I am very jealous that you have had a white Thanksgiving. Has that ever happened before? All of the Latinos think I live in a place like Michigan or Upstate New York. Every time I say that I am from Seattle, they comment that it is snowing there. I can't believe it. I want pictures.
In contrast, we have been cold, very cold. We wake up to frost in the morning and are grateful to get back to our nice warm apartment at the end of a long day. The tri-valley is the coldest and hottest place in the mission. In the time I have been here I have seen 110 degrees and 30 degrees. It's pretty drastic. The car elders like to call drive by and call us from their cell phones to ask how we like the cold. If they are really messing with us, they won't even roll down the window, but just use the cell phone to so they don't have to let out the cold air. I guess I deserve it for being in car so long in my first area.
I would like to put all of Mom's fears to rest. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We had a great time. It was cool, crisp, and perfectly clear. People were walking everywhere, so it made for a good day of contacting. We started the day off with an early Thanksgiving Dinner with the Nelson Family. The turkey, yams, and potatoes were especially good. The company was amazing. We finished and had to be rolled out of the door as we got back to work.
Later that evening, we attended the branch's Thanksgiving dinner and dance. We dined, but didn't dance. Mainly, we cut pie and served drinks so that we could meet everybody there. It was fun. After staying an hour we took off and finished up the night by looking for new investigators. It was a pretty satisfying day. I had fun. We worked hard and were grateful for all of the blessings and miracles we have seen in the last few weeks.
Also, thanks Mom for all of the festivity. Our apartment looks like that scene in "Elf" after Buddy completely decorates the department store. We have a Christmas Tree, a holiday pillowcase, and the apartment even sounds like Nordstrom (thanks to the Jon Schmidt Christmas CD). I have had a blast opening the pre-christmas gifts. I have included some pictures of me opening the presents. As usual you can tell I pinched a few and have made some guesses in the pictures. There are some pictures where you can tell I guessed wrong. At one point I thought the Christmas tree was a potential tie. I was very surprised when I opened it.
I am glad my companion likes Christmas because I am always whistling a carol or two. You know how I get this time of year. I am like a kid in a toy store. Speaking of which, there is a toy store in Livermore, but it is closed on Mondays. This is very good for those who manage my bank account. The Lord knows me a little too well.
Have a holly jolly.....
Monday, November 29, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
This week went swimmingly. Quite literally. On Friday and Saturday we were hit by a deluge of water. Luckily, we didn't have to break any mission rules and swim home, but it was close. Elder Russell and I were very ready to do so if necessary. He swam for BYU before the mission so I am sure we would have been alright.
This week we have been witnesses to some pretty amazing experiences. We found a family. It was amazing to watch the father Omar offer the prayer as all of his family took the lesson. I have never had the opportunity to teach a complete family with father, mother, and children. I really hope they get baptized. It seems like they are really willing to act and get an answer. I don't think they were intimidated when we invited them to be baptized. We will see in the next few weeks how things end up going with them.
I am very grateful for all of the mail that I have received recently. I am still very sad to hear about Cliff Aalona. I feel like there will be a hole in the Lake City Ward without him. Please express my deepest condolences to the Aalona family.
Another funny thing happened this week. I have had to explain to many members just what is so great about Thanksgiving. I explain about the gratitude, football, turkey, pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce. My favorite response thus far has been, "wow, that must require a lot of tortilla's." Not wanting to explain that we don't quite use the tortilla as a utensil in American culture I decided to explain to him this is why Americans eat rolls with big meals like this. He still doesn't think it is a sufficient utensil like the tortilla, but it saved me from a long and lengthy explanation.
I was also surprised to get Mom's giant box of stuff. We don't have a Christmas tree, but we do have a funky lamp with different colored lights. We piled the presents around the bottom and took a picture. I will have to send it next week. It should suffice as a Christmas Tree for the season.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I have my "hijo." Elder Steven Russell is from Dallas, Texas. He did two years at BYU prior to his mission so he is 21 instead of the usual 19. He just got into the accounting major at BYU. As a finance major I will overlook this since we get along really well. Already we have had some pretty amazing experiences. Below is an excerpt from my weekly email to President Jackson.
"Wednesday night while introducing Elder Russel to our Elder's Quorum President, I asked him what he thought our investigator Ernesto needed to accept a baptismal date. He told us that he had actually prayed about it and felt that Ernesto needed to know how to get answers to prayers. He knew the how to pray, but didn't quite know how to listen.
The next night we began reteaching prayer. I thought we had done a sufficient job the first time, but I realize that we hadn't taught to his needs. This time was different. We taught him that God will answer him if he prays. We emphasized that the Spirit will teach us the things to pray for. After Ernest offered a kneeling prayer, we just listened for a good five minutes. We then asked him to be baptized. He told us that he felt different and that he had never felt that way before. It was wonderful to see this change in him. He didn't accept the date that night, but wanted to continue praying like this over the next 24 hours. We set an appointment for the next night.
In the time between the two appointments an amazing change occurred. Ernesto came to the Friday appointment waiting for us to ask him to be baptized. During that time he also was offerred a Monday through Friday job, something he hasn't had since arriving in the United States twenty years earlier. He knew he had an answer and was eager to accept.
It was amazing to see the difference between this lesson and the previous lessons. I realize we had almost been fumbling in the dark. It must have been the twentieth time he was invited to be baptized, but the change was definite. It wasn't until he learned how to receive answers to prayers that he was able to resolve some of his own concerns."
We are so excitied for this. Baptisms make me happy, very happy.
Please express my condolence to the Aalona family. I am very sad to hear that. I wasn't expecting to come back to a different Lake City Ward. It won't feel the same without him.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I thought I would take some time as we approach the Thanksgiving season to say some of the things I am grateful for. I realize that there is so much. It's hard to express everything. I feel like an idiot as I get a little teary writing it.
First off, I want to quote something that Sister Jackson says all the time. "It's a beautiful day; Everyday is a beautiful day in the California San Jose Mission." I am so blessed to simply be here doing the best thing I could possibly doing. It is hard at times, but easy when you work your hardest. I know that probably doesn't make sense. I am in a beautiful place doing a great work. Nothing can bring me down.
I am so grateful for simply being here. It has been almost two years since I completed chemotherapy. I feel better than I have ever felt. Each breath is a blessing. The greatest gift I have is the present moment I am enjoying. I have looked through all of the experiences I have had thus far in my life and realize that I wouldn't change a thing. Each one has been for my benefit. They were tough at the time, but with the clarity that comes in hindsight I realize that they were small moments.
I have a beautiful family with a Mom and Dad who love me as well as two intelligent and witty sisters. I wouldn't ask for anyone else. I always love the times when I get to tell investigators about my family or show pictures. They always comment that we all look so happy. I know why. It's because we all know how much we love each other. I can't believe how thoughtful and caring you are. I haven't had to worry about you at all. You know what is right and stick to it. I feel bad for giving you the scare earlier in the fall with the oncology appointments. You have all been so supportive of my every choice.
Finally, I am very grateful for the chance I have to share the Gospel. It is an amazing experience to know that if I were to make a list of priorities ranked on good, better, best I am doing the best thing possible. People hear the message of the restoration and make commitments. As they do so, their lives are changed. I have seen some pretty miraculous changes. I have filled two journals already with all of my experiences and could have written volumes more. It is 100% worth it because everything we teach is true. Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, our Savior Jesus Christ, all of it is true we cannot find happiness without it.
I love you all. I can't wait until I receive my trainee on Wednesday. I feel a little intimidated at the task, but look forward to working hard and relying on the Lord. I feel so happy. I think I just got happier by expressing all of these things. I wish I had more time to express all of the things I am grateful for, but that would take years. We are all so blessed.
Monday, November 1, 2010
This week has been one of my best since arriving in Livermore. We have learned a few lessons this week. The biggest one is that the Spirit can be felt anywhere, including a dusty couch in the drive way.
We had decided to contact an old referral we had received four weeks ago. We weren't even sure if the person actually existed. Luckily, Ivan (the referral) was home. We then proceeded to teach him the message of the restoration. It is amazing how in a thirty minute lesson someone can go from no knowledge of the church to accepting a baptismal date. I guess I already gave it away, but as we began teaching him, he felt the Spirit. He even offered the closing prayer. After his prayer we invited him to be baptized. He asked us how and what it mean to be baptized. We quietly explained to him. He then told us that he would like to be baptized. It has been a while since we had someone accept a baptismal date like that. I had forgotten what it felt like. My heart pounds and my hands get sweaty. I pray as hard as I can. It is a feeling that you can't really know until you have done it. A year ago, I couldn't imagine inviting someone to being baptized after meeting them twenty minutes before, but we did. It's amazing how effectively the Spirit can work in the hearts of people. I feel blessed to be able to witness it.
Also, as I have mentioned before, we are now living in our own apartment. It is a lot easier to study now. It used to be a sisters apartment, needless to say, it is nice. We have a fireplace that you can hang stockings on and lots of windows. It feels a lot more like a townhouse than an apartment. Sometimes I feel spoiled.
Not too spoiled, we still have bicycles, but now live within our proselyting area. This is a huge change for the better. It saves us a lot of work and makes our commute back to the apartment at night much quicker. I sometimes neglect to mention how beautiful Livermore is. My favorite are the nights when we ride home through a wine vineyard. It's a really cool experience, especially in the fall.
We are still focusing on finding, but now have someone that is taking all of the steps to progress towards baptism. It feel much more comfortable now. I know how to organize my day better now that we have someone to focus on making daily contact with.