Monday, June 23, 2014

God Does't See Us As Who We Are, But Who We Can Become

This past week was great! On Sunday we had 5 of our investigators show up to church, 2 of them came for the first time ever and seemed to really enjoy it. Felicia came with her 4 year old son Jordan, and it seemed like she was just another member of the ward. Her and Jordan fit right in! Right after the sacrament meeting our RS President came over and introduced herself and then just took Felicia for the rest of church and guided her around and was just a friend to her. It was perfect! And then Ethan came for the first time as well. He fit right into the Elders Quorum and all of the other Navy guys from the ward were talking to him about work and stuff. Ethan may be getting deployed sooner than we thought, hopefully we can get him baptized before that happens, we are just playing it by ear right now. But he definitely wants to, after church he text us and said "I hope I am able to get baptized before Elder Jones goes home." Haha we were hoping the same thing, so its good that we are on the same page!

We had another one of our investigators agree to be baptized this week, a guy named Rob. We brought our Bishop to the lesson and had asked him before the lesson to invite Rob to be baptized, and Bishop did it perfectly. He is a champ. So this lesson that we had with Rob was one of the most spiritual lessons I have had on my mission, at least for myself. Rob is this 38 year old guy who was invited to church by a longtime friend. Rob is single, and still lives with his mother. He is unemployed, and is just kind of a nerd to be honest with you. Our lesson was on having faith to overcome our fears, but we spent a long time talking about what God has in store for all of us, especially for Rob. We watched this video on lds.org where President Uchtdorf tells the story of the ugly duckling who became a swan. Anyways, we were trying to help Rob see how much God loves him and sees Rob as what he can become. During this lesson though I felt like a caught a little glimpse of how much God truly does love Rob, and it was incredible. Before my mission I probably would have looked at people like Rob and made fun of him and thought he was just a dweeb...But now I love this guy! And I have been able to realize that it really just doesn't matter what people are like, how many friends they have, how much money they have, what they look like, none of that really matters. God doesn't see us as who we are, but rather who we can become. And this lesson with Rob really helped me truly understand this principle.

It has been amazing to see the Lord's hand in all of the amazing things happening in Groton. None of it has been us really, but it has pretty much been Heavenly Father making miracles happen. We have just been led to people who have been prepared by the Spirit to accept our message. On Monday night, we had a crazy experience. We talk to EVERYBODY we see on the streets and like 99 percent of the time they say no in some way or another. But something crazy happened Monday, someone actually approached us and asked us what we were up to haha. We stopped by a less actives house and when we were leaving, we got in our car and then this super sweet brand new Mustang pulls up and there is this young guy in the car. He asks us "Hey are you guys church people?" We were pretty shocked but we had a good conversation with the guy, and set up an appt to teach him Saturday. So we went Saturday and taught this guy, Ugalde and his wife Beverly the Restoration. They seem really interested actually, the lesson went great! So we picked up 2 new investigators because some guy actually approached us and talked to us. That never happens haha but it happened to us! Just evidence of Heavenly Father's hand in every aspect of this work, and leading us to people prepared to hear our message! Love ya all, have a good week!

Oh and I think I forgot to tell ya a few weeks ago, the girl named Erica that we were teaching back in Waterbury got baptized at the end of May! She was the 16 year old Cape Verdian girl? And also Elizabeth Burgos, the woman that we baptized with her two boys, was called to be in the Young Womens and is now teaching the YW on Sundays. Pretty cool stuff!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

We had a pretty amazing week, lots of miracles are occurring all over the mission. Definitely a lot of exciting things happening. The Groton ward has been one that has struggled a little bit in the past, and no one can seem to figure it out. The ward hasn't had a baptism all year, but that is going to change real fast! The Lord is blessing us so much here it is crazy. It went from being pretty slow here and not a lot going on, to today where we have 6 investigators with baptismal dates! We have a lot of work to do to make sure these dates actually happen, so we will need a lot of prayers over the next few weeks! Four of them are new ones from this week.

One is a guy named Edwin, he is 24 and has a 2 year old daughter and wants to turn his life around and provide a good life for his family. We met Edwin on the street, started talking to him and then set up an appt. to teach him, and the lesson went great! He doesn't know a lot about the Gospel, or about anything religious really but accepted the Restoration pretty well and was all for being baptized. He will be a tough one, but we can make it happen.

Another one is also a 24 year old guy that we met for the first time last night. His name is Ethan, he is here serving in the Navy. Ethan knows some members of the church that live in Arizona and has been friends with them for quite a while. They have slowly introduced him to the Gospel, and so earlier this week they notified us and let us know that he was ready to meet with the missionaries! We had our first lesson yesterday at the church and taught the Restoration using all the pictures that we have in the hallway. It was a powerful lesson and he just has such a sincere desire to find the truth and to find God's path. The tough thing with Ethan is that he is going to be deployed in the Fall and will be gone a lot of the time leading up to that doing some testing and trials out at sea. We definitely want his baptism to happen before he goes out on his 6 month deployment, so we set July 20 as a day to shoot for.

The other 2 is a young couple in the navy, the Betchers. They have 3 little kids and have actually been investigating the church for 3 years now. They are what we call eternigators. They have had baptismal dates and just haven't quite made it to their dates because of the Word of Wisdom. We are gonna do everything we can to help them make it to this date though. This one is for sure! They actually started today to live the Word of Wisdom, so they are cutting out coffee and tea today! Keep them in your prayers too!

Friday was transfer texts and we are both safe for 6 more weeks. That means Elder Jones will be "dying" here in Groton. A lot of our zone stayed here for another transfer, there were only a few changes. Saturday we went on a special assignment from President Packard, haha it wasn't anything cool though. We had to drive across our entire zone delivering some flyers and posters for this upcoming fireside we are holding here at Groton. It took a lot of time but it was worth it. President Packard is going to come and speak to our Stake in a few weeks, we are pretty stoked for that. So we were getting these flyers out so all the missionaries could spread the word!

A real quick story from this week that I thougth was pretty amazing. So a lot of our mission has been struggling with opening their mouth and talking to everyone, so there has been a lot of emphasis on making this happen. So in our zone we did this thing where each companionship set a goal for the number of Book of Mormons they could place throughout the week. So it got to be Thursday night, the day before District meeting where we would see if all of our goals had been met, and Elder Jones and I were one short of meeting our goal. We knew we definitely had to achieve our goal, so it was going to have to happen in the short 20 minute window after studies and before district meeting. That morning Elder Jones told me that he felt like we should go to this park near our house and that there would be someone there for us to give this last Book of Mormon to. So we walk out the door after studies and it is just straight fog and rain everywhere, definitely not a day for someone to be at the park, but we go there anways. We drive around the park and there is not a single soul in the entire park. We see a woman walking along the sidewalk though, and assume she must be the one we are looking for! So we get out of the car and very awkwardly chase her down and start talking to her. Haha I am sure we looked like weirdos but we felt strongly something good was going to happen there at the park! Unfortunately, she rejected us pretty hard haha so we turned around and started walking back to the car. Then I look towards the middle of the park and sitting there in all this fog is just some guy on a bench all alone. We walk over towards him there, and you can just tell something is wrong. So we casually started talking to this guy and then all of a sudden he just lost it and broke down crying. It turns out him and his wife had been struggling, they got into a huge argument, and she was talking about leaving him with their daughter and going back to Florida. This guy was just devestated! It was so clear to us though that the Spirit had led us to this guy who absolutely needed us at that moment! We were able to talk to him about how much the Gospel blesses families, gave him a Book of Mormon, and our phone number and he said he would call us. He didn't give us his address or anything, so everyone please pray that he will call us!!!! His name is Jason...and plot twist haha it turns out that the first woman that we chased down was his wife who had gone walking off very angrily during their argument. That explains why she wasn't too happy to talk to us!

We had a great Fathers day dinner at the Dudleys home, a family who is recently returning to activity. It was a delicous Turkey dinner and we had a little fire in their backyard afterwards and made some Smores. I am definitely grateful for the wonderful father I have been blessed with. I am sure most of you have seen the Earthly Father Heavenly Father mormon message, if not you should all watch it now! It is one of my favorites for sure. Love you all have a good week!

here is the link to that mormon message:

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2013-01-002-earthly-father-heavenly-father?lang=eng

This is one of the districts in our zone!  We forgot to take a picture with our actual district, but this is the one from back in my old area.  it is always good to be back in the Waterford ward building!



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Getting The To-Do List Done

P-Day last week was pretty dang sweet. We went out to Newport Rhode Island and toured the Newport Mansions. They are just these ridiculously huge mansions that some ridiculously wealthy people built as summer homes right along the ocean a few hundred years ago. (They are the homes where the new Great Gatsby was filmed). But the houses were super cool to see. I don't even want to know how much they are worth, I am sure some crazy amount of money. We went inside two of the mansions, one was called The Breakers and then the other was The Rosecliff. It was pretty interesting to see and hear the stories of how these millionaires lived way back in the day. Newport is a really pretty place though and we had a really good time throughout the day walking along the beach and what not. Then that night I stayed in Newport with Elder Laurent to do our exchange for this transfer. I had a really good time there and learned a lot from Elder Laurent. We taught a few of their investigators and had some really good lessons with them. The ward mission leader in the Newport ward is Brother Wood, who was a General Authority for like 20 years and was just recently released. He came and taught a lesson with us on Tuesday. It was awesome to get to talk to him and hear some of his stories and ideas about things. He has some inside stories about all the members of the Quorum of the 12 because he worked with them a lot while he was on the High Council of the church. I could have sat there all day and listened to his stories but we had other things to do!

This week we had to attend a few pretty long meetings. Wednesday we were gone all day up to Boston for a Mission Leadership Council. It was just a meeting with President and Sister Packard, and then all of the Zone Leaders and Sister Leaders in our entire mission. It is just a meeting where all of us leaders get together and talk about the mission and what things we need to do throughout the next month. We spent a lot of time this meeting talking about how we can help all of our missionaries develop this sense of urgency to find more people, baptize more people, and just to go out and do the Lord's work. Our mission is still doing really well right now, but we could always be better. It was kind of going along with Elder Holland's statement that the Lord is pleased but not satisfied. Then on Thursday we had a Zone Conference with President Packard where he taught us for like 4 hours straight about how we could improve our prayers and studies in order to receive the personal revelation needed to progress the work in our areas. It is definitely a training I needed. I feel like I could definitely be getting more out of my prayers, and being able to find Heavenly Fathers will in all things. So President basically taught us how to get a "To-Do" list from God each day so we know what he wants us to do, then go out and do it!

Saturday we went on another exchange with the New London Spanish Elders. I stayed in Groton and Elder Hunter came here with me. We had an awesome day together and saw some miracles happen! We went to go teach a new investigator of ours named Jesse, and she is a single mother of 4 so we had to get a chaperon to come with us. So we got the sweetest little old guy, Brother Post, to come with us. I absolutely love this guy, so I was pretty stoked to have him coming out with us. So we show up to Jesse's appt, and she forgot and had gone shopping. Story of our lives, everybody cancels on us. So we scrambled to find something to do since we had Brother Post out with us, so we decided to stop at another of our investigators named Felicias house. To make a long story short we had an awesome lesson with her and she accepted a baptismal date for the end of July! It was so sweet, God definitely led us to Felicia's house that day. That night we taught the Restoration to this AMAZING 90 year old woman named Gemma who is another one of my favorites here in Groton. Gemma lives with a member of our ward, but Gemma is super duper Catholic. It will be a long process but Gemma loves us and we love her. At the end of our lesson we sat down in her kitchen and were eating Ice Cream and Gemma says "Now boys, you aren't trying to convert me are you?" Haha we just started laughing and changed the topic! We had a great week, it is hard to believe transfer texts are coming this Friday. Have a great week! Love you all!

The Breakers Mansion

 They don't allow you to take pictures inside but I had to sneak one for you guys...it isn't that great but it's a little sneak peek haha!

 The Rosecliff Mansion

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One Year Down!

This week was awesome! Monday night to Tuesday night we went on exchanges with the Waterford Elders and I got to go back into the Waterford ward for a day. It was the greatest thing ever! I didn't get to see everyone that I wanted to, but I did get to see a lot of them. And we will go on exchanges again so I will hopefully get to see the rest next time. But it was so cool to be back in my first area and see all of the people that I became so close to. We went and taught Sabrina and Sovong and they were so surprised when they saw me come walking in, I was glad they remembered me haha. Then we had a Book of Mormon class that Elder Batts and I started when we were there, and it is still going strong. So I got to go back to that and see a lot of the members there at the church that night. And of course we ended the day with a visit to Pops and Sweeties house, it wouldn't be Waterford without those two.

The work in Groton has been really slow for a long time, but I am not quite sure why. It is a great ward with great members who love to share the Gospel, but things just haven't really taken off yet. Last year the ward only had 2 convert baptisms, and this year it hasn't had any. The Ward leaders are kind of bummed about it, but I am pretty sure things will turn around really quickly! We have a lot of solid potential investigators that we have appointments with this week.

Speaking of no baptisms this whole year...we are going to have one on June 22! There is this 12 year old boy who is named Zach that the missionaries here have been teaching for like 3 years. He comes from a member family, both his mother and his step father are strong members, along with his 14 year old sister. His family was inactive when he turned 8, and started coming back to the church like 3 years ago as well. Ever since then the missionaries here have been trying to get Zach baptized, but for some reason he just didn't want to. We are pretty sure it is because his biological father is opposed to the church. Zach is a really cool kid and is already like my best friend here in the ward, and so on Sunday Elder Jones and I took Zach out to our car in between classes because we had brought a treat for him (it was fast Sunday so we told him he had to wait to eat it haha). Once we got out to the car we just sat down and had a little heart to heart with Zach and talked to him about getting baptized, and for some reason this time he was all for it! So we picked the 22nd as the day he will finally get baptized. His mother and step father were SOO excited, they couldn't believe that Zach had finally decided to be baptized. It was pretty cool to see their excitement. Hopefully this week we will invite some more people to be baptized as well, we will see though.

Today for pday we are going to Newport RI to see the Newport Mansions! We have heard good things about them, so we are looking forward to see how the rich people lived back in the day. Then after that we are going on exchanges with the Newport Elders and so I will get to serve in Newport for today and tomorrow. Things are going great, love you all!

Old pictures from my last zone.

The shirt burning ceremony to celebrate my one year mark!