Monday, May 26, 2014

[3/17/2014] Week 54: Looking to the Future

Hey, hey!

This week was kind of weird. I was sick almost all week with a cold, and on Friday, I ended up taking a Schedule B. I was pretty spacey in some of our lessons on Thursday night and Friday morning, so I guess it was clear I needed a break. Anyway, by now, I'm about 90%, so we're doing good!

In other news, Kellie Edwards was indeed baptized on the 13th in Utah! Whoop!

This whole transfer has been weird for me, and I don't really know why. The best way for me to describe it is to say that I have felt as though I were elsewhere. I mean, I was here in Blaine, of course. But I felt removed. In a lot of ways, I felt as though I went through the motions. It makes little sense to me because we have had more success here than I've ever experienced in my mission. But we got into a pretty good rhythm of seeing investigators several times a week on the same days of each week (Darien on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Denogeans on Fridays and Sundays, Edwards' on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, etc.), and I think I got bored of it. Or something. So I fell into a rut. And I've been sort of floating. And now that most of those people are baptized and many are handed off to ward missionaries/home teachers. Some days are better than others. But some days, I just am out of it. I don't know how much sense I'm making. All I know is that I spent three transfers in both of my previous areas, and in both I was desirous to stay for a fourth. But here, where I've had incredible success, and where there is lots more coming down the pipeline, I kind of feel like I need (or maybe just want) a change. Just something different. I don't really know why. I love the members, and I love our converts and investigators. I have a darn good companion.

That said, yesterday and the day before were an upswing. So currently, I feel like I can definitely do another transfer here and work hard and enjoy it. In other words, I'm bipolar.

I was hesitant to say all that because I feel like I'm doing fine, and I don't want anyone to worry. And I don't want to sound like I'm complaining or, to be honest, like I'm incompetent. Now that I write all of that out, I feel silly.

The next-to-bottom line is: I would not mind staying here in Blaine. I would love to. I would not mind a fresh scene. I would love that. That's just what I'm feelin'.

The bottom line is: It's not about me, and I understand that.

Aaron and I
Let me tell you about Aaron. He is a referral received from Kevin (mentioned a few weeks ago), the less-active member from Salt Lake City. Aaron worked at Subway with Kevin, but has heretofore been let go (some money came up missing, and so a slough of employees were punished). Well, we were introduced to Aaron on Monday night, set an appointment to teach him for Thursday afternoon, saw him by chance at the library on Tuesday morning, had a short Restoration pamphlet lesson with him at the local Pizza Factory, invited him to be baptized, learned that he was MIA on Thursday and missed our appointment, he reappeared on Friday (he had gone to Seattle for some legal paperwork), took him to a baptism in Lynden on Saturday, put him on-date on Saturday evening, took him to church on Sunday morning and to a dinner appointment on Sunday evening where he talked about how genuine Latter-day Saints are, how he feels inexplicably drawn to make this course-change in his life, and where he asked how long until he can serve a mission. Oh, right. Aaron is 20 (just 23 days older than I) and he's homeless. Well, he calls it semi-homeless because he's currently sleeping on the floor in a Farmers Insurance office during the nighttime. But he rummages through dumpsters behind Cost Cutter in search of stale donuts -- his entree of choice most nights. Yesterday morning, a member of the bishopric asked if any of us were hungry, and Aaron responded, "No thanks. I had dinner." He's been in foster families through California and Montana for most of his life. All of the families he lived with were careless and abusive. He worked on a fishing boat in Alaska for a short time before getting involved in a fist  fight and being booted. He also mentioned that he worked on a cafeteria staff at a research lab in Antarctica. I guess he gets fired a lot. He leads an unstable life. But he also hopes and dreams, passions and talents. He wants to own and operate a bike shop one day. He has a special love for Montana, always slipping in comments about how Blaine is nice, but not like his old home state. He has seen the joy that Elder Jones and I have in doing missionary work and desires it for himself.

Now, don't fret! We're not poachers! We've got an appointment set with the Bellingham YSA elders to hand him off tomorrow afternoon. In fact, that's what we would have done on Thursday, but as I mentioned, Aaron took a slight detour, so we had to reschedule.

Dad, you're right. I've always had a problem with thinking about the future. I can't help it! It's just that I want to be absolutely sure I get all my ducks in a row so that I have the best opportunities possible. I mean there are certain timelines with applications and whatnot that don't exactly agree with my mission end-date. I just don't want to lose any extra time in getting my career and all that started. I guess I just don't trust Heavenly Father enough in that sense. Maybe what I meant with my request last week is for you to do research in my behalf. Just look around and research so that I don't have to. And I don't need to hear about any of it as of right now. I just want to know that I'll have a pool of information to dip into when the appropriate time does come to start college endeavors. Does that make sense?

Regardless, I still have a deferment to BYU for when I return home. And I'm definitely grateful for that safety net (not necessarily a last resort), but I don't want that to end up going there just because I've been guaranteed a spot.

That sounds like some crazy stuff going on the tech world. This is an opportunity for you to really get in the game, pops! Do research! Become the go-to guy for the forefront material! That would be awesome. You could probably knock five to ten years off your age if you became well-versed in the new stuff. :p You'd also have to get some thick-rimmed glasses and salt-and-pepper hair dye. And tight-ish dress jeans with pointy black dress shoes and a silky black button-up shirt, sleeves rolled up and tail untucked.

Love y'all!

Elder Martin

Sunday, May 25, 2014

[3/11/2014] Week 53: Baptism and Planalyzing

The Denogeans with Bishop Jenkins and Brother Broyles.
This week was pretty incredible. It was a baptism-filled week for sure. The Denogeans' baptismal interview was on Tuesday night, Dustin's was on Thursday night, and Kellie, who decided suddenly to fly to Utah on the 12th and be baptized there, had her interview on Saturday afternoon following the baptismal service of the two aforementioned parties.

The baptismal service was, in a word, glorious. The Blaine ward really blew my mind in how many people came out to show support. We didn't have enough chairs in the Relief Society room to seat everyone. A lot of people have been waiting on the edge of their seats to see the Denogeans baptized ever since we first started teaching them. I love to see a ward family so involved, invested, and in love with missionary work.

Dustin with Bishop Jenkins, Brother Broyles, and Brother Gallant.
Dustin's progress, on the other hand, was a little more under the radar, but I think that's the way he liked it. He already has a close set of good friends in the ward and stands up for the Church wherever he goes. He's even got a fisherman friend, Ryan, who is interested in meeting with us!

We witnessed and participated in the confirmation of all three converts yesterday morning during sacrament meeting, and the ordination of Adam and Dustin to the office of a Priest in the Aaronic priesthood during the second hour of church. Words really can't describe the joy and satisfaction I have felt over the past week and the past two days especially. It's just magnificent to watch real growth in the Church occur, to watch people's hearts change and witness a trend of increasing joy and satisfaction in their own lives. I just don't even know. And to think that I have year left to improve upon what I've already been blessed to accomplish. What more could there be than this?

We also had Mission Leader Council this week, where we were visited by President Shawn Moon of the Provo Utah YSA 10th stake presidency, (a.k.a. Sister Bonham's brother, a.k.a. Executive of Something-Or-Other at Franklin-Covey). We learned a lot from him about "creating a mission for our mission". That latter "mission" was used doubly to represent the organization we form here in Northwest Washington as well as the 18- to 24-month experience we are granted during this time of our lives. Quite Franklin-ly, I was sent away inspired and motivated to set goals and more seriously evaluate my purpose here and why the Lord needed my talents particularly. I have a lot to think about.

Birthday pictures at the Poll's house
I really love to hear about the family. I am sorry to here about Seth's downturn in health, but enthralled at his sudden upswing succeeding a priesthood blessing. These things ain't just coincidences, you know.

That Brandon is wrecking shop on all of his tests inspires me. I'm a little nervous about going back to school and having to brush the cobwebs from the already minimal piles of knowledge concerning calculus and physics and literary elements within my brain. But! All is well; I trust that I will have the Divine aid I need when the time comes to study again. After all, I'm doing what I need to do now.

I turn 20.
On that note, Brother Meaker in the Blaine ward bishopric had a lot of good to say yesterday about Western Washington University in Bellingham. It was a convincing argument, and I was hoping that you, Dad, could take a second look at it. If you could Czech out their website/credentials/whatever else and tell me what you gather, that would be awesome. I want to start slowly thinking about school and things. Towards the end of my mission, I'll be allowed to apply to schools on p-days, so I'd like to start gathering information soon. Also, could you find out whether I might qualify for in-state tuition here in Washington since I will have lived here for two years?

Christian's emails are suddenly arriving with more consistency and substance each week. I enjoy this. However, I'm going to need an update on the status of his mission papers each week. Thank you.

Biking in the pouring rain is the best!
Mom, your dreams and goals are becoming reality! There seems to be a pattern in the Washington Everett Mission of goals being accomplished, hype being raised, complacency instilled, and then a drop in progress again. So be aware! You're on a good track, so make it an escalator and not an elevator. :p

Margo, I'm glad to hear you're doing well at band. When you get to high school, remember that Mr. G is really a good man, who is very passionate about what he does. Disregard what you hear from other students or even what you may gather based on your first impressions of him. Do your best to humble yourself and work with him to help accomplish his vision of the band program. If you do this, you will always have a blast.

I love y'all!

Plus a picture of me right after getting in for the night. It was kind of a rainy and windy bike ride. But so much fun!

Elder Martin

PS: Oh! And someone from home sent me a shirt and tie in the mail for my birthday. They ought to know that the shirt fits perfectly and it's definitely my favorite shirt out of them all. And the tie is super sweet. Thanks so much!

[3/3/2014] Week 52: A Year Out

Howdy y'all!

Well, it was kind of a weird week.

I mean, I turned 20 and all. And I hit my year-mark. But for a lot of the week, I was in a funk. Like, I was floating in limbo.

Honestly, I think it might be from not taking the sacrament in three weeks now. Oh, yeah. We missed church again yesterday due to inclement weather (if you're wondering, we went to the United Church of Christ this time). Since church is the culmination of
everything we missionaries do in a week, it's felt weird not having that checkpoint three weeks in a row. It's like we're running on endlessly teaching people with no real point of reference. It's hard to feel like there's any progression going on in our area without seeing people come to church--even though there's nothing we can do about it. Maybe there's a life lesson here...

Christian, I did indeed receive the package! Thanks much. It was delicious. Just what we needed. Went perfectly with a 24-pack of something dark red, delicious, and Texan that I keep in our refrigerator. I also received your card on Saturday--it was thoughtful and delightful. You know me so well.

Here's the biggest miracle from the week (and what do you know but it happened on Thursday, the 27th):

Kevin (LA found on my birthday) and Elder Jones.
Imagine you're at Subway with a couple of good friends. In the middle of your meal, a man in his late 20's whom you've never met walks through the front door of the business, approaches you straightway, and exclaims that he has been looking for you nonstop since he moved to Washington just over a week ago. He proceeds to pull up a chair, tell you his life story, break down in tears, discuss his gripping meth addiction and fragile state of recovery, point out touching scriptures in the Book of Mormon you had laying on the table, testify of the peace he's found "both" times he's opened that book, and plead with you to meet again and take the missionary lessons. These are the things that happen to you when you're living the life of a missionary. Raised in Salt Lake City, and baptized two years ago, Kevin only found true conversion three months ago--about the time his girlfriend left on a mission to Tallahassee. His father introduced him to meth at the age of 15 as incentive to clean the garage, and his indulgence in it has torn his life apart since. He compared it to money: when you ask someone what they think of money, they tell you, "Well, you can't do anything without money. You just have to have it." For Kevin, this was meth. He could not do anything without it. He also struggled with a mother and sisters who encouraged his dangerously suicidal tendencies. With this background and no desire to return to Salt Lake City, he picked up and fled. He ended up in Blaine and was warmly accepted by this small town, finding two jobs shortly thereafter and painting walls and sleeping in garages aside space heaters each night. When he crossed the border from Canada into Blaine, it was cold, dark, and rainy. He carried a few clothes in a bag, a handmade CTR ring, and absolutely no cash. Yet he couldn't help but feel the happiest he's felt in his life--and he didn't know why. One of the jobs he found was at the Subway at which we ate--we almost went elsewhere. Kevin told us he had been popping into the library near daily in hopes of running into us. In the process of taking a lady's trash out, he spotted at the bottom of the garbage can, a card and jumped at it in hopes that it would bear the missionaries' phone number, but it was blank. We've met with him once so far, and he's going to be on the lookout for referrals. He has one of the strongest testimonies I've ever seen, and being from Utah, he was livid that church was cancelled for less than an inch of snow. He wanted to bear his testimony!

Well, I'm out of time.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

So yeah, great birthday!

[2/24/2014] Week 51: So much SNOW!


Snow pictures were taken this morning on the way to the library.
There is a ton of snow outside right now. It snowed all day yesterday (church was cancelled) and all last night. And it's still snowing now. Elder Jones and I walked a whole mile (or so) in that blizzard just to email you fine people.

Dad, we recently had a stake conference that was just like that up here in the Bellingham, WA stake, complete with President and Sister Bonham and even a bonus missionary choir composed of the Ferndale and Bellingham zones. Most of the members came away edified and excited to do missionary work. President and Sister Bonham did a role play at the pulpit so that everyone could see how to do missionary work at the grocery store (and how to role play). It was awesome.

The second picture is of an igloo someone built!

The highlight of this week was for sure a visit from the Missionary Department head of the Church, Brother Lee Donaldson. Brother Donaldson is also the mission president from the District 2. He was awesome! Everything he taught us was basically an upheaval of everything I've done (as far as teaching is concerned) my whole mission. But it was so great! Basically, lessons will no longer ever go over 25 minutes. Ever. Forever. This way, everything we do inside an investigator's living room is brief, focused, and powerful. We barely skim the surface of the doctrine. Rather, we help them feel and recognize the Holy Ghost. They realize they like that feeling, and they seek after it after we leave.
Elder Lovell and I with the Edwards
That's when they read the Restoration pamphlet all the way through and learn the doctrine for themselves. The first segment of lesson 1 from Preach My Gospel is focused solely on helping the investigator receive revelation through prayer.  You hardly even talk about the Book of Mormon until the second appointment! We've had the opportunity to use this new method several times already, and it's working out great! President Bonham went on splits with Elder Jones and I, so he helped me teach a new investigator named Austin, whose family Elder Lovell and I tracted into late last year. He's 16, and, though he was raised by staunch Catholics, has trouble believing in God anymore. He really needs to learn how to receive answers to his prayers! Well, we have just the teaching method for him! He accepted a soft invitation to baptism at the end of our first lesson with him on the doorstep and again at the end of a lesson President Bonham on how to read the Book of Mormon.

In other news, Elder Jones and I attended the Blaine Christian Fellowship yesterday since our church in Ferndale was cancelled, and it was a pleasant experience, for the most part. One lady was slightly abrasive, but then she asked us to come by and talk to her son (who, it turns out, is dating a member of the bishopric's daughter and was almost baptized a year ago). Otherwise, people were really, really nice and happy to see us! After the sermon everyone came up to us and shook our hands and offered us cookies, cake, and coffee. We stuck to the cookies and cake.

On Friday, we had zone conference with the Bellingham and Mount Vernon zones, where we re-trained missionaries on Brother Donaldson's instruction. We also sang "Lord, I Would Follow Thee" a capella as a quartet, and I was super nervous. But it turned out great! Towards the end, Elder O'Rullian (now serving in Mount Vernon) played for everyone an original rendition of "Because I Have Been Given Much" and "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" on the piano. That dude is talented.

Elder Lovell and I with the Denogeans (right center)
and the Broyles (left center)
We taught a ton this week. The Denogeans are doing well, but have had to cancel/reschedule for two weeks in a row now, so we haven't taught them in forever. We should see them for sure on Wednesday, but it's a little disconcerting as their baptism is in just a few weeks. Dustin, as well, has acted funny in the past few days, and we're worried about him. His wife has caused him a lot of problems and heartache, and has practically (and even literally) spit in his face repeatedly. He realizes he just needs to leave her completely and move on, but it's difficult for him. We'll try and see him after we leave the library today.

Elder Lovell and I with Dustin
A lot of this week is already gone from my memory. Life is just so fast.

A lot of missionaries are on edge because of how much change and hard work the new training we received
will require, and one missionary said something concerning the matter that was profound, "The way I see it, if we don't start teaching this way now, the work in this mission will flounder. That training is not just a good idea. It is a commandment we received from a prophet of God. If we disregard it and keep doing what we're doing, we're disobeying God's commandments, and we can't receive blessings that way."

We enjoyed a nice dinner in this week.
That's really the truth with anything. As President Bonham always says, "One constant we can always count on is change." Heavenly Father expects us to be continually progressing, which means we're always having to change. It's uncomfortable, but if we dig our heels in the mud, adamant that "what we're doing now is working just fine", we're being disobedient to God's Plan and thus fail to qualify for His blessings.

Well, I love y'all.

I guess my birthday/hump day is coming up. Doesn't feel like it. I just know I have a year left on my mission, which, I like to pretend, is still a long time. But looking back, it's not. I think I'm having a mid-life crisis.

Elder Martin

Thursday, May 22, 2014

[2/18/2014] Week 50: The Light is Intense

Well, it's been a great week! I have a new companion -- Elder Logan Jones of Springville, Utah. This is his first transfer as a zone leader and he's just a transfer younger in the mission than I am. Which is weird to say because I still feel like I'm new and "learning the ropes".

I learned this past week that Blaine is actually part of what they call a "rain shadow". In other words, we get less rain than any of the surrounding areas for whatever reason. We're shielded from it somehow. So that's why we've been so spoiled this winter as compared to "normal Washington winters", which are in reality probably still going on outside of my proselyting area. Seeing as I'm on bike these days, I feel really blessed! Anyway, it happened to rain quite a bit this past week, but I have rain pants and a rain coat, so really, I stayed warm, dry, and giddy as I watched the rain cascade over my bike helmet visor between teaching appointments.

Tuesday was the day of transfers, so that was when I got Elder Jones from Mill Creek and we headed back up to Blaine (1.5 hour drive). Immediately after arriving home around 6, we had dinner with a member of the bishopric, and two teaching appointments that followed. We got in by 9, and seeing as zone meeting was the next morning, we had to plan for that, which kept us up till a little past 11. Elder Jones got a feel for the life of a zone leader right away!

Zone meeting was awesome. As always, since we planned and prepared prayerfully (p-p-p), it flew by like a dream and seemed to be effective and edifying for all the missionaries in our zone.

Every companionship in our zone was changed this transfer. One of the zone leaders from Snohomish last transfer is now a junior companion in Lynden, so I look forward to seeing what effects President's upheaval of leadership will take on what is typically rumored to be the "deadest" area in the mission. As of right now, they're already soaring in finding and teaching.

On Thursday, we conducted an exchange and I spent the day in Blaine with Elder Knight, who is on his third transfer in his second area. We had a blast, and though I was a little apprehensive about planning on my own for the first time in a while, Heavenly Father helped us come into contact with an miraculously high percentage of the potential investigators (one of whom became a new investigator) we had included in our plans. And it was a beautiful day. That was a blessing because Elder Knight forgot his helmet in Ferndale, so we walked all day long (the sister missionaries in Birch Bay lost their car recently, so they use ours for proselyting when we don't have zone leader-y stuff to do).

Elder Jones and I get along really, really well. He's actually the companion that Elder O'Rullian had in Anacortes, WA before he was transferred to Seattle Hill with me -- thus, Elder Jones was the missionary that stressed Elder O'Rullian out with extreme obedience and hard work. This is good for me, because I like having companions that are extremely obedient and hard working!

As for Elder O'Rullian, I saw him at transfers, and he is still hanging in there, which I was glad to hear. I have worried a lot about his well being since I left Everett. He knows he wants to finish out his mission, but he is considering transitioning to a service mission of some sort as proselyting gives him lots of anxiety, which yields depression.

The Denogeans are still on track for the 8th. Dustin decided to move his date to the 8th so that Brother Broyles can be there--he has National Guard training on the weekend of the 1st.

We had a lesson with the Edwards' on Sunday night, and there we learned that Kellie wants to be baptized here in Washington (originally, the intention was Utah, so that her husband's family's convenience) because she wants me to be there. She feels a special connection to me and feels I have taught her a lot. This information came as a huge surprise, but it also really humbled me to know that I really am placed here in Blaine by inspiration so that I can serve as a tool in the Lord's hand.

We're teaching a 12 year-old young man named Darien, who at this point in his life, as already experienced much trial. His parents are both out of the picture, and he lives with his grandparents, whose daughter and son-in-law, the Worlands, are active members of the ward. Actually, Brother Worland is the young men's president. Anyway, Darien is bullied at school and finds it difficult to make friends and feel socially accepted. I think he looks up to the missionaries a lot and has really taken to the Book of Mormon and the doctrines we teach in general. He is especially drawn to the idea of the Priesthood -- "being able to hold the power of God in you".

Christian, thanks for your email! I seriously cracked up pretty hard at a lot of what you said, which made me really miss you. It sounds like you're living a pretty sick life up at the Academy, and you're really making me want to go there. I had no idea you got a gun! That's awesome. I feel like that's something I'll be seriously looking into when I get back, so I'll need some advice. I'm glad you've made the decision to serve. I can't tell you everything is going to work out perfectly when you get back, but I can tell you the Lord will take care of you and that you'll have experiences on your mission that the thought of having missed out on them will bring you to tears.

Dude, Brandon is freakin' hot.
Seth, that face.
Margo, you're a pro. I can't wait to hang out with you and hear you tear it up on the French horn!

I love y'all! Take it easy!

Elder Martin

[2/10/2014] Week 49: Cold Gear

Hey, hey!

This week was, again, awesome.

Elder Lovell and I just finished up our last week together. He is getting transferred tomorrow, and we don't know where.

But! We taught 13 lessons to investigators with members present! That's pretty much unheard of. Well, at least I have never been anywhere close to that on my mission. And Dustin now officially has a baptismal date of March 1st! Heavenly Father just keeps pouring out His blessings upon us.

On Saturday, I mentioned we invited Dustin to be baptized, and he said he'd pray about it. Well, on Wednesday evening, he called us and told us he'd received an answer to his prayer. How sweet is that?!

We had Mission Leader Council on Thursday, and it was awesome as usual. However! President is doing some crazy things! He told us he would be upsetting the leadership structure of the mission. This transfer we will see former zone leaders as junior companions and former senior companions transferred straight to zone leader areas. Elder Lovell is one of the few that was released from being a zone leader and reassigned as a district leader. Most of them are now regular proselyting missionaries. When President made this announcement, there was just an outpouring of the Spirit, and I know this is the right direction for the mission. It just makes so much sense! Now the more experienced missionaries will be more spread out, and, instead of a few strong areas here and there, many areas will be receiving a boost. More missionaries will have an opportunity to lead and administer than before. It's just so awesome! My new companion will likely be a missionary who just came from being a senior companion, so I will have some teaching (and learning) to do.

The Denogeans are doing wonderfully. We finished all the lessons with them, so we're going into detail on whatever topic we feel inspired to cover. Their date is still the 8th of March, but I think they may decide to move it up. Then again, Brother Denogean is the kind of guy who, if he commits to something, is going to be 100% sure he does it. They have both quit alcohol, tobacco, and tea completely and are currently weening themselves off of coffee, using less and less scoops per pot each day. When I mentioned that it had to taste horrible, his response was, "Yep. It sure does." I'm so proud of them!!

I think I've mentioned the Edwards family before. He is just returning to activity, and his wife is not a member, though she loves the gospel and can't wait to be baptized. They have a 6 month-old daughter named Ava, and a beautiful black lab named Danke. Anyway, Brother Edwards spoke in sacrament meeting yesterday, and it was awesome! He talked about how the gospel has helped him cherish his family and how the thought of depriving his wife and daughter, especially, of the gospel was just saddening. So they're doing great! She wants to be baptized in Utah where his family lives, so they just need to figure out when they can get the money to go down there, and she will have a baptismal date!

This week, it dawned on me that the hastening of the work of salvation is real. There were several days this week that Elder Lovell and I found we just had no time for anything as we were running from appointment to appointment. We haven't tracted in weeks! And members are continually telling us about people they've met that want to hear the gospel! This place is really every missionary's dream. I love it here.

In response to your email, the thermals Mom got me were mismatched - the bottoms from Wally World and the top from Family Thrift Center. But they work great! And I could use them still because it's windy/rainy/chilly - especially on bike - at least through April. Plus, there's next winter.

Seth and Brandon are both wearing my clothes in that picture. But they both look so dang good I just can't complain.

I'm super excited to hear about Christian. Speaking of, I heard Bethsy is going to Mexico?? Sick!

Outta time, outta breath. I love y'all!

As for a birthday/hump day package, sweaters and thermals would be awesome. I will also put in a request for a GPS. I know money is really tight, and those things can run pretty expensive. I've been fortunate enough to where my companion has always had one or the streets are numbered such that manual navigation is a cinch, but this area is a little different and my companion is leaving. If you could even find a super cheap, pre-used, old model on Craigslist, that would be great. But if not, seriously don't sweat it. I will figure it out.

I don't need much candy. You wouldn't believe the amount of desserts/sweets that get dumped on the missionaries. It's awesome, but two stomachs just can't consume it all.

I have a ton of pictures, but I forgot my SD card reader, so next week!


Elder Martin

[2/3/2014] Week 48: Super Bowl

Wow, yeah. Everyone in the ward was super stoked about the Super Bowl. However, Brother Broyles (mentioned in past emails) grew up in Colorado and is a huge Broncos fan. Looks like it's time to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. (Mosiah 18:8-10)

This week, though still pretty awesome, was slower than past weeks this transfer. We still taught a ton, but we didn't get to see the Denogeans, as they both got super sick, among a few of our other key investigators. But you know what? It's ok! We have a pretty darn good week set up from what we can tell.

I want every one to know that I am still happy and still healthy. Though yesterday, my lower back joints started to hurt/ache seemingly unprovoked. I'm doing ok now.

I absolutely love being a missionary. I haven't always felt that way, but things are really great here in Blaine. We teach a ton and always have lots to do. Pretty much the only tracting we do is on exchanges with other missionaries. That's part of the source of our success, I think, is that we have focused a ton on working with the other missionaries in our zone. And we're sort of frustrated because we're seeing all this success here, but we couldn't figure out how to ramp it up in other areas. By the end of this transfer however, it's seeming that things are picking up. The slower areas, which are staffed with stellar missionaries, are finding new investigators and teaching just a little more each week.

I was thinking about Moses and the Red Sea recently and how cool it would be to experience that Bible story. Can you imagine treading the dry sea floor betwixt two enormous walls of water? Just picture looking up at that glorious, powerful, breath-taking, humbling sight. Wouldn't that be amazing to have taken part in an event that would be preached and revered for millenia to come? Well, it hit me. Guess what? We're part of the hastening of the work of salvation preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah! This is it! Right now! And we get to help people find Christ, know Him, and come unto Him! So they can be saved! This is a period of time of which has been prophesied since the beginning! The hastening is real in the Blaine ward. Prepared children of God just fall out of the sky and drink freely from the Waters of Life.

Speaking of, Dustin is moving right along. He's come to church twice in a row for all three hours. He reads frequently from the Book of Mormon and finds it more believable than the Bible because of how well he sees it applies in his life. Everything at church seems to pertain to him, seems to speak to him. He feels more welcome than anywhere else and has seen every other aspect of his life look up since he started meeting with us. He absolutely believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet and is still working on the idea that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. We invited him to baptized on Saturday night, and his response was something like this: "You know, that idea has been brought up again and again since I first met you guys. I was raised Catholic, and at first it was 100% no way I'm doing that. But I keep catching myself thinking about it, how I shouldn't be so judgmental. As time goes by, all the signs keep telling me there's something here for me. Now I'm really starting to realize that this could be a possibility. I'm thinking it's a good possibility. I'm gonna have to pray about it and get back to you." Which is fine by us!

What do you know, but the lesson in Sunday School yesterday was on baptism! Yay-uhhh!

We got our Fusion back on Friday. :(

Oh, by the way! Do y'all remember how I told you that Alanna (my ex-girlyfriend) asked me some wonderful questions in a letter? Well, I finally finished my letter/received a hardback Book of Mormon in which I wrote my testimony. So it's goin' out today! I'll keep you updated!

Any word on Christian's mission papers?

Yes, I do get to see all of the embedded stuff. It's a nice touch!

It does get pretty cold here sometimes. You asked in a letter if I was staying warm. I do pretty well, but I could really use another sweater or two. And another set of thermals would be nice for laundry purposes, but not vital. I know money's tight. If you are able to send either, I would need white thermals (not garment thermals--I like to be able to layer), and any sweaters would have to be full sleeve, v-neck, and one solid color to fit missionary dress code. Any color is fine, though I already have a brown sweater. I am a small (not fat yet!).

These past two transfers have blazed by. As I approach my "hump day", I have thought quite a bit about how I've changed as a person and as a disciple of Jesus Christ and about what kind of impact I've been able to have on the lives of those I've served. Right now, I'm really not sure. But I hope it's all for the better.


Elder Martin

Sunday, May 4, 2014

[1/27/2014] Week 47: The Other Shoe

Dear Mister Pham E. Lee,

I don't know about the Fusion. Probably, but we don't want it back, because the Corolla has a USB port for playing music, which makes life easier. Either way, we don't use it much because the sisters in the Blaine ward lost their car, so we share the Corolla, and they use it most of the time.

But thank you for the animated GIF. It made my day!

Right now, Elder Lovell and I have the largest teaching pool either of us have had our whole missions. We have 10-12 investigators with 6-7 that are making real progress and two with baptismal dates with more to come this week. Of those 10-12 investigators, 7 come from FAMILIES ("FAMILY" is an all-caps word in our mission)! We have been immensely blessed! We keep racking our brains to try and figure how we could possibly deserve all the work that Heavenly Father has given us, and we keep coming up blank.

The Denogeans are doing wonderfully. Brother Denogean has not chewed tobacco in over a week, Sister Denogean is done with tea, they are both still working on coffee, and neither has touched alcohol since 2013. Get this, Brother Broyles (member fellowshipper) decided it wasn't right for him to sit and watch Brother Denogean suffer through quitting tobacco, so he decided he'd give up energy drinks right along with him. So now they both endure headaches together every day. What a guy! Since the Word of Wisdom, we have also taught Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, The Law of Chastity, and The Law of Tithing and Fast Offering. The third-mentioned item was one of great consequence, but the Broyles were there to testify of the countless temporal and spiritual blessings that come from paying a full, honest tithe.

On Wednesday, Elder Lovell and I received a phone call, out of the blue, from a man named Dustin. He heard from someone who lives in his area that he could receive financial help from the Church (cue heavy sigh). Well, then we learned that his life has totally fallen apart in the last year or so. He's lost his wife, children, house, vehicles, etc to divorce. Bishop Jenkins said that he would be willing to meet with Dustin after church on Sunday. Upon request, Dustin was totally open to meeting with us before then, so we rendezvoused at his motel room (get this: right next door to where Tyson and Desiree were living) on Friday afternoon. At this point, Dustin just unloaded. He wavered back and forth between total composure and just-controllable sobs. He began military service as an Army Airborne Ranger when he was sent to Iraq as a seventeen-year-old kid. Four tours and PTSD followed. He has been a Catholic for most of his life and still holds to that, but is completely open to reading the Book of Mormon and definitely felt the Spirit while Elder Lovell and I shared aspects of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Dustin greatly enjoyed all three hours of church, was introduced to Brother Broyles who was also an Airborne Ranger, wasn't able to meet with Bishop because he was called into work, and agreed to meet with us this evening. Here's the twist: when going to meet with Tyson and Desiree for one of the first times a few months ago, we actually contacted Dustin outside his motel room and offered him a card. He accepted it and briefly dismissed us, refusing to talk with us (Elder Lovell and I both recall this). He didn't want to talk to us because he was overwhelmed and crying. He retreated into his motel room with every intention of throwing the card away, but instead, for whatever reason, set it on his counter, sat in the corner next to the wall, and listened to our discussion with Tyson and Desiree just next door -- apparently the walls are pretty thin. I guess he liked what he heard.

Question: how is Christian doing on his mission papers? Just curious. I'm so anxious to know where he goes!

Also, the journals are good (and I will definitely use them as study journals or something), but not the same as the ones I have been using. The ones I have are 10.25 in x 7.5 in with rounded leather binding and cool stripes on the inside cover. I think the model number is MJ80-9328 (found on the UPC sticker on the outside back cover). I will send some pictures of the black one I am currently using.

The journal that Dad got me before I left was brown with cream-colored paper, but otherwise exactly identical to the journal pictured. If possible, I'd like to switch to another brown one so that it's an alternating pattern of journal color in which my mission is recorded forever.

I know I'm being super persnickety, but it would be really cool if y'all could help me out. If not, I will make do!

If you can help me, try to hurry! I only have like eleven days left in my second journal!!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[We sent him journals.]

[1/22/2014] Week 46: Silver Lining

Well, obviously MLK day had all the libraries closed on Monday. As for yesterday, our only excuse for not emailing is that we were crazy busy. And even now, my time is limited.

The Twin Sisters
I would have you all know that things are still wonderful. I am still alive and well. I still love being here.

I will just relate one experience, from this morning actually:

Well, actually, it starts with last night during our daily planning session. We were trying to figure out how we were going to fit emailing into our schedule today (it is in the missionary handbook to email our families every week), and we decided to start personal study at 7:00 (usually starts at 8:00), forgo companionship study, and take an hour to report numbers and email at the Blaine public library before attending district meeting down in Ferndale at 10:30. Well, we set out for the library at 8:00 only to discover that it wouldn't even open until 10:00am. So we drove back to our apartment to finish up studies only to be flagged down on the way home by a lady, Autumn, standing next to her car with its hood up. Of course, we pulled right over and discovered she needed a jump. For whatever reason, missionary cars don't carry jumper cables, but we knew of a member, Brother Wilkett, just around the corner who could lend us his. So we called him up, he offered his jumper cables, and we left Autumn and returned in a jiffy to jump her car. Though her battery terminals were hideously corroded, her Dodge Neon started right up with a little help from the ever-faithful Toyota Corolla. She thanked us profusely - as she had important tests to make up for several classes today - and we told her how much we just love to help. And then we told her that the best way we've found to help people is to share with them our special message about Jesus Christ and asked her if we could share it with her and her family. Her response? "Sure, does Friday afternoon work? That's when my husband will be home, so he can listen too." Apparently, back in Tacoma, they received a lot of help from missionaries when they moved. Classic.

Moral of the story: Heavenly Father blesses you and really does drop investigators into your lap if you're doing what's right.

And we still had time for companionship study before district meeting! Bonus points!

So actually, the reason we didn't have time to email yesterday was that we had to drive down to Mill Creek to exchange our car (2012 Ford Fusion with a cracked rear bumper) for the Corolla earlier mentioned, so that the Fusion could be repaired. So if we hadn't backed into the fence post last month, we wouldn't have met Autumn! Now, I'm not suggesting that the God of all the earth made us damage the car, but I am saying He will make the best of our circumstances, though dim they may sometimes be. #silverlining

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Mount Baker and The Twin Sisters
PS: Just a little eye candy from the great state of Washington! The bigger one is Mt. Baker, and I'm not sure about the three smaller peaks grouped together. For some reason, though, they remind of James and the Giant Peach? Who knows why?

[1/13/2014] Week 45: The Ice Man Cometh

Dear fermerler,

Holy smokes. I didn't know we could be so blessed. I just don't understand it! We had a fantastic week.

To start, Mission Leader Council (zone leaders and sister training leaders gather with President and the assistants to discuss needs and goals of the mission) on Tuesday was really, really great. I think a lot of things that needed to be said were said. This is especially true of the instruction given on obedience and on the daily planning session by President and the assistants, respectively. Elder Lovell and I used those topics for most of our instruction in zone meeting on Wednesday, and we agree that it was exactly what the zone needed (ourselves included). Since then, our daily planning sessions have truly been spiritual experiences. We really focused on how we were going to "get things done for the Lord" rather than how we were going to merely "fill the Lord's time". Both Thursday and Friday were planned this way, and we were blessed to find four new investigators on each of those days--half of which were from member referrals!

On Friday evening, we taught the Denogeans. This was the most powerful lesson on the Restoration I have ever been a part of in my missionary experience. For whatever reason, I have always struggled with my relation of the First Vision story - I fumble here or skip a word there - and I think it was honestly because I didn't have a stellar testimony of that tremendous event. But when I related it to this young, truth-seeking family just three days ago, I didn't miss a beat, and I felt the power of the Holy Ghost burning and swelling within me from my ears to my toes. And I know it emanated throughout the room, so that all those present might undoubtedly recognize the veracity of Joseph Smith's words. Just like President Packer said: "A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it."

Brother Broyles later told us while in transit to a Sunday afternoon appointment with the same family, "You two must be some darn good missionaries. I have never felt the presence of the Holy Ghost in a discussion on the Restoration so powerful in my life. Never. I know that for that to happen as missionaries, you've gotta be doing what you're supposed to." Of course, I don't relate his comment for any other purpose than to express how humbled Elder Lovell and I felt that a member of the ward recognized the difference in our teaching because we had chosen to be obedient and diligent. We truly are conduits of the Holy Ghost, and obedience really is vital to bringing that sacred Spirit to the magnitude of the convincing of men.

The Denogeans are now working towards a baptismal date of March 8th.

Of course, Heavenly Father didn't stop blessing us there. At church yesterday, we met Tyler, an out-of-the-sky investigator who attended with his girlfriend, Lindsay, who was baptized three years ago and has since been pretty less-active. He's never really been to church in his life, but he enjoyed the services, had a short lesson with us after third hour, and readily agreed to meet with us this evening for a full-blown discussion on the Restoration.

I feel like the Ferndale zone was greatly benefited and greatly energized after zone meeting on Wednesday. As a zone, we taught a ton of lessons as compared to past weeks and tied our record for new investigators. But on exchange with one of our district leaders, Elder Lovell and I sensed a lack of desire/motivation/drive/faith from both companions--even though we had the opportunity to find two new investigators in their area. It was sort of disheartening. We decided that we need to conduct at least another mini-exchange and focus on complimenting the things they excel at and expect miracles to rain down. And they will!

Those are just the highlights. I can't believe how the Lord has blessed us this week. It's truly humbling. Elder Lovell and I firmly believe it was due to our commitment to serve our zone, revamp our daily planning session, and press forward in diligence and obedience. That's really the secret. Missionary work is just so much easier when you do it the way you're supposed to. I just wish every missionary knew it!

We're doing just fine with the weather up here. It's really not that hard to stay warm and dry in Washington, especially on bikes (that sort of sounds paradoxical, doesn't it?).

And Adell is a ward missionary. Though she's not entirely active, she is a source of tons of referrals.


Elder Martin

[1/6/2014] Week 44: Fight On!

Deareth family-eth,

Man, I don't even get how the weeks fly by. We didn't get to teach as much as we were running around getting stuff ready for Erin's baptism on top of going to and from transfers. Not too much of our zone changed, actually. Only two missionaries left, so our zone is pretty comfortable with each other by this point.

I have mentioned Adell once or twice, but she is actually one of our big focuses. She joined the Church a few years ago, she has two early-teenage children who joined the Church around the same time, and their father is in the hospital, struggling to recover from a serious car accident. Since that accident, their life has been hectic and trying. Daelee, Adell's daughter, is probably the strongest as far as faith and testimony go, and she holds a calling in the Beehives presidency, but she sorrows for her father constantly and rebels against her mother from time to time. She has been visited by elders very frequently for the past few years -- pretty much since she joined the Church. Most of these elders have been disobedient to the third male rule, meaning they enter the house without another male, and Adell has grown comfortable with that. Well, that is a pretty big no-no and Elder Lovell and I decided to put our foot (feet?) down about it. We basically laid it down for Adell, and told her we need her help being obedient. Well, you'd think that was a great way to present it, but she flipped. She was upset that the Church doesn't seem to trust her (the bishop said he wasn't going to keep hugging her at church meetings) and cussed us out (well, she does that all the time - it's just Adell). We have been praying a lot that her heart might be softened, and since then she has had a lot of major breakthroughs. She told us the other night that a thought hit her while she was walking: that God doesn't necessarily inflict us with trials so we can be miserable; that's just life. He knew this life would be difficult, and that's why we're here. It's up to us to do what's right anyway and follow Jesus Christ. That's how we grow.

Again, Elder Lovell and I just do nothing, and she has a breakthrough revelatory experience. I love missionary work.

Erin's baptism was wonderful. But I tell you, Satan does his finest prior to baptisms. We broke our phone on Wednesday making communication difficult, the key to the baptismal font went to Arlington (almost 90 minutes South) with a missionary that got transferred, and for some reason, we just couldn't get anyone to speak at the baptismal service! But you know what? I knew it would all work out. Because our desires were righteous. And you know what? All was well. We even had a recent convert, Emmy, provide a wonderful musical number, "How Great Thou Art". Erin asked me to baptize her on Saturday evening and Elder Lovell to confirm her a member of the Church and give her the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday. It didn't take three tries this time! And, I tell you, Erin was just beaming. She was overwhelmed by a confirmation from the Spirit that her decision was right. And I am so proud of our zone! We had four nonmembers at the baptism! Four people were able to witness and feel the Spirit of a baptism performed by proper authority. (That's great for us in Washington, Brandon! :p)

The morning of transfers, we had a lesson with Linda, a good friend of Adell's. She met us at the library while we were typing up some reports for the mission, and admittedly, we didn't think she would show. But she did. And we had an awesome lesson. I mean, awesome. She wants direction and fulfillment in her life. She feels that all too often her hands are idle, and thus, the devil's playground. She wants to be involved in something more. She wants to be part of a community where she can serve around those who have "good goals in life". By the end of the lesson, since we were talking about goals anyway, she committed to a baptismal date of February 8th! The library sure is a place for learning. ;)

The Denogeans came to church yesterday! It was sweet! We still haven't even taught them a lesson (trying to align schedules), but from what Brother Broyles (his friend at work) tells us, they're already talking about how they can pay tithing and live the Word of Wisdom. When they attended the conference with Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, they misunderstood and thought that they had been invited to attend a "sales pitch". He described feeling disappointed at that, saying "We're already sold." Ha! So there you go. Heavenly Father blesses His children. Go figure.

Welp, zone meeting is on Wednesday. We have a lot to prepare yet. Wish me luck!


Elder Martin