Monday, October 2, 2017

Email treinta y cinco: 19 years and counting

 April 10, 2017
Howdy folks!
Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes, emails, packages, and letters!  You helped make my first birthday away from home a good one!  A special shoutout goes to my wonderful sister
SHANNON for sending me Dominos pizza!  Another shoutout goes to my wonderful mother for sending a box full of food (very needed) and BYU gear (can never have too much of that either).

So I'll start off by telling about what we did this morning. Brother Bobby Lorimer owns a textbook and apparel store for Arkansas State University, so we stopped and got some free stuff. I walked out with $95 worth of free clothes, mostly because I nabbed a sweet $70 sweatshirt. I love free stuff! Ward members here really love to spoil the missionaries. I can't complain.

Last Monday we had a pretty crazy experience. We were in Walmart towards the end of P-day because we still hadn't gotten shopping done, when an inactive, recent convert came named B came up and talked to us and told us about how she had fallen away from the church and all the struggles she has been going through. She has gone through some pretty heavy stuff in her life.  It was pretty heart breaking to listen to. She started crying in the middle of Walmart while talking to us and said: "Every time I hit rock bottom, you guys (missionaries) just show up. I felt something telling me that I really needed to come up and talk to y'all." We told her to go back to her apartment, wait for us to put our groceries away, and we would be right over to talk to her. We had a really long discussion with her and how we can help her come back to the church and turn her life around and finally find peace again. I thought that she felt the Spirit really strong, she promised she would come to church this Sunday and we set up an appointment to see her Saturday night. To be continued later on in this email.

Tuesday I directed my first District as a District Leader. I talked about the importance of Diligence,
one of the attributes of Christ. In my instruction, I served a paragraph from an email of my buddy Elder Alex Jimenez, who is serving his mission in Argentina right now.

"I had a really simple, but really nice experience this week. We were contacting outside, and I hadn't brought my jacket, cause we left in a hurry (fool), when it started to drizzle. No biggie, we kept contacting. Then, all the sudden, it started pouring! We had nowhere to go, just contacts, and it was pouring! We had been working for hours, and there was a member who lived close, so we decided we were going to go to his house and pass the rain. As we were walking, soaked to the bones, a quiet thought came to my mind that said "Jesucristo would stay out here if he was looking for you" I stopped in my tracks, and in the middle of the pouring rain, I said "Hey, I know this is crazy, but let's just keep contacting. The Savior would do it for us". So we did. We continued contacting in the rain. The people still shut their doors in our faces, but I ended up feeling really good, because I had a chance to show Heavenly Father that I love Him. So that was a really cool experience that I had this week."

The District really liked that story, I also shared portions from President Eyring's Priesthood session address from 2010 October Conference, "Act in All Diligence." I also shared parts of be the Fourth Missionary, and one of my personal favorite quotes: "The only promised result of hard work is joy!" I truly have gained a testimony of that statement. The most miserable times of my mission have been when I was putting in my worst effort, and the best moments of my mission are when I give everything!

The super funny thing about sharing Elder Jimenez's story is a couple days later THE EXACT SAME THING happened to us! We got caught out in the rain while finding, and it was COLD, but we stayed out and kept looking, because Christ would do it for us. Then we FINALLY found a Hispanic. We were about to see the fruits of our diligence! Then she rejected us, and we were back out in the cold rain in short sleeve white shirts. And I loved it! It was so weird. I felt so happy, even though we had made literally no progress, I knew that I had gone out, and put my love for Jesus Christ over my own will, and I couldn't stop smiling!

Right after District meeting I went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders. I went with Elder Croft. Elder Croft is from Pocatello Idaho, and goes home in four weeks, but is doing very well at not be trunky. He is very enthusiastic and quite hyperactive. We had 3 hours of solid finding where we literally talked to everything that moved! People are fun. We got yelled at by the mail man because we tried to give him a card. It was a fun exchange. Teaching only Spanish has been tough, because we are always finding or contacting, because our teaching pool is smaller than our District.

Saturday, my birthday, was a good time. We all actually ended up sleeping through our alarms, and so we woke up at 7:30, late for a service project that started at 7. It was a nice birthday present to get to accidentally sleep in. We threw on jeans and zipped on over to Brother Brent Rougeau's house to help him clear his yard of leaves. Brother Rougeau probably has the thickest southern accent that I ever did hear. He is also the Ward Seminary teacher, so it's a pretty hilarious combination. He is super redneck (self-proclaimed), wears cowboy boots to church and has 5 different tractors in his back yard, and is one of the funniest people I have met on the mission. If he had a daughter my age I'd marry her just to have him as a Father in law! He knows a TON about the scriptures and we had a deep doctrine discussion after we finished the service about the importance of sealings in the temple.

After that, the rest of the day was pretty normal, we got out and did a lot of finding, talked to lots of people, got the same old excuses of being busy. Then at 6 we had dinner at Bishop R's house. At my request we had chicken alfredo, garlic bread, and Oreo ice cream cake. It was glorious. I love the Rich family, they weren't a bad replacement for birthday dinner at home.

Yesterday we had 3 solid lessons at it was fun, I'm out of time, but I love y'all!

The Church is true, the Book is blue, mom just so you know I'm wearing that BYU shirt that I got from you!

Email treinta cuatro: una nueva época

April 3, 2017 
Howdy folks!

Monday after getting back to Jonesboro and getting settled in, we went to an FHE with the R family. Last transfer, my very first day in Jonesboro, we had dinner with the R family. I had mentioned during the dinner that I went to BYU before the mission and Brother R went off about how much he hates BYU. I thought to myself: "really, I thought I left all the BYU hate behind in Utah." Afterwards, he said: "I hope you didn't take that personally." If I'm honest, I definitely took it
personally!  But I decided to get over myself and go into the FHE with an open mind. We had a good lesson, and he ended up giving us a referral.  The moral of the story is sometimes people say things that tempt you to instantly judge them, but always keep an open mind, and as that jewelry commercial says, an open heart, and love will always find it's way inside.

 We left the R family with an invitation to invite someone to watch General Conference, and then their 13 year old daughter dropped an invitation of her own on us to not say anything negative for a week. We didn't do so well on that, haha.  I'm going to keep trying though, and also (my parents will love this) I'm trying to eliminate all fake swear words such as dang it, shoot, freak, frick, fetch, and crap from my vocabulary. It's so hard dang it!

 Wednesday, we hit the pavement, and had a good long day of finding. It was pretty awesome, because we found an apartment building of almost all Hispanics.  We talked to a white guy named Scroggin (no joke), taught an awesome guy named Martrell and talked about the Book of Mormon and season three of The Flash. That night we went to Book of Mormon class and had a homeless guy walk in during the middle of the class and start eating McDonalds.

 One morning during personal study I felt inspired to read Like a Broken Vessel by Elder Holland, and I don't think I've cried that much during personal study before. Elder Holland talks about those who suffer from major depression, but I felt that talk was speaking directly to me. There have been times on the mission where I have literally felt hopeless. After reading that talk, I felt Heavenly Father's love so powerfully. This is my favorite paragraph:

  • "So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said to the Relief Society sisters so movingly last Saturday evening: “That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy,  discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.” Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon, or fully, or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead." 

If any of you feel hopeless or unloved, I invite you to read the rest of this talk. I bear witness that God loves us, even enough to let us hurt from time to time, because he knows what we can become if we turn to His perfect Son.

 On Friday we had weekly planning, and we weekly planned until FIVE PM!  It took almost all the day, but it was probably the best weekly planning session I've ever been in because we talked so in depth about our investigators and how we can help them, and also how we can improve our comp unity.  Elder Giles and I talked to each other for a while, neither of us have any problems with Elder Barron yet because he's new, haha.  Last transfer I chastised Elder Giles a lot over a lot of little things, and that caused a lot of tension.  I decided that I need to change and increase my love and humility so that I can be a better companion.

All three of us are very motivated to work our tails off this transfer. We all decided that we are going to to change the Spanish companionship to pure Spanish, not English and Spanish, so we dropped or referred all of our English speaking investigators. Ahora vamos a llegar a la calle y trabajar durísimo por el Señor.

 General Conference deserves it's own email. There's something about Saturday morning sessions that make me bawl my eyes out. What really touched me was how Elder Renlund compared sin to a disease afflicting a sheep. The Savior, our Good Shepherd does not hate us because we sin, but because He loves us so perfectly He wants to rid us of that sin so that we can be whole. 

I hope you all feel just how perfectly God loves you, because when you feel His love, you will never be the same. The Church is true, the Book is blue, never forget that your Savior loves you!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Email: treinta y trés: Day one in Memphis

March 27, 2017
This was a pretty fantastic week! It was little bit slow because we didn't have a car, but we didn't have to bike as much because some members helped us out.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting.

On Thursday we had exchanges with the Spanish Zone Leaders. Elder Spencer went down to Little Rock, and Elder Sweeten came up to Jonesboro, but he didn't get here till 6 pm. So Elder Giles and I spent most of the day together. After studies for some reason I was feeling pretty down and not very motivated as we were preparing to leave the apartment, so I talked to Elder Giles about it. He told me "let's make today fun then." So we set out on our bikes and got to work. We talked to people outside, and had a bunch of fun. We gave a bunch of little kids Book of Mormons and talked to their mom. I laughed when this little kid asked to see our "Bible", so we gave him a Book of Mormon. He opens it, and says "Oh this is a good Bible!" 

People here usually just refer to the Book of Mormon as the Mormon Bible, so we almost always have to explain that we believe in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and that one happened in Israel and the other happened in America, and so that's how they are different. 

The mom told us to come back. Afterwards, we biked to a Hispanic neighborhood and talked to a guy named R, and we will visit him this Thursday. Then we biked across town a bit to visit our investigator C S. C S is pretty cool. He has overcome drug addictions and now is trying to quit smoking. Unfortunately C S wasn't there, so we talked to this lady who lives in the same house as him named S. She told us to come to her church on Wednesday, haha. We told her maybe (most likely not, I mean I feel as missionaries we have the right to use the busy excuse), and gave her a Book of Mormon. 

When Elder Sweeten arrived we went to dinner with the M family, who is probably my favorite family in the Ward. They are from Mexico, and their oldest son B is a senior in high school and also 18. We have become pretty good friends, he is such a good kid. I wish I would have been more like him in high school. I was kinda a punk back home, but I'm grateful I've changed at least a little bit. If anyone is prepared to serve a mission, B is. He always teaches really well when he comes to teach with us. Afterwards we went and visited our investigator F. F loves the missionaries but doesn't want to come to church because of personal issues. He has fear of being judged. Elder Sweeten tried to commit him to baptism, he said he wants to take the investigation process slowly, but we are working with him still.

So Saturday morning we had a service project. We helped put in doors and baseboards in a house with the Priest Quorum. It was fun work, but a lot of people came, so sometimes we just stood around because everyone was already doing all the work. 

Saturday night we got transfer news. Elder Spencer will heading to Memphis South, and I will be staying here in Jonesboro with Elder Giles! Elder Barron will be joining us from Memphis East!

I got a call last night that I will be the District Leader, I didn't exactly feel ready to be in a leadership position, but I'm humbled and grateful to serve in my calling. I hope I can be an example and serve with charity. It's pretty funny because Elder Barron and I communicated a bunch through Instagram and text up until he left a transfer before me, and now I'm serving with him! Pretty cool stuff.

I have learned a lot about the plan of salvation and and the importances of "opposition in all things" as it says in 2 Nephi 2:11. During personal study, I wrote out each Christ-like attribute with a "I cannot...if I never..." statement. For example, I wrote: "I cannot increase my faith if I never have doubt" "I cannot increase my love if it is never difficult to be loving" "I cannot be diligent if I never feel the urge to be slothful" "I cannot be wise if I never have the urge to do something stupid!". It really opened my eyes and changed my attitude about my trials on the mission. I want to have the courage to embrace the refiners fire with gratitude and submission, knowing that the Lord is helping me become who I am meant to be.

That's all I got for now. 

The Church is true, the Book is blue, excited to baptize with the Jonesboro crew!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Email: treinta y dos

March 20, 2017
Howdy folks!

I don't really remember anything up to Wednesday, so we will start there! Wednesday we drove down to North Little Rock for Spanish Zone Conference, for all the Spanish missionaries on the Arkansas side of the mission. It was really fun to see Elder Sotomarino and Elder Toomer again. The Zone Leaders talked about the importance of using the Book of Mormon in finding, and also how to improve language studies.

We headed back to Jonesboro afterwards because we had an important lesson with Lucia that night. When we got to her house no one answered, so we called her and she said she was still working. That was kinda frustrating, because we had Zone Conference the next morning, and we could have just stayed the night in North Little Rock. So we headed back to the house to do training for Elder Giles, and called it a night because we had zero others plans for that day.

Thursday morning we got up at 5:30 for the second straight day, and got a ride from Calvin Rawlins to North Little Rock. Calvin got home from his mission in Virginia about 7 weeks ago. He is a champ. He was an AP there, and you can tell. When he drove us, he wore a suit, brought his scriptures and Preach My Gospel, and sat through all of Zone Conference with us. He loved it! He's such a great guy and you can really tell that he was an incredible missionary. He misses the mission like crazy. Erinn, you have my full permission to date this guy. In fact, I'm going to try to make this happen.

Zone Conference was incredible. President Wakolo, something about that man just makes me emotional, I think I've cried every time he's spoken. I have a deep love for that man, and I have felt his love so powerfully. He has helped me get through so much.

During Zone Conference, two marriage counselors from LDS family services came and talked about comp unity. They were super funny, and I learned a ton of things that will help me with my companions, and definitely with my future marriage! So because of the mission I just might avoid being in the doghouse a couple times  😂

After Zone Conference Elder York had an exchange with the AP's, and so Elder Taleni headed back to Jonesboro with us. Elder Taleni is the man. He is from Samoa, and has a full ride scholarship to play football at BYU. He actually has never played football before in his life, but he was a star rugby player, and BYU scouts saw some potential. Thursday night I got to see some of that potential. We had basketball night at the church, and usually about 20 black kids show up, and most of them are pretty good, as you can imagine. Elder Taleni told me beforehand that he wasn't very good and had never played before the mission. Elder Taleni is very modest. He was by far the best athlete in that gym. He can shoot, dribble, and dunk like Lebron. Every black kid went nuts as they watched all 240 pounds of muscle get up and throw it down. He balled everyone up. He told me afterwards a couple kids in Memphis taught him how to play basketball at the start of his mission. He also told me that in high school he jumped 6'6" for high jump. At 240 pounds. That's just not fair. I feel like BYU Football will be in good hands.

Yesterday between church meetings, eating, and studies, we weren't able to get out working until 5, and our car only had 3 miles left on it because we forgot to fill it up Saturday night, so we were on bikes. We rode clear to the other side of town for 45 minutes to visit a less active who wasn't home, so we biked to a nearby potential investigator named Rosi. She wasn't there, but her husband, Isaac, was, so we taught him a quick lesson outside because we caught him just as he pulled in. He was very nice and seemed happy to see us. They met with missionaries before a couple years ago, so we are very excited to see them again!

As we were heading back we saw a giant dead gopher in the road, so we decided to stop and take pictures, as we were doing this, three kids also riding bikes came up to us and started talking to us. We talked to them for a little bit and asked them if they knew any Hispanics that lived close by. The youngest one then told us to follow them and he would show us where all the Mexicans lived, so we went and they showed us a couple houses. The youngest kid, Jackson, asked me if I played basketball, and I said yes. He asked me if I was good, and I said: "I dunno let's play." This kid is around 10 years old and he starts talking some mad smack. So I played him one on one, no mercy. I guess you could say it was a lesson on humility😉 We played ball with the kids for a little bit, gave them pass along cards. We then went and tried a less active, and by that time we had to head back home.

This morning we went to a giant park called Craighead Park, or something like that. It has a lake, some sand volleyball, and a cool jogging path. I realized how much I miss swimming. Every time I'm around a lake I just want to jump in. I think when I get home I deserve a nice trip to Bear Lake. Well that about wraps it up!
The Church is true, the Book is blue, and so is Bear Lake too

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Email treinta y uno: el poder para cambiar

March 13, 2017
Hey y'all:)  We had ourselves a good week.

Momma Smalls emailed me with some questions and I will attempt to answer them now: How is Jonesboro different than Russellville? The landscape is super flat here, whereas Russellville is up more in the Ozark "mountains". Jonesboro is closer to the Mississippi River, so it's mostly flat delta plain. There are some hills in the super rich neighborhoods. There are definitely a lot fewer Hispanics, or else they are hiding somewhere haha. There's a lot more black people, and a lot more "ghetto", but from what I've heard it's nothing compared to Memphis. We have a few investigators or people that we sometimes go see that are Hispanic, but sometimes I seriously forget that I'm a Spanish Missionary because we are speaking English ALL THE TIME. We forget to speak to each other in Spanish just because we are so used to English. I can already feel my fluency going down a bit.

But I've started learning Portuguese! There's a family named the Mitchell's in the Ward. Brother Mitchell served in Brazil and married one of his recent converts after the mission, and Sister Mitchell's family is visiting from Brazil so we have starting teaching them. Portuguese is so weird! At least Spanish makes sense, all the vowels and sounds are similar and the alphabet is almost exactly the same, but Portuguese is just wack! It sounds like someone speaking Spanish and changing random syllables to different sounds. 

So far I can say, “thank you very much”, “our Heavenly Father”, and “I drink milk”! I mostly just speak Spanish to the family and they understand, and I can understand most of what they say in Portuguese...sometimes. Brother Mitchell translates what we don't pick up. 

District meeting got pushed back to Thursday, we broke down a little further the instruction from Zone Conference of not sounding repetitive during street contacting. We are focusing more on street contacts now. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but knocking doors hasn't really been effective and it's starting to get old, so as it gets warmer outside, we are talking to more and more people. Elder York told me that when you knock someone's door, they have home court advantage, when they show up to church or a members house, you have home court advantage, and when you talk to someone on the street it's neutral. 

Thursday we went to Arkansas State University to help a member who is a college professor move some shelves. We had just come from another service project, so we were dressed in normal clothes, and fit in pretty well. We even looked like we were carrying books because of our scriptures. We ran into a member and even one of our investigators walking by. Not gonna lie, it felt super weird being back on a college campus, dressed like a college student. Elder Spencer was like: "Hey this will be me in 3 months." Brother Rougeau is a chemistry professor, so before we moved the shelves, he used water, soap, and natural gas to light our arms on fire! It was pretty cool haha. 

Saturday was an amazing day. At five o'clock President told us to go back home because we got hit
by a blizzard! I hadn't seen snow fall in over a year! I nearly teared up. It was beautiful. We got to go and bundle up in a warm house and watch the snow fall, catch up on studies and drink hot chocolate. That night we went out and played in nearly 5 inches of snow. All 5 of us built a HUGE snowman that was probably 8 and a half feet tall, and but a huge garden bucket on his head for a hat. I wish I had picks but it was pretty dark outside :/ then we had a snowball fight that was seriously so fun. Some of our neighbors came outside to see five 18-20 year olds running around laughing their heads off while pelting each other with snowballs. Weird Mormons. I think I really needed that day as a break from the ordinary. I had kinda fallen into the daily routine, so it was so nice to just have fun and relax and be a kid again. 

Yesterday was an awesome day, Church got pushed back to 1pm because of the snow, so we actually had time to do studies. I really tried to focus on the Sacrament. When I took the bread and water, I felt the Spirit so powerfully for the first time. I have a little self-inventory on where I personally was with my relationship with Jesus Christ, and what I still lacked. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of His perfect example, and how I had fallen short. I promised I would be better, and become more like Him. 

I know that the power of the Atonement is real. I know that true repentance brings happiness, joy, and peace. I know Jesus Christ has truly paid the price for my sins and short comings, and if I let Him, he will ALWAYS make all the difference. I'm so grateful that He did that for me, and for all of God's children. The Church is true, the Book is Blue, our Savior paid it all for me and for you :)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Email treinta: the will to work

March 6, 2017
Hey everyone! 
I had myself a pretty fantastic week. 

Tuesday was probably the highlight of the week. All day we had been working hard, finding, talking to people, trying to visit other people. Someone told us that in the forecast there was a tornado watch
some local wisdom
from 5-7 that night. I was so pumped to see one. We didn't get a tornado, but we did get a pretty bad lightning storm. When it started to get real ugly at about 7:30, we wondered if we should call it a night, so we prayed about it. I felt a strong spiritual prompting that we needed to go, and we had to go right then. There was someone out there who was ready and needed the message of the Restoration. I just had no idea who or where. Then Elder Giles felt strongly we should go to Race Street. We knocked doors for a little bit, but then rain got so bad we just left our iPads in the car. At around 8 o'clock, it stopped raining and started pouring straight water from the sky. I'm pretty sure we violated the white handbook because it felt more like swimming than walking through rain. But we kept going. 

We decided to knock on the door of a referral named R. He opened the door and almost laughed at how miserable and wet we must have looked, and immediately told us to come in. We taught him the Restoration, and I don't think I've taught the Restoration that clearly and simply before. Elder Spencer and I dominated the lesson though, poor Elder Giles was kinda lost with the Spanish. It felt like Elder Spencer and I were reading each other’s minds, we were that in sync. We built perfectly off of each other, and asked good questions to make sure he understood. He seemed to absorb everything really well, and it ended up being a great lesson. He commented: "I need to read your book so I can know if this is true!" He didn't commit to a date but he does want to learn more. At the end of the lesson I told him: "Muchísimas gracias por darnos un refugio de la tempestad. Siento muy fuertemente la presencia del Espíritu Santo." And he answered: "Si a mi igual." We walked outside and the weather was perfectly calm, no rain, no wind. 

We had lunch at this little BBQ shack owned by
a member in a 
tiny town called Harrisburg
I think God was just testing our willpower ;) That next morning at 2 am, the storm was back and even worse. I woke up to super loud thunder and crazy wind and rain. The lightning was like flash photography at a red carpet premiere. We heard a small tornado touched down in southern Arkansas or something like that. 

Thursday we had Zone Conference and we have a "March Madness finding challenge". Since there are four Zone Leaders now there are two sides to each Zone, so we are having a competition between each side to see who can find the most new investigators in March. We talked about work ethic, talking with everyone, and also the Sacrament. All three were things I needed to hear and direct revelation to questions I had. 

All my life I've never taken the Sacrament as seriously as I should. I've always robotically taken the bread and water and passed it along without a second thought. Now I really want to use each opportunity to take the Sacrament for all that its worth. I don't want to just take bread and water, I want to take His name upon me. I want to always remember Him, and keep His commandments, so that I can always have His Spirit to be with me. I want to make and keep a covenant each week to be a little bit more like Him. 

That's what I call a "hoopdee"!
On Friday Elder Giles and I went on exchanges with Elder York. Elder York is a great missionary. He loves talking to people, but especially black people. He has an obsession with black people. In his own words: "I just love chilling in the hood." I have to say, I'm catching the wave too. I love black people. Most of them are hilarious and super nice and easy to talk to, not mention willing to listen to our message. We really focused on literally talking to everyone we see. It was awesome, Elder Giles chased a car with a pass along card for about a half mile. We had a good time and a ton of laughs. 

more local wisdom:"I still miss my ex
but my aim is improving"
I'm building my courage to talk with everyone, and it's going great. I'm even slowly conquering my post-traumatic stress related to talking to people in grocery stores. 

The Church is true, the Book is blue, I'm going to talk to everyone, no matter who. 
Love y'all

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Email veintinueve: la semana de mis sueños

February 27, 2017 
This week was full of being tired. You'd think after 6 months I'd get used to this getting up at 6:30 thing, but it's gotten harder. When I hear the alarm, muscle memory automatically has me up on my feet the second that thing goes off, then about ten seconds later it feels like the bed suddenly turns into a giant Elder Smalley magnet. Just about every atom in my body begs to jump back in those covers. Then two words automatically go off in my mind: "exact obedience." So I run downstairs, chug some ice water, chew some gum, and start doing push-ups. Works pretty well.

This week was slow. Not slow time wise, but slow work wise. We lost our car, and Elder Giles doesn't have a bike, so we did things the old fashioned way. We would walk 45 minutes to an appointment just to have it fall through.

Tuesday we had District Meeting, and it was just our trio and the Sisters, because the other Jonesboro Elders are Zone Leaders, so they were up in Paragould Arkansas for the day. The mission organization has changed a lot, each Zone has 4 Zone Leaders instead of 2. In District Meeting we talked about finding new investigators. 

We taught a family from Mexico
with the cutest little puppy
Lately we have just been knocking on doors to find, which is good but not the most effective way to further the work. I heard a statistic that one out of every thousand doors knocked results in a baptism. So our focus going forward is to talk with everyone we see outside, and to work through the members. Talking with everyone as a concept has been difficult for me. Does everyone mean everyone? Wait...please don't tell me everyone includes this guy...yeah not feeling it today sorry... I really need to work on my courage.

The English Elders names are Elder York and Elder Stiles-Culver. They are good missionaries. Elder York is from Boulder Colorado and is way good at basketball. He's about 6'4" and Elder Stiles Culver is 6'4". So the four of us are all about 6'3"/6'4", and then there's Elder Spencer at 5'6". I find that pretty funny.

Now Brothers and Sisters, let me introduce you to Brother Freddie Green, the only black member of the Jonesboro Ward. Freddie Green is one of the greatest people I have ever met. In his words he's "just a black Mormon boy trying to do right" or "the black sheep of the Jonesboro Ward". Freddie has a stutter worse than his old clunker Buick that he calls "the hoopdee", but more importantly he has a heart of gold. He loves the missionaries. He got baptized back in the
A quote that kept me going through the week,
so I decided to make it a screen saver.
80s in Memphis. He's retired here in Jonesboro, with nothing to do but "hang with the missionaries." He saved our lives last week with rides, and he tells us all the time: "I'm only a call away, so holler at me if y'all need me." I love this man. I've started writing down Freddie Green quotes, and my favorite one so far is "No duh Sherlock Homie!"

 A cool experience this week, was when we taught a lady from Peru. She told us "I'm looking for a church that teaches the truth." What a blessing to find an elect that lives right on our street! This week was a good week to really start figuring out who I am and what I want to be. I studied President Uchtdorf's Pride and the Priesthood, and it really helped me identify a lot of pride in myself that has been there for years that I had never noticed. I really want to humble myself and learn how to change through the power of Atonement.

I'm so grateful for Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. I feel every day I learn something new and profound about His infinite love. I know He is my Savior and that He lives. The Church is true, the Book is blue, His love is infinite, even when weekly numbers are few!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Email veintiocho: Hello Jonesboro

February 20, 2017
Hey y'all :)
Week one in Jonesboro has been good. Here are some of the things I have learned about my companions:

Elder Giles, our greenie, is quite the character. Like me he is tall skinny and blonde. He reminds me a lot of Andrew McMullin, now Elder McMullin. He has a dorky sense of humor that is pretty hilarious. He loves playing with lady bugs, eating tootie fruities with chocolate milk, and yelling. I feel that sums him up pretty well. Elder Spencer is the calming force in our companionship. He is a little guy, only 5'6", a little quieter and always super calm. He hardly ever yells, and when he talks he has a soft tone to his voice. He and Elder Giles are pretty much polar opposites, but they get along super well.

the new trio
Tuesday we went to go see our top investigator X, who is 14 years old and lives with her Grandpa, Y. Y had been inactive in the Church for over 50 years until Elder Anaya and Elder Sweeten had gone and visited him two transfers ago. He now attends church every week again and brings X and her little brother Jacob. X was sick and so we didn't get to see her Tuesday, and so we visited with Y. He told us about how he has restarted reading the Old Testament from the beginning and hopes to finish it in the next year, he sure loves his scriptures! He told us about the "cotton pickin' Blackbirds" that poop all over his pickup truck. Here's a direct quote from the conversation: "once the weather gets a lil less nasty, every one of em cotton pickin' Blackbirds 'll be dead when I get out there with my b-b gun." Gotta love the South, and old people.

Tuesday night we played soccer at the Church with Brother Gutierrez and his nonmember friends. It was 3 on 3 on the basketball court, and it was super fun. I hadn't played soccer in forever and at first I was pretty awful, but towards the end I was re living the glory days of coed rec soccer. I even scored the game winning goal for the last game against some Mexicans, so I think that's not too shabby.

Wednesday we went and saw our top Hispanic investigator Z. He loves everything about the church and the Gospel but doesn't want to come to church because he was falsely accused of a crime about a year ago and is afraid people will judge him. It was really nice to speak Spanish again, up until then we hadn't been able to talk to many Hispanics.

Wednesday night we went to the church for the Book of Mormon class. A lot of people came and it went really well. I also got to meet a lot of the youth who were there for mutual. The Jonesboro Ward is very strong, the people have a lot of faith, and love the missionaries.

Thursday we went and saw X, she was still sick, but was able to meet with us. She is very smart, and always has homework because she is taking all pre AP courses. She had a baptismal date this last Saturday but we all agreed she is not ready. We taught her about the Holy Ghost, and what the Holy Ghost does for us. We asked her if she had ever had a good feeling while meeting with us, and she wasn't sure. So we just invited her to pray, and ask Heavenly Father if he is there and pay attention to how she felt. After the lesson, Y came outside and told us about the struggles X is having with her parents.

It makes me so sad that a 14 year old girl has to go through things like that. She's only 14 and she is constantly stressed because of school, and very tired, and meanwhile not feeling very loved because
she doesn't know if God is real or if he loves her and she doesn't feel loved by her parents either. It makes me realize how good of a childhood I had. I had two loving parents who always made sure I knew I was loved.

a lesson last night wtih an awesome family
Our Ward Mission Leaders name is Hermano Montoya, who is from Mexico. The Montoya family is incredible. Their son Ben is a senior in high school, and wears a future missionary tag to church and when he comes to teach with us. I wish I was more like him when I was home. Ben came with us to teach Z Friday, and he bore an amazing testimony.

A comment on living quarters: we have a house. And it is awesome. Lots of space, lots of food, comfy couches, good stuff. I feel blessed. I'll send pics next week. I've started re reading the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount blows me away! I love the Saviors New Testament teachings! To me it is a testimony that our Savior has high expectations for us, he doesn't want us to just live the minimum law, he wants us to magnify in all that we do!

That's all for this week, love y'all! The Church is true, the Book is blue, Jonesboro is awesome, and that's the truth!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Email veintisiete: Leaving the nest

February 13, 2017
On the mission there's a saying that the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. That's a pretty accurate statement. This transfer felt more like 2 weeks instead of 6.

Saying goodbye to the Barrera family
I'll go ahead and get the spoiler out of the way: I am leaving Russellville. Elder Toomer will stay behind with his new companion Elder Clark. I will be going to Jonesboro Arkansas and will serve in another trio with Elder Spencer and Elder Giles! Elder Spencer is a former Zone Leader and Elder Giles is on his second transfer, so I'll be follow up training! I've heard there aren't many Hispanics in Jonesboro so this will be interesting... But I've also heard that Jonesboro is the most coveted area in the mission, missionaries call it the Promised Land. All I know is the Lord wants me there right now, so it should work out :) 

Anyway about the week: Monday for Pday the Danville District came over to the church and we played two hand touch football in the parking lot. It was so much fun to play football again, and I absolutely love all the Elders in our District and the Danville District. 

Super spicy Serrano chile almost killed me
Monday night we had a lesson with S&T. We focused on S, and asked her what was preventing her from being baptized. She told us that she still had doubts about the Restoration, specifically the first vision and Joseph Smith. We invited her and T to watch Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration. That night S texted us and asked us to come again Thursday, we didn't even need to ask for a return appointment. We later asked what their thoughts on the movie, and they responded that they loved it, and had questions. So Thursday we stopped by and had the most amazing lesson, but before that, S and Thad a surprise for us. 

Thursday was Elder Toomer's birthday, and when we arrived, T told us to follow him into the kitchen. When we rounded the corner, T fired a confetti cannon at us. Scared me half to death. Then they brought out a cake that S had baked, stuffed with m&m's and very yummy. It was so thoughtful of them! They are so amazing! 

Good byes to familia Gallardo 
Then during the lesson S told us that after seeing the movie she felt the greatest sense of peace she had ever felt. We helped her identity that feeling. She naturally started talking about baptism and how that feeling made her want to be baptized. We asked when she would want to be baptized, and she said by the end of the month. We ended up deciding on March 4, and she said: "This date is my date, so if I'm ready I don't want to be immediately dirty afterwards. I'm getting baptized with or without T so if we aren't married we will need to stop living together." You should have seen the look on our faces, I didn't but I'm willing to bet they looked shell shocked. That was pretty dang awesome. Tuesday we had our last District meeting. That was sad. 

Saturday we met with S and T again, found a bunch of cool potential investigators, and got the transfer news. I have to admit I was pretty shocked. I really thought I was gonna stay in Russellville with Elder Toomer. I'm so grateful for this last transfer and everything that Elder Toomer taught me. He is such a good kid. I know this church is true, 

I'm out of time but I love y'all! The Church is true, the Book is blue, I'm excited to serve with The Jonesboro Crew!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Email veinticinco: a mighty change

February 6, 2017 
My beloved family and 5 faithful friends who read these things: thank you for what you do but mostly for who you are. You're awesome.

Last week I was not able to send off a weekly because I ran out of time. We got back late from hiking, and I had many little distractions. I also got very very sick Monday, immediately after getting back to the apartment, so we stayed in for the rest of the night. I still hadn't finished my email so I figured what the heck I'll finish writing it and send it a little bit after 6 no big deal. So it was 6:10, I was still writing and Elder Toomer asks me "Elder, what are you doing?" "Writing my family" (as I continue to type). He responded by asking if I knew the time, and I said yes but that my family had to hear from me. He then said ok and that he couldn't make me do the right thing. My initial reaction was to get angry, and I was tempted to say something unkind in response. But then I stopped, paused, and thought about the situation. Was I frustrated because I was the one wanting to do the right thing, or because I wasn't being obedient? I knew that I wasn't being obedient. So I chose to make the super hard decision of saving what I had to drafts. The letter was basically done but I knew if I hit the send button I couldn't feel good about myself and my commitment to the Lord. At 7:30 Mom sent me an email asking where her letter was, and not being able to respond broke my heart. I texted Sister Thompson to tell her I was sick and if she could contact my mom and let her know what happened. Sister Thompson is a champ.

Branch barbecue we had Saturday 

So now the explanation is out of the way, I'd like to take more time to talk about the visit from Elder Anderson two Saturdays ago. I will say this. I received direct revelation and answers to my questions and prayers. An invitation from Elder Beheshti, a member of the Seventy who also spoke during the conference, is to change the way we email our families. I know I have been way too casual in my emails, so I apologize to everyone. Serving a mission is an incredible opportunity to reach out to those you love and share your testimony and spiritual experiences. Elder Klebingat, a member of the Seventy, was also present and spoke. He spoke on total consecration. He was very intense, very serious and very bold. He spoke on secret combinations, we as missionaries cannot have secret agreements one to another to hide wickedness and disobedience from leaders. He also said that coming unto Christ is not a negotiation, it is TOTAL SURRENDER. You give everything up, lay everything on the altar of sacrifice, you hold nothing back. I have been studying becoming a Consecrated Missionary and so this really was directly applicable to my studies.

Elder Anderson spoke of how as missionaries, we need to have the Doctrine of Christ and the Scriptures "burn through our hearts like fire." I love that! Do our testimonies burn in our hearts like ??? This Gospel is not a side dish or an appetizer, IT SHOULD BE AT THE FRONT AND CENTER OF EVERYTHING WE DO. That's tough to do when we have so many distractions. While I'm here on the mission, I'm converting myself so that when I get home the Gospel remains my main focus. I want my dedication and love for Jesus Christ to be my everything.

Tuesday we had to stay in the apartment all day, we only left once to make it to interviews with President Wakolo. Interviews went very well. We had interviews as a companionship and Elder Toomer told President the main thing he has learned from me is how to love the people. I was surprised, because sometimes I get very frustrated with some of the people we work with haha, and I feel I definitely need to increase my love for the people.

Wednesday was rough. We were driving to go pick up the English Elders to take them to Zone Meeting in Conway. They called us and the Bluetooth is set up in the car. I looked down at the monitor just long enough to get distracted and merged into the right lane without head checking and hit another car. As we were running late. It wasn't too bad, the front of our car is pretty dinged up but it still drives. We are waiting for the insurance to repair the damages and for my fine to come through. Fun stuff. I have been studying agency lately and I chose to exercise my agency and choose to not say a few choice words, and to not scream and yell and vent verbally like my old self would. Isn't agency great?!

S & T's baptismal date fell through this Saturday, because they are still not married. T still needs to propose but he has been working like a dog lately and never has time. It really seems like the world is against them finding true happiness. S's family has started saying not nice things and really persecuting her for meeting with us. They have tried to give her and T anti church material. Salvation isn't easy, but I know S & T WILL find it. I just don't know if I'll be around to see it.

Monday while we were hiking we stopped by the river to eat lunch. I was feeling pretty sad about S & T and all the opposition they have faced and all the opposition I have faced here on the mission. Elder Larrain came over and sat by me, and started talking to me. At first I was thinking the way I usually do when I'm sulking: leave me alone and let me be depressed by myself. Then Elder Larrain quoted Elder Bednar and said something that changed my life: "Quit worrying." Two words. So simple. We worry all the time, just about anything and everything. We choose to lose our minds worrying about everything. It doesn't have to be like that. We can stop. We can trust. Quit worrying. Let it all go, do the best you can, and trust that God knows what he's doing.

I think about my time here in Russellville, almost 4 months, not a whole lot. Have these four months been for absolutely nothing? Have I simply wasted time here? I know at least one life has changed during my time here. I am a better person for being here. I love Jesus Christ more because I have been here. My life will be forever blessed because of my time here, and the lives of my future wife and children. I think about S & T, are their lives better because I met them? That's a yes. So four months have yielded at least 3 changed lives. To me that's worth it.

I know there is a God, and that he is our Heavenly Father. I know that on a very personal level. I know Jesus Christ is our Savior, that through Him we are saved, and if we follow him we will find eternal joy. I know perfectly that Joseph Smith was called of God to bring forth the Gospel in it's fullness in these Latter Days. I know The Book of Mormon is more than a book, it is the word of God, the most correct book on this earth, and abiding by its precepts has brought me closer to God and to Christ, and brought me more joy and understanding than any other book. I know the Bible is also the word of God, and that the Book of Mormon increases my appreciation for the Holy Bible and what it teaches. I will never doubt that, I will never question it.

The Church is true, the Book is blue, and I feel like I just started my mission anew.

Email veinticuatro: the week of consecration

January 30, 2017  
(This is my email from last week that I wasn't able to finish before 6 pm!)
Howdy y'all ;)  This was a very demanding, but very good week.

On Monday Elder Toomer bought a brand new mountain bike, so we decided to go test it out. We found an old ATV trail by our apartment. I was very quickly reminded of how bad I am at mountain biking. At 6 foot 3 I felt like a praying mantis trying to ride a tricycle. I made it out alive though.
Tuesday we started BIKE WEEK. The day started off well, the weather was absolutely perfect, low 70s, nice breeze, lots of people outside to talk to. A comment on Arkansas weather: many people in Utah complain that the weather is bipolar. Arkansas is sooooooo much worse. One day is in the 30s, the next in the 70s, then there's a torrential downpour the next. Stop complaining people of Utah. Anyway Tuesday we found a couple different Hispanics outside to talk to that told us to come back (just about 98% of the people we talk to tell us to come back "un otro día" which I thought meant another day in Spanish but apparently to the Hispanics here it means “never” (hope you caught the hint of sarcasm there).

At the end of Tuesday we were close by our apartments
because we had a couple of appointments. Everything fell through. We tried a few other Hispanic doors close by, still nothing. 8 o'clock came and we had no clue what to do. So we prayed. We decided to try some apartments down the hill from our apartment. We knocked every door, and got rejected by everyone. It was still 8:15, so we tried a couple other houses, we could hear people inside, but no one answered. So we decided to try this Honduran lady that lives across the street from our apartment. If you want to now what this lady is like, she is a Baptist black lady who speaks Spanish. Her accent is soooooo funny. There are a lot of people with African descent from Honduras. Her 10 chihuahuas went nuts, we woke her up, and she came out looking not very happy. She told us to come back un otro día. We tried some other people, then ended up trying our next door neighbor just for kicks because we were completely out of ideas.
We were super frustrated and ended up going inside the apartment at 8:45 because we had prayed and couldn't think of anything else.

Then we had to confront my worst enemy: nightly planning I prayed for an answer to how we could
improve planning. This story has a happy ending: on Wednesday we as a zone drove down to North Little Rock. And the church leadership council changed the missionary schedule. From now on, we will be doing daily planning in the morning. I wept tears of joy. This was a momentous moment. Prayers are answered.

Saturday we had a devotional with Elder Neal L. Anderson and it changed my mission but I don't have time to write about it. Sunday I decided to fast all day, and break my fast at 9 o'clock. I have never gone that long without food before. I'm amazed that some people suffer going days without food, my heart truly goes out to the hungry and needy. When I broke my fast a ravenous hunger overtook me. I raided the pantry. I ate things I didn't know we had, or how long they had been there. Well I must have done something wrong, because I'm sick today.

Anyways I'm out of time but I love y'all.

Email veintitrés: Sweet is the work

January 23, 2017 
Howdy folks! Let's start off with weekly shout-outs! Shout out BEN VANCE (Vance refrigeration™) for getting his mission call to TAIWAN! What a champ! (Soon to be Elder Vance is the one who got me saying 'champ' all the time). Shout out to my bestie Elder Stalling for baptizing last week!  And by the way, he was best man at his investigators wedding, getting in some practice for when he's best man at MY wedding. Shout-out to my wonderful amazing beautiful mother for being awesome and toughing out a fractured spine! #mymomistougherthanme. Shout-out to my big Sister Jenn for turning 29 for the third time! What a champ! Shout-out to ABIGAIL for writing me two weeks in a row! She is the cutest! Thanks for reminding me to work out!  

Speaking of which, I forgot to mention this but we actually have weights at our apartment! We have a bench press and barbells and dumbbells and all that good stuff! I've actually put on 15 pounds of muscle since I arrived in the field! My goal is to put on 15 more in the next 6 months! I'm right around 175 right now, still super skinny, but I'm getting there, I'll have that Chris Evans body in no time! When I left on the mission I looked like Steve Rogers, I'm hoping by the time I get home I'll look more like Captain America.  

Elder Toomer by the way, is BUFF. He played football in high school, probably could've played college but he ruined his knees. He is super strong. Every morning when we lift he puts me to shame. It's funny because he always talks about how he wishes he was tall like me. This week!

Tuesday we had Zone Conference. Funny Story. I assumed it would be in Conway, just like it always has, but our District Leader Elder Janes thought it was at the mission office Stake Center in North Little Rock. Conway is about halfway between North Little Rock and Russellville. We passed Conway and I thought to myself: "...huh...guess it's not in Conway" without saying a word to anyone else. We got to the mission office...uh was in Conway. We walked into Zone Conference, our entire District, 30 minutes late, with the eyes of President and Sister Wakolo, the APs, the English Zone Leaders, the Spanish Zone Leaders, and everyone else on us. I learned I should probably speak up next time something like that happens. Oops.

After Zone Conference ended, we had exchanges with the Spanish Zone Leaders. Elder Toomer went with Elder Jorgensen in Little Rock, and I got Elder Sweeten! Elder Sweeten is incredible. If you've ever read be the fourth missionary, Elder Sweeten is the fourth missionary. He served in English for about a year and a half, and he switched to Spanish just a couple transfers ago, so his Spanish is pretty rough, haha. But it doesn't even matter. I watched him talk to Hispanics and say super silly stuff, that hardly made any sense, things I felt tempted to laugh at, and what he said made that person feel the Spirit. That's the difference between him and me. He is more powerful with his broken Spanish because he truly understands how the Spirit works. That's truly what the gift of tongues is. He also really helped me with planning, that was my weakness. 

Tuesday night I took Elder Sweeten to go see S&T. Such a powerful lesson! We finally figured out why they were so scared about baptism. They basically thought they had to be perfect after baptism and never make big mistakes again. So we taught what really is the purpose of baptism, and how repentance works. Elder Sweeten really knows his Book of Mormon. We committed them to be baptized February 4, which is super soon and they still need to get married. T was going to propose this last Saturday but he wanted to do it in the Church but the English Ward had an activity going on.
Pray for them.

Elder Toomer and I in total set 4 baptismal dates. The others were L and J. L&Ir are the couple we found who let us in on the spot and fed us. Ir didn't want to accept a date but she said she would be baptized. J is our age and graduated last year too. He is super open and very prepared.
Sunday S&T came to church! This week was a super good week numbers wise, we taught about 15 lessons in total and set a new record for member present lessons: 3! It's not much but we are going upward!

There have been a couple times this week where I've just smiled to myself and been grateful to been here, grateful to be experiencing all of this. I know this truly is precious time and I can feel my attitude changing little by little. I know this mission is the greatest thing that could ever happen to me.

The Church is true, Book is blue, sweet is the work, and there's a lot of it to do! 
Love y'all!

Email veintidós: dulce es la obra

January 16, 2017 
Howdy folks! I always feel like I should put an introduction sentence or two here, but lately it's been getting difficult so I'll just talk about each day.

Monday: we had a lesson with a member who has not come to church in over two months. He’s been having some doubts about the Book of Mormon so we have been trying to help him. We will teach him again tonight.

Tuesday: we had a lesson with S&T. They are back together together again. S told us some stuff about her past life that we probably shouldn't know, but also helped us understand why everything has been so difficult for her. We talked to T about the ring after the lesson, and his face lit up! He said he wanted to propose to her the next day! We told him to think about it and pray about it.

Wednesday: don't remember. Thursday: don't remember. Friday: we had weekly planning.

Sunday: we went out teaching with Hermano B. We taught a couple from Guerrero Mexico, most people here are from there or El Salvador, and they speak so fast holy cow! And they yell at that same time, it was everything I could muster to follow the conversation, at times Elder Toomer and I looked at each other and laughed because we literally understood nothing. I miss Elder Sotomarino's perfect Peruvian Spanish. I think we've gotten on Hermano B's good side! We had dinner with them afterwards and it was so much fun! They told us a bunch of jokes in Spanish. Then we visited the G family, Hermano G has gone inactive because he says we weren't friendly enough to him, so we are trying to fix that. We went over and talked to him about sports. He's mad because the Cowboys lost last week or something.

Chocolate chip Oreo Nutella cookie, oh my!
SPEAKING OF SPORTS MAJOR SHOUTOUT TO CLEMSON FOR BEATING ALABAMA. HALALUJEH (how do you spell hallalujeh) OH MY GOSH LIFE IS JUST (unless Dad just told me that so I wouldn't get depressed). I am so happy. Nothing is better than an Alabama loss. Except the Gospel. And my family. 

So if this email sucks, Elder Larrain came to the chapel to hang out with us for P day day, so it was hard to focus. We finally got to meet each other, after having talked to each other a bunch of times on the phone, and he is the coolest! He is from Chile, we totally hit it off! So basically I got super distracted talking to him the whole time. Sorry everyone.

Overall: things are really well. I'm learning how to roll with the punches and enjoy the mission at this point, so that's awesome. Love it. 
Thanks for the prayers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Email veintiuno: First week of transfer 3

January 9, 2017 
First and foremost I want to thank my parents and siblings that sent me emails of encouragement, maybe my email last week was pretty concerning, but I want to y'all to know that I am much better now, and you guys are a big reason why.

a "sketchy" shack we often pass by
Monday after saying goodbye to Elder Sotomarino in North Little Rock, I spent the majority of the rest of the day playing basketball. There were about 25 other Elders there so we had plenty of people to play with. I had completely forgotten to bring P day clothes so played in missionary attire. The first game we played full court. The white handbook explicitly says if you play basketball, only play half court. They asked me to join so I took off my tie and name tag and jumped in, thinking it would be half court. Then the game started and I quickly found out that all 10 of us on the court were not being obedient. I tried to raise my voice and say something, but everyone just kept playing so I just went with it and kept playing. I should have just walked off the court. I don't want to be an exception missionary, I want to be a rule missionary. That day I promised myself I will never again play another full court game on my mission, even if everyone else chooses to ignore that rule.

We got snow! Yep that's our car ... very funny
At around 4:30 Elder Toomer arrived. I have to say, he's made quite the first impression on me. I love this guy! He has been out for 6 months, only one transfer more than I, making us one of the younger companionships in the mission, and keeping the Russellville District tradition of being the greenest in the mission. Elder Toomer is from Cokeville Wyoming, population 500! And people think Herriman is small! And yes that is the same Cokeville as portrayed in the movie Cokeville miracle. He is a small-town, hard working, and very funny guy. He is EXTREMELY obedient. I absolutely love that, it's hard to find some times in this mission. If there is a question if something is obedient, he doesn't even question it. He also loves country music as well, so you already know we get along great.

Brother Walter Smith (Russellville Ward mission leader) gave us a ride back in his famous missionary transport van. Monday night we drove all the way out THE STICKS to have dinner with the Carnathans, who have a 47 acre ranch up in the mountains. Wouldn't mind living there.

Tuesday we got out contacting. Elder Toomer is crazy. When he knocks doors he POUNDS on the door, then if they don't answer after 15 seconds, he pounds on the window and the side of the house or jumps up and down on the porch. I was just glad no one called the cops! We had a ton of fun and set a bunch of return appointments and found some pretty awesome people as well.

an area we tracted
 Friday we had an awesome lesson! We went to this lady's trailer named S (Spanish speaking). Her mom comes out and starts talking to us about how much she loves the missionaries. Then we get into teaching the Restoration and the mother begins explaining the Restoration to S, and we're thinking: holy cow she knows a lot! Then out of nowhere the mom says: "by the way...(English paraphrase) I was baptized in your church. WHAT?! She was a member! She was baptized years ago in California, then went inactive and moved here. We had an amazing lesson, probably taught the Restoration as clearly as I have ever taught it, and S seems super golden!

S and T update: so Saturday we were planning on giving the wedding ring to T, we waited for a solid hour for him to get home but he never did, and S never opened the door when we knocked. Then Sunday morning T texts that he never slept the night before, and needs to talk to us. We arrive at the apartment, knock about 10 times, HARD. Finally I screamed "¡T estamos aquí!" That woke him up and he answered the door and invited us in. We enter an the apartment is a complete disaster, trash and food and all kinds of things all over the floor. Then through tears he told us that he and S got in a huge fight and he had found out some pretty dark stuff, and she had left for her Mom's house. He told me this literally as I had the ring in the pocket of my coat. I'm heartbroken for the guy.

and the awesome letter I got
from my niece Abbie
He still ended up coming to church yesterday, after a sleepless night, but had to leave before Sacrament meeting because he had work at 1pm until 1am. What a champ. Pray for him please.

On a happier note I think I figured out what I want to do with my life when I get home. Elder Toomer told me that I was a really good writer, and I thought about how much I enjoyed writing and Literature classes in high school, what the heck, I'll be an author! I've always had a passion for writing, but I always told myself it's not stable enough, but I'm not gonna let money stop my dreams folks. I don't know the first thing about being author so we'll see how it works out. The highlight of my week was a letter from Dad. It was in response to last weeks letter, and made me cry pretty good.

 Well I'm outta time folks, but now I am doing 1000x better and this was probably the best week yet because of all I have learned! Church is true, Book is blue, Dad you're a champ, and Mom you are too

Email veinte: Transfers and Miracles

January 2, 2017
This week was pretty interesting.

Feliz año nuevo!
Tuesday: we had Zone Conference in Conway. At the beginning of the conference I was holding back tears. We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what it means to have faith. I felt so bad, because I realized that in the past few weeks I have had very little faith as a missionary. I have been so pessimistic and negative in my thinking, I really had lacked the faith to believe that I could have a good mission, and that things would work out, and that I could find success. Every returned missionary I talk to, including Dad, Joel, Erinn, and McKay, tell me that they miss the mission and would do anything to go back. I feel super guilty because I feel far too often that the mission is simply a trial that I have to pass through, a two year prison sentence for the reward of blessings afterward. I asked myself many times "How am I going to make it through the next 20 months?" But I don't want to simply "make it through" my mission. I want to enjoy it. I want it to change me. I desperately need it to change me.

My old DL, Elder Hooker is going home!
After Zone Conference we went and ate lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was really strange because I heard a ton of songs from back home, worldly music, and on the tvs they had 3 different college football bowl games on, as well as a replay of the Cavs Warriors game on Christmas Day. I couldn't keep my eyes off the tvs, jaja. The English Elders did an exchange with the Zone Leaders, so on the drive back to Russellville I told our Zone Leader Elder Johnson how I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through the rest of my mission. He told me he remembers feeling the same way.

So is Elder Carter!
When we got back to my apartment. I found a package from Grandma and Grandpa Erb. I felt so discouraged I went upstairs and vented everything out that I was feeling in an open ended prayer to Heavenly Father. "I'm struggling right now. I don't know how I'm gonna do this. I miss my Dad. I wish I could talk to him. Talking with him always really helped me out. He tells me he's proud of me, but I feel like I have done nothing to make him proud. I feel like everything that's wrong with the area here in Russellville is my fault, that the church isn't growing here because of me. I'm too scared, too ashamed, too awkward, and too weak to talk to people. I'm too weak to help the work progress. It's because of me that nothing is happening here. It's my fault. Sometimes I feel like I don't deserve to be happy." I cried and I cried and I cried.

 When finally got myself together, I went downstairs and opened the package from Grandma and Grandpa: cookie brownies (they were delicious). At the top was a note from Erinn. She told me she loved me and was proud of me, and at the end, she said: "You can do this." Then I cried and cried again, but for a different reason this time. I felt such a powerful outpouring of love, I knew that was an answered prayer. And it kept me going.

They made him a cake!
Thursday we did an exchange with the English Elders. I went with Elder Barnes. It was really funny because we are both greenies and still being trained (well...I was still being trained at that point). I tried to be super silly and animated and excited. Elder Barnes is a great guy, and fun to be around, but when he starts teaching the Gospel, he gets very timid and speaks quietly and forgets to smile. So I was trying to force this principle very firmly in him, and I exaggerated the smiling and the enthusiasm to do so. Well what did all this enthusiasm yield? Two Book of Mormons passed out and two teenagers yelling "Hail Satan" at us. Even though every appointment fell through, we still enjoyed it. I've learned the sucky experiences are just as valuable as the good experiences.

The goodbye this morning
Saturday we had dinner with S and T, and celebrated the New Year. They really are the best. Then we got the transfer news: Elder Sotomarino will be going to speak English in Blyville, Arkansas, and I will be staying here in Russellville with...Elder Toomer. I really was shocked, and to be honest, a bit disappointed. I really thought I had at least another transfer with Elder Sotomarino. We really got close, we were like best friends. I'm really going to miss having a native speaker as a companion. It has been so helpful, and got us in a lot of doors. I'm really going to miss him.

The good thing is that I've already met Elder Toomer, I met him at my training meeting. I'm excited to start working with him. He should get here in about 20 minutes. (I'm writing this from North Little Rock). When Selina and Tomás found out Elder Sotomarino was leaving they invited us over for dinner again last night. I want to say that they are the best again. And they came to church yesterday.

The Church is true, Book is blue, I'm now done with transfer two.

 Love y'all!