Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Elder D MEETS MICHAEL MCLEAN!! -- 2 letters....

Hola mis amados padres y amigos!             19 Dec 2011

            This week has been pretty good.  I really cant complain about anything. My mission is still a great experience and it has helped me personally so much, but I have been able to help others as well.
            This week was just full of random things and events. I went on some exchanges with other missionaries this week, and I learned again how blessed I am to have Elder Castro as my companion. I went on exchanges with one elder who is from Nevada. He is a cowboy, he has some trouble speaking and writing.  He has a really good heart and wants to do all that he can to serve the Lord.  He is just kind of quiet, so I tried to get him to open up, but it didn't work that well. The best part about exchanges is that the craziest things happen. Almost every time we will go to a door that we haven't been able to get in for about a month or so, and we will go on exchanges and have the greatest lesson ever. For example, we to this lady who is extremely nice, but just never seems to have time for us. We knocked her door she let us in! She told us that she was about to get baptized, but wasn't able to because of a problem she has with her leg. We actually invited her to be baptized again and she accepted it! (Basically she has had a few surgeries on her ankle/leg and isn't allowed to get it wet. So that is just the main problem that is stopping her from getting baptized.)
            This week we have been inviting  a ton of people to be baptized. There has been some good responses, some bad ones, and no responses. We won't ever know if they will accept it or not unless we ask them, right?  Inviting, inviting, and inviting.
            There was a really awesome experience that I wanted to share with you all. We were teaching the Reynoso family. We have taught them about 4 or 5 times and we came back for our appointment and they didn't read the chapter that we had left them. We decided it was better for us to read it with them then to move on with the lessons. (Good choice on our part.) We read Alma 34 with them, which talks about the purpose of our earth life. As we were reading, you could just tell that they were soaking it all in. At the conclusion, we asked them what they thought of it. Angelica just kept saying, "precioso, precisoso." We asked her why she felt that way and she just said that she felt something inside her and how that she just knew that this book was something good and that it has something special for her and her family. It was a super amazing moment for us. We were able to testify and help her understand that she had felt the Spirit. It is a good start to everything. We are looking forward to meeting with them again and seeing how they progress.
            We had a pretty awesome Christmas Party with the Spanish branch here. Elder Castro helped narrate the program. We did have one person show up that we had invited.  He came to the Christmas Party and actually brought two of his sons. He had to go out of his comfort zone of his house and into unknown territory, but he did it and enjoyed it. The next step is getting him to come to church!
You Never Know WHO
You Will Meet at McDonalds!
            We had one more exchange this week. This one was with Elder Banta. As I said earlier, the craziest things seem to happen on exchanges. Number one, we went to eat at McDonald's. We figured that we needed to talk to everyone. There was a guy right behind us listening to some music. So we talked to him and he was very nice and we asked him what he was listening to, his reply is what shocked us. He said, "Myself. I just wrote a song and now I am checking it out. I am a singer, songwriter. You may have heard of me. I am Michael McLean." We just were like, "What?  Like "The Forgotten Carols" Michael McLean?" It was so strange to meet some famous brother in a McDonald's. He was on his way up to Richfield to do another show of "The Forgotten Carols". It was a pretty cool experience. SEE PICTURE  Note:  The Mom LOVES the Forgotten Carols and has been to a live performance with Michael McLean.  Wow!  I am so very jealous!  What an honor!
            Well number two is that I ate shrimp gumbo. It was pretty good. I had never thought that it would be that good, or something that I enjoyed, but it was good. At dinner there was the smartest 4 year old I have ever met. This kid probably knows more about the Book of Mormon then I do. He knows almost all the stories in there. You can basically ask him who anyone is and he will tell you their story and what they did. He knows that there are two Moroni's, two Alma's, and who the Brother of Jared is. I was completely blown away. That truly is the next generation of missionaries right there. They are being more and more prepared than ever before.
            NEWS FROM HOME: (This past week, Chad's Uncle Rick was found dead in his apartment in Portland.  Tonja's brother was a great companion to us all when we lived in Corvallis.  He was always great fun!) Well I am really sorry to hear about Uncle Rick. It is tough to hear, but I am glad that you told me. It is pretty tragic the way it happened. Please let Grandpa Swoboda to keep his head up and to not beat himself up. It isn't his fault, and he was able to help him a lot and be a good example. I still remember the trip that we took from Eugene up to Tacoma with him and Dad. That is something that I will never forget. Just Uncle Rick's comments about always having to stop so I could use the bathroom. It still makes me laugh to this day. J  
            I am glad that things seem to be working out for both of you, Mom and Pops. You both deserve it, and that is something that comes from keeping faith and doing what you should. Blessings come through those things. Keep plugging along and all will work out. Well Mom, I still haven't got my packages or my suits. They should come in this week.  I am grateful that you were able to put them together for me and are constantly thinking of me. We are blessed to have this season right now. Christmas is fast approaching and my prayer is that we all can remember the true reason for the season, which is our Savior, Jesus Christ. We know that because of His example and sacrifice for us, that we can live again. We celebrate that He was born and that He lived a perfect life. Let us all trying to press forward becoming more like Him each and everyday!

Live it, Love it, Preach it!  Feliz Navidad a todos!

les amo!    ELDER D
LETTER TWO   Saludos a todos!             26 Dec 2011

This week was pretty good, even though we had to battle against everyone being out of town and all the holiday festivities. We have been blessed abundantly by the Lord with bunch of miracles and great moments.
          We have been trying out this new program called "Being Purified". It is all about becoming out best self and how we cant rid ourselves of all unworldliness. This program it gives us the promise that we will be able to have the Spirit with us constantly and to be more centered on our true purpose as a missionary. It has really been helping a lot. I feel that I have become bolder in my missionary efforts. For example, we had a lesson with one of our newer investigators and he just kept feeding us excuses. So we became super bold and told him that if he didn't want to change now, what makes him think he will ever be able to change. We talked with him that if he knew the commandments and believed in God, it means that he needs to follow completely or it would just be better for him to say that he doesn't really believe in anything. We had never really have never taught this man before and yet we were telling him his faults and he had a sincere desire to change afterwards.
          We had this investigator just go off and started saying how much the church was racist.  It really hit me hard. I felt so bad that she thought that way. I looked back in my own life and I was wondering if someone could think that about me. I have gained such a strong love for the Latino people that I could never say anything in a manner that could be considered racist. I may not be serving in South America or Mexico, but I still have gained a strong love for the people that I am serving. I know they truly are sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven and that they need this message just as much as anyone else. I have come to love their food, their language, their whole culture! I don't know how anyone could not love these people.
          I said last week on how exchanges bring about crazy experiences; well the case holds true this week as well. We went on exchanges with the Assistants and I had a pretty awesome experience. With one investigator, we were reading part of Mosiah 2, and he had his own epiphany. It talked about keeping the commandments and then we will prosper. He thought that is what makes the difference between temporal and true happiness. They both are amazing feelings, but only one brings true happiness. True happiness is only found when we follow the plan that our Heavenly Father has outlined for us. He has given us the promise that if we follow that plan and do all that we can, He will give us the greatest gift which he has; Eternal Life!. It was pretty cool to see an investigator have this change within himself, it helps me realize that I am doing what I need to and teaching with the Spirit that they can learn and grow for themselves.
          The biggest miracle of the week comes from an investigator named Pedro. He just wanted to listen to us, but never really had a desire to change. He then showed up at the Christmas party at the Spanish Branch. We stopped later to see him and we just had a short amount of time, but it was an amazing few moments. I asked him if he read the chapter that we had left him, he said that he did and that he understood it all. I then asked if he had prayed about what he had read. Once again he replied he had and that he had received an answer. So I then asked him what that answer was. He then quickly told me, "That it's true. What I read in the book is true." I was so shocked by his answer. We explained how if he knew the Book of Mormon is true, then he knows Joseph Smith is a prophet and that through him God restored His church to the earth. He said that he believed all of that as well. I was so overcome with joy and excitement that I almost jumped out of my chair. We then committed him to be baptized on the 28th of January and he accepted! It was such an amazing experience and it let me know, once again, that we really aren't alone in this work. This is the Lord's work and that we are only working in the vineyard for Him. I am grateful to be on the Lord's side.
          I am happy to say that this Christmas was truly a WHITE CHRISTMAS! It was not only white because of the patches of snow on the ground, but because we were able to have a baptism on Christmas Eve. It was for a Native American boy named Wakan. (Pronounced WAH-keen.)  It was an awesome experience not only to have a baptism at that time, but that I was the one to baptize him.  Christmas was a way different feeling this year. It was mostly because of the separation from all of the commercialism that accompanies the Christmas season. I could concentrate on the true reason for Christmas and that is our Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that all of you had a great Christmas season and you enjoyed it, because I know that I did. I wish you all the best and a Happy New Year!

Live it, Love it, Preach it!   feliz ano nuevo!   ELDER D

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy CHRISTmas to one and all!

Good Afternoon to all!     12 Dec 2011
"D" for Elder DAVIS
          My email is coming a little bit later then usual, but that is because we had to take a trip down to St. George. It was a good trip, we went to the temple and some stores down there that we don’t have here in Cedar. This week was pretty good. There is a lot of positive things happening and a lot of really good experiences. I think that every week has experiences and you are probably tired of me starting out my letters like that, but there are just experiences every week that just blow me away.
One big change was that it was super, super cold this week. It got down all the way to -6 one night. So we were having a big battle to layer ourselves up as much as possible. The cold has kind of gone away this weekend, but snow and cold are in the forecast for this upcoming week.
We went to St. George last Wednesday for our monthly zone leader meeting with President. It was really good. There is always so much to be learned from those meetings. The purpose is to try and discover ways to help the mission grow, but I always find that I learn more how to better myself then how to help the zone or the mission. It is just the ability to learn from meetings in all different types.
This week we have seen an increase in the spirituality of our lessons. We have been able to constantly feel that guidance and direction at all times through the day. The Spirit is such a vital part to missionary work, but without it, it doesn’t do much good. We had this really awesome lesson with Cris. It was probably one of the best lessons I have had on my mission. Cris has really been worried about how his wife will take him being baptized and all of that, so we started to teach his wife and do all that we needed to in that aspect. We had a super strong lesson on being an example and how that can help change the lives of others. We gave the story of Alma the older, who was the only one that actually listened to Abinadi's teachings and he eventually ran away and started to preach himself. He then had a son who also converted to the gospel (with a little extra help), and in turn Alma the younger had sons as well that were all in the gospel. The craziest part is that because of the choice of one man, thousands of people were converted to the gospel. The cool thing was that everyone in the room (Elder Castro, Brother Barnhart, and I) were all directly effected by someone converting to the gospel. In the case of Brother Barnhart, he was the one that converted himself. But in the case of Elder Castro and I, we are both sons of converts. It was just a really testimony of how much good can come from a change and the example given. We talked with Cris saying how he could be that example to his wife and family. He could be the "Alma" of his family. Another big thing we pointed out was that he could receive the Priesthood and eventually baptize his wife if she didn’t get baptized with him. So we are really excited, because he said that he was going to get baptized on either the 24th or the 31st.

That is One BIG TORTILLA! 
Another good lesson we had was with a guy named Jose Luis. We have never really had a sit down lesson with him. We just talk to him at the door, or when he invites us in there is always so much going on that it is hard to have a lesson. Last night we went by and there was no one there except for him and his kid.  The difference was that we were able to create an environment where the Spirit could come and bear witness. If we weren’t able to turn off the TV and have a nice quiet environment, it probably never would have happened. It is just so important that the Spirit is there to bear witness to the investigators, or nothing will happen.
We have seen a ton of good things come this week and that is because of the Lord. He is the greatest paymaster in the world! Our job is to just thrust in our sickle and do what we are supposed to and then the Lord will be there to bless us. I have learned that time and time again on my mission. When I am worried about what the outcome is or what good I am doing, I am usually tested or tried, but if I just forget myself and go to work, the Lord is there to pick me up when I can’t stand. He is there to bless us with a great lesson, a good contact, a solid new investigator, etc. Whatever it is, He is always there. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, the Lord just says to do our part and He will be there for us.
NEWS FROM HOME: Well Mom, I am very proud of you for your positivity at this time of the year. You have really grasped what the season is really about. It is about our Savior Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us. If we did not have Him, we would have nothing! He provided the way and He atoned for our sins that we may be made clean. So always remember that is the true reason for the season. It isn’t the presents or the commercial aspect of Christmas, but it is CHRIST. Christ the main part of the word CHRISTmas, so we always need to remember that.(The Mom told Chad that even though there wasn't going to be a lot of money available this Christmas, she was still looking forward to the season and focusing on what the Savior has done for us.)
(Because of donations from Tonja's family, Chad was sent money enough to buy a new suit for Christmas. Tonja sent them letters explaining that since Chad's dad was not working, we didn't have anything extra.  They family stepped up and provided enough for Chad to have a new suit for Christmas!) Know that I did buy my suits today. I don’t have them yet, because they are hemming the pants. But the guy cut me a deal, so I actually bought two for the price of one. So I hope that doesn’t upset you, but it was a deal that was too good to pass up. (I asked for a picture of Elder Chad in his new suit...) I will send pictures as soon as I get the suits!
Well I love you all and am grateful that you are part of my life! Have a great week and remember that Christ is the reason for the season!

Live it, Love it, Preach it!   de tu hijo amado!     ELDER D

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December is upon us! Blessed Season!

Buenas tardes!     Dec 5 2011
How do you say BURRRRRR in Spanish?
This week was a good one as well. I am pretty sure that most of my emails start out like that, but it really is true. We did have some trials this week, but we learned and grew and worked through them. The weather basically changed over night. On Tuesday it was around 50 and sunny and nice. Then on Wednesday night, we started to get a really cold wind. We then came out of a lesson to see that it was snowing a little bit. Well that little bit of snow, then turned to a lot of snow. We woke up to about 8 inches of snow on the ground. It was a pretty interesting dealing with the drivers of Utah. You would think that they would learn to drive in the snow since they get it every year, but somehow they manage not to. The snow still kept falling off and on over the rest of the week. We still have about 10 inches of snow in most of the town, but the roads are pretty decent now.
We had a really awesome zone conference this week. It was with Elder Claudio Zivic of the Seventy. It was a pretty cool opportunity to have him and his wife come and visit our mission. He was a really good and powerful speaker, even though he had a language barrier. He is from Argentina, so he was always looking to his wife for certain words he didn’t know how to pronounce. We even got a nice little meeting with him afterwards. He is a really amazing person; he has a great sense of humor as well. We carried the Spirit with us for the rest of the night and hopefully we are still carrying it with us.
Most of last week and the first part of this week, we have been dealing with a lot of trials. We haven’t had the greatest success with people coming to church or even finding them home, but our luck turned around a little this week. We had some pretty awesome experiences. One was with this lady named Rita. We haven’t seen her for about 2 weeks, and we finally got a lesson with her. We just went into it and picked up where we left off, but she stopped us and asked us a question. She then started to talk about how she has had a lot of different religious missionaries come to her door in the last few weeks, and she wanted to know what was the difference and how she could know which one was true. So we just went right into the Restoration and bore powerful testimony to her about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. She just seemed to stare blankly, as she pondered what we said. She didn’t have to say anything for us to know that she was feeling the Spirit. We are looking forward to our return appointment, to see what happened from there. So stay tuned to see what happened with Rita.
Another pretty cool experience happened with Cris. The missionaries have been teaching Cris for quite a while. He has wanted to get baptized and he knows he should, but he wanted to wait a little not to cause family drama between him and his wife.  We actually invited his wife to join in on the lesson. (None of the other missionaries had ever thought to do that.) We started to teach Cris and Maria together, and this week we found out some concerns that Maria had, then out of nowhere Cris asks a question about modern prophets and authority. We started to answer his question, but before we really could, he answered it for himself. He bore testimony that this was the true church, because God himself had restored it to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. That the Priesthood authority of God had been restored to him and that no other church could have that authority. It was such an amazing moment for us to see that Cris is truly converted to the gospel. Then about 3 days later, he did it again! He started to bear testimony again on how he knows that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. I am just hoping that he can continue to help his wife progress and that they can be baptized together.
Two cold elders looking for someone to teach! :)
With the snow this week we had to take to the streets and knock some doors. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it does get pretty cold after you have been in it for a while. Mainly my feet get cold, but it was a good experience, it will be one that I will never forget. We did get a chance to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional yesterday. It is always good to be able to listen to the Prophet and to be able to get in the true spirit of Christmas.
NEWS FROM HOME: Well Mom, I am glad that your birthday worked out and that you were able to get some random gifts. (I went and saw Hugo with Marilyn! A tradition!)  (The Mom also met with the Bishop this week to update him on Emma's living situation and Dad's possible job!)   Well I am glad to hear that the Bishop is being supportive. I have never met the man, but he seems like a very wonderful man, and I will look forward to meeting him. It is good to hear that the missionaries came by for dinner as well. The new one is from Sandy. (Elder Boswell) That is right next to where Elder Castro (Chad's previous companion) is from, they may have even gone to the same high school. It is interesting that Southern Virginia University is still calling for me. (And offering $8,000 scholarship!) It does seem like they would help me out a lot, but it still is a long ways away. I don’t know how much I would like that aspect of it. I could even try to play for some sports team while I was there, but I still have a lot of time to think about that. I was looking into schools a little bit ago. I think I am going to try to apply to BYU-Provo again, and maybe Eastern Washington. If all else fails, I have already been accepted to BYU-Idaho so that will work out. But I still have until April to start thinking about that. Well I love you all! Thanks for the support!

Live it, Love it, Preach it!   les amo!    ELDER D