Monday, September 18, 2017

It Really Was The Best Two Years

My time is up here. Here are some happenings this week. We went out with President Parry to hunt down some Spanish less active members. He was part of the Greenville East Stake Presidency and now part of the Mission Presidency. I worked with him in Greenville back in January. Time flies by holy crap! 

While investigating, we found a torn up vacated house. We talked with their self proclaimed hillbilly x-moonshiner neighbor. He told us about their history with drugs and prostitution and gave us all the info and then some. He was super hard to understand! He had like a few teeth missing and a deep red neck accent. As we were talking, President Parry noticed and commented that the fire this guy had started (on his grass to burn yard waste) was now spreading through the fence and into his neighbors yard....We decided to say bye before anything else happened. It was pretty funny. I will miss crazy southerners. 

We taught Nancy again and she has desires to repent- and change her life. She realizes that she has not been too great of an example for her son and wants to change that. She wants to know if Christ is real. We used different scriptures in the Bible and Book of Mormon that testify of the divinity of Christ. Is was really cool. 

I had my last exchange with Elder Peck. We taught so many people. It was great. They will be combining our two areas and so Elder Peck will continue to train his trainee and mine. They will cover the entire stake in Spanish! Holy cow. Lots of potencial though. Fifteen minutes before church, I volunteered to fill in for a youth speaker who would not show up to give a talk. I love how the Bishopric has trust in the missionaries to come in clutch. I talked about looking unto God in all things. It went well. When we look unto God in all things, a natural result is humility. When we look unto Him in all things, we are giving him all of our heart, might mind and strength. This puts us in a better position to receive, recognize and act on spiritual promptings meant to guide us and help other people. Ways we can better look unto God are by being good at the fundamentals- Scripture study, fervent sincere prayer, and church and temple attendance. 

The intermediate hymn was my childhood favorite, "The Spirit of God." The thought came to my mind in the meeting of how cool it would be if my favorite hymn "abide with me" was sung (it was first a baptist hymn fyi). To my utmost shock, that was the closing hymn of my last Sunday as a full time missionary. I tried to hold back tears as I sang that song fervently while sitting up on the stand. Why would God inspire Sister Daniels, our chorister, to choose my favorite hymn as a youth and then a song that has been an answer to prayer on my mission? The answer to this question started when I received an uplifting email from someone I looked up to as a youth this week- and in the email he said he had been prompted by the Spirit to send me a note. God is reaching out to me. He is showing me that I have people that care deeply about me. Today was a second witness of that. It was like He himself was saying here I am. I have not gone anywhere. I know your struggles and your desires. I know what is in store. It was like he was thanking me for my efforts, and reminding me that he is always mindful of me. I just need to be more in tune with Him and recognize what he has blessed me with. 

The last talk in church was given by a member of the Stake Presidency. He gave a beautiful analogy of biking in a headwind and a tailwind. He went on and said that We tend to forget the tailwinds when the headwinds are pounding against us. Three ways for us to recognize the tailwinds in our lives are to: cultivate a spirit of gratitude, be meek and lowly of heart, and ponder how you have seem the hand of the Lord reaching out to touch you today. I think that goes well with what I was feeling. Search for God in your lives! Here is there, and wants to bless you. 

I feel blessed to have spent about two years amongst the Southern people, both those who speak Spanish and English. The wonderful spiritual experiences I have had, the knowledge of the Gospel I have obtained, the teaching skills I have developed, the new language I have learned, the pattern for receiving inspiration from God I have started, and the Disciple of Christ I feel like I have become will be a huge building block and foundation for the rest of my life. I love this Gospel. I love this Work. I love my Savior. I love the scriptures. I know God is mindful of everyone of us. I know he answers our prayers in his own ways and timetable. This is the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. I am grateful that I have been able to taste a bit of what Christ and his apostles dealt with as they taught the Gospel. I understand their frustrations with the people, and I have felt their joys. I have come to understand people and their ways of thinking way better. I am grateful for the culture I have been a part of. I am grateful for the daily opportunity to repent and better myself. I am grateful for the prayers of friends and family, and many emails of love and encouragement. I believe I have found who I am. I hope to continue to set an example for my siblings. I am nervous as to what to expect in coming back to the real world, and it will be a continual challenge to not be of the world. Like we used to say in the mission, "Me encanta las cosas difíciles; soy primero para hacer las cosas difíciles;

Hago las cosas difíciles primero; soy terminador; Me encanta ser misionero."

See y'all in a few days!

the best two years, the best two years! going on testifyin in the very best suit from sears

Totally goofed up the chorus...oh well. Haha

Elder McLaughlin- 

Hammocking in the YSA apartment. Totally doing this in Provo. #ibolts.

Country Roads from Shayla McLaughlin on Vimeo.

Strolling through Hatcher Garden
Putting siding on the Colecio's extension to their home- which we also helped build.

There are many signs like these down here, and finally took a pic with one lol.

It's not skulls-- look closely.

Marcelino to the left and some new English class guy... taught my last English class on Thursday.

Elder Thomas & Elder Rose

Hermana Maria de Lourdes Sanchez. She told me to tell mom that she has un hijo maravilloso... I am going to miss her a lot! We mow her lawn.

Put me on the wheaties box!

What is South Carolina- through the lense of a missionary

What is South Carolina- 
through the lense of a missionary

Southern Baptists
Churches on every corner
Family togetherness
Barbecue Buffets
Mustard pork
Cajun fries
Nana pudding
Summer evening fireflies
A whole lot of y'alls
Terrible Drivers
Unpredictable weather
Lightning storms
Forested country and growing cities
Confederate flags
Yeti- tumblers especially
Country music
Lots of police
Cars parked on grass
Abandoned cars on the freeway
Trees on trees on trees
The 26
Upstate, midlands, low country
All black or all hispanic ghetto apartments
Jay walkers (think they own the street)
Ghetto and the Rich
Home of Sweet tea
Buttermilk biscuits
Fried Chicken (Bojangles, chick fil-a, church's chicken, KFC, Popeyes, kickin chicken, aunt M's, Zaxbys, Raising Caines, )
Racism- it is real, no joke
Blue jays, cardinals, and wrens
Church going people
Christian Ministries
Funny old black ladies
Wild house cats everywhere
Wild chickens everywhere
Strange amount Pit bulls and Chihuahuas (mixes of ever type of dog with chihuahuas)
Tropical storms
Spirit of the confederacy - it was the "War of northern agression"
4-runners, Fusions, Ghetto sleds (crowne vics on 26s), Lifted up trucks with flying confederate flag/ or American flag/ or gadsden flag
Outdoorsy peoples
Bible Bashers
"I'm a Baptist"
"Jesus Happy"
Best gas stations (spinx, QT, Sunoco) and ratchet ones. No in between.
Boiled peanuts
Hallelujahs and Amens
Variety of cultures Blacks, Whites, Latinos
Porch Monkeys
"Jesus is Black"
Last supper paintings/ sculptures
Lots of smokers
Collared shirts, above the knee shorts and boat shoes 
Jeans and simply southern crew neck
Clemson or USC
Republicans and 2nd amendment
Don't tread on me
Tons claim disability
Variety of grits
Jesus Fish
Magnolia trees
Leaf and yard waste burning 
One road changes names a bazillion time
Storm doors
Brick homes and lots of siding
Car ports
Speed humps
Lack of sidewalks
No gutters
People afraid of rain and snow (churches close in snow)
No trespassing signs
Stores selling South carolina stuff
Seersucker sports coats, suits, pajamas
Carolina girl stickers on everything
Salt life stickers
Single guys and big dogs
Wednesday night Bible study 7:00pm for everyone
Funny church Marquis
Prayer help
Sweet old white ladies
Fried Okra
Cotton fields
Fire stations (that only respond to accidents)
Old cotton and textile mills/Factories turned into hotels and apartments
Waffle House
Bad grammar
"How y'all is" or "what it is y'all", "fixin", "you was" 
Funny phrases ex: "I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket"
"No see ums"
Vintage chevy and ford trucks
Small car sales lots
Flea Markets
Dirt Dobbers
Heavily Used community centers
Pig pickins
Southern twang
Lack of working door bells
(When knocking a door) "who!?" The missionaries! "Who!?" The church people. (Answers the door)
"I'm baptist"
Mopeds (no helmets)
Big tires on motorcycles (no helmets) 
Palmetto everything
Palmetto trees
Palmetto armory
Palmetto Bugs
Palmetto cheese
Palmetto Moon
Awesome sunsets
Military presence
Don't sell beer on Sunday (now it is permitted)
High school football (big stadiums too)
New spring and Sea coast
Bible street names
Christian book stores
Pollen waves
Dukes mayonesa 
Art districts especially in the upstate
Lawn ornaments
Hardees instead of carls junior
Summer storms
Rent-a-wheel places
Old guys with no shirts on in the summer
Old couples mobbin in their golf carts
Terrific kid stickers
Liquor stores (3 red circles)
Bail bonds places
Title loans places

Quotes from Church Marquis in South Carolina

Quotes from Church Marquis in South Carolina
  • Give Satan an inch and he will become your ruler
  • Pokemon go to church
  • The bible is a book that reads you as you read it
  • God gave his son. What will you give?
  • Lifes trials are gods school of faith
  • If you are looking for the perfect church, this is definitely not it. 
  • Be still and trust me
  • Prayer- the world's best wireless connection
  • Do you fear god? It is the beginning of wisdomThou shalt not kill. Stop it. 
  • His light shines to us in the world
  • Have you asked Jesus Christ how to have eternal life?
  • Jesus is someone to run to, not from 
  • Remember to thank Jesus everyday in 2017
  • The son warms your winter days
  • God wants full custody, not weekend visitation
  • No life is too broken for Christ to make it new
  • You need God and we need you
  • The greatest freedom of all is freedom from sin
  • Pray is a 4 letter word you can use anywhere
  • Peoples opinions do not change the mind and essence of God
  • Don't pray about the Book of Mormon... that's how they get you!
  • The largest room in the world is the room for improvement
  • The best things in life aren't things
  • Use "sonscreen" to prevent "sinburn"
  • Be a light for all to see
  • Our lifeguard walks on water
  • Jesus Jesus you deserve all the glory
  • Loosen your grip and trust God
  • Come and See
  • Pray hardest when it's hardest to pray
  • In Christ the hopeless find hope
  • God wants to be your first choice, not last resort
  • Never play hooky
  • Get out of the boat
  • If we would tend to our biscuits, life would be gravy
  • Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you
  • May the love of God surround you
  • I get knocked down, and get back up again
  • You are loved :)
  • What's missing from Ch_ _ Ch? U R
  • Don't let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the voice of the Lord
  • If you want God to start blessing America, stop legalizing sin
  • Pray, love and encourage others

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane IRMA lockdown & lots of teaching

Hey family and friends! 

So we got word this morning that we will be on lockdown from noon until the end of the night. This sucks. At least we do not have to evacuate, but we have a lesson set up with an awesome family for tonight, but it will not go through. Dang it. We have heard so many stories as to what is going to go down, but we will just have to wait and see. This week was good. Here are some of the highlights:

On Tuesday afternoon we got a call from a former investigator named Nancy. We helped her about 5 weeks ago with translation at a dentist appointment. On the phone she asked if we were busy that night. I said, well kind of, how come? She said she is ready to be baptized and wants to take the lessons again. She wants us to prepare her. I could not believe what I was hearing. Like what?! Of course we said yes, and then scheduled to go over there at 8. At 7pm we had a planned lesson with the Colecio's and we asked them to come with us to visit Nancy. It was a little before 6:30pm and we continued to follow our plans, and visited Dominga. Dominga was a referral from sister Colecio a few months ago. 
We taught a powerful restoration with the Colecios and Ramirez present. Since then, she got really busy and kind of dropped off, and we lost contact. We still stopped by occasionally to share with her little messages. 

Tuesday when we pulled up to her house, she was seated, looking at her phone on the porch. We talked for a few minutes then shared some scriptures- I wish I could remember which! We were there for longer than we wanted to be and now were late to the Colecios. We told her we had to get going to the Colecios. She asked if we were doing a lesson over there. I explained that we were going to teach about the importance of the Book of Mormon with them, and asked if she wanted to come over too. She thought about it and decided she wanted to come! In the car, we quickly called Sister Colecio to let her know what happened! She was super excited. We shared scriptures in the Book of Mormon that outlined what it's purpose is. We talked for a while of the need to have BOTH the Bible and Book of Mormon. If you have time, read 1 Nephi 13:21-29. Other specific verses we shared were "For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved" (1 Nephi 6:4), "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 their sins." ( 2 Nephi 25:26). 

The Colecios bore powerful testimony of how they came to know that the Book of Mormon is true. They have been members for only 4 months! We shared a short video by Elder Holland about the Book of Mormon, and bore testimony ourselves. Dominga became really quiet. I asked her, "How do you feel right now?" The Spirit that entered the room was so strong. Dominga recieved a witness that it is a true book of scripture. We helped her recognize what she was feeling. It was remarkable! We were not able to get to see Nancy that night, but the Lord had different plans for us, I guess. Sister Colecio told me that She went to see Dominga on Friday and she found her in her house, sharing what the Book of Mormon was with another friend! I felt so grateful. I know the Spirit testifies of truth and that the Book of Mormon is true. Tuesday was another confirmed witness of the Spirit of that. 

We rescheduled with Nancy for Wednesday, and taught her with the Colecios. When we arrived, she needed help figuring out how to build a tepee for her sons project, and so Oscar, being the handyman he is, took some sticks and made one. It was pretty sweet actually! We set a baptismal date for Nancy on October 14. Too bad I will not get to see it!

We taught Eddie again this week. He had only 20 minutes, and I felt like I should share 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 with him. After reading it together and talking about it, he said how much of a blessing it was for us to come over! He told us that scripture we shared was inspired by God for us to share it. He lost his job a few weeks ago and was feeling discouraged a bit. This helped him remeber that we will be tested by "fire" to see what manner of work we have built upon the foundation that is in christ. Pretty cool!
We stopped by Ricardo too. He texted us saying he did not want to meet any longer, and wanted to keep his faith. We followed up to see why exactly, and found him outside his house getting buff. He basically told us the exact same stuff in the text, and then we talked for a few minutes and left. In the car I felt so dumb. Ricardo had never even come to church before. He was reading a little bit from the Book of Mormon, but he admitted he never prayed about it. I felt prompted to go back, and I tried to justify not going back. Finally I decided to heed the prompting- no matter how awkward it may have been. I testified to him of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and invited him that before he completely pushes this church to the side, to come and see at least once. It is like he saw a preview to a movie, but then lost interest and never went to the actual movie. You cannot judge a movie on it's preview! He said that he promises he will at least once. I will not get to see the fruits of this, because he is working on Sunday the next three weeks, and I will be home :(

Saturday was the cultural night we had all been anticipating. There were probably about 200 or so people in attendance! It was awesome. We met so many people, and even some of the Spanish members from the Greenville Stake who I used to serve around were there too! So much amazing food, and cool dances! I will show some videos...I danced too haha. I am pretty rusty I'd say :)

We talked with Hermana Sanchez, a returning less-active a bit last night. From the conversation and sort of lesson, she said she has learned in the Book of Mormon exactly what I testified about to her. That was sweet. I said something like the following: God wants to bless us because he loves us. when we are trying to live how he has asked us to live, he is bound to bless us. If we distance ourselves from him, and do not mind our spirituality, he will not be as prompt in blessing us, because we have laid him and his counsel aside. We must do our best to stay connected to the vine and repent of those things that weaken our connection with the vine, which is Jesus Christ. We are nothing without our savior, and we need his constant flow of blessings and help. It makes sense to me that if we are cut off partially from the vine (say we are branches) it is harder for him to flow blessings to us. I love that imagery.

News: Last Saturday Sepetmber 2nd, Jesus Ramirez was baptized in North Charleston. Elder Douglas and I found that 17 year old while knocking around a former investigator. His dad is a drunk and a drug addict, and Jesus wanted to be different. He was on date for baptism June 2016, but before an immigration court date, he left for Florida and we lost contact. Over 14 months later he entered the waters of baptism. I was so grateful that we found him. He is solid! 

One full week left!!! Oh my goodesss! See you soon.

Pic of Hatcher Garden

Destroying desks at Habitat for Humanity

Mowing (really vacuuming) the lawn 

Me & Sister Vigil

Cultural Night

Bishop having a fun time with some of his kids

Me & Brother Ramirez

Peck hit me in the head with a soccer ball-It was caught on camera-

And then he tried to make me feel better


Monday, September 4, 2017

Dog biting, bike riding, and the story of 'Mater'

Sorry this was late--could not focus on writing last week

Hey y'all-
This week we had so much happen, that I cannot fit all of it. So many wonderful blessings came to the area. Monday night we taught the Colecios about tithing for the new member lessons, and used chocolate to help teach the principle of paying your best ten percent. We gave them each ten pieces of chocolate candy at the beginning, and at the end, they knew what they had to do with- pay the best one back! Tuesday I exchanged with Elder Peck´s trainee, Elder Hobbs. He is humble, and he is hungering to become something. He wants to be obedient to the mission rules too. 

All day Tuesday we biked. We had to go 8.6 miles from the apartment to the area we planned to be in, and here in Carolina there are no sidewalks, and hardly a bikelane. So, riding is pretty sketchy sometimes. People seem to be nicer when we are on bikes though rather than when they are driving. So, as we got halfway, elder hobbs´s pedal fell off. We were at a light waiting to cross when it happened. As we were stopped a guy across the fence in a car dealership parking lot called out to us saying "Elders!" And gave us cold water bottles. What a blessing! We screwed the pedal back in, and conitnued on for maybe 50 yards when it fell out again. So, we decided to take some action. We walked across the street and knocked some doors in a neighborhood to ask if we could borrow a wrench. Nobody had a wrench! I was getting frustrated because that was not possible. Who does not have a wrench in their house?! We continued on and this guy pulls up to his driveway, and happily fixed the finding opportunity, yeah? 

Wednesday Night was another cool. We were not out of the house in our second half of the day until 6:40pm. One reason was because we were doing studies and had service that afternoon. Yesterday was also the deadline of tuition, and I was super stressed about it all. So I called president for permission to email mom to get this tuition stuff all figured out. That took a good second. We were low on miles too, so we had planned to bike, but at this point, it would had not been effective to bike. So we took the car and followed our plans to knock around a part member family (South Carolina Initiative name) of a guy named Oscar. I had a conversation with Oscar months ago and that is where I gained my testimony that there was a great apostasy after the death of Jesus Christ and his apostles. 

We knocked one trailer just a little behind and to the right of his house. A middle-aged black guy standing at about 5ft6 answered wearing no shirt. He was super nice, told us his name and I commented that his name sounded like he could be a famous NFL player. He laughed and then I noticed on his wall in his house a rug with Christ on it. He was not going to let us in, but after talking about a rug, he let us in, put on a shirt, and brought his girlfriend out to hear from us too. She had a trach tube on her throat and when I commented on it, she said I was the first person to know what it was. People think she was in an accident or was a smoker. We set some expectations, and had some chit chat too. I found out that his girlfriend named Neka had her birthday augst 20! First person ever with my same bday! We talked about service for a second, and brandon told me the story of the rug. He said he could deny somebody a ride, but could never deny them food. Some lady asked for some food, and being the cook he is, he cooked up some chicken and gave it to her. In her house, he saw this rug, all dirty and shoved in the corner and asked if he could have it. So, he cleaned it up and then nailed it to the wall. He said that if he turns on his living room light only, and leaves the door open, at night one could clearly see jesus on the wall...I thought that was pretty cool. We started to teach them the restoration, and I explained the need of authority. He understood and agreed. We talked so much about Jesus christ. It was amazing. I could feel the spirit as he bore his testimony of prayer. He is divorced, with two daughters as well. He loves talking about the savior. I asked him if he has ever had spiritual experiences. He was like "oh have i ever!" I told him that when I have spiritual experiences, I feel the need to be so much better. He agreed and said that we were an answer to his prayer actually. I asked him to explain a bit, and he said that the night before he prayed for more of God's word and more of him I guess. His brother is super church-going, and invited him to bible class the same night we saw him and he declined. He told us that it was shocking to him when we showed up because it was an answer to his prayer, and also bible study came to him. 

I just thought of this: We actively seek revelation to help someone we have not even met. We seek inspirtion to where we need to be at what times. The southern people are a praying people. People pray for specific help, and somebody needs to be the answer to their prayers! God wants to use us for his own work, so that is why it is so vital to place oursleves in a position where when called we can act! Missionaries answer prayers! I have been an answer to a few that I know of on my mission. For me, most of the time, I do not know that something was inspiration until after the fact. That is why constant preparation is needed. I thought a little bit at home that night why God would use me to answer somebody's prayer. This all was another testimony to me that the South Carolina Initiative (finding through part member families, families with perespective elders and families with unbaptized children through teaching them and their neighbors) is the Lord's way for us to do missionary work here. I am having these experioences in finding people who are eager to learn from us so much. It is amazing the Lord's hand. I feel like I need to step it up. Three weeks to continue to step it up. It is a daunting task. We ended up leaving them with a Book of Mormon-- he also mentioned how he liked how I expounded on the Ephesians 4:11-14 scripture I shared. Scriptures are powerful!

This week I learned resilience too... We are alotted 1300 miles for our car every month, and boy did we somehow get super duper low! So yesterday we had to bike. We planned in to bike from 10:00 until 2:00. And we put in all four hours of finding! We tried by some people near our apartment and talked to one person, but did not have success. So we biked towards Fuque Street (weird name, right?) to visit and knock around it a less active we had prayerfully chosen to see. As we rode, there was a Hispanic out on a porch the street prior- nobody else in the area was outside and I just booked it passed him...I felt like I needed to go back, and I tried justifying not to. Finally after fighting within myself, we did, he was gone. We knocked the door and there was not an answer. We did find him two doors up though, and we were invited in and taught the restoration! Saturday was the return appointment, but he ended up working. It seems like my entire mission, we have found really cool people but could never get in touch with them again. I do not understand why. Anywho, we kept biking, and it started to pour, we were soaked, and not even our rain jackets could stop water from getting to our body. We talked with Guillermina, a lady we met on a random porch one day while she was cooking food. She loves to talk. I love her sweet spirit. When we first tried to see her, nobody was home, so we rode down the street towards our next planned person, I saw someone driving her to her house, so we booked it back up the street to catch her! We talked about the atonement. Her husband is in Mexico and has been in a coma for 5 years. Still do not understand why she is up here...I want to ask. She talks so openenly with us, and has mucha confianza en nosotros. She is related to the Flores family, who are members. She asked us to say a prayer for her and her husband and then she said a recited prayer of health. It was pretty cool. We left, still in the rain, but happy and wet. 

As we continued on, I saw this guy and wanted to talk to him. He had a small run down house, and it was surrounded with fence. Instead of a door in the doorway, he used a big towel. His small black and white dog mix of spaniel rushed to the fence. It kept yapping as we tried to talk to this guy named Ronney outside of his fence. In an attempt to shut the dog up, I placed my hand over the fence, thinking it wanted to play...IT WAS HUNGRY INSTEAD! It bit me on my right hand! I did not scream, swear or even freak out. In fact, Elder Clifford had no idea that I got bit until I said as we walked to the porch to the owner,"Your dog bit me." I started to bleed and hurt a bit, and I asked for some alcohol (did not specify what kind- I wish he brought out a bud...jk) and band aids. He felt bad, and I was fine. Took it like a champ. He then opened up to us, after telling him who we were. 

He talked about his life as a drug addict and getting into the wrong things. He said he is still an alcoholic. We talked about the atonement of Jesus Christ. He asked a good question," say if a man preaches the gospel for 40 years, was baptized then messes up with alcohol and dies an alcoholic, will he go to heaven or hell?" We tried explaining part of the plan of salvation and gave him a pamphlet. I was trying so hard to pay attention, as I was teaching him and dressing my wound. Talk about multitasking. Because you are probs wondering, I did call the mission nurse, and made sure the dog had its shots. I am healing really well, and will take home a cool souvenir imprinted on my hand! It is pretty cool that I get to say I was bitten by a dog on my mission. To end the night on Thursday, we taught English class to Marcelino, our only student. He knows a lot of English already, so we kinda just answer his questions and do some verb practice and conjugate the English verbs for all tenses. Afterwards, we always talk. I like the guy a lot. He is opening up more and more to me, specifically. He lives in the other elders area, but did not let them come by. After English class, I talked to him about the restoration, Book of Mormon and this last time about his family. He really is trying to be a great dad. We conversed about a lot of things and talked about our moms. I shared a scripture in Alma, where it is mentioned that the 2000 strippling warriors learned from their moms. 

Oh and about the guy named Ronney, whose dog bit me- he told us his nick name is 'Mater' (like from the movie, Cars). Of course we were curious and asked him the backstory. Sooooo... a few years ago a lady lived next door to him. She had a, and I quote his exact wording, "tomater" garden. She would give him good ole juicy tomatoes. There came a day when he did not want to wait for her to give him the tomatoes, so when they were still green he would pick them from their vines. He did this for a while, and when she found out, she called him 'Mater,' because he stole all her tomaters. It is pretty funny, really. 

Friday was interviews with President. I LOVE PRESIDENT INNES. He is so loving, and fiery, and so personable. He makes one feel special for sure. Talking to him feels like talking to dad, no joke. He expressed that he is excited to spend time with me in the mission home, and he always tells me how good of a missionary I am. It feels good to hear that. Anyway, after interviews, we did service at Habitat for Humanity. Towards the end of our time there, in walked 3 Hispanic adults. Silvia, her husband, and her mom named Gloria- from Chihuahua. I took that as an opportunity to talk with them. We have a cultural night next week, so I gave them an invitation to that. As they were leaving, I also got their address. Saturday morning we paid them a visit. It was such a great day Saturday. I woke up super happy and I felt like something good was going to happen. Weather was amazing too. We arrive at their house and they were busy. So, we felt to knock not the next house over, not the second house either, but the third house. We have been working on our door approaches a lot recently in companionship study. We want to make them more interesting, fluid, and powerful because most of the time we do no get to teach other than on a doorstep. There is a way we practice. The first companion will teach a principle, ask a question and then testify. The second companion then testifies and starts that process over. It allows both of us to speak, and testify, and gets the person at the door to talk as well. It is the most awkward when it feels like you talk at them. Doing this has helped me on my mission a ton. It gets good conversations going that lead to teaching opportunities. 

So, after going through that- we asked the lady and her 2 kids who also came to the door, if we could come in right now to share more of this message we have. To my surprise, they said yes and welcomed us in. I was so stoked! After talking for a few minutes about their family, and seeing a table with candles and pics of a girl, I asked if her daughter passed away. Indeed she did. They were in a wreck in July, and her 10 year old daughter was ejected from the car. I remember hearing about them from a member. We taught the plan of salvation and they wanted us to come back next week. Hopefully they will not cancel on us! As I reflected upon this I realized that God wants us to act. We first must show our availability and place ourselves in a position to act. He will place an opportunity in front of us, and we must recognize it and then follow through. In this case, I did so, and another choice was placed in front of me- to knock near this person we met at service. I acted, and I know that was not a coincidence we found this family, tell me, How could it be? Acting, instead of being acted upon is how we can strengthen our testimonies of this Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is how we can receive blessings in our lives, and be tools in the Lord's hands to be a blessing in another's life.

In church on Sunday, we sat next to the Ramirez family. Brother Ramirez asked me to go up to the front with him to translate his testimony into English for the congregation. He has a strong testimony of this Gospel. In Elders Quorum today, Brother Samaniego felt like he needed to teach about the Book of Mormon. He shared the video "testimony of the Book of Mormon" and another one. He shared a spiritual experience he had to explain how he knew it is true. Tonight, we had the opportunity to teach a returning less active, Maria de Lourdes Sanchez, about what we learned today, and we talked much about the importance of the Book of Mormon. We had actually prepared a lesson on the Book of Mormon for the Colecios, but being that they canceled tonight, we kinda practiced on her. It was cool to feel the spirit and invite her to repent. She had not been reading nor praying, and she re-commited to do so. I get excited when talking about the Book of Mormon. Let us get everyone to read it! 

In the car we have been listening to a book by John Bytheway titled how can I know if I know, i think. Here are some quotes that I like, he mentioned. 

"In this church, what we know will always trump what we don't know"(Elder Holland). 

"Weary the Lord until he blesses you"(JS). 

"If we read about the Gospel, we are informed; but if we practice or live the Gospel, we are transformed"(John Bytheway) 

"A man with experience is never at the mercy of a man with an opinion". 

"While the Lord will magnify us in both subtle and dramatic ways, he can only guide our footsteps when we move our feet"(Marion G. Romney).

 "Action is one of the chief foundations of personal testimony"(Howard W. Hunter). 

"More people have received tesrimonies on their feet, than down on their knees praying for them" (Brigham Young). 

This week in total was one of the better ones of the mission. I am excited for what is in store in this area!

Disk Golf last p-day

Group disk gold pic- elder trudioux, holmstead, clifford, tark, hobbs,
anderson, peck, sheen, roundy, (I forget), rose, brinkerhoff, me, morris

Last District Pic

The dog that bit me

Shell of a sacada

Elder Clifford freaked out:)
cultural night set up

Video for the girls (Alexandra, Isabella, Viviana)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Almost A Total Eclipse of the Heart

So, this week we saw the eclipse! It was cool because it started to get dark outside, the street lights turned on and the insects started to sound...we watched it in boiling springs at sherman university, the best chiropractic school in the country I hear. I met the doctor named Dr. Kent who created something that a lot of chiropractors use...he said I should check out going into chiropractic and gave me his card. We did not see the entire eclipse! I was so mad! Greenville got the entire eclipse...the pics were sick though.

Tuesday night we went over to the Colecios. They said they were going to invite auroras brother to do an FHE and they said they had the lesson. We get there, they feed us chicken and Mole and then they surprised me with a tres leches cake for my birthday! That was freaking awesome!

Tuesday Morning 10:30am till 5pm we had zone conference. President Innes started off by training about being above the line missionaries, based off of a book he loves by urban Meyer called "above the line". Freaking awesome. He basically said that we must be living above the line. That is the only way to success. It is the Lord's way, the South Carolina way. That btw is our new motto: the South Carolina way is the Lord's way. Sister Innes talked about spiritual gifts. Here are some things she mentioned: Comparing ourselves= comparing our weaknesses with another's strengths. We all do is lame. we are given strengths to become confident in ourselves. Be best possible version of yourself. A quote she shared I thought was funny was, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."

She then talked about ways we can know what our spiritual gifts are: study patriarchal blessing, Pray about it, Ask parents and grandparents, Notice compliments others give to you referring to your gifts, and Look back at previous experiences yo had that may highlight a gift. She shared this: "If we are imperfect it is our duty to pray and ask God for the gift that will make us perfect"- George Q. Cannon. Other insights I had today were the question, "how am I exercising my faith?" We focused much on increasing our faith and using that as a power to get things done. We focused on the atonement. I need to focus on that more too. I came out of it with motivation and a sense of renewel.That night we knocked into a guy named lorenzo. He was sooo cool! We taught him the restoration and from what we saw with his answers to our questions and what we felt, he seemed super solid! Our problem is that we find so many good potencials, but they just work so much that we cannot get a return date for a couple of weeks. Hopefully this has a different ending!
On Friday We biked! It was not all that bad. Talked to a bunch of people. Taught a younger guy about our age about prayer. He has never prayed before. We invited him to write down three things he is grateful for, and then to pray and thank god for those things. He said he would do it. I have met so many people who profess to believe there is a god, but then have never learned they can talk to him and ask him for help or comfort for whatever it may be. Some people only know recited prayers from their churches. Some do not realize the impact God can have in their lives.

Friday night we watched 17 miracles combined with the Inman ward. Yes, I cried. I realized how much faith these pioneers had, and how merciful the Lord was in showing miracles. I felt gratitude, and love that the lord has. He wants to show his hand to us, and we go through trials so that he can! I felt the need to repent and be better as I watched and felt the message. A reoccurring thought I have had is that I need to engulf myself with good, uplifting spiritual things, music, friends, experiences. I do not want miss out on all the good I can have . I want my faith to grow in Christ to bring about miracles in my life and the lives of my family. I want to constantly feel the sweetness of the spirit that I felt tonight! 

Saturday Morning, we went out and cut sister Maria de Lourdes Sanchez's grass! This time we had a lawn mower that worked. Super random, but I stinking love cutting grass. She was grateful for our service, and gave us an orange juice from her work at McDonalds! We headed over afterwards to one of the tiendas here called el Acapulco, and brother Colecio showed up at the same time and paid for us! Tender mercies for doing service!

See y'all so soon!

What the parking lot looks like at zone conference
Always a Florida fan:) 
It's common to see the confederate flag all over South Carolina 

The Spanish Missionaries as of August 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

Birthday Week!

First off, thank you for all the birthday wishes! Didn't really celebrate too much, but that is okay! Saturday we went to El Acapulco, a really good tienda and taco shop around... we do "conTACOtando" and try to talk with as many Hispanics as possible while eating. We go every Saturday, and now when I order they already know my name, and what I want... una torta de lengua. Some crazy stuff happened this week, so hopefully I can get all of that info in here.

Service this week consisted of finishing painting the parking lot at Hatcher Garden...thank goodness! We also put in sheet rock in someone's garage, and painted a living room-- followed by pizza from the lady for all of us that helped! call me Hispanic cause I can basically do what they do now, thanks to awesome service opportunities on the mission.

So, while eating the above mentioned pizza, Elder Peck got a text from an unknown number telling him that they had to cancel a practice so that this unknown person could attend the funeral for Hermano Ramirez's step dad. We were confused about who this was, and what happened with his step dad. I texted Sister Ramirez and confirmed who and what had happened. MY HEART SUNK. Agustin Cortez Sanchez passed away on Monday afternoon. We have been visiting him every week this last month. Thursday the 10th and Saturday the 12th we visited Agustin. on Saturday we taught him the plan of salvation, and 2 days later, he was gone. He was becoming more open to other beliefs as of recent, although he had been super catholic and not willing to listen months and years before. His wife, the mother of Hermano Ramirez had opened up to us, and I think with this happening, it may open a door and her heart even wider. I am pretty close with the Ramirez family, and they are taking this well. We both are going over to his mom's house to share a message. We will see what happens. 

On another note, the funeral was pretty interesting. They did like an LDS funeral service, followed by a catholic one. SO MANY PEOPLE came to show their support and pay their respects. it was held at a funeral home in downtown Spartanburg. Many former investigators, people we have talked to in the area, active and less active members were their too. It was cool to see how the Hispanic community came together for the Ramirez family. If you want to see an example of the importance of family, hang around some Hispanics. I talked to one of the nephews of Agustin. he is a marine and just got back from camp pendelton a few days ago. We talked about Temecula for a second. The sister of Agustin and other close relatives were mourning super bad. It was sad, and heart wrenching a little too. His sister was so distraught, and seemed to have lost all hope. I learned that lamentation is a real word on Friday. His sister passed out on Agustins body while wailing. Dozens of people stood up and had to sit her down and cool her off and calm her down. I am grateful for the testimony and knowledge I have about God's plan of Salvation. I know there is more after we pass on, and I am not afraid of death. As long as we are living according to how Christ taught, I don't think anyone should be afraid of death. I saw a part member Hispanic family Elder Brian and I had been teaching in Greenville- Lulu and Juan Campos, and Lulu is going to be baptized soon! freak yeah!

Another member went down this week with some sort of health issues and was rushed to the hospital. Last night we visited them- the Hispanics in the ward have rallied around them as well. It is wonderful to see so much support for many people, from many people. If only everybody could show true love and compassion like these members.

Yesterday we visited a sister named Maria de Lourdes. She has come to church all but 2 weeks since I have been here. She hardly came before my first week when we invited her to church. It is cool to see her testimony grow still. Brother Velasquez accompanied us and we had a great lesson. Somewhere in it I shared Helaman 3:35 from the Book of Mormon, and asked her and her daughter how they think they could yield their hearts to God. We went into a very good conversation, and she mentioned that we have to do the will of God. As she was talking I wanted to say that the Spirit will help us know the will of god to help us better yield our hearts to him. She continued and shared a thought she had Saturday to ask how sister Samaniego was doing- and she did not know she was in the hospital, until we told her. We then went into talking about promptings, and how to recognize and be more receptive to the spirit. The spirit definitely directed the lesson!

Speaking of promptings...

The last few weeks, I have felt the urge to check out a street called wood street which we drive down every few days. I have seen many Hispanics outside in their yards. In the mission, we are not permitted to knock streets, like everyone else does for their main method of personally finding new people to teach. But, the spirit trumps everything. Saturday morning we got a media referral for WOOD street. We always knock around referrals as well. Although the referral ended up being for the Zone Leaders and not on the same wood street, I took that as another sign that we needed to go check out wood street. so we drove down it, scouted out which houses to knock on, and went to work. We met this really cool guy from El Salvador who had two daughters. he is currently a single dad. We talked for a few minutes and will try to go back!

In the mission, we have a list of part member families, perspective elders and unbaptized children over 9. We look over our lists every week in weekly planning and we pray to see who we need to visit and knock around. This is the main way we do missionary work. it is called the South Carolina initiative. Most of the baptisms in the mission stem from this. Many other missions have adopted something similar. So one of the people we chose was Hermano Cuervo. He lives next to his son who had already expressed to us that he is not interested in coming back. We planned to see him at 3:00pm on Saturday, and we showed up at 3:05pm. not like 30 seconds later the son showed up as we were knocking on his dad's house. We went over and talked to him....I'll leave the suspense right there. There is no coincidence in the Lord's work. right time, right place. It has happened countless times to me these last 23 months or so.

Another thing was that Saturday night after we pulled up in the parking lot, we got out, I locked the car and took a few steps, realized I forgot my wallet, and went back to get it. I pocketed it and turned around. two older guys like in their 30s approached us. They were bigger than us for sure. They seemed friendly though. They asked us how we were doing, and asked an obvious question, "are y'all Mormons?". I thought they could be RMs here selling solar or something. Then, they separated us. One of the guys went to Clifford and the other to me. The guy who approached me started talking about being some sort of brain surgeon. Mentioned a few times that he was a doctor, and I think he did that to say he was smart or something. Then off on some stuff in Luke 12 and then went into preacher mode. He kept jabbing his index finger into my chest, and I kinda didn't know what to do. He kept mentioning how he loved me and wanted me to know the truth. He is Presbyterian, and from what I know, they don't believe there can be any more scripture. It was 9:15, and I did not want to turn this into a bible bash. It was hard. he ripped into my religion, right into my face. It seemed as though he would say stuff that could egg me on. People know how to get use us against ourselves. It has happened quite a few times. HE said we worship Joseph Smith, WHICH FYI IS NOT TRUE. IF YOU THINK THAT MORMONS DO THAT, PLEASE STUDY FOR YOURSELF FROM RELIABLE SOURCES. Do we worship Moses, Abraham or Isaac? No. why? ONE: they are men. TWO; they are prophets, not GOD. I didn't say much, because we needed to get in, and I felt super crappy, because I failed at defending my religion. That will never happen again.

On a lighter note, here is something I learned in my Book of Mormon studies this week:

I have read this chapter so many times, but wanted to learn something new, and I did. Nobody talks about the servant of Laban, named Zoram, who followed nephi and his brothers to the tent of his father. After Nephi had slain Laban, he put on his clothing and entered the hosue of Laban, heading to the treasury to get the plates of brass which contained the first five books of Moses, and a geneology of their fathers, he saw Zoram and says in chapter 4 verse 20:, "...Behold I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys to the treasury." I thought as I read that line of Matthew 6:21 where Christ states in his sermon on the mount, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." So our treasures lie in the treasury, along with our hearts per se. Just like Zoram, we too hold the keys to our own hearts (being that they are in the treasury). It is up to us to come unto Christ, and yield our hearts unto him. It is only possible if we unlock our hearts to receive Him and His word. We have the power to accept or reject his gospel. I find that so interesting how that agency can be symbolized with the word "keys." May we all unlock our hearts to Christ!!

Hide & Seek from Shayla McLaughlin on Vimeo.