Monday, July 28, 2014

[7/28/2014] Week 73: Where does the time go?

Wow, we worked super hard this week. We did so much finding! It felt really good each evening to know that we had been diligent all day. We did find one new investigator, Aaron, who accepted baptismal date right off! We will see him again this evening before ward home evening.

DeMarkeyas (my immediate right) was baptized into the Mill
Creek ward on Saturday. He and his new wife, Osharrhea, moved
back to Alabama for school today. They are so wonderful!
I was secretly hoping that I would stay with Elder Haupu. We had a (I don't know if this is really the right terminology, but I'll use it because it's fun to say) knock-down, drag-out companionship inventory -- where we discuss personal and companionship goals, point out strengths, and ask for suggestions on how to improve (Preach My Gospel, p. 150) -- this week. We finally were able to flesh out every little thing we've been bothered or concerned about, and honestly, things are so much better now. I look at the missionary that I was two transfers ago and compare that image to who I am now, and I'll tell you what, I have learned so much from Elder Haupu. He's helped me get out of a lot of shells, and I'm really grateful for that. During district meeting this week, we were trained on companionship unity and loving and serving each other, and that was super helpful as well; I learned a lot about Elder Haupu that was pretty crucial in communicating with and understanding him specifically. I was sad knowing that we had finally gotten past all of this negativity/unaddressed friction and that it was likely we would part ways after this transfer. But hey, we all know how unpredictable President Bonham is.

I can't believe Christian goes through the Temple to receive his own endowment on Thursday! I'm so excited for him to start his mission!

Wellp, a new transfer ahead. Should be a wild ride!

[From my Dad]: I told Cole I was going to meet a young man and his pastor for lunch tomorrow. I was anxious that the Pastor would attack me for talking to his protegĂ© about the Gospel, "trying to lure him away." I wasn't, and I only wish to share good feelings and fullness of truth with other Christians. I don't want to fight about the Gospel with anyone. The next couple of paragraphs contain his response to my fears. I definitely needed to hear his reassuring testimony.] 

And Dad, this morning, in fact, we were perusing ties in Value Village (a common thrift store up here) when we were approached by a random stranger who had all kinds of crazy things to say about our beliefs. He just wanted to argue. In the middle of the store! He had no interest in our thoughts or in having a healthy conversation. With all the respect we could muster, we invited him to have a nice day. That's something that I face nearly every day of my mission. A lot of people like to tell us what we believe. There is a lot of persecution. I can tell you that these experiences rarely get to me and do not shake my faith. It is because I do my best to fear God more than man. I know that my conviction is a precious gift given to me by God. It came through no one else. It was a powerful answer to my prayers, and I know it is real. I don't need imperfect men to tell me what I believe about God when I have learned about God from God Himself. The adversary will try and get you to forget that, and he can be pretty good at it. But remember who you are. Pops, you as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and as a holder of the restored priesthood of God represent Him. You are entitled to inspiration. That inspiration will include what to say as well as how to act. I have learned time and time again as a missionary that it is more important to preserve His image as humble and meek and loving than to get your words in there and prove yourself right --- if it gets to that point, I promise your "contender" won't even hear you.

That's my two cents. I know you already know that. But I just took the opportunity to write that to remind myself of what I know.

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

The district!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

[7/21/2014] Week 72: A Great Week!

Hey, you know what? It was a great week. All of our appointments fell through, but we found and taught seven new investigators! How about that? That was thrilling. It's amazing, the kinds of things that happen on exchanges.

This week, our zone had scheduled interviews with the mission president during which Elder Haupu and I had the opportunity to prepare and give instruction while missionaries waited for their turn. For us, this was a great experience. Elder Haupu and I really worked hard to seek inspiration for the zone, and boy did we find it! For part of our instruction, we trained on and role played correcting investigators' prayers and inviting them to offer another prayer if they didn't ask Heavenly Father specific questions about Joseph Smith/the Restoration. Why is this crucial? I have a firm testimony that when you ask Him specific questions, He will respond with specific, powerful, heart-changing answers. When you ask Him specific questions, you show that you have exactly in your mind what you want to know, and that you're serious about knowing it. If you shy away from being bold and specific in your prayers, you miss the mark on what Heavenly Father really, really wants you to know. A sincere and seeking heart is a heart prepared to receive revelation and act on it. As well, I have learned that taking time to pause and reflect and listen directly following a sincere and specific prayer is crucial. That is when the whisperings of the Holy Ghost reveal truth, light, and direction. Sometimes, it takes just a few seconds of listening, and sometimes one should be prepared to wait longer, pray consistently, and follow the Holy Ghost to ask the right questions.

We had the opportunity to watch an investigator, DeMarkeyas, whom we taught get married to a recent convert, Osharrhea. That was awesome! DeMarkeyas will be baptized this weekend before he and his new wife move back to Alabama for school. I love how the gospel organizes spirits into families. The Temple will be soon enough!

I've been working really hard and praying really hard to get along better with my companion. We've had a much better time, and have definitely seen the impact on the work we do. Our spirits are higher, and the prepared people keep popping up.

I cannot believe Christian leaves in a month. It's blowing my mind! Soon enough, there will be another Elder Martin out there! He's going to have such a great experience, and he's going to be a killer missionary! I'm stoked! What's Seth thinking about all this mission stuff? Is he going to serve? If so, right after high school, or will he do a year of college first? I love our family!

That's all I've got. Have a great week, fambly!


Elder Martin

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

[7/14/2014] Week 71: The Weeds are Subsiding

Hey, hey!

I feel unusually affected by the news of the Stay family and their tragedy. Nearly an entire family cut short of their opportunity to live here and experience mortality, and it is because someone misused their agency. Really, I'm saddened, which is not a normal reaction for me to news like that. I guess that makes me sound cold and hardened, but it's true. Who knows? Maybe I've changed.

We definitely saw more miracles this week in finding new investigators. Last week, Elder Christensen and I went tracting while our companions taught DeMarkeyas a hand-off lesson. The very first door was answered by Veer, a young single adult currently studying nursing at Shoreline Community College. She and her family are from India, and she was raised Sikh, but she is still figuring out what she believes, so she was totally open to a chapel tour and learning more about what we believe. On Tuesday, we gave her a chapel tour, and she even brought her friend Andre, a Ukrainian young single adult, who has his own crazy conversion story of when he found Christianity. We taught them several times his week, and invited them to pray about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. As we taught them about the Book of Mormon, and arrived at the point in chapter one of 1 Nephi where Nephi relates Lehi's first visionary dream, Veer described to us an experience of her own: she prayed just before going to sleep the night previous to our lesson, and subsequently had a dream that she was flying. This may seem inconsequential, but in Veer's experience, when she dreams, she only has nightmares. What's more is that in her culture, a "flying dream" a really, really good sign. Isn't that incredible? Heavenly Father works with us in our own currency, and He certainly answers prayers! Unfortunately, Veer is headed to India today to work on a college project, and she won't return until mid-September. But we'll see her then!

I learned a lot about leadership this week. On exchange with Elder Shaver in the Thomas Lake ward, I took the advice of one of our assistants to the president, which was to "help your missionaries love their mission". I felt impressed by the Holy Ghost to compliment and build up Elder Shaver on everything that I noticed he was doing well. Usually, I notice a lot of things that missionaries do well, but I rarely say anything because I assume that their good qualities and attributes are clear, and "go without saying". But I figured I'd not be lazy, and I just went all out. It was actually really fun to just point out everything he did well, and at the end of our exchange, he said something awesome: "You know how when a parent tells their child they're smart again and again, the child becomes smart because he believes it? I feel like that's what you've done for me. Thanks, Elder Martin, for this exchange." It was so cool to hear that because I felt like Elder Shaver already knew how awesome of a missionary he is, but clearly, my comments had a remarkable impact on the way he viewed himself and his missionary work. I was just humbled to be a tool in Heavenly Father's hands to do some good for another missionary.

I had the opportunity to sit down with another missionary in the zone for some time after zone meeting on Wednesday and talk about the struggles he is having with his companion. It was really cool, because, since his concerns have to do with honesty and integrity, I was able to think back to my experiences with Pops and how he was always the utmost example of those attributes. I can remember accusing Dad of lying or whatever while I was in my moody teen years, and he would always respond calmly, "I don't lie. I'm not dishonest." And I just couldn't argue with that. When we righteously live up to our covenants and follow the example of Jesus Christ to the best of our ability, we can stand upright and erect with calm confidence in every situation. No sweat. I hope to stand with that same confidence at Judgment Day. Not because I was perfect, but because I did my best and trusted the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His grace to cleanse me.

All for now. Love y'all!

Elder Martin

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

[7/7/2014] Week 70: What could be better than this?

Yo, whassup.

That's Mount Baker alll the way in the distance.
It's a treat for me to see from Everett on clear days
because I got to see it nearly every day while serving
in Blaine! I love Washington!
I tell you what, we were so committed to our goal of eight new investigators this week. But it didn't happen. But that's ok. Because we found four new investigators, which is four more than we've found in something like the past four weeks! Heavenly Father blessed us with a lot of miracles, and I firmly believe it was because we acted in faith and in hope. You might even say we acted in charity, as I found myself looking upon the people we met and taught not as numbers, but as children of God who have been prepared to receive us at this time--if only we would set faith-filled goals and be diligent in striving to accomplish them.

On Tuesday, we had a lesson with Junior Jiminez, a 20 year-old mixed martial arts enthusiast whom the Mill Creek elders initially street-contacted. We taught him the entirety of the Restoration using the pamphlet method and invited him to pray at the end of our visit. After he did so, we paused for 30 seconds or so to let the Spirit work, and to allow him an opportunity to listen--or feel--for an answer. As a result, he described really feeling God's love, as many religious entities have reached out to him in the past several weeks, all by coincidence--or not. He marveled at how God had answered his prayer in such a miraculous way, though he ended up receiving an answer to a question he hadn't even thought of asking until the middle of his prayer. It was way cool, and it was so clearly recognizable. I love when that happens!

On Wednesday, we had dinner with the Eames', a family that is shockingly (albeit pleasantly) similar to my own, and they invited a friend, Savvi, who invited her nonmember friend, Shauna, to join us. Shauna, who was raised Catholic, didn't exactly expect a lesson after dinner, but she got one anyway. And it went awesome! She prayed at the end, felt the fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5, committed to attend church, and responded positively to a soft baptismal invitation. She described being open and trying to figure out what she believes. She made a step in the right direction! I love member missionary work!

After dinner on Wednesday, we were called to another home in the area in which a recent convert named Osh and her nonmember fiance are currently staying. Osh was baptized into the Silver Lake ward on May 31st, and her fiance, DeMarkeyas, is visiting until shortly their marriage, which is scheduled to occur on the 19th. From first looks, DeMarkeyas is a total "gangstah", but of course "the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7) and boy, is his heart prepared. Again, we taught the first lesson, really focused on asking inspired questions, and he prayed at the end. We, of course, invited him to pause and reflect for 30 seconds. This time stretched long beyond half a minute, while, as DeMarkeyas described, thoughts and memories rushed into his mind, and the Spirit filled his heart. He became emotional and responded joyously to the invitation to be baptized on the 26th. Of course, since he will be married before then, we handed him off to the Mill Creek family ward elders, who will take wonderful care of him.

There were several other miracles this week, but those were my favorite.

I did get the package this week. In fact, it entered my possession on the afternoon of the 4th, so it was right on time! Christian, thanks so much for the banner. I had forgotten all about that request, but I was was enthralled to find it fulfilled and the banner was hung promptly in our apartment. And I might add that it looks rather dashing. Does the goat mascot have a name? I am also grateful for the letters, picture, notes (Margo, no pun intended), and goodies that were included. My heart was warmed and my trunkiness boosted for an evening or so.

I love y'all! And I can't wait to start hearing about how Christian's mission is going and love hearing about how things go for everyone at home!

On the ferry to Whidbey Island with Elder Haupu
We went out to South Whidbey island again to help the sisters there find new people to teach. The ferry ride is always breathtaking and exciting, though but 15 minutes long.

Elder Martin