Sunday, July 28, 2013

[07/22/2013] Week 19: Teaching with Boldness

My head is still in a bit of a whirl from transfers, but I think I'm settling in nicely. I think.

Me and Elder Julius
I'm now in the Seattle Hill ward in Everett with Elder Julius of Phoenix, Arizona. He's a Spanish-speaking missionary who is probably only here for this transfer, so I've got to figure things out quick.

Being in a car area is definitely weird. A lot more time to fill with missionary work!

Being a district leader means a whole lot more, but I feel a lot of love for everyone in my district already. That's something I have been praying for so that I can serve them all more effectively. The Lord is definitely helping me learn and grow in this experience, so I love it!

So far, I love the Seattle Hill ward. Everyone in the ward is super missionary-minded and always looking for opportunities to move the work forward. They're also really good about feeding us every night! Whoop!

Unfortunately, it's kind of an affluent area, so finding is difficult. We really need the members' help.

It's kind of crazy because one of our investigators in Shoultes moved from Seattle Hill, and their family is actually still here, and even on the Focus 15. The sister of a less-active in Marysville for whom I did lots of service is also a member of the Seattle Hill ward. At church yesterday, I recognized in the hallway a troubled youth who recently moved from Shoultes to the Eastmont ward, which is adjacent to ours. It's really cool to see how many connections I have with this area already. The mission president is certainly an inspired man!

From what I can tell, this ward focuses a lot on the rescue effort. It is a slight gear change from my last area, but I do enjoy it. I love helping others come back to the truth they once knew.

One of the coolest aspects of this week has been teaching with boldness. For some reason, I've been really bold and have been cutting to the chase with everyone we teach, asking effective questions of them to get the conversations going. It's been really cool to see how people react. While one might think that the interrogatee would recoil in defense, most of them have opened way up and been just as bold with their responses. It has helped us get straight to the concerns of those we teach. It's really cool! Now we just have to figure out how to help address some of those concerns.

There's this one less-active guy named Brother Buehler. Let me tell you: this guy is awesome! He's such a Seattleite hipster and he doesn't even know it! Dad, he says the most hip place in all of the Seattle area is actually Ballard now. Hahaha! Other fun fact: he looks exactly like Jake Gyllenhaal. He's so chill and just awesome. He also did some filmmaking in LA with some buddies of his like ten years ago.

I also met the Robinson's this week. They are an older couple, married for 64 years, converted shortly thereafter, and then inactive for 40 years! They've been visited for something like eight months and now they come to church pretty regularly. But the problem is, they don't really have a testimony of the gospel. Or at least, Brother Robinson doesn't. He keeps saying he believes Joseph Smith was a "really good translator, but that he wasn't actually the first leader of the Church, but the third or fourth." That "he may have translated by the power of God, but that don't necessarily make him a prophet." He also gets hung up on masonic stuff a lot. He has some crazy ideas, but we're workin' with him. He's so funny! Seth would love him. He uses phrases like "by golly" and "that sucker" all the time. It makes me giggle! We're gonna get 'em sealed in the Temple. I just know it!

Mom, when you write me a letter this week, make sure you write Leanne one first. She's having a really, really tough time. She's way down and needs as much love as possible right now. Here's a copy of this week's email from her:

"Dear family and friends,
I know you all open my emails to and hope to read about the greatthings happening in my mission. But I have to be honest with you all,this week just straight up sucked. I said goodbye to my companions,Sister T. and Sister Christensen, and that was hard enough in itself.They became some of my best friends and were people I could rely onwhen times got tough. Then I got my new companion, straight out of theMTC. Her name is Sister Durfee, and she is from Mesa, Arizona. She isready and willing to work hard, but she is also really shy and quiet.I feel like I have had the weight of the world on my shoulders thisweek. I have no idea what I'm doing as a missionary, let alone as atrainer. I want to do well, and I want to be someone who my missionpresident can rely on, but I've only been out for 6 weeks!! Also, wewere on bike week, so our transportation was pretty limited. Weaccidentally broke our phone, so we had little to zero contact witheveryone in our mission. Everyday has been so hard. And I can't evenimagine the fact that I'll be doing this for the next 16 months (todayis actually my 2 month mark exactly!) Every time I did teach a lesson,or talk to an investigator, or even a member, I'm on the verge oftears. Noone will listen to us, people slam doors in our faces and tryto do everything to prove us wrong, and sometimes it's reallyconvincing. There are even members here who tell us anti-stuff aboutthe church!

I need prayers and lovin' from you all. Because I can't do this alone.A handful of the members here have been really great to me, and havehelped me feel loved this week, but it's just not the same as it isfrom my own family and friends. I miss you all a lot, and I love youall even more.
Your somber southern missionary,Sister McBride"

I love y'all! You're all in my prayers!

[07/15/2013] Week 18: I am a District Leader

Oh, what a week! President Wilson used to say, "No Weak Sixes!" I feel this has been a very strong week for Elder Benedict and me. We reached almost all of our goals and were just two new investigators shy of hitting the mission standards of excellence. That would have been a first for me! I am still proud of how hard we worked and how effective we were at getting members to join us in teaching others. We fasted last week about how we could get more investigators to attend church - as we had been struggling with zeroes and ones for that key indicator - and decided that we needed to have more member present lessons, so that the investigators are more comfortable at church. This week we had five investigators at church! What a blessing and a testament to the power of fasting.
Elder Benedict and me with the Jarvis Family

So, I have been called to be a district leader. I was hoping I could stay in Shoultes to finish training, but the Lord has other plans. I am getting transferred, but I won't find out where I'm going until tomorrow.

To receive a leadership call on Thursday night was surprising, to say the least. I am humbled that the Lord feels I am ready to take on this new challenge. However, the call brings mixed emotions for sure. I am leaving a ward family that I have grown very close to, whom I know has come to trust me as a servant of the Lord. I am also leaving Elder Benedict, who is a dear, dear friend and brother to me. Regardless, I know there are people in my next area whose lives I need to impact. I know the Lord has great things in store for me as I exercise faith and work hard in the coming months.

I will miss Elder Benedict
The highlight of my week comes from Tuesday evening, when Elder Benedict and I taught Scott McCune, the ten year-old nephew of an active family in our ward. Being his second lesson, we decided to teach the Plan of Salvation. Having already taught him once, we knew he needed to be taught simply and visually, if possible. So we prayed about how to best teach him during companionship study, and shortly thereafter I was reminded of something our bishop said during a recent funeral service. He compared our eternal progression to moving through rooms and doors in a house. So I said to Elder Benedict, "I have a crazy idea. Let's set up the plan of salvation in the Robinettes' house just like Bishop Rasmussen was saying!" We ran out of time before planning out all the details, and I thought we would just opt for something simpler like flash cards. However, when we sat down to begin the lesson, he turned to me and out of the corner of his mouth, said, "Elder, crazy idea?" I was hesitant because I felt like we hadn't planned it well enough, but he insisted, so we went for it. With the Brother and Sister Robinette's help, we set up the lesson plan while the kids all waited in another room. Elder Benedict and I acted as tour guides, directing the family through the plan of salvation and asking questions all along the way.

The back yard was the premortal life, the garage - with its clutter and confusion, danger and disarray - was the earth life. The small laundry room connecting the garage to the house - complete with cold, dark, dreary washer, for those who needed to be cleansed from sin, and warm, cozy dryer, for those who had already been washed before reaching the laundry room - represented the spirit world. The laundry room was stuffy and hot, making its inhabitants eager to move on to judgment which lay just outside the door in the joining hallway. The dining room, kitchen, and living room represented the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms, respectively. Of course, the lighting of each room was adjusted accordingly. We all ended up in the comfy, cozy celestial kingdom, sitting on couches and enjoying ice cream, as a family.

What was so great is that most of this came together by itself; the "tour" took very little initial set-up and a pinch of creativity. Elder Benedict pointed out that we just had to humble ourselves, ask the Robinette's for help, and go for it. It turned out wonderfully. Afterwards, Brother Robinette informed us that his 11 year-old son, Josh, went from saying there was no way he'd ever go on a mission to talking about where he'd like to be called. That was the most humbling aspect: that we could play an influential role in a young man's decision to serve.

Another investigator, Conrad, decided in a member-present lesson on Tuesday that he wants to be baptized on the 27th of this month.

It really has been a wonderful week, and I am sad to leave an area with so much going on, and to leave such an amazing companion, but I know that I can trust Elder Benedict and our amazing ward mission leader, Brother Jarvis, to keep things moving forward in Shoultes.

I am absolutely looking forward to seeing what I can do to contribute to the work in my next area, and to grow and develop as an emissary of Jesus Christ.

In other news, check out this awesome, awesome story from Sister McBride!

"I've talked about this other gal we are teaching before, but I have some serious news about her! We have been teaching a girl named Nicole, who goes by Swag, since I first got to Collierville. She's 21, and she's really awesome. She's very caring and loving, and she is a heck of a deep thinker. She picks our brains for information! Some of her extended family is Mormon, so she was interested in learning from us and about what we believe. The first time we met with her, we taught her the Restoration, and invited her to be baptized, and I think she thought we were crazy. Her exact words "Y'all are brainwashed."  At one point, we was searching Mormons online and she clicked on a youtube video. Guess what it was?! The temple ceremony! She watch the whole thing, imagine how crazy she thought we were then! But she let us continue to teach her.Over the past 6 weeks we have gotten really close with her, and she told us that she was gay. She began to read the Book of Mormon, and one day she even told us that she "felt like this was going somewhere." Soon after that though, she wasn't ready to change and she dropped us. My companions and I were all pretty bumbed because we really love her!

Larry at the Hot Springs
On Wednesday, she called us up and asked us to meet with her. We were really surprised and excited because we were pretty sure she was really done with us. We went to her house and talked with her a little bit. We talked about why she dropped us and she told us it was because she knew the Book of Mormon was true, but she didn't want to know about what she had to do to repent and change. We talked about her relationship  with God and how being gay effects it. She said, "When I'm close to God I know it's wrong, but when I'm not close to Him, I don't care." We  addressed her concerns and helped her see how opposite those two feelings are and how one is from God and the other is from Satan. The spirit was really strong, and she just sat and cried. She knew everything we were telling her was true. Long story short. We invited her to be baptized and she said..... YES! We got all her interviews done and she was baptized yesterday morning and confirmed in sacrament, the same day! She cried the whole way through it, because she knows its going to be hard for her to change, but she knows that it was the right decision. She is already talking about preparing herself to serve a mission in a year, and about going to BYU! It was so awesome to see how the atonement works in other peoples lives, and how Nicole's desires and wants change. There are great things happening in my mission, I mean, we baptized a gay person!"

A fine dinner guest
Please keep me updated on Seth. I'm glad to hear he is improving and upholding the Martin family name. If he wasn't, I'd put a whippin' on him. Did he get his package yet?

Puget Sound
We caught one crab that was legal to keep, so we named him Larry the Lobster, took him back to our apartment, and cooked him up. First time I ever had crab and it was dang good! The Sound was also so beautiful!

I lurve you all! Keep me updated on how scripture study and stuff goes!

[07/08/2013] Week 17: A New Mission President

As for this week, it has been very good, but not as much success as last week. A lot of our appointments fell through, but it's okay, because in many ways those instances opened up other opportunities!

On Tuesday, we had our regular standing appointment with a less active family, the Hemmings. While planning for it, Elder Benedict and I wanted something that would help them unite, as they are all very independent and sometimes stubborn! We decided to prepare a lesson on prayer. We found scriptures to do with prayer and family. Then, I had an idea for an activity: we would all kneel in prayer and take turns praying for everyone in the room out loud. The idea was to open up a channel of love and  caring between them all bolstered by the Holy Ghost. And boy, did it work! The lesson went very well; Elder Benedict and I taught powerfully, effectively, and equally. Paige, their rebellious teenage daughter, asked about patriarchal blessings, which opened up a wonderful discussion. When it came to the prayer activity, Paige initially tried to retreat into her bedroom, but we were able to coax her out. I tell you, the room was on fire! When it came to Paige, she was just quiet for about 30 seconds...and then she started! She said a wonderful prayer and I know she felt the Spirit. She even came to church with the rest of the family yesterday!! So awesome!

We worked super hard on Wednesday. From teaching Derek to failed appointments to seeking inspiration in what-next's to biking really fast with plenty of street contacting in between! We spent an entire eight and a half hours away from our apartment. Feeels good! Of course, we rewarded ourselves with ice cream when we finally got in. Elder Benedict is learning really, really well how to recognize and act on promptings of the Spirit. All the time, I hear, "Elder, I really just feel like we should go talk to that person," or "Elder, we need to visit this family. I know it." And every time, something amazing comes of it!

Derek committed to us on Saturday that after church, he was not going to smoke a single cigarette for an entire week. Knowing Derek, he doesn't make us promises that he doesn't intend on keeping. He didn't make it to church because of work, but we hope he will stick to that. In return, we promised to see him every day this week to keep him strong in that commitment.

Yesterday, we were supposed to have two investigators to take to cottage meeting. It all ended up falling through for one reason or another, so we had an evening very different from what we had planned. We had dinner at the Robinettes' home, a very faithful family in our ward. They are taking care of their niece and nephew, Kaylie and Scott, for the summer. These children are not members, but are interested in the Church, as they attend with the Robinettes every week. Since we had no evening commitments, we decided it was a perfect time to teach them about the Restoration. We did so, simply and powerfully, with the help of the Robinette family. Scott and Kaylie both committed to read the Book of Mormon with their cousins and pray about it. Though we didn't get to attend cottage meeting, we had the opportunity to find two new investigators and brush up on teaching simply!

The Hill
We also met our new mission president this week. He is awesome! His name is Mark Everett Bonham! Isn't that funny? He told us Elder Holland started cracking up when he was getting ready to set President Bonham apart. He told us a few cool things. He wants to phase out backpacks (most missionaries are speculating that this means iPads! Haha.) and has also expressed to the general authorities that he wants our mission to be on the forefront of this whole technology-missionary work wave, so that's awesome. He said he's "not afraid of computers."

As far as we know, we're still set to go crabbing with Ryan this afternoon. We have permission, as we are only going out on a dock. So it should be cool!

One picture exhibits why Elder Benedict and I have the greatest ward mission leader ever. On Tuesday, Elder Benedict had a cavity taken care of. He was feeling woozy afterward and didn't feel like biking up the huge hill to get to Brother Jarvis' house, where we had dinner scheduled. But, since the Jarvis' just moved there, we've been dying to ride down the hill for the adrenaline rush (We're 19-year-old boys. What can we say?). So Brother Jarvis came to our apartment, loaded our bikes into his van and drove us all the way up to his house. After dinner, we rode our bikes to the Hemmings, who live directly at the bottom of the hill from the Jarvis'. Perfect! Basically, we melted our faces and had a blast.

The other picture is of me with Derek. Such a great dude!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

[07/01/2013] Week 16: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these...

Hey, hey!

My family painted the house.
Wow, the house looks awesome! This new wave of DIY-dom is so exciting! Keep it up! Mom, thank you for mentioning that it was a great missionary opportunity. Those are the details I like to hear. ;)

Seth, I'm glad to hear that you're working hard and helping out the family at the same time. That is extremely mature. You've a little suh'm suh'm comin' your way in the mail soon...

Margo, always stick to those standards. Even when it seems like it's okay to make an exception because of whatever circumstances, when you allow no breaches to your firm foundation, you will only grow stronger in your resolve to follow Jesus Christ and represent Him as a member of His true Church.

This week was full of service. Our bishop moved out and we got a new one, so we spent a lot of time helping pack up his house and tear down fences and transport alpaca and whatnot. Our ward mission leader, Brother Jarvis, also moved this week, but only to another house within the ward. Whew! He's too great to lose!

As far as finding and teaching, it was a pretty successful week. Elder Benedict and I worked very hard and taught a lot of lessons. Well, thirteen, which is a lot for us!

We visited our recent convert, Jordan, on Tuesday and Thursday of this week. On Tuesday, we spent some time in Mosiah taking turns reading one verse at a time, and then the reader of that verse would break it down for everyone else. This was Elder Benedict's idea, and it was highly effective! We made a lot of progress with Jordan's Book of Mormon comprehension and rekindled a slightly dimmed flame for feasting upon the world of God. On Thursday, we returned to find out that Jordan had had a fantastic personal study on his own where he understood perfectly everything in Mosiah 2. He received a lot of personal revelation while studying that helped understand what he read. I even received my own revelation as we went over it with him! Elder Benedict pointed out that Jordan's study skills have improved exponentially since he was baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

After leaving Jordan's house, we both felt prompted to stop at a former investigator's house nearby. Ryan let us right in and invited us onto his back porch (this has never happened to me). He told us he had some questions he wanted to ask (I must admit I braced for anti, but Elder Benedict had faith!) and we dove right in! He had come across some terms in the Topical Guide that sparked his interest. We addressed his questions concerning "count", "countenance", and "counselor". The last term initiated a discussion on the Holy Ghost. We read with him in 2nd Nephi 31 about the need to be baptized and discussed having the proper authority. Conveniently, this has always been Ryan's hang-up. At one point, he expressed that he knows he's felt the Spirit and been guided by It, but not consistently in life. We testified of the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority necessary to receive it. I think he had a lot of concerns addressed that night. We invited him to be baptized, he firmly declined a date, but we lovingly came back and soft committed him, expressing that we don't make these invitations because we want him to join the Church, but because we know the priesthood and the Holy Ghost will bless his life. He was very receptive to that and even invited us to go crabbing with him sometime soon!

We met a guy named Caleb through Derek who is returning to activity and he told us his life story. The short of it is that he and his younger brother were out skateboarding seven years ago and decided to skitch (or hang onto while riding) on the back of a friend's pickup. Caleb encouraged the driver to go faster, his younger brother hit a sewage grate, and then suffered immense brain damage. While he wasn't expected to live, his younger brother is actually walking, talking, and almost fully functioning today. Apparently, though, his reasoning skills are severely affected. It was a sad story, and Caleb is just now recovering spiritually from that, but I can't help but notice how many people I've come across with neurological disorders or severe brain trauma and for some reason, it makes me really feel like that's where I want to go in life. I want to be able to solve those seemingly insurmountable problems.

We visited Farlan on the fly on Saturday and he almost didn't let us in. But then he decided he had no reason not to. We sat and talked for a while about his concerns. He struggles with a lot of little things and, I think, an overall lack of drive to progress. It's hard. We will continue to pray for him. He promised he would be at church yesterday, and then he wasn't.

Speaking of, I spoke in church yesterday! I shared a story from Christian's and my experience in Austin during our senior year:

(From my email to Christian last week)

Do you remember when we were in Austin for History Fair and stopped
for lunch at Chipotle after our event? It was a good lunch, a good
time. We emerged from the restaurant with carryout boxes and full
drink cups, satisfied and high on life. After rounding the corner and
while waiting to cross MLK Jr. Blvd in downtown Austin, a downtrodden
and disparaged homeless man rounded the corner and walked in our
direction. One hand was carrying a small amount of leftover food -
some sort of beans and rice or something - and his left ear was
swollen and covered in a soiled, filthy bandage badly in need of
replacement. Before he could reach us, he tripped over a poorly laid
slab of concrete that jutted up at its border with an adjacent slab,
and went down hard, his meager portions splayed out on the hot Austin
sidewalk. You and I immediately rushed to his aid, grabbed him under
the armpits - which emanated a stale odor - and helped him up. Though
the rest of our group stood and watched inertly, our reaction to go
and help was instinctive. We assisted him in picking up the food he
had dropped and returned to our group. I remember looking down at my
cup of Dr. Pepper and your styrofoam box containing half a burrito and
suggesting that we didn't really need our food as much as he did. You
gladly consented, and we gave him what we had. He thanked us
profusely, with lots of 'God bless you two gentlemen. God bless you,'
and we crossed the street.

I don't know if I ever told you, but immediately following that
experience, Matthew 25:40 rang in my mind: 'Inasmuch as ye have done
it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto
me.' Isn't that amazing? Christian! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was
an hungered and we gave him meat. When I teach this principle, tell
this story, and testify of the Spirit I felt that day, it is
unfailingly powerful. It almost always brings me to tears.

We also had a lesson with Ellen, who suffers from severe epilepsy, on Saturday. It was a powerful message about the Restoration that we geared towards how the gospel blesses families. What's funny is that Elder Benedict and I didn't have a chance to plan anything for the lesson because of service, but we both felt the Spirit guiding us to relate our message and testimonies to the family. It was so awesome! Ellen agreed to be baptized on the 3rd of August.

On Saturday morning, we attended the funeral service for Sister Kam. She died suddenly from a brain tumor last week. Her husband, Wally, was broken up for a while, but the service was overall very uplifting. The ward misses her very much. The last thing she said before going into surgery was, "Please get my Primary class covered."

We got ourselves a new mission president today! Whoop! We'll meet him tomorrow afternoon. Should be exciting!

Elder Benedict and I have disagreements somewhat often. They're not usually a big deal, but sometimes it gets a little bristly. We've developed a very valuable skill of being open about our disagreements, discussing it, and working through it to find a solution. Every time, we're able to come to terms and are united more securely as a result. It's something I feel many people my age are not well-practiced in. That is, working out inconsistencies with other people face to face and flushing out those negative feelings before they eat you up.

I love you all, and I pray for you daily. Stay true to the faith. As Brother Kam once told me, "The Gospel will and must be your strength."

Elder Martin