I just have to say that the new version of choir retreat sounds WAY more fun. I'm way jealous! Hopefully it brings everyone closer together and they remember it for the rest of their lives. I miss choir retreats. They were definitely the best of my high school experiences. I'll be honest, I can't tell if I'm necessarily proud of myself or not with regards to the "no pants rehearsal" tradition.... =D Regardless, it lives on. Props to Jonny. Love that kid!
Here's my week:
Last week, Justin, Nick, and Jess took Elder Gerratt and me to the Carnegie Science Center in downtown Pittsburgh. We were there from noon to 5 PM and we had a blast! Nick and I went on a virtual roller coaster. Elder Gerratt and I tried this thing called the "You-Yo" which was a giant yo-yo - you held on to the end of the rope and it turned you into a yo yo. Tough to explain, but let it be known that I was definitely 20 feet in the air at one point. It was way cool. We also took a tour of a submarine. It was the same model of submarine from WWII that would have picked up Grandpa Doty. It was really cool to be inside of it and see how those guys used to have to live. I definitely could not have done it. The whole trip was a lot of fun and we took a ton of pictures. I'll have to send them off to you at some point. There are two really funny ones. There was this triceratops statue outside of the science center and I got this idea to set the camera to sports mode and take pictures of me and Elder Gerratt as we both ran by to make it look like we were being chased by a dinosaur. They turned out really good!
Elder Gerratt and I left at 5 PM and drove for 4 hours to York, PA. It was a long drive, but we enjoyed it and had a great time. It was our last road trip together and so we had all the fun we could. Once we got to York we split up. Elder Gerratt went with Elder Peterson and Elder Giffin, and I went with Elder Fairbourn and Elder Rowzee.
We had a great time on Tuesday. Mostly we just tracted and street contacted. Elder Fairbourn wasn't used to talking to everyone but once I showed him how to do it without being weird, he went all out! I'd be tying my shoe or something and I'd look up and he'd be across the street talking with someone. It was really great to see. Hardly anyone was home because they were out voting or were leaving to go vote, but we made the most of it. We went to McDonald's for lunch. Initially we went through the drive thru so we could go home and eat, but Elder Rowzee's burger had cheese on it, and he is lactose intolerant and had to go inside to buy another burger. When we went inside, we were stopped by an older lady. She asked, "Are you three Mormons?" Elder Rowzee said yes. She said, "I could tell by your nice pants and your ties." It was really funny. She told us how she used to meet with missionaries and still read the Book of Mormon every day because it brought her closer to Christ. We helped her out to her car and talked to her for quite a while. Hopefully the elders will be able to meet with her again.
We got to help out at a retirement home that afternoon. We called bingo for an hour. Half an hour in, I started to fall asleep. So, to keep myself awake, I asked Elder Fairbourn if I could have a chance to call. I started, but I was still way tired. Eventually I realized that if I was to stay awake, I needed to have some fun with it. So I grabbed a bingo ball (or whatever they're called) and I looked at it and as energetically as I could, I yelled, "J-26!" All the old people were quiet for a bit as they looked around on their cards for J-26. After about a minute it was mass pandemonium. "There's no J on here!" "Yeah!" "We can't find it! I don't think anyone has it!" "Are you sure, son?" "You must be joking!" All three of us started laughing and one of the old ladies at our table pointed at us and said, "Oh, you Mormon boys tricked us!" And everyone started laughing. Then I called the real number and we moved on. It was great.
Later that night we drove out to the home of the Holmes. Brother Holmes has been a member for 2 years and now he's the assistant ward mission leader there in Lewisberry. Sister Holmes joined the church in the 1980's in Moses Lake, Washington, so we had quite a bit to talk about. She was very familiar with Vancouver and Portland. It was great. Another Brother came out with us that night and so we went on splits. I went with Brother Holmes and Elder Rowzee to contact some less active members of the church. We went out to visit the Hatfields. Brother Hatfield isn't a member but Sister Hatfield joined the church a year ago in Gettysburg but moved out of the ward boundaries shortly thereafter. Since she was so far out of the way of everyone in the ward, no one had ever made any real contact with her and she hadn't been out to church. So we went to visit. Brother Hatfield was way nice and we had a great conversation. He was open to visits from the missionaries. Unfortunately we found out that Sister Hatfield had tripped going down the stairs and had broken her ankle and torn some ligaments, so she wasn't doing well at all. We offered help and assistance but he declined and said they were okay. Brother Holmes left his phone number with them and we left.
We visited some other people but they weren't home. When we were done we returned to the house and Sister Holmes was on the phone with Sister Hatfield. Apparently, they did need help. Brother Hatfield was just too shy to ask. Sister Hatfield called and said, "Sister, I don't think we've met. Apparently I'm in your ward now and your husband just came by. We need some help." Sister Holmes got a list of everything that needed to be done and then started making calls to the Relief Society and they put plans in motion. How cool is that?! That's how the church is supposed to operate. What a wonderful organization. It was also a great finding opportunity, since David was open to the gospel.
That night Elder Rowzee dictated to me the novel he has been writing in its entirety as we were falling asleep. Unfortunately I fell asleep a few times but for the most part it was a great story. I haven't heard a fictitious, long and involved story involving dinosaurs and time travel for quite some time. I was intrigued. Especially because he had pictures. Elder Rowzee is INCREDIBLE at drawing dinosaurs. His illustrations could be in National Geographic. They're great.
In the morning Elder Gerratt and I drove to Somerset. On the way I kind of got a speeding ticket....
Alright. I didn't "kind of" get a speeding ticket. I definitely got a speeding ticket. For 200 dollars and fifty cents. In Bedford County. Feel free to not send me Christmas presents this year, 'cuz I'm going to need some help with this one. I've got to pay it by this Saturday.
Anyway, the rest of the day in Somerset went great! I went with Elder Clark and Elder Gerratt went with Elder Done. Elder Clark and I had some fantastic experiences. We talked to this one guy on the street and he was VERY upset that Obama was elected president again. Like, WAY upset. It was hilarious. But that aside, he was very open to us because we were Mormons. He had some questions about our faith and we were able to answer him. We also talked a lot about the importance of family and how God has called prophets again in our day to assist in strengthening the family.
Initially we were only talking to him, but soon his wife walked out of the bank and said, "Honey, those boys are Mormons! I been to their church once!" He said you have? And she said, "Yeah! The first time Mitt ran for president I was curious, so I went to their Relief Society. All the women teach the women there! It's crazy! Because the men didn't even get upset! Then they all got together and had a meeting and had the Lord's supper. I really liked it and just haven't gotten to go back. I also read the Book of Mormon. It's A GREAT BOOK!"
The husband looked really surprised. Then he asked if we believed in the Bible.
The wife cut us off and said, "DO THEY BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE? DO THEY EVER! Look, honey, you know how we believe in the bible? Well, they believe it ten times more than us, and we're good Christians. They believe in the bible SO HARD. It's amazing. You boys live your religion hard!"
Elder Clark and I weren't quite sure what that meant, but it sounded favorable, so we let her proceed.
"Mormons are probably the best people I've ever met on God's green earth. You boys should come over! Teach us about Joseph Smith!" Of course, we agreed. So now Elder Clark and Elder Done are going to teach them about Joseph Smith.
Later that night, before an appointment, we felt like we should tract a specific street. Everyone shut us down except for the last house. A man let us in to get out of the cold (Somerset had gotten a ton of snow last week). He asked us who we were and we told him. He said, "Okay, come in and sit down at my table. I have some questions for you." Apparently most of his cousins had joined the church and some of them had moved to Alpine, Utah. He'd been out to Temple square and he got to hear the choir sing. He loved it. He said, "So, what makes you guys different from other Christian churches? Do you have like a lesson on that or something? I'd like to hear it." Heck yeah we had a lesson about that! Before we began we got to know him a little better. He had been to all the churches in town. Every single time, no matter what church it was, the pastor eventually ran off with the money. He was so sick of it that eventually he returned to the Methodist church he grew up in and kept going just because he felt he needed church in some form. We were able to teach him about the restoration of the gospel and he was very impressed. So impressed that he wanted to give us both forty dollars. So we took the money and -
Just kidding. We didn't take the money. We told him no, but he kept insisting. Eventually he went to his cupboard and said, "Boys, if you won't take my money, I'm going to force you to take these two boxes of granola bars!" We accepted his granola bars. He was a really cool guy. He's the dentist for almost everybody in the town. He has a GIANT home. Anyway, after he made sure we put the granola bars in our back packs, he said, "So, when are you coming over next week? Next thursday is good for me. Tonight has been a wonderful night and I feel very close to God right now." We agreed to come back the next week. He was really happy. We said a prayer and left.
After that we visited Brother Vaughn, a less active member of the church out there. It's crazy how everything works out when you plan by the spirit. I know for a fact that I was supposed to be on that exchange that night for Brother Vaughn. He served his mission in the Portland, OR mission back in the 80's. He served in Camas and in Beaverton. He also grew up in the Uniontown Branch, so we had a LOT in common. I can't explain how the lesson transpired, but all I can say was that it was by the power of the Holy Ghost and our conversation was definitely guided and inspired. We talked extensively about the Plan of Salvation and he bore testimony and got deeply reflective. We didn't push him or anything. We just let it sit and set a prayer. As we were leaving, he thanked us for the visit.
I realized as we were walking to the car that I had left the phone in the cup holder of the Corolla. When we got in the car I checked the phone and there were 3 missed calls from Justin, a voice mail, and 3 text messages. The first one said, "Elders. Call me." The second one said, "C'mon, guys!" And the last one said, "The one time I REALLY need to talk to you, you don't answer. You're killing me!"
Of course, I called him immediately. He answered the phone and I apologized for leaving the phone in the car and he said, "Oh, no worries. I just have some really really good news! So, you know how last Sunday I fasted for my mom to soften her heart, right?" I said right. He said, "Well, we had a long conversation tonight before I left for Book of Mormon class. She had a lot of questions for me and I said, 'Ya know, mom, I have two friends who can answer all of your questions a lot better than I can.' She said, 'Oh really? Who?' And I said, 'The missionaries!' So Elders, she wants you to teach her the gospel."
I was FLOORED! It was the best news of my life. His mom is SO cool. I told Elder Gerratt and he was way excited as well. It was a miracle, because even though she wasn't hostile to the gospel and she was touched by the baptism, she definitely wasn't interested in being taught. Crazy.
Thursday we drove back to Pittsburgh and had District Meeting. Elder Lovejoy taught a really funny lesson on his experiences tracting into atheists. We had a good time.
After that we had an incredible lesson at the chapel with Luis. Elder Gerratt was teaching him the Plan of Salvation in Spanish. Half way into the lesson he cut Elder Gerratt off and said (in Spanish): "Okay. Look. I know I told you I wanted to be baptized once I was done with the Book of Mormon. But I just finished Alma and I loved it and I can't wait any longer. I want to be baptized the Saturday after Thanksgiving with my son Jose. My daughter Tatiana will be home from school and she'll be able to see the baptism, and I hope it will soften her heart." Our jaws dropped. Before he was VERY firm in the notion that he wasn't going to get baptized until at least January. Elder Gerratt just told him, "Well, we will get things ready then!"
The rest of the day was alright. Kris dropped us. Eric is still interested but we didn't get to talk to him. Oh well! Maybe later.
The Hoskins had us over that night for dinner. Elder Jones and Elder Rivas came with us and we taught them how to share the Book of Mormon more effectively. It can be a really difficult thing to explain, and so we helped them simplify their explanations so they made sense. It was a good lesson.
Friday was absolutely awesome. Guille had us over at 2:30 and we helped her and Esthela fill out their membership record forms so they could start on family history and stuff. We had a great lesson and she fed us Puerto Rican food! It was delicious.
Justin and his mom, Michelle, had us over that night at 6. She's been reading the Book of Mormon like crazy. Apparently, one day Justin left for work and she noticed the scriptures that we got him for his Baptism sitting on the table. She got curious and opened up to the Book of Mormon. She started reading but then she had to go to a meeting so she shut it and didn't pick it up for a few days. Then she started reading again and got super curious and Justin shared his favorite scriptures with her. She loved them and started asking for chapters. We had a really relaxed lesson with her and mostly shared our favorite scriptures and testified of the power of the Book of Mormon. She was a little nervous to meet with us before we arrived but by the end she was glowing. Justin texted us after the lesson and said, "My mom said she felt the Spirit the second you two walked in. Way to go guys." Michelle is way awesome. Justin is definitely her son. haha they are so alike!
We met with Nick and Jess after that. Unfortunately we didn't have keys to the chapel on us so we just had a lesson on the family proclamation in the parking lot. Nick and Jess have been having difficulty getting along with their room mates, so they vented to us for a bit. The stories were really funny. I don't think I've laughed that hard in months.
Saturday morning we helped the Eve family finish putting up screens around their porch. They fed us lunch. It was awesome. The Pitt 2nd Elders had a baptism at 2:30 so we went to that. Then we had a lesson with the Miller family. Tori and TJ are so awesome! I love that family. Then Justin came out with us and we had a lesson with Melissa about the Tree of Life.
Then the Pitt 6th Elders had a baptism at the Greentree Chapel. Juan got baptized. He's Puerta Rican. He talks so fast and is so funny! When he was wading in the water he waved at everyone and said, "Hey guys. I'm really excited. Thanks for coming." After he came out of the water he just went, "WHOO! Everybody! I feel great!" We had a good time.
Yesterday was the best. It was the primary program. Jose finally got work off and was able to come to church with Luis. Justin's mom came to church. She loved the primary program and was really impressed. The kids did great. The primary presidency let each of the kids write their own parts in the program about how they choose the right. My favorite quotes:
"I'm grateful that Jesus teaches me not to hit people. I choose the right by not hitting the people in Pittsburgh."
"My favorite story is from the Book of Mormon about Nephi. Nephi was a prophet. He had to go back to Jerusalem to get the plates from Laban. Laman and Lemuel were afraid but Nephi was courageous. He found Laban drunk in the street, and the Spirit told him to cut off his head with a sword. Then he dressed up in his clothes and tricked Zoram into getting the plates for him!" Justin slapped his forehead and shook his head. Justin's mom though it was funny though.
She had us over for lunch after church. Her and Justin made spaghetti. Mom, you would get along so well with Michelle. She reminds me of a mix between you and Sister Clanton. She's so funny! We had great dinner conversation. She told us, "One thing that I've always liked about you guys is that you actually have joy. I noticed that about Justin after his baptism. He has joy. I want that." We shared stories and laughed about how sometimes when we talk to people on the street they immediately confess their sins to us. Sometimes we say, "Hello, how are you?" and they'll say, "I know I smoke! I'm working on it!" and walk away. And we'll just look at each other and go, "What the heck?" Too funny.
She asked us to have a lesson after lunch with her. We had a great lesson about the restoration. She said, "It's all making sense. You guys teach the big picture. You don't get hung up on little things or get so focused in on a single irrelevant doctrine. Everything fits together, and it appeals to reason. Alma 42 has got to be one of the most incredible explanations of the atonement I've ever read. There's no way Joseph Smith could have written it." She said a ton of other incredible things, but long story short, she's getting it. It's incredible. She texted Justin this morning and said, "Justin, call me. I want to share my testimony with you!" How beautiful is that? We invited her to be baptized and she said, "Probably yes." She's so funny.
The Millets fed us dinner last night. I love their family.
The Miracles had us and Jess over last night for a lesson on the plan of salvation. Brother Miracle's mom, who isn't a member, joined us for the lesson. I was moved as Jess shared her testimony of the plan of salvation and testified about the happiness that has come into her life through knowing the simple truths of the gospel. She said, "I know I have worth, and I'm important. Things aren't spelled out for me everyday, but I know I have purpose and direction, and there's a solid foundation for my marriage now." I love Jess! She's so cool!
Jose let us teach him a lesson last night, too. Brother Match came with us and we talked about the Word of Wisdom and the importance of reading and praying. Jose has already been living it. He's so ready to go. The only thing holding him back was church attendance. He said he wanted to be baptized the same day as his dad. He said, "I know I need to come to church consistently. It's gotten to the point where I believe it's true, and I'd do anything to get baptized. I'd give up my job before I gave up the church." Such a big step for him! I was blown away. I love Jose's family so much. It's amazing to watch the gospel bring souls together and unify them in love and peace. I want to do this forever.
It was a great end to an awesome week. Thank you for your prayers and your support. You all are awesome and I love and I miss you.