Alrighty, well, I'm going to start this email by giving you a rundown of last week from Wednesday until now! Ready? Here we go!
Wednesday: After we met with President Topham, we took our studies. Then we had to go shopping because we were completely out of food and had absolutely no time (or money) to go shopping because of transfers. So we took care of that. After that we spent more time in the office because we had to put together our training for Zone Leader Council. Then we had an amazing lesson with Sue on her porch. It was really sunny out and we had a good time. We taught her about the plan of salvation. It went really well. She has been reading the Book of Mormon at every opportunity - in the Doctor's Office, at red lights in the car (probably not safe), and right before bed. She finished 1st Nephi! I taught the Book of Mormon class at the church at 7 PM and it went well. I covered Alma 1-3. First big battle of the Book of Mormon! Epic. I also dissected the false doctrines of Nehor to illustrate how Satan uses lies and half truths to deceive. It was a good lesson.
Thursday: Had a 1st lesson planned with a guy named Brian. Talked to him Wednesday night and he said he was still good for us to come over at 10 AM. So we showed up. He said, "Sorry fellas, I forgot to tell you, I've got an, um.... lady friend coming over in about 15 minutes, so we gotta make this quick." We offered to start the lesson with a prayer and he said we didn't have time for that, so we just started teaching. Elder Gerratt said, "You know, when your girlfriend gets here, she can listen to the lesson too." Brian said, "Honestly guys, I don't think she and I are going to be doing much listening." It was super awkward and super funny! Eventually he got a phone call from her and he kicked us out of the house so they could.........uh........ anyways. He invited us back another time. He's really cool. He just doesn't keep the law of chastity very well. haha! We committed him to read Jacob Chapter 2. haha We had a lesson with Guille that afternoon. It was in Spanish so I don't know what we taught. But Nick and Jess had questions about the scattering and gathering of Israel at 6:00 PM that night so I taught Israeli history for an hour! Maps and everything! It was a lot of fun and they enjoyed it a lot. Brother Miracle was with us that night (he's their home teacher) and he said he learned a ton. So I hope I did my job okay. The Crossleys had us over for a late dinner so we could go over some home teaching assignments and business. They make good salads.
Friday: We had Zone Leader Council from 10 AM to 4 PM. Had a 2 hour long training segment we were in charge of. I took half of the zone leaders and we reviewed the results of our training survey that all the missionaries took and we decided what we should focus on and work on. We did it prayerfully, and we all received powerful revelation. Everyone was unified and came to the exact same conclusions. It was crazy! I can't explain adequately what I felt that day... the Spirit was so intense, and people would just spontaneously testify and bear their testimonies and say profound things. President had tears in his eyes. It went really well. Guille had us over again after that - Elder Gerratt was asked to teach her friend Anna the gospel. On our way over, we met a cool catholic guy named Kenny. He teaches catholic high school. He asked us to come over because he met with elders the year before and really enjoyed it, but they never came back (the Beechview Walk area had been shut down and he got lost in the transition). We set up an appointment for Sunday. At Guille's, Elder Gerratt and Brother Match taught Guille and Anna while I taught Jose, Guille's son, the plan of salvation. Before we started, he let me know that he had two important concerns. At first I was worried, but then he told them to me. Concern 1: He wanted to know what music was appropriate for him to listen to because he was afraid of breaking a commandment. 2: He wanted to know more about Mitt Romney because he wanted to vote for him, and he also wanted to see if it was a commandment of God to vote for Mitt Romney. haha I told him no and that the church was neutral. He said he was voting for him anyway because he had been a missionary and all the missionaries he knew were great people. Then we got into the lesson and he was asking SUPER deep questions about the pre earth life, sons of perdition, god creating many worlds, creation ex nilo vs organization, etc. He would ask a question, give his opinion (which was correct) and I would tell him the doctrine from the scriptures and modern day revelation and he'd say, "I always KNEW there would be a church that believed the things I believed!" He got really excited. He wants to be baptized, but he has to get work off first. The Match family had us over for dinner after that. We had hamburgers and the Matches told us a miracle story about how their son Moses (who is Mexican) got deported and Sister Match moved down there with him to try and get him back. Brother Match didn't have a job and was finishing a Master's degree at Carnegie Mellon and was alone in the states for 6-8 months. They were having such a hard time. But then he fasted and prayed and the next day his political science and foreign affairs professor, who used to be a politician, taught about immigration law. Brother Match talked to him after class and asked for advice. The proffessor just said, "I'm not giving you advice. I'm going to help you out." He made one phone call and Brother Match's son was allowed to come home. Incredible! It was a good day. We spent the rest of the night transfer planning.
Saturday: Had a breakfast with the Elder's Quorum at brother Reik's house. Nick came. Brother Miracle gave him a ride. We all had fun. Weekly planned and then went to Bill's house to help him move a lot of old stumps and wood and stuff. Bill, even though he walks with a severe limp from his stroke, dragged a couple logs to the street to help. He's such a good guy. Every time we go over there he is eating scrambled eggs. We had our first lesson with Justin after that. He is a media referral that was talking to missionaries on mormon.org. He met with elders 7 years ago but quit meeting with them because he was only 17 and "religion wasn't his thing yet." He's been thinking about the missionaries and the church for 7 years, and finally decided it was time for him to come back. He's already in 2nd Nephi. He's super cool, and super normal! He's 24, plays hockey, has a job. He's really smart, too. He had some questions for us, which we were able to answer. He agreed to meet with us the next week. He couldn't come to church because he was going to be out of town, but he said he was really excited about meeting with us. The connors had us over for dinner. We showed up late because of the lesson with Justin and then had to leave early because Elder Deaton and Elder Nelson were having a baptism at 6 and we had to be there. We felt bad but the Connors are super cool and didn't mind. Guille and Estella came to the baptism. It was a great experience. The kid who got baptized is named Zach, and his little brother is named Michael. I told them that those were both of my names! They didn't believe me, so I showed them my scriptures with my name engraved on them and they both went, "WOWWW!!!!" It was funny. Great experience. We taught Guille how to speak english afterwards with Brother Match. She had questions about Israeli history after that, so I had to teach another lesson and Brother Match translated for me. haha I drew maps on the chalk board. She said it was really fun. I like teaching. I just pattern my teaching after dad and it works out.
Sunday: Church was great! This ward is absolutely fantastic. I just love them. We went out with Brother Crossley after and met a less active kid named Skylar. He's really cool. Hasn't been active since he was really really young. He's interested in us coming back. After that we set up a return appointment with Kris and Eric. Then we hurried over to President's house to have dinner and a lesson with Nick and Jess. We all had a group fast to help them quit smoking. It was looking to be a great evening, but then Jess got called in to work because someone got into a car accident. So we just had dinner with the Tophams. After that Sue had us over for another lesson. We taught her the rest of the plan of salvation and she committed to be baptized in October! She also committed to come to church next sunday. Then we had our lesson with Kenny. He is a really nice guy. He loves Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis, Nintendo Wii, and pretty much everything I like. He wants to understand the Mormon faith. It's so funny because he doesn't want to offend us by calling us Mormons, so he calls us "Latter-day Saints" and the "LDS Church" instead of the Mormon Church. We appreciate it, because no one does that out here! haha but he's super conscientious about it. It's funny. We had a great discussion and he agreed to read the Book of Mormon, though he's doing it more just out of curiousity.
Monday: Spent the day at the Zoo with Nick and Jess. Jess hadn't had a cigarrette for 3 days. She's a trooper! We had a blast. That night we drove to Franklin to have an exchange with Elders Daniels and Beeton. Long drive. I drove, and Elder Gerratt and I had a really spiritual discussion about life on the drive over. We are becoming really good friends. He reminds me of Harrison so much. At the beginning of our companionship it was like how me and Harrison were when we were little. But now it's like where me and Harrison are now - best friends. We had a good talk. We found this super cool smoothie machine at this gas station. You press all these touch screen buttons and it makes your smoothie how you want it.
Tuesday: Super hilarious day. We woke up and did 100 push ups, then had breakfast and studies. I was with Elder Beeton all day. He's such an odd kid, but he is super nice and super funny. He's just... different. =D Example: We had a miraculous experience where we stopped and talked to this guy on a park bench. He had been praying for someone to come talk to him because he was lonely and had just finalized his divorce with his wife and had no one to talk about it with. We sat down and listened to him. Here we are, sitting here listening to this guy bear his soul to us, and suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see Elder Beeton raise his hand slowly. Then he hits me right in the shoulder with the flat of his hand and suddenly my shoulder feels wet. Then he looks at his hand and wipes it off on my white shirt. I tried so hard not to laugh and lose it. Luckily the guy didn't notice. We finished our conversation and he accepted a Book of Mormon and a return visit from the Franklin elders another day. As we walked back to the apartment for lunch, I looked at my shirt and saw a dark red streak on my shoulder. "Elder Beeton, did you smash a spider on my shoulder?" He said, "No, it was something with blood in it. Probably a really big mosquito." SO GROSS. I had to change my shirt. Way too funny. We met some really cool people that day. We did a lot of tracting, and then that night we got to meet Jen. Elder Nilsen helped her move a new bed into her house. After he got transferred, she started meeting with the missionaries. Now she's been an active member for over a year. Really neat! It's crazy how small acts of kindness like that can lead to big changes for people. I've gotta tell Nilsen about that. We had a fun rest of the night in the Franklin apartment. Daniels and Beeton are funny guys. We slept on the couches again.
Wednesday: Drove the 2 hours back to Pittsburgh. Listened to a dramatized reading of Willard Richards' account of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. Really really good. Pretty much changed my life. After we showered when we got home, we took studies and language study until 1:00 PM. Then we met with Mike and helped him clean up his house a little bit. We got to share a message with him. Then we went and talked to his neighbor, Melissa. We had met her before when she brought some tomatoes from her garden over for Mike. She seemed nice, but uninterested. When we went over, she came right out and talked with us! She had a lot of honest questions. We got on the subject of repentance and the atonement, and it was a really touching experience when she cried and said, "I feel really good when you guys teach me. Please come over another time and share more." It was wonderful. She's really cool. We travelled around Pittsburgh and did some records work for the ward. Located some missing people and got some information. We met a lady named Arwin who pretty much turned against the church and ranted about it, but in the end said, "One thing I will give you, though, is that the Word of Wisdom is definitely inspired. I won't ever stop living that." Hmm.... so Joseph Smith isn't a prophet but the Word of Wisdom is inspired...? Go figure. We had Book of Mormon class after that. Elders Deaton and Nelson taught it. It was good. We had a lesson with Nick and Jess before that - the one we were planning on teaching last Sunday. We also gave them blessings to help them before Jess went off to Seattle to visit her sister.
Thursday: District Meeting in the morning. Went out to pizza hut for lunch and we ate all the pizza available in the buffet. Good conversations about whether or not caffeine was against the word of wisdom... haha oh, mormons. Had another great lesson with Sue. She's just such an inspiration. She's a breast cancer survivor and knows that the church is true. She had some questions about vicarious work for ancestors: "So, what do I have to do for my parents? They were looking for this church all their lives. I want to help them." Incredible. Such faith. We filled her in on specifics, showed her some pictures of the temple, and she got really excited. It was great. Went to the office after that to get some things done. I did a "How To" sheet for this digital area book thing we've been working on. It's really cool. Took me a few hours. The Eve family had us over for dinner. Sister Eve made this really good french toast lasagna or something. Delicious. Everything fell through after that but we had a good experience re-contacting that guy named Dan from a few weeks ago. He's not super interested but he said he's willing to have us stop by.
Friday: Weekly planning. Nick had us over at 1:30 PM and we had a good lesson with him about light and truth. Watched some bible videos. He really liked the "Go and Sin No More" one. Nick had a tough experience this week - kind of a set back. Some of his friends took him to a party in Pittsburgh. Initially he thought they were just going to drop someone off, but they all decided to stay. He was stuck. He said he just felt terrible - everyone was drinking and doing things against the commandments. He said he learned for himself that what we were teaching was true. He doesn't want to go back to his old life. Kenny had us over again for a quick lesson after that. It went really well. The great apostasy is a sore subject for him... luckily it's just a good atmosphere whenever we talk and we are friends so it's open, honest, and the spirit stays there. Justin had us over after that and I had probably the most spiritually intense lesson of my mission. Brother Whiting came with us. Justin started off the lesson saying, "Okay, so I feel good when I read the Book of Mormon, but I'm not sure if it's true. Also, why are there no prophets today?" So we hit him with the first lesson. When we got to the first vision, his whole countenance changed. His eyes lit up, and he just bowed his head for a second. After we testified of living prophets, he said, "Okay, guys. I'm gonna be honest. I already know the Book of Mormon is true. I can't deny it anymore. I know that this is the path for my life that I need to take. I'm just not sure if I'm ready to live all the commandments that the internet missionaries told me about. I'm going to have to change my friends, my hang out spots, my habits - everything. It's going to be hard." Brother Whiting said, "You're right, Justin. But there are only two pains in life - the pain of discipleship, or the pain of regret. That's the choice you have to make." We invited him to be baptized and he said, "I'm going to need a little bit of time. I'll have an exact date for you in two weeks." Incredible! The Matches had us over again for dinner. Then we had another lesson later on with Guille's family. I taught Jose. We finished the plan of salvation. Such awesome questions. He always asks questions like this: "So, what do we believe about this?" He already has his answer, and so he's just ready and willing to change everything he believes.
Saturday: Everything fell through. We helped Bill do more service. Had an interesting experience where we learned why it is so important to ALWAYS stay with your companion and look after each other. That's a story for another time and place. Anyway, we helped bill mow his lawn and rake leaves. After that we helped Brother Eve with some projects around his house. They fed us Chic-Fil-A for lunch. We tracted for hours and hours. The Bushmans took us to Chipotle for dinner and gave us a referral, so that was nice. We had a good experience contacting it. We didn't get to meet Susie's voice teacher, but we did meet the voice teacher's husband David. Really great guy. He's Jewish, but he's not active in his faith and grew up across the street from a Mormon family. Said we could come back later in the week. We tracted until it was dark out and then, when it wasn't effective to be out anymore since people were getting mad because it was so dark and late, we went to the office and made signs and posters for mormonchannel and mormon.org. Bummer day. We didn't teach a single lesson.
Sunday: Totally made up for Saturday. Sue came to church for the first time and loved it! Stayed for all three hours. Nick came alone even though Jess was out of town. He has agoraphobia and so he gets super nervous when he's alone in a large group of people. He had an anxiety attack but he will-powered himself through it. I sat with him in the relief society room during sacrament and we had our own lesson. It was good. Luis, Guille's husband, came by himself because everyone else was working. He could only stay for the first hour because of work, but he told us how wrapped up he is in the Book of Mormon. He was riding the train to work the other day and missed his stop because he was too caught up in Mosiah. He's in Alma 27 now! After church Nick and I were alone in the chapel talking. Our conversation lulled, and so he walked up to the pulpit and just stood behind it, looking at all the empty pews. It was so sad, but I felt so proud of him. I jokingly said, "You going to give a talk or something Nick?" He said, "Maybe one day. I just want to see what it feels like." He is such a great example of faith! Tons of people gave us referrals today, which never happens. Sister O'Connor had us tract into her sister and her sister was SUPER nice and said we could come back! We also met a lady named Joyce who used to meet with missionaries and wanted us to stop by again. She only stopped coming to church because she thought 3 hours was too long. haha. The Millets had us over for dinner. They are going to make green jell-o for Nick and Jess since Jess thinks it's so funny that Mormons like jell-o so much. Brother Millet is way cool. He reminds me a lot of dad. Stopped by Kris and Eric's house. They had family over, but Eric still came out and talked with us. He wanted us to come over Thursday and said he was super interested. At their neighborhood block party, they met the Virgi family who lives down the street from them and is in our ward. It was a good experience for them. Kind of softened their heart a little more. Late that night we went to Guille's house again to teach her english. Brother Bayles came with us. He's a great English teacher and knows spanish really well! There are SO many spanish speakers in this ward. It's incredible.
Now it's monday. I got a haircut today. I look good. I have a really bad cold and my sinuses are killing me. But life is good. I'm glad harrison finally had his interview! I hope he gets the job. I never had Akers. I heard he was a decent teacher. I'm just not a big AP Bio fan. Remember how I dropped that class after 3 days? I don't think ANYONE can teach that class and still be liked. haha. Tell Jonny to hang in there.
Anyway, thanks for letting me send you this super long email. I needed to do it for my personal remembrance. haha you guys are my journal. =) I miss you so much! I hope you have an inspired, blessed, spirit filled week! Do missionary work! You'll be blessed. Promise.
Oh, and one more thing:
Remember that story about that lady named Heather that I got to go see when I was on exchange with Elder Jamieson in Indiana a few months ago? The one that Elder Nilsen and I dropped a Book of Mormon off to last year? She and her daughter got baptized on Saturday, the 15th! SUPER COOL! Elder Jamieson was really happy. It's incredible. I'm glad I was able to do my part and play just a small role in her conversion process. It always is such a joy to see someone baptized.
Love you mom!