Monday, January 30, 2017
What an incredible week here in the Promised Land of Philadelphia! We have been so blessed with incredible opportunities.
This last week on Monday we had all of the departing missionaries at the mission home and we played games (I beat Elder Andrus in ping pong 25-23) had some good cheese steaks and heard some amazing "dying testimonies." It was particularly heart-warming when our two-transfer missionary bore his testimony and how the great example of his two trainers influenced him so much. Everyone was in tears. Be thou an example!
We dropped them off at the airport Tuesday morning. It was sad to say goodbye, lots of mission legends. We rushed back to the mission office and began transfers helping people get in and out quick, that was... exciting :) Elder Andrus' trainer got picked up by his parents at the mission office, that was cool. His trainer is a complete stud of a missionary.
After transfers, we rushed back to the airport and went to go pick up all of the incoming missionaries or "Goldens" as we call them... they were so frightened it was great. Love to see those new missionary faces--it's the best. I always enjoy spending the day, learning and getting to know them. I respect each individual who comes out to serve a mission!
Wednesday we did some trainings with the Goldens and their trainers and it is sooo much fun watching the slideshow of who the Trainer-Golden companionships are. There is a lot of excitement.
(The new incoming missionaries.)
We watched the missionary broadcast and learned a lot from that, plus our missionary schedule just took a 180 degree turn. We actually get more sleep now!
Thursday was great. We taught our Vietnamese investigator, Tai. He doesn't speak much English, but we read from "Gospel Principles" about who God is and who Christ is and the role of the Holy Ghost. He would read it in Vietnamese and then we would ask him questions, and he did surprisingly well understanding what we were saying. He prayed for the first time in his life at the end and it was amazing... love this kid.
We taught this new young single adult named Kelly. She goes to Penn. She is from Lubbock, TX. She has had a really CRAZY past, in and out of rehab for drugs, alcohol you name it. She has been all over the place with her life. Well, she met an LDS girl at rehab in Utah and they went through the process together and became really close. Last week the LDS girl got married in the temple in Pason, Ut and Kelley decided to go and wait in the lobby. She said as she was waiting in the lobby, she just felt the most incredible sense of peace she has ever felt in her life and that she wanted that more in her life. She has had multiple LDS professors in her life and has just been surrounded by members of the church who have had a huge impact on her in the good and bad times. We had our first lesson with her and she was sooo pumped to meet with us. It was an incredible lesson. She is stunning.... words can't describe how cool she is. She loved church, is going to Institute with some of the members. She's all over it. We focused our first two lessons with her primarily on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how she can access it and feel God's love and power in her life.
We had a pretty funny experience this week up in North Philly at Temple University. We were going to have dinner with a member and while we were waiting on the street corner, we heard someone yelling and using some very explicit language to say the least and anyways after a few minutes this small but pretty bulky hammered drunk comes walking up to us and starts yelling at us and basically goes off on us, "You don't know who I am?" We were like.... what? He starts going off about he plays football for the Steelers and we're like... okay, that's cool. He got up in our faces and was like, "You don't believe me (in the midst of all this he was using some colorful language wow) and he pulls out his wallet and tries to give us hundreds and hundreds of dollars for us to believe who he is, and we were like, "We don't care about your money, man! Anyways, he pulls out his NFL ID card (he actually was a Steelers football player) and is trying to get us back in his car (guy was driving so drunk) and the member finally comes and the guy is like, "You don't know who i am either," and the member says, "Yeah, you're Tyler Matakevich." It was pretty funny. Apparently the guy was a legend at football at Temple and is a rookie for the Steelers, but it was just comical to see him so drunk all on his own walking around Temple trying to get some recognition for who he was. Good times, gotta love Philly. I thought Elder Andrus was about to lay down the hammer if he got any closer lol.
Well, to close I really like these two passages one from "Preach my Gospel" and the other from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.
"As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
(A recent convert who Elder Andrus and Elder Wilde really love. He is great!)
"However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made … , or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Hope you're all doing well. Today is my P-day, well kind of, still have a lot of transfer plans to do but the next few days including today are super busy, so we just went to the temple and will be getting back to work for transfers pretty shortly!
The temple was great. It was cool. The bishop and his wife from my previous area, Cherry Hill, were actually doing the sealing for her parents and so they were there as well as a bunch of other people from the ward that I served in, and we were all in the same temple session. Love all those people, but to put the cherry on top (no pun intended), Beena, one of my recent converts was at the temple too! And I saw her and surprised her and she said, "God knows my heart. I was praying that I could see you today that you would be at the temple, God knows." She was in tears and couldn't contain herself in the temple. I had to quiet her down lol. She is seriously incredible. I love her!
Life is good over here in Phila. We have been swamped with transfers.
Elder Winstanley, as of just recently, was just asked to fulfill a different position in the mission, so now it will be Elder Andrus and I together. Sad though. We got a lot of good ball in in the morning.
We have had some great lessons this week with some of our investigators. Tom will be getting baptized in two weeks or so. He's getting his tonsils out.
This week I started the Book of Mormon over again in a brand new blue one, and I am reading the Book of Mormon with a focus on Christlike characteristics from "Preach My Gospel." I have learned so much about a few characteristics in specific - faith, patience, humility, charity, and obedience. I love the Book of Mormon and what the Spirit teaches me as I read it.
I've learned many things on my mission and one thing that I learned which was reemphasized as I read the first 9 chapters is that complaining, transferring blame, and justifications never have and never will get you anywhere. Those who complain, transfer blame, and justify lack a firm relationship with God and are staying stagnant and even regressing on their journey to becomes perfect like Christ. I respect those who humble themselves, take correction and overcome their weaknesses, regardless of how hard it may be, and rise from the dust and become men and women of God.
I am thankful for the Atonement of Christ which makes this all possible.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Wow, what a crazy week... We got a new companion here to serve with us as an assistant... and I have served with him before... he was also my trainer! Elder Andrus is now an assistant with us!!! We are so excited. I could not believe it.. I'm so pumped. #The DreamTeam!
This week was pretty hectic. We had three days in a row of training. We had all of the District Leaders, Zone Leaders, and Sister Training Leaders with us. It was a good time. I always learn so much from the different Elders and Sisters in the missions. It is so rewarding to say the least.
I did a training, or more of a discussion, on the importance of being an example towards others. It went well, really enjoyed it.
There is a good quote that says, "We cannot make others do the right things. We can only show them by our example what doing the right things looks like."
Joseph F Smith once said, "It is impossible for you to be an example of what you are not."
I am thankful for all of the examples that I have had in my life. I know I would not be where I am today without them.
I also tried to discuss how our actions, even the small ones, can have such great impacts on us. I shared a brief story that Gordon B. Hinckley told. He said: "I approached a large farm gate one day. I lifted the latch and opened the gate. The movement at the hinges was so slight as to be scarcely discernible. But the other end of the gate cut a great arc sixteen feet in radius. Looking at the movement of the hinges alone, one would never dream of the magnified action that came as a result of that tiny movement.
So it is with the decisions in our lives. Some small thought, some small word, some small action can lead to tremendous consequences."
I truly have been able to see that as we all strive to be obedient to all the commandments-- the small and the big ones--and we try to improve each and every single day, that Heavenly Father will truly be so proud of us.
We had a great week at church. We are so excited for how things are going things with our investigators. Tom is doing really well, should be getting baptized in the next few weeks. We are also really excited for one of our investigators named Dan. He came to church for the first time and just had an incredible experience--absolutely loved the YSA... everyone does.
We had some guy from Vietnam show up, didn't speak really a lick of English, that was funny. Anyways had some more people show up, too, just a really solid Sabbath Day to say the least, got to have a great interview with President. That man is so amazing, closest person to God, I swear.
We had a large lesson this last week before church, had two investigators, a recent convert and two members, and we taught on for a good chunk of it, the Atonement and repentance. I enjoyed this part as I studied the Atonement from "Preach my Gospel": "As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
One last experience that really stuck out to me this week was one that occurred in our last day of training. We had an incredible Elder who was out on a test mission to see if he could serve a full two years--incredible, incredible person. His first transfer he was trained by one of the best missionaries in the mission and then the second transfer he got trained by another one of the best missionaries in the mission. Unfortunately, a few days ago he was told that he would be unable to serve a full two-year mission. As I watched him and his trainers walk into the room, they were all three filled with tears. They all were embracing this young missionary who was devastated that he had to go home. They bore such strong testimonies how this young man had changed their lives. It had to have been one of the most amazing moments I have been able to witness. The amount of love that those two trainers had for their trainee was absolutely amazing. I am thankful for those who strive to have charity and patience with those, even myself, who have weaknesses and flaws. Love is always the answer. Christlike love will never fail us.
I am thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has changed my life. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon and its amazing insights that have helped me become the person God wants me to become -- long ways to go still.
I am forever in debt to the scientists who created Advil to relax the head.
Love you all,
Monday, January 9, 2017
Wow, what a busy, fun and quick week it was!
Everything is going swimmingly here in Philly. The work is going well despite the small amount of proselyting time we had due to our schedule. Our investigator, Thomas, made some great strides this week. His mom told him she wanted him to stop dating his LDS girlfriend because she and her faith were a "bad influence" on him and said she wasn't allowed back to their home anymore. He said that God had led him to this point of his life and that his life has changed since he has began reading the Book of Mormon and he was going to stick to it. He told his boss he wasn't working on Sunday anymore and he showed up to church and had a great time. We are super excited for how things are going for him.
From Tuesday to Thursday, we had golden re-trainings and on Friday we had our Mission Leadership Council. It is such a great experience being around new missionaries and being able to train them but at the same time be learning from them as well. We had some remarkable discussions. One of the things that I talked about was how we need to be looking for the good in others - there is a good quote by President Uchtdorf about looking for the good in others. It was originally about marriage, but I made some edits to apply it to missionaries...
"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” It fits nicely with its scriptural companion: “Seek, and ye shall find.”
If we look for imperfections in our COMPANION or irritations in our COMPANIONSHIP, we will certainly find them, because everyone has some. On the other hand, if we look for the good, we will surely find it, because everyone has many good qualities too.
Those who save COMPANIONSHIPS, pull out the weeds and water the flowers. They celebrate the small acts of grace that spark tender feelings of charity. Those who save COMPANIONSHIPS save MISSIONS.
Brethren, remember YOUR CALLING.
Work each day to make your COMPANIONSHIP stronger and happier.
My dear friends, let us do our very best to be numbered among those hallowed and happy souls who save their COMPANIONSHIPS.
I told of an experience (which I am not proud of at all) that I had where I was in a Sacrament meeting and the first speaker gave an incredible talk; the second speaker got up and the first few moments he must have said the word "um" 5 times - I caught onto it and decided the rest of his talk I would tally the amount of "ums" and by the end he had said the word "um" 141 times. I told them how because I was so focused on his imperfections, I had not noticed the rest of his talk, anything good about it whatsoever and I just ended up feeling horrible about myself after I did that. Again, not a story I'm proud of but a learning experience.
This week I was able to spend some time in Wilmington with the Zone Leaders over there. We had a great lesson with one of their brand new Chinese investigators, taught her how to pray, and invited her to be baptized which she so kindly accepted - beyond prepared. Chinese people are the bomb.
I also had an exchange with some of the Zone Leaders up north from Lehigh Valley. They came down to our neck of the woods. Philly was snowing pretty badly, so I had a really fun first experience driving in the snow - some tips: Don't slam on the brakes, brake earlier than expected. No - I did not hit anyone's car, just a tip :)
We taught a new guy named Richard, from Ghana. He's awesome, pretty sincere guy, looking to change his life, excited to see where things go with him.
This week our mission's focus chapter from the Book of Mormon was Helaman Chapter 5. It is fascinating as I read it the amount of times it said the word "remember" (I counted in a good way). Spencer W. Kimbell taught that remember is such an important word because we need to remember our covenants because they will keep us safe - "Remember is the word, remember is the program." The word remember is found 88 times in the Book of Mormon, lots of things to remember!
I also love the popular Helaman 5:12 scripture about building our foundation on Jesus Christ because when the adversary comes your way, if you're not prepared, your foundation will fall. As I was reading more about this there was an analogy made about how you cannot usually tell the difference between a strand of cobweb and a strand of powerful cable until stress is put on the strand. Our stress is most likely to come in the form of temptation. A shallow acceptance of the gospel does not have power to cope w/ the full powers of darkness.
We had two missionaries go home this week. In his dying testimony, one missionary said
"The church is true, the Book is blue, Jesus was Mormon, too" (pretty sure he --- he was not Mormon, but it was pretty funny)
Love this gospel, love you all.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Happy New Year's to all! I'm so excited for 2017 and what it has in store!
We had a wonderful week here in Phila. We set two more solid people with a baptismal date and are super pumped for January because we have two people already set to be baptized towards the end of this month.
This week was the first week we really had time to spend working in our area and will probably be the first full week we have the entire transfer!
This week we have golden re-training which is where all the Goldens who have been out a month come back together and we train them three separate days in three separate groups. We also have MLC (Mission Leadership Council) meeting this week, too. We are super busy.
The next week we have Mission Leadership Trainings for all the District Leaders and Zone Leaders - we are excited for that too!
Then we have to get transfers all figured out and then we will be onto the next transfer. Time sure does fly!
This week I got to go on two exchanges. My first exchange was with Elder Martinez in my old stomping grounds of South Phila. I got to see some recent converts (I guess they aren't "recent" anymore lol) and a few other families that I worked with. It was a great time for sure. We had a very powerful lesson on finding peace through Jesus Christ with one of the less active members who was a recent convert at the time I got there. He is one of my favorites and we were both in tears at the end of the lesson. Definitely love him a lot, he said at the end of the lesson he was going to start coming back to church. Love him.
This week we focused on testifying of repentance and the role of Jesus Christ. I'm so grateful for the gift of repentance. I was able to bear my testimony on repentance and the Savior at church. Repentance is not for perfect people, it is for progressing people. Our past is to be learned from, not lived in.
Ben, our Chinese investigator, brought his friend, James, to church. He loved it.
Jamie, a former investigator, after having lost contact with missionaries for quite sometime, finally was able to come to church and she is ready to start taking the discussions again - she's a great person.
I got to go on another exchange which was also so amazing. I brought Elder Haws to my area. He is from Ethiopia. He has to be the most Christlike person I have ever met... absolutely incredible. Wow. I can't believe how amazing he is!!! He came from an Islamic background. He said that after being taught for quite sometime by the missionaries, they were about to give up because he wouldn't accept Christ as his Savior, but then they read 2 Nephi 31:20-21 which reads:
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen." He said he felt the Spirit so strongly testify to him that Christ was the only way to salvation that he accepted it right then and there on the spot. We had a great time and got to teach some great lessons. It was an odd day - lots of miscommunications throughout the day but everything has a way of coming together. Christlike adaptability!
I was reading in the Doctrine & Covenants this week in Section 19 and verses 16-18 stuck out to me:
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink--
I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered, bled and died for us all that we may be able to be forgiven of our sins as we repent. He invites all of us to come unto him and be perfected. This New Year's I hope we all make goals (that we stick to) that will enable us to make changes that bring us closer to our Savior.
Happy New Year!
Love you all,
Who said I wasn't on a Chinese related mission?!