Monday, June 30, 2014

[6/30/2014] Week 69: Spiritual Highs

Hey, hey!

This week was rough in a few ways, but awesome in others. Elder Haupu and I were dropped by most of our investigators and struggled to find new ones, but definitely found a lot of potentials. We have a goal for eight new investigators this week, which we feel really good about and committed to. We are going to work so hard!

We are definitely doing better in our relationship, and I've just been praying for lots of charity and humility. One thing came to me randomly during personal study. I think it's way cool that the Church is no longer represented solely by white kids from Utah (nothing wrong with those). Instead, we have people from all over the world, including from Hawaii who, rather than bumming it on a beach and surfing all summer, are working hard to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. I tell you, the gospel does something amazing to young people. Well, all people. But us young people in particular.

Elder Pymm and I spent some time on the infamous West Casino Road on Thursday, and witnessed an incident of domestic violence between two neighbors spurred by the vicious kick of a child's plastic tricycle. Seriously? And they both ended up in the hospital. But you know what happened after that? We were walking back to the apartment to grab Elder Pymm's suit coat (for a baptismal interview), and ran into Andrew on the way there. When we first walked up to him, Andrew, a young single adult, called out, "Hey, guys! How goes the mission?" Not a member, Andrew had heavy exposure to the members and doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while in Army basic training. He found his curiosity piqued and has of late been looking to find a good church and good community. He recently moved up here with his girlfriend, they broke up, she moved out, and he stayed because he likes his job. He agreed to a chapel tour the next day, and the tour went wonderfully! We will see him soon; either tonight at Ward Home Evening (that's what they call it in a Young Single Adult ward) or tomorrow for a lesson.

District Hike at Japanese Gulch!
The zone did wonderfully this month. If I'm not mistaken, there were 9 people baptized and 10 confirmed (one baptism took place on May 31st) in the Everett zone for the month of June. That's magnificent! Some of these converts were a while in the making, but many were a result of keeping investigators on date and getting them fellowshipped and to church each week to create true conversion and real growth. Honestly, there are some great missionaries in this zone, and phenomenal district leaders. I think they were key in staying close to the proselyting missionaries and training them on how to keep investigators progressing spiritually and socially.

I had the opportunity of attending a ward mission leader training session for the Everett stake last night, and learned some really cool things from President Duce (mission presidency) and others. I love member missionary work! Here's one quote I wrote down:

"They have the keys to prepare the investigators for baptism; we have the keys to find and invite."
      -President Porterfield (President of the Everett, Washington Stake), on missionaries and members.

My brothers (June, 2014)
I love y'all! And I love that picture! I will be buff one day like all my brudders. In the meantime, basketball in the mornings will have to do for my exercise.

Elder Martin

Monday, June 23, 2014

[6/23/2014] Week 68: A Crazy Week

Hey, howdy!

Me Holding the Title of Standards of Excellence,
which we made for zone meeting!
The Everett Zone!
I tell you, it's been a crazy week. Yesterday was especially stressful. Elder Haupu and I were asked to teach mission prep at 7:30am, teach Elders' quorum in third hour, share a little bit in Gospel Principles about priesthood organization, and at the same time, had to find two new speakers for our stake cottage meeting last night--we had three set up, but two of them were suddenly unavailable come Saturday evening. Church gets out at 4:30pm, and cottage meeting started at 7:00. I was really stressed out for the first time since I trained Elder Benedict! On top of that, we received a call at about 5:50pm from someone in Arlington requesting that a blessing be given to a patient in Providence Hospital, which stood in North Everett, about 15 minutes from the stake center in South Everett. Of course, we went!
The patient was a 52 year-old inactive member by the name of Darrell, and when we arrived, his eyes lit up as he managed a few words: "I sure could use a blessing." After the blessing, just one word: "Calming." He requested we leave him with a Book of Mormon, which we did, and then we were on our way back to South Everett (it was a judgment call with the marshmallows) for the cottage meeting. We were even 15 minutes early! I love being on the Lord's errand.

Oh, and cottage meeting ended up being really great! We had almost the whole zone there with people they are teaching.

Baptism of Jessica and Zach Flanagan
This week has been a little different for finding since the college is closed. It doesn't reopen for summer quarter until June 30th, so we've had to work a little bit harder to find and talk with YSA's. What's cool is that we decided to visit a less-active young single adult, and then afterward, we simply tracted the rest of his street. We ended up talking with a young single adult at almost every door that was opened to us, and even found some people who want us to come back. What a blessing! The Lord always provides a way for us to move His work forward.

I've noticed this week that there has really been a push in the zone for hitting standards. It's almost the new "buzz-word" in the zone. The goal of achieving the standards of excellence was one that came up with each of our zone's district leaders during accounting last night, which tells me that the message seems to have finally gotten across!

Elder Haupu and I
Often, the relationship between Elder Haupu and I gets really strained. Frequently, it is an exercise in self-control and biting my tongue that takes me right back to the transfer I spent with Elder Julius. Elder Haupu is a really good missionary, and I have a lot to learn from him, but my pride seems to get in the way of that. I have prayed a lot for humility and charity in the past several weeks, and guess what? I think it's working! Brother Hall, our ward clerk, said something profound in sacrament meeting yesterday: "Contention never was and never will be an ally of progress." I think Elder Haupu and I are a couple of pretty sharp missionaries, and the only thing Satan can manage to get in our way is contention. But if he can do that, he can really slow us down. So I'm working on being more cognizant of that!

That's pretty much what I've got for this week.

Love ya!

Elder Martin
Silver Lake Ward

P.S. An excerpt from President Bonham's letter this week, which might be helpful to you:
"We need to continue to do all in our power to let members know that “we are here to help you with missionary work.” We can also say “we are called to be teaching specialists and are ready to teach the gospel to anyone that will listen.” Notice that I am not suggesting that we say “the members are helping us with missionary work”! It is true that they do, and we want that, but that is just our “backup plan”—the backup plan is what we do when we are trying to find, teach, and baptize on our own because we have time that is not used. For now, most of our time is used in our “backup plan,” but the member understanding, skills, and confidence are growing. I see it all over the mission. One day they will keep us really busy and we won’t have time for our “backup plan.” We see that on good days and in certain spots around the mission now. I pray for that “busy-ness” to spread and grow. Pray for this to happen, then work the “backup plan” so that we have lots of good successes to invite members to join in (member present lessons, fellowshipping, inviting people to Church events) and catch the spirit of missionary work!"
I love this guy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

[6/2/2014] Week 65: Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)

We had such a great week!

On Friday, we met Russell Foy. He was found by the elders in the Machias, WA ward, who taught and baptized his cousin, Josh, not too long ago. Russell couldn't help but notice how much Josh has changed since his conversion. He is much happier, more full of life, and even quit drinking! Russell has heretofore been hardly religious, if at all, and more focused on things of the world. Admittedly, he "smoke[s] a lot of pot" to help his anxiety and Acid Reflux Whatever. We taught him the message of the Restoration, using the new pamphlet teaching method, and invited him to pray at the end. During the long moment of silence following his prayer, the Spirit powerfully touched each of our hearts. In fact, he described feeling "peaceful and calm, his stomach at ease, which is weird because usually I need marijuana to do that." The next day, he attended with us the baptism of a young lady that the sisters in our ward have been teaching, we taught him about the Book of Mormon after the baptism, and he accepted a baptismal date of July 27th. On Sunday, Russell attended church with us, was received magnificently by the ward, and was reading the Book of Mormon on his phone in between meetings. He'll be playing basketball with us in just a few minutes and will attend Ward Home Evening tonight. We're stoked!

I want to share an insight from President Bonham's letter this week:

"A thought about the Big Project: I grew up with a mother that could (and often did) sew clothes for herself and the rest of the family. When Sister Bonham and I were married, I knew that she could sew too (she made her own wedding dress, for example—photo at the mission home). However, in the early months of our marriage I didn’t know how well her projects would turn out. They involved trips to the fabric store for main and supplementary fabrics, zippers, buttons, sewing tools, thread, patterns, and so on. Then would come the chaos: pattern pieces sitting out—thin paper that couldn’t be lost but would fly off the table if the door opened; fabric pinned to pattern pieces and piled up; half-sewn pieces of clothing draped over chair backs or hanging on a hanger—but missing one arm; special sewing scissors that I had better not touch; contrasting pieces looking for a place to attach; zippers that looked to me like they were put in backward; and holes for buttons opposite places where no buttons hung. Sister Bonham would work away on these projects, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, fitting in other responsibilities around them and putting them together bit by bit. Sometimes it appeared to me that the project was going backward as she would take apart a seam that she had already made to adjust it to be smaller or larger. Then, after a while, the chaos would get smaller, the stray threads would get picked up, the extra pieces would find their place in the clothing, and soon she would appear, dressed in her “project,” saying, “Do you like it”? And I always did! Sometimes the project was for someone else and it appeared all packaged and ready to go in a gift box or the mail. At first, I didn’t know if these projects would always turn out. Some looked scary and I wondered if she would finish them. Probably some were better than others, but to my untrained eye, all of them turned out well. After a while I began to develop great confidence in Sister Bonham’s abilities. I didn’t worry when I saw the chaos of a new sewing project. I knew that by-and-by, after her worry and work, something wonderful would emerge. She has even passed this talent along to four of our five children. 
"So why am I telling you about Sister Bonham’s sewing prowess (other than because she’s so wonderful—even now about half the clothing you see her in is homemade)? It is because I had an interesting insight this week. It comes from Moses 1:39: “For behold, this my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” I know that sometimes we think that eternal life (the kind of life Heavenly Father lives) is just too grand of a goal for us and is not really possible. Even when we consider the idea of relying on the Savior’s atonement and having a couple trillion years to work on improving and learning and growing, we still seem to feel that we just “aren’t celestial material.” I disagree. And that is because in this case we are the “project” and Heavenly Father is the one making it. It is His work and glory to help us to receive eternal life. He is determined to get us there—and we can get there if we will choose to do the right and keep working at it, relying on the principles of the gospel and exercising faith, repenting, being baptized (entering covenants, renewing them through the sacrament), receiving (heeding) the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. So, if we are willing, He is the project manager and He has infinite power, knowledge, wisdom, ability, patience, and love. What is to stop Him from completing his “project”—us? He can and will help us to receive eternal life if we will let Him. Now if that is not a thought to “enlighten” your day, I can’t think what is!
C. S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis put it like this:
That is why He warned people to “count the cost” before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have the free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.’ (Mere Christianity, 1952)

Yesterday, in Elders' Quorum, we were asked to name our heroes as part of the lesson, and after "my dad" and "my big brother" were already on the board, I volunteered "my mission president". I really love that guy.

In other news, Elder Haupu and I continue to disagree at times, but we're doing way better at getting over it quickly.

This week, we had the responsibility of making some pretty serious correction with a missionary who already doesn't seem to like me. ( :( ) It was a difficult task for Elder Haupu and I as we haven't really had to correct on this issue before (in fact, I haven't had to correct hardly at all -- such good missionaries in this mission!), so we role played it a lot and it ended up going just about as well as it could -- at least on our end. It still wasn't received to kindly, but I guess you can't win 'em all. We recognize nobody likes to be told what to do (refer to introductory paragraph of 1 Nephi 1), but we just want him to have the best mission experience possible, and there have been too many mistakes in the mission recently to risk not saying anything.

Leanne hit her year-mark the other week, so a letter from Mom to her might be nice. She's windin' down.

Seth looks stinkin' sharp! I like that he's almost the only white guy. And that he's not wearing anything dumb (camo pants? fedora? C'mon.). He looks way classy.

So Margo's starting marching band? That's so awesome! I'm so excited for her! On that note, I had the opportunity to play the French horn yesterday for the first time in something like two years. It wasn't perfect, but the owner of the horn had a copy of Andromeda, so I was taken riiight back to Sophomore year. It felt so good. And my face was tired after playing for less than five minutes. I can't wait to hear Margo play again!

And I can't wait to hear Seth's truck running!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

[6/16/2014] Week 67: I'm really sorry...

...but these missionaries love to play basketball, and I can't come in here (to the Family History Center) and email alone.

So I'm consistently short on time.

The scariest part is that I'm starting to like basketball too.

This week was full of small miracles. Our crazy shy investigator, Derek, prayed at the end of our lesson, came to church for all three hours, and played basketball with us today.

Our sincerely stubborn and honest-of-heart investigator from Tanzania, Yamungu, prayed at the end of our lesson (something he had refused to do because we were "of different faiths") in Swahili, committed to read the Book of Mormon (we just got him one in Swahili!), and committed to attend Ward Home Evening with us this evening, which is a huge step forward because of how cautious he has been. He just doesn't want to offend his God.

Russell came to church for the third time yesterday and is moving right along. He has been working on his own at quitting some addictions for a week or so and even feels comfortable enough at church to crack jokes in Elders' Quorum. He showed up in a white shirt and tie for the first time, but was short just a pair of dress shoes. He submits that since his flip-flops are Dockers brand, they count as dressy.

The Everett zone really, really finished the transfer strong (oh yeah, we received transfer calls; I'm staying with Elder Haupu!) with six baptisms this weekend and eighteen more yet to be baptized on a specific date in the coming months. We're really excited to see what this summer will bring.

Which reminds me how little time I have left. I'm scared.

Elder Zollinger, my first district deader, and Elder Lovell, my first companion as a zone leader, went home today. That's depressing.

But I received word from Elder Jones that Delores (the incredible artist investigator found through the incredible members of the Blaine ward) will be baptized on July 12th. That's just wonderful! Picked my spirits right back up. This will make 12 people to enter the waters of baptism in the Blaine ward this year. That was the ward's initial goal for the entire year of 2014! The Hastening is real. I have a testimony of that!

Elder Haupu and I focused a lot on working and role playing with members to help them learn how to invite others. We do that as our "spiritual thought" after each dinner appointment.

Gotta skedaddle!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

P.S. The Father's Day service was awesome yesterday. I miss you, Pops!

Monday, June 9, 2014

[5/19/2014] Week 63: South Whidbey Island


This week has gone in a flash. I guess I say that a lot. But that's the nature of the beast.

I am getting accustomed to working in a YSA ward. It's way different contacting on a college campus, and, to be honest, I feel even more-so like a salesman/robot/bother when I approach people--I guess because it is assumed that everyone who whizzes by is on a mission (not in the LDS sense of the word, of course). So I need to figure out how to be more like myself, more natural, and less stiff.

Elder Haupu likes taking pictures on I-5 at 60mph.
...And we both like cookies.
Elder Haupu and I get along fairly well. Periodically, there is an outburst of disagreement between us, which is more often rooted in pride than right-ness or wrong-ness. We've talked about it in companionship inventory and have set specific goals to solve the problem. We remarked that "if this experience doesn't prepare [us] for marriage, [we] don't know what will." So that's nice to know. I've noticed that there are a lot of aspects of missionary service that really take the "two birds, one stone" approach. There's always a deeper purpose to what we learn here. Kudos, Heavenly Father.

I think for the most part, this zone is stocked with pretty good missionaries. And Ferndale was great too. Either President Bonham has a knack for putting good missionaries in my zones, or Heavenly Father has a knack for putting good missionaries in our mission! Many of our areas struggle with finding. Heck, Elder Haupu and I are struggling with finding. We have made plans with Elder Pymm, one of our district leaders, to carpool out to South Whidbey Island on Friday and blitz the sisters' area there to help them find new investigators. We're excited as this is an opportunity to go after "the one"!

We met with an investigator, Cameron, twice this week -- on Wednesday for a church tour and on Saturday for a lesson on the Plan of Salvation -- and he came to church on Sunday (for which he had to get off work)! Everything went pretty much perfectly; we introduced him to the bishop, sat in the second row on the sacrament side of the middle section of pews, and, as a bonus, it was a YSA ward, so it was actually really quiet! He had a great time for sure. Cameron, who is 6'5" and athletic, has the most gentle, meek heart and described feeling intimidated by Ryan (EQP and fellowshipper), Elder Haupu, and I (the first- and second-named being shorter than me!) upon his arrival at the church building, which for him was a foreign atmosphere. After having attended church with some familiar faces, of course, he is much more comfortable and will hopefully have a baptismal date soon.

Things are really starting to pick up here as we work with members and rake in information from missionaries concerning contacts living in the areas in which they currently serve as well as in areas within the Everett and Snohomish stakes in which they formerly served. Just gotta get out and meet 'em!

I've thought a lot about success over the past several days and what it means to be a successful missionary. And how we can help ourselves and other missionaries recognize the success they're being blessed with every day of their missionary service. I think a lot of the problem stems from comparing ourselves and our areas with the "outward results" of others. I'm going to keep studying on this...

Love y'all!

Elder Martin

[6/9/2014] Week 66: Pay Special Attention

To all within the sound of my keyboard,

This week was not too shabby in the way of missionary work.

But I wanna talk a little bit about my study habits.

Sometimes, from 8am-9am it's a battle between my eyelids and my willpower. Unfortunately, gravity only works in one direction (but Gravity isn't that great a singer). I've found that writing down everything that comes into my mind (questions, thoughts, feelings, and impressions) is not only beneficial in keeping my mind active and alert, but also allows me to clearly analyze and lay out everything I'm experiencing. No spiritual prompting flows by unnoticed. This often results in 30-40 minutes spent on 7 or 8 verses and several days spent on a single chapter, but I feel like I get so much of what Heavenly Father wants me to learn out of each passage. Pay special attention even to images that cross your mind as you study. This provided for a very powerful experience for me in the past week. I learned a lot about myself and about the character of the Savior this way. I invite you each to try this out, especially in attempting to understand passages from the Bible. It has helped me so much with the New Testament. This method applies beautifully with Preach My Gospel as well. Also, make sure your prayers to begin and end each study session are sincere. This does not mean they are long. In fact, get straight to the point in your prayers. Tell Him what you hope to learn. Ask Him to prepare your heart and mind for what you might learn. Thank Him for the answers to your questions that He will surely bestow upon you.

I don't have time for a whole lot else, but know this, that Emma, one of our way solid investigators, accepted a date (July 19th) on Wednesday, and then her parents flipped out last night. So please pray for her and her parents that their hearts might be softened. On Wednesday, Cameron as well committed to live the Word of Wisdom, and he slipped up by Saturday. Please pray for him to have a greater desire to live according to that law of health.

Russell is doing great. He attended church with us again on Sunday and attended Cottage Meeting last night. He will have to give up some things pretty soon for his baptismal date on July 26th.

I don't know for sure about Andrew. I will email him today.

I'm so excited about Seth's truck!!!!

And Christian's gonna be a rad missionary. I just know it!

And happy birthday, Pops! I was definitely thinkin' about you on Thursday. Turns out, one of our investigators' dad's birthday was also on Thursday. Huh.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[4/7/2014] Week 57: Guided Paths


My twin brother Christian (white shirt) and friends
Those are some good pictures. Thanks for Sharon.

I hope all is well with everyone down south. Things are lookin' pretty good up north. We have been blessed with a wonderful ward and lots of missionary work this week.

This week, we learned that Aaron Simmons, whom we found through Kevin, decided to spend his time in the Blaine ward rather than YSA, so it looks like we will be having a baptism next weekend! How about that?

Conference this time around was a different experience for me. I took Elder Bednar's advice from his November visit and focused on writing the thoughts and impressions that I had. I really felt somehow that all of the General Authorities who spoke were speaking in such a personable and genuine way that made it much easier for me to stay focused. As a result, I heard Heavenly Father's voice telling me what I need to work on. I have set a lot of goals for myself to repent and improve my missionary work. Because of the strong Spirit I felt as Conference proceeded, I have a lot of motivation to follow through with these goals.

My brother Seth (center) and friends
On Friday, Elder Jones and I went on an adventure! By adventure, I mean we took the bus from Blaine to Ferndale, had a mini-exchange with the elders in the 1st ward, and took the bus back! It was the first time I've used public transit on my mission, but it saved us 24 miles on our car! Isn't that incredible? Also, we had lunch at Denny's and were waited on by a lady named Carla. Carla, who is not a member, actually has a younger sister who served a mission on Temple Square. While she was driving in Blaine some months ago, she offered Elder Lovell and I a ride in the pouring rain. We had to decline, of course, because there was no man in the car, and she drove off quickly having done a good deed in offering. Well, we happened to run into her again, and she lives in Birch Bay, and she said she'd be happy to meet with the sister missionaries there! It was awesome! Isn't it wonderful how Heavenly Father puts people together? And to think we almost went to McDonald's...

I can't think of anything else spectacular or momentous from this week. We have zone meeting coming up on Wednesday. I have been a missionary for[seemingly]ever now. The mentality is that it will never end either.

You know, I was just thinking about those tiles yesterday. Good for you, pops!

Dustin is doing wonderfully. He is up and on his feet and even at work now. He still loves the gospel, especially enjoyed conference, and is on track to speak at cottage meeting this coming Sunday. He's excited to share his story and testimony, but nervous to speak in front of so many.

My great friend, Kevin Mock
Is Brandon going to the YSA ward? Or just the YSA activities within the Katy stake? I wonder if he has ever run into or had contact with a young man named Kevin Mock? I think about him often and wonder how he's doing.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

P.S. Dad, are you still updating my blog? I have a lot of nonmember friends who are aware of it, and I don't want them to check back and continually be disappointed and lose interest in my mission-izing...
[Dad says, "No, I was behind, but I am catching up. Sorry!"]

Sunday, June 8, 2014

[5/27/2014] Week 64: Healthy

I really, really wish I had time to write a normal letter, but today has been so crazy that I hardly had time to read all of your letters!

Suffice it to say, "...all is well—I am well enough off." (Joseph Smith--History 1:20). Of course, I've not just had a vision, but things are great here in Everett! I am still happy and still healthy!

More next week, promise!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[5/12/2014] Week 62: Silver Lake

I don't have a lot of time today. It was super good to see y'all yesterday! I always enjoy webcamming, but it never really makes me trunky. So that's a blessing.

Elder Haupu (Hawaii) and I
So I have been whitewashed into the Silver Lake YSA ward, and my new companion is Elder Haupu of Pearl City, Hawaii. Neither of us has ever served YSA before, so we're learning a lot about how to do this stuff. Fortunately, we have Sister Bartsch, who is from Berlin and whose third transfer this is, to show us everything we need to know--on top of showing everything to her new companion.

Dustin (L) and Brother Gallant
Yesterday was our first Sunday in the ward, and I tell you, if you want to feel the Spirit, listen to young single adults talk about their moms and they way they've influenced their decisions. That was a magnificent experience.

We've seen a lot of miracles this week. People have just come out of the woodwork to talk with us and learn from us. We hope to continue seeing miracles because, well, we need investigators! Since this was the AP's former area, we're starting from next to scratch. So far, it's been a blast, especially since Elder Haupu and I get along really well.

Aaron Simmons
I really love the gospel. And I love to be a missionary. Sometimes, it's really hard, and it takes more energy than I feel like I have to give, but I do it anyway, and something amazing happens. Every time.

Please pray for us to find prepared investigators! We need all the help we can get!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[5/5/2014] Week 61: Leaving Blaine, WA

Well, we just received transfer calls. I'm leaving Blaine after 6 months, and I'm sad. But that's ok.

It's been one of the most eventful weeks of my time in Blaine, and I have learned quite a bit about the way life works. I think. All I know is that when you live the gospel, everything works out. Everything is so simple. But when you don't and when you pick and choose what you want to obey, things fall apart. The "magic" stops. And you don't even notice it until you've picked and chosen to obey so few commandments that you find yourself facing mortality alone.

I've found that one of the huge blessings of serving a mission is that you get to learn these life lessons vicariously. Maybe it's sort of selfish, but I spend a lot of time observing the decisions others make and making notes of what to do and what not to do. I've learned a lot about how my life is going to be as I begin to raise a family and things.

Our investigators, Jessica and Zack, were married on Friday, so they're now the Flanigans. I'm super happy for them. Interestingly enough, this was the first wedding I've ever attended. And I found it interesting that Bishop Jenkins, though he didn't explicitly use the phrase "till death do you part", said something along the lines of "until the end of this period of mortality". When we commented on this wording in a later conversation with him, he said, "You're right. I just married them and then divorced them right there. To get remarried, they'll have to go to the Temple." Concerning marriage, I know I've learned this one thing on my mission: in some later life (eons from now), I won't settle for marriage to a nonmember or even outside the Temple. To me, it's not worth the gamble.

On Saturday, I learned [again] that miracles do happen and that God does prepare his children. Elder Jones and I were walking in the light rain in downtown Blaine towards the apartment of a less-active member. Instead of turning left to obtain the desired destination, we spotted a nice-looking lady across the street and approached her. Initially, she introduced herself as Irma. Then she became more comfortable with us as the conversation progressed, and we learned her name was Jeanie. Anyway, we talked all about the Restoration (she was astounded that Jesus didn't speak [through prophets] for over 1000 years!) and taught her Lesson 1A using the pamphlet. It was an incredible contact that ended with a baptismal date (though, she wanted to be baptized the next day) and a commission to attend church. She did attend church, we sat with her on Investigator Row, and the Spirit moved her just enough to urge up to the pulpit during Fast and Testimony meeting. She gave thanks to all the members who had so warmly welcomed her, testified of God the Father and His Son, closed in the name of Jesus Christ, and just barely made it across the dais and down the steps before plopping down into the pew next to us in a breath of relief. She'll make a great Mormon in no time!

The zone found 19 new investigators this week, which is yet another impressive feat for 8 companionships. I've really enjoyed being up here in Blaine and working with so many incredible missionaries. I will miss them all, I will miss the members of the Blaine ward, and I will miss Mount Baker. But that's ok. There's more to be done elsewhere!

Because I don't yet know where I'm being transferred to, I don't know when I will be available for Google Hangout. I may have to see if I can get special permission to email y'all during the week when I do find out. If you don't hear from me, I would suggest y'all "be ready always" (1 Peter 3:15) on Sunday to start a video hangout.

Dustin got a puppy! His name is Chico Frijoles Araujo.

Also pictured is Dustin's girlfriend, Gladys, whom he met via She's awesome!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[4/28/2014] Week 60: Walking Miracles

AHHHH, OUT OF TIME. Here is my letter to President Bonham. It's all I got! Sorry.

But glad to hear everything worked out miraculously with the car!

"It has been a crazy week (I wonder how many times per week you read that same phrase--missionary work must be pretty crazy all around!). We did at least some sort of service almost every day this week, and, as a result, were able to teach a ton of lessons.

The zone - and especially Elder McRae's district - has done exceptionally well as of late. Finding has continued to go way up as has investigators with a baptismal date. And not only that, there are more investigators make progress all throughout the zone as opposed to in just two or three areas. I can honestly say that most of it probably has to do with Elder McRae's rock-solid diligence in ministering to his district, especially in his preparation of effective district meetings. I've never seen a district leader like him.

I am generally pretty happy. I love Blaine. I love the work. I love my companion, though we occasionally disagree...

A small miracle from this week:

The Fords and I
Yesterday, Elder Jones and I had a dinner appointment out in the county, and the member couldn't come pick us up because he was preparing the dinner and couldn't leave the pizza unattended, so we asked our assistant ward mission leader, Brother Ford, for a ride (otherwise, we would have rode our bikes--about an hour-and-a-half ride). He asked if we wanted him to pick us up from our apartment, but since we had the time for it, Elder Jones insisted we would walk to his house (about thirty minutes) and contact people along the way--after all, it was a beautiful day. Brother Ford kept asking if we were sure we didn't want a ride, and Elder Jones continued to insist we would walk. So we did! And on the way to Brother Ford's, a lady in the community named Courtney and her son, Nathan, for whom we moved some heavy furniture about three weeks ago and to both of whom we were introduced by a friend of Kevin, the less-active member, pulled over while driving down one of the busier streets in Blaine just to say hi! Just days ago, we walked past their house as Courtney pulled into the driveway, and we invited her to hear the message of the Restoration.

Kevin (LA found on my birthday) and Elder Jones
Her response was, "Yeah, ok, when we have time. But you'd have to talk to my son because he's the one with the scheduling conflicts." Her son was not currently home. Then we saw them yesterday, and they pulled over just to say hi, and we set an appointment with them! This, of course, would not have happened if we hadn't decided to walk. Boo-yah!

Well, I just think you should know that I love missionary work. "


Oh, and the best part was hearing about Seth getting his patriarchal blessing! That made my week!

[4/21/2014] Week 59: Jessica and Zack!

Mud football!
My! What a week! And so quick and snappy, too!

Our zone did quite well this week. As a whole, the missionaries in Ferndale found 17 new investigators, meaning that the zone reached standards in that key indicator. Elder McRae, who has a knack for conducting highly effective district meetings, has focused a ton on finding and contacting with the Restoration pamphlet, and so his efforts seem to have had some positive impact on the work. His district has found 22 new investigators in the past two weeks.

Well, Darien, our 12 year-old investigator, obtained permission from his grandmother to be baptized this past weekend, and then she was Life Flight-ed to the hospital in Spokane for what turned out to be a tear in her stomach. She is recovering, but insists on being present at her grandson's baptism (and rightly so), so we have postponed his baptism until she is back in Blaine. We may end up holding the baptism as soon as she returns - even if it occurs on Thursday night and is attended primarily by family - so that she can be sure to witness it before her health recedes.

Jessica and Zack made the decision to be married and baptized on May 2nd and 10th, respectively. We're super stoked because, initially, their wedding was scheduled for December. Of 2015. Miracles! Anyhow, they're really doing wonderfully and are consistently excited to meet with us and learn more about the gospel. They keep their commitments and were both able to find time away from work to attend church yesterday. However, we learned that, again, Jessica's family has come down hard on her with anti-Mormon propaganda, so our appointment tonight might get a little dicey. Good thing we carry the Spirit!

This week, each missionary in the zone had the opportunity to sit and interview with President Bonham. Let me tell you, I am so blessed to be serving here and now with President Bonham. I just know he is the right man for the job!

That's crazy to hear about the Honda. I'm really happy to hear that everyone is all right.

Also, I can't believe that Walker is that big now.

P.S. Last Monday, we played football in the mud flats of Onion Bay just south of the Lummi Indian reservation. It was the craziest, most awesome thing I've ever done on a p-day. Pictures will hopefully come soon.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

[4/14/2014] Week 58: Spirit and Miracles in the Work

What a week! Much of it was focused on preparing for the baptism of Aaron Simmons, who decided last-minute to become a member of the Blaine ward as opposed to the Bellingham YSA ward. The baptism went well, and the ward is doing a wonderful job of taking him in. It's crazy to think that I just met Aaron a month or so ago, and he's already a member of the Church. The Lord really does send us prepared people!

Aaron Simmons baptized!
Elder Jones and I conducted an exchange with the elders in the Everson ward (Elders Larson and Jankowski) this week from Wednesday to Thursday. I spent the day in Everson with Elder Jankowski, and boy was it a rough day. We encountered the grumpiest of grumpy left and right with very little success to be found anywhere. If it hadn't been an incredibly beautiful day, I'd have lost some sanity. Towards the end of the evening, we stopped at the apartment to grab some water, and, having openly discussed our sour feelings toward the day's turn of events, decided to offer a sincere prayer of pleading before heading back out. We asked Heavenly Father to help us keep our chins up that we might find some good in the time we had left. Elder Jankowski and I had planned to visit a former investigator at that time, so we attempted, but did not find him home. We proceeded to tract around the former, and when we knocked on the very next-door neighbor of the former investigator, the door swung open to reveal a familiar face coupled with a familiar voice: "Elders! How's it going?" If you remember, I shared with you a story from an exchange with Elder Cottle almost two transfers ago about helping a group of pastors move an enormous kiosk/desk thing into their new church building in Nooksack. Well, what do you know but we had tracted into the youth pastor from that very same church! And I just happened to be on exchange again in Everson that same day! We exchanged pleasantries and phone numbers, and he asked for a few of our "tracts", so we handed him a Restoration pamphlet and explained to him using the pictures the basis of our message. Whether it will go anywhere, I know not, but to have been received so warmly by someone not [yet] of our faith was an answer to our prayer! We knocked a few more doors and then walked home for dinner with a skip in our step. I am reminded of Alma 26, 27th verse:

"Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success."

I guess the Book of Mormon really is true!

Zone meeting this week went incredibly well. The Spirit was really, really strong and we all learned a lot during the segment of training on repentance. Elder Jones and I felt impressed to include as a learning activity an opportunity for the missionaries to reflect on their own testimonies of the doctrine of repentance and then to write a letter to a friend who had hypothetically committed some sin about which they had confided in the missionary and from the guilt of which they were seeking freedom and release. This gave us all some time to be touched by the Spirit not just as missionaries, but as individual children of God. We learned how much love we have for others and how motivated by love we must be in order to adequately teach the restored principle of repentance.

Things are beginning to really turn upward in the Ferndale zone. This week, Elder McRae spent a lot of time helping the other elders in Ferndale and I think they found a total of 5 investigators between the two areas. That's typically been unprecedented. Elder McRae's district found a total of 10 new investigators (with no help from Elder Jones and I), which is also a huge step in the right direction. Before Saturday, the zone had a total of 7 investigators with a baptismal date and one or two more with dates to come very soon. We're really pleased with the way things are going and can't wait to watch this trend continue.

This morning in Preach My Gospel, I was studying in Chapter 5 about the Book of Mormon. It says on page 104 that “The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ." I have heretofore considered the Book of Mormon to be the keystone in my witness of the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and even in my witness of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. Makes sense, right? But first and foremost, we learn from the Book of Mormon that Jesus is the Christ (hence, the subtitle "Another Testament of Jesus Christ"). In other words, it is a sharper, quicker, more efficient, and more powerful tool than the Bible to teach us of His example, pure love, and, above all, His divinity. The Bible works to teach us of Christ and all that He is and stands for. But the Book of Mormon works better and should stand at the center of our faith and hope in Him. A person, never having heard His name, could pick up the Book of Mormon, read nothing else, and know everything they need to know about the Savior and His gospel in order to gain salvation at His hand. Isn't that nifty?

I love y'all! Thanks for the updates!

Elder Martin

[3/31/2014] Week 56: A Breath of Fresh Air

Hey, hey!

There was a lot that went down this week in the Blaine ward, and it all kind of culminated in the form of an utter disaster yesterday during fast and testimony meeting. Nevertheless, no irreparable damage was done, and things are already looking way up! I'll leave it at that.

Jessica is still on the up and up. She had a church tour on Friday evening and exclaimed over and over at the peace and warmth and general sense of "rightness" that emanated from within the building, especially in the chapel. She attended sacrament meeting yesterday and is so well-rooted (and I may dare say converted) already that she was virtually unscathed by the turn of events that took place therein. Jessica is really taking off in the gospel. It's magnificent.

Aaron and I
Dustin was hospitalized early this week, and by Friday, he was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer in his lower left leg. You'd think it would have been a pretty rough hit, but, all things considered, he has been jovial and optimistic since the start. In a miraculous way, the ward has gathered round him and buoyed him up, having some form of contact with him daily and showering him with love and support incessantly. Through all of this, in fact, Aaron (recent new investigator from Montana) has preoccupied Dustin's mind and heart as Dustin has described seeing so much of his younger self in Aaron and, thus, desires to give him the best possible opportunities for success. As a result, Aaron is currently living in Dustin's new apartment and has received several personal recommendations for job interviews at Dustin's current and former workplaces.

I had the opportunity to spend Thursday in the Ferndale 2nd ward with Elder McRae this week, and I have to say that he is a breath of fresh air. He has a very unique way of looking at things--especially missionary work. He is a really great district leader and thinks critically and realistically about how he can help improve the missionary skills and, thus, success of the missionaries in his district. He is extremely enthusiastic about everything that happens in missionary work--even the bad. He's also really funny. I had a great time working with him and definitely learned from his unique perspective. I know he is the right man for the job at this time.

The Fords and I
I just love to do missionary work. There is a richness of life and interaction here that I have not heretofore experienced and will always relish as long as I live. There is a satisfaction and utter joy that comes from having success and introducing shifts of paradigm in the spirituality of others. I don't ever feel I am able to adequately thank Heavenly Father for time and experiences I have had.

Thanks for the hiccups tip. However, because I broke my thumb in the 9th grade and never had corrective surgery, I don't really have that indentation on my right hand. I don't imagine it could possibly work on the left hand.

Man, that's pretty sweet about Seth's physics project. I remember doing that same project! Except we built Wall-E. And he did drive, but we forgot to unhook the wiring, so by the time we actually presented, the batteries were dead. Fortunately, we caught him doing his thing on film for proof that we weren't slackers. Seth, kudos for not being a slacker! And for having cool hair. And for making funny fat faces. And for using proper grammar on Snapchat.

So Brandon bought the truck. I thought we already owned it by now... But he's going to BYU! Sweet! He'll have to let me know (some time far, far from now) how he likes it.

Wellp, I love y'all!

Elder Martin

P.S. I was supposed to let you know last week that I am safe from the Oso landslide. That is in our mission, and in fact, Elder Larson, who is one of our district leaders in the Ferndale zone (and whose district leader I was back in Everett) just was transferred from the Arlington 2nd ward, in which lies the town of Oso. He knew members there and has not yet heard as to there well-being.

[3/24/2014] Week 55: A Cure for Hiccups

Biking in the pouring rain is the best!
Well, my mind is whirling. I can't believe that. When I read the first line of Dad's email, I legitimately thought it was a joke. But I think that's so awesome! I'm so excited to have my brother serving at the same time as me again! So will Christian have to learn French and Mandarin? And English? :p

I'm staying in Blaine for another transfer, and I'm super excited! I didn't really want to leave at all. I was just having an off week. Elder Jones and I are gonna hit it hard.

I don't miss driving in Houston traffic. That's for sure. On that note Dad, I'm going to try and bring my mission bike home and use it to commute! I love that bike so much.

This week was great. We met a lady named Jessica (the niece of Erin Kelly, my first baptism in Blaine) who was raised in Tennessee in the Church of Christ. Well, wouldn't you know it, but Marilyn Denogean was raised in Tennessee in the Church of Christ? We taught Erin (for her new member lessons) Lesson 1A with Jessica, who has a passion for religions of the world, and her fiance nearby. Of course, they had pamphlets in hand and followed along. At one point, Jessica could not contain herself and piped up with a question about Joseph Smith seeing God. We resolved it with testimony and moved on. By the end of our lesson, Jessica asked a whole slough of questions about the Book of Mormon, so we ended up delivering a Lesson 1B in about 15 minutes right there. When we offered her a Book of Mormon, her mouth gaped. She explained that all she had ever seen of the book was a few photocopied pages that her pastor passed around as "that was all the Mormons would let him get his hands on." She's always wanted one, but was convinced early on that copies of the Book of Mormon were highly secretive and impossible to come by. Needless to say, she is ecstatic about meeting with us again and about being introduced to Marilyn.

Small miracle of the week: Before leaving the apartment yesterday, I developed the hiccups. I tried every home remedy I knew to get rid of them, and they just would not go away. This was bad news, as Kellie Edwards had asked me to confirm her in sacrament meeting. I hiccuped all the way from Blaine to Ferndale. We entered the library at the church to make copies of the progress record before Ward Council, and my diaphragm still would not cut me any slack. We saw the Blaine A sisters there, and Sister Wilkins jokingly suggested, "Take 10 really deep breaths in a row!". Well, I tried it anyway, hoping anything might help. And it worked! I confirmed Kellie without any hiccups and the day was saved. And then they came back after church.

I don't know if anyone is worried about me being jealous or feeling shortchanged or whatever. I definitely don't have those feelings! I think it's really crazy cool that he's going to serve in such a ridiculously unique way. And I really love my mission. I love the people I've met, taught, and brought unto Christ. I love the geography and climate. I love the experiences I've had and lessons I've learned. I just can't wait for him to have the same feelings as I have. I can't wait to start telling people where he'll be serving!!

I love y'all!

Elder Cole Martin