and they ALL went through! It was so great. Our lesson with Nalina (less-active widow) was ok. But something was amiss. The Spirit just wasn't quite there, and I'm not sure why. She didn't pay great attention, but answered questions with sincere-ish words that lacked the feeling. She committed to church, but didn't show.

Our lesson with Johnathan (13-year-old newer investigator) was better. It sounds like he really does want to learn from us in English, rather than from the Spanish sisters. As soon as we left his house and went to Giovanni's house, his mom, Maria, came knocking on the door looking for Giovanni. "Perros!" she cried, one hand "eating" the other (she doesn't speak much English). She was telling us that their two pitbulls, Yoda and Diamond, were fighting again and she needed help, but Giovanni was in the shower. Elder O'Rullian and I ran over to help, but watched helplessly as the two dogs tore each other apart, swinging clenched jaws back and forth as though the opponent's ear or paw were another rubber chew toy. The carnage continued, smearing blood all over the living room. Eventually, I called for a trashy blanket, wrapped the volatile, furry mass up in it, and maneuvered them out onto the back porch. We closed the sliding glass door on the pups, and they continued to hash it out. We looked on in helpless horror. Then Giovanni burst through the front door. Rumor had it among Johnathan and his family, Giovanni was the only one who knew how to break the fight up. He marched straight to the back porch, grabbed an old high-top shoe from the deck railing, and commenced whacking the dogs in the face, commanding them to stop. In seconds, they were apart and whimpering, humbled. Though both were covered in a coat of red, the fight was over. This man was a master.

In. Tents.

Our lesson with Tia went very well. We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) with a focus on the baptismal covenant. She had written down some of her own questions about how the baptism works, which was cool. Dennis and Tiffany, her parents, were both present, and the former was extremely helpful and supportive during the lesson, as was Brother Noll, our ward mission leader. Tia is now on-date for November 23rd!

Finally, our lesson with Jeff Schmidt was awesome. He approached us on Sunday (having attended church alone) and told us he wanted to start meeting up again, as the past couple of weeks have been rough for him. Of course, we squeezed him in! During the lesson, at Brother Noll's house, we learned that Jeff's primary concerns are with baptism and authority and with "dark spots in the Church's history" (i.e. polygamy, Mountain Meadow Massacre, etc). He believes the Book of Mormon is true and loves the Church, but he's just not all the way there. In fact, he described himself as being "ninety percent there." He doesn't want to jump in without knowing it's right. Brother and Sister Noll were super awesome in helping resolve concerns, and Elder O'Rullian threw it do
wn, saying he needs the spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon -- not just "Smith couldn't have done it any other way than having been commanded of God." So he's close. We'll definitely have to seek revelation there.

Friday was also awesome. We started by teaching Gilda the second half of the Plan of Salvation at Bishop Prete's home. When we taught her about the Spirit World and the missionary work that goes on there, she was brought to tears, saying, "It's so clear. It makes sense! I'm sorry I'm crying. It's just so clear to me!" When we taught about the three kingdoms, Gilda exclaimed, "That why it says in the Bible, 'In my Father's house are many casas!" What a tender experience for everyone in the room!

Our lesson with John Nguyen actually went through. We sat with him on the porch and delivered a 15-minute Restoration lesson. It was short, packed, and powerful. I sure hope it pierced his heart. He seemed to have been reflecting upon what we said as we said it. He re-committed to read the Book of Mormon and pray. After John, we stopped at Brother Lothyan's house  (less-active) and shared a message from Ether 6 about God's light. Then he offered the closing prayer and broke down crying as he did so, giving thanks to Heavenly Father for the Light of the World.

As I mentioned, the Copenhavers were at church yesterday, which is a first. The ward did awesome in supporting them and making them feel welcome. Jeff Schmidt was also in attendance. Tia and her family didn't make it, unfortunately, and neither did anyone else that we taught this week. That's ok. There's another Sunday up 'n' coming!

That's about it for this week. There are other details and things, but overall, it was a fantastic week that reminded both Elder O'Rullian and me why being a missionary is so dang incredible.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[10/14/2013] Week 31: Finding in the Fog

Hey!

This week is kind of a blur. It was the first week of the transfer, so things are a little different, but I'm still with Elder O'Rullian, so not too bad.

Everett District 3
The new elder in Thomas Lake is Elder Payne, who has been out for about three months. That means that Elder Black is now the senior companion! I think this is really cool, because it's just the motivation he needs to finish his mission out strong. So far they have done really well. I mentioned the new contacts thing last week. Well, Thomas Lake has repeatedly been the highest-contacting area in the zone over the past week. They really are doing well together from

what I can tell, and together they have found three new investigators already. In Thomas Lake, that is unheard of. I'm so happy for them right now.

Me and Elder Larson
Elder Larson was transferred to Arlington (just north of Marysville, where I was born) and is now in a nice, warm car for the winter. He's in a better place. :p

On Tuesday night, Elder O'Rullian's dad called our cell phone. It was sort of surreal, but really, Elder O'Rullian has been struggling a lot with missing home lately and staying focused on the work. He set up an interview with President Bonham on Wednesday evening and they talked through a lot of things. He really loves to teach and things like that, but he pretty much hates finding. And it's odd, because I've recently just developed this growing enthusiasm for finding as I described in my last email. We're gonna try and mix things up soon so that it's less discouraging for him. I need to figure out how to get him out of this slump and back to thinking about the work, but it's hard when there isn't a ton of teaching going on. Though, it has definitely picked up since I first got here.

On Wednesday, we hit 24 contacts - our personal record - and were the high for the night. Apparently, our whole zone has been catching the excitement because on Saturday, the zone contacted 202 total, setting a record for the mission, with a high of 51 in the YSA ward. Sheesh!

We visited the Copenhavers on Saturday night and committed them to church. They didn't show. I just don't know what else to do! Gah!

On Thursday night, we taught Tia the second half of the Plan of Salvation with Dennis, her dad (who is no longer a member of the Church) there. It was really cool to see how supportive he is of helping her make progress and eventually be baptized. All Tia wanted to talk about at first was her baptism! It was really interesting because when we started talking about the three kingdoms of glory, Tia had a lot of questions about homosexuality. Mind you, she's 9. But she has a cousin Kat, who just married her fiancee', Veronica. She's really close to Kat and wants her to be happy forever just like we can be. She wondered why God commands us to stay away from homosexuality, but then He also wants us to be happy. With lots of help from Dennis, we were able to explain that Heavenly Fathers knows how we can be the most happy and He has given us that knowledge through the Plan of Salvation and documents like The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

Just some good ol' fall-time street-contacting.
From my experience in this area, I've gotten really good at teaching children. It's kind of interesting.

On Friday, I spent the day in Mukilteo with the zone leaders. That was a blast and a day-long adventure. We started by tracting around a bit near the apartment, and ended up running into Elder Turley's very first convert, Brittany, whom he had lost touch with. Turns out they live in the same apartment complex! A little more relatively successful contacting and then lunch. After lunch, we took the bikes out (it was good to be back in the saddle again!). We really didn't get far down the road before we spotted [ta-da!] an unplanned service opportunity, for which we had prayed just minutes prior. A young man named Randy and his young family were moving out of a camper and into their very own place - their first apartment! We helped him move stuff in and talked meanwhile of his life story and of religious subjects. While we waited on him to get some things in order, he invited us to "feel free to take a look around and check it out!" He was so proud of this little place that he had acquired for his family.  He's a super humble and down-to-earth guy who's just trying to do right in raising his family. Talk about prepared! They invited us back for pizza and a message that evening. They had a lesson the next day and went to church yesterday! It was awesome.

In the evening, we tracted some large houses right on Mukilteo Beach and met an older Arab man, named Jasminder Door. This conversation went something like this: "Hey, we're the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!" "Where's your temple?" "Uh, it's in Bellevue, near Seattle." "The one I can go in?" "Oh! No, that one's right here in Everett." "What time will you pick me up?" "Oh, wow. Uh, church starts at 11:30, so we can be here at 11:00!" "How long will I be there?" "The full service is about three hours." "And you'll drive me back here after" "You got it!" "Ok, I will see you then." Needless to say, we were blown away. I haven't heard from the Mukilteo elders whether or not he ended up attending.

We got to teach Mateo, Giovanni's son, a few times this week by surprise and he even made it to church with his dad yesterday. Hopefully, he'll be back next weekend.

Our lesson with John on Wednesday fell through, as he was not home. Hm. We'll keep trying.

I think that's about it for this week.

I'm sorry to hear about Seth. That's rough. I always knew that Caleb kid was trouble. :p Hopefully, Seth will recover quickly. I will pray for him. That kid just doesn't get a break.

That's pretty cool that Brandon and Deborah are still talking and stuff. And that he's still being an awesome missionary.

Drive to the library this morning. It was SO foggy!
I'm doing well with the weather up here. It's coolin' down, but it's not freezing yet. And we've been spoiled this past week with a couple clear days, which means INCREDIBLE weather. I mean, just the most amazing fall days you

can imagine. Oh, Washington.

Leanne is in Collierville for another transfer, which means six months in her first area. That's a third of her mission! Keep sending her love. She really appreciates it.

Can I get James Thornock's most recent known address? I've got a letter for him, but I'm not sure where to send it because I think he may only work in California for the summer. Judging by the baptism pictures I got from Brother Herrera, he's home in Houston for a little while.

Attached are pictures of the bro's of Everett District #3 and another of Elder Larson and me at transfers.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin


[10/08/2013] Week 30: Power!

Dear la familia,

Sorry for the untimely response. Our library was closed yesterday for renovations or something, so we're emailing today.

The eye appointment went well. Dr. O'Malley said essentially that for now, I'm fine, but he wants to check up on me again in a year. That is, of course, unless something crazy goes down and I need to be seen right away. He did see the latticing that Dr. Hovis mentioned, and told me that it's seen in about 6-7% of the population, so it's not terribly rare, but still something to take note of. He attributed the odd phenomenon that I saw during ward council to random optic nerve firing just as one might experience a shooting pain in the arm though nothing is wrong.

I am really grateful for this week. District meeting on Wednesday was on finding. More specifically, it was on talking with everyone and extending an invitation to everyone to act. At the end, we rolled out this new daily goal for every companionship in the mission: contact 15 new people each day and invite them to do something. Simple, right? Well, it's actually sort of difficult, especially for me. I don't fancy tracting. But the way I saw it, you either make this goal important to you, and you go with it, or you don't. So I did. I have been making a more concerted effort to take pure finding activities seriously and faithfully. And let me tell you, it rocked my world! Now I'm excited to tract or street contact or whatever in order to reach our goal. I have this added push to talk with everyone which melts away the apprehension. Elder O'Rullian have now started setting aside about an hour or so every day to do pure finding activities. We call this our Daily Shenanigans!

One thing Elder Ballard said directly to the full-time missionaries was along the lines of, "If you want to teach more, talk with everyone." I guess that's a little obvious, but having come from an Apostle and not just the mission president, it was pretty motivating. So, we got right out after the session ended to conduct our Daily Shenanigans. In just about 30 minutes, which was all we had, we contacted 15 people! It was awesome! So many people were just outside doing yard work or whatever. At one point, I was very subtly prompted to knock on a random door we walked past, so we did. Jacob, a 14-year-old, answered, spoke with us for a bit, and accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon. On the final stretch of road back to our car, we had 13 contacts. With a prayer in my heart and faith that Heavenly Father would help us reach our goal, we walked confidently back. Four or so houses from our car, we heard the voices of two people conversing float down from a balcony far above. Boom! Reached our goal and went on our way!

On Wednesday, we taught a lady named Gilda, who joined the Church a loong time ago shortly after moving here from Costa Rica. She was inactive for quite a while until Elder Brockbank (now home in Provo) knocked on her door several months ago. She hadn't been to church literally "because [she knew] not where to find it". With some conversing, we found that she joined the Church originally because she liked the people and the warm feeling she got when she went. But that was about the depth of her testimony at the time, which is fine. But now she's preparing to receive her patriarchal blessing at the end of this month, so she wants to develop her spiritual conviction of the gospel. Thus, she's retaking the lessons from Elder O'Rullian and I. We taught her the first lesson a few weeks ago, and instead of moving to the second lesson right away, we felt inspired to read with her out of the Book of Mormon first. We started with the first chapter, doing round robin reading. In the middle of a verse, she lost composure and started crying, saying, "I don't know why I am crying. I just asked Heavenly Father in my heart to help me learn." It was so awesome!

We had a short lesson with John, the wealthy man, so he's now a new investigator. It went alright, but he didn't have a lot of time. I sense that his interest is cooling off, and he has other priorities. We have another appointment with him tomorrow, so we'll see how things go. We just need to figure out what about the restored Church is going to incite him to action.

If you remember the Arab family I mentioned before, we also went back there and gave the father a copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, as suggested by President Bonham. That was sort of nerve-wracking because, well, he had asked us not to come back. Regardless, he was still just as gracious as the first time we met and sincerely thanked us for the document, as well as for "running around in the cold, doing 'this'".

We saw the Copenhaver family on Sunday following the afternoon session of Conference and taught Josh and Justin (twin unbaptized children) about baptism. They agreed to be baptized on November 23 and understand this will mean steady church attendance and scripture study. Sister Copenhaver understands this will require a lot of help on her end.

Transfers are today. Both Elder O'Rullian and I are staying here in Seattle Hill. Elder Larson (of Thomas Lake, one of the areas in my district) is leaving, however, as he has been called to be a district leader elsewhere! Yay! He can really use this opportunity to grow. He's definitely the leader type.

Speaking of Elder Larson, we went jousting for p-day last week. Yes, jousting. Elder Larson is the one in the suit of armor, and his companion, Elder Black, is the other one in the [sort-of] suit of more box-like armor. Elder O'Rullian and I decided to go golfing instead of make armor out of cardboard, so our protection consisted of pillows, bike helmets, and duct tape. Our trusty steeds were roller carts (often found beneath the giant industrial trash cans used in most church buildings) powered by our companions. The lances consisted of a PVC pipe, a Nerf football, and more duct tape. We had a blast.

I think that's about all for this week. 'Twas a good one. Elder O'Rullian and I are definitely excited to work together for another transfer. Should be good!

Thanks for y'all's comments and stories and whatnot. Mom, your political comments make me chuckle. It's weird to hear about that since we're so out of touch with news and stuff. I did hear about the government shutdown a few times. Whatever, man. :p I'm glad Brandon's doing well. I still pray for y'all, especially Seth and Christian and Margo. A testimony is so important! And I'm grateful that y'all are setting an example of member-missionary work in the ward at home. Keep it up!

Love,

Elder Martin

[9/30/2013] Week 29: Chipped Tooth

Howdy!

This week went so fast! We were pretty busy all week long. That's the way it oughtta be! A lot of this week consisted of service. Lots of service. Mainly helping people move. But hey, what are the Mormons for? Just kidding. We gave quite a few blessings this week too. That is what the Mormons are for.

On Monday night, we visited the Smiths again (young, less-active family headed by a return missionary). Their kids especially love having the missionaries over, but once they were in bed, we got down to business. We talked a lot more about why they don't make it to church, and how we can help them get back into that habit. While we works often and she has family functions on most weekends, one thing they fear is being over-committed to callings and whatnot once they reactivate. We committed Sister Smith to come to church on Sunday whether or not her husband was working. She wasn't in attendance yesterday. Any tips?

Semi-related side note: at the Smiths on Monday night, I sneezed wrong and ended up chipping my front left tooth a little. Talk about a freak accident. I'm devastated. Just kidding.

On Wednesday, district meeting went really well. It's very clear that the more time and effort I put into preparing for district meetings, the better they go and the more I can tell I am influencing the other missionaries in my district. Sometimes, it's tempting to try and wing it a bit, but that's when no one participates and it's like pulling teeth to keep the clock from ticking backwards.

On Thursday, we spearheaded the whole open chapel tour thing that was mentioned in the worldwide broadcast on June 23rd of this year. Our stake center was open from 12-8 and we stood watch in case people wanted to come check it out. We actually did give a few tours to a few nonmembers. I'm thinking these chapel tours will be a really good tactic, because this way we're allowing the prepared people to sift themselves from the rest by coming to us. It also really helped me brush up on my church tour skills. The last time I gave a tour was in Marysville with Elder Benedict! And that was a tour through the plan of salvation! In preparation for this event, I was given the assignment of organizing the church tour shift schedule. I had to have a certain amount missionaries present at the building from 12-8. But I had to work around missionaries' appointments as well as uphold rules from the white handbook like having at least three males when females are present, vice versa, and having a priesthood holder in the building at all times. Let me tell you, that brought me right back to my supervisor days.

On Thursday evening, we made our way to the home of Justin Canales, a less-active  we had briefly chatted with a few times. Well, this time was different. We spent two hours talking to Justin and learning about him and his whole life story. Turns out, he's a super cool guy. Also turns out, he was married in the Temple and "did the whole Mormon thing." And "for 10 years, it worked." But for one reason or another, they were divorced and his life has been a shambles ever since. What's interesting is how willing people are to open up to and share information with missionaries. It started, I think, with "how did you find the Church" -- he was introduced through his less-active, then-girlfriend, soon-to-be-wife -- (that's a lot of hyphens!) and he talked on that for a long time. At one point, I asked, "do you believe the Book of Mormon is true?" and he went through another 20 or 30 minutes of life story without pause. He said the Joseph Smith story really hooked him. "Here was an average Joe [no pun intended] just like [Justin], with a really great question." Justin kept returning to the idea that he just doesn't "fit" into the Mormon church. Every man in the Church is a doctor or a lawyer or whatever and is well-to-do. Justin has a degree, but doesn't use it and he rents a basement from his weird coworker's mom. He ex-wife now lives elsewhere with their children and her new, "successful" husband. Over and over, he compared himself to other people, and didn't even realize it. At points, Justin was yelling and losing his composure. There is a lot of pain and hurt in this guy's heart. And anger. Not at us as the missionaries that stood before him, but at the course his life has taken, and ultimately, at God. If there is a God. He sincerely wants to believe there is a God and that Jesus is the Savior, but he doesn't want that belief to stem from fear. He wants to know it because that's what's right. With Justin, it's going to be a long, slow process. But after Thursday night, Elder O'Rullian feel and intense connection with him. Interestingly enough, after hearing our recap of Thursday evening, our bishop does too. And they haven't even met. Justin desperately needs the gospel back in his life, and we're going to help him out with just that.

Yesterday, the Lord blessed with three investigators at sacrament meeting! Mateo was there with his dad, Giovanni, and Tiffany and Tia attended in the Shoultes ward for a baby blessing. Our ward was super focused on missionary work, as that was what we were encouraged to fast for. There was definitely an outpouring of the missionary spirit. It's really exciting to see everyone get pumped about missionary work. Soon the referrals will be a-flowing! As I closed my fast yesterday, I received a confirmation that the bishop knows what he's talking about, as he is entitled to revelation for the members and missionary work in his ward. So it's important for us as missionaries to work hard to help him achieve his vision for the Seattle Hill ward.

We also visited Garrett, a man Elder Gasser and I contacted on exchanges a few weeks ago, yesterday. He told us he's already read a fourth of the Book of Mormon! But he insists he won't have any questions until he is done reading it... Haha.

I think that's about all for this week. We're already on week 6 of the transfer now. That's insane! I don't know where the time goes. I may or may not get transferred, but I'll keep y'all updated! Elder O'Rullian doesn't want me to get transferred at all because he struggled with his last companion, and well, like I've said, we are really great friends. He also misses home a lot. Like a lot. So that's been pretty hard for him, too.

Mom, I am sharing Dad's conversion story at district meeting this week. If you wanna go ahead and send it real soon, I might be able to come back later today and print it out.

Seth, when I read that blip about the chore app in Dad's email, I laughed right out loud in the library. So dang funny. That sounds just like you. I miss you, bud!

Love,

Elder Martin

P.S. I saw Matt the Cat Guy again randomly. He asked me to email him the pictures Elder Julius took of us. Haha!

The picture attached is of me in a cool Russian hat that belongs to Brother Paskett, who took us golfing again last week. This was just hours before I chipped my tooth...

Monday, September 23, 2013

[9/23/2013] Week 28: I've Heard That Somewhere Before...

Dear y'all,

I must say that this week was much improved from last. We got to teach quite a bit, and even found a new investigator!

CUTE!
On Tuesday, we found out that there would be no district meeting outline for this week. So I decided that I really wanted to seek inspiration and determine what the Lord had in mind for our district. I really felt the Spirit as I sought revelation and followed His subtle promptings. Based on that, I decided our high-strung district needed an opportunity to unwind and look at the positives of being a missionary. So we went through "Hearing the Voice of the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants" in this month's Ensign, and discussed thoughts and feelings about missionary life related to each of the subsections of the article. Then, we all told our favorite mission experiences and related them to those thoughts. I tell you, the Spirit ended up being so strong during that district meeting. I really felt the district grow together and bond as we each opened up and rejoiced in the Work of the Lord. Then we had root beer floats afterward!

Tia and Baby Bunnies
Tuesday night, we had Tiffany and her daughter Tia (both investigators) over to the Nolls' house (Ward Mission Leader) for the first half of the plan of salvation and dinner. It went really well, especially since Sister Noll has plenty of experience teaching children Tia's age. We have another appointment set for tomorrow night.

On Thursday, I attended a leadership meeting, and, though somewhat bussiness-y, it was just what I needed. I don't really even know why. I just felt such a witness of the Spirit that this really is His work, and that He needs us, especially as leaders, to give Him our all. Afterwards, I felt sort of guilty for moping at the end of last week. I received an especially strong witness during the closing hymn, "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy", that we are spiritual lifeguards sent to rescue those who are desperately seeking our help. All I wanna do is go find 'em and help 'em!

Directly after Thursday's meeting, we stopped at Giovanni's house and found him outside working on his truck with his neighbor, Johnathan. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were sitting in Giovanni's living room teaching Johnathan about the Book of Mormon. We set up another lesson for the next day, during which we taught him the Restoration, and we now have another appointment this coming Friday.

On Friday, I conducted exchanges with Elder Larson, of Thomas Lake, and we had a great time. He came to Seattle Hill, because we had three teaching appointments set up for Friday, and I figured he needed the teaching experience. We definitely had a blast, and he definitely needed it. I sense that he is struggling with self-esteem or something and, of course I want to help him understand he's a great missionary, but I don't know how to go about that appropriately.

Elder O'Rullian and I have spent a lot of time and energy with Brother Noll, who was recently called as our Ward Mission Leader, in helping him get acquainted with all that his new calling entails. We've been focusing on how to kick-start the ward mission and revolutionize the face of missionary work in the Seattle Hill Ward, starting with the members. We definitely need to figure out how to train them in sharing the gospel naturally and comfortably as well as determine the best way to interact and coordinate with the ward council. It's really been exhilarating to take this new approach and make progress in getting things set up for the Lord to do His stuff!

We got to see John, the wealthy man I mentioned in my letter a few weeks ago, that I met on exchanges with Elder Black. He is still super awesome, in case you were worried about that. We have an appointment set up for this coming Friday afternoon. But one thing he said really struck me. He asked us what charity events we knew about in the area that revolve around helping families at Christmas and Thanksgiving. His words were, "I feel like that's my calling in life -- to help people." Now that sounds to me a lot like a particular chapter out of "The Power of Everyday Missionaries"! Do you have any ideas that are connected with the Church/gospel? Our bishop suggested contributing to the Humanitarian Aid fund, but I think John was looking for something a little more involved in the local community.

Though we had a few people commit to attending church yesterday, none of them made it. But it still ended up being a good Sunday! I felt prompted to knock on a particular door as we were driving down the street, so we did, and a man named Chris answered the door. In his 70s or so, he is an avid Christian and Bible student. But I don't think he's part of any particular congregation. Anyway, we talked for a long time on his porch about the Book of Mormon, the Great Apostasy, and the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. For a while, he was set on the Bible and the idea that there are many prophets called of God. Interestingly enough, he professed a lot of the doctrines unique to the Mormon church (such as our views on infant baptism, the Spirit World, and the Second Coming). but he couldn't quite remember where he had read them. Eventually, he decided there was "no harm in reading the Book of Mormon and praying." We'll check back with him shortly!

I can't believe Taylor already got his mission call! That's so crazy! Anyone else up 'n coming? Say, Steve Cline? Keep me posted!

I think that's about it for my week. Definitely a good one! I hope y'all's was superb as well!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

The pictures attached are of Tia (investigator) and me holding her brand new baby bunnies!

The other is a super sweet model T or something or other driving through our area.

Sweet T!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

[9/16/2013] Week 27: Rough Week

You know, it's been kind of a rough week. Everything we had set up fell through. It's hard to have been in an area for nine weeks now and not have anything happening yet. I mean, there's a little bit here and there, and I've had some really awesome experiences. It's like I have these cool experiences of following the Spirit or teaching boldly that really brighten my outlook and help get me through the week, but nothing is really happening as far as real growth. We set things up and they fall through. So we do our best to make up for it, but people are just not home or don't answer their phones or whatever. And the days keep marching by. There's only so much you can do, I guess. Nobody seems to have a real desire to learn and progress. I can remember President Wilson testifying so surely that there are ten progressing investigators in every area of the mission. Of course, the question is: How do you find them? I can't seem to figure it out. Maybe we just need to revamp our efforts entirely. But what direction do I take? How can I be sure to do it right? Like I said, I get to have these super cool experiences every now and then, but it seems like they never amount to anything long-lasting. I'm usually more positive, but this transfer is winding down, and I don't want to end another six weeks feeling like I haven't had an impact on the area. I guess I'm feeling a bit of urgency to get things done, but I can't seem to make it happen. Obviously, others' agency is out of my control.

Don't get me wrong, this week had its ups, too.

For one, Elder O'Rullian and I still get along really great. We have a similar sense of humor, so that's helped brighten things a lot.

One of the more interesting experiences happened on exchanges with Elder Gasser (it's always on exchanges!). We went to visit a less-active in a neighborhood that I'm not as familiar with, and when we didn't find them home, we decided to explore around a bit. We embarked on our adventure and shortly came to a cul-de-sac. I asked Elder Gasser, "Alright, which door are we gonna knock?" He pointed to one on the right, and my response was, "Really, because I was going to say the one on the left." He replied, "We'll knock 'em both and see who's more inspired!" So we tried his first, and were met with three teen-aged young men of Arab descent. Though home alone, they invited us right in and we got to talking about Islam, Mormonism, and the similarities therein. Periodically, the middle brother's cell phone would ring, he would take it in the other room, and then he would return. As we were bringing our lesson to a close, the home phone rang, the middle brother answered it, and then handed the phone to me. "It's my dad," he said. Ah, stink. "Hello?" I said. "Who is this? Who is in my house?" he inquired. I told him our names and stated that we were missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I don't know who you are, but you are strangers in my house with my kids. You need to get out now, please. I will be home in five minutes. Please get out now and wait for me outside." Elder Gasser and I complied immediately. When their father arrived home, he had his children go inside. He was very respectful in explaining to us his thought process and his will concerning his children. We discovered that he had come very close to calling the police and having law enforcement officials greet us outside. But he decided against it and drove home as quickly as he could. It was clear we had given him a good scare. And he had every right to react the way he did. Anyway, he asked us not to return because he needs to teach them a lesson about allowing strangers into the house. Otherwise, he said, they are allowed to attend whatever religious group they please as it is their own lives. For the record, the oldest, though seventeen, looked to be in his mid-twenties. And we were sure to ask before entering if their house rules permitted our entry.

We never knocked the other door.
My twin Christian and friend with freshly killed chickens

Most of the rest of the week was comprised of fallen through appointments and marginally successful street-contacting. We did well at cleaning out some potentials who finally admitted they weren't really interested. We did have a good visit with the Robinson's and made progress there. We talked a lot about the Sacrament and showed the video on mormonchannel.org where Elder Uchtdorf compares us as members of the Church to the guy on a cruise, and he makes the point that we're sometimes living below our means. Anyway, we kind of got to the core of their concerns with the Sacrament, and we'll just suffice it to say that they are definitely working on it. They definitely have the Sacrament in mind and are working towards taking it, but they don't want to talk to the bishop about their concerns, as "it's none of his business." Hm.

I really do want to see more success as a missionary. I mean, I know the success lies in the invitation, or rather, my commitment to find, teach, and baptize. But it's hard to feel successful when you don't see that commitment come to fruition the way you'd like.

I don't want this to sound like a big whining session. But I guess it already does. I'm just letting you know how it's going for me. But what advice do you have? I just want to feel like I'm being an effective missionary. I must say, missionary work is a lot more fun when you're finding, teaching, and baptizing.

I really like to hear that about Walker. I'm really glad y'all are being there for him and for the Elders as solid member fellowship. That's really helpful. We need a lot of member help these days, and I'm glad to hear that my family on the other end is at the head of it, especially with two RM's on board. It's easy to understand why the Elders are excited to get him on date, but I agree that we need not kid ourselves when it comes to being prepared for baptism. His conversion will mean a lot more and will in turn serve as a motivator for him to stay strong in coming years if we let him take the time now to make it a true conversion.

Dad, I think we take our family for granted. Having been away from home for six months and having worked with far more dysfunctional families than ours, I have a greater appreciation for the Martin family clan, and feel I will be extra motivated to contribute more when I'm home. That's probably at least one good reason the mission experience is so valuable. Thanks for sharing your insight from church. It's important to remember that I am merely the vessel for the truth and light God wants for all his children. I am only the tool He uses to sift out the prepared from the unprepared. Thus, I need to be as well-oiled and functional as possible!

About the music, I actually found out that according to President Bonham, we're allowed to listen to Christian rock, "as long as it doesn't teach false doctrine." Haha, I love that guy. He's so awesome. But I am definitely looking forward to classical music. I love Dvorak, and I love horn concertos. It would be most beneficial, actually, if you could send the CD's because I can listen to them in the car as we travel. That is, if you're not going to miss them. I have PLENTY of Mo-Tab. And as far as Christian rock, there's the one album I've been wanting, called "Hymn". It's by a Christian band, whose name I cannot recall, but they do a bunch of covers of traditional hymns and the album is free (or was). Anyway, ask Josh Willis. He'll know what I'm talking about because he's the one that told me about it! And if there's any other inspirational Christian rock that you like, feel free to throw it in there. "Hello Hurricane" and album by Switchfoot is another one I seem to remember being pretty Christian-themed. And also really good.

Essentially, just do whatever you can, and I will be very grateful for whatever I get. Thanks so much!

I am definitely praying for little Liam.

Thanks for all y'all's prayers. I need 'em!

I love you all!

Elder Martin

Liam, Cancer Warrior (ATRT)