Monday, August 19, 2013

[8/19/2013] Week 23: I split my helmet in two!

Hey, pops!

Man, I can't believe Brandon's headed home this week. Y'all must be so excited! What else is weird is that means I've been out six months already. :o

This week was cool. It had its successes and its failures. I conducted exchanges with Elder Larson on Wednesday. We went to his area, which has been struggling for a while now. I'm not really sure how to help them. They just don't have anyone to teach, and finding is difficult too. Elder Larson struggles with street-contacting, and having served in a bike area for three transfers, that's one of my strong suits. He and Elder Wells work very hard, and they are very obedient, but I don't know about their faith. I think they're in one of those "dead areas" where its reputation precedes it and so they don't expect anything to happen. I have consulted with the zone leaders about it, and I think they're going to exchange with Elder Larson and Wells in their own area where there is a lot of street contacting to be done, so that they can get some good practice in.

Tami wasn't feeling well this week and had to cancel our lesson. She didn't make it to church for the same reason, but we stopped by a few times to see how she was doing. Those visits really brightened her day.

We also found two new investigators this week, both of which are pretty solid. I was on exchanges for one of them, so I haven't yet met her, but the other was a referral, named Christina Sowell. Her late husband, to whom she was married for 34 years, was a member of the Church. She worked a lot with the Relief Society and even sent one of her sons on a mission, but never joined herself, as she was raised Catholic. Now she is questioning the Catholic church, stating that she "can't deal with the hypocrisy anymore". She wants to know what the Mormon Church is all about, so we're the right guys for the job!

Here's a funny story: Spending the day in Thomas Lake ward meant being on bike. Since Elder Wells spent the day in my area, I used his bike while on exchanges with Elder Larson. Elder Wells' bike isn't the nicest. In fact, it's in rough shape. The brakes don't work at all, it's auto-shifting function is hardly functional, and for bonus points, I'm pretty sure it's a girl bike. So we were riding down a hill, gaining speed and all, when a couple of teenagers on bikes come around the corner ahead of us and start riding straight at us. Keep in mind, this missionary has no brakes. I made eye-contact with one of them shortly, and he rode off the sidewalk and onto the grass, as though to go around the tree at right and then get back on the sidewalk after we passed each other. Well, in a split second he was back on the sidewalk and I knew it was all over. While he tried to veer off the other side of the sidewalk, it was too late. My front wheel rammed into his back wheel, I flew off into the dirt, he flew off into the street, we both rolled it out and were all good (though the helmet I was wearing split in two--I don't remember hitting my head). After getting up, helping the other guy up, and dusting ourselves off, I heard Elder Larson say, "Julio! Where have you been man?!" I had just engaged in a dramatic bicycle crash with one of their former investigators, that they hadn't heard from in a while. Talk about street-contacting!

Something else funny: While helping a family move up the street, we decided to get creative with the trampoline. Basically, we took the legs off, rolled the rest of the structure out of the back yard, and put it on top of the small U-Haul truck and drove it to their new house a few blocks away. It looked really awesome!

I must admit that progress with Elder Julius is slow-ish. I'm definitely doing a lot better at avoiding arguments about stupid things and keeping conversation positive. This will likely be our last week together, as he'll probably go back to Spanish next transfer. I'm determined to make it a great week!

We had a super fiery-awesome zone conference this week. One activity consisted of getting up on a soap box and preaching to a crowd of "hecklers", which were just other missionaries. But it was a good practice in deflecting silly anti questions and teaching with power and testimony.

Side note to Dad: Do you remember how I was super reluctant to buy the grey suit for whatever reasons and we argued about it and stuff? Well, I get compliments on it more than anything else, and now it's my favorite suit! So thanks! Haha. 

Thanks for keeping me updated on life at home. It really means a lot, especially since I'm the only one out here for a while. I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Sunday, August 18, 2013

[8/12/2013] Week 22: Fit the Call

Hey, hey! 

This week we had a fantastic lesson at a member's home with Tami. We had dinner and then read out of 1 Nephi 8 using the same read-around technique that I learned from Elder Benedict. This was super effective in helping her understand the significance and power of Lehi's dream. She loved hearing everyone's thoughts and testimonies and the Spirit was incredibly extant amidst those present and in my heart. I was wrought upon to be super bold! I asked Tami straight-up: "Do you believe this [the Book of Mormon] is the word of God?" She really does! I also asked, "Do you feel the love of God right now?" She really did! She described feeling torn between her Catholic roots and the Mormon church. Her only hang-up is that she doesn't feel ready to commit 100% to the lifestyle embraced by members of the Church. In fact, she's not sure she's ready to pay tithing, having just finalized a divorce and feeling a little constricted at the wallet. I think she knows what all her spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon entails; she just isn't ready to commit yet. 

I conducted my very first exchange as a district leader this week with Elder Wells of Thomas Lake. We spent Thursday in his area, and to be honest, it kind of made me miss being in a bike area! During the summer, at least. We had a really successful day of street contacting and found some really solid potential converts. There was this one super cool guy from Sri Lanka, named Nelson, who was some sort of Apostolic Christian. I think Elder Wells needed that as a pick-me-up, because most often, they struggle to get anyone to listen, and that's tough on a new missionary. 

We also were able to go back and visit Brother Chamberlin, our newest investigator, who struggles with severe short-term memory loss. He remembered us! We had another short lesson, gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon (with our names, respective hometowns, and directions to the church inscribed on the inside cover), and invited him to come to church with us. The first time we invited him, he was warm and receptive. The second time, after he had forgotten, he was a little less so. He would rather go to church alone, as opposed to with others--presumably so he can come and go as he pleases.  He wasn't at church yesterday. 

So they always told me, "There's gonna be that one companion that you're just not going to get along with." I always thought, "Oh, I'm personable enough. I can get along with anyone, no problem." Well, y'all, I may have met my match! Haha, in all seriousness though, Elder Julius and I do struggle to get along from time to time. I think it's just our personalities. We are working through our differences slowly, and there haven't been any major incidents or anything, but there's a good amount of friction from time to time. Other times, we get along just fine and have good laughs and do well in the work.

Wellp, Brandon is heading home from Ghana this week. That's pretty crazy. Now I'll be the only missionary out from the Martin home! Not for long though. Only about 200 yards. (teehee) Christian will be out soon enough!

It's super cool that the trucks are going.

I can't believe Margo is a teenager now! I'm working on a letter 'n' stuff to send her shortly. I'm way late. "Sorrrrrry!" (guy thrown out of window, Emperor's New Groove). 

Hahahaha, that story from Mom is so funny. It's weird to think that I actually used to date girls, though. I'm a missionary! That's all I've ever been as far as I'm concerned. The weirdest thing is when you try to recount stories from before the mission and you absent-mindedly refer to yourself in those stories as "Elder". And then you have to correct yourself, but you're not sure if you should because then you're revealing your first name to the world. And then you do anyway because you realize it's not a big deal. As long as your audience promises to continue to address you as "Elder" because it's, well, you know, representative of the gravity and mantle of your calling and all.  

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Sunday, August 11, 2013

[8/5/2013] Week 21: The Lord Can Do Anything!


It has been another great week. We had a great lesson on Monday with Tami, our most solid investigator. We read with her from the Book of Mormon and talked all about families. We studied and discussed "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" as well. I think she liked a lot of what she heard, especially since she has had a lot of family issues lately and she worries constantly for her daughters, as she is very close to them. We had another lesson scheduled for this evening, but she is unable to make it. We rescheduled for Friday evening.

I have been doing a lot better about talking with everyone and remembering to ask for referrals from everyone. This is something I have been working on and while there hasn't been much direct success just yet, I have faith! Plus, it just feels good to be doing the right thing. When we were walking out of a dinner appointment on Monday, a man walked across the driveway holding a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was too great of timing, and so we talked to him. Turns out he lives just down the street from the members whose home we were exiting and knows them fairly well. He said we could "come on by any evening so [he] can pick [our] brains". We have tried a few times and not caught them home, but it won't be long before we're in there and teaching!

While on exchanges a few weeks ago with Elder Stack, we tracted into a lady named Tracy. She was immediately positive in response, but was busy when we knocked on her door. She said to come back the following Friday (we couldn't make it because of interviews). We set up another appointment which also fell through; she wasn't home. The other day, we were headed to a dinner appointment and I felt impressed to stop at Tracy's house and see if we could set another appointment. We did and after setting the appointment, I was prompted to ask her a few questions about why she was so receptive to having us over. She expressed that her cousin had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer and so she became curious about God and things. I testified of the power and strength I've received through the gospel of Jesus Christ during hard times. The Spirit was definitely there for those few moments. It was like a test-drive of the Spirit for Tracy!

On Tuesday evening, Elder Julius and I had a peculiar experience. It was about 8:40 and we decided to visit a less-active as our last-ditch effort for the evening. We knocked, dogs barked a while, and finally a man answered the door. He introduced himself as Harvey Chamberlin, the father of the less-active we were looking to visit. He asked where we were from and responded with Houston and Phoenix. He said he'd been to both of those places several times, but that he doesn't really get out much anymore. He likes to go to the gym, but hasn't even done that in a while. He had trouble remembering the name of the gym. Then he asked us where we were from. We said Houston and Phoenix, and then he said he'd been there several times, but that he doesn't get out much anymore. He tries to go to the gym, but not too often anymore. We taught him a little about the Book of Mormon and about the gospel. Every now and then, he'd ask where we were from and the same conversation would ensue. He used to be a criminal defense attorney and had a near-photographic memory. One day somewhere around 2000, mid-trial, mid-sentence, he froze. He stood stone-still as if for dramatic effect until the judge finally decided to call a recess. He had had a major stroke and has suffered severe short-term memory loss ever since. He was happy enough to see us and invited us back any time. We are still going to try teaching him. It'll be interesting maybe, but the Lord can do anything!"

Brother Robinson admitted this week that he knows the Book of Mormon is just as true as the Bible; "that it can't be no other way." He also figures "if Joseph Smith was a seer and a translator, that just as well makes him a prophet, don't it?" And he "wouldn't have joined the Church if [he] didn't know it was the one true church of Jesus Christ." He claims he was just puttin' us on--that he knows all this. Well, Elder Julius and I suspect he may have just changed his mind and is trying to save a little face. We'll take it! On Saturday, we visited him again and talked a lot about temple marriage. He and his wife have had a great marriage of 60+ years and he suspects that won't change after death. But they were only married civilly. We kind of pushed the issue too hard and he closed up on us a little. He is still happy to have us over, but he doesn't want to talk about the temple for a while. We think there is something else going on.

After dinner on Wednesday, we asked for referrals, and that sparked a conversation about a less-active family, the Smiths, up the road. We learned a lot about their history and concerns and decided to go ahead and visit them right after dinner. We dropped in, shared the story of Nephi and Laban with the kids, and then they went to bed. Then I felt prompted to ask about their upcoming weekend. I did and we got into this fantastic conversation about why they haven't been coming to church - he is a youngish return missionary for crying out loud! They really want to come back especially for the kids. We talked about what we can do to help. They were just so open and humble about it. Sister Smith talked a lot about her conversion story and how she hangs onto that when her family attacks her beliefs. I really felt them start to trust us a lot that evening. We've definitely kick-started some momentum in their reactivation.

On Thursday, I had my retinas checked and that took a good amount of the day. When headed back, we were inspired to go visit another less-active we hadn't met yet. We did, found them home, were let in for a great discussion, gave them blessings and dedicated the home, and invited them to come to church. They are really great people who want to come back! But they're afraid of not knowing anyone or being judged. We've already gotten the Relief Society president in there and they have made a great connection.

After lunch on Friday with our bishop, we headed back to finish our studies. But on the way home, I was prompted to visit Brother Lothyan (another less-active return missionary) on the fly. After a few U-turns, we made it over there and found him outside checking the mail. Without mincing too many words, we asked if he'd be willing to accompany us to a few appointments with some ladies in the area. We had struggled all morning to find an adult male, and here was the answer to our prayers! Turns out, we were an answer to his. He tearfully told us that just as we showed up, he had been suffering some intense temptation to break sobriety. Instead of that, he had an opportunity to go do the work of salvation! I am so humbled that Heavenly Father inspired us to drop in at the right time so we could provide an escape from temptation for Brother Lothyan. That was truly an amazing experience.

I can't believe Brandon is headed home soon! Aggghhhblahblah! Haha. That's so awesome. Maybe I can be as awesome a missionary as him one day!

Dad, just last night at dinner with a member, we shared a spiritual thought about just that: preparing ourselves and our family for the latter days. In my personal study, I came across Alma 48:7-10 and I thought about preparing for the perilous times ahead. There is a shadow and a type in this thing!

How is Seth doing? I got Mom's letter/M&M's. I don't worry as much for his physical well-being these days. I know he will be fine. But I am concerned for his testimony! Hosanna is a really great place, but it is not the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! You cannot be overwhelmed by the amazing, cleansing spirit of the Temple at Hosanna. You cannot exercise the authority of God and perform saving ordinances for your children at Hosanna. You cannot heal the sick or raise the dead at Hosanna. You cannot feast upon the words of modern-day prophets or ancient prophets of the Book of Mormon at Hosanna. At Hosanna, you can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost and worship Jesus Christ, but that's about it. It's passive. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allows for active, progressive, and eternal worship, service, and learning. That's what it's all about!

Can you tell I'm learning how to be a bold missionary? :p

Love y'all!

Elder Martin

PS: Here's another thing. We just moved into a different apartment a little while ago, and the water heater is acting up. I had to take TWO cold showers this week. Ugh. Can you believe that, Brandon? It was awful. Keep me in your prayers.


PPS: So Brother Robinson is actually a master bike mechanic and he had this totally rad clown bike just chillin' in his garage. Had to try it out.

PPPS: Also, also.

I had my eye checked this past week for retinal detachment. Everything is fine. He actually said he didn't find any latticing or anything, like Dr. Hovis found. I donno. I'm still gonna keep an eye on it..

Pun intended!

Also, also, also. When Christian puts in his papers, try and time it so that he gets his call before Mother's Day. That way, you can wait and open it on Mother's Day when we all webcam! Yay! :p Haha, that would be really cool if we could do that. I understand if it doesn't work out though.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

[07/29/2013] Week 20: Member Rescue

Conrad and Kaylin with me and Elder Benedict

This was a good week. It was filled with lots of  service and a good amount of small miracles.

I have been striving daily to be a better missionary for the Lord and leader for my district. I receive a lot of support from the zone leaders, Elders Stack and Parke, in helping me develop and grow. I feel their love for me and I try to reciprocate that same love to the other missionaries in my district. I really do feel a connection to the Thomas Lake elders and the Eastmont sisters; I want them to see success in their areas and recognize the Lord's hand in all things. This is certainly a result of serving them and helping them learn. Though, I must admit, I learn just as much from each of them.

We had two investigators at church yesterday - Tami and Jeff. Our lesson with Tami on Tuesday went really, really well. She expressed to us that she has been talking with a lot of friends - some who are pastors -  about her decision to investigate the Church. They have responded with interesting ideas about the Church and its members, but she put her foot down and stood up for the Church, saying she knows Mormons now and that they're really good Christian people. Yesterday, a return missionary gave a fantastic talk on baptism, and it was something that Tami and Jeff really needed to hear. We honestly think it's just a matter of time before Tami has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and decides to be baptized.

We spend a lot of time on the rescue effort in this area. I love that. For the most part, it is very rewarding to be able to invite the Spirit back into people's lives that they might return to the fold. The Robinson's are a heavy focus for us right now. They're an older couple baptized many years ago, and then inactive for forty years, until recently. We've have determined that their conversion was a social one, and have decided to re-teach them all the lessons, as though investigators, with the Melchizedek priesthood and an eternal temple marriage as our goal. That said, we had a fantastic lesson on the Restoration with the Robinson's on Wednesday, and we even had Brother Paskett, their active member fellowshipper, present! One of Brother Robinson's hang-ups is that "you can't ask God for big things" like whether the Book of Mormon is true or whether Joseph Smith was the prophet who restored the true Church of Jesus Christ. But we taught him all kinds of example from the scriptures where people asked God for big things and were blessed immensely. Such examples included the story of the Brother of Jared and the stones (Ether 2-3) and, of course, the story of the First Vision (Joseph Smith--History 1:5-20). In response to the latter, he said, "Gee, I've never heard that story before..." We committed him to pray about Joseph Smith and will follow up shortly. He had sort of a hard time saying yes, so we'll see how it goes.
Conrad and daughter, Ashlyn

The absolute highlight of my week was being able to attend Conrad's baptism. You may already know that he moved from Seattle Hill to Shoultes while I was serving in Shoultes. So it was great to be able to drive up with the bishop of the Seattle Hill ward, the man who married Conrad to his wife, Kaylin, and witness this great guy's baptism. We also had the opportunity to see Kaylin's step-mom, who is investigating in the Seattle Hill ward, this past week and invite her to the baptism. She attended as well. I can't wait for this time next year when Conrad and Kaylin are able to be sealed eternally to each other and to their baby, Ashlyn!

I think it's awesome that the trucks are coming together. I'm so excited!

Brandon comes home next month. That's insane! I can't wait to hear all his crazy stories!

In the past week, I've had the opportunity to show people pictures of Christian and they all scream and yell and howl because of his "striking resemblance to Matt Damon/Jason Bourne". So funny.

How is everythnig going in the ward back home? Well, I hope. Keep me updated!


Elder Martin

My brother, Christian and me