Family, Friends, and Fans --
Don't save it all for Christmas day! ;)
Sorry to write so late -- today has been far from relaxing. Our brakes were shot on our car so we had to get them fixed. Plus our washing machine doesn't work so we've been washing all of our clothes by hand. That takes hours. Add on cleaning ourselves and our apartment and eating food and we barely have time to sit here and e-mail right now. We're leaving directly to go to an appointment after this. Tiring! If you're not tired, you're not doin' it right - that's what I say. We're listening to Barcelona destroy Real Madrid. That's just embarrassing.
To start with a mini Nassau update, courtesy of Sis Smith -- Brother Major set his baptism date for December 18th. Stay tuned for the hoots and hollers all the way from Jamaica if that one goes through.
Your patois lesson of the day is "mi naah lef mi gal dem" which means I didn't leave my girls. Also mi no no is I don't know. And mi naah go de'dea is I'm not going there.
Random updates include my allergies flaring up like the devil since I've been here. Today hasn't been so bad. I'm glad I invested in some medication before I came out here. It's bein' put to some good use. We've been very creative in our cooking. I made some homemade chili lastnight for some chili and spaghetti. I also ate saltfish for the first time ... and I've learned how to make dumplings (or spinners) with delicious soups. I'm gonna come home a Caribbean chef. I've been asked a lot of questions about our living conditions - we have hot water, we don't have A/C ... nowhere does in Jamaica, but we don't need it. It actually got COLD lastnight! That's why Manchester is the best parish on the island.
Our district leaders on Elder Tuai from CA and Elder Forde from Linstead Jamaica. We had district conference this last weekend in MayPen -- and Bro. Courtney Morrison from our branch was called to be the new district president. He and his family are the coolest people ever - and now the entire district presidency is from our branch. We are small but strong! I also got to meet Elder Kraus this week, who read my blog before he came out here, and Elder Kocherhans who I talked with on MySpace before I came out here. He reported May 12th, when I was originally supposed to report. Cool kid. He got a guitar! Pres. Hendricks gave him the okay to get one -- so I'm thinkin' for Christmas I may need to buy me a harmonica (after all I already know guitar and have plenty at home -- why not pickup somethin' else while I'm out here!?) I have also met Bro. Vaughn White in our branch who just got back from serving a mission in Phoenix AZ! Cool, right? We bonded. District conference was excellent. Such good messages - so many insights I can't type them all in 20 minutes. Pres. Hendricks talked about his experiences being called as a bishop at age 27. Now that's just crazy! He also gave an excellent talk about choosing to act on faith. And Bro. Kevin Brown gave a talk about Enos and the mighty change of heart that we all need to experience. Also very very excellent. It left me feeling very ... I'll go where you want me to go ... :)
Alright everyone wants to know about Thanksgiving. It was fun. We handed out turkey sandwiches to needy people on the street and taught some families lessons about why we have the holiday and what we are grateful for this year. We had some chicken and black olives and stuffing for dinner. I can't complain. I read "The Divine Gift of Gratitude" by Pres Monson and spent some time telling my Heavenly Father all the things I'm grateful for. One of the better thanksgivings I've had, that's for sure. If only we coulda played some football, it woulda been excellent!! :)
Allow me to end with some insights:
Check your brakes. Don't wait until the brake pads are totally gone and its metal to metal to get a tune up ... and I'm not talking about your car. By the time the brakes go out, it's too late. Think about it.
We need to work for our prayers. We can pray all day long for the Lord to light the stove but if we have the gas and the match we've gotta strike it up and light it ourselves. I think far too often we pray real hard for stuff, but we don't do anything to accomplish it and get it done ourselves. I've been writing my prayer for the day in my planner and then trying to decide what I can do that day to get an answer to that prayer. It has been a cool experience.
We're teaching three really awesome gentleman. So I will be praying, and working, to get them to come to church on Sunday! :)
I learned from Sis Smith how to be organized. I am learning from Sis Wilkinson how to WORK!
I have realized that the bulk of my life I made choices based on others' morality. I would go as low as someone who I thought was high would go. This resulted in me making a lot of poor decisions because "so and so said so" or "so and so did it." How glad I am to have realized the stupidity of that. I've even seen it on my mission. 6:30 the alarm goes off - I'm up ... my companion isn't... I get back into bed. Why not just stay up?! I will go as low as someone else. Well, not anymore. I'm stayin' high and I'm stayin' up regardless of someone around me. How can I pull people up if I'm always pullin' myself down?
Last but not least, your commitment this week -- give up your favorite sin. You know, the one that you love just too much to let go. The one that you don't want to face - you try to ignore and pretend that the Lord doesn't see what you're doing - the one that you rationalize and tell yourself it doesn't do any harm... GIVE IT UP. And I will too. And we'll both be blessed for it.
That's all I've got. Take care and enjoy the end of the month. Do your home and visiting teaching! ;)
We bought a shower curtain this week - a clear vinyl one - and decorated it with permanent marker. It is basically the coolest thing ever. I'll send pictures when/if I get a chance.
Wa'gwaan Family, Friends, and Fans --
I've said it before and I'll say it again. TRIALS ARE AWESOME. Every time in my life where I have experienced the most growth, learned the most lessons -- it has come from adversity. What a blessing our trials can be if we let them. Don't get me wrong, it sucks. I mean, the trials we bring on ourselves are the worst possible ones. Heartache and misery abound, but the darker the dark the lighter the light that comes from coming over the hill once again. Mortality rocks.
This week has been really really really really really (did I mention really) interesting! First the Andersons found us some Grace Hot Pepper Sauce that is like a mix of Tobasco and hot wing sauce. It is amazing for your mouth and terror for your gut, but we've almost down the entire bottle in a week. Probably not good for my stomach lining, but my taste buds appreciate it. Second Elder Anderson makes the most amazing chocolate cake with homemade frosting. I don't even like cake people, and I eat that stuff like its going out of style. In non-food-related news, I have decided that I want to take up some sort of athletic thing when I get home to balance out my love of food so I don't turn into a giant piece of lard. I'd like to be healthy enough to continue to enjoy food, and I think that will require exercise. But that exercise needs to be fun so I am left with sports! Also I had a dream the other night that Corey Feldman died, and that every TV station was honoring him by playing a bunch of music videos his band made starring him and his wife. It was awful, in many many ways.
In church related news, I have decided that after my mission I could never hear a talk in sacrament that is just read --- ever again. I am also still not used to the noise factor in family wards. You would think, and yet I am not. Singles branches are the bomb dot come -- no wonder so many of my peers dodge marriage. Just kidding, quit dodging marriage you guys! Which leads me to the other question though, why do so many of my peers rush into marriage? Do you WANT to have a kid slobber all over your sacrament cups while another kid pokes your back and another is crying? It is hard enough to recognize that still small voice, man! Don't be in a rush to make it harder!
That leads me to your commitment for this week. ALL OF YOU READING THIS -- HALT -- ORDER THE ENSIGN FOR THE NEW YEAR. Get it, every month. Read it. Cherish it. DO IT. Be cool.
Alright alright, into missionary work stuff I guess. This week we had an institute party at the church and Sis. Wilkinson and I dressed up like Elders and lip synched and did some choreography to "Diddly Wack Mack Mormon Daddy". It was well received, I think. They looked puzzle while we did it but then amazed that there was a Mormon rap on my I pod. Who knows. We have some new investigators -- Fiona is 17 and doesn't attend any church because she's confused about all of them. She is receptive, and was a street contact who I felt like giving a Book of Mormon to and accepted a return appointment. We've taught her the first lesson. She didn't make it out to church, but she is reading and praying so we will see what happens. Ricardo was a potential investigator whose number was left behind from like, 2008. He just lost his grandmother and she told him to stay in church. He had "backslid" but said he's been thinking a lot about going back to church, but doesn't know which one to go to. He said when we called him he didn't know who we were but felt like God must have led us to calling him. Then we've got Leon. He's 20 and homeless. Super smart and humble but struggling with life right now and very willing to learn. We have struggles to overcome with each of them but hopefully good things will happen.
Now ... about Gavaska. Gavaska is a 7th day Adventist who has very very very strong beliefs against our church, and yet refuses to read any of the material we give him. One day last week he found one of our tracts on the street and picked it up and took it home (didn't read it though, preferred to stay in ignorance I suppose). Then the next day he was walking again and found one of our pass along cards on the street in the exact same spot. He called us and said that God must be directing him to us. However, he feels like God directed him to us to bring US the truth about the Sabbath. Yeah, its frustrating. He used to meet with other sisters and we found his old teaching record. He was SDA then, but it said he read from the BOM and prayed and said he had a testimony but for whatever reason they dropped him (it didn't say why). That was three years ago. Fast forward to today, and that is not the person we're meeting with. He tried to bash with us, but I bore testimony like Ammon up in his face. I actually felt like a missionary that day, so that was really cool. He agreed to come to church, but only if we visited his. So Saturday we proceeded to go to Sabbath School and Divine Services at SDA Mandeville (aka the great and spacious building). THAT was an experience. The pastor taught how Christ's birth, ministry, and resurrection do not save us -- it is only His death that saves us. That was a shame. There was a whole heap of other false doctrine and what not, but the good that came out of it was Gavaska coming to church on Sunday. We had a great lesson about the stone cut out of the mountain. He took notes. He asked questions -- our members did very well at fellowshipping him and at the same time teaching him the truth. He didn't want to hear it, and he left after church. But he called us this morning and wants to meet with us again. By far one of the most intriguing investigators we've ever had. If he won't take a Book of Mormon tomorrow, we're not gonna meet with him anymore. But I pray his heart will be softened just enough to actually listen to us teach instead of argue start to finish.
Bobby, our progressing investigator, has started living the word of wisdom and is already recognizing the blessings from it. He didn't come to church though, argh! We gave him a baptism date to pray about. Oh, and the Morrisons in our branch are some of the coolest people I've ever met in my whole life. They've become good friends of ours. A very strong family, sealed in the temple ... I wish I could bring them back to Arizona with me. Sis Morrison came to the 7th day church with us even. They are hilarious, and generous, and so strong in the gospel. Bro. Morrison found a Book of Mormon in a closet randomly years ago, and the rest is history. He is the new district president in Mandeville.
Well, the Lord is my #1 focus. I am trying my hardest to be as close to Him and as obedient as possible. I am trying to extra careful about where my focus and my thoughts head...
3 Nephi 13:
22The alight of the body is the beye; if, therefore, thine eye be csingle, thy whole body shall be full of light. UAdd a Note
23But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
D&C 50:29And if ye are apurified and cleansed from all bsin, ye shall cask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done. COULD YOU IMAGINE THAT? Man.
I have been spending a lot of time this week during study and outside of study getting to know myself better. Ya know, pulling a Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. What kind of eggs do I like and all that. It has been hard being completely honest with myself about who I am, but it has been refreshing to get a better sense of my values and my goals -- what I want out of life and where I really stand. I think learning and understanding those things will help me in the future to recognize when I am being pushed or influenced to be something other than I am, to do something other than I should, or to believe something other than what I know to be true.
I've also realized the importance of having strong positive solid good influences around you. Think about when you sing -- if you're singing with other people and they are all off pitch, it is much more difficult to stay on key. But if everyone is singing well and in harmony with the correct notes, it is easy to follow along. So it goes with our choices. If the people we are around are making poor choices it hard to be the only one staying on the right note. How important it is then, for us, to watch our influences carefully and choose our friends, our job, and what we do with our time very very carefully.
Well that's it. Oh, last but not least, there was a 3.8 earthquake in Manchester. Our whole house shook for like 5 seconds. It was pretty awesome. Chalk that up to experience, baby!
All the best from Jamaica. Less than 2 weeks until Christmas! WOOHOO!
A big IRIE CHRISTMAS to everyone reading this at any point this week --
I'm gonna start off with your commitment. In the words of Pres. Uchtdorf, be sure to "look beyond the facade of the season and see the sublime truth and beauty of this time of year." In the words of our district president, Brother Morrison, Christ's life was one big Christmastime ... may we all seek to emulate His example now and forever more, not just on the 25th. Christmas is a good reminder of how we should be all year. You know, without Christ, its just mas. Mas is the spanish word for more -- and really without Christ then all we focus on is more more more stuff. The odds against Christmas being Christmas are 365 to one. Think about it.
I wrote this this morning specifically to include in this email today:
"A Missionary Christmas"
last year Christmas i was home
trading gifts with loved ones close
watching movies, eating food
enjoying that December mood
this year i am far away
from nieces and nephews that love to play
from trees and lights and mistletoe
from anyone or anything i know
i assumed this Christmas would be bleak
and leave me feeling lonely or weak
turns out that's not the case at all
this Christmas may be the best of all
maybe it took me stepping out
to see what Christmas is all about
i traded my name on gift tags
for wearing His name on my name tag
traded turkey for goat - parades for proselyting
and yet somehow my holiday is still irie
i got my family around me and though we just met
we're united in purpose and you can bet
you couldn't find a happier youth
privileged to bring the world His truth
and that's what Christmas is really for
not the glitter, the parties, the lines at the store
its celebrating the birth of the Master
His life - the only real happy ever after
the best gift was the Savior and i'm blessed to be
serving this year, as His missionary.
Well, I finally finished reading the Book of Mormon this morning. After talking about it and trying but being distracted, I finished it before the year was out. I'm gonna read it twice more before I come home ... that's my goal. I'm working on finishing the New Testament now. It has been a great experience and I can't wait to read the Book of Mormon again. Moroni 7 is my favorite chapter, I think. BE NOT DECEIVED! If I had studied that more thoroughly, or more frequently back home, I would have been a heckuva better person. But I can't change the past I suppose. I'm proud of the person I'm becoming ... not because of me, but because of what Christ is making me. If I wasn't so stubborn and stupid He could help me a lot more. I'm trying. A great talk I read this week was "Our Strengths Can become our downfall" by Elder Oaks from October 1994. I recommend it. I didn't get to read the whole thing, but I'd love to cause what I did read was awesome. It helped me to understand that we need to act upon guidance that was receive from the Spirit. But if we don't receive personal revelation the Lord is trusting us to use our best judgment. Then comes the real test of our agency. Intense.
We have a stray dog at our apartment that has become our night watchman. He is so awesome and loyal. Some idiots were throwing rocks at him and one tagged him on the head and he immediately jumped in front of us to protect us. We named him Hyrum and we continue to feed him scraps every now and then. It makes us feel safe knowing we have such a hardcore guard dog. Some things are messed up here. Like I just found out that when the church sends stuff to Kingston like food and clothes for Food for the Poor, a lot of times it gets stolen right in Kingston and then sold at markets. Lovely, right? Anyway, no negativity. This is Christmas after all. This week has been freezing! Like in the 60s - that's just dang cold for Jamaica and me no likey. I'm ready for a warm Christmas in Portmore and Kingston.
Bobby came to church. He's still progressing. Gavaska is no longer fighting with us about 7th day stuff, but he's not agreeing with us either haha. He's actually become a good friend and we still visit him every now and then. It has been a miracle to see the Lord soften his heart little by little. He actually accepted the Book of Mormon and allowed us to read out of it with him. Man, that's just cool. Other than that, no real investigator news to report. We're working with some, trying to find some new ones, and all that good stuff. Hopefully more exciting actual missionary/teaching news to report soon. This is a slow time of year, actually. People too busy to sit down with us and stuff. But the good news is some sweet Usher song is playing on the radio right now.
We had a great branch Christmas dinner and program. We had fish, curry goat, rice and peas, sweet potato pudding, potato salad, and baked chicken. Yum! We have a new zone leader, Elder Ashton. That kid is a character, I'll just leave it at that. He served in Nassau before me, so at least he's got that goin' for him. We've had this huge controversy the past couple days over t shirts that are being made for our zone. We are the Mandeville zone, and my idea for the shirt was "MANDEVILLE UNITED" on the front, like a jersey and then on the back a number and "WITHOUT US ITS JUST RIGHTEO" .... they shut me down! They decided to make a shirt that says "mandeville stallions" .... like, that has nothing to do with anything. They tried to make it even worse. I felt outnumbered by boys with mediocre minds. I told them I wouldn't spend ten bucks on a stupid shirt, and they got terribly upset. We compromised, maybe. Hopefully these shirts come out okay. The goal was to get them to all be wearing them when we go to Kingston for Christmas. I refuse to look like an idiot in front of the whole mission, or to waste money on a shirt I'll never want to wear again. You all know that I have a hard time with conceding to lame-o ideas. It has been a real growing experience for us all.
Anyway, for Christmas Eve Friday we'll be heading to Portmore for activities and then to Kingston for skits and dinner. Christmas Day we're having a big meal with the Andersons, calling home, and just hanging out basically. It isn't really going to be a proselyting day for us so I look forward to napping and listening to Christmas music. Don't forget to give a gift to the Savior this year - that's the most important gift you will give I can promise you that!
Acts 5: 29¶Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to aobey God rather than men.
Proverbs 13: 15Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.
1 Nephi 17:2And so great were the ablessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon braw cmeat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
I have learned -- that sin is the hard way. Obedience is the easy way - every time - no matter what anyone says or no matter how it may appear. Choose the right, or suffer. Seriously. Lesson learned.
Romans 8:26Likewise the Spirit also ahelpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should bpray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh cintercession for us with dgroanings which cannot be uttered.
Rely on the Spirit in prayer, and then even if you can't put into words all that you need the Spirit will take over.
The hardest part on a mission is making friends, in a different country, that you're going to have to leave and maybe never see again. Ugh. I have to not think about it in order to keep going.
Alright well I think that's all I've got this week. I hope you all have an awesome Christmas and enjoy it to the fullest.
Until next time,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Family, Friends, and Fans --
Yes I am emailing on a Tuesday because yesterday the Jamaicans celebrated Boxing Day which meant the businesses were closed and a half. We celebrated by the Andersens taking us to Treasure Beach to have pizza at Jack Sprat. It was delicious and fun and unexpected and relaxing! Well I called home a couple days ago so there isn't much to write but I'll do my best to make this interesting all the same.
We had a big mission Christmas party in Kingston and it was great. We had mexican food and cookies, skits, presents, a devotional, and watched Mr Kreuger's Christmas (that gets me every time) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It was a good time to be had by all and it was nice meeting some of the missionaries that I never had met before. I even go to play some guitar while I was there, which was the first of the great Christmas presents.
The second of the great presents was that Brother Major, back in Nassau, was baptized on December 18th! Sis. Smith sent me the info and the pictures. Whew. You can't believe how excited that made me! It is frustrating to see some of our recent converts that have already fell away from the church, but that feeling of seeing someone you work with so much who is already a strong disciple of Christ before they're ever baptized finally make that decision and come that much closer to the Savior ... it makes the mission totally worth it!
The third present was being able to call home and talk to those I love -- After all, nothing matters in this life but what we offer in love. It drew me back home but didn't make me too homesick. It was a lovely boost at my halfway home mark.
The fourth present was dinner with the Andersens (ham and the works!) as well as four bottles of hot sauce and a heap of other food they gave us. We've been eating stuff from Christmas ever since.
The fifth present was that I'm not getting transferred and I'll be in Mandeville for at least another six weeks.AWESOME!
A whole heap of other awesome things happened and will happen - a mission is the gift that keeps on giving. Well what else is there to say? I've learned a lot about how Satan will attack our weaknesses but also our strengths -- our weaknesses because that's where we are vulnerable, and our strengths because that's where we have the most power. I have learned a lot about the destructive nature of sin and transgression ... termites that eat us from the inside out leaving us weak and hollow. I have learned a lot about agency - which is what I spoke about in sacrament meeting on Sunday - and how we really our in control of our destiny. I love learning - and I hope to learn more as the next transfer comes.
I read a talk this morning about missionary work -- and realized member missionary work is really where it's at. Without member missionaries, the missionary effort is futile.
Don't forget to share the gospel!
A mission is a family -- within a zone it's like ... you can talk smack about other missionaries, but the second someone outside your district or something says something about a missionary you serve with ... you instantly get defensive!
We've played a lot of Ninja - the game over the past week. If you don't know how to play that, don't worry. I'll teach you.
Jamaicans have a Christmas tradition they call Grand Market -- they start partying Christmas Eve at sunset and go until sunrise Christmas Day. It was loud and we were attempting to sleep. It was Christmas in Jamaica, indeed.
I'm allergic to our apartment. I think it's God's way of telling me to get outside and quit being lazy.
I had a dream about the Tron movie that came out that I haven't seen. I was in it. And I was also friends with Corey Feldman. That makes two Corey Feldman dreams in Mandeville. Don't even ask, cause I don't even know.
Well, investigator wise we're teaching a really cool kid named Ricardo that will be golden as soon as he comes to church. He had a huge record collection (vinyl records) and had like four Frank Sinatra records. Stush! As you know we've been teaching Bobby ... he's been progressing ... he was living the word of wisdom and bore testimony about how it has blessed his life ... then he called us to come over the day after Christmas when he didn't come to church and when we got there he was wasted. Very depressing. I'm trying to shake it off and press forward with faith. It was a blow of discouragement, for sure, but we're here to find the elect and it is up to him if he wants to commit to following the gospel or not.
Well, like Sis. Wilkinson's dad said, it's not like the church to move backward. It really has in Jamaica though - it has stopped growing like it was. There are trials a plenty - but the church will have its glory day in the hot sun in this country! ;)
Alright, your commitment this email is to SEND ME YOUR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS!
MAKE ONES THAT YOU'LL ACTUALLY KEEP - THAT ARE REALISTIC BUT MAKE YOU STRETCH! If you send me yours, I'll send you mine!
Okay, I think that's all I've got this time around. I'm going to try to attach a whole heap of pictures for you. Enjoy!
All my love,