Friday, August 29, 2014

Week 55: Our being led by the spirit is conditional upon our righteous actions.

So eventually there is a weird moment in everyone's mission. One of them happened this week with Elder Lete and I and I'll go more into that later.
So in tracting this week we found a lady we offered service for and she declined, but there was a great sense of peace that came over us as we managed to make the effort to share the Gospel.

Wednesday was very weird. We were just finished with our studies for the day and were waiting for an area call with our district leader when we received a random phone call that we thought was them. It was actually a man named Luke. He called us as a result of finding our church building and seeing the phone number for tours of the building. Our phone number. We were astonished and excited. We were eager to run out of our apartment start the car and head over to the building. It turned out to be an interesting experience. We got there and when we asked him why he came to the church today he answered "to pay my respects." He insisted on seeing all of the paintings so the entire tour went for 3 hours. Because he wouldn't stop talking about the crazy visions he had seen the night before. Long story short he ended up thinking we were demonic aliens from another dimension. It's something that would take talking in person to fully understand, but basically he ended up being scared that we were going to assimilate him or take him back to our planet for further analysis. We didn't know what to do at that point. He wouldn't even let us pray with him, so we decided to just slowly escort him out. That's the first time I've ever seen something like that and it has taught me never to do drugs.
On Thursday I ended up making a really good sandwich. I got the inspiration from going to subway so many times and seeing that we have a toaster oven in our apartment. It was really good, but took me 45 minutes to make since I had to cut up all the vegetables. We then spent the rest of the day trying to meet less active members in the area.

We had exchanges on Friday with the Elders in Pipestone. I went there with Elder Raffensparger and Elder Lete stayed in Marshall with our district leader Elder Smith. We saw a part member family who had been meeting with the missionaries for 2 years. We testified of the plan of salvation and helped them understand why ordinance such as baptism are not just a convenience, but are a necessity. The next day we talked with a lady in a nursing home and helped her understand that Christ was helping her through all her afflictions and trials. Finally, we did service for someone laying down laminate flooring.
Yesterday was really a great day. We were able to hear the testimony of Nick Ivanov and the spirit was very strong. We also were taught how to become better disciples of Christ and then had the opportunity to teach the Sunbeams in primary which was a very interesting experience. We told them the story of Job and taught them the importance of following the prophet by playing red light green light and follow the leader. Later in the evening we had a dinner appointment with the Patterson family who are awesome. We talked about previous areas and our favorite contacting scenarios from talking to people on the street, service, and tracting. Brother Patterson also gave us advice on where we should start tracting in the future.
Later in the night the Priesthood meeting of Stake Conference was broadcast to Marshall and it was great receiving insights from it. When praying, we should pray that the people in the area will prepare to receive the message not just that we will find the people who have already been prepared. We learned that we should give blessings to those we love more often. We also learned to cherish our priesthood blessings and record them in our journal. President Steele was inspired to talk about blessing people more often and how when the savior exhorted the Nephites to "Pray always in your families" is to prepare and sanctify ourselves so that "our wives and children may be blessed." I've taken from this week that preparation is the key for "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."

To prepare ourselves, we study, 2 hours every day and sometimes a third when necessary. From my studies I have learned not just to be active, but proactive; looking for the good in every situation. Our being led by the spirit is conditional upon our righteous actions. Faith precedes the miracles. I found in John 15:16 we have a responsibility to have "our fruit remain" meaning keeping converts active. Also reviewing 1 Thessalonians 2 took on new meaning after I worked hard with recent converts and the branch in Bagley. The people we meet truly are "our joy and glory" and we should stay in contact. To magnify my calling I followed an impression to study the leadership section of the handbook. It led me to Ezekiel 33-34. As I studied my mind was enlightened and I received needed insight on repentance and our responsibility to "sound the trumpet" and warn of danger. Elder Lete and I also are searching for ways to be more accountable in our stewardships. 
This week has been an amazing one. I have learned so much and had so many experiences. Though much of the week has been hard, it is truly the hard things that we remember the most. I enjoy sending these emails. I love each of you. I look forward to hearing from you and mailing next week. It will be on Tuesday because of the Labor Day holiday.
The rest of today we will be at the Gregerson's home learning how to make certain things and watching a devotional given by Elder Bednar on how to use social media. It will be lots of fun.

With love,
Elder Davis

Monday, August 18, 2014

Week 54: We replaced our P-day with an opportunity to go to the Bismarck North Dakota temple with some members.

Hello again.
To explain why we didn't email last week:  We replaced our P-day with an opportunity to go to the Bismarck North Dakota temple with some members. I will explain later on in the email why that was so significant.
A lot has happened in two weeks. After I emailed last we had a dinner with Sister Burnett. She had invited her son Buck and his fiancée Annabel to the dinner. Annabel had previously been meeting missionaries, but had stopped because she didn't want to offend her family.
We taught them the story of Esther and promised that if she would pray for 7 days to soften the heart of her mother that it would happen and that she would be allowed to meet with us again. She still hasn't talked with her mother about it though.
Right after that lesson we were asked by the Gregersons to teach them a lesson. As we did so she had some questions, but she said that she couldn't ask them now. So she organized a spur of the moment trip to Bismarck to go to the temple for her 2nd time and ask us the questions there so we were super excited when President Anderson approved us to do so.
The next day we did a lot of service at the food shelf putting away freight for them/ unloading the truck and its pallets. We ended up talking with Margaret, the head person there, about her trip to Salt Lake City and her fascination with family history work that we do. We gave her a card.
We got up the next morning at exactly 12:00 am so that we would have time to shower, get ready and leave with the Gregersons for the temple at 1:30 in the morning. It was 6 hours of driving to Bismarck North Dakota and we needed to be there at 8 am to get ready for the session at 9. On the way there we saw a 2013 Chevy cruse with a South Dakota License plate and a bike rack on the back that instantly told us that there were missionaries in the car. We ended up showing pamphlets and the Book of Mormon along with our name tags to get the attention of the sister missionaries in the other car. They ended up being at the temple later as well and we joked about teaching them a discussion on the freeway. 
The temple was amazing. Even before entering and getting out of the car, just looking at the temple and inside made me feel the spirit very strongly. It was the best experience I've had in a long time being able to go to the temple on the eve of my one year mark.
On the way back we ate at 5 guys in Bismarck with the Bismarck Zone Leaders, Elder Davis and Elder White. (Yes my old district leader Elder White) it was a very nice surprise that the Gregersons gave us. I don't really remember a lot about the way back though because I fell right asleep for several hours.
So on August 7, my actual year mark many great things happened. We had a less active member call us and ask us why we weren't coming over to meet with him. We didn't know he was there so we were very happy when he requested that we come over. Several other miracles occurred and I was able to reflect back on my mission so far and contemplate what I can do to improve and how I have changed as a result of serving the Lord.
August 9 involved helping someone move out of their apartment. They were very grateful for the help and asked us to have dinner with them. We were able to have a really great discussion about what we do as missionaries and also how the Gospel has blessed us and why we want to share it. She gave us here business card and we gave her our number so that she could call us if she ever needed anything.
We were able to meet with Tyler again. It turned out to be a 2 hour discussion on whether or not the trinity or the Godhead is correct. Finally he just wanted us to tell the story of Joseph Smith so we boldly testified of his experience and how he wasn't looking at forming a new church, but joining an existing one. But that that was not God's plan for him. As we started in on the first vision it was very powerful.
"I saw a pillar of light, above the brightness of the sun which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two personages whose brightness and glory defy all description. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name saying, "This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him."
There is power in relating this experience. With those 7 words that God spoke to Joseph Smith there is a profound reverence that comes into the discussion that allows the spirit to penetrate even the most hardened of hearts, if only for a slight moment. He knew it was true, but quickly came up with excuses and tried changing the subject. If he had not felt the spirit he would not be willing to continue to meet with us, but he wants to despite rejecting the message so far. His heart will be softened through further lessons.
Later in the week we saw brother Kidwell again. He is doing great. He made us dinner and then we had a discussion on why it is so important to have the spirit to be with us always. We also explained that the only way we get this blessing is by partaking of the sacrament each week. That is the main reason we come to church: to renew our covenants that we have made at baptism.
Friday was zone conference in Sioux Falls South Dakota. It was a very spiritual meeting and one of the best I have ever been to. While there I was able to see Elder Paskett again! This was very exciting since it had been 9 months since I had seen him last. We had a great conversation catching up on how the work was going in each of our previous areas. I also learned that he had trained another Elder while he was in Glenrock Wyoming. I met him as well. His name is Elder Jones.
The topics covered focused on the power of the Book of Mormon and the importance of reading it often and using it to help people gain lasting conversion. Also we focused on how following the branch mission plan that the Branch President or bishop has for the work in the area is the only way to accomplish missionary work because the Bishop has the keys for missionary work within his ward. It was a great day and we learned a lot that we need to start implementing.
Had another funny tracking experience, this time while trying to contact a referral given to us from the website. It goes as follows:
Man: (rudely) "What do you want?"
Elder Lete: "Hi, I'm Elder Lete--" (while extending hand to shake.
Man: (angrily cutting Elder Lete off) "Not interested. Walk"
Elder Lete: "Well---" 
Man: (Fuming while pointing to the street) "Take a walk. NOW!"
Followed by a slammed door while I looked at Elder Lete with a very confused face.
Looking back it was kind of funny.
Sunday was very good. We have had a change in the branch Presidency. President Jones is now brother Jones and a member of the high council. Brother Burgess is now President Burgess, the new branch president. There was a very powerful testimony meeting for them and their wives. It filled the room with the spirit. The Stake President, President Steele talked on how we need to be unified and loving to accomplish the missionary work that the savior would have us do. It was very inspiring. We taught Primary again on the lesson "I can be Obedient."
The highlight from church was the sacrament. I recently challenged myself to think about the savior more often throughout the day and what he has done for me. This made it more meaningful during sacrament meeting as I pictured the savior suffering in Gethsemane, being whipped and struggling to carry his cross to Golgotha. Finally where he was crucified, forgave, and rose again on the third day. It brought a powerful spirit into my life and made the sacrament more meaningful to me. I challenge each of you to do the same thing next time you partake of the sacrament. I know that by doing so it will have deeper meaning for you and also give you more strength to deal with challenges of everyday life and the temptations that come.
It's been a great experience over the past few weeks. I love you all so much.
With love,
Elder Davis

Week 53: No letter. see Week 54.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Week 52: We've done a lot of volunteer work this week

We've done a lot of volunteer work this week, mostly at the food shelf. There we do anything from sorting through produce to make sure it is still good, to repackaging eggs, and also to helping people "Shop" around. Meaning taking them through the food shelf where they get to pick the foods according to their needs with certain restrictions on the number of things they can take on each shelf depending on the size of their families. It is a lot of fun volunteering there and allows us to be seen in the community helping others out. And a lot of people generally asked us why we were wearing white shirts and ties.

Some other things we do to help them out are travel with them to Walmart to pick up food that is being donated and can't be sold. So that's what we did earlier today. There are a lot of nice people that volunteer there.

We actually met with several less active members this week to help them see the importance of coming to church and reading the scriptures daily. One of them, Brother Kidwell, actually ended up coming to church on Sunday which was very exciting because it was fast and testimony Sunday and the spirit was very strong.
One of the best lessons we had involved Alex Castillo. He is less active and wasn't too interested at first until we actually started teaching. As we began testifying to him and involving him with questions, his motivation changed dramatically. He went from not caring to hungering and thirsting after what we had to share with him even to the point of him inviting us back over for dinner. He is the head chef at Perkins so we are looking forward to that.

At district meeting we talked a lot about the meaning of the Gospel of Christ and how it has personally blessed our lives and what it means to us to be able to share it with people. So as we came up with what the Gospel meant to us and what it was for us, Elder Smith, Our new District leader, (Not my previous companion Elder Smith), anyway, Elder Smith asked us, "How many of us as missionaries actually let people know about those things?" So we received great insight on how to talk to people and had the opportunity to practice tracing and contacting people in different scenarios using the things we learned and how we personally came to know Jesus Christ.
The Lyon county fair was going on this week so we were busy Friday evening contacting people who went to the Rodeo. The Gregersons invited us to attend and we were able to talk to several people as a result. They also had at the rodeo some Capuchin monkeys riding border collies. It was crazy to watch them corral them into a fence. The animal trainer who trained them must have been very patient and known what he was doing. We also were able to try deep fried foods. I got some deep fried Oreo's and Elder Lete got deep fried Twinkies.

On Saturday we had an amazing experience where Sister Gregerson invited us to dinner with a friend of hers. We were able to talk a little bit about what we do as missionaries and have a Gospel discussion over the restaurant dinner table. Sister Gregerson then invited her friend to tour the church. Bernice, her friend, agreed and so we were able to tour the church building with Bernice and help her realize the importance of being baptized by the authority of the Priesthood. She had a lot of questions so we set a return appointment with her for Sunday after church.
So church went very well. A lot of people were on vacation so we only had around 40 people in attendance. We also had the lucky job to teach primary because the teacher was sick that week. It was very interesting because it is different teaching little kids and keeping their attention span on you than it is to teach adults. This was my first experience teaching primary and it went okay until 20 minutes before the class ended I handed out crayons and paper. After about 5 minutes of drawing I made the mistake of saying, "can anyone help me clean up?" so they thought I meant that class was over and they all went wild. Luckily sister Gregerson had music on her phone to help us calm them down. The lesson was on being kind and we acted out the Good Samaritan with them. They really liked the funny part where I hid behind a chair so that I wouldn't have to help the hurt man. It was still a lot of fun.

Later in the evening we taught Bernice the first lesson and also had Family Home Evening again where we helped out. Bernice was super excited to read from the Book of Mormon and had a lot of questions that were very helpful in explaining to her the importance of the Book of Mormon in bringing us closer to Christ. She said she'd start reading that night and that she had a lot of down time in between calls at work (She works at a call center here in town.) In fact the major employer in town is Schwann's because this is supposedly where the company started so there is a big Schwann's building here in town that is a giant call center.

So for the rest of today we have several things to get done. I need to patch up my bike tire, Elder Lete needs to dry clean some clothes, and we still have to get some shopping done. There are a lot of great things we can do here in Marshall. They have tennis courts and we have rackets and balls left in our apartment from previous Elder s and Sisters who served here. And they also have Frisbee golf course and I really am looking forward to that since the last time I went was in Blackfoot.
So I really like this area because I've never just sat at the computer emailing and had someone come up to us and ask to meet with us later in the week. It's pretty awesome to be able to blessed in that way. It's still hard work, but the blessings keep flowing. This just happened now so that's why I am including it here at the end.

Thanks for everything that you all do. I love you.

With love,

Elder Davis