Monday, December 29, 2014

[12/29/2014] Week 95: He is the Gift


He is the Gift
What a week. Of course, it was filled with the flurry of Christmas and gifts and food and a final push to distribute "He is the Gift" cards to whoever would take them, but it was still a week of proselyting and living and working in the service of the Lord.

Mandy is still doing well. She needs prayers from everyone. She is learning and growing bit by bit, but we feel she isn't recognizing the answers to her prayers that she is receiving or has already received. She's almost grown stagnant in that she's learned all the lessons and lives all the commandments, but hasn't been baptized and doesn't have a baptismal date, so she's kind of just in "limbo". This is where the fundamental of "teaching people, not lessons" really comes into play. We're trying to really discern what her needs are and what will help her to set a new goal for baptism. At this point, she's unsure about a lot. She feels she doesn't know enough or doesn't know for sure that the Book of Mormon is true or that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ. So this week, we focused on helping her recognize how faith grows and it turns out that she related fairly well to Alma 32 because she herself is a gardener!

We're teaching another young man named Troy, who has recently escaped an ugly situation with his (now ex-) girlfriend of two years. She was extremely physically abusive and verbally volatile. And when he tried to do anything about it, she would threaten to call the police and his employer and lie to both to ruin his life. It sounds really funny, and he sees the comedy in it, but it's been a huge headache for him. Anyway, he finally got a protection order and she left, though he had to attend a court hearing on Christmas Eve to try and finalize things. The protection order was dissolved, but it looks like she's out of the picture for good. Now, Troy has become far more open and eager to meet with us and wants to progress. The whole ordeal with his ex-girlfriend has been emotionally draining for him, and he needs healing.

On Tuesday, we taught an investigator named Colleen, who has met with sisters for quite a while now, but will meet with us from now on since they closed the sisters' area (the mission is shrinking!) a few weeks ago. She is 75 years old and, well, let's just say she's a handful. She has hard feelings towards males in general (I think because of trials from her past) and she has always felt that elders are too pushy, too demanding, too callused, and too rigid. She made her expectations very clear from the start: she wants to time to chat and talk with one another every time we start a lesson; if she needs help with chores or lifting heavy things, the missionaries always help after the lesson; no being pushy or she'll close right up. On top of that, she has Mersa, which has prevented her from being baptized for several months now as she can't be in water with someone else while the infection is active. All in all, we love her and are impressed with her vast reservoir of wisdom. She's a charming lady and she seems to love the Church--she just isn't going to be told what to do.

It was quite enjoyable to see you all on Christmas, and it always goes so fast. But no worries, I shall see you all again shortly.

Dad, I actually remember hearing about that movie [Foxcatcher] in my first area from a less active member who was way into wrestling. He mentioned to me that it was still in the early workings---it's crazy how fast time flies!

It's good to hear the ol' Martin family DVD-givin' tradition is still alive around Christmas time. Classic.

I love you all, and I hope that your New Years is dazzling.

Seth, happy birthday. I thought of you on Saturday morning and it blew my mind that you're eighteen now. You're an adult! I was [technically] eighteen when I left home. Isn't that insane? You've grown so big, my wittle Schteph.

Mom, here's a happy birthday in advance! I love you so much, even though you're technically a senior citizen now. That's ok, friends have been asking me since the third grade if you were my grandma. Blame the platinum blonde!

Elder Martin

Monday, December 22, 2014

[12/22/2014] Week 94: Faithful at Christmas


Here's the coolest story from this week (It's actually from last night!):

We have set a goal in the zone to tract for two hours every evening so that we are sure to talk with more people at home and thus find more prepared families to teach. This is difficult to commit to because the evenings are very dark in the winter and people get mad when you knock on their doors. Anywho, Elder George and I planned to do part of our tracting on Avenue H in downtown Snohomish, and we got there later than we had planned. In fact, we only had about fifteen minutes to tract before going in to start reporting numbers for the week. Because of our time limitation, we nearly decided to change our plans tract somewhere a little closer to the apartment than Avenue H, but we didn't. So we parked on said avenue, and get out, and head for the first door, whose house is ablaze with Christmas lights. We knock and are answered by a lady named Susan. Susan is just the sweetest lady. We talked with her on her doorstep for nearly 30 minutes and here is the synopsis of our experience with her: she came to believe in Jesus Christ because of trials she has faced in life, she has made lots of mistakes in her past that she is striving to overcome, she doesn't attend a church anymore because she feels they are all flawed,she's never heard or learned much about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we taught her the Restoration and prayed with her, she wants to learn more, she wants to meet again on Tuesday at 8 (a commonly difficult slot of time to make productive) and she has never been baptized, though she sees it as something she still needs to do. So we had a super miracle come from our very, very last proselyting efforts of the week!

In other news, I will plan on being ready to Google Hangout on Thursday morning at 10:00am! I am fine with whatever format you'd like to do. As long as I get to see the fambam.

The other day after dinner with the bishop, I enjoyed a Tim-Tam Slam.
Tim-Tam Slam (Wikimedia)

That's an Australian dessert-game.


Elder Martin

Saturday, December 20, 2014

[12/15/2014] Week 93: Man, I love being a missionary

Hey, howdy!

A sick rainbow!
Mandy decided to postpone her baptism! This news was out of the blue, but it turns our that her dad doesn't support her decision to be baptized (religion is man-made, he says), and so she needs more time because she respects her father deeply. Though she turns 18 in January, she may continue to put off her baptism beyond that out of respect (some might call it appeasement) for her dad. We need prayers! Actually, Mandy needs prayers. And her dad. And us.

I am just finishing the war chapters of Alma in my personal study, and I have really come to love and admire the example of Captain Moroni. He was an excellent example of honoring the priesthood of God and he always remembered which way he faced, as Elder Robbins of the Seventy would put it. I want to be like Captain Moroni in every aspect of my missionary work. I feel that one of Captain Moroni's most astounding attributes was his virtue. He was a man with a pure heart and every intent to serve God.

Elder George of Rexburg, Idaho
I love serving with Elder George! He is such a great missionary in every way. He understands and remembers the scriptures so clearly, he is persistent and diligent in every contact, he teaches with boldness and love, and he is super smart and way fun to serve with. I am learning a lot from his example every day.

Saturday was a day of powerful learning for me. At first, it was a crummy day. I mean, we tracted a lot, and nearly everyone was uninterested and many were rude and condescending. It was a real trial of my faith. I prayed personally a few times through the day for the strength to keep on truckin' and work joyfully. I was deeply grateful for a companion to bear me up and keep me goin', even if he didn't know how much help he was. We had some great laughs to make things more bearable.

Eventually, tracting through a fancy neighborhood, we happened upon an older man, Fran, who, though firmly Catholic, offered us wisdom and encouragement that I really needed to keep going. He was an answer to my prayers. He said, "When people slam doors on ya, don't take offense, because there are just as many more who will listen or at least be nice." It was a small thing he did for us, but it was God's hand in our work, helping me to keep going.

After dinner (and lots more tracting) on Saturday, we stuck to our plans to tract nearby our dinner appointment and met many nice people despite the late hour. By nearly 8:00, we came to a house whose second story was an apartment at the top of a separate flight of stairs (this means it was a door that was a little more questionable/uncomfortable to knock). The first floor was dark and no one answered, but we decided by a hair to go ahead and knock the top floor apartment. We were met by Brynn, who happened to be meditating just as we knocked. She took this timing as a sign. We started into a long conversation on her doorstep about faith and higher power, she asserted some ideas about quantum mechanics and love, we taught about prophets briefly, her boyfriend, Billy, arrived home and they invited us back another time.

The whole day, I had this feeling we were working for some blessing that would come later. And so we just needed to hang in there and be diligent, and God would guide us.

But wait! There's more!

At about 8:35pm, we decided to go try a referral we received from a potential. The referral was for a guy he'd seen living in a camper in a field by the Snohomish river, who was allegedly a drunk. We found the camper, parked nearby, and approached cautiously. Just then, the camper rocked back and forth from the motion of someone shuffling around inside. In all honesty, we were shakin' in our boots. Our imaginations ran wild, and we almost high-tailed it back to the car to try back another time -- you know, in the daylight.

Snohomish Railroad Crossing (courtesy of C. Harmon)
Somehow, we just went for it anyway. We softly knocked, a light flicked on inside, a man in his late 60's came to the door, and we explained exactly why we were there: we were missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ who had heard that he could use our message. And he invited us in. Because it was cold. And we accepted. He took us each by the hand and helped us up the rickety makeshift "staircase" of stacked rocks that led to his door, and we huddled around the small table in the camper in the back of his late 1970's Ford pickup. As he said down, he said, "Now that I know you're missionaries, I can put this away," and he pulled from his waistband a six-inch silver dagger that gleamed in the low light and set it gently on the pleather seat next to him.

We learned his name to be Jesse, and we listened as one life adventures story of his molded into another. We served in the military, met a Korean lady during his service, fell in love, and chased after her for years to come. He's always had trouble with the law, going in and out of jail, and through it all, he has tried to recognize God's hand in his life. He drinks, he smokes, he swears, and he even battles addiction to meth. He's been "healed by Jesus Christ" and every dollar he makes "signing" he credits to God's divine providence.

This was the typical man you see out on the street corner asking for money, and yet we saw him in an entirely different light. He's a child of God. He has a name and a story and a faith. He has struggles and trials. We started to teach Jesse about the Restoration, to which he responded, "Oh, I know about Joseph Smith. He's the modern-day prophet who designed the temple with just the right shafts so they could go and put elevators in 80 years later. Amazing." I asked how he knew so much (Of course, he wasn't entirely accurate, but it was clear he'd had some experience with the Church) and he replied, "I was a Mormon for a little while when I was younger. That was the happiest six months of my life." We asked what he meant, and he said he just loved the family feel of each ward (he used the term) and how he always felt right and loved and at home. He even told us he almost went on a mission. Can you believe that? Who would have ever thought he'd had all this experience with the Church and the gospel just from a glance out the passenger window at a busy intersection?

We invited Jesse to church the following morning, and he said he had to watch football, but that next week could work. By the soft orange glow of the one working bulb of his wimpy reading lamp and through the hazy smoke of the cigarette he'd rolled during our talk, we prayed with him and bid him goodnight. As he walked us to our car, he told us we could stop through anytime and get warm in his camper, even if he wasn't home -- "The lock is broken anyway!".

Man, I love being a missionary.

Elder Martin

Monday, December 8, 2014

[12/08/2014] Week 92: Snohomish!

So I was transferred to the stake just next door to Everett, called Snohomish (In fact, the Silver Lake YSA ward, from whence I came, draws young single adults from both the Everett and Snohomish stakes, so I know many of the members and a little bit of the area already). The ward to which I am assigned is the Snohomish ward of the Snohomish stake. It is also the Snohomish zone leader area. And let me tell ya, I love Snohomish! I love my new area, I love my companion, and I love the missionaries in the Snohomish zone. This place is great! Snohomish!

We have seen a great deal of good results this week in our finding and teaching efforts. What's interesting is that our investigator who is set to baptized this month, Mandy, actually received the very first Restoration lesson from Elder Haupu and I a little over three months ago, as she was introduced to the Church by a member of the Silver Lake ward. We then handed her off to the Snohomish ward elders because she is still seventeen and in high school. And then I got transferred here! This past Friday, Elder George and I taught her about missionary work from Chapter 3, lesson 5 of "Preach My Gospel", which was the very last lesson she needed to learn before baptism. So there you go, it's full circle. I got to teach Mandy the very first lesson and the very last lesson. But what's far more remarkable than any involvement I have had is the commitment Mandy has shown to the gospel in such a short time. She bore her testimony during her first sacrament meeting in the Snohomish ward, she has attended all three hours of church for ten weeks in a row,  she attends seminary every morning before school, she's most of the way through the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, and she is anxiously awaiting her baptism on the 21st of this month. I gotta tell ya, member missionary work is the way to go.

I must admit, however, that a few of the progressing (or close to it) investigators we're currently teaching in Snohomish were found tracting -- and live at the end of very long driveways at that. Don't let anyone ever tell you that tracting (or "porting", as the Frenchies call it) is worthless!

We were invited to dinner with a less-active member, Brother C, on Wednesday. He has an enormous home and a great job, but he wants nothing to do with the Church at this point and he just didn't seem to be truly happy. During the course of our conversation with him, we learned that he made some pretty big mistakes on his mission that very clearly altered the course of his life. I am sure grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve a mission, and that I have taken it seriously. I certainly haven't been perfect, but I have grown immensely, and I must say that my experiences so far in Washington will as well have certainly altered the course of my life.

This night was far more eventful than I am at liberty to say via email, so I'll have to share my three-page journal entry with you all when I get home.

Elder George and I are getting along just wonderfully. We are diligent and obedient every day, and he is certainly an inspired missionary. All of our plans so far have resulted in some progress of some person in our area. It's great!

Well, my good friend Amanda (you may have met her; she was at my farewell talk) went home from her mission about a month ago, and my other good friend Leanne (you know her) went home this last week. So I'm flyin' solo for friends. But I've still got my best friend, Christian, for the rest of my mission. And my lyfe.

I'm so happy to hear about Seth every week. How is he doing on mission preparation? I have been praying for his health to improve continually so that he can serve a regular proselyting mission. He is going to love it! Yesterday, Elder George and I attended priest's quorum during Sunday school, and the lesson was given by a young man named Peder. Peder is 18, a senior in high school, and way too big for his age. Like 6' 3" and 205-ish. And, of course, he wrestles. His lesson on examples of Zion in the scriptures was very well-prepared, and he was very organized and mature in his presentation of it. He reminded me a lot of Seth.

How is Margo doing? I guess marching season has come to an end, and I'll bet that right about now, they're working on the rendition of "Sleigh Ride" that Mr. G. likes to perform every year and some other beautiful Christmas piece with lots of long, warm tones and edifying chords. I miss Mr. G. sometimes!

I love y'all!

Elder Martin

Monday, December 1, 2014

[12/01/2014] Week 91: Launch Into the Unknown!

I found out this morning that I am being transferred. Of course, I can't say I'm surprised. So it should be exciting! I don't have any idea where I am headed, and I'm pretty sure I will no longer be assigned as a zone leader. I heard that President Bonham will be assigning a number of the zone leaders to be junior companions this coming transfer. Should be interesting! I am kind of excited, but also super nervous.

My Thanksgiving was fabulous. We had breakfast with a member of the ward, then played football with the assistants and about half the zone. It was sweet! I will have you know that I had some sweet diving touchdown receptions. In case you were curious. Afterward, we had Thanksgiving dinner with the stake high councilman assigned to missionary work, Brother Vance. On the outside, he seems like a pretty dry guy, but he got to talking about his childhood shenanigans growing up on the farm and I had to question how he ever survived his younger years! The rest of the day was chill. Just did normal preparation day stuff.

I found out this morning that I am being transferred. Of course, I can't say I'm surprised. So it should be exciting! I don't have any idea where I am headed, and I'm pretty sure I will no longer be assigned as a zone leader. I heard that President Bonham will be assigning a number of the zone leaders to be junior companions this coming transfer. I am kind of excited, but also super nervous. It's been a long time since I was transferred! But that's ok. Change is good for growth. I have really committed myself to giving my all this last twelve weeks. I want to be sure I do it right. I want to make sure that whoever I serve with gets the very best of me!

On Friday, before I began my personal study, I received a phone call from Brother Tuck, a member of the bishopric, asking me to speak in sacrament meeting on Sunday, as one of his others speakers had cancelled. Since I'm a missionary, I was happy to oblige (Either way, I think I would have been happy to help)! So I spent the next few personal studies and lunches putting together a talk on "expressing gratitude through obedience". I felt like the talk went pretty well, and I certainly learned a lot about gratitude and obedience. I think the most valuable insight that came to me was this: Heavenly Father doesn't ask us to be grateful or obedience for his profit (Mosiah 2:20-21); he asks us to be grateful and obedient because to do so profits us. These attributes are necessary for us to grow spiritually and become like Christ.

A number of my close mission friends went home yesterday. I really look up to a lot of those missionaries and I will be happy to see them again someday, but I will certainly miss them. On to the next phase!

I am really grateful for Elder Foster. I have grown so much with him as my companion. I have never had a companion that took scripture study quite as seriously as he does. I admire him for it and hope to know and understand the scriptures the way he does one day.

He is the Gift card/link
We've used the "He is the Gift" cards a little bit so far. With about 9 cards per day, we feel like we have to be extra careful with who we offer them to, and then somehow the day just gets away from us and we still have four or five left for that day. But we've used the video at dinners to invite members to take this initiative and run with it! I think this is going to be great.

I feel bad that I used to be super detailed in all my emails home, but now I just kind of struggle to share anything cool. Like Christian's emails. Haha. I promise I'm having a great time and learning a lot! I will really miss the mission when it's over. But that ain't yet!

Like I said, I can't really think of anything for Christmas. Maybe new road bike handlebar wraps? I've got some electrical tape holding the old wraps down, so that's not a big deal. I think a written letter from each member of the family (current goings-on and testimony included) would make my day! I know I don't often reply by written letter, but I love receiving them!

I love y'all!

Elder Cole Martin