Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jesus Said Love Everyone

Saturday was T-Text day and we found out that both Elder Batts and I will be staying in Waterford! There was actually a lot of transfers and changes made within the mission, but we are staying put. We are both pretty pumped to be staying here, especially after the week we had this past week! Things seemed to be going our way around here finally, we are feeling really blessed. We had three more of our investigators (Zach, Michael, and Vickie) this week commit to baptismal dates. Two weeks ago Sabrina and Savong agreed to be baptized, so now we have five baptismal dates coming up! Pretty sweet stuff!

Zach is an investigator I have told you all a little bit about in the past. He was adopted by his grandpa that is an inactive. Zach has lived a pretty rough life and was abused as a child growing up. He is a senior in high school now and has met with the missionaries in the past, but the timing wasn't right. He wants to do whatever God wants of him, and we have been trying to help him see that being baptized is something God wants of him. His date is quite a while away as we try and work through some issues still, but we are hoping to be able to move it up as he progress more quickly.

Our boy Michael is a guy we have been meeting with for the past few weeks. He was contacted by the Spanish speaking Elders in our area as he was walking down the street one day. Michael is 33 and is from New York. He is living in a pretty rough situation as he is looking for a job and trying to get settled in Connecticut. He is a goofy guy and is always cracking us up in the middle of our lessons, but he has agreed to be baptized in early October. He basically had no religous beliefs before we met him and wasn't even sure if God existed, so we have made some good progress but there are still a lot of things left that we have to teach him. He is super pumped about getting baptized though, so hopefully he will continue to have that desire to learn.

Vickie is a woman that is a friend of a member of our ward, Morgan. Morgan and Vickie used to attend the same Methodist church a few years ago. Around a year ago Morgan joined the Mormon church and has been working on getting Vickie to look into the Mormon faith also. So for the past few weeks Vickie has been attending our church every week and also our Book of Mormon study class every Tuesday night. She had us over for dinner on Monday night and we were able to have a great visit with her. She has already came to the conclusion that this is the Church God wants her to join, and that she definitely wants to be baptized but she needs to develop a testimony of the whole Joseph Smith story and a few other things, so we set the date for the last week of September. She already even quit drinking coffee, so that is a good start! We will begin teaching the lessons this week and help her prepare for her baptismal date!

With all of our investigators and the people we meet, we see that they all are completely different people with completely different stories. Everyone comes from all walks of life. A lot of the people that I have associated with so far in my mission are the kind of people that I probably never would be around in my normal every day life. I may have thought they were too weird, too old, too different of beliefs etc. But on a mission you associate with everybody, no matter what they are like. It amazes me though that whoever it is that I associate with out here, I am able to love them no matter what! I have truly come to know and feel what charity, the pure love of Christ, is all about. It is pretty amazing to be able to meet some homeless guy on the street, teach him a lesson or two and instantly feel that love that Christ has for that person. Christ loves everybody, he asks all to come unto Him. We can all strive to develop the gift of charity, so that we can love everyone just as Christ does.

Some of the district at District Meeting
 A random picture...There are like hundreds of these little lakes just scattered all across Connecticut. Everywhere we go we come around a bend and see a little lake surrounded by trees and a few houses. As you can see it is just GREEN everywhere. We are pretty excited for Fall, it should be pretty cool to see all of those leaves change colors!
Update on my main man from Cache Valley! We will call him Joe.

We have been going over to Joe's house every Saturday to help him out around his house. He lives out in the middle of the woods in a little cottage, it is a pretty cool little place. But he has a herniated disk in his back and has some heart issues so he can't do everything around the house on his own. Every Saturday we have gone over and have been helping him out getting his wood pile ready for the winter to heat his house. So we have been chopping up some trees and splitting the wood and stacking it under a cover (Stanley would be proud of the pile that we have built up). Each Saturday after we are done working we have sat around and talked for a while, and each time Joe would open up a little bit more to us, but we would never try and push him into coming back to church or meeting with us or anything like that. We would just go and do some service, talk and then leave.

Last Saturday we were there and we didn't have too much work to do so that left us quite a bit of time to talk. Joe mentioned how each Saturday we just show up to serve him, and don't ask for anything in return. We never told him he had to come to Church in return for our service or anything like that, and he really appreciated the fact that we were just showing up to help out one of our brothers that had fallen away. So Saturday was a pretty big turning point. In our talk Joe told us that it was finally time, that after being away for so many years it was time to get his life back on track. He said "It is time to come home, both spiritually and physically." So he is straight up committed to getting his life back on track, and when he commits to something, he is gonna do it. His game plan is to get himself back on track. He wants to get where he himself needs to be spiritually. Going to Church, partaking of the Sacrament, being temple worthy and all that. Then once he gets himself back where he needs to be, he is going to head home back to his kids and his ex wife and is going to do everything he possible can to repair the damages that he caused. He knows its not going to be easy, and knows that he probably won't be able to fix everything that he screwed up. But he is at least going to try.

So needless to say our boy Joe showed up to church on Sunday, stayed for all three hours and then met with Bishop Hanson for about 2-3 hours after church telling him everything and figuring out what it was going to take to get things squared away. Joe is an amazing guy, I wish everyone could sit down and talk with him and hear his story. It will rip your heart out, but his testimony is stronger than it ever has been before, and he is ready to fix what he screwed up. Pretty sweet right!?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Groundbreaking Ceremony

On Tuesday we had a lesson with Sabrina and Savong, and Bishop Hanson came along to meet them. We have finished up all of the lessons with them now, and have just been teaching them some of the Book of Mormon stories. On Tuesday we had Bishop talk to them a little about being baptized, and invited both of them to be baptized on September 22. They had already told us they wanted to get baptized, but since they are only 12 and 10 they had to get permission from their parents before, so we told them to talk it over with their parents and set up an appointment for Friday where we could come back. So on Friday we went back and found out that their parents had given them permission and said that it would alright for them to get baptized! This was pretty surprising to everyone because their dad has been very reluctant towards the church in the past. He isn't a member, and wouldn't  allow the missionaries in the past to even teach Sabrina and Savong. So we have worked really hard on building up some trust and a good relationship with their parents, and it looks like it paid off! So if all goes as planned, they will both be baptized on September 22!

They had the groundbreaking for the Hartford Connecticut temple this Saturday, and they broadcast it to all of the chapels in the region. I had never seen a groundbreaking ceremony before, so that was a pretty cool experience. We all got a nice surprise once the broadcast started when we saw that President Monson was there in Hartford to perform the groundbreaking ceremony! I guess he has a grandaughter that lives here in Connecticut with her family, and has some other family connections to the area. It was a nice surprise to be able to hear a short mesage from the Prophet. He has definitely aged lately, but he still got up there to dig the first bit of dirt up and was waving the shovel above his head and joking around with the crowd.

It is crazy to think that this transfer is already almost over! It has flown by. Saturday is T-Text day so we will find out who is going and who is staying. I am pretty sure I will be staying here in Waterford for at least another transfer, but you never know what could happen! We will have to wait and see.

This is a huge lighthouse out a ways off the coast of New London. The Island that you can see behind it is Fishers Island. Apparently it is a really ritzy island where a lot of rich people live for the summer. We actually have about 8-10 kids that come to our ward each Sunday that are working on Fishers Island for the summer. Most of them are from Idaho and Utah and are working as nannies, watersport instructors, lifeguards etc.
Me & Elder Batts on the Pier.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Zone Conference

The highlight of this week was probably Zone Conference, which was on Wednesday. It was held in Franklin, Mass. which is about a two hour drive from Waterford. It was a really interesting conference, with a lot of good training given. The main focus of the conference was still working with the members and becoming the fabric of the ward. It is REALLY difficult to find people to teach in New England on our own. The only way that works out here is to work through the members and have them introduce the Gospel to their friends and have them invite their friends themselves rather than us going and trying to contact them. Since our mission turned its focus towards member missionary work, the success has skyrocketed. Last year the mission averaged about 24 baptisms a month. The past two months we have had over 50 baptisms each month, so it really is working. In Waterford we have just been trying to get the members on board to start working with us, but it is a long process.

This coming Saturday we have a really cool thing happening. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Hartford Connecticut temple is going to be on Saturday morning, and they are broadcasting it to all of the local chapels so the locals can watch it. We have tried to turn it into a really big deal, because it is a great missionary opportunity. Hopefully the members will show up and bring some friends too. The Hartford Temple was announced a long time ago, but things didn't work out. So the people here have been waiting for this day for a long time, so they are pretty excited. We are all wondering why they have decided to build one here though. The New York City temple is 2 hours away and it is only at about 50 percent capacity right now. Also, the Boston temple is about 2 hours away and it is only at around 20 percent capacity. So the temples around here are really not getting used all that much, but they still decided to build one in Hartford which is right in the middle of those two other temples. We are thinking that it means that some pretty great things are about to happen here in the New England area. The Lord must have a reason for building so many temples, and He must know something that we don't. We are thinking that it means the Church is going to see some pretty large growth here in the area, and so we are pretty excited to be a part of it. It is an exciting time to be a missionary, especially in the Boston Mass. Mission.

We were driving by the beach on Saturday and had to make a quick stop...Elder Batts had never seen the ocean before coming to Waterford so he had to take some pictures!
Just a cool little swamp that we found on some back roads out in the woods on our way to a members house.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Strength of Families

The one question everyone keeps asking me is if I am getting fed well enough out here, and yes I am! The members in the ward are pretty good, we usually have dinner at a members home at least 4 or 5 nights out of the week. So no one needs to worry about me starving out here! I don't know what happened, but I'm not even a picky eater anymore! I will eat pretty much anything that the members give us, which is a big improvement from my past haha.

We have been teaching another set of brother and sister the past few weeks. Their names are Zach and Jessica. Zach is 16 and Jessica is 19. They live with their grandpa who adopted them a few years ago and he is an inactive member of our ward. The kids had a really tough childhood, I am not sure of the details but it was definitely not a good situation. They are great kids and they both really want to be baptized, we just have some issues that we have to work out before that happens. So those are two of our investigators, and then we are still working with Sabrina and Savong. We have really been working on our relationship with their mom, and she finally gave the kids permission to be baptized!!! She just wants to make sure they are ready for the commitment, and so we are going to teach them a little bit more so they feel like they are ready. Hopefully we will have a baptismal date set in the next few weeks.

We have still been doing a lot of work with the less actives in the ward, and it is starting to pay off a little bit. On Wednesday we dropped by a lady's house from the ward directory who we hadn't met. She was shocked to see us at her door, and we couldn't quite figure out why. She then went on to tell us that she had just barely gotten home from the hospital after having a pre-heart attack. She had spent three days in the hospital, and as soon as she got home we happened to show up. Her and her kids had been inactive for 5-6 years now, and so she took us showing up at that moment as a sign from God that it was time for them to go back to church. So we met with them again later in the week, and her and her 21 year old daughter and 18 year old son were all at church on Sunday! So in total we had 7 less actives at church, and 4 non members were there also. It was pretty sweet!

Out of all of the families that I have met who have gone inactive or aren't members, they all seem to have had some major troubles within their family. Whether it has been divorce, abuse or anything like that, all of their problems seem to have started within the family. It has really shown me how much the Gospel can bless our families. It makes me so grateful that I have had such a good family life growing up, without any problems like that. It shows how important families are, and I can see why the Church puts such a strong push on creating strong family units. So everyone out there be grateful for your family that you have and love them to death!

Last p-day we had planned to go to the submarine museum and take a tour, and then go to a place called Fort Griswald, which is like a battle ground from the war. But because of government furloughs they are all closed on Mondays now! So we were so bored that we ended up playing croquet in a park. Haha!
 The city of New London.  This is the biggest city in our ward boundaries.  The rest of the area is a lot more rural and out in the woods.
 Just chillin' in the park!  Elder Batts, his new companion, is the one in white.
 Wondering what in the world Rog and Lette were thinking sending these crazy socks! They definitely are not approved by missionary guidelines! Haha!
I got to talk to Elder Pulsipher back and forth for quite a while today!  These are a few of the things he shared:
*Things are going great with his new companion, Elder Batts.  Elder Batts has been out for 10 months now.
*He lives in a house.  It is a big blue house that has been converted into 3 apartments.  They live on the bottom floor.  It is actually really nice for missionaries.
*They have had a few big downpours of rain but nothing too crazy.
*On Wednesday they went to this barber shop in downtown New London because a guy from their ward owns it and he got baptized about a year ago but then went inactive. So they go in there and talk to him and he gave them both a free haircut too! They were in the more ghetto part of town so Elder Pulsipher was the only white one in the barber shop.  He said it was sweet. "Elder Batts fit in alright, but I was feeling a little out of place!" He talked to them for quite a while.  They are excited to keep working with him though.
*Favorite meal from the members: "Nothing better than meat and potatoes!" They don't get that too often. They get a lot of pasta!  But it is still always good and they are very grateful.
*The work feels a little slow right now but they are still working hard.  He feels blessed for the the success they have had so far.  It is definitely hard, but definitely worth it.
*"The days are long but the weeks fly by. It seems like I have been out forever, but it has already gone so fast.  I know it will only go faster!  Gotta make the best of it while I can!"

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's A Small World

This week I had a really awesome experience. On Wednesday night we had just finished up with our last appointment and it was about time to head back home, but we decided to stop by and see a person from our Ward Directory who we hadn't met yet. We stopped and knocked on the door and started talking to the guy out on his porch. Come to find out, this guy grew up in Richmond, Utah and had spent a lot of time working out in Avon and Paradise. It was so cool to be able to talk to him about home and he had some good stories to tell. It was pretty cool to run into someone from Cache Valley, it is definitely a small world. Anyways we stood out on the porch and talked to this guy for over an hour, and his story would just rip your heart out. To make a long story short, he is a RM, was married and had ten kids, served in a bishopric and was living this great life. He ended up losing his job, sunk into depression and just couldn't get back on his feet. He ended up falling away from the church and asking for a divorce due to the depression. Anyways, we offered to come back on Saturday and do some service for him, and he accepted. We had a really good experience with him while working out in his yard and he really opened up to us and told us that he has been wanting to come back to the church for a while. He was so appreciative of our service, it even brought him to tears. On Sunday he didn't make it to church, but when we pulled up to the Stake Priesthood meeting on Sunday night he was there at the door waiting for us. Talking to him afterwards he told me that our act of service was the turning point for him, and convinced him that now was the time to come back to church. It just shows how far one little act of service can go with people. We can all look for those opportunities to serve others, you just never know what can come out of it!
 
We had a really good week this past week, we had around 15 lessons with investigators and with less actives in the ward. Many of our appointments had gone really well, and things were looking up. We were feeling like it had been a really good week, but then Sunday came and none of our investigators or the less actives that we had met with were at church. One of the hardest things about missionary work is recognizing that people do have their free agency. No matter how hard you try and no matter how well the lesson went with them, they can still ultimately choose whether they want to act on it. It's okay though, we just have to keep doing our part and never give up.