It's so good to hear that things are going well with the wedding. I'm
so excited to hear about how it goes. I'm going to type up my wedding
speech that I wrote this last week and send it to you as soon as I
can. I'll get it to you by the end of today. We are planning to go to
the dentist next week, so I'll just have the dentist use met life and
bill you like you said.
This week was really rough, but also really good. I'm super exhausted,
and I'm getting to the point where I write letters home and I just
can't express my feelings adequately. Nobody can really understand
what I go through on a day to day basis unless they serve a mission
themselves. No one can understand the joy, love, and happiness that
comes from doing the Lord's work and living his commandments. Nobody
can understand the heartache and the sadness and the longing that I've
grown accustomed to feeling from time to time, and how exquisite and
intense it is. I know I will never be the same again when I come home.
I'm a different person. I've grown up, and it has been a painful
process. But it is so rewarding. I don't know how I'll ever be able to
explain the change to my friends. They just won't understand it. I've
been set apart in a very literal sense of the term.
Monday was great. Nick and Jessica met us at the church. They wanted
to learn more about the Priesthood and how it was restored and also
how wards and stakes work. We explained it all to them and had a great
time. They are such incredible people. I don't care what anyone will
ever say to me in the future. I know the principles of the gospel are
true. Nick grew up on hard drugs. He was doing heroin by the time he
was 14. The gospel has completely changed everything about him. His
countenance is bright. His marriage is happy. He is magnetic and
funny. He kneels down with his wife to pray every morning and every
night. Their love for each other is so evident in their words and
actions. He weeds the yard for the elderly lady across the street. He
understands the scriptures. Best of all, he is free from addiction.
They are living proof that the Atonement works, and that the
commandments are really from God. They want us to fly back out in a
year when they are sealed in the temple.
Tuesday was super stressful. We had to do a ton of reports. We also
had a lesson with the Cardenas family, which went well. They are
growing in their testimonies and it is wonderful to see. It has
brought their family so much closer together. After the lesson we did
more office work. We had to burn some mormon message dvds for some
other elders and then mail it off to them. Then we had to pack for our
exchange. We left at 4:00 PM to drive to Harrisburg. We didn't get in
until 9:30 PM. LONG drive.
I spent Wednesday on bike with Elders Munos and DeRoest. They are two
of the funniest elders I've ever met. I loved spending time with them.
We were on bike in downtown Harrisburg all day. We did service at a
soup kitchen in the morning and helped make the food. Then we served
it. It was a lot of fun and we met a lot of nice people. I love doing
service and helping others.
We had a great lesson with Donnie and his wife Brenda afterwards. He
is a really nice guy. His 2 year old son is HUGE. He is 2 years old
and weighs almost 50 pounds. Biggest 2 year old I've ever seen in my
life. Anyway, Donnie is really loving church. He said he grew up
playing basketball with the Elders, and all through his life the
Elders kept showing up and being a good example to him. He is finally
ready to change and his wife, Brenda, wants a family that will pray
together every night. Elder Munos made Mexican food for them and they
loved it. I hit it off with Donnie. He is a DJ and so we talked about
music and music production for a while.
We went and visited Sister Shavou and her son Keith. Keith just
recently got out of prison and is looking to turn his life around. We
shared a lesson on the Natural Man and becoming a saint through the
atonement of Christ. He really enjoyed it and accepted a copy of the
Book of Mormon. His mom joined the church 3 years ago. She started
attending church in Lancaster, but then she moved to Harrisburg. She
prayed or the elders to find her and they showed up at her door the
next day. She asked to be baptized. Funny how that happens, huh?
One of the girls they are teaching, Marie, invited us to a bible study
at her church that night. She really enjoys meeting with the elders
and thought it would be fun if we came and met some of her friends at
this new church she was going to. We walked in and everyone was really
nice to us. We sat and talked about life in the lobby and were having
a great time until the pastor came in and asked us what we were doing
there. We said we had been invited for a bible study. He said we
weren't allowed to interpret the bible for them, and if we would like,
we could leave the church. We told him we weren't there to steal
people from there church. We just came because we were invited. He
said that he didn't believe that we were Christian and said that if we
would like to stay, we could, but he wanted it abundantly clear that
we were anti-christs. He made a big show in front of everyone and
really put us through the ringer.
What a pleasant person.
Poor Marie looked like she was going to cry. She was super
embarrassed. We took his comments politely and sat through their bible
study. Half way through he stood up and apologized to us. We couldn't
tell if he was sincere or if he was just trying to save face in front
of his congregation. It was pretty much the worst experience of my
life, and there was absolutely no spirit of peace in that meeting.
The rest of the night was good though. I loved hearing about Elder
Munos and his life. He is a convert of 3 years and used to be muslim.
He said he had always wondered why there weren't any prophets anymore.
Then he learned about Joseph Smith. "My rule," he said. "Go where the
prophets are. You can't find them anywhere else." It was great
learning from him. He has an extensive knowledge about the Quran. He
is just a super genuine guy. His family is from Mexico, but his dad
was from Morocco. They all joined the church together. He is fluent in
Spanish and English, and got a full ride scholarship to Stanford. He's
got such a big smile and is the happiest guy I've ever met. Elder
DeRoest is the same way. They had a super hilarious conversation about
Poke'mon that I wrote in my journal. I'll share it with you sometime.
Thursday morning we drove two hours and I spent the day in Lewisberry
with Elder Zumwalt and Elder Young. Elder Zumwalt was trained by Tyson
and just thinks the world of him. Elder Young used to be in the
Altoona Zone when I was there and so I already knew him. We had a
great day. We started off by helping Steve and his 16 year old son
Lane out on their farm. They are not members but have always known
Mormons to be hard workers, so Steve pulled over one day and asked
Elder Zumwalt and Elder Cook to come help them out on the farm. They
agreed and have been coming over every thursday since. haha. It was
super fun! I cleaned out stalls, built stalls, padded them with straw,
and then helped them herd the calves out of the trailer. You had to
pick them up and carry them so they wouldn't run away. Then you had to
tag their ears and castrate them by putting a tiny rubber band around
their manhood. Then you had to carry them to their pens because they
couldn't walk. haha! So sad. But we had a blast. We smelled awful by
the time it was over. So after Steve and Lane took us out to lunch, we
went back to the apartment and showered.
We tried to visit people for an hour and a half. No one was home. We
had a great meal appointment with a couple from BYU who had just moved
to the area. I was going to school at the same time they were there!
haha super weird. John had us over after that. Cool story. One night
Elder Cook and Elder Zumwalt were walking by this group of people who
were drinking heavily on his porch. They were about to go in for the
night, but they had a feeling they had to talk to them. So they went
up and met John. Turns out, he had been praying for God to send him
someone who believed in a true church and could bring him closer to
Christ. He told them to come back over the next day. They've been
meeting with him for a few months and he is really invested in the
Book of Mormon. He said, "Every time I read, I just feel electric. I
feel this pull.... like I need to be a part of this church. Elder
Collier, Elder Cook and Elder Zumwalt and Elder Young, they're not
like anyone else. They don't force their beliefs. They just teach you
how to be happy. And when they testify, you can see it in their eyes.
They mean it. They're sincere. I want the light that they have. I can
feel that I'm getting it, because they have answers to everything I've
ever wondered." It was super spiritual. They invited him to baptism,
and he said he would like to be baptized, but wanted his wife on
board, too. He felt it was time to share the gospel with her. Very
We taught Claudio, a kid who is Jonny's age, after that. He is almost
done with 1st Nephi. He is super smart for his age, and even though
his parents aren't happy that he's joining the church, he is. He went
on trek last week and loved it. He has been coming to church and
participating in young men's. It's really cool to see. He said that
the things he's learned in church have helped him with school and with
making friends and talking to people. His life has just been happier.
Friday morning we drove an hour to Lancaster. I went with Elder Crabb
and Elder Gerratt went with Elder Adams, since Elder Adams was spanish
speaking as well. More than anything on this trip, I've just been
impressed by how much everyone loves the missionaries who teach them.
They get so excited whenever the elders come over. It just warms my
heart. There definitely is a special spirit that we carry, and I know
that the Lord softens people's hearts.
Elder Crabb and I got caught in the middle of a drug raid. We were
walking down the street when suddenly four guys took off running and
suddenly an unmarked car turned on its lights and 3 other cop cars
came out of nowhere. One officer yelled at everyone to clear the
street and they blocked off the ends of the street. The four guys ran
into an apartment building and locked themselves in. The officers
called in for a swat team, and so they showed up with sub machine guns
and tear gas. They got on top of the roof of the building and through
cords down the chimney and rappelled in and captured the guys. It was
nuts! I got some pictures of the swat guys on the roof. haha.
All 4 of us did service with the Catholic church at one of their soup
kitchens. I just love Catholics. They are wonderful people, and they
are definitely the nicest to missionaries. They love working with us.
I sat and talked to an older lady named Fey for about an hour. She was
just asking me questions about my mission and what we believe and
stuff and she was sincerely interested. She used to be a Quaker before
she became Catholic and loves to travel and learn about people. She
was super nice and so I gave her your number, mom, and told her to
call you to say hi and get to know you. But I told her to call after
the wedding. haha!
Felicita, a recent convert in Lancaster, asked us to come give her a
blessing in the hospital. She is a super funny half black have
hispanic lady. She's got a sassy attitude and can speak really fast
spanish. She was having some respiratory problems. We gave her a
blessing, and she told me how grateful she was for being a member of
the church. She got baptized 4 weeks ago and says she's been the
happiest she's ever been. Her ex-husband asked her to do something
that was against church standards this last week, and she told him,
"NO WAY! I'm baptized, and I have the Holy Spirit now. I can't let Him
leave me. So I'm going to choose the right, and you can get out of
here." Super funny! I was so proud of her. How she joined the church
was crazy. 7 years ago, in New York, an elder on the street gave her a
pass-along card for a Finding Faith in Christ DVD. She put it in her
purse because she felt bad that the guy in front of her had crumpled
his up and thrown it away. She left it there and didn't think about it
for 7 years. Then, after she turned her life around by going to a
bunch of different churches, she started reading the bible from cover
to cover. She did so, and started over. She was reading and praying
every day, but felt that something was missing. So she prayed and
asked God to show her what she was missing so she could feel the Holy
Spirit ALL the time. She was cleaning out her purse and she found the
card. She laughed and figured she might as well give it a shot. She
ordered the DVD, and the Elders showed up on her door to give it to
her. She heard them knocking and didn't answer the door. They left,
and she called them back later and set up another appointment. They
came back 2 more times after that and she kept hiding from them and
then setting up appointments so she could bail on them again. Finally,
the 4th time they came, it woke her up from her nap. She was about to
roll over and go back to sleep, but she heard a voice say, "Felicita,
you get out of your bed and let my servants in!" She was scared to
death, and so she jumped up and answered the door. "I'm so glad I
did," she said as she grinned from ear to ear. "Elder Munos and Elder
Crabb changed my life forever. And now I have the Holy Spirit ALL the
time, just like I prayed for." Elder Munos had served there before
Elder Adams got there. It was great!
Moral of all these stories: Don't pray and ask God to help you get
closer to him. He'll send the Elders to your door. haha!
Saturday we made the 5 and a half hour drive back to Pittsburgh. I was
super tired. We went out and worked anyway. All of our appointments
stood us up. Then we met a lady who belonged to the same denomination
as that pastor from Harrisburg. She proceeded to call us anti-christs.
It wasn't just a, "No thank you. I don't consider you Christian and
I'm happy where I'm at." It was a, "Let me tell you how much I despise
you from your head to your feet because you're not as good and holy as
I am for 20 minutes" speech. Wow. Twice in one week. It broke my
But the Lord blesses you for taking persecution. We met a cool guy
named Dave down the street who talked to us for an hour. He reminds me
a lot of Mr. Nelson from Frontier. He had a ton of Mormon kids wrestle
for him over the years and then go on to serve missions. He said they
were always the best ones on the team. He even encouraged his daughter
to marry a Mormon. "Things always go right when you've got a Mormon
kid around," he joked. He's really cool. He wasn't interested, but
invited us to come over to meet his family sometime and to check out
his gun collection. haha.
Saturday was super cool, even though it was hard, because we had 5 of
the people we are teaching go with some members to the Washington D.C.
temple to check out the visitor's center. They spent all day there.
Nick and Jessica had us over at 8 pm to tell us all about it. They
took tons of pictures and just thought it was fantastic.
Everyone came to church the next day. We taught the lesson in Elder's
quorum with our ward mission leader about missionary work. We had a
lesson after church with a guy named Sean. He loves the Book of
Mormon. He's been searching all his life for the one true church and
he wants to see if we're it. "You're my last shot guys." haha. But we
had a great lesson on the Doctrine of Christ and went over 3rd Nephi
11, which was his reading assignment from last week. he really got a
lot out of it. He said, "THAT'S why you guys teach the way you do and
are so nice. Contention is of the devil! Christ doesn't make people
angry!" Finally! Someone understands! haha. It was an awesome lesson.
He knelt down and said a powerful prayer at the end of the lesson and
then he went and helped his friend do yard work. haha.
We got stood up for appointments the whole rest of the day. Some more
people reviled us and we just took it. Then some little kids on a
trampoline called us gay. It was awesome. We were feeling pretty down,
but the Eve family fed us dinner and lifted our spirits. It prepared
us for the lesson with the Cardenas family afterwards.
They went to the temple yesterday as well, and they just loved it.
Tatiana and Estella, the two daughters, loved the Joseph Smith movie
and said everything was making more sense to them now. Tatiana,
however, keeps having a hangup with the Book of Mormon. She never
reads and doesn't want to, because she thinks the Bible is enough. We
watched Finding Faith in Christ with their family, in Spanish, and it
was great. The whole time I was feeling dumber than a sack of rocks
because Elder Gerratt was doing all the teaching in Spanish and I
couldn't do anything because I only spoke English. I was also really
worried because Tatiana sounded like she was going to reject us, and I
was sick and tired of being rejected all week. I was feeling really
doubtful. But then I said a prayer to myself and asked the Lord to
make me useful in any way. I felt better, and as the lesson went on
the Spirit in the room got SUPER intense. Especially when Guille, the
mom, bore her testimony. And I could understand her Spanish. "I
started reading the book of mormon just out of curiosity," she said.
"But as I kept reading, I started feeling happy. I wanted to be better
in every way. And I couldn't put it down. I tried to explain it to my
family, but they didn't understand. I just told my husband he had to
read it himself. But I know it is God's word." Then Luis, who we
thought wasn't super engaged even though he'd been coming to church,
started crying. And he's a tough dude! Then he said in Spanish, "I
never thought I'd be able to read a book and understand it. I only
have a 3rd grade education. But Guille told me to read it and so I
tried. And I could. And I've been reading it every day at work and
before bed. I can't stop. I want to share it with everyone." And
Guille said, "And he's past me in the book!" They laughed. Estella and
Tatiana were shocked. Tatiana said something in Spanish that I
suddenly couldn't understand but I knew it was something about the
bible and not reading the Book of Mormon. Her and Elder Gerratt talked
for a while, going back and forth.
I felt inspired and so I pulled out the Book of Mormon. I interrupted
their conversation in spanish, and told her in english how hard my
week had been. I dunno what happened, but I just kind of broke down. I
told her how people had been rejecting us left and right, how much I
loved the people but was so sad because I wanted to help them and help
them be happy, but they wouldn't give us a chance. They wouldn't read.
I told her how the Book of Mormon has strengthened my faith in Christ
more than anything in the world, and that words could not express how
the Book had changed me for the better. I opened my book to 2nd Nephi
25:26 and 2nd Nephi 33. "My testimony is the same as Nephi's. I'm not
as strong as him, but I know that Christ lives, just as he knew,
because he had seen Christ face to face, and had talked with him. The
Book of Mormon testifies of Christ, and it has made me want to be like
Christ." I read:
"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we
prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our
children may know to what source they may look for a remission of
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the
earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye
believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe
in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of
Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that
they should do good.
And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show
unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the
last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and
ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things,
notwithstanding my weakness.
And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not
all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day."
I was exhausted, and I couldn't speak any longer. Elder Gerratt spoke
to Guille and Luis and their family in Spanish for a while, and the
lesson ended. We knelt down and said a prayer, and Tatiana and Estella
promised they would read like their parents had. We went out into the
car, and we sat there in silence for a while, just feeling completely
overwhelmed with joy. He said, "That was a miracle." I asked why. He
said, "Because they could understand you. Could you understand them?"
I said for a while, yes. He said, "The gift of tongues is a real
thing. We need to thank God for his help. Wow." And so we prayed and
said thank you. We were super exhausted when we got home, but after
such a long, distressing, tiring week, I felt the happiest I had ever
been. I fell asleep with a smile on my face and gratitude for everyone
Now I'm here, and I'm ready to start another week.
I love you, friends and family. I love you and I miss you. But God is
working miracles all around the world, and for a time it is my duty to
be an administrator of those miracles. It is not easy, but it is worth
I hope you have a wonderful week, and that peace and joy is abundant
in your hearts. It's a great week for celebration.