Monday, January 12, 2015

[1/12/2015] Week 97: Week of Miracles!

President and Sister Bonham at Stake
Conference on Saturday night. They wore
blue and green in honor of the playoff game
everyone was missing to be there. Aren't
they great?
What a miraculous and fulfilling week this was. It was our very last week together (yes, we found out just minutes ago [~12:00p PST] that Elder George is being transferred tomorrow), and it was was incredible.

On Monday, we enjoyed dinner with Colleen and had a lesson afterwards where we went through the baptismal interview questions (Preach My Gospel, page 206) and discussed how she felt as far as preparing for baptism and confirmation. Well, the interview went really well until we came to question 5 and talked about tithing. We knew she was uncertain about tithing, but she really made it clear that if she doesn't have the money, she won't pay tithing. Her situation is understandable as she lives off of government income and has lots of medical expenses, but the real problem we feel she faces is an issue of faith. We will involve our bishop in teaching her tomorrow night to talk a little more about tithing and to encourage her to focus on growing her faith.

Wednesday, we walked out of an investigator's home after helping her put her Christmas decorations away, and as we walked to the car, we noticed her neighbors a few houses down working frantically to load stuff into an old, primer-ed Dodge dually with a bed cover on the back. We walked over and offered to help, and (this never happens) they accepted! So we spent about the next hour moving an older gentleman out this home he'd lived in for sixty years! Most of what we moved was very old and smelly. To his credit, most of it went into a dumpster he'd rented for that very purpose. We also helped him move and dump a few trash cans full of rancid material that had soaked in rain water for months.

November 23, 1963 - Seattle Post
In the process, however, he showed us some pretty cool stuff, including the issue of the Seattle Post from November 23, 1963 -- the day of John F. Kennedy's assassination, another issue that highlighted the erection of the Seattle Space Needle for the World's Fair in whatever year that was, and he even gave us a vinyl entitled "Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Greatest Hits" from 1974 in perfect condition!
April 8, 1962 - Seattle Times

We also carried a large, old, non-working speaker from the house to the dumpster, and to save time and have a little boyish fun, we dumped the speaker over the top rim of the dumpster instead of going around to the open end (it's one of those huge construction dumpsters that semi's come to pick up when you're done) so that it would crash and burst to pieces inside the dumpster (why set trash down nicely when you can break it?). Well, because the dumpster was sitting on a grade on his lawn, the speaker rolled down to the open end of the dumpster and came creaking to a stop (in pieces) just before the edge of the dumpster. Well, as we picked the speaker up to move it further back in the dumpster, the back of it fell apart and out slid three framed family photos well over eighty years old, which the man whom we were helping had been looking for for over 20 years! Pretty cool!

Friday was amazing! So amazing! We weekly planned, had lunch, and then went with the President Jensen of the elders' quorum to teach Elijah, a new investigator, the Restoration in his cramped travel trailer. Regardless of the circumstance, Elijah is very smart and very well informed about many religions of the world--he's just rough around the edges. He's always been impressed by Mormons and the "lack of feeling judged" when he's around them. This just happens to be the first occasion he's had time to sit down and learn from missionaries what it's all about. He read the pamphlet six times before we met with him and knew it very well, and he had great questions. We gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon, he prayed about it, and we'll see him again this week!

Nearly Discarded!
Before dinner on Friday, we spent a little time tracting on Glen Avenue (this was Elder George's choice of street) and the first door was Frank, who was super nice, whose ex-fiancee was LDS, and who said we could come back this week. As we walked around the other side of the duplex, a lady carrying a baby walked out of the door to which we were headed. So, of course, we started talking with her, and immediately something was familiar about her. We asked about her baby, and she told us that her daughter was her first child, and her name was Ivy. And then it hit me. It was Sarah, whom Elder Foster and I had tracted into in an apartment complex in Mill Creek when I was still serving in Everett! She and her husband, Ryan, met with the elders in the Mill Creek ward a few times, but I remember her telling us that they were moving to Snohomish soon. I was so enthralled to see her again, and to think that it had happened by marvelous "happenstance". I could hardly think as we talked with her because my mind was so blown at this miracle, but we got her information and we will be going back soon. It is clear to me that Heavenly Father isn't going to let this young family go.

Just a few doors later, we were invited right in by a man named Dan'l, who was involved in a motorcycle crash that paralyzed his left arm at 22. As his wife cooked dinner, he shared with us his strong faith in Christ and his unique ideas about the "bride of Christ" and how His church is simply established in the hearts of all the true believers. He was incredibly respectful and warm. We taught him boldly but respectfully about the organization that Christ established anciently (Ephesians 4:11-14) and how He has restored it in modern times. He tended to agree with us more often that he didn't, and when we invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, he readily accepted, though he described feeling both the Bible and the Book of Mormon to be "extraneous"--not necessary for salvation. In a respect, we could agree with him because, of course, Christ is the way to salvation, but I know that God has given us the Book of Mormon as a tool to teach us that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His church on the earth today (see "Introduction to the Book of Mormon", ninth paragraph). After talking for about thirty minutes, we parted on great terms -- both having inspired the other party to think a little differently -- with an invitation to return and teach him more.

At about 8pm on Friday, we headed to an appointment with Susan (whom we met miraculously on December 21st--see according email). We weren't sure she would remember, but of course, we tried anyway. As we parked, she emerged from her home and invited us right in. What followed was a powerful and sweet discussion that entailed a review of the Restoration and an introduction to the Book of Mormon. Susan is so sensitive to the Spirit, and she is embarrassed by how easily she gets emotional, but, boy, is she prepared. She just knew everything we taught was true and readily accepted the invitation to be baptized when as she learns more. Though she was hesitant, she prayed at the end to ask God if what we had taught was true, and her prayer was incredibly sweet and sincere. She is just one of those ladies who may not have much, but she knows it and she just knows right from wrong, true from false, and she is absolutely loyal to God. She is apprehensive about attending church with large groups of people, but she is going to give it a shot!

Ok, I know I just wrote a ton about Friday, but get this: Saturday was just as great!

On Saturday, our investigator John was going to spend the whole day with us (like a ride-along [except we would ride with him because it is against the rules for nonmembers to ride in missionary vehicles. [[missionary handbook, pgs. 18, 48]]) because he wanted to see what missionary life is like, but then he woke up sick, so he only came to one appointment with us. He didn't even get to tract with us! But that's okay because the teaching appointment he came to was awesome! Do you remember me mentioning Don in my email last week? And how he referred us to his sister, Jill? Well, we taught Jill on Saturday morning, and it was awesome! Dude, Jill is so prepared. As we taught her the Restoration, every question she asked had to do perfectly with the next principle we planned to teach. At one point, she said something like, "You know, prophets make sense. I used to look at the Mormon church as a cult, but really, it makes sense to me that if God called prophets back in the day, why wouldn't He call them today? I've never really thought about it that way until, well, today. Like right now. A prophet is like God's tool to get the message out." Can I just say that I have been waiting my whole mission for someone to say that? This lady is a missionary's dream come true. Halfway through the lesson, there was a knock at the door, and in walked Jill's brother, Don! He sat down and bore testimony of everything we taught (especially of President Monson as the living prophet today), and he did so in his own unique way: "He's like the Elder of all elders. The wisest of the wise! This guy is the true prophet today. I mean, he's a normal guy, but he's definitely a prophet!" So funny. Anyway, Jill shared with us the story of how she prayed for Don and her son, Daniel, as they worked together on a fishing boat that ran aground and sank. She had recurring scary dreams for a month prior to the incident, but she prayed consistently, and she remembers hearing God's voice accompanied with certain peace: "Something really bad is coming, but don't worry because I am here and everyone will be all right." And they were. Jill gladly accepted the invitation to be baptized, prayed for truth at the close of our lesson, and felt peace and a desire to continue learning about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. During the lesson, she said something profound: "I think God has a special place in his His heart for the prayers of mothers. He hears those especially."

Later on Saturday afternoon we taught the Mitchells, a part-member family with an unbaptized child, Isabella, who has expressed a desire to be baptized. We taught the Restoration using a Rubik's cube to help demonstrate for Isabella, but I just really felt a lot of Christlike love for the nonmember father, Brother Mitchell. When we asked him why he wanted to start taking the lessons again, he said something along the lines of, "Well, I've been going to church and hearing a lot about eternal families and if this is all true, I don't want me and my family to be left out. I want to be with them forever." We're teaching a family!

The infamous "tie wall" of the Snohomish apartment.
I counted a few weeks back and the grand total was
about 475 ties.
A dear missionary friend of mine whom I look up to once told me that the last 6 months of a mission are where a missionary is entitled to the most blessings because they are the hardest six months. Another missionary friend told me that the last 10% of a missionaries efforts are where 90% of the blessings are manifest. I feel like this was exactly the case this last week. I'm still working hard and people are just crawling out of the woodwork left and right. Elder George and I have even seen a ton of great results in our tracting efforts recently. It's great!

Tie Exhibits
You may have heard that the Seahawks are doing well lately. I tell ya, it makes for a great conversation starter. Did you know that their offensive coordinator is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Yep, he even served a mission in Ohio!

I have been working a lot on the essays President Bonham asked me to write as an opportunity to reflect on my mission experience, and I tell ya, I've learned a lot. And I've grown a lot. I've got lots of goals to work on when I get home!

I love you all and I am so excited to hear about the growth you're experiencing! Seth, I want a replay of your talk when I see you next.

Nearly out of time. See you later!

Elder Martin

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