Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Well, Lance has officially completed his training at the MTC and has left for Florida. As of today he's been there three days. We haven't heard from him since he's been in FL. However, we have two e-mails that he sent from the MTC. I thought I'd post them for your enjoyment:

Week 1:

Hey Family this is lance i hope that you get this message, because im not 100 % sure that this is your email address, but i hope that it is. So the first week at the MTC has been good, i have been learning a lot, and learning how to teach a lot. I found a battery for spencers phone in my backpack and i sent it to him it should come in the mail in a couple of days. anyways my district is pretty cool, i like most of the guys in it they are funny and have a good attitude about it. My companion is elder Grant he is from sandy, he just graduated this last year from highschool, but he is a cool guy, he is a pretty laid back guy and we get along well. I saw justin one time, so he can probably tell you about my district. but one guy in my district is a guy named elder bradford he is a funny guy, he is way hyper and he always sings a song that he made up called elder jones, which is just the song "mrs. Jones" but he replaces Mrs. Jones [with] Elder jones its kind of funny, [except] he does it always so its kind of wierd. well any ways we got new teachers yesterday one of them is a woman whose name is sister lucas, and another guy who i cant rememeber his name. Yesterday elder Quinton L. Cook from the [Quorum] of the 12 apostles spoke at the devotional and he gave a very good talk on missionary work and on teaching with the spirit and stuff. so any ways yesterday we had a teaching evaluation but before hand our district was in the room studying, but people were just talking about stuff and arguing about doctrine so i couldn't concentrate, so e. grant and i went to another class room one door down, but when we came back they had left because the time for our evaluation changed, but they didn't tell us, so by the time that we got there we had already missed it so the guy was just like prepare a 10 minute lesson on the restoration, so we did. and then we gave it to this fake investigator and it was amazing. we taught by the spirit, normally i give the lesson and it doesnt really flow, but yesterday it just came to me, it wasnt even what we planned, but we did it well and the spirit was so strong it was good. i wasnt sure if i could do this mission stuff, but after that it made me feel more confident it was good. so anyways ive seen joe a few times, he works in the morning and he comes by our table and then we talk its nice to see him. so any ways ive been eating a lot of food, about twice as much as i normally eat, and i have just been sitting around, and the combinantion of these this have resulted in 10 lbs of fat in one week. which is crazy because normally i cant gain weight, but this food is so unhealthy that i have been gaining more than a lb a day, i want to gain another ten by the end of the mtc so i will tell you how it goes. well any ways i am out of time, so i will see you later. Love. Lance jones

Week 2:

Dear Family,

It took me seven minutes to rememeber my email address and password, and then a few to check my emails so i only have 18 minutes to write today so it might have a lot of errors and be shorter than last time, but thats just how it is. Life at the mtc is pretty good, the guys in my district are cool, and we all have a fun time together. Every tuesday someone comes here and speaks to the missionaries for a devotional, and some times it is some one from the quorum of the seventy, and some times it is some one from the quorum of the twelve, and this week it was Uchtdorf. It was awsome he gave a great talk about missionary work, and his wife spoke and she cant speak english very well so it was pretty entertaining, it was a good talk also though. It seems like time is moving a little bit faster now, it is still moving much slower than when i was at home, but it does not seem like it is moving as slow as it did the first week. this friday we started teaching the second lesson which was on the plan of salvation, it is a difficult lesson to teach, because there are so many little things that you have to explain to have it make sense. Elder grant and i taught it yesterday to an old lady in the trc who was pretending to be catholic, and we did pretty well. It was weird to teach an old lady, because she was so old and boaring, but i bet we will be teaching a lot of old people when we get out there.

I think that we will be able to call from the airport, but i am not sure i have not heard any thing about it here. but maybe you will probabably be home at five in the morning if i do call so just keep the phone by your bed in case. i am kind of getting sick of the food here, i cant eat nearly as much as i did the first week, now after i eat one reagular sized entree i feel full, but last week i ate two or three entrees every meal. so i dont think i have gained any more weight.

I printed off some pictures this week from my camera and i will send them home. elder grant and i got a light saber picutre that you must see. they have a computerthing here where you can print off your picutres and it is only like 9 cents a print for a 4x6 picture so i printed some off, i will send my camera card home later.

so spencer you are doing some guitar huh? that is cool, How is that? and what are you up to mallory? and i will just talk to you here at the mtc justin. and mom thank you for all of the packages you make all my district jealous, and now i have so much food that i could not eat it all. I love you all and will write again next week but now i am out of time bye.

lance jones

10 seconds left oh no!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Last wednesday we dropped my brother Lance off at the Missionary Training Center here in Provo, Utah. He is going to serve in Tampa, Florida. The Missionary Training Center (MTC) is an interesting place. When young men or young women become missionaries and enter the MTC they are no longer allowed to contact their family or friends except through e-mail or letters. They begin living missionary rules as well. It is a pretty tough change of lifestyle but it is also very amazing. The spirit of the Lord is very strong there, which helps their learning process. The missionaries often comment that they learn more in three weeks at the MTC than the four years they spent taking a class about the church called seminary. We are so proud of him! And I work at the MTC so hopefully I'll get to see him soon.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back in Action

I feel the need to introduce myself, even though this blog is about me and has been up and running for almost three years. As you will notice, the last post was made more than a year ago and is in third person (I didn't write it). The truth is, I've only seen this blog a couple of times. While I was serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my father made and maintained this blog to help keep my friends and family informed about my whereabouts. During my service I knew about the blog but never got to see it since missionaries are only allowed to visit certain websites. I served for two years in Houston, Texas and I loved it to death! I consider myself a Texan now. I still use the word, "y'all" from time to time instead of the less flattering "you guys." I think that Bluebell ice cream is the best ice cream in the world. Talk to any Texan and they'll tell you the same thing!

So, funny story. The other day felt like starting a blog (i had completely forgotten about this one). I ran the idea by my father (who is a computer guru) and he reminded me that i already had one. So today I officially become a blogger; I join the world wide electronic conversation. I fully intend to update this blog regularly. I will try to keep it fresh and fulfilling. I hope that y'all will find my life and psyche interesting and will keep coming back for more.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More Jasper Photos

Here are some more Jasper photos. Once again, Elder Jones provides the commentary (with exceptions in italics). Click on each photo to enlarge.

In the country.

Elder Jones did the "Outlaw Challenge" recently. If you eat this gigantic burger (and the fries) you get your name on the wall. And a t-shirt? He was up to the challenge.

A close-up of the Outlaw Burger.


District meeting picture. left to right, top: E. Hall, Setterberg, Barnett, Jensen. Bottom: Yours Truly, E. Skeen.

Elder Hall and me. My second-born in the wilderness of my mission. (i.e., Justin's second "greenie" companion)

One-year mark festivities (taken on 9/7/06 - "hump day").


Paul & Tara (recent converts). They are doing well.

Me in my sweet cowboy suit I got from the thrift store.

Some members gave us some Double-Stuff Oreos and we decided to have some fun with them.

Picture of the font. This was on October 8th when we were filling the font for Trisha's baptism.

Us and Trisha, the newest member of the Jasper Branch.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Golden Period

Elder Chuch is experiencing a "golden period" for his mission. He and his companion have been blessed with great success in Jasper. Here are some excerpts from recent e-mails:


Last monday was my 11 month mark, I can't believe it. It is amazing. It can't be that far along. Time really flies. I don't want it to be that far along, i want to have as much time out here as i can, but the only thing i can do is make the best of what i've got left.

Lets see... we taught P the word of Wisdom. She said she's been smoking and drinking coffee for the last 40 years and so it seemed like an unpassable hurdle for her at first but as she thought about it she knew she could do it. That was last wednesday. Yesterday we visited her again and she said that it has been hard but she has been trying and reading and praying. She said she felt like giving up a few times but she's still pressing on. We gave her a priesthood blessing and she was really touched by that.

Mrs. H, she is doing well. She said that eventually she wanted to get baptised but she just didn't feel ready yet. She said some other things too that showed her interest so we'll keep going with her.

We haven't been able to get back in contact with B. yet, she and the F. family have been really busy lately. We are still trying to get back with her.

T, we taught T a lesson on friday. We taught her the third lesson about baptism and confirmation. we invited her to be baptised and she accepted! She's been reading and praying and says that she KNOWS that the book of mormon is true. We don't have an actual date, however because she and her husband, P, need to get married. That should be no problem, though, because P really wants to get back into church, too. He's a member, just less active.


It's kind of depressing to know that i've been out a year already, but i like the fact that i no longer will be a teenager in a week. It's kind of snuck up on me.

Transfers are coming up, a lot of people say that i'll probably be training again next transfer. I would love that, i really enjoyed training Elder Sosa. But Elder Decker doesn't want to leave Jasper. He loves it here, especially since the work is picking up.

P came to church again and loved it. She had a struggle on monday, however, Yesterday and today we are on exchanges so elder decker and skeen are in jasper. They went and visited her last night. She said on monday she felt like giving up again and smoked a whole pack of cigarettes and drank a bottle of vodka. But then on tuesday morning she woke up and thought, I can't give up, I've got to keep going. So supposedly she's in good spirits today. We are going to go and visit her again tonight and we are going to try to get more member support for her.

Not much to report for P and T. They are doing well. They came to churhc with their kids this time and enjoyed it. We taught her a few commandments last week. She is doing great. We've just gotta make sure she's ready for baptism.


Thank you so much for all the birthday favors and presents. So, it doesn't feel any different yet to be twenty. I actually had to remind myself that it was my birthday. It's kind of hard to believe that the teens are over but that is exciting. On to bigger and better things.

On monday we had a great day. We actually took our official preparation day on monday so we only have a couple of hours today. First of all we drove down to silsbee to drop elder Decker and his stuff off. Some crazy things have happened for transfers. First of all, Elder Sosa is staying in sunnyside again! At the end of this new transfer that will make seven and a half months in sunnyside! I'm not sure how he feels about it but if anyone can do it i'm sure that he can.

Also, Elder VAZ is the new ASSISTANT to the President!!!!!! I couldn't believe it! I never would have thought that he would become assistant and now he's in the hot seat. I bet he's way stressed out. But he'll do a great job.

Anyway, after they had come and taken elder decker away we went to a restraunt called "Cowboy Red's" in Lumberton and did THE OUTLAW CHALLENGE. The challenge is to eat the outlaw burger and a side of fries. The outlaw burger has three patties, each an inch and a half thick and about five or six centimeters in diameter. That thing stood about ten inches tall. We had to take one of the patties out and eat it as a steak. That morning i had prepared and on the way there and while they were picking him up i drank a gallon and a half of water to stretch my stomach. There were four of us who took the challenge and WE ALL FINISHED IT. It amazed me because i couldn't even finish the two foot sub at sensuous sandwich. Needless to say, i was sick afterwards, we all were (elder Barnett threw it all back up) but we got a free t-shirt and we all had our pride and bragging rights secured.

That's about the most exciting thing that's happened since monday. Right now, as i type, P is at the Family History Lab doing some genealogy. She is having a blast and i hope she will build some friendships with the people there with the members who are working there.

Tonight we are going to visit a couple up in Hemphill called the M's. Brother Packard found them on his medical records up there (he's a doctor). And found out that Bro. M is LDS. He told Pres. May and now they are being fellowshipped a lot. They are great people. They are probably in their late twenties (wow, that's weird, i'm in the same decade of life, scary) , early thirties and they have four kids under the age of eight. Sis. M has been reading the book of mormon and we haven't even taught them a lesson before. Her mother in law is also reading the Book of Mormon and they both watch BYU TV and then discuss what they see. Brother M is taking me to pick up my new missionary on Thursday. We hope all will go well with them. I'm pretty sure it will but i don't want to count my chickens before they hatch.

Besides that, this next week will be a pretty big week. P and T are getting married on Friday. Saturday and Sunday are stake conference so we'll have to hitch a ride with someone because one of the sessions is in Beaumont and the other is in Port Arthur. Should be fun!


This past week has been AWESOME! It has probably been one of the best weeks of my mission. First of all i'll answer some questions from last week.

The wedding went well, we did go. The branch pitched in and it looked professional. There were a lot of gifts for them, too.

So, last wednesday, we took most of preparation day on monday so we only had a few hours. We were also coming back from Woodville and working the rest of the day in Jasper. I picked up my packages, (all of them, thank you very much) and they are AWESOME. Thanks especially for the "picture book" with the accompaning tape. it was really fun to hear from all of those folks and from y'all. It's so funny that all of my friends are just barely heading out on missions, and i've almost been out a year.

Later that night we drove all the way up to hemphill in hopes that we would be teaching Sis. M. Sis. M is the nonmember wife of a member guy that lives in hemphill. He has been inactive for a while and now he wants to get back into church and his wife is really interested. She's the one who has been reading the book of mormon and watching BYU television. The members have been fellowshipping her for the past few weeks and so she is ready for the lessons. It turns out they were caught up buying a new van and so we couldn't teach them. But we had dinner with the Johnny Ratcliff family and he gave us the background for the M's, which was a good thing, and so now we know them better.

The next day, thursday, Brother M drove me down to houston to pick up my new missionary. It was an overall good experience for him too. I wasn't as nervous to train this time but i was still pretty nervous. His name is Elder Hall, from Orem Utah. He is twenty four years old and he did a little college at UVSC before he came out. We are already getting along really well. He is an awesome guy. He is the youngest of nine. He is out here to work and has a great testimony. He kind of reminds me of me when i came out because he worries about a lot of things, like whether he'll be a good teacher or not. but he's doing fine. He loves the work. He does anything i ask him to do.

I'm really glad that there's a lot going for Elder Hall to jump into. The first full day we were together we went to P. She has completely quit smoking and coffee and so now she is online to be baptised on the sixteenth of September. She is excited. We are praying to know who would be the best fellowshipper.

That same day we received news that a couple in the ward, the Mills (there are two families of mills, the older ones, not the one who was going to make my birthday dinner.) had just died in a car accident. They also had their two grandkids with them so we rushed to the hospital to give them a blessing. The grandson had been life flighted to Beaumont but we were able to give the granddaughter a blessing. She had a broken collar bone. It turned out that the boy was alright too, thank goodness. It's so sad that this happened. Just last sunday he was joking around in Ward Council meeting. It goes to show you never know when you're going to go. They're going to have the funeral this saturday.

One the brighter side of things the wedding was that night and everything went beautifully. Family from both sides were there and there were many branch members. Elder Hall had a crazy first day but he loved it.

oh, one more thing. Elder Hall loves to SING and he has an incredible voice so now we are singing all of the time.

The big news is that T is scheduled to get baptised this Saturday and confirmed on sunday. We are so excited. WE are going over tonight to teach her more and prepare her for the interview. It's going to be at six o clock, even though it's the same day as the funeral. We are going to call a lot of people to tell them about it so that we have a good crowd.

Thanks for sending me Bryce's letter. It's really good to see that he's doing well. He still has that unconquerable spirit. That's great!

As for Preach my Gospel it is all about working and recognizing the spirit. Which is something we always need to work on. Thanks for the low down on the Education week talk. That is really inspiring to hear about it's being put together. One of the secrets is to study. If you don't study you don't have much to draw on. The morning studies will make or break your mission. Then you have to speak the feelings of your heart, like the Lord told Samuel the Lamanite.

There's so much more i wish i could tell you. I love it out here. I've felt some of that joy that Pres. Hinckley talked about in my call letter and that it talks about in Alma 26. I love it out here!

I love you all very much. Thank you for all you do. God be with you.


Sorry about the missed day. Zone conference. that went well, Elder Hall and skeen and Graff and I sang. Elder Hall has a concert voice. It sounds very professional.

Last year at this time do you know what i was doing? I was eating my last meal in Provo--homeade curry chicken wraps! Then we had the presentation of the bands. Then we drove down the street to the MTC. Then I dropped my luggage off while Mallory was hanging on to me. Then i got my new name-tag. oh, the memories i will never forget!

I can't believe it's been a year already! It seems like just yesterday that we sang called to serve, said goodbye and then we walked out of separate doors. Yet the growth i've gone through has been priceless and the things i have learned have been many. My testimony has been strengthened one hundred fold, my knowledge of the gospel has expanded, and my ocd is very very close to being totally under control. And it is all because of the goodness and love of my Heavenly Father. I am so thankful for Him and His patience and longsuffering and love. I feel like ammon who said "I do not glory in myself, as to my strength i know that i am weak, but i will glory in my God, for i know in His strength that i can do all things." Alma 26

I also want to thank you. You have all been the means by which Heavenly Father has sent blessings, love and support. Thanks for always helping me to have a better day and be more inspired.

This week was also a great week. The baptism went wonderfully. She passed the interview with flying colors. You can just tell that she has a testimony. We had pretty good support from the branch, too. Brother Bill McDaniel, her Uncle in law, performed the baptism. We had some pretty good talks as well. After the baptism we all went and ate at Elijah's Grill, a sweet southern place. The confirmation went well on sunday. There were so many people there that they had to open the back again.

P is on line to be baptised of the 22nd of September. She is doing great and her testimony is growing daily. We are trying to get a family in the branch to specifically help us out with fellowshipping. It truly is a miracle for her to give up smoking and coffee. I don't think there are many things besides the gospel that she'd give it up for.

We are also teaching a family up in Hemphill called the M's. They are doing really well. I think i've told you about them. the husband is a less active member and wants to get back into church. His wife is T. Her mother in law, mrs. K, is also interested. The M's have four kids from 7 years to about 10 months. They've had us over twice and both times they've fed us dinner before the lesson. It's ended up going a long time because mrs K asks a lot of questions.

We have been witnessing miracles daily, little miracles. There are so many people who are interested. The members say that Hemphill is exploding. It seems like there is something new up there every day. We are trying to see if we can get more miles so that we can head up there more often.

Elder Hall is doing great. He is a fun guy, we have a lot of fun together. But he is also spiritual, so we get a lot of work done. He is kind of lacking in his self confidence skills so i need to be more sensitive to that. He thinks i am a great teacher, not to brag, he's always making comments about how great of a job i do. I hope i'm helping him to relax. He has so much potential. I think his dad is a scientist, but he's retired, he worked for Novotec for a while.

right now, a year a go, we were probably unloading my luggage at the MTC.

right now we were probably standing out front, just basking in the moment, before we went in and got my name tag.


This past week has been great. Possibly another one of the best ones on my mission. On sunday we had four of our investigators at sacrament meeting.

P is still on line for baptism. She has a strong testimony and is growing every week. She hasn't had a word of wisdom problem for a few weeks now. We will plan the service more this week.

Sis. H is doing really well, too. I think that the baptism of T really inspired her. She is determined to quit smoking. Yesterday she went to see her doctor for help in quitting. We will probably try to organize a special fast for her. She practically bore her testimony on sunday. It was great.

Sis. M and K are both doing well. Sis. M is Sis. K's daughter. We weren't able to visit them this past week because of a football game but they are both doing really well. On sunday we had a special lesson about the spirit world taught by our stake missionary person, kelly Carter, and if you've ever heard him teach then you know it was good. They really liked it. We hear that T is ready to be baptised. It seems like her mom is a little more hesitant but she is really coming along too. The place where they both live, Hemphill, is exploding. We had another part-member family move in last week. The members have been trying to get in touch with them. The members are having tons of missionary experiences up there. Some of them have asked me if we could get another set of missionaries up there to help out with the work. That would be great for us because between working in Jasper, Kirbyville, and Hemphill we don't have the miles or the time to work the other parts of our area. I don't mean to complain, i'm actually ecstatic that we have this problem, but i don't know how easily Pres. can just get two extra missionaries up here.

We have been experiencing miracles daily, and i hope we are showing enough gratitude. It is a testimony of what the Lord can do with two willing, hard working missionaries. It is also a testimony to me of the power of gratitude. As we show our gratitude the Lord will continue to bless us. The Lord doesn't need our gratitude to survive. He commands us to be grateful because of what it does for us! If we are grateful then we will be humble and happy and we will continually submit to his will.

I have also been overcome with a feeling of gratitude for the past year on my mission. I can't believe it's over but even more, i can't believe how much i've grown. I made sure to thank the Lord and i will be sure to continue to thank Him. Sometimes i feel like i'm being selfish. I hope i made some difference in the lives of others.

HempHill with two H' about forty miles away from Jasper. It's probably fifteen or so miles out of our mission but president told us to work it like it's our area. That makes it a little hard on miles but the members are good to help out and we just put elder halls' bike together so now we can save even more.

Austin and SEan will now both be in the mtc, i'm going to write them both today. I need to do some catchup.

The fellowshipping of T and P is going great. this monday the Drue ratcliff family had them over for Family Home Evening. She is still on fire. They want to get family home evening started in their home.

I am really thankful for a loving family who helped to bring me where i am today!


We have had a crazy week of mixed emotions and many miracles.

Last Thursday we headed up to Hemphill again and visited with T and K. We were suprised to see K's husband there. He has had a bad experience in the Pentecostal church and has been wary of any kind of organized religion. We had dinner and a wonderful third lesson. They all accepted it heartily, P had a lot of questions. T and K have been praying about the Book of Mormon, they both have a testimony of it. We talked about baptism but they wouldn't commit. We'll try to commit them again when we go up there again tomorrow. P said if he prayed and came to know that these things are true then he will be baptised. It is really amazing. This sunday all three of them came to church. They all enjoyed it and the members were very accomodating.

Speaking of action up in Hemphill, there's a member named Johnny Ratcliff. He just barely moved up there and he said that he has a small, one bedroom building behind his house that rents out for $150 a month. He's not the one who rents it out but he gets to approve who lives there since it's behind his house. He suggested that we use it as a satellite house and come up there and stay a day or two during the week and then drive down to Jasper. It would solve the mileage problem and we would be able to be where a lot of the action is up there in hemphill. Johnny has a referral for us that we are teaching tomorrow, hopefully and all the other members have been doing a bunch of missionary work. Even the high school kids are handing out a few book of mormons each week.

We have some bitter-sweet news about P. On friday morning we called her during our planning session and she said that she had started smoking and drinking coffee again. No baptism this week, drats. We went over there that afternoon adn she invited us in. She told us that going without coffee and cigarettes is turning her into a different person and that she's taking back her life and not living up to someone else's standards any more. During this time Elder Hall and i were really quite distressed. We didn't know what to do. We both silently prayed for help and direction. With the help of the Holy Ghost we were able to find out that her real concern is that she can't be as good as all of these members, that she's not good enough. She loves the spirit she feels and the things she's learning but she said, for now, she needs her coffee and cigarettes. We agreed that she could go with her coffee and cigarettes again but that she would keep coming to church and taking the lessons and reading the Book of Mormon. The next day we committed a family in our branch, the Grindstaffs, to fellowship her. They invited her over to Family Home Evening the next monday and that was lovely. Sis. Grindstaff taught a lesson on pioneers and talked about how we're supposed to be modern day pioneers. Then we played a game and had cookies and ice cream.

Last friday night we witnessed another miracle. We went over to visit mrs H and she had stopped smoking!!! She had been smoke free for four days, when she came to church that sunday she was still smoke free. It truly is a miracle. When we first found her she was puffing one right after another. She is so much more chipper and delightful. We tried to set a baptismal date but she told us not to push her. She told us she did want to be baptised but that she wanted to talk to her kids about it first and see if they'll come. She still left out all of her ash trays (clean now) and said that it's part of the test to see if she won't light up. She said that tuesday morning, a week from yesterday, she didn't have the first cigarette when she woke up. She went to the doctor's to talk about something to help her stop. The told her about a program that would cost at least $117 per week and she said that was two much. But she didn't even need to spend a penny because she didn't pick one up since the day before. It was WONDERFUL. Her daughter is still smoking but the spirit is working on her and she'll come around eventually.

Elder Hall and i are having a marvelous time together. Out of all my companions i've had he's the one with a personality most like mine. He worries a lot about teaching and being good enough. He's also hilarious, there have been many times when we are both busting a gut. And then if you throw Elder Barnett in the mix then we are rolling on the floor all day. Not only all of this but he's also a hard worker and really dedicated to the work. He has amazing faith and says amazing prayers and it is a blessing to work with him. His mom is the media librarian at the Orem public library. She's the one who checks out the videos.

I wish i could be there to see my friends off but that's okay. I hope Austin and joe and sean will all meet up somewhere in the mtc. That would be exciting. I'm glad y'all were able to go and see him off.

Next time we head to the temple is next month. That is exciting!!!! I love the temple, too. And guess what, i hate to admit it but this will be the second to last time i have a temple zone conference on my mission. After that there's only one more. Boy, how time flies. I am constantly amazed at what has happened in one year. Last year at this time i was in the mtc, worrying my brains out, and the hurricane was going right through our mission.

I hope Lance can see how much a mission has changed my life, and just in one year!!! Not to mention the incomprehensible joy that we feel out here. There's nothing to compare to it. I don't feel it all the time, especially when i was going through the hard times, but it is definitely worth it. Good practice is to bear your testimony often. We do it daily as missionaries, and members should also, it would really help to strengthen their testimonies. At least do it from time to time. It's like a muscle, if you don't use it, it will get weaker. You exercise it by studying the scriptures, going to church, having family home evening, and bearing your testimony. It is usually the best way to bring the spirit into a teaching situation out here.


I can't believe how fast time is going. It's already the sixth week of this transfer, the last week!!! that means i might write you this monday. This transfer just barely started!, or so it seems. Anyway.

We visited T and P last Wednesday night and they are on fire. They are doing wonderfully. They had family home evening on their own and they paid tithing last sunday. They already have a testimony of tithing too because they were looking for some money to buy something for the baby and they found fifteen extra dollars that they didn't know they had.

Good news with Mrs. H! We set a baptism date! the 21st of october. She is going to call all of her family and invite them up to see it. It will be a great missionary opportunity. It has been marvelous to see the change in her that the spirit has brought. These are the things i'll never forget. She's still smoke free, too.

We were going to teach the M's on Thursday but Kelly Carter, the stake high councilman over missionary work, who goes to our branch, went up there and spent a couple hours explaining the church and the restoration to them. He is really a great teacher and a great missionary. He knows the bible like the back of his hand. So we ended up going this sunday. Our new branch mission leader, Michael Packard came along, and gave us a ride to save on miles. (the satellite house is a no go, by the way, we just have to work with what we've got) Sis. M committed to be baptised on the 7th of october. All she has to do is give up coffee and she only drinks a cup of decaf in the morning, so it shouldn't be too hard. Her mother is also considering joining her on that date. Her father is still trying to decide. They all have a testimony, you can tell, they are just taking some time. We committed bro. K to ask specifically if the book of mormon is true. We are going back up there tomorrow. We are probably going to have to go through the commandments pretty quickly so that she will be ready for baptism.

Yesterday we had new missionary training in kingwood. It was great to see everyone. i feel like a hermit way up here in the north forty of the mission. Anyway, Pres. Lake shared a lot of inspiring talks. He is really a great man. I am so grateful for him. He said that they had a conference with Elder Eyring and he told them about how each individual missionary call is issued. He said that sometimes the missionary isn't sent to a certain mission, per se, but to a mission president. I'm really grateful for Pres. Lake. Last weekend our mission had 17 baptisms! We've had thirty this month. We are truly being blessed!

P is going to be going to the Grindstaff's (branch fellowshipping family) for conference, at least for as many sessions as she can attend. We are going to be with P and T for at least one of the sessions.

Tell mr. Larsen thank you for everything that he has done. He has helped my testimony to grow by showing me a love of music and now i can share that with others. He is touching thousands of kids through teaching and hundreds of thousands more by the effect that it has on them. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. I love him and thank him for all he's done for us. I hope that helps him get through the times when his class is driving him nuts, like we did sometimes.


Don't worry! I'm still here in Jasper! There was only a small chance that i'd be moved. so, here's the weekly:

Last thursday we went up to teach Sis. M some more commandments. We also had an appointment to teach some friends of Johnny Ratcliff. They were both set up at the same time so elder hall went with Pres. May to teach sis. M and the K's and I went to johnny's with johnny. He had two friends over from work. The first one, H, is probably in her forties. Johnny gave her a book of mormon and she has been reading for a while. The other one is M, H's neice. she is probably in her thirties. They were both very attentive. H had to leave after an hour but promised to come back next week. We talked with M for a little while longer. The spirit was really strong there and she accepted when we asked her to be baptised if she came to know that these things are true. I LOVE this work.

I'm sorry to say it but Mrs. H started smoking again. We still kept her baptism date because it was still more than three weeks away but now i think we'll have to reschedule because she hasn't quit again. She was sort of let down with herself but she is determined to do it again. She actually came to general conference this weekend with her daughter for the sunday morning session. Her daughter, Mrs. W is really starting to warm up to us and we are going to try to take advantage of that.

Two of our other investigators came to conference at the chappel, too. P, and S showed up for the Sat. afternoon session. P is in her 50's and S is in her 70's. They only stayed for that session. We just met with them two days ago. P is really torn, she is trying to decide between our church and a non-denominational church down the street. She has already gone to that one once and they told her she can't keep switching around churches. We told her to pray about it and we are going to see her again this week before sunday.

On Sat. morning we watched the first session with P and T. It was perfect for T because of the talk about first generation members. and also most of the first session seemed to apply to her.

I'd just like to tell you that i think i got more out of this general conference than probably any other session. It was wonderful. I was just so inspired afterwards. I really like the theme that a few people talked about which was that we need to always live worthy of the blessings of the Lord. And if we're worthy, the Lord is "bound," if you will (D&C 82:10), and it helped to strengthen my testimony and my resolve to be a bold, efficient messenger of the Lord. I'm glad y'all enjoyed it.

I'm so sorry about Jani. She was a sweet girl. I didn't know she was into drugs. Send my apologies to Bro. Merrill. He was an awesome teacher. He was so full of love. That sounds like brother merril, though. Go and get the source of the problem. That's good news. I'm really sorry.

T's baptism is set for this sunday, that is the day when her husband's parents are going to be in town. We are going to do it right after church. We are really excited. Her husband is a member. He is a structural engineer. he works out of his home on some really complicated software. He really is a great guy. He was less active but he is a total family guy. They are an awesome family. They are going to be so helped by the gospel, and have been already. Yesterday we went over and taught the rest of the commandments. We also taught about baptism and confirmation and the spirit was really strong there. The interview is set up for this thursday and the zone leaders are coming up. The K's, (T's parents) were there too. Sis. K was talking about possibly getting baptised this weekend too. She said that she's going to talk to P, her husband, about it and get back with us. Hopefully she tells us by thursday so we could have the interview then. That would be wonderful.

Elder Hall is doing great. He is excited for the work and his testimony is growing, as is mine. This transfer i'm going to give him more chances to lead out and be senior companion because it's going to come sooner than he expects and i want him to be ready for it.

Thanks for talking about when i first got here to Jasper. It did seem pretty depressing when i got here, but i had just come from sunnyside so i didn't know the difference. If there's anything that Jasper has taught me it's that if you trust in the Lord and work hard, He will open opportunities for you and the work can flourish, if it's His will.

Thanks for all your support and encouragement!


We had an awesome week, probably another one of the best. The highlight was most definitely the baptism of Sis. M. It was held on a sunday because that's the only day that her mother in law could come into town. Since it was right after church there were a lot of people who stayed and so there was a big crowd. The spirit was so strong there, and it was wonderful for everyone, especially for her mother and father, Brother and Sister K. Elder Hall had to baptise her twice because he got the wording wrong; he said, "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost". There are supposed to be "and of"'s in there. They had testimonies from the family planned in at the end and Sister K got up and tearfully told about how grateful she was for her daughter and how proud she was. M, her husband told the whole story about how she got into the church and about how he was reactivated. Sis. Milam sobbed through her testimony, it was so strong and so powerful! She talked about how they all loved Elder Hall and me. It was so touching. Seriously, that day qualifies for the part in my mission call that says, "More happiness and greater joy than you have ever experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord." It was indescribable. It was wonderful for her parents to see. Then Brother K got up and in front of all of the people that were there he bore his testimony for the first time about the book of mormon! We have been asking him for weeks to ask Heavenly Father, "is the book of mormon true." He said he finally did and now he knows it's truth. We were all blown away! We told them that if they want to get baptised this saturday they can be confirmed the same sunday as their daughter.

Thing in hemphill are still booming. We now have three investigators from Johnny Ratcliff's work that are coming for the missionary lessons, H, M, and J. We meet with them again this thursday. Last time we were up there we stopped by to see two hispanic families. One of them lost a daughter not too long ago and the mother gets really anxious any time any of the kids get sick because she is so paranoid that she is going to lose them. I tried to use my spanish skills and Michael Packard, our branch mission leader, helped me out. He went on his mission to Peru so he's fluent. Together we taught the Plan of Salvation. Elder hall went with Stan Packard to see a referral that just moved up here from beaumont. His adopted brothers were just killed a week ago and one of them wanted to get baptised. They talked about baptism for the dead and he has now agreed to take the lessons. There are many more referrals up there that they haven't been able to introduce us to because of the limited time.

Sis. H is still smoking but still determined to quit. She is a great woman. She even has a boyfriend in the branch. A 70 year old man that is blind. He's the one that went after her and held her hand but now they call each other on the phone.

Her daughter, Mrs. W, is interested but not really commited. We talked to her about Jesus and she believes that he was a great prophet, but not the Son of God. We asked her to pray about it and she said "no." So we're kind of holding off right now. We're still good friends with her, and she still wants to read the book of mormon every time we come over.

Not too much progress on P. She knows what she needs to do, and now she's reading her scriptures daily, its just that she isn't that motivated. she didn't come to church, anyway. We're working on her.

P and G didn't come to church, either. We are still trying to focus on them. They love us to death and we dropped a card off at their house on sunday because it's pat's birthday. They're still going to a non-denominational church that tells her that it's "church adultery" to keep switching around churches. Anyway, she's pretty close, we're trying hard on her.

We taught T again about Baptisms for the dead. She loved conference. She loves the gospel. They are really being blessed and tried at the same time.

I promise i will send the pictures today or tomorrow. I've got some great ones.

Thank you for the packages, i will be looking for them. I just realized how much y'all have already spent to send me all that you have. I just want to let you know that I am really grateful, I'm sure i'm not grateful enough, but thank you. I thought the other night about how much y'all love me and care about me and i felt a strong feeling of Love. I'm sorry i don't have enough time to send you lots of letters or anything but I want to know that i do care. I have pictures of each of you in my wallet.


This was definitely one of the best weeks of my mission. I am loving it up here in Jasper. I know that my requests won't really determine what happens and that whenever you get comfortable and really start to like a place you usually get moved but i really want to stay in Jasper and i hope that the Lord keeps me here. But if he needs me somewhere else i will go. Since i feel this way I'll probably be transferred next transfer but i'll keep my hopes up.

So, on sunday Brother and sister K came up to us and told us that they wanted to set a date to be baptised. So we're going to baptise them this next sunday. They are really excited. They have such strong testimonies already. That same day Brother K practically bore his testimony about temples, saying that they were such a "Beautiful doctrine" and feeling bad only because he's had to wait until now to know this.

On monday we went up to Pentleton Harbor to do the interview. That is a subdivision up by Toledo Bend Resivoir. It had been raining since sunday night, and i mean raining. Some places were starting to flood. The family we were supposed to have dinner with, the fischers, had to cancel because the entrance to their subdivision was flooded. Some guy even died while trying to round up his cattle and they couldn't find him for a couple hours on account of all of the water.

So we didn't know if we could make it. We went over to Charlie Ratcliff's house and he called around. We got the okay that all of the roads were open so he said he would take us, cause he didn't want us driving in this mess. His wife didn't want him to go. I didn't want him to go, i had a bad feeling about it but he has an unconquerable spirit and we ended up going. Elder Jensen, the Zone Leader was with us, he was going to give the interview. There was about ten or fifteen minutes of straight downpour on the way up there. It was coming down so much that we could only see for twenty or thirty feet. Charlie acted like it was no problem and was talking to us the whole time as if we were going on a nice spring stroll.
To make a long story short we made it up there and they both passed the interview. When Brother K prayed he thanked Heavenly Father for helping him to find the true church. It was touching. This whole situation brings such joy to my heart! It is overwhelming! I feel like ammon, "I cannot say the smallest part which i feel" (alma 26).

Another miracle is Mrs. H. She stopped smoking again on the tenth! So we set her baptism date for the 28th. She is excited, and the branch members are really latching onto her. Last night she went up to Bernie Packard's house on lake Rayburn and had, what she called, "an old hen's party." She said that's where a bunch of old ladies get together and have a party. She wants elder Decker to baptise her and so we are trying to see if he can get up here for that. We will keep praying that she will be able to stay off the cigarettes.

H, J, & M, and possibly others--We have already taught H, J, and M a first lesson. Tomorrow we are headed up there again to teach them the plan of salvation. They were talking about bringing two more people with them so we may have an audience of five.

C family--The C's are a hispanic family and they all speak spanish. Michael Packard, our branch mission leader went on his mission to Peru and he comes along and helps us teach. I also know a little spanish so I help with what i can. The mother lost a daughter a few years back in a rollover car accident and ever since she has been paranoid every time one of her kids gets sick. Every time one of them even starts to cough too much she takes them into the emergency room. Dr. Stan packard, who also speaks spanish referred her to us. When we taught the plan of salvation she had tears in her eyes. We are going to visit her tomorrow night as well.

KR--K is not a member but his wife, M is. They moved up here from beaumont. Elders carter and Wilson have been teaching them for a while. K was originally turned off to the church by a bad experience in Louisiana but he warmed up to it in Beaumont and he is falling in love with it here in Jasper. He came on sunday and liked it so much he got a ride to the priesthood session. He loved that as well and says he is very interested in learning more about the church. Michael Packard talked with him about it on the way home and he developed a good friendship with Michael. We are really excited for him. He wont be at churhc this week because he is part of the national guard and they are having an airshow in houston this week and he has to go and police for it.

PM--I think i've told y'all about her. She is probably in her late fifties and she lives with her mom, "G." Pat came to church last week, and that is a really big step for her since the church she started going to lately said that church hopping is "church adultery." G used to go to the churhc in montana but that was a loooooong time ago. But she remembers the Doctrine and Covenants and wants a copy. She calls it the Book of Covenants.

Yesterday we woke up early and boarded a bus and went over to Houston to go through the temple! It was good, i enjoyed it. I really enjoyed paying attention to those covenants we made. It helped to strengthen my testimony.

So, i think that might be it. Actually, i feel like Mormon, while abridging the book of mormon, "and now, i cannot record even a hundredth part" of my history.


This past week was probably another one of the best weeks of my mission. Even though on thursday we lost one of our investigators. Remember P? On thursday when we went over to teach her she told us that she wanted to go back to her baptist church and see how she likes it. We tried to reason with her and to explain it to her but there was no changing her mind. She was very nice about it, and she still has a testimony; it's just all gone down hill since she started smoking again. We asked her if she wanted us to come back again and she very tactfully said no. I felt like i could have been more bold with her, (and that, in itself, was a good lesson learned), but there was no changing her mind.

Things brightened up as the day went on and we went to visit P & G. P liked church so much that she said she wants to join our church. We set a baptism date for the 11th of november. She is very studious and always takes notes when we are over there. She said that she has learned more in the short time talking to us than she has learned her whole life going to church. That's the same sort of thing that Bettie Wilson said, back in sunnyside. Needless to say we're happy about that. She didn't come to church this week because she had to go to beaumont with her daughter.

The baptism was WONDERFUL. Most of the branch stayed for the baptism and Elder Hall and i sang right before it. Brother K had said before that he wanted me to baptise him because i am the smaller of the two and if he goes down he is going to take me with him. I'm proud to say that he didn't take me down with him. The baptisms were both great. Brother K gave me a hug after he came back out of the water. Pres. Lake and sister lake even came down to check out the action. The branch members loved them to death and asked them if elder Hall and i could stay here for the rest of our missions. I felt very honored. The confirmation will be this suday.

This saturday is Sis. H's baptism. She was still drinking coffee and tea last friday but we committed her to stop. She said she would, and she hasnt' had a cigarette since the tenth. She is excited for her baptism and is inviting all of her family. When we checked with her on sunday she said that she was drinking postum instead of coffee and i think she has stopped the tea, too. So she is on line. We only have to teach her a few more commandments tonight and her interview is tomorrow and then Elder Decker is coming up for the baptism on saturday. We are really being blessed, that will be four baptisms this month, five within the past two!

We saw the C family again, and we went over the pattern for prayer, again. We are trying to get them all in communication with God. It was a really cool experience. We had them all say their own prayers right there and the spirit was really strong. We had them take turns. We have some spanish books of mormon so we will be able to teach them about the restoration now and we will be able to ask them to read and pray about the book of mormon.

Yesterday we went on exchanges. I went with elder skeen to woodville and elder hall and barnett stayed in jasper. I want elder hall to get used to running an area because i may get transferred this next transfer, which is the twelfth of November, i think. He is a little bit nervous about the idea but i'm sure he'll do great. I remember when i went on exchanges for the first time when i was in control of my area i just about pooped my pants. Anyway, he'll get used to it.

Pres. said that we might be able to bring some more missionaries in to help out with the hemphill stuff. We have to talk to the branch and see if they'd be willing to help out the missionaries even more, with rides and things, because we wouldn;'t be able to get another car in there right away. They wouldn't be able to stay in hemphill because Hemphill isn't in our mission or stake, officially, and the other stake that it is in is thinking about making a branch there and making it part of their stake again. Anyway, complicated stuff. The other stake actually sent down a representitive to check out the situation in our branch, sort of a "spy." It doesn't matter what stake or mission they are in as long as someone takes care of them.

This weekend, after the baptism, the branch is having a "Fall Fest." They are going to have dinner and a hay ride and a bunch of other fall/halloween things going on. If it's a halloween party we'll probably come dressed up as insurance salesmen. I have already put up the pumpkin lites and they don't work. I'll try working on the cord again. I'm waiting for Elder Hall's comedic genious to come up with what we should carve into the pumpkin. On Halloween we are eating with the grindstaffs, the family from ephriam, ut. I'm sure that will be fun.

So, i've got a funny story this week. We were at Johnny Ratcliff's house on saturday night, up in hemphill and they had fed us dinner. We were going to help Honey build her house, but it was raining so they were'n't working on it. After dinner, while we were sitting around the coffee table, Johnny's wife, Jill noticed a big, black, furry caterpiller crawling across their floor. She said, "It looks like someone dropped their mustache." Her kids, who are all under seven, were grossed out at it. It had black spines and when i pushed it on it's side it rolled into a ball. I picked it up. The spines were really hard and quite sharp but it didn't hurt just sitting in my hand. Then i thought it would be funny if i made it look like a mustache so i tried to hold it between my upper lip and my nose but it wouldn't work. I tried a few more times but eventually had to stop because it hurt too much. The ratcliffs and Elder hall were all laughing. After the pain subsided from my lip I noticed something in my mouth. A quick examination in the mirror confirmed my fears, i had caterpillar barbs stuck in my tongue and gums! Well that was too much for them, they just lost it, they were laughing hysterically. They got me some tweezers and i was able to pull them out. There were only two that i could see. The one on my tongue actually pulled a little bit.
Well, now the whole branch knows about the story and i am getting questions from everyone we talk to. I actually think it's really funny. I'm glad that i'm going to be remembered for being, "the elder that got caterpillar barbs stuck in his tongue!"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Jasper Photos

Here are some recent photos from Jasper. Explanations are in Elder Chuch's own words.

Me and Beppy, Sister Lewis's Chinese Pug.

My sweet ride and my Walmart glasses.

Fine missionary art.

A REALLY hot day. I don't think pictures do it justice.

One of our members has a bunch of medieval weapons. This is the Braveheart sword. It is heavy.

Chihuahas at Mrs. H's. I tried to get a picture of as many as I could.

AWESOME clouds. There are two layers, one way up high and one lower. Texas kind of compensates for having no mountains by having really cool cloud formations.


Country roads.

Dinky B. is our new apartment dog. Ha! (Justin later admitted that the dog belonged to someone else)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Life in Jasper

Here is a set of excerpts from recent e-mails from Elder Chuch:


Sorry this is a day late but we had zone conference yesterday and so we didn't have preparation day until today. Zone conference was great. Pres. and Sis. Lake both talked a whole lot about attitude. It reminded me of you, mom. I've made a goal to improve my attitude and focus on the important things.

Your attitude is SO important when relating to how things go. And it's all related to agency. The more we actually come to understand the concept of agency the more our lives will improve because we realize that we have the power to act and not to be acted upon and using that power is one of the purposes of our existence.

I'm so excited about austin's mission calll. That made my day. He's reporting on the thirteenth and if he heads out into the field by thanksgiving then we will be able to see each other. Do you remember how elder Ballard came last november and spoke to us. I heard that that's a yearly occurance, and when he comes all three houston missions get together. I sure hope that there's not a hurricane so he's not delayed coming out so that we can see eachother. I e-mailed him already and told him he's going to be a great missionary. He really is.

So, no golden investigators yet. We do have an investigator, though. His name is F. We tracted into him one day. He speaks english but he has a pretty thick accent. We just brought him a spanish book of mormon yesterday. He said that he'd read it and pray about it. He seems to understand our message really well. He still doesn't understand authority completely, but that will come in time. I was able to show him my line of authority. But he still thinks that the founder of his church has the authority too.

Dinner appointments around here are gooooood. They're going to make me fat. I've already had steak twice, and barbeque many more times. But that's been mostly at restraunts. They have two really good restraunts called Charlie's barbeque and billy's barbeque. They are both really good. Sometimes we even get lunch appointments so we don't have to buy very many groceries at all. We get fed almost every night.

Last night we went over to the ward mission leader's house and showed him what we think needs to be done to get the branch missionary work going. I drew a picture of a team of sled dogs pulling a sled, but only the front two dogs are working, the rest of them are sitting down. It's symbolic of our branch missionary work. Elder Decker and i are working our tails off. We are doing the best that we can, but tracting is really less effective. Unless the other dogs start pulling their load we are not going to get this sled very far. Another thing we need is a leader. Someone to stand on the sled and direct the dogs. This needs to be the branch president, so we decided that the best thing to do would be to present this to the branch president and get his approval to show it to the ward council. I am really excited to get the missionary work going here.

I am proud of the CF guys. i am going to try to write Josh a letter today. I will try to get one to sean, too.


We had an investigator at church this last sunday. Her name is mrs. H. I think i told y'all about her. She is in her seventies or something and she smokes a lot but she really enjoyed our service and she said that she'd like to come next week. Yesterday we taught her the plan of salvation and committed her to pray about the book of mormon. She can't read because she is almost blind. She said that she feels like she was left here on the earth for a reason. I took the time to testify that i felt like it had something to do with us knocking on our door a few weeks ago. Things are going pretty well with her.

We haven't been able to get back with F. yet. We are going over to see him tonight. Last time he stood us up, i don't know if it was intentional or unintentional. Tonight we are going to teach him about prophets.

So, i'm excited for Sean, he finally got his call. Tampico, mexico. That's pretty amazing that it's the same mission as Philip. Hopefully they'll get to serve together. I also think it's awesome that all of the CF senior members are now on their missions or mission bound.

I just remembered, last monday we had Family Home Evening with the B.'s, a less active family. They were married in the temple, but the husband supposedly has a problem with tithing. We stopped by one time and visited them and asked them if they were doing family home evening. She said that they were, but then a few moments later her five year old daughter came up to her and asked her, "Mom, why don't we ever do family home evening." It was pretty funny. It was a good turn out. Her active sister was there and their aunt was there too. Her sister taught the lesson about king benjamin and then we had seafood gumbo and chicken and sausage gumbo. They were both good. The sausage was really spicy, though. They gave us some to take home. After dinner we talked with Brother B. for a long time and he warmed up to us a lot. He showed us his hunting bow that he'd bought. It was the second fastest model last year. It was pretty sweet. We're going to try to focus our efforts on them.

We are trying to gain the trust of the members. We have been doing a lot of service and its paying off with this one lady. We are also trying to meet with the Branch President so that we can get his advice on getting the member work going. We have sort of a lesson plan that we want to present to him. Elder Decker has a good refferal lesson that he wants to present to some of the members.


Surprise surprise, but it hasn't gotten too bad yet. They say that a cold front must be coming through. That's the only explanation for the weather. It's not like it's cool, but it's not that humid. It has been in the nineties, but not too bad yet. They keep warning me of what's to come but i haven't seen it yet.

Mrs. H. came to church again this last sunday and sat through the entire thing. She liked it all. She commented on how it is especailly family oriented. We are going to teach her at a member's home this week. We are probably going to read from the book of Mormon to her.

F. isn't really going anywhere. We watched the restoration with him and explained the priesthood authority and how it was restored with all the truth in the original gospel. He then told us about how he feels like his church doesn't have all the truth but feels like they are looking for it. We told him that our church had all the truth but he just doesn't seem to get it. We commited him to read the book of mormon and to pray about it.

We haven't been able to get back with the B.'s recently but she was at church last sunday with all of her three kids. Her grandparents go to that ward so she has no excuse.

Yesterday we visited some people who were waaaaaay out in the sticks. They were really cuntry bumpkin's too. The father was a bigger man with his wavy, gray hair combed back, a button up short sleeve shirt, shorts, and boots. He had a confederate flag up on his barn that said, "redneck." He said that next time we came out they'd feed us some goat.


I have a lot to tell you. I'm sorry, Dad, but your suspicions were wrong about what we did on the fourth. We did track most of the day. I was on exchanges with Elder Jensen, one of the Zone Leaders and we only had two appointments and so we tracted out the neighborhood by the church. We pretty much "shook the dust from our feet" on that neighborhood, no one was really interested, but we did have an interesting experience. One door we tracted on invited us in. We could tell, or more like Elder Jensen could tell, that they were pentecostals because the wife had long hair, no makeup, and she and her daughter were wearing dresses. They also didn't have a TV. They actually listened to a good three quarters of a first lesson, up to the point where we said that Joseph Smith saw God the Father AND Jesus Christ, and then they started telling us about how the bible says that they're one. From that they started telling us about their prophet. Some guy that died a long time ago, but they said that he was God's "vindicated prophet" for this time. They were nicer than i thought about it. They didn't try to shove it down our throats.

After that we headed up to Sam Rayburn Resivoir for a lunch cookout at the Packards. Brother Packard is a (retired, i think) lawyer. He has a picture perfect house with a backyard that leads down to the lakeside. A good chunk of the branch was there. The food was awesome. We had burgers and links and chips and dip and watermelon. Then we had homemade ice-cream for dessert. It was AWESOME. I gorged myself. Elder Jensen and i both had a few trunkie moments as we watched the boats pass by on the lake.

After that we tried to visit a few people on the way back. For dinner we went over to the A's and taught their friend, K., again. I can't remember if I’ve told you about K. He is 26 or so and is going through some tough times in life. He looks like he's tired all the time. We've taught him a first and a second and challenged him to read and pray to know if the book of Mormon is true. He didn't read or pray so we read with him and offered to pray. The spirit was there and he said that he would read and pray this next week. I sure hope he does.

Mrs. H. did come to church again this week. The members all recognized her and one even sat by her without us even asking her to. We were also able to get her the Book of Mormon on tape from the Church library. We are having a lesson over at a member's house tomorrow.

We've pretty much dropped F. Everything was going fine until we brought up the spirit world. He just couldn't understand it and he wanted us to show him where it was in the bible. We explained that's why we need modern revelation and the book of Mormon but he just wanted us to prove it to him. We'll check by another day, but i think he's gone now, oh well.

Other than that we are hoping that members will give us referrals. Elder Ballard, through the stake has set a goal for all of the wards in the stake. It is for every family to have a referral for the missionaries by the end of July. I have noticed that the members are starting to gain our trust more. Yesterday, when we were about to leave the Packards one of the members told me, “I can tell you’re really focused and dedicated, thanks for that.” Or something like that. I was so happy.

Most of the locals around here talk about the hurricane a lot. It’s not uncommon to hear, since the hurricane this and since the hurricane that. I think they’re going to start measuring time from the hurricane. “I was born in one A.H.” (after the hurricane). So that means that I came on my mission just before one A.H.

I didn’t get to travel back to sunnyside for the baptism but I heard everything went well. President told me that Elder Sosa baptized her by himself! That’s my boy! The first time she forgot to bend her knees and she started freaking out because she was deathly afraid of water. It took a few minutes for her to calm down and for president to talk to her. The second time president said that she was BARELY baptized, she barely went under, and she wasn’t going under again, she was done, and she WAS baptized.

We live in some drug-infested apartments in Jasper. There is literally a bunch of crack heads living next door to us. There are strangers coming over all of the time. We taught two ladies over there once but we’ve never seen them again. It’s not too bad of a place.


Good news, I got to talk to B. yesterday, for the first time since she's been baptized. She sounded so good. She asked me when i was coming back to houston to visit her. She hasn't missed a sunday since she was baptized and she is bringing her daughter, who is interested in joining the church. She is on fire, when she meets other people and tells them her religion she defends it and tells people not to judge it without considering it. It was true joy that i felt when talking to her. I thought back to all of the disappointments, all of the fall throughs, all of the times it seemed like she fell off the face of the earth, all of the times she didn't keep her commitments, all of the work we did and it made it all worth it. It was an awesome lesson on diligence and patience for me. Where some people would have given up we just kept going back. I can't take the credit, of course, the spirit did the converting; I'm just glad that i could take part in it. I think she'll stay strong, too, because she's already gone through some hard times to get into the church. I thank the Lord that i could be a part of her conversion, an instrument in His hand.

I heard T. is doing better as well, she is coming to church and keeping all of her commitments, she just needs to get married now. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Remember how she was concerned that becoming a mormon was turning her back on the baptists? That's not a problem any more. Elder Sosa said that she now claims that she's a mormon.


We visited with K. again last night and taught him a third lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He still hasn't read or prayed. He's waiting for the "right feeling." We reminded him that Satan's going to make it seem like there's never a right feeling or a right time and there never really is a "right" or "wrong" time to pray.

We also visited with Sis. S. yesterday. She has been reading and praying about the book of mormon; how intensly, i don't know, but she has been reading and praying. The Southern Baptist traditions are so entrenched in her mind that she is having a hard time laying them aside. We read with her and then talked with her. She said that it bothers her that things have been taken out of the bible. We told her to read 1 Nephi 13, because it talks about things being taken out of the bible. She seemed really interested. We are going to try to get a member who is a convert over there.

Speaking of preaching the Gospel we are working on getting the members more involved in missionary work. There has been a lack of excitement in the Branch probably for the last few months because of various reasons, but we are trying to turn this around. Remember that you are member missionaries, too. That was a new concept to me when i came out. I never really thought of myself as a member missionary the same way people have to out here because everyone was a member. I knew i had to be an example and that i have take Christ's name upon me but i never really thought about it like the members have to out here.


I hope all y'all really have a great time in Lake Powell. Remember, though, Lake Powell is a different kind of hot. Last week they said, on one of the days, that with the "Humid Factor" that it felt like it was 104 degrees!!!! And i'll tell you what. We've definitely had the hottest days so far this week. It's really stuffy and suffocating. I don't know how they made it here before air conditioning.

Everyday life, huh? Well we have a washer and dryer in our apartment and so we pretty much do that any time we see the need. And i'll tell you what, that is much better than trucking it down to the washateria on wednesdays, much better. I have found that the Shout stain remover works better than the Spray 'n Wash stain remover. I usually use the dirt cheap laundry soap but i am tempted to get some Tide next time because it makes my clothes smell better. It's not a matter of not having enough money, but i'm just too stingy.

A member here just brought us a watermelon the other day, grown in his own garden and so we've been feasting on that. It is uber good and it helps to make summer feel like summer.

Mrs. H. is doing well, both she and her daughter stayed the whole time last week. I think that they both liked it. I don't know if i've told you or not but we challenged her to baptism. She said that she doesn't feel like she's ready yet. So we told her to listen to the book of mormon on tape and to pray about it. Yesterday we went over to read with them and to see how they're doing. Mrs. H.'s daughter was depressed and moody about a few things but she was fine. She's tough as grits. She says it how it is and doesn't care what people think. I'm really hopeful that she'll get baptised some day. Maybe not when we're here, but eventually. We helped her fix her stereo so that she can listen to the tapes and we also read a chapter with them. She is getting where she really likes us. We're trying to get the members more involved in fellowshipping them so that she falls in love with them, and not only us.

We didn't get to see K. again this week. The arriagas had something else going on. I will keep you updated.

We did get a new investigator, though. There's a family in our branch named the F.'s who fed us on monday. They have a fifteen year old daughter named L., who has a nonmember friend named B. We had met L. and B. before and elder decker asked brandy when we could teach her. That night they set it up and B. came over. We were able to teach her a really good first lesson and we are going to see her again next week on tuesday. It's exciting because she already has friends in the ward and a really good fellowshipper, (she and L. are practically best friends). So we'll have to let you know how that goes.

We met with Mrs. S. yesterday, too and we read out of 1 Nephi 13 with her and taught her about the plain and precious things that were removed out of the bible, and that those plain and precious parts are in the book of mormon. She was interested and is currently reading on in the next chapter.


On thursday we started teaching a member referral, it's his nephew's wife. She was raised a pentecostal but now she is interested in the church. His nephew, P., is a less active, and he is really large, overly overbese, bless his little heart. On the other hand, she, T., is a tiny little thing. It all started when the member who referred her, brother M., picked them up from Houston and drove them back to Kirbyville (just south of Jasper). On the way she was asking a bunch of questions and he answered them the best that he could. He said that she was quite aggressive during the car ride, as most pentecostals are, but when we taught her she was a lot more laid back. She was the least abrasive pentecostal i've ever talked to. It was great. She even said that she had been praying to have an open mind while talking to us about this. We taught her a first and then left her with a book of mormon. Today we are going back to teach her. I'm excited.

Not much progress with Mrs. H. We went and read with her one day last week and we need to go again this week. She still loves church. We just need to get her to pray about baptism.

We had exchanges on monday. Elder Skeen came down here and we worked Jasper and Elder Decker went up to Woodville. We ended up tracting a whole bunch and we prayed about where we went tracting and we found three new investigators through the course of the day. It was awesome. It was a testimony of personal revelation to me.

We read the 3 Ne 15 and 14 with Sis. S. She said she is still praying about the Book of Mormon. I've got a cool lesson on Prophets that i want to teach her. We're trying to get a member to come with us.

That night, tuesday night, we taught B. again. She hadn't read or prayed but we taught her the Plan of Salvation. It was awesome. The spirit was really strong there and we left a strong commitment for her to pray about these things. I felt the spirit so strongly as i bore testimony of how we knew about the Plan of Salvation before we were born. I just hope and pray that she'll take the time to ask Heavenly Father if these things are true. This week she went to youth conference with her best friend L. That should be good for her. They're going to have a testimony meeting where she will be able to feel the spirit again.

Zone conference was very good. President said that the numbers in the mission have practically doubled since December. Not the number of missionaries, but of progressing investigators, and baptisms. It's awesome! Things are really picking up from the past. More and more spiritually mature missionaries are coming out and that's definitely what we need.


Choir should be tons of fun (for Lance). Just don't get on Mr. Larsen's bad side. And enjoy the concerts. That's what you take the class for is the concerts, they're really great. I still savor my moments on stage. I'll send a letter for you to bring to Mr. Larsen if you don't mind. I want to thank him again for all he's taught me. Last week at Zone Conference we sang "I Need Thee Every Hour" It sounded really great. It was me, e. Barnett, skeen and graff. Graff was from a different zone but he was a great bass.

We had a great week this last week. I already told you about all of the new investigators; most of them didn't work out, or weren't home when we came back but we did find a golden one.

Her name is P. Last monday we taught her a first; then on friday we went back to check up on her. She had read 3 nephi 11 and said that she had prayed to have an open mind about what she was teaching. She even brought up the scripture in Revelation that says that you're not supposed to add to or take away from "this book of prophecy" which the major christian world thinks means the bible. But she said that the LDS church can't be doing anything wrong, with the book of mormon and all, because they are so big. She said she felt like Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true and so we challenged her to baptism and she accepted! It was awesome! She was excited too. We set up a date when she will be baptized for august 19th but we will have to move that back because they have to come to church a few more times and she will have to quit smoking. That sunday she didn't come to church because she was babysitting. That afternoon we went and visited her and taught her the Plan of Salvation. She is really into genealogy and the spirit bore strong witness as we taught her about baptisms for the dead. Tonight we are going over again to teach her about the Word of Wisdom and commit her to do it. My impression is that she will have no problem with it. She is one of the most open and accepting people that i've met. She pretty much agrees with everything we say. its' marvelous.

I think it was last friday or maybe saturday but we went out to this place called Bon Wier and met a member referral. This was a referral from a guy in colorado to go and visit his daughter. Her name is L. The branch President drove us out there. She lives in a little trailer with another family so it is quite crowded. She has a medical condition called Lupis and so she has seizures quite frequently, but none while we were there. She can't work so her friend, K., is in town watching her. K. was dressed in black and looked like a gothic but she was really interested in the gospel. She agreed with us that each church, besides ours, only has a piece of the truth. So K., L. and another guy named G. all listened intently. They were all very interested and we left them all with a book of mormon. We are trying to schedule a time that we can get back with them and work with them some more. L. is having some family problems but wants to have us back over. They are all probably in their late twenties, early thirties.

We haven't been able to get back with B. yet. The next day after we taught her the plan of salvation she went to youth conference with L. We heard that she had a good time and that she was touched by the testimony meeting. We are currently trying to get back with her.

They go all out for youth conference down here. They had a three day youth conference and three stakes were involved (which is a big thing down here since the stakes aren't just across the street). They all met in a town called Vidor and the kids stayed at members' homes! How would you like that?! The next day they went up to a lake and had boating and canoeing and water sports and a dance and it sounded like quite the party. I think they had at least one more dance besides that. They also had a few firesides and some workshops and a testimony meeting at the end.

We haven't been back to the A's for two weeks. They haven't called us for dinner. Some time we're going to drop in to see how K is doing.

S, i think i've explained, has been southern baptist all her life. This week we asked the branch president's wife, sis. may, to come with us to teach her because she is a convert from southern baptist. She has a great story, too, about how she didn't want to upset her parents by joining the church because she was an only child and she didn't want to do anything to affect her relationship with her parents. However, through some prompting, she eventually joined and, surprisingly, her parents had a great attitude toward it. they told her that as long as she was worshiping God they wouldn't get into her religious life. That's a one in a million case, right there. Mrs. S. really enjoyed it, i could tell. sis. may was perfect for her, and she was really friendly too. Mrs. S's husband is always sitting in a chair in the same room as us when we come. He has had several strokes and blood clots and isnt' all there some of the time. She said that since he's been in this condition for the past six years no one has come to visit them from their baptist church that they used to go to but that we come and visit her every week. We commited her to continue to read and pray about it, (she has been reading and praying) and we invited her to church this week. She might be able to so we'll check up on her later this week.

We taught T, the pentecostal again. Brother McDaniel drove us down there and we taught her about the Plan of Salvation. On the way down brother McDaniel said that today we'd find out if she was serious about this at all. And boy, did we find out. She was still as open as ever, if not more open. She shared some info about her life and she really had a rough childhood. She mentioned about how she gets angry really easily because that was all she ever saw. We talked about how anger is part of our human nature and she saw, when her relatives visited this week, that anger really does change the spirit that's in a room. This was all brought up because she read the 3 nephi 11:29 which talks about how the spirit of contention is of the devil. It turns out that she had read through 3 Nephi 11 twice! It was awesome! She also recognized the priesthood authority it was talking about in that chapter as we were trying to explain it to her. We have another appoitment with her this Friday. Brother McDaniel won't be able to come but we're going to teach her by ourselves.

As you've seen the Lord has really been blessing us lately with people to teach. It is awesome. I have to acknowledge the Lord's hand in all of this because without him none of this would have been possible. There have been many nights when i have pleaded to Him for help, and now He has sent it. It is a testimony that He does hear and answer our prayers and that He knows the end from the beginning. If we trust in Him and have faith in Him then we can be sure that he will take care of things.