First of all, I was wondering if for Christmas I could get a watch. My watch has been broken for a while and I got tired of wearing a 10 dollar watch that was made for 11 year old girls, so I haven't been wearing one for a while. I was also wondering if I could get a set of nice scriptures for Jose and Esthela.
As for my new companion and I, we get along great! Elder Bartlett is way chill. We both love Freaks and Geeks, Flight of the Conchords, and a bunch of other random movies and shows. We like the same music and are all around just similar people. It's great. I can't believe we've been together for 2 weeks already. After this week we will have been together for half a transfer. Time is flying by! It'll be January by the end of this transfer. Sheesh. I'm all settled in to being the Senior Assistant. Things are going well. Instead of choosing to get stressed about it, I just chose to excel at it. I met my new responsibility with faith and it has turned out well. The Lord is blessing us for being obedient, working hard, studying hard, and being grateful. There have been moments during this week when my heart has swollen with gratitude and my life has been perfect bliss. The missionary way of life is so simple and carefree. I think this is the only time in my life when I'll be able to merely focus on the worries of others and, for the most part, have nothing to worry about myself.
Monday was a lot of fun. We went bowling with the district at Mt. Lebanon lanes. My highest was a 153. I did way good! I found out I bowl better one handed and on the phone. I got 3 strikes in a row and a few spares. Elder Nelson broke up with his girlfriend on Monday. We felt bad for him but we all saw it coming, including him. It's been on the decline for like 3 months now. He took it well. We were glad we had planned to go bowling because it gave him something to do to get his mind off of it.
The Bayles family had us over for dinner. We had tacos. Their little son Ben is way cool. He is 4. He had a Captain America Shield and kept telling me to be Hawkeye and shoot arrows at him. So I would and he would "block" them. We kept shooting each other at the dinner table. I shot him one time and he pretended to dodge it but then fell off the chair right onto his back! I felt so bad! He just said, "Let's not play this game for a second." Then after a few minutes he said, "Okay, let's play again!" it was great.
Tori and TJ's family had us over for a short lesson after that. We read 1st Nephi 3. It was a good visit. Their mom wants them to read a good chunk of the Book of Mormon so they understand it before they get baptized. I think there is wisdom in that. So we've been exerting every possible effort to help them to read, then understand, and read more. They've been reading on their own. TJ, who used to be apprehensive, now dives in and expounds the scriptures and applies it to himself. It's really neat to see. He says he feels happy when he reads the Book of Mormon. Tori just loves it and gets excited whenever we come over.
Justin asked for a blessing on Monday night so we were able to go over and to give him one. I love Justin. He's so cool.
Tuesday we had to prep the Zone Performance sheet for Zone Leader Council and do some clerical work. After that we went and met with Mason. He has been reading the Book of Mormon every day for an hour and then meditating! He's a well-rounded guy. He has 2 jobs, he works out regularly, he "keeps his spiritual body fit," he's goofy but he knows when to be serious, he was in choir and band in high school and was a varsity foot ball player, and he's SUPER intelligent. He loves to think. We read a chapter with him and then discussed the importance of the priesthood and of the temple. Being baptized at 8 and then inactive most of his life, he hadn't heard much about either of those topics. We taught him about the importance of authority and also about baptisms for the dead. He was intrigued. At the end of the lesson he had some questions for us. We answered them. He said, "Man. I don't know how you guys do it. I'm a skeptic. I like to poke holes in things. When people tell me their theories, I like to shoot them down. But every time I ask you a question that's been on my mind and that has stumped everyone else, you have answers. Not only that, but they make sense and harmonize with everything else you say, and are backed by a scripture from both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. It's incredible. No matter what I do, I can't poke holes in the church. I'm really starting to feel like this is right for me." We talked for a little longer and then he asked, "So, how do I go about getting the priesthood?" It was exciting. We set some goals and made some plans. It looks like it's going to happen.
Jamal met with us after that. He's SUCH a cool guy. He read Alma 5 and he loved it. He always talks about how everyone in the world needs to wake up. They walk around like they're asleep - like they don't know how good life is. He loved the verse in Alma 5 where it talks about how Alma's people "awoke from a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God." He was talking to us and said, "You know, I want to know more about the Prophet." So we showed him some videos of President Monson speaking. The concept of eternal families was introduced and he said, "That be trippy fo' real. I was just thinkin' about that the other day. I be like, 'If I love my children here on earth, why wouldn't I want to have the same feeling towards them in heaven as I do here? Same for my woman? I be actin' all crazy since ya'll believe everything I do." I said, "Jamal, I think you might be a mormon already, and you just didn't know it." He said, "From what ya'lls been sayin, I think so too!" We invited him to be baptized and he said yes.
We spent a few hours with Sue raking her leaves. She's trying to get the other apartment in her duplex ready to rent. We helped her clean. It's great being in that neighborhood. Everyone is Mormon there! As we were working, cars would drive by and honk at us and we'd see someone from the ward waving at us. It was a good feeling.
The Gray family had us over for dinner. Brother Gray makes custom pocket knives out of ivory and meteorite and other exotic materials. He also is an incredible photographer and his dad works for the FBI. His wife is a convert and his son comes out with us every other weekend. I love they're family. Beautiful people. We didn't have time to change in between Sue's house and dinner, so we were planning on changing there, but then dinner was already prepared when we got there and so we had to eat and then after the message we shared we had to get going over to Justin's. So we were in regular person clothes for most of the day. It was a weird feeling. haha. We changed at Justin's house. Then we read a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland called "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence." It was really good. Justin said it was timely and very helpful. We met with Nick after that and read the same talk. It was kind of the theme for the day. He said it was especially applicable because they'd been trying to find a new apartment for forever and they finally found one. Jeffrey R. Holland uses that as an example in his talk. Nick liked that.
Wednesday we had to prepare our training for Zone Leader Council. We planned and studied and made the power point until about 3. Then we went out to try and contact some people who said they might be interested. We ended up talking to Sarah (the lady we raked leaves for 2 weeks ago) for about an hour and she accepted a Book of Mormon. She's awesome. We worked through dinner and then went to Book of Mormon Class. It was jam packed! William, Nick, Jess, Justin, Michelle, Russ and his wife (from 6th ward), Derick, Amanda, and a few members from the 6th ward came. It was awesome. We learned about Teancum taking out Amalakiah with a javelin.
Thursday we had a good district meeting. Then we had to go to the office again to finalize the statistical report for Zone Leader Council. We got done at 4 and then went and visited Jose. We had to get him to sign his baptismal record. I felt so bad. He had been baptized for like 2 or 3 weeks and still wasn't on the records of the church! That was our bad. But now it's all taken care of and squared away.
We then went and visited Ed. He's a nice older Gentleman who likes talking with us. At the end of our visit he told us we were always welcome, but he wasn't interested in converting. He did want a copy of the Book of Mormon though, and we were able to explain its purpose to him and invite him to read and pray. He said that he would and he thanked us for coming by and for being so kind. He said that the world needed more people like us.
Then we went to the family history center with Nick, Jess, and Sue. Sue has her family history back to the late 1700's already! How cool is that? Jess and Nick have a talent for it as well and in the hour we were there working they got back to the 1800's. We had a lesson about the spirit of Elijah after that in the lobby and about temple work for the dead and the importance of family history. Nick got really excited about it. Sue was pretty emotional, since her parents had been searching all their lives for the truth and were never able to find it. She's excited to go to the temple and perform ordinances on behalf of her ancestors and close family members.
We visited the Murray's home after that. Sister Murray is going to Alabama for her mission. She will be in my friend Jessie's mission. Jessie will arrive in the field in late February. Sister Murray will already have been out quite a while and there is a chance she could end up being her trainer. how cool would that be? Anyway, President Murray, the stake president, invited us over to the open house to answer some of his daughter's questions and also to give us a TON of cookies. We got 3 plates. Wayyy too much. haha! But we were able to take them back to the apartment and share them with the Warnocks. We also had all the Zone Leaders staying at our apartment and so they helped us eat them.
Friday was Zone Leader Council. It was really really good. President provided some excellent training and we were able to train for an hour and a half on the church's rescue effort. My favorite quote is from Elder Don R. Clarke of the seventy. He said, "If you seek after someone else's lost, then you will have the right to petition heaven for yours." the Zone Leaders were all pretty emotional when we started talking about family members and friends who were less active in the church. The coolest part was when Elder Glover bore his testimony. He said, "I'm a product of the rescue. Friends brought me back at Washington State." President Topham then said, "I am too. Sister Topham and I both come from inactive families. But we were brought back, and our families came with us." It was really cool. Reactivation work is so important. Friendship, genuine friendship, coupled with service, is the key. Love is the foundation.
Jose asked us the day before to come visit him at 4 PM on friday. So we had to rush over right after ZLC. We had a lesson on the priesthood and on blessing the sacrament. He's going to bless the sacrament with me this upcoming sunday! He's so solid. Brother Stott and his son took us to Las Palmas after that. It's a mexican store in Brookline and they sell street tacos. It was delicious. We ate in their van because it was raining outside.
Michelle and Justin had us over after that. We had a really good lesson on the 10 Commandments and Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. She loves the Book of Mormon! She read me the message she sent you and the message you sent her. She said she loves you and thinks you're cool.
Saturday morning we had the Ward Christmas breakfast. Lots of people came and it was really good food. The primary put on a live nativity play. My favorite was the little Taylor boy. He played the star. He's 4 years old. He just stood on this metal chair, center stage, in a star costume. He looked terrified. He didn't move the whole time. Classic.
We changed into street clothes and then took Elder Jones and Elder Rivas to Nick and Jess's to help them move. We got to steal one of the mission trucks to help. So we drove a Chevy Colorado around all day. It was sweet. Nick and Jess's new apartment is way cool. They are happy to be moved in. President Topham and Brother Miracle helped us out as well. We had a good time. Nick was stressing out, but it turned out okay. They were glad when it was all over.
We met with Jamal again after that. We had a VERY interesting lesson.... haha he's a deep thinker. Definitely one of the best stories of my mission but I'll share it with you another time. Anyway, we ended up talking about the nature of the Godhead and how to recognize the promptings of the Spirit. He committed to come to church after that. Then we weekly planned and got ready for Zone Conferences which will be happening this week.
We had a lesson with Mason after that. He had texted us earlier in the week and said, "Hey, where in the Book of Mormon does it talk about not drinking coffee or tea?" We told him it was in D&C 89 and so he had read the whole thing by the time we ended up meeting with him. We talked a lot about addiction and how it traps us. He told us this cool story about how he wanted to know what it felt like to be addicted so he could teach it from experience in his recovery programs in the hospital, but he didn't want to do drugs or become an alcoholic or start smoking. So he decided to systematically get himself addicted to energy drinks. It's a pretty funny story. It actually ended up happening, and now he's scared to death to drink Red Bull because he'd relapse and start drinking 3-4 12 ounce cans a day. he has a testimony of the word of wisdom. So awesome.
Sunday was great. Unfortunately, Michelle tried to keep the Sabbath day holy by getting all of her work done around the house on Saturday so she'd be totally free Sunday. She was trying to move some furniture and ended up pulling some muscles in her back pretty bad, so she missed church. She was so embarrassed! It was pretty funny. Jess was sick as well, so Nick and Jess weren't able to come. But Tori and TJ came, as well as Jamal! Brother Miracle went and picked him up. Jamal just loved church. Everyone was so nice. We talked about baptisms for the dead in gospel principles class and he was HOOKED. He was beaming and radiant. We had a great farewell program for Sister Murray and some fantastic musical numbers. We have some way good violin players in the ward. Sister Murray's younger sister brought some of her friends from school to church and they talked to us after the meetings. Elder Jones and Elder Rivas had a surprise visit from Brian, one of the guys they were teaching and a guy I used to teach before they took over that half of the area. Brian had been thinking about coming for a long time, but he wanted to surprise them, so he walked 45 minutes to the chapel. In Elders' Quorum he told everyone how he "felt the spirit every time the missionaries would come over." Jamal and Brian are way solid.
We had choir practice after church. I am singing a duet with Brother Hoskin next Sunday for the Christmas program. Did I tell you? He and I sang in a concert together before already! He was a Bass II in the BYU-I Men's chorus. We went to BYU-I on choir tour and did a dual concert. So we sang in the same section. How cool is that? It's a cool set up because sister topham is accompanying us and I'm singing the same song, "O Come, Emmanuel" for Zone Conference with Elder Nelson. I'm pumped. It's a cool song.
Brother Hoyt came with us to Michelle and Justin's after church. Justin took Mason to the single's ward that morning in Oakland. They had a good time. Anyway we read 1st Nephi 8 about the vision of the tree of life. Justin was asked who Lehi was and he gave a very professional, analytical, scholarly response. "Lehi is the patriarch of the Book of Mormon. He was given a promised land and promised a great posterity by God, so he is an Abraham figure for the people of the Nephites. The Book of Mormon begins with the account of his son Nephi." We were impressed. The Hoyts fed us and Elders Jones and Rivas after Church. Elder Jones got to ordain William to the priesthood. After dinner and dropping them off we went and handed out fliers for the christmas program. A man named Shel let us in. He's way cool and we're going back to visit him. He showed us some bible websites that he liked and we shared biblevideos.org with him. He loved it.
Max taught Tori and TJ the word of wisdom with us after that. Tori and TJ are smart kids. They were like, "Of course we're not going to smoke, drink, or do drugs. That stuff is stupid." It was awesome. Then we read 2 chapters in the Book of Mormon. They're cruising! TJ said Laban didn't live the word of wisdom, and that's why he got his head cut off. Pretty funny.
We had a fantastic lesson with Brother Trout after that. This training we got from Salt Lake and then gave to the Zone Leaders is definitely inspired. We've been using the principles as we've taught less actives. It works. Brother Trout is teaching himself and lets us know what he needs help working on. We just ask inspired questions and then listen. He got pretty emotional last night and thanked us for being there to listen. He said, "You guys are alright, ya know? You guys are all right." It was cool. He gave us hugs. Driving home, we thought about just how grateful we were for the people we know. We talked about how much we're growing to love Brother Trout. We also called some people up to thank them for helping us. We called brother Stott and it felt good to give that man a sincere compliment. Sometimes I feel he deserves more love and care than he gets.
Well, that's my week! It was great. Oh, and I found out last night that Tatiana, Jose's sister, has been meeting with the sisters in State College and decided she wants to get baptized the weekend after Christmas! So she's coming down here for the baptism and her dad or her brother is probably going to baptize her! How cool is that?
Life is awesome. I'll skype you in two weeks.