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.
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