**I have no clue why it is posting like this- so sorry about that.**
Dearest Family, Friends, and Fans --
Who here wants to eat at the Cheesecake Factory - raise your hand!?! Just me? Bummer.
This week's been good - as always, I shall try to compact seven days into twenty minutes. Apologies in advance for ramblings or nonsense.
I have a theory - that you can tell how the gospel has affected someone's life, or their feelings about the gospel, by what their favorite hymn is. I've been testing it out and so far so good. What's YOUR favorite hymn? For reasons that I cannot explain, we taught and talked about and sang about the iron rod many times this week. It just seemed to keep coming up - reaffirming for me at least the importance of daily prayer and scripture study. If we're not doing that consistently, our relationship with God is weakening, along with our testimonies. Our water which was off for five days came back on in what was simply a Christmas miracle. We've become much more conscious of how many times we flush the toilet, and how long we shower. Who knew water was such a precious resource? It really gave us a wake up call of gratitude for such a simple luxury. I've isolated my weakness in street contacting to a fear of rejection. This has helped me to focus on that in roleplays and in the power of my thoughts -- if I delete the fear of rejection, then I delete the fear of contacting and I'll be a more effective instrument in the Lord's hands. For God hath not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind!
Speaking of fear, I have the story of the year for you guys. But I'm gonna save it until the end of my email. Alright what else -- we have a little neighbor girl who loved to jump rope with us... seriously she was knocking on our door any time we'd come home ... "can you skip?!" It got to the point where we're like AH! PERSISTENT LITTLE GIRL GO AWAY! (She'd be a great missionary) ... It's sad though, she moved to Kingston yesterday. And we were all weirdly sad about it. She was kinda the only person around us that ... cared. Haha, that sounds sad but its kinda true. It's almost like our friend moved away. You never know what you got til its gone. Speaking of caring, The Morrison family, our BFFs, had their house broken into for the 2nd time since we've been here -- totally ransacked the place. It broke our hearts. What do you even say to something like that? They're super strong though, so they can make it through anything. Pioneers always have to suffer trials. We had a less active we've been working with come back to church yesterday, so that was great -- and our recent convert that has been absent for five weeks came back too. It was a solid Sunday, made perfect with Chris, long-time investigator, telling us he wants to get baptized on Friday. We're gonna meet with him tomorrow to finalize everything, be sure he's living standards, and review the baptism interview with him. We've taught him mostly everything and he's been to church consistently for upwards of 5 months. We're excited - we might just have a baptism this Friday! How cool would that be?! I hope so. Chris is a great guy who deserves the blessings. Speaking of Chris, another Chris (aka Scion) who works at the internet cafe is a B-boy and we got to see him and his friends dance this week. This has yielded an obsession with dance in Sis Speakman - she spends every morning trying to learn his moves. It's quite hilarious. Jamaicans are just born with rhythm man. It's in their blood. Our zone leaders also gave us an inspired goal to track how many invitations we extend throughout the week to people to learn more about our message. It has really brought a new focus to the work.
We had a training on Kingston on Wednesday for Sis. Everette and I, since we'll be training in September. It was AWESOME. Not only did we get to go out to TGIFriday's for lunch (yeah, that's right, high life) but Pres. Hendricks and the Assistants gave us such solid instruction that it got me extremely excited to be able to train again - 1-on-1 this time - and my last transfer! The greatest lesson that I took away from that was what President taught about faith - he said that the world's view by and large about faith is that it is the power of positive thinking ... that if you believe enough it will yield great results. He pointed out that Abinadi's faith wasn't weaker than Ammon's - yet the former had zero success in his mortal mission while the latter had thousands of converts. Faith is not the power of positive thinking - faith is trust in God and Jesus Christ sufficient enough to yield righteousness - belief that is so strong that you are willing to do whatever They ask - THAT is faith. Knowing that, faith and obedience are interchangeable (try reading Ether 12 and putting in OBEDIENCE everywhere it says FAITH - you'll see what I mean) ... It puts into a new perspective what James means with he says that faith without works is dead ... read James 2:18. Faith yields works - if there are no works, then there is no faith. If you do not trust God enough to do what He asks, then you do not have faith in Him. It has completely revamped my outlook on faith, how to measure my faith, and the importance of obedience throughout my life. We can literally measure our level of conversion by our level of obedience. It's hard to articulate all my of thoughts - they run pretty deep and have a hard time reaching the surface. But the more I ponder on these principles the more understanding I get and the stronger my testimony grows. D&C 58:6.
Other good news? Each companionship with be getting a DVD player at zone conference on Friday to take to appointments to watch movies with investigators. Awesome right? Missionary work - 2011 - nothing like it. Other than that, I taught a ridiculous lesson on the apostasy yesterday for Sunday school. It was more like a history lesson (I mean I went into diocletian, nero, constantine, henry viii, you name it) and a visitor afterwards asks me: "are you a schoolteacher?" .. I say yeah. He says .. "yeah, you can tell". I don't know if that was a compliment, but I took it as one haha. I taught all about what it means when we say "the only true and living church on the face of the earth" -- coming from a talk by Dallin H Oaks ... basically saying that we're NOT the only church with truth out there - not even close. Every doctrine has a basis of truth in it - but we're the only church with a FULNESS of doctrine and the POWER of the priesthood, and consequently an accurate understanding and testimony of Jesus Christ, His mission, and His gospel. Check it out -- http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/
Alright, are you ready for the story of the year? Here we go. So we go tracting Saturday morning and we're callin out at some gates. We go to one with three women on the porch - Sashelley and her baby, Sonya her mother, and Mother White -- a super old lady in a wheelchair that seems totally out of it. We say what church we're from - they say they're 7th day and they don't care to learn (funny, cause it was Saturday morning, and they were at home in their PJs so obviously they're not devout) and the old lady pipes in "THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST?!" Shouting at us ... we're like yeah ... then we're about to leave and Sis Speakman asks "have you ever heard of The Book of Mormon?" The old lady shouts "THE BOOK OF MOURNING?!" No.. the book of Mormon ... "MOURNING?!" -- "NO! MORMON!" .... "ohhhh, de mormons dem ...." She then starts mumbling something very low and deep under her breath... Sashelley's like... "what is she doing?" ... then it erupts into an extremely loud psychobabble ... "hamala shamala hookaba boobula doppie don lama shishama aysava oolamay .... IN THE NAME OF JESUS OF NAZARETH - WE COME AGAINST YOU!" She kept screaming it, over and over and over again. Sis Speakman manages to leave a pamphlet and we take off on the verge of cracking up. Although it was creepy and kinda reminded me of the part in the Bible where the man with the devils is like "we're legion because we are many" and she said "we" -- once I got over that initial freakiness, it was totally hilarious. Never before have I been cursed by a little old lady in a wheelchair in an unknown tongue. Now THAT was a good journal entry - made my mission man. Gotta love Jamaica.
Anyway, this e-mail is beastly long. I just wanna let you know I love you all. I do know that this church is true, this gospel I am preaching is true and it is the gateway to peace and happiness and eternal life. I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He invites all men to come unto Him. I know that God called another prophet in our day so that we don't have to be carried about with every wind of doctrine. I know that The Book of Mormon contains those plain and precious truths that are essential to our salvation, and that together with the Bible they contain the fulness of the gospel. I know I was set apart by priesthood authority to perform this calling - and it is only through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ I've been able to have any sort of success.
Until next week!
Greetings Family, Friends, and Fans --
What a week this week ... lots of emotion, lots to write. I'll try my best to fit it all in.
Sis. Loubelle Palmer, one of the stalwart pioneer members of the branch, passed away Tuesday night. She was at church the previous Sunday, giddy and happy and goofy as always. I guess she had been having a hard time breathing at nights, and must have just stopped breathing in her sleep. Her three grandsons still remain in the branch, one of them (Richard) is an RM and has really stepped up to rally his family. I've learned a lot from the truly heartbreaking loss -- one thing is that we had written down to call her on Tuesday to set up an appointment ... and we didn't. Talk about a wakeup call -- never leave anyone or anything on your to-do-list unchecked at the end of the day. Don't wait until tomorrow - because tomorrow is SERIOUSLY not promised to us. That song by Kris Allen "live like we're dying" has been in my head all week, along with the concept itself. I never got a picture with her, cause I had always counted on "next time" ... and now there is no next time. She's the most hilarious woman - I wish I could've bottled her love and energy. Things just aren't the same without her around. She was 66.
In good news to counteract that, Chris got baptized on Friday! Incase you don't remember, Chris was a kid we met while delivering a Book of Mormon to someone else. The girl that originally wanted one never took it but Chris did, read from it, and came to church one Sunday. We taught him up until April, but he was feeling rushed into baptism and I think he got offended and backed off from us. He still came to church every Sunday. Once he saw his good friend Rhuel get baptized, he felt the push to do it. So he approached us, we reviewed all we taught him, and the baptism went great. He's thinking about serving a mission - he's 22 - and already a great asset to the branch and to the Lord's kingdom. He's a great example to his family, and we couldn't be happier that he made the decision to make that covenant with Heavenly Father!
I've been thinking in patwa lately. It's strange.
We also had zone conference this week in Sav la Mar, with the area mental health and area medical advisers for the Caribbean here and speaking to us. It was really cool - something I wish I would have had at the beginning of my mission ... relating taking care of our bodies to the plan of salvation (AWESOME!) and also talking about how to understand and manage stress throughout your life. It was great.
We've also been attacked by giant cockroaches. Like 20 just this week, in our apartment. Sickness.
Mandeville rules. I really do love it here - the members are stars and we have access to pretty much all the comforts. It feels like home here. The work is though, but the blessings are there constantly. We're working on not havin' idle hands - staying busy and not allowing any negative influences into our companionship or into the work.
Wanna know how long we've been in Mandeville? We were here when Harry Potter 7 part 1 came out. Part 2 came out Friday, lol.
We had a great activity over the weekend playing signs and mafia - lots of members came and we had treats ... it was sweet. I've only got 3 months left ( thank GOODNESS I got extended, cause September seems like way too soon to come home ) so I'm tryin' to step up my game even moreso ... we're askin ourselves WWPHD? What would Pres. Hendricks do? If we wouldn't do an activity with him there, because its not productive, we're not doing it. It's challenging.
Now onto spiritual lessons learned this week --
the first is Alma 38:12 -- I thought a lot about it, trying to figure out how bridling your passions allowed you to be filled with love - how does moderation relate to charity? I've got my own thoughts, but I would love to hear yours because I'm still having a hard time finding out what the Lord means in that verse. What I think, as simple as it may be, is that passions are selfish which limits you from being able to give of yourself to others in charity. But I feel like there's something more there...
The second is the importance of one member of your family, or one set of missionaries, or one righteous decision. It really hit me this week that because my mom joined the church, because some missionaries taught her, two of her kids served missions. Because of those two missionaries, who knows how many others are affected. Because my sister has kids, one of which at least will serve a mission, the influence continues -- and who knows with my future kids -- and the influence extending on and on down the line -- all because of a righteous decision my mom made, and those missionaries made to teach her, and my dad made to support her, and even further on before that... all because of a righteous decision Edward Payne made in the 1800s to check out a Mormon meeting and to join the church ... it's just awesome the level of influence one person can make in their family and in the world. I'm truly grateful for it, and I hope to leave a lasting influence on my family for generations to come.
Last but not least, I fully believe that the Lord gives us revelation according to our personality and strengths -- I've mentioned this before, but I really feel that because of my head being full of tv, movie, and literature knowledge the Lord uses the good in that to access me and help me see things the way He wants me to see them. The Lord's hand is in everything good ... how else could the Lord help me see the importance of finding new investigators by bringing to mind the treasure hunt in The Goonies? He knows me man, that's all I'm sayin. He knows me and He knows what will help me. It's awesome.
I'll end with this. When it starts to rain here, the first thing us drivers think is "uh oh - watch for the potholes" ... Sis Hosang spoke about this in church yesterday ... there are constantly GIANT potholes on the roads here, because the roads are made of a poor foundation. They break down so easily, and people come and fill them up and within a month they're just as big if not bigger than they were before. How important is it for us to have a strong secure foundation? You can try to fill up your spiritual holes with rocks and dirt, but when the storm hits all that will wash away and you'll be left in an even poorer state than you were before. We have to secure ourselves with the Lord - we have to be living worthy lives, with a strong foundation on Jesus Christ, in order to sustain the hurricanes. And during those storms, Satan will fill up your holes with water, giving you a false sense of security that the holes are gone until BAM - you hit one and it ruins your alignment completely - and you never even saw it coming.
I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Lord and Redeemer - He was prepared from before the foundation of the world to come and give His life a ransom for us - that by doing His will we may know of His doctrine, and be cleansed from all unrighteousness - that death is not the end and that we will all be resurrected as He was. I know that families can be together forever, through the sealing power of the Priesthood given to Peter and restored by his hands to Joseph Smith. I know that the only true peace and happiness we can have in this world of wickedness and vanity lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it will all my heart, because I've felt the Spirit countless times witness to me that it is true. I've acted on those positive thoughts and feelings and seen the blessings. A bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit, and I have tasted NOTHING but good great amazing fruit as a result of following this gospel.
I love you all!
Hey Family, Friends and Fans --
I have NEWS for you!
First off, we're getting transferred! Sister Smith is headed home on Thursday, Sis Wilkinson is headed to Junction to be with Sis Everette, and Sis Speakman and I are headed to ... PORT ANTONIO! Apparently it is a lush tropical paradise full of rain, beaches, greenery, and awesome people. It's really small, which makes me super happy - it makes my mission a sandwich of tiny area, huge area, huge area, tiny area. It's crazy how fast time is flying right now, seriously. I can't even put it into words. I also can't adequately describe how much I've changed. But I guess you'll see in a few months for yourself. All I can tell you is the person I was 16 months ago and the person I am now do not have the same profile. Anyway, excited for the long drive out to the edge of the island on Wednesday -- my final adventure!
What else this week - we watched the Book of Mormon movie, which is hilariously cheesy and ridiculous. We've been quoting it and laughing about it all week, but it totally helped a less active yo. It was Sis Wilkinson's 23rd birthday on Saturday so we made a DELICIOUS cake (that got attacked by ants the next day - so depressing... the other girls shook it off and ate it but I couldn't bring myself to do it -- too much bacteria anxiety there) and I floured her on her bed. It was good times. We also had a talent show this week where Rhuel, Sis Britton, Chris, and others showcased their singing and dancing abilities. We did my "dan jones it up" rap AND I claimed to be able to spell any word - they gave me chauffeur, kaleidoscope, tuberculosis, etc ... I was able to manage, but I cut it off before my luck ran out. I feel redeemed from coming in 2nd in the 4th grade spelling bee at Johnson Elementary. Sis. Bailey told us this week that she expects to hear all of us in Motab - I was like... that won't happen, but I was flattered all the same. I had dream that I got sent home early for being sick and then bawled like a baby everyday because I didn't get to stay until October. I guess that shows how much I love my mission, incase you didn't already know. A mission is just like life though - it is short, very very short - and the purpose is for it to be progressive, continually getting better and better so that when it ends, which it has to end, you're able to go home saying "I did my best, and I am who the Lord wants me to be" ... this is the best thing I've ever done. I've said that before, and I'll say it again.
We don't really have any progressing investigators, so I'll just skip to what I learned this week:
1) my patriarchal blessing talks about overcoming the world .. I learned what it means to be overcome by the world this week (D&C 50:8) which then led me to learning what it means to overcome the world (D&C 64:2-3).
2) we had a gong show lesson this week where the Spirit just straight up wasn't there and it bugged me all night ... so I studied about why that happened and what I could do to fix it ... I learned that the Spirit AND the word leads to not being confounded before men .. D&C 11:21 ... so I've really focused on studying for each lesson so I'm prepared and then spiritually preparing with prayer before going into the lesson... the next night we had a super spiritual lesson and it made me feel like I was doing something right again. Awesome.
3) Idunno why I hadn't thought of this before, but Sis Wilkinson had a commitment calendar - where she rights down every night the commitments they extended that day and to who -- we haven't been doing that, so I started ... it works! Also I made prayer cards to show people HOW to pray properly ... simple elementary stuff that I just never thought about doing before and they've really helped in the work.
4) Nothing works in the gospel unless we choose it. I could write a novel on this, but I will just say that from reading Moroni 10:32 and Moroni 7:28 I realized that WE have to CHOOSE to access the Atonement or it won't be operative in our lives. "deny yourselves" implies that it is up to us ... not "pray and I'll deny you of ungodliness" or "come to church and your leaders will deny you of ungodliness" ... its DENY YOURSELVES -- the best gift God has given us is our choice! Other scriptures that really stuck out to me during study were Helaman 14:30-31 ... Alma 41:7 ... D&C 101:28 ... Think of this way -- kids dream of being rich and famous or a star athlete or something - almost every kid - but they give up on that at some point. Why? Because its not totally up to you to get there - its more about who you know than what you know. You can labor all your days and get nowhere, because other people determine your success. So we choose careers that are dependent on us -- a career that if I personally work hard then I'm guaranteed success. That's security. Well, in eternity, we CAN have the riches and the fame and the glory - we can have the life that God has! And guess what? ITS COMPLETELY IN OUR HANDS! If we don't get there we only have ourselves to blame. If we do get there, it will be because we chose to get there. Christ's Atonement is already completed, we cannot ask Him to do any more than He already has done. It is now up to us. We are saved by grace after ALL we can do! Mormon 9:27-28.
5) Pres Hendricks came to the branch yesterday and taught combined RS/EQ on the law of chastity - IT WAS AWESOME. He quotes D&C verses like he's memorized the entire thing. I was blown away. I can't even share everything that I learned. He said he wanted each person to leave that meeting saying to themselves "wild horses could not drag me over that fence - no circumstance - even the peril of my life - will ever cause me to consent to breaking the law of chastity" It was so awesome - he talked about how the spirit and the body makeup the soul, and a bunch of other stuff - but my favorite thing he talked about was an analogy with a GIANT tree with a tiny tiny trunk. He said when the wind blows, the tree falls in the mud ... so you pull the tree back up and hose it off to get it clean ... but when the wind blows again the tree falls again. He said this is like repentance --- too often people go through the repentance steps of acknowledge, confess, restitution, forsaking, etc etc without ACTUALLY changing. They are the hosed off tree with the skinny trunk, and when the Savior comes again He will say "that tree is too weak for the kingdom of God"... repentance steps are a means to an end - the real point is to change -- to convert the weak trunk into a large strong trunk so that the tree will never fall again. He said when we repent we need to ask ourselves "what kind of person would transgress God's commandment and blatantly disobey His will and treat sacred things as trash? Me. I'm that type of person ... what type of person would NEVER EVER EVER not under the peril of their life commit that sin again? that's the person I need to become. Now I need to get there ..." Awesome. I learned a WHOLE HEAP.
That's it this week!
Love you all! Until next time!
Wa'apn Family Friends and Fans --
Hello from Port Antonio - gorgeous ocean front property, humidity like whoa, more spiders in our apartment than I ever thought possible, cold showers, broken toilets, potholes GALORE, and AWESOME members and an AWESOME branch! Our first day here we had Sis. Blake call us to come out teaching with us and introduce us to members. Our second day here we had Bro Parker (who I call Spiderman) come out teaching with us, introducing us to investigators. And our third day he came out with us again, and so did Andre - a recent convert - trudging through the RAIN (jamaicans just don't do that) to go to an appointment. It's been awesome! They are better missionaries here than most full time missionaries, I swear. Spiderman carries a backpack everywhere with tracts and pass alongs and "Book of Mormon"s to give away, inviting everyone to church. In fact we've met a handful of people already that tell us "oh yeah I've visited that church. Parker invited me." SO COOL. We also have a member from Denmark, Bro. Kris, who has lived here for almost 50 years. Pres Rampasard and his family are all great - he seems like a wonderful leader, and the Forresters feed us every Sunday. I can't say enough about the members - they may be small but they are incredible.
I always wanted to serve in Lucea again, and I kinda got my wish. I think this area is like Lucea, just on the opposite end of the island and still open.
Yesterday was Emancipation Day which is why I didn't get to email home. They take their holidays very seriously here. We had a pioneer day activity at the church last night - some investigators were there - we got free food - it was good times. We also got to speak in Sacrament meeting on Sunday, on the sacrament. I spoke about the promises that we make when we take the sacrament. I think it went well. As I'm typing this I'm sweating buckets, down off my face, down my shirt, down the back of my neck, down my legs into my sandals. I feel drenched. Just to let you know.
It rains almost everyday here, which cools things down so I don't mind - but it will flood areas so we can't take our car there and this one area, Ranza, is basically a mud mountain so we can't go teach our investigator Chris over there when it rains. Our drive over here was long and arduous. I had the worst bout of hayfever I've ever had on transfer day. Elder Larsen gave me a blessing, which is I think the only reason I was even able to drive or function. I could barely breathe I was in so much pain - just from allergies! It was stupid, but after three days it went away completely. We have no light in most of our apartment, which makes night time interesting. The walls used to be white, but now are black. Other than that, it's not too bad of a place. Cobwebs everywhere. We make do. So Sis Smith went home - that was epic and strange for all of us. I'm working really hard to ensure that Sis Speakman's last transfer is her best transfer - and that when I get a trainee next time that her first transfer is her best transfer. I'm glad - it keeps me focused and on the straight and narrow. We're trying really hard to find Priesthood and families -- pretty much talkin' to every normal male we pass.
We've been watching the Preach My Gospel and District DVDs - they are excellent resources in studies. Of course, I am the study champion and the application failure, but the more I watch them the better feel I get for how things are supposed to be and the better our finding, teaching, and planning get. For our first P Day here we went out to Boston Bay and got jerk - I got some jerk lobster. Wicked expensive, but delicious. Found out today that we're having a special zone conference at the end of this month because Fransisco J Vinas, the Caribbean Area president, is going to be here and tour the mission. That's always exciting - general authority time! I'm 5 pages away from finishing the Old Testament. Woot. I would send pictures but this computer I'm on is lame and won't let me.
Our district leader is Elder Kocherhans (what what, he's my bwoy!) and our zone leaders are Elder Tirado and Elder Johnson. We're in a great area. We have to go to Highgate every Wednesday for district meeting which is like 1.5-2 hours away. We're not excited about that at all.
Scripture of the week: D&C 42:78, 88-89
78And again, every person who belongeth to this church of Christ, shall observe to keep all the commandments and covenants of the church.
88And if thy abrother or sister boffend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she cconfess thou shalt be dreconciled.
89And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a ameeting, and that not before the world.
Alright, that's it for me! We're off to work hard. Keep me in your prayers, I DEFINETELY need and appreciate them!
Love you all,
89And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a ameeting, and that not before the world.
Alright, that's it for me! We're off to work hard. Keep me in your prayers, I DEFINETELY need and appreciate them!
Love you all,
Dear Family, Friends, and Fans --
Not much to write this week (well of course there's tons to write about but not much IMPORTANT stuff to write about haha). A big lesson I've learned so far this week is something Alex Boye said ... he had gone to boarding school in England while his mom was in Nigeria. It was lonely and strict and he hated it, but he said the disciplined life he had to live there prepared him to later on accept the gospel in his life and be able to live its principles. He said that whatever trial you're going through right now, see yourself five years from now looking back ... picture all the lessons you will have learned from whatever you're going through and how much stronger you'll be for it if you endure. Amen to that... I have seen that time and time again on my mission. Just this morning in fact, a trial that I went through in Mandeville helped me gain insight and receive help during my study this morning. Cool!
Alright - people first, since people are the most important. We met Nick, a member of the coast guard, and he is GOLDEN! He's awesome too - in 2 days he read 1/2 of 1 Nephi and could practically quote it back to us. He's 25, came to church yesterday in his military uniform and loved it - asked to take home a gospel principles manual ... He is GREAT. BUT he travels - he's only here until Thursday then he goes back to Port Royal in Kingston and his home is in Portmore. Dude, broken hearted. I really really hope this one doesn't slip through the cracks because we just don't meet guys like this very often. We hope he'll be a star referral and a star member soon. We're still teaching Chris but his mom won't give consent for baptism. He's 11 and she thinks he's too young. We're prayerfully planning a lesson to teach her about accountability and stuff (she's not a member) but it's gonna be really tricky. We don't wanna offend her in anyway or try to push her. So we're just gonna try to teach the doctrine and commit them to pray about it, all the while praying mightily about it ourselves. He lives in this place called Ranza that's near a spring where you get fresh spring water out of the mountain that you can drink. Its pretty awesome. We have Oliver, a 13 year old kid, whose way cool and at church every Sunday but we just can't ever catch it at home cause he's always on the street with friends or playing football. We visited Sis Dago, a less active, who was so loving and welcoming and humble. They're very poor and can't make it to church because they live pretty far away, yet even so she gave us a whole heap of ackee and a giant breadfruit. Awesome lady and sad and humbling situation. We taught a guy who was a former, who seriously sang stupid songs he had written throughout our entire lesson and then proceeded to ask us horribly graphic and disgusting questions about inappropriate things so we quickly got out of there appauled and offended and discouraged. Our goal is to get Priesthood and instead we're finding psychos. So it goes. We also had a humbling experience meeting this woman Valerie. She was so antagonistic toward us - very angry - said she doesn't believe in God or Jesus and that They only help people like us but They've forgotten about her. We tried and tried to talk to her, bearing our testimonies ... it was the longest street corner lesson I've ever had. She talked about all of her trials, the many many illnesses she has and how she's gonna be evicted from her apartment. It was quite sad and hard for us. We wanted to know the perfect thing to say. We just told her that God hadn't forgotten about her, and that He'd sent us to her to help her but she has to have enough faith to let us. She started to cry - we gave her a Book of Mormon, but we haven't been able to see her again. It's times like that where you just wish you could fix all their problems. Sigh.
Everynight we chase a hard day's work with a tall glass of chocolate milk. It's delicious. Our district meeting in Highgate was all about revelation - very very good. 1 of 6 lessons on revelation to come - exciting. We had a day of tender mercies from the Lord, getting a free bag juice, getting a taxi bus with Spiderman on it and some Michael Jackson playing on it ... that was nice. I've eaten a whole heap of turkey neck lately which is strangely good. My appetite has increased, you wouldn't believe how much food I ate yesterday. It surprised even me. My stomach must be expanding. It was independence day here and there was a Vybz Kartel concert around the corner from our house that everyone and their mom went to - except us obviously. Fast Sunday was good, but fasting is hard here because we have to drink water to stay alive. Still been watching the preach my gospel DVDs which has lowered my self esteem a bit so I stopped lol. My #1 weakness in life I think is fear - so I've been working a lot on that.. overcoming it with the Lord's help. If I could, I'd be unstoppable.
Scripture of the week is 1 Nephi 19:20 - I'm EXHAUSTED all the time ... all the time.
Again, sorry for no pictures - the computers here stink.
Til next week,
Wa'apn Family, Friends, and Fans --
It's Sister Payne once again - the *real* fusion of entertainment and enlightenment - also known on the streets of Jamaica as blondie and/or gangsta payne (seriously, I've been called these things) ... This week has been really good. To be honest, the closer I get to coming home the less desire I have to write a whole heap. But I'll try my best to still make this as uplifting and entertaining as possible.
We're still teaching Chris and his mom TonnaLee. She still won't give consent to baptize, but we officially have established a relationship of trust there. We've planned some really good doctrinal and spiritual lessons that we feel confident about and plan on teaching before we just quit extending the commitment. We hope for good things. We're still teaching Wendell, a strapping young chap who wants to be baptized and has the parental approval to do so, but is on the Portland under 13 football team and is always at games or practice. He's hard to catch and home and because he's 12 he doesn't have a phone. He came to church though, yet again, and brought his little brother this time. We're teaching Shevelle, who has a baptism date set for August 27th. The Elders were teaching her and she knows the church is true. She's just lacking in commitment to church. We're planning on meeting with her A LOT this week. Nick, the coast guard guy, was doing great! He got his answer to know that the Book of Mormon is true, I mean a hardcore answer that was "undeniable" he said. He shared with us his awesome experience being out at patrol on the sea and feeling an overwhelming feeling as he was pondering what he had read the night before. We were so excited, but then he left abruptly to Portmore. We sent his name as a referral ... and are just hoping for the best at this point. We're also teaching Bro. Francis, who was taught by missionaries a long time ago and used to be at church every Sunday and preparing for baptism. But he had family issues then, that he doesn't have now, and he's ready to be baptized he says. We're gonna set a baptism date for him this week.
Lots of potential in the work. We've even met some cool less actives, and we had 5 less actives at church yesterday! That's hardcore! We still have the crazy experiences of course. There's scary psycho rabid vampire dogs here. They attack eachother for no reason, all day, everyday. This week we had two of them circling us WWE style only to get in a violent fight. It freaked us out. I had a nightmare about it. I won't miss that howling squealing growling sound every night, that's for sure.
I'll tell you about some lessons I've learned this week. One is a goal I have: never make the same mistake twice ... learn my lesson the first time before I dig the hole even deeper. I've also learned, as of this morning, what fasting really does. It never made a lot of sense to me - go without food, feel hungry, and that do anything spiritually? On the surface it was very confusing. I know there's still some spiritual aspects to fasting that I don't quite understand, but I've felt the power of it numerous times on my mission - a very very real power that I can't deny. That being said, this morning taught me something new about fasting.
When you fast, you are willingly giving up food. Your stomach grumbles. You may get a headache. It's uncomfortable. You're not doing that for no reason. Sometimes it's for someone else - a sickness, someone struggling in the gospel, etc - but many times its for yourself. You fast to overcome temptation, overcome a weakness, have something happen in your life like find a job or find someone to share the gospel with, or just for additional strength to accomplish something difficult. What fasting does is strengthens our own personal commitment to whatever we are fasting for. If you are fasting to be able to stop swearing, you're not going to be hungry and uncomfortable and continue to swear - the pain would be in vain. Instead you're going to go all out ensuring that you do all you can to help the Lord answer your prayer. I found this out as I've been fasting to be able to wake up on time in the morning. It's not like the alarm went off this morning and it was magically easy to get up because I fasted. Instead, I forced myself out of bed, onto the floor, holding open my eyes so that the Lord could help me as I helped myself. If you're fasting for people who suffer from a natural disaster, chances are you're going to be more compelled to donate your fast offering and even more to help relieve their suffering. Does that make sense? It's hard to exactly write what I mean, but I hope you can pick out of this nonsense the insight that I gained this morning.
Alright another lesson I learned is simply from a bracelet - Kashane, Sis Blake's son, made Sis Speakman and I bracelets. He's really good at it. Her's says virtue. He made that one first, and he asked what I wanted mine to say -- so I told him integrity. I've been thinking a lot about integrity as it has been on my wrist. I've decided if there is one attribute or quality that I want to have it is that - integrity. I was to be whole, complete, honest, and sincere in everything I do.
Last lesson I've been learning is about personal revelation. Something that everyone really struggles with is recognizing the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is crucial - we make the promise all day everyday "IF YOU READ THE BOOK OF MORMON SINCERELY, THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU READ, AND PRAY EARNESTLY WITH A REAL DESIRE AND INTENT TO ACT ON YOUR ANSWER, THE HOLY GHOST WILL ANSWER YOUR PRAYER!" What makes the promise challenging is being able to recognize your answer ... "was that God? was that my answer? or was that just wishful thinking? was that Satan? or was that me?" We've been learning a lot about how to recognize and receive revelation and then how to coach others in doing the same thing. It is so important to know that answers come gradually. They come in our minds as questions turn into answers. They come in our hearts as we feel a peace that surpasses all understanding. Satan is tricky - he mimics revelation. He too can speak in a still small voice. So how can we know the difference?
12 Wherefore, all things which are agood cometh of God; and that which is bevil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to csin, and to do that which is evil continually. 13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do agood continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and benticeth to do cgood, and to love God, and to serve him, isdinspired of God.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is aevil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
16 For behold, the aSpirit of Christ is given to every bman, that he may cknow good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do aevil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the alight of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a bchild of Christ.
Just look at the fruits of what you're being pointed to - a bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit and vis versa.
Even Stevens is playing on the tv in this internet place. I can't escape Shia LeBeouf anywhere! AHHHH!
Alright, that's it for me. Still no pictures - apologies. I guess you'll just have to wait til I get home to see how much weight I've gained ;)
All the love in the Caribbean,
****Hey Family Friends and Fans --
Allow me to share with you what I will call THE MOMENTS OF THE WEEK:
nick, from the coast guard, had one day stationed back here. he's doing great - gonna look up the church in portmore and go this weekend. we were stoked to see him again!
we have a great spiritual lesson with this guy at a jelly stand ... right as we're about to bear testimony a crazy brown freckled rasta lady walks up to us and starts shouting stuff about Ethiopia - SCREAMING at us to go away and quit preaching about our white gods and let the chiney man have his chiney god and the black man have his black god and at the top of her lungs accusing
us of brainwashing her people and we need to take our blankety blank blank mormon christian gods coming down out of the sky stuff back to where we came from ... needless to say it ruined the lesson and made us want to kick her in the teeth. bah.
sister spokesman and i start singing our own missionary version of "stayin alive" - afterward i explain to her how good the song "to love somebody" by the beegees is ... i sing her a snippet ... we turn a corner ... not five minutes later we hear a reggae version of "to love somebody" playing out of someone's backyard ... WHAT? of all the random stuff in the cosmos - of all the gin joints in all the world - seriously, it blew my mind. then the very next day, we're singing to a disabled member and her neighbors are jammin out to what else? to love somebody, by the beegees. tender mercies.
walking through the marina, sister speaksman gives this guy on his cell phone a pass along card, but he keeps walking and we don't really share anything with him. she gets super upset, stompin her feet - "i shoulda said something! i shoulda bore my testimony! he's not gonna call! nobody ever calls! that was his shot at the gospel and i blew it!" i'm like "calm down, maybe he'll call" ... 25 seconds later he calls, wants a Book of Mormon, tells us his dad used to read it when he was a kid and he always wanted to know what it was and that he's searching for the truth because lately he feels like the churches he was brought up in aren't where it's at. little miracles.
sister everette's mom sent me a package with lots of candy. i've been downing skittles all week!
it's all about perspective here. apparently port antonio is pretty close to getting their own chapel - they just need more Priesthood. well, we're out teaching with sister blake, an awesome member, and like they usually do a bunch of guys call out to us and wanna talk to us. we're fed up with that jazz i'll tell you what - we're just like "ugh, another man that we need to give a law of chastity pamphlet to" ... but sis. blake just sees potential Priesthood holders .. she was like "OH MAN! THIS IS SO AWESOME! I KNEW THEY SENT SISTERS HERE FOR A REASON!" so, we had a bit of a paradigm shift and we're trying to be more positive about street contacts.
To answer some questions I've received lately --
Sister Speakman and I get along great. She's like a good mix of Rosemary M Wixom and Sister Smith. She goes home Sept 8th and I'll get a new Sister then to train. I'm a little nervous about that, but it'll be awesome and make time fly (as if it isn't already!) We had our first torrential downpour since we've been here. It was pretty hardcore. Apparently its gonna rain this week too due to a storm coming in - we're looking forward to it.
Zone conference is tomorrow with Elder Francisco J Vinas. It's a special conference, so we have to look our best and be on our best behavior. A couple missionaries will randomly be called on to give a talk on how the Atonement has affected our missionary service - so we all prepared talks and are shakin' in our boots. I'm exhausted all the time, so I guess that means we're working hard. My missionary debit card was apparently hacked by someone or something so I've been without access to money for like three weeks. It's hardcore - I'm almost out of cash. Frustrating. I should get a new one tomorrow. We got a new phone since ours was broken. What else? Oh Hebrew Israelites are everywhere in Portland. You should google that stuff - it's a bit crazy. I think crazy rasta lady that yelled at us was one of them. They walk around looking like a gang - they initiate you instead of baptize ... it's different that's for sure.
We don't have any real progressing investigators. People get baptism dates and then they don't show any progression toward actually being baptized. One of our star investigators told his girlfriend he was gonna be baptized. She lives in England - and she told him that she doesn't support him because our church hates black people. Sigh. So now he's struggling, we're struggling ... We'll see what happens this week. We've been really trying to find new people to teach, so we started daring eachother to talk to people. For some reason it puts this "now you HAVE to" spin on the work and makes it more fun. I'm still a ball of fear and anxiety and I hate it. But it's my lot in life - it's not a lot, but it's my life.
That's it I guess for me.
By the way,
A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior's true Church on the earth; and that the Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel.
A testimony isn't a testimony unless it is confirmed by the witness of the Holy Ghost. Without that witness, it's just knowledge.
From Port Antonio, Portland Jamaica this is Sister Payne, signing off.
Stay classy San Diego.
Whoaaaaaaa Family, Friends, and Fans --
I have had the mother of all weeks. The wicked step mother of all weeks to be exact. It has been insanity. Every crazy person in Port Antonio has come out this past week and made themselves known to us. It has been frustrating. I'll try my best to hurry and write about the week.
Alright - 1st off - yesterday we were given ZERO notice to speak in sacrament meeting. Seriously, as they announce "today we're gonna hear from our sisters" we find out that we're speaking. I literally had about 4 seconds to prepare a talk. I ended up talking about fixing ourselves spiritually so that we can go and rescue others. It was random. I was praying the entire time I was talking. It worked out though, I say some head nods. That was just the beginning of one of the most frustrating Sundays of my mission. Church in Jamaica is so stressful, and I remember thinking "man I can't wait to go home and have a spiritual Sunday again" ... but then I realized that this is home for these members - this is church EVERY week ... I've gotta do my best to help them see that's not how it's supposed to be... starting sacrament 15 minutes late and arguments breaking out every Sunday school class. I just don't know how to help!
Sister Speakman and I played a chess game that took us like 4 days to complete (we'd play on our meal breaks) ... ultimately, it turned into a bloodbath and I got the check-mate. Bishop+Rook+Queen=FTW! I still suck at waking up in the morning, but I'm still trying. So goes my life. I have scars all over my feet and legs from mosquito bites (I mean, all over) which makes me feel like a tough Caribbean warrior. Light corn syrup+peanut butter melted in a pot+corn pops stirred in and drizzled with chocolate syrup and put in the fridge to cool= heaven!
My studies have been awesome this week. I learned about how the Atonement was actually a covenant between Christ and God (hence Moroni 10:32-33), and I learned about the devil's playbook in D&C 10:25-33. I'm still studying and pondering more about being able to decipher revelation and recognize promptings ... the age-old question "is that God, Satan, or me?" is still on my mind ... I learned that you can be a member of the church but still not be considered in the church when Christ comes (D&C 10:53, 67) so basically baptism without enduring to the end is a broken contract ... I learned that, like Oliver Cowdery, if you're not prepared when the Lord comes knocking you can forfeit a golden opportunity ... I've learned a lot about that actually, and reflected on all the missed opportunities in my life... And I've also seen in the lives of the people around me here in this wonderful country, that parents expect children to just learn things on their own. They assume they'll figure it out eventually, which is true, but they figure it out from all the wrong sources. So many times parents are like "I'm not gonna teach my 12 year old about chastity cause they're only 12... they're not gonna get into trouble..." but then soon enough they're 16, trouble is knocking at their door and they haven't been properly taught so therefore don't have any solid foundation upon which to base their decisions ... Rosemary M Wixom said what we want our children to know 5 years from now needs to be part of our conversation with them today. So true.
“Every person is eventually backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand" - Ezra Taft Benson
Alright onto the crazy people this week - in a nutshell, we had a lady burn a Book of Mormon that we didn't even give her... we gave to someone else (same crazy lady from last week who cursed us for having a "white god?" yeah ...) burned his tracts too, and he let her. And I was spent. Then we encountered Hebrew Israelites (you should look these guys up... alba bibbins ... google that stuff it's trippy) who wanted to fight with us for hours to get us to believe that we're gonna either be killed or be enslaved because we're edomites and they're the israelites... they speak in hebrew to eachother and are all secretive and stuff like a cult ("we can't teach you this it goes against the brotherhood" type business) and yet found the need to attack Joseph Smith for the whole freemason thing ... pot or the kettle today brethren? It was a ridiculous encounter. Frustrating too. We're just walkin through the streets tryin' to talk to those who want to listen and want to learn - we don't trouble anybody - but they surely feel the need to trouble us. Respect our beliefs not at all. BAH! Of course they can prove anything they want out of the Bible, because they interpret it their own way. I realized Bible bashing is possible because the Bible contradicts itself so much - it isn't translated 100% correct therefore there's all sorts of interpretations out there (hence the need for ANOTHER testament of Christ to lay down false doctrine and contentions ... hmmm)
The crazy thing about it to me is - these people have no solid explanation for the Book of Mormon, the doctrine and covenants, pearl of great price!? I mean, some contend that Joseph Smith wrote them. To them I say .. you haven't read them. What 21 year old could do such a thing, if he was a scholar, let alone a farm boy? Others contend Satan is the author... to them I say, you haven't read it. Like Satan could author so much good in the world... please. Pride robs so many of faith. Go around The Book of Mormon if you must - say you don't know where it came from - but don't give such a weak explanation as those! BAH! I have to echo Elder Holland when he said: For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”
Alright. End of my rant. It's been a really long week. The great stuff about this week was a conference with Elder Francisco J Vinas of the 70. He spoke to us about working with retention and less actives ONE BY ONE, and he spoke a lot about the Atonement and how it relates to our work. It was motivation, education, and spiritual. I had the privilege of sharing a short talk on how the Atonement has affected my missionary service. It was GREAT. Plus Ocho Rios is tight. We ate at a BUFFET called THE RUINS. I have awesome pictures, but again I can't send them to you because these computers are stinky.
Genius borders insanity, this much I know. I have a LOT of time left with my thoughts. Some of those thoughts turn into EUREKAS, and some just drive me crazy. Wish I could switch it off sometimes.
Well last but not least, I left home 17 months ago! How have you changed in 17 months?!
I love you all. Take care of yourself this week and I will too.
Hey Family Friends and Fans --
one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. John 9:25
Sorry if this e-mail is short. I'm running short on time.
I've got six weeks left in this ol' mission field here. That's crazy. Sis Speakman leaves Wednesday and the new Sisters arrive. I'm excited and anxious, per usual.
I've gotten more into music since I've been on my mission and away from it. I can't wait to dive back into it again.
We got transfer calls from Pres. Hendricks. It was funny, because it was obvious yet he still called. I have to do a 12 week training program in 6 weeks. So that's new. Part of that is going to allow us an extra hour of companion study at nights. So we'll have personal study from 8-9am, companion study from 9-10am, and then another hour at 8pm for additional companion study. That's neat.
1 Timothy 6: 7 For we brought anothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
My missionary daily planner for the next transfer is so epic. We design planners (its a missionary thing) and my last one is a masterpiece. I'm takin' it home with me cause it's that epic.
Everyone knows us here, which is kinda cool and kinda frustrating. People talk to us, call out our names, and always pull the "you don't remember me?!" thing.. I'm like, we're the only two skinny white chicks in skirts walking around your neighborhood ... you're 1 of 50 old Jamaican men I talked to today ... forgive me for not distinguishing you specifically from among the crowd. Oy vey.
Speaking of old Jamaican men, on our way home from church today we saw an old homeless madman walking down a hill full frontally naked - pants around his ankles. DISTURBING at best. Only in Jamaica man ... our mission is silly sometimes. I told Sister Speakman that was her going away present. She laughed for like an hour.
That fits right in with the perception though that Jamaicans are overconfident ... they all act and think like they're Usain Bolt, even if they don't have a job or any teeth or any pants for that matter. All these guys that call out at us fully expect us to just swoon and take them back to the States with us. This week I had a guy ask me "do you have a husband?"... I said yes, because that makes the exchange easier... to which he said "do you need a Jamaican boyfriend?" .... gross. Also a guy told Sister Speakman.. "oh you're last name is Speakman? well it'll be Williams soon cause I'm gonna marry you..." OVERCONFIDENT. It's made me appreciate humble men much much more.
Investigator-wise... Travis, a younger brother of two members... currently preparing for baptism. Coolest kid. We're gonna set a date this week. Bro. Francis .. he kept his commitment to fast, but then all hades broke loose with his baby mama basically kidnapping his son and all this jazz. So he's really stressed out. Bah! It's been tough with him, but he's still hangin' in there.
2 Nephi 10:3-5 ... priestcrafts+iniquities ... jamaica ...
I really do feel like I'm serving amongst the Lamanites... only I'm not nearly as righteous and powerful as the Sons of Mosiah.
We got to do a missionary skit in the primary treat this week. Also have been eating a lot of pears, which are actually avocados. They're HUGE and delicious. We had a great district meeting about being superheroes and saving the world with the Book of Mormon, and I got to teach Sunday school yesterday and we had a great talk about not losing the spiritual high ground. Because we're divine, we're on the high ground naturally. It is only when we sin that we give up the ground and then it becomes that much easier for Satan to influence us. We had a good spiritual Sunday. I have definietely developed an abhorrence of sin. Jamaica just makes sin look so..... bad. Terrible. Wicked. Awful. If I was ever tempted to break the law of chastity or the word of wisdom after my mission, I can just reflect on the horrific affect those two things have had on this country and it'll keep me far far away from the edge. I don't wanna talk smack about this place. It really is heaven on earth, if only the sin was eliminated...
Looking for great Christian music? Lookup "Shane & Shane"!
Well, I think that's it for this week. Change is in the wind. Off to get some groceries - I'm gonna cook greenie a Jamaican dinner her first day here of ackee, curry chicken back, and rice&peas ... all with green food coloring :) Hopefully she likes it!
All the best and all my love,