Tuesday, October 28, 2014

[10/27/2014] Week 86: Blessings of Faith

Hey, y'all!

This week was awesome! Towards the beginning, things were a little slow-going, but by the end of the week, we saw some pretty cool miracles.

Last night, Elder Foster and I went to go tracting in one of the nicer complexes in Mill Creek and we started at building Y. The first door we knocked was answered by an older gentleman who was not excited to see us at all. He firmly expressed his disinterest, and firmly shut the door. We moved on to the next few doors, and a few moments later, his wife popped her head out darted a glare our way, and yelled at us saying, "What you're doing is illegal! There's no soliciting here! Get out of here now! I know who you are. You're Mormons. My great-grandfather was Wilford Woodruff! Now leave before I call the office!" So we were cordial as could be and walked away. From her apartment building. And went to another one in the same complex (what we do isn't illegal because we don't sell anything). So we tracted that building out and on the top floor, we had a miracle! We knocked on a door to find Brady and Haley, a newly wed couple. They told us they were staunch Christians just moved up from Alabama, heard a quick door approach on the message of the Restoration, kindly told us they weren't interested, shook our hands, and shut the door. We moved on. Oddly, we knocked the two doors on the other side of the floor before coming back to knock the second one across from Brady and Haley. When we came back to try their neighbors across from them, the door we'd already knocked flew open, and Brady and Haley walked out. We stumbled awkwardly because we thought they were just leaving and here they'd caught us about to "swoop in" on their neighbors. They stared at us, beaming, and invited us in. We weren't sure how to react. She reiterated: "Come on! Come inside." as she might have called puppies inside from the cold. Eventually, we wiped the bewilderment off our faces, shuffled inside, and perched ourselves on their felt sectional. They told us they had gotten to thinking and decided that it would make sense to invite us in to hear more about our faith and beliefs so that they could be well-informed. They felt it would be the Christlike thing to do to invite us in and hear what we have to say. What followed was an edifying discussion on the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how our Church differs from what they believe and practice. It was awesome! They are open to hearing more about the Book of Mormon from the Mill Creek family ward elders. I know that during the short space of time between when they first shut the door and when they opened it again, the Spirit worked with them and softened their hearts to help them understand that we truly are representatives of Jesus Christ. It was a miracle! This young family with their first baby on the way will be well-rooted in the restored gospel in no time!

If you remember my mention of a contact with Mark, a very wealthy, very humble man in Mukilteo, Elder Goodey and I went back to see him on Saturday while we were on exchange together. The timing was such that we caught him home -- usually he is out with his wife on Saturday afternoons, but she is out of town on business -- just before he was about to go work out. He was happy to see us again, and invited us right in. We taught him the Restoration and really utilized silence to let the Spirit do the talking. Elder Goodey did an incredible job bearing testimony, especially as he his recounted his experience learning that the Book of Mormon was true. When Elder Goodey described the feelings he had had and the profound joy he felt after praying over it for months, Mark remarked, "Yeah, I've never had anything like that..." And so we promised that he could. We testified that he could know as we know that this message is true if he would ask. And he committed to do so, understanding that his answer would come over time. When asked when he could meet again, he made sure to schedule a time that his wife, Kim, could join in the discussion.

Last week, Elder Foster and I tracted into a prepared lady named Sarah, who has been married for nearly 2 years and just had her first baby 6 months ago. This past week, she and her husband met with the Mill Creek elders and agreed to meet again this coming week.

So, as you can see, we've been really blessed to find people who are certainly prepared and seeking for the family ward missionaries in our zone. And that's ok, because I love to teach the gospel and see people make progress regardless of age or marital status!

In other news, we had a powerful lesson with Adam this week that was mainly about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. A lot of his concerns are about whether God really does care about him specifically and whether the Plan of Salvation really makes sense. I tell you, the Spirit was so powerful. I felt the Holy Ghost guiding me so clearly in what to say, when to be silent, and especially in the questions I asked. He remarked at feeling over and over through the lesson that he just needs to get back into studying his scriptures. Then, the Spirit prompted me to point out that what he was describing was revelation from God, thus proving that He loves and is reaching out to Adam even now. At this point, there was an outpouring of love and joy from the Spirit, and he knew what I was saying was true. He's making great progress!

We also found a new investigator, Sarah, yesterday who just moved out of her mom's house and into her first apartment. She was way open and invited us back next weekend. I believe we found Sarah -- as well as Brady and Haley -- not only because we had been obedient and diligent all week, but because we stuck to the plans we made to go tracting after church and followed through with faith.

That's so weird to see a picture of Wim! Glad to see he's still happy and healthy.

Elder Martin

Monday, October 20, 2014

[10/20/2014] Week 85: And the Beat Goes On

Well, it's been a great week.

We recently went to the bishop of the Snohomish ward to talk about the young single adults in his stewardship and how we could help out. He gave us a list of all the members between 18 and 30 and included detailed notes about each of the ones he is familiar with. This was extremely helpful for us. Elder Foster and I went to work on this list and met a few of the key names the bishop asked us to focus on.

One young man, named Adam, was kind and excited to meet us. He served a mission in McAllen, Texas not too many years ago, but has since struggled to remain active in the Church. Based on a few hints here and there, we think he may face same-sex attraction. We asked him yesterday about his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith, to which he responded that he still believes it all firmly, but expressed concerns with the Plan of Salvation such as, "If God knows me perfectly, then why does He send me here when He knows I'll fail? Do I really have agency if God knows perfectly everything that I'm going to do, or am I predestined? I have a cousin who is 100% gay. Why did God put him in that situation if it's exactly in opposition to the Plan of Salvation?" For a moment, Elder Foster and I were stumped at these deep, heart-wrenching questions. However, we role played these concerns this morning and we totally received revelation! It was revealed to us that, yes, God does know the end from the beginning, but we don't. Though he admitted to having made some serious mistakes in the past, Adam is selling himself short, or, rather, selling himself out to the devil by believing the lie that he is going to fail. Mortality ain't up yet. Adam can change now and succeed at last, but the adversary is keeping him from believing that so that he chooses not to repent ever. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Adam -- and every one of God's children -- can achieve absolute victory over sin and death.

We will be meeting with Adam again on Wednesday evening.

On Saturday, we stopped by the house of a former investigator, Joe, whom we haven't found home in quite a while. As we walked up, we found him out on the porch, smoking. Elder Foster and I have been working more on asking inspired questions lately, and this was an opportunity to try it out. Elder Foster asked, "If you could have anything in the world right now -- aside from money, cars, whatever --, what would you want?" Joe responded in a word: "Peace." Of course, a person could respond to that question in a lot of different ways, but I know Elder Foster was inspired to ask it because of how Joe responded. We testified of how the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to receive from our Father in Heaven true and lasting peace. We knew it rang true with Joe. We'll see him again on Friday.

On Wednesday, we taught Abdul, who is from Sierra Leone and was raised as a Muslim. When we followed up on our previous commitment for him to read the Restoration pamphlet, we asked what questions he had about what he'd read. He said, "I have only one. What is the 'Atonement'?" What a spectacular question! We taught him about how without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, none of us could hope to return to our Father in Heaven, and yet that is the whole purpose of this life; to prepare to return to live with Him!

Mom, it sounds like you are being a Christlike example in your visiting teaching assignment. Way to be! I know that you are having a profound impact on that sister and are strengthening her testimony of the gospel through your diligence and charity (both Christlike attributes, found in Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel).

Elder Martin
Silver Lake ward

Monday, October 13, 2014

[10/13/2014] Week 84: The Members Make All the Difference

Hey, hey!

This week was slightly better as far as finding and teaching goes. But I found that the more productivity was found within our companionship. Elder Foster and I had conversations not a few about what's really happening in our area, why we're not being able to find people who will progress, what the Silver Lake sisters are doing right (admittedly, it's hard not to compare, but we're just trying to learn from them), how to remain humble, and how to serve each other better. You know, I thought I was a pretty good companion. But I learned from Elder Foster yesterday that I've done a pretty sorry job at serving him on a deeper level. I learned that he's felt really frustrated at his circumstance. He's finally got an area that has seemingly limitless potential -- which, at the same time, is an overwhelming prospect --, but we can't seem to do things right. I mean, we keep the missionary schedule, are obedient and virtuous, work with members, strive to serve our zone, are diligent from sun-up to sun-down (I guess the phrase has less meaning in these Washington winter months!), and pray with great faith. And things just don't go the way we'd like.

Honestly, I've tried to think about what the deal is the whole time I've served here, and I've come to one conclusion. Tell me what you think: In Blaine, I was certainly an obedient missionary, but it's become more of a quest here in Everett. Yet, the investigators and baptisms just flowed. The members brought us people to teach left and right. It seemed we hardly had to do anything for the Lord to bless us. Here in Everett, I've become the best missionary I've ever been and I'm working harder with my companion than ever before, and at the same time, the baptisms just...stopped. The conclusion I've drawn up is that I'm having to learn that it really has nothing to do with me or my efforts. I don't know. I mean, I know I have to be obedient and worthy of the Spirit, but that is simply so that Heavenly Father can do His work through me. He's still the one doing the work. So whether I'm a stellar missionary here in Everett and not seeing baptisms, or whether I've still got a lot to learn in Blaine and baptizing monthly, it's up to the Lord to bless the area in which I serve with people for the missionaries to teach, and it's not up to me. I think I'm learning to be humble.

But tell me what y'all think? I'm not sure if it's doctrinally correct... Haha.

Well, we just got transfer calls. Elder Foster and I are both staying. That's five transfers, or seven-and-a-half months in Silver Lake YSA. Crazy! I'm excited!

I am blown away by Margo's missionary efforts. That is so awesome! I love to hear about member missionary work going on at home. That's the way it's supposed to be! And kudos to the missionaries for getting her family involved. As President Bonham would say, "We need to find somefamily to teach!" (see Preach My Gospel, "Talk with Everyone" p.156)

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Monday, October 6, 2014

[10/6/2014] Week 83: Tough Week


This week was rough. We really, really worked hard and it seems like the agency of others got the best of us. We had so many appointments fall through. It was disheartening, but as Elder Foster and I have talked about it, we feel that we really did our best to stay committed to our purpose, always sticking to back-up plans and even getting creative to stay diligent when we ran out of those. So in other words, I still feel successful, and I have felt a confirmation of that as I've accounted in my prayers.

Elder Foster and I have thought a lot about how to better serve the zone and how to help them re-commit to their purpose. We felt, during companion study, that we would take a day to fast for the deepened conversion of the other missionaries in our zone in preparation for General Conference. We also invited the missionaries in our zone to participate if they chose. We will invite them to share experiences from Conference and from the fast.

General Conference was powerful. Just twenty minutes before the afternoon session began, Elder Foster and I were sitting in the chapel listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform via satellite broadcast. We both noticed a young man whom we did not immediately recognize sitting in the back corner of the chapel by himself waiting quietly for the program to begin. He was dressed in street clothes. We received a prompting to go and introduce ourselves -- after all, he was a young single adult. When we sat down next to him, we discovered he was sobbing and clearly in great emotional distress. We learned of his name - Samuel - and then, as it turns out, Elder Foster knows his family from a former area. Samuel was an active member of the Church all throughout his childhood. He began work on his mission papers before joining the Marine Corps. He was recently discharged from the Marine Corps and now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been living at the Everett Gospel Mission, a nearby shelter for homeless people, for about a week. Elder Foster attested that the fact that he came to the Church for help is a huge step for him. Our bishop met with him promptly, and we will be meeting with him regularly this week.

All for now.

Love ya!

Elder Martin

This morning, we went on a stinkin' sick hike to what's called Evergreen Mountain Lookout. It is an old fire lookout station, built in the 30's or 40's and restored in the 90's. Now, they allow people to rent it out and camp in it!