Adventure at Every Corner

This area is very interesting. You find the strangest things in yards, like full-size tin men and American flags with peace signs instead of stars. For every two mobile homes, there is a large, vacation-type house. For whatever reason, there is an abundance of antique stores. And there’s a random zoo, even though this is the middle of nowhere. There’s a very sketchy-looking barbecue place shoved up behind some trees on the highway that appears to be run from an old wooden shed (I have not eaten there, nor do I plan to). It’s almost like a different world compared to my past areas. There aren’t too many pedestrians, but at least the people are nice, for the most part.
Every week, the missionaries get emailed “highlights” from around the mission, about the miracles that happened for different companionships. This week I learned that someone I had taught in my last area was recently baptized. She had used to live by missionaries in another state, and did a little research about the church, but it hadn’t led to anything. After she moved back to Georgia, the YSA elders tracted into her and left her with a pass-along card for Mormon.org. She was exploring churches, and looked up the nearest meetinghouse (ours) and came to all three hours of church. We taught her the first lesson in a member’s home, and also gave her a church tour. She accepted a baptismal date, but when she told us her address, we realized she belonged to another ward. We passed her record along to the sister missionaries over there, and the “highlights” email about her baptism came from them. Included was a quote from our investigator, saying that she had now found greater happiness than she had ever known, and was so grateful to be a new member of the church. The missionaries expressed their happiness that she had put in the work, and kept her commitments, and that because of that, a real and powerful spiritual witness came to this investigator.
The Lord definitely prepares people! Don’t ever think that someone has “missed their chance,” or “has too much repenting to do.” This gospel is for everyone, and when the time is right, all people can receive a spiritual witness that the things it contains are true. So never be afraid, if you find the opportunity, to share the truths you have learned from the Spirit about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Which We Speak Spanish, Bike Many Miles, and Hand Out Lemonade

Preface from Ethan’s mom: I gave titles to his previous posts.
I decided to include a title for this entry. I’ve been thinking of titles since the start of my mission, but I usually end up forgetting them. I sort of narrate everything that’s going on here in my head, like a book, or the narrator from Arrested Development, but that would take far more time than I’ve got to get down on paper (or screen).
Since we share the area with the zone leaders, who cover the Spanish branch, along with our having many opportunities to contact people from Latin America, I’ve been trying to pick up some Spanish here and there. I can say enough to tell someone who we are and give them a pass-along card, but that doesn’t do you much good when they respond to you with long sentences. I’m vaguely familiar with Spanish grammar concepts, but these people give you some strange looks sometimes when you ask if you can give them a card. Hopefully I haven’t been saying, “May us given you a target?” or something…
It has been very hot and humid lately. Summer started very early, and the thick of it in Georgia is comparable to wading through a pan of frying bacon grease, except instead of smelling like bacon, it just smells like garbage and cigarettes. I saw a meme once, with a picture of Frodo Baggins against a backdrop of molten lava. It said, “I’m not saying it’s hot in Georgia, but two hobbits just threw a ring into my backyard.” No one has fainted yet; the Lord has blessed us with strength. The trick is just staying hydrated and getting electrolytes. Luckily people often offer us bottled water as we go.
For the Fourth of July, President Bennion suggested that everyone do something creative, so we threw together a quick free lemonade stand and went to a large park. We didn’t have many takers, but there were plenty of people sitting under tarps and on picnic blankets while they waited for the fireworks. We handed out a lot of cards, but didn’t get any appointments. At least we put forth the effort, though.
I was reading in Alma 37 this morning, which tells about how it was because of the scriptures that Ammon and his brethren were able to convince so many Lamanites to leave their false traditions. There really is “a power in the book,” as President Benson said. If you listen to what the Holy Ghost tells is true, any untruth that is in your mind will get uncomfortable. It will start squirming in its seat. And, if you let go of it, it will leave. Take a read, on any page of the Book of Mormon, and see for yourself! I promise you that it will confound false doctrine, and lead you to the path that will bring you lasting happiness and joy, both in this life and the next. It’s the only kind of joy that isn’t temporary.

Peaceable things – like fireflies

One miracle we saw this week came from a lunch we had with a
less-active member. We kept extending commitments to him to come to
church, but all he gave in return were excuses that he knew were not
valid. He said he felt that he was already “doing his part” by
occasionally watching general conference and having us over for food
(obviously we’re rethinking joining him for meals). When he was about
to take us back to our apartment, he asked us what we had next. We
told him that we were going to deliver a Bible someone had ordered.
Then the prompting came to invite him to come with us. He was hesitant
at first, and said that he didn’t know nearly enough to be of any
help, but we could tell he kind of wanted to come. Finally
he agreed, and we ended up having a great doorstep lesson with the
Bible referral (who happened to be someone we had street-contacted the
day before). Our team-up bore strong testimony of the Book of Mormon,
and we were able to set a return appointment. Our less-active was
excited! We took him to another appointment, and then helped him with
his home teaching. Beneath his exterior, he definitely has
more of a desire to improve than he says. We hope to see further
progress with him.This week’s Gospel Pinciples lesson was on the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
One of the scriptures that was shared in the lesson stood out to me in
particular, D&C 42:61—”If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive
revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest
know the mysteries and peaceable things–that which bringeth joy, that
which bringeth life eternal.” I am very grateful that we have both the
Gift of the Holy Ghost and the ability to receive personal revelation.
There is a lot of serenity that comes with the promise of “peaceable
things” and “that which bringeth joy.”

Also, the fireflies are starting to come out at night. I haven’t seen
those in a long time!


On the move again

Last week I got a phone call that was rather surprising—there was an
emergency where someone had to go home, so I got transferred into his
area to replace him. Moving wards feels a bit similar to leaving home,
because you leave behind a bunch of people you know, and you keep
expecting to see them the next day, then you remember that you’re
somewhere else now. The scenery change was a bit of a shock, since
Suwanee was so green, and now I’m in the city. We tend to teach a lot
more lessons, but we’re still working on getting people to make solid
commitments.

We had a tri-zone conference last week with Elder Dubé of the Seventy.
The rumor was that we were going to be getting Facebook, but that
didn’t happen. He talked a lot about how important it is to see your
mission through to the end (notwithstanding injury and the like), as
well as demonstrated helping people to make commitments. Overall it
was very informative and uplifting.

Don’t ever be afraid to share the gospel. What is right is not always
popular, and what is popular is not always right. If someone tells you
that you’re a fool for having faith, don’t take their word for it.
Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and religion is still vital to
the world we live in today, despite what some loud voices say. The
restored gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to unite everyone. If
you read the scriptures and pray, you will feel and know of God’s love
for you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Three’s company-ish

Transfers came, and two elders were taken out, and one brought in.
This means that the two companionships in the area got merged
together, and now we are a trio crammed into a small apartment.

Because the area has not done too well the past several months, we are
trying some new ways of finding people. That has made it a bizarre few
days, to say the least. We borrowed someone’s dog to take to the park,
asked everyone we could about service opportunities, and soon we will
be setting up a free lemonade stand. To be quite honest, it’s taking
all the extroversion I can muster, and more (in other words, it’s very
taxing for a person who prefers quiet time alone, but I’ll do it for
the Lord). We’re looking forward to seeing this area turn around.
There will be a baptism!

In other news, the gospel is true. Have a good week.


1/3 of the way in (but who’s counting)?

Already I’m about 1/3 of the way through my mission. It’s been a fast few weeks as well, which is kind of strange considering we don’t have many investigators. The ward has been getting a little more engaged in missionary work, but the real trick is getting all our small “leads” to follow through. This area is bound to explode before long, considering the number of seeds that have been planted. It takes faith to know that the Lord is preparing people for you to teach. Sometimes when we get turned down harshly, I remember what President Benson(?) said about the Book of Mormon: It does not contain things that are pleasing to the world, and so the worldly are not going to like it (that’s a paraphrase). But as the Spirit has time and opportunity to speak quietly to their hearts, those people of the world will feel a yearning to learn more. If it does not happen in this life, it may happen in the next. Study hours are the perfect time to remind one’s self of the truth of the things we teach.
The real convincing evidence to me is the fact that I know the gospel is true because of the Spirit, and because of the fruits of it that have shown themselves in many places. We are blessed to be able to study and live the teachings of the gospel, and ask God Himself if it is the truth. Whereas organizations of man use sophistry and deceit, God’s way is liberty, and this life is a chance for us to choose and act for ourselves, and not be acted upon.
General conference was the most spiritual I have experienced in a while. I loved Elder Kearon’s talk about helping refugees. It is my experience and testimony that as we serve with a spirit of charity, we come to forget our own problems and find the joy that comes in bringing relief to others. We are all children of a loving Heavenly Father, and heaven knows that what we need in this world is to live together peacefully. Sacrificing for others helps us to realize our love for them.
The key thing there is charity. That’s something that I have been struggling to develop in myself, lately. Paul taught that if we serve people with reluctance, without charity, it “profiteth [us] nothing.” I would share more about this, but quite frankly, I’m still studying.

On a different note, there’s a Brazilian family in the ward who had us over for dinner recently. We had carreteiro, which is a sort of thick meat stew cooked in a Dutch oven, and rice. It was delicious.


Leaping ahead

It’s Leap Day, and it’s also the birthday of one of the elders in my district. People like to tease him and say he’s finally turning six years old. But it’s thanks to his birthday that we’re getting chicken cordon-bleu tonight.

I am pleased to announce that I am now an honorary Spanish-speaking missionary. A couple of weeks ago we knocked on a door where the answerer told us he only spoke Spanish.
Oh.
Uhh…
“Somos missioneros de la Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Días.”
After seeming somewhat taken aback, he explained to us in rapid Spanish that he was not interested, and that he had a church. Oh, well. That was the first time I’d done that, since my companions have usually beat me to it. It’s good to have contacting resources from the Spanish elders.
After a month of pretty much zero investigators, the Lord led us to a man named Rick. As soon as he saw us, he stepped outside and said, “Watchtower?”
Nope. Even better.
We had a pretty good conversation with him, left him with a Book of Mormon, and invited him to baptism. He couldn’t give us an answer, but he promised to read and pray. I’m half-excited, half-nervous for our next lesson with him; you never know what’s going to happen during that brief time after your first meeting. We did our best to inoculate him against misinformation, though, and he already knows that Google is not a replacement for your brain.
Let me repeat that: Google is not a replacement for your brain. Neither are click bait articles, and neither are political pundits, or anything like unto those things. I think I’ve said all this before, but it boggles my mind how people immediately take for facts the opinions and falsehoods of people who happen to have a voice in the online community. Search the Scriptures, search your mind and heart, and pray for guidance. The gospel is simpler than you think. I think I’ve said all that before
I have a confession to make: There is a hymn that has always been difficult for me to listen to. It’s I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go. As you may guess by the lyrics, the song contains a promise to become the sort of person that God wants us to be.
The reason why this song has always ground my gears somewhat is that I have always misinterpreted it to mean I must surrender my agency and my direction in life to become something I wouldn’t want to be. But you see, the problem is that we humans always think we know what we want.
The Lord is someone in whom you can (and should) put your utmost trust. He already knows who we want to be. He knows and sees and comprehends everything. Submitting our will to the Lord’s does not mean becoming a puppet, or giving up everything we love and know about ourselves. It means opening ourselves up to the possibilities that He foresees. And if you think that the person He would have you become is not the best you, or the most complete, fully-leveled, entirely optimized you, I would venture to say that you don’t know how wonderful and all-encompassing the gospel is yet.
I can testify to it—I was very angry and a bit volatile in the months before my mission. I may have had a testimony—an intellectual one if nothing else—but the Spirit was not there in abundance when I bore it. I was reluctant to help anyone unless my schedule allowed for it, and turned my attention to my own problems rather than to those of others whom I could help. Little by little, I have felt that ebb away. I am not perfect, but I know I am better than I was.
Food for thought, I guess. Have a good week.