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's...is 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!"
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