Wednesday, June 26, 2013

[06/26/2013] Week 15: Come unto me, all ye that labour, ...and I will give you rest.

Hey, y'all!

Sorry I'm just now getting back. Today was our temple day, so Monday was a regular work-day. I think next week's p-day will be on Thursday, the 4th. Not sure though.

This week was long. Literally. :p But it rained a lot. Like actual downpour, which is different than the normal drizzle and gray overcast. We saw Derek quite a few times. He really loves the changes he's seen in his life as a result of the gospel. He and his younger brother, Chase, attended the worldwide broadcast on Sunday and while Chase felt a special connection with Elder Packer, Derek spent most of the time half-listening and half-jotting away at some list in his lap. He showed it to me after the broadcast was over, and it turned out to be an 18-step self improvement plan. Some of the points on his list included: Talk with 2 people about the Book of Mormon every day, Read and understand 10 verses each day, Do something nice for 3 people daily, Kick 1 bad habit every day, and Get rid of all grudges.

A touching experience for me to witness: The broadcast was held at our home building, but the whole Marysville Stake was in attendance, not just the Shoultes ward. So there were a lot of people I didn't know. After the broadcast ended, a woman I've never seen approached Derek and hardly introduced herself before tenderly embracing him. Through her sobs, she managed, "I'm sorry, you just remind me so much of my brother. Thank you." I couldn't help but tear up. Derek is pretty well covered in tattoos and was dressed in 'gangstuh' clothes, but he has a great heart and greatly appreciate that those in attendance didn't look or scoff at him judgmentally.

We had an awesome lesson with a former investigator, Ellen (the lady with epilepsy) on the plan of salvation. In talking about the resurrection, I told her how she would one day have a perfect body and talked a little bit about mom and how I know that brings her hope. This was another moment in the week, when I couldn't help but tear up. :p After the lesson, I asked her how she felt and her response was, "I just feel like crying!" In a good way, of course. We'll see her and her fiance, Brian, again on Saturday.

Funny story: Brian kind of talks like Forrest Gump. And he even has similar physical features. We dropped by last week to see how they were doing, and he was telling us a story. I don't remember the details, but at one point he said something like, "I really wanted to go to church and do things for myself, so I did." (Imagine Forrest Gump voice, I just felt like running, so I did.) Elder Benedict pointed this out to me later and we had a good laugh. At our lesson on Saturday, I asked how Brian felt about the lesson and the plan of salvation in general, and he told us a lot about his testimony and upbringing in the Church. He concluded with, "And that's all I really have to say about that." I busted out laughing!! So great.

Our recent convert, Jordan Edwards, is struggling with a demanding work schedule, but we had a lesson with him yesterday that proved highly effective in building his comprehension of the Book of Mormon and its unfamiliar lingo. He had a blast! The study assignment we left him with should hopefully bolster his study skills and perpetuate the excitement he felt at the end of our appointment. I love teaching that guy!

On Tuesdays, we have a standing late evening appointment with a less-active family, the Hemmings. When we were picked up for dinner, we accidentally left our phone in the apartment and didn't receive the call from Brother Hemming saying that he and Sister Hemming would not be home for our post-dinner appointment. So after dinner, we went over there and found only the Paige and Zane the sophomore-aged twins and only children of the house. Zane is a stalwart priesthood holder (who just got over mono miraculously, right after Elder Benedict and I gave him a blessing) and Paige is, well, struggling. She doesn't attend church often and makes funky decisions. But instead of walking home in the pouring rain because the parents weren't home, we stayed out on the porch and talked with the twins, getting Paige to open up about her concerns. We made a lot of good progress and taught solid principles based on our own high school experiences. It was really cool.

Going to the temple this morning was a sweet, sweet gift. I am grateful for the  opportunity to go and perform ordinances for the dead and to receive much-needed revelation. The spirit I feel in the house of the Lord is always a healing balm for my soul. I also spent a lot of time thinking about Seth in this rough patch of his life.

All for now. I love y'all and really, really appreciate all the support y'all give me!

Elder Martin

Monday, June 17, 2013

[6/17/2013] Week 14: The Hand of God

Elder Marsden, a great example to me
This has been a wonderful week! While it was still difficult and had its disappointments, some amazing things have happened. On exchanges with Elder Galante, we passed by a house on our bike and were invited in to help with painting the walls. As we worked, we taught two men in their twenties about basic Mormon doctrine. They told us that they have been in and out of jail, have struggled with drugs, and are looking to get their lives back on track. One of them, who goes by "D", is 25 and undergoes dialysis three times a week. He expects to live no longer than two more years. We visited with D on Sunday while he and his brother, Chase, were running a yard sale. They have seen a lot of trials together and agreed readily to read the Book of Mormon. We sat with D and read from 3 Nephi 11 about the coming of Jesus Christ. He told me that two days ago, he and his son's mother were having an argument and instead of blowing up on her, he thought of me, and decided to keep his cool. This was after we had only me
t twice, for periods of 15-30 minutes! We had an opening prayer and two closing prayers with him - he said the second. Afterwards he described a remarkable feeling: goosebumps, hair standing up on the side of his face, peace, calm, and a floating sensation. Of this experience he said, "Ain't no drugs ever made me feel like that right there!"  He made it clear that we're welcome back anytime.

Another lady, Kim, was referred to us through some missionaries in Everett. Her daughter was baptized about three years ago, and she is ready to start learning. Elder Benedict soft committed her, and we have an appointment set for Friday.

Kelly, a woman whose life is in turmoil, walked into the church building yesterday because she felt drawn to it. She accepted a Book of Mormon and asked us to return this week.

On Thursday, Elder Benedict and I were riding our bikes down 51st and the Spirit told me unmistakably to turn around. I did, and entered a cul-de-sac through a small pathway that cut through a tall hedge. I was directed to a house in the cul-de-sac (I felt like I was spiritual harvesting!) and as we approached, Elder Benedict asked what I was doing. I could scarcely tell him that I wasn't sure before a voice boomed from beneath an old van in the driveway: "Can I help you?" The man changing his oil was Larry, and his life has also been a shambles lately. Elder Benedict and I taught and bore testimony powerfully of the Restoration, and he agreed to have us back when he had more time.

I felt impressed to drop back by Carol's, and she was still definitely uninterested. Oh, well! In due time.

We also ran into a recent convert who went inactive as soon as she moved to our area, but expressed that she would be happy to have us back.

This has been a great week. Again, it wasn't an easy week; Elder Benedict and I worked very hard. But I can see that the Lord is blessing us with more work to do, albeit in ways I didn't expect. There is a lot on our plate for this coming week, and I am excited to hit it hard.

In the words of modern-day prophets as well as those of old, I have found comfort and counsel. I am grateful for personal study time, where I feast upon words that are surely directed right at me in this time of my life!

I pray for Seth and Margo every night, that they might strengthen testimonies of the Gospel. Like you said, it is so important, especially when the fiery darts begin to rain down!

Lela and Virgil Kovalenko with me
It was really cool to see Brother K. We didn't have a whole lot of time to talk, but we did get a picture! He said he recognized me right away because I look like ya! He also told me to tell you, Dad, to "get off his back about Facebook". He said in all seriousness that "it's an abomination". Tee-hee.

Leanne just told me that she'll be training in four weeks. Isn't that insane?? She's a rock star!

Keep me updated with everything at home. Dad, I do really enjoy your letters. They're a great pick-me-up. How's Christian doing?


Elder Martin

The pictures attached are of me with Brother K and his wife and me with Elder Marsden, a Spanish speaking missionary who just went home. He was a crazy hard worker with an infinitely positive disposition. Pretty much everything I learned about how to train I learned from him over the course of five or so days. He reminds me so much of Brandon and was a much-needed older brother to me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

[6/10/2013] Week 13: Trials! Oh boy!

My new greenie, Elder Benedict
This week has been without doubt the most challenging of my mission so far. Coming from being a trainee to flipping around and training a new missionary is an immense challenge, but I have already grown so much because of it.

I mentioned last week that we had contacted a woman named Carol shortly before entering the library and that she was what many would call a "golden contact". She readily agreed to come to church! Well, on Thursday of this past week, we biked up to her home, dismounted, and approached her doorstep. Not even halfway up her lawn, we saw her emerge from the front door and walk out on the porch. She told us she was no longer interested; that her "parents had changed her mind". She then asked us to leave. All week, I was elated about this miracle contact and prepared heavily to teach her. But at this m
oment, I was crushed. Several other disappointments followed throughout the day, and I began to wonder what I was even doing.

I have felt more down in the dumps this week than I have felt in a long time, and while I know it was the work of Satan, I still could not help but feel lost and very discouraged. I was warned before I departed from home that my mission experience would entail lots of ups and downs - that it would contain the experiences of a mini-lifetime compressed into two short years. This is the first real demonstration of that admonition in the negative respect.

I know it is imperative that I remain positive and confident in my attitude for the benefit of Elder Benedict. I admire his fire, his absolute willingness to work hard - even if it means riding 20+ miles in the hot sun -, and his profound humility, always asking for feedback, always looking to improve.

I feel I am now mostly past the trough of emotions that I described. After all, Elder Benedict and I taught a former investigator a powerful lesson on Wednesday, miraculously found a father who is long inactive and wants terribly to return to church, and are growing closer every hour. I have a lot to be grateful for. I don't remember exactly what you said, but I am reminded of your words during new missionary training, which seemed directed precisely at me. The iron rod was surrounded by dark mists of despair. It wasn't a clear and sunny day in Lehi's dream. This mission is hard work and it's going to be a constant test of my faith until the end. As I continue to exercise that faith in the Lord, I know he will bless our area with miracles. I know he will give us 10 progressing investigators.

Me on a bike!
As I move forward, trusting the Lord to guide us in our work, I know I will learn and grow immensely. Elder Benedict has already taught me so much about how I can improve. I feel this next 12 weeks will continue to be tough, but I know I am not asked to do it alone.

I love you all dearly! It sounds like it has been a tough week all around. I will send out other emails separately.


Elder Martin

Whidbey Island Ferry

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

[6/3/2013] Week 12: Training?!

This was an insane week.

I saw Elder Deakin off with President Wilson late Thursday night, and
he flew home on Friday morning. He and I had a lot of good times
together, but I wouldn't say I was sad to see him go.

I have been staying with the Zone Leaders for the past several days
since Elder Deakin is gone. Elder Deakin and I went over there on
Thursday night where we awaited President Wilson to pick him up and
take him down to Mill Creek. Shortly before he arrived, however, we
received leadership calls from the Assistants to the President. That's
when I found out I'm going to be training this transfer. It's kind of
crazy. Actually, it's really crazy. But President Wilson knows all
about the extent of my training, and the Lord obviously knows too. So
I have no problems accepting this new mantle!

The past few days I have spent with Elders Marsden and Annand have
been invaluable to my growth as a missionary. As I prepare to welcome
a new missionary into the mission, I have felt slightly apprehensive
about my ability to train someone properly.  But all that I have
learned in just a few days about finding, teaching, being obedient,
talking with everyone, working hard, and having faith has bolstered my
confidence. I am excited to be the trainer that I envisioned having
when I first came to the mission. I have seen so many miracles in just
a few total hours of finding in Shoultes. Elders Marsden and Annand
have completely altered my perspective on missionary work, and I am
extremely grateful for this short, but precious time I've been able to
spend with them.

As I write this letter, I'm still reeling. Elder Marsden initiated a
contact with a woman named Carol just outside the library before we
entered. She was unbelievably prepared! We talked about everything
from Relief Society to personal preparedness to infant baptism -- in
the course of about five minutes! She was absolutely open to having us
teach her more. The best part is that she lives in Shoultes! Another
man we met a few days ago, named John, has seven children and
absolutely believes in the rearing of the family in these rough days.
His mother is a convert, so he knows about the Church, and he invited
us right back for next Saturday afternoon! Two young men walking down
the sidewalk approached us and almost immediately began pouring out
their hearts to us concerning their emotional distresses and their
desires to come unto Christ.

Elder Marsden said something yesterday that will stick with me for the
rest of my mission, if not the rest of my life. His words were:
"Having faith is to expect miracles, but not fear failure."

I have seen the Lord preparing my area in the past few days in ways
that I never imagined. I was only able to witness these precious
miracles because Elder Marsden and I were talking with everyone!

I love the work of a missionary! I am excited to train a new
missionary and show him that miracles do occur in these latter days
and especially in the lives of the Lord's obedient, hard-working,
faithful missionaries.

That's insane that Seth is going to baptize someone! He will have
physically done so before me! I'm so excited!

Dad, it sounds like your workout life is getting pretty intense. That
is so cool! I expect to see you with an eight-pack washboard when I
get back!

I love you all! Lots of work ahead!

Elder Martin