Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Christmas Carol

Hey everybody! His week in the missionary work has been awfully slow. A lot of people are out for the holidays and our investigators did not really want to be bothered. However, we did find some success. On Tuesday, I lead the area for the first time. Elder Fife went with Elder Droge to Greenville and I stuck with Elder Russell down here. Leading the area meant I was driving too! I have not driven in a long time so it was kind of sketch! We tried to contact some referrals and we ended up sharing this year's Christmas video like 8 times. We hit up the government housing in Grey Court and had some success there as well. Included in that, we met a 93 year old man with no family. We taught him, but he shut the door on us because I think of a combination of not being able to hear the message since he was so old, and not necessarily understanding what we were doing. But that's okay! 

We went caroling as a zone in downtown Greenville on Wednesday! There were a few people out so someone got to enjoy our not so angelic voices! It was pouring too so we all got soaked! It was really fun though! We went caroling as a district on Christmas Eve as well.
Caroling in downtown Greenville with part of the zone
We 
hit up some of our investigators, and also gave them each a plate of cookies, made by yours truly and Elder Fife. We got positive feedback from our investigators, and they were so grateful that we took time to do this! It was fun. Last night was a success. We decided to knock doors in a neighborhood, who we thought were Hispanic. All but one opened and the ones that opened were Hispanic! We did what missionaries do on every door step and even got 2 return appointments for this week!


Saturday night we met this guy named Ronnie. He walked out of his house when we knocked and knew who we were. His grandpa was Mormon and passed away last year. He told us of his conversion story to God, and how he went from not believing to becoming a religious man. It was pretty cool. We talked with him about the restoration of the gospel and the Book of Mormon. He was pretty stubborn and his point was that the bible is the only thing we need. He started to preach to us a little bit, so we testified about the Book of Mormon. Elder Fife's testimony had so much power. I felt the spirit very strong. His concern too was what makes us different. He wanted to know what he was not doing right, since he knows as missionaries our role is to bring people to believe in what we teach. He was being a little combative and his questions were good. We told him to just read the Book of Mormon. He said come by in two weeks. We did the best we could at teaching him, and I feel that he will be softened to really listen to us with a desire to learn. 

Christmas was awesome! Best present ever was being able to FaceTime my family! It felt weird since it is the first Christmas away from home. I was looking forward to this all Christmas Eve night and could not sleep! It was such a refresher! Five more months until Mother's Day when I can call home again!
We spent Christmas afternoon with the Powells like at Thanksgiving. It was fun and we played some board games. Loving this area more and more and my Spanish is getting better! Happy New Year!
The sweet christmas gift of the year! Hand made for each of the Elders and a heart over Simpsonvile!
The Jones's have a bamboo forest, so they gave each of us some bamboo:)
 
Elder McLaughlin


Monday, December 21, 2015

Feliz Navidad- we are a little spoiled & The POWER of Prayer!

Well it is Monday again! Wow time flies. This week has been amazing! So much stuff has happened!

On Monday we visited one of our investigators, Gio. He is so ready and we know it. He has been prepared and his current situation is perfect for the gospel to be introduced to his life. He is on his second marriage, has 2 kids and is still working out custody stuff. He opened up to us even more and he is having a "my soul hungered" experience right now. He wants to find a church and is super humble. I clicked with him pretty well! We last saw him the day before Thanksgiving and he has been reading the Book of Mormon too! I am so excited for what is in store for him!

Monday night we also visited our investigators and gave them all cookies! They loved it and were grateful! We decided to do that because #1 it is Christmas season and #2 we want them to know we actually care for them and aren't just preaching.
A miracle happened Monday too! We were driving down a street and Elder Fife felt to turn down a certain street to visit a former investigator. We went up to the house, and this guy, David, was outside! We scheduled to come back Tuesday and then Elder Fife and Elder Hatch went back to teach him and his family (since Tuesday we had exchanges). Turns out that his daughter, Natalie, was interested in the church. Elder Fife and I taught her Wednesday and she came to church yesterday!!! WE ARE STOKED! This is our first investigator at church since I have gotten here! Exchanges on Tuesday were good too. Elder Browne and I had a great companion study all about the spirit and recognizing it! It helped me a lot! We raked a bunch of leaves at peoples houses for service and even cleaned up a squirrel nest from someones chimney. It was huge! 

On Friday we did service at the senior center in Mauldin again. For Thanksgiving we did this too, and helped prepare food and set up, but this time we just helped out serving the food and talked to the people in attendance.  Apparently from last time, all the old ladies would not stop talking about us! haha They were so happy to have us back.  Many people complimented us on our willingness to serve and were grateful for us. It is such a great missionary tool. From it, Elder Fife and I were able to give 2 blessings to non members! It was a great experience!

On Saturday we had some crazy awesome miracle!!! I have not had a lot of time to write in my journal so far in the mission. I'm just super busy, which is good. I want to share an awesome experience. Primero, las hermanas tienen una sirvicio bautismal hoy, para Caitlun. La primer milagro fue we needed two of our investigators to come to this baptism. We called and texted Alejandro y Felix and wanted their family to come as well. They didn't respond until 11:30 am and the baptism was at 12. They said their dad couldn't take them, so we called brother Fielosh (ward mission leader) and he and his sons picked them up. His sons are friends with them too, which is cool. Last week we invited them to this very baptism, but it was cancelled, so instead we gave then a church talk. So glad that they enjoyed the baptism today! We started fasting after dinner tonight and hopefully our fast and faith will bring them to church tomorrow!

After the baptism is when miracle #2 came to pass. On our way home to the apartment, we were driving behind a potential investigator. Back-track real quick-- we had been trying to contact members to come with us that day to certain lessons- we could not find anyone for our lives! People we called were so busy. We were so bummed. So as we were behind this potential investigator, we decided to follow him to see if he was headed home. He was, so we quickly pulled into a neighborhood and ran up his street, along the main road, to go talk to him. his garage was 3 feet from closing an Fife called out, "HERMANO!" This guy re-opened the garage door and we talked for almost half an hour!

Just a side note, he is the tallest Mexican I have ever seen! He is like 6'3"! He really warmed up to us. Elder Fife had talked to him months ago and was shewed from his porch. He opened up to us and talked about how he has been wanting to change his life. Last week he almost tried to kill someone and he's been a drinker and an addict. He was saying how he has so much guilt and doesn't know his purpose here. During our talk with him on his driveway, I had a hard time understanding him, but felt like I needed to share the plan of salvation. I didn't know when I could chime in, and ends up it was a prompting because Elder Fife started to talk about it. It went super well, and he wanted to read the pamphlet we gave him. He said he would also read the Book of Mormon introduction. We invited him to come to church, but he said he was going to North Carolina to a Catholic priest to confess his sins and if we didn't talk to him, well... who knows!? 

It's cool how the Lord works on people. In a matter of months, their demeanor can change and someone can be ready to hear the gospel. This is what we have been fasting and praying for.  By the way, we have been fasting every Sunday since I have been here.

I have grown to love the Book of Mormon so much and I have felt that it has been changing me! Please start reading it or continue to read it because it brings so much more hope and power to our lives! I love the Book of Mormon so stinking much! like I regret not reading it with diligence before. It really is a strength. There are two cool things I learned this week- actually three. MIRACLES HAPPEN! Read that journal entry! Prayer is super important. Alma 13:28, D y C 10:5, 2 Nephi 32:8-9

I realized the power of prayer in our lives. Prayers from the righteous are what caused God to be merciful to Alma the younger to bring him to repentance. Prayers of the righteous stopped Ammonihah from being destroyed. When we sin, satan will make us feel unworthy to pray. This is not true. We can always pray. satan realizes that prayer is literally a power and that by prayer, his hold on us is lessened. We will not be tempted above what we can bear, if we pray every day. We hold the power to stop satan from coming into our lives. Also, faith is an amazing power. Alma chapter 14 is amazing. Alma and Amulek are teaching the people in Ammonihah during this time and are persecuted. They were rejected, spat upon, verbally abused, thrown in prison, beat up, stripped naked, bound with strong cords, deprived of food and water and questioned by the lawyers, teachers, priests and the chief judge, non stop for many days. They were forced to witness the burning alive of many women and children who believed in God, as well as the burning of the scriptures and records of the people. Amid all of this physical pain, mental tiredness, and spiritual pain, Alma and Amulek had so much faith. In verse 28, because of their faith, the Lord literally granted them power to come off conquerer. In this gospel we have so much power and we don't even know it.

OH- and we met a baptist guy who is setting up a question & answer forum for us soon at his baptist church. Pray for me! LOL

I love my mission and would not want to be doing anything else. Can't wait to facetime the family for Christmas!!!

Feliz Navidad!!!
We may be spoiled.... Elder Fife & I
SERVICE!!!


Have to have a toothbrush pic
Breakfast on the way to fill the font for the sisters baptism on Saturday
Favorite tienda here in my area (this is in Mauldin)
snacking on the homemade cookies Ama sent wrapped in like 3 boxes hahaha!

Morning workout Part 1
Morning workout part 2
Morning workout part 3- LOVE THIS HOOP!


Monday, December 14, 2015

"Aggressive Driving"

Wow this week went by fast! It is hard to remember what even happened. We did service on Tuesday taking out trees at a members property so that they could finish building their house. It was super muddy and a lot of hard work! It was fun though! There were a bunch of Latinos working on painting the church member's house, so at their lunch break we went and talked to them. They were surprised we spoke Spanish. 

We have had a great week as a companionship. Lots of miracles have happened. We had 9 referrals to contact and we got to see all of them. That was an answer to prayer. There are two great ones in particular. Shortly after I emailed on Monday, we visited a reference we received that had no name- only an address. She was hesitant in talking to us, but we told her our message could be how ever long she wanted. We outlined the plan of salvation or plan of happiness for her, and we visited her last night again! Her name is Marisella, and she is super awesome! We went more into the plan of salvation and we also taught her husband, Juan. It was cool because at first, their body language with their arms folded showed us they weren't super interested, but when Fife talked about the spirit world, right after death, that's when they started to uncross their arms. Marisella even brightened up a little bit! 

Another cool experience was when contacting another referral. He let us in and just went on for 15 minutes as to why he was interested in the church. I have never experienced someone open up like that before! He and his family were so grateful that we came over. Even adding on to this, we have a lesson with them tomorrow and this guy (Gusravo) has Mormon family in New York! Miracles hahah. 

Zone conference on Thursday was the bomb! It was a Christmas one so it was 2 zones at our building. We first had the installation of the dreaded TIWI's ! It's a device that basically tracks where you are at, but is used for the missions to keep us being good drivers. It will say "check your speed" or "check your seatbelt" and "aggressive driving". We have a card that logs us in as a driver and every transfer they review how you drove. If there is some crazy stuff recorded, we are no longer allowed to drive mission vehicles. Saturday night we were going like 30 on one road and Fife didn't see a speed bump and so we caught some air AND an "aggressive driving" announcement. That is on his record now, LOL. 

I learned a lot at zone conference. I love President Turner and his wife! They are so sick! We talked about faith as a power and one other big thing was the South Carolina initiative. The initiative is basically us working with members to strengthen the members, bring back in-active members and get referrals from both of those groups. We also did a hilarious skit and Fife and I made a video along with it. Maybe I can get that out to the world sometime haha. Anyway I have to go. God answers every prayer, so pray! There's another cool experience about that I will share later!
~Elder McLaughlin
Sweet Sister Oehrig feeds us every Saturday- (she sent this to Shay on facebook).

Clemson Tiger Tail!

Elder Fife really wants me to start eating spicy

The Elders Quorum successfully put together 100 huge plates of cookies for less active families in the ward for Christmas! Whoop! Nobody thought it was possible LOL

My little Christmas tree with some of our stuff mom sent
I don't know the significance of this pic- Brayden sent it, so I'm posting the cute little house in the woods:)

Our Facetime lesson with Juan & Maria. I'm not smiling lol.

Monday Email pic


Monday, December 7, 2015

Official Pooper-Scoopers

Hey Guys!

Okay so this week we did so much service! From cleaning a bunny farm to mounting a television. A less active member in the ward lives on a huge piece of property and has a few horses, chickens, ducks, dogs and hundreds of bunnies. He raises bunnies and sells them as food. We had the wonderful opportunity to make our own episode of 'Dirty Jobs', haha. He has us go into one of like three bunny farms and shovel out all the poop and pee into a wheel barrow, and take it out to a hole a few hundred yards away and then dump it. During the process we did spill the wheelbarrow a few times, on us, and I wish I brought my camera to capture it all! After all the crap was out, we had to place dirt and fill any holes or uneven parts in the barn that we made while shoveling the poop. It took a while and I could taste all of that nast in my mouth for a day afterwards@!


On Saturday we helped move a family who feeds us every week. It's the least we could do for them! Their house had mold growing and they were smart to get out. We also helped a Mexican lady move into her house. She is not a member, nor was an investigator. We moved boxes down to her basement and her attic and we got fed some Mexican dish too! So good! She had us mount her television too. It was scary because we haven't mounted TVs by ourselves! Adding onto this, she didn't have the right drill bits, so we had to make do haha. I have finally learned how to be a handy-man! Mom would be so proud! We ended up doing it successfully though! I hope it is still up on the wall hahaha. She was super funny and kept talking about how lucky she was that she had "muy guapo muchachos con ojos de luz" helping her, who also spoke Spanish hahah! We were able to introduce the Book of Mormon to her and her dad and they liked it and opened up to us. We are helping them again this next week, which is cool! 

Este semana, Nosotros tenemos una reuniĆ³n de entrenamiento del zona. Fue muy bien para mi. We talked lot about our zone goal of 14 baptisms before 2016, and discussed what we need to do this month to get there. I learned a lot about faith and diligence, as well as planning better. One thing that was cool was a quote someone said, 

"pray like everything depends on God, then get up and work like everything depends on you." 

It is such a cool quote, and as we continue to have faith and act in all diligence, we get blessed. The zone leaders gave an awesome training and the sister training leaders did as well! I'm excited for this Thursday for my first Christmas zone conference! I think we are taking a huge group pic that will be on Facebook so look for that! Transfers are in 2 weeks too, which is soooo crazy! I'm almost half done with training! 

So this week I have seen that prayers get answered. We have been having trouble with getting the ward on board with member missionary work and we were going to share with ward council a talk from one of the apostles, to get the motivation up. So at the adult session of stake conference, the theme was WARD COUNCILS and a member of the seventy talked heavily on this subject! It was so awesome because it hit every point we wanted to talk about with our ward councils! Lastly, I don't remember what I sent last week, but the couple we were teaching over FaceTime, we set them up with a baptismal date! It's pretty cool! And we officially met them at stake conference! I'm finally getting used to the area and its growing on me a little bit. The hard part is the insanely cold weather. I can't handle it hahahaha! But hey, it's all part of the experience. Hope y'all have a good week! Remember act in faith when you pray and when you do, you're prayers will be answered! Check this out: Enos 1:12
Elder McLaughlin

Fife & I put together this sick lunch from scratch! Included pomegranate, apple, pasta, chicken, cheese. Super good!
My super awesome wall desk- (Spanish conjugations on sticky notes).
A pretty nice day today. Like 50 degrees though! haha View from our apartment.
(This California boy is still getting used to temps less than 75 degrees:)

Monday, November 30, 2015

An Eye Single to the Glory...

Hey this week has been stellar! So happy, because we have had some success finally!!! Hopefully there is more to come! To really start out the week, we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders! It was so amazing. I was re-energized and prepared to work even harder after the exchange ended! 

We had a district feast with 2 districts in Greenville after our district meetings, and it was amazing!! The Spanish elders district cooked and it was amazing!! Basically a pre-Thanksgiving feast! 
afterwards we (Russell and I, since we were on exchanges
Elder Russell & I on exchanges
Sister Albrecht, Mom's fb friend
together) 
After this, we met up with Sister Albrecht at Chick-fil-a, and her daughter, Maya, who is 15. It's one of mom's facebook friends through Lindsey Wynia. She apparently lived in Spokane, so I asked if she knew the Lakes-and she does! (Jameson and Hillary) It's a small world! She was saying that I remind her of Jameson- haha. Well, we talked for a bit and took a picture. She is super kind and she and mom would really click in real life. 

We had some street contacts in a neighborhood and this guy we talked to seemed really solid! We gave him a Book of Mormon as well and he said we could come back again! We also got rejected a bunch... for some reason, white people rejection is way harder than Latino rejection. They are sometimes nasty and straight to the point. The Latinos just welcome you in, feed you a snack and say they really don't have time or they are not interested. We went later that night to a bike path behind the Greenville Zoo and drew out the plan of salvation with chalk! Our goal was to get people interested in what the heck two guys were doing playing with chalk, and it worked! Satan is getting creative in the ways of deceiving men, so it's important to be creative in sharing the gospel! We talked to a good number of folks and got their addresses and phone numbers so missionaries could visit them sometime! 
This is our Plan of Salvation chalk drawing! 
To end the night we visited a family of investigators. It went so well! It was a family with 4 little African-American kids and they were super cute! (I don't want to sound, ya know, girly, but don't know how else to put it) they also have a 20 year old brother and they were all golden! They understand the gospel, and the questions the kids asked were so in depth- it surprised me! They really want to learn!!

After our studies this morning, we visited a guy named Pablo. We met him a few days ago as a referral from the sisters. We already talked with him and gave him a Book of Mormon. When he saw us pull up in our car, and when we got out, he tried starting his lawn mower (keep in mind that his lawn mower is old and he is in his 60's) but it would not start, even if he tried his hardest. When we got up to him it started, then made a loud popping sound and died! It was so funny, so his only choice was to talk to us. He said he didn't want to change religions, but we tried to tell him we are here to help strengthen his faith in Christ. He was pretty hard-headed, so we bid him farewell. Funny thing is that a few nights ago when we tried to contact him at his house, his wife said he was asleep, but I saw him hiding on the staircase listening to us! Right after we left, we saw a Latino-looking family outside another house. We went up and it was a young guy with 2 cute kids. Turns out, his parents are Mexican and speak no English, but he is more comfortable with English. He was SO FRIENDLY AND WARM TO US! I was surprised. He is also super humble! He is going through a rough time with his family right now. He has a daughter and a step son, works crazy hours and goes to school at South Carolina. He said he is looking for church because he needs it and has been attending one for a few weeks. He was never heard of Mormons, which is cool, because he has no prejudice against us!!  We got his number, and address and gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to check LDS.org out online! Can't wait to see him ultra vez! It's awesome that when I decided to stop worrying about the lack of success and work a little harder, the Lord makes stuff happen! Estoy muy agradecido por el mucho exito este semana! 

The highlight of my week was Saturday and Sunday. Thanksgiving was good too! We played in the turkey bowl! I was so happy to play football. Don't worry, it was flag. Apparently, it is allowed. It was so nice to play it. I covered Elder Fife most of the time on defense, and boy is he a speedster.  I also got to be the receiver on offense most of the time and broke my watch and jammed my big toe, which is now very swollen. So worth it though!!! After, we headed over to Bishop Powell's home for Thanksgiving. My new favorite is fried turkey!  It is so moist and tasty! I also love the brown sugar pecan sweet potatoes! We were fed well and it was my first time trying fried turkey![note from Shay- he apparently doesn't remember all the times that his uncles did fried turkey and almost lit our backyard on fire in American Fork when he was younger]. 
We have been dying to take a pic with these hats the sisters gave us
Saturday night we had a lesson over facetime! The sister training leaders had a husband and wife (both Mexican) who they were teaching with a Spanish member. They decided to stop having the member teach and gave it to us! We got to know them a little bit and we re-taught the restoration. The spirit was super strong and Elder Fife and I were on the exact same page! For example, he started talking about the Atonement and a scripture popped into my head and it was the same scripture he was planning to share! We also shared other scriptures that were totally on point with each other's commentary! Towards the end I had the feeling that he was going to ask them to be baptized and whispered "baptism?" to him and as soon as that happened, the facetime call stopped working for a while. That was testimony to me that Satan knew they were ready and tried to stop us from asking! Not a second after it started working, our phone started to ring!! Holy cow it was a weird, but eye opening experience! We invited them after this and they said they would pray about it. I was praying this week for specific experiences where I could without a doubt feel the spirit and Saturday was one of them. A miracle happened on Sunday night as well. We finally got into a house of a family of 6! They have been reading the Book of Mormon as well and they promised they'd pray to know if it is true! They were so sincere and I know the Lord has been preparing them for a while! 

I know that this work is so important to God and that our testimonies are meant to be shared with others. We need to get some courage and share the gospel, whether that means by talking about it with friends and acquaintances, or sharing by being an example of a true disciple of Christ. We do not have time to be slothful. It is essential to take initiative and start being more righteous. We are helping prepare the Lord's kingdom for when he comes again.

Well we are at church every Sunday from 7am-4pm, so 9 hours of church! No complaining anybody else! It's kind of cool though to have 2 wards. In word council I talked about trying something new. We want to get the wards into the missionary-centered spirit. We want everyone to be excited about missionary work and we need referrals! To do this, I started the 'missionary moment' thing. Every week we will be asking for missionary experiences for members to share. This will hopefully get them excited to share on Sundays what they experience in the week. I invited the elders quorum to pray for missionary opportunities during the week as well.

Elder Fife and I had an awesome weekly planning session and really sat down and discussed in depth three things for each of our investigators: Their personal/ spiritual needs, our goals to help them, and what we will do to accomplish those goals. We set a goal as well to have a baptism on Dec. 26th and two on January 16th. We decided to be better exactly obedient. Obedience does bring blessings and I have seen that this week!! 

Last thing I want to say is that the Book of Mormon is so awesome! When we liken the words included to our lives, we will profit and learn from them! Have a good week!
-Elder McLaughlin

weekly road trip to the library for emailing!
First actual rainy day

A view you don't get in California!

gas is SOOOO CHEAP here!  Thought I might share hahaha

I was on exchanges with the ZL, Elder Russell, this week in Greenville, and this was one of the many impressively huge church buildings down here. It's weird seeing so many churches in one area that aren't all just Mormon churches!

I take a lot of car pics I guess-- Meet Elder Russell

Biking Exchange with Elder Hatch this week in my district...
We don't normally bike, so I wanted to take a pic with my gear on-- yeah, it's kinda weird.

Journal Entries 11/24-11/30

First Exchange Tuesday 11/24/15
Today was my first exchange as a missionary! I went with Elder Russell, who is a ZL in the Greenville zone. I learned so much. First, in personal study I have been reading the Book of Mormon and I am in 2 Nefi. I have learned a lot more sobre el plan de salvacion, including another name for it! I also read my setting apart that mom recorded and transcribed, and it talked about that in moments of discouragement that as I diligently worked hard, I will find that success is around the corner. We have been working hard, so hopefully that corner is coming close!

Another cool thing I learned was having to do with my patriarchal blessing. I just share this part: "The knowledge which God possess will come to you as you spend time in the scripture and in listening and reading the words of the living prophets." Now, in the white handbook under missionary leadership, it says, "leaders should study the scripture and the teachings of modern day prophets to learn the principles of Christ-like leadership." Not only by taking time to do los dos, will I gain the knowledge God has, I will also develop Christ-like leadership. It's cool because I'm pretty sure I'll be a leader in the field. The ZL told me that I am a good Spanish missionary and that he knows I'll be a leader in this mission. He said the Spanish missionaries mess around a lot, but told me not to get into that mindset. Fife and I work together well and we won't be messing around anytime soon. After studies, we went to DDM. I went with the spanish district, Larkey scared because those guys are all a little feminine. Did not feel too comfortable. Afterwards, we had a feast! Elder Finch and Skirvin made some amazing food and dessert. Elder Finch apparently used all of his MSF for the month to buy it all.

After this, we met up with Sister Albrecht at Chick-fil-a, and her daughter, Maya, who is 15. It's one of mom's facebook friends through Lindsey Wynia. She apparently lived in Spokane, so I asked if she knew the Lakes! Like Jameson and Hillary and she does! It's a small world! She was saying that I remind her of Jameson. haha. Well, we talked for a bit and took a picture then left. She is super kind and mom and her would click in real life.

We had an appointment fall through, so we went knocking doors. We got rejected twice. Rejection in English hurts more than rejection in Spanish. This lady agreed with what we said until we mentioned the Book of Mormon, then said that she didn't want to listen and shut her door. Another guy answered the door and we said we were missionaries- he said he wasn't religious, got a little flustered and mad, then shut the door. At least the Latinos are kind about it. They reject you, but still feed you whenever you go back. We had a goal of 7 street/door contacts and we had 8! woohoo! We went into downtown Greenville by the zoo and drew on a bike/run path in chalk, the plan of salvacion! We talked to 5 people and got the phone #'s and addresses of 2 peoples! I was pretty sick! Satan is getting creative in the ways of deceiving men, so it is important to be creative in sharing the gospel! We had a visit with a less-active family. It was cool to see how to go about talking with them. The wife expressed she wants the spirituality part of  her life back. It was so cool how it is so easy to care and help them come back. We had another lesson with a black family. They are so awesome. We went in and were going to teach the Sabbath Day lesson. Turns out their grandpa was about to die, so a few of them rushed out. We decided to say a prayer with them. We taught the rest of the kids the plan of salvation again, and they remembered it well! They had so many questions it was cool. The fake older brother, Levonte, who is 20, already has 2 degrees and just got his report card with straight A's on it! Talk about breaking stereo types! He understands what has been taught and takes himself the responsbility to answer the questions his fake brothers and sisters have about what the missionaries teach. I'm excited for them and a future baptismal date. It made me happy to see these y any kids wanting to learn and wanted to ask questions for understanding. I'm grateful for this exchange and the people I associated with and what I learned being a missionary really is!

Wednesday 11/25/15
Today was a good day as well! After our studies this morning, we visited a guy named Pablo. We met him a few days ago as a referral from the sisters. We already talked with him and gave him a Book of Mormon. When he saw us pull up in our car, and when we got out, he tried starting his lawn mower (keep in mind that his lawn mower is old and he is in his 60's) but it would not start, even if he tried his hardest. When we got up to him it started, then made a loud popping sound and died! It was so funny, so his only choice was to talk to us. He said he didn't want to change religions, but we tried to tell him we are here to help strengthen his faith in Christ. He was pretty hard headed, so we bid him farewell. Funny thing is that a few nights ago when we tried to contact him at his house, his wife said he was asleep, but I saw him hiding on the staircase listening to us! Right after we left, we saw a Latino-looking family outside another house. We went up and it was a young guy with 2 cute kids. Turns out, his parents are Mexican and speak no English, but he is more comfortable with English. He was SO FRIENDLY and WARM TO US! I was surprised. He is also super humble! He is going through a rough time with his family right now. He has a real daughter and a step son, works crazy hours and goes to school at South Carolina. He said he is looking for church because he needs it and has been attending one for a few weeks. He was never heard of Mormons, which is cool, because he has no prejudice against us!!  We got his number, and address and gave him a Book of Mormon and can't wait to see him ultra vez!

Today we went around the trailer park and this afternoon to say hi to people and hopefully get in someone's door or initiate a lesson. We scheduled one lesson and confirmed another, also talked with a bunch of kids. Elder Fife knows all of those kids and they love him! I just remembered I have those In-n-Out stickers I could use! We hit up a tienda to seek people who cared to hear of our message and it went south hahaha. We walked around for like 15 minutes pretending to look at stuff, and we talked with a less active that works there, but she was totally disinterested. The workers were carefully looking at us, and from hindsight, we realize they thought we were trying to steal something! We quickly got out of there with takis and jimex (two of our favorites from the Mexico CCM).

Our English class failed again today. We had 2 women show up, but in accordance to the reglar, podemos ensenar sin en otro persona de la sucerdocio. Dumos ellas study papel we have for each lesson and then went on their way. One was Felbicla who is a current investigator. Today I was thinking about connections as well, with people I've met. It's interesting how God works and I can't wait to see how all of this folds out. On the back is a little outline:

11/26/15 Thanksgiving
Today was super chill. We played in the turkey bowl this morning! I was so happy to play football. Don't worry, it was flag. Apparently, it is allowed. It was so nice to play it. I covered Elder Fife most of the time on defense, and boy is he a speedster. He got behind me all the time. We have this sick black family in the ward, and they are kinda short, but the dad and his 20 year old sons are jacked! It was so fun playing with them. I was on offense- got to be receiver all morning. It broke my white $8 watch catching in traffic, and also jammed my big toe, which is now swollen, wahoo! So worth it! We went back, did some studies,and then headed over to Bishop Powell's house for dinner. It was so awesome! New favorite is fried turkey!  It is so moist and tasty! I also love the brown sugar pecan sweet potatoes! We didn't have sparkling apple cider though, but hey, it was not a problem! I'm grateful for their hospitality and friendliness all the time. In honor of Thanksgiving, I'll write some things that I'm grateful for .

  1. family I can talk to
  2. Southern California weather
  3. knowledge of sports
  4. being a missionary
  5. difficulties
  6. golden investigators
  7. atonement
  8. opportunities to teach
  9. mission car in cold weather
  10. music (b/c none in MTC)
  11. wards I'm serving in
  12. decision to go to BYU over summer
  13. connections I've made
  14. knowledge that there is a plan for me
  15. patriarchal blessing
  16. Book of Mormon
  17. diligent workers
  18. The Gospel
  19. not being in a 3rd world country
  20. United States
  21. hospitality of Latinos
  22. true friends
  23. family that encourages me
  24. Elder Fife
  25. sports
  26. ability to talk to people
  27. ability to learn fast
  28. being a Spanish elder
  29. common sense
  30. iPads that replaced area books
  31. bathrooms
  32. health
  33. people who have helped me grow (teachers, family, ym leaders)
  34. In-N-Out job
  35. food
  36. experiences in high school
Friday 11/27/15
Second Exchange
Today I had an exchange with Elder Hath. he is really nice, but I was dreading it to be honest. He is a more spiritually mature Michael Skaggs, and he really didn't listen to me yesterday; however, I did learn a bunch. In the morning, we tried to do service for this family and we brought our rakes to rake their leaves because they gave us permission. By the way, this is an English exchange. This huge guy walks out so Elder Hatch knocks to let them know we are here. He says he doesn't need our help because something came up. We asked if he needed anything else and he said no, but Elder Hatch kept trying to share the message. The guy was flustered, had rapid speech, and was big too. He repeated what he said, so I said "okay we understand completely, have a great day sir" and Elder Hatch kept trying to talk to him! I was like DUDE! Common sense please!! Anyway, we walked out of the neighborhood, felt like we should go back, and then contacted 2 people along the way back! It was sick! We biked in a bunch of neighborhoods, and in one Elder Hatch was far ahead and started talking to this guy. The guy gold him in Spanish that he only knows Spanish.  I said "Se habla Espanol" and we began talking. Elder Hatch was still trying to talk to him in Spanish and I was like seriously, you don't know Spanish haha. The guy was pretty cool. He is here from Peru and is going back on Monday. I asked when he would be back, and it wont' be until Febrero or marzo. I gave him a Book of Mormon and we are going to visit him on Sunday! This morning, I was telling the elder that I haven't really felt the gift of tongues since my MTC experience. It was a blessing to talk with that guy without Elder Fife, since I had to try even harder to understand him (because Fife is fluent). I understood him well and words just flowed through my mouth! So sick! I have already decided I like talking to Latino potentials instead of guerros.

This elder I was on splits with did not know what lines were. He talks to everybody which is great, but doesn't know how to read context clues as to when to stop. It was super annoying, and he made some people frustrated. Some lady was super nice, but told us that we have our beliefs, and she has hers, and htat she respects ours and hopes we can respect hers. Plus thy were busy painting the side of the house, getting ready to move, so there wasn't time. I said okay we understand, gave them a card for future reference and said have a nice evening, then the elder started trying to teach the restoration. I told him that as representatives of Christ and his church, we can't be doing things like that to make us look bad. I understand his intentions, but sometimes you just can't have it your way.

We had made plans last night for who we'd see and made those with prayer. One was a less active recent convert and he said he had a feeling we shouldn't go over there. I told him we made that plan for a reason and convinced him to go over there. They were all home, which apparently never happens, and we got to know them a little better and share with them a message. It went really well! Also, they have a daughter who is 18 and apparently she went to summer term as well! She knows everyone that I do and it is so weird that I not once came across her. She was even roommates with Savannah Steffens! What the heck!?!  To end the night we did some more less-active work and tracting. We tracted into this couple sitting outside their trailer. They were vaping and were drunk- it was interesting. The dad got mad we were there and then stumbled inside, but the mom talked to us and started to open up and all. She was 'saved' or baptized in March after going to jail, but after talking to her, she said she was now happy, but I guess the true feelings deep down came out when you're drunk haha. I wanted to leave cause she was sort of irrational but the elder stayed. Anyway, hopefully a good day tomorrow.

Saturday, 11/25/15
Today was amazing. We had a great couple hours of weekly planning. We went through more thoroughly and put in read plans for all of our investigators. We made 3 sections in our plans for each of them. Their needs, our goals (to fulfill their needs), to do (how to fulfill our goals). It felt really good and the spirit was helping us. We made a goal of 1 baptism on December 26th, and 2 on January 16th. Miracles will happen!

We had dinner at the Oherily's house again and it was nice! Left over Thanksgiving food! I was looking for a violin so I could duet with Elder Drage (he'll play guitar) and their daughter had one! After we went toteh daughter's house and I picked it up! Woohoo! It's only a 3/4 though:( so it's harder to play {because it's small}.

We had a lesson over facetime as well! The STL's Clark & Hill have a Mexican family they were teaching with Spanish speaking member, but decided we should teach them. We taught and re-emphasized the Restoration. It was super cool!! It was weird that through an iPad we could even feel the spirit. I had been praying for specific experiences where I would know what the spirit felt like, and it happened. Elder Fife and I were on the same page and when he was talking I felt to share Alma 7:41. After explaining it, the wife had a question, "que es explique? So Fife started talking and I turned to Alma 7:11-13, which is the scripture he apparently wanted as well. So on point! We talked with them a little more and I got the feeling that Fife was going to ask the to be baptized. I whispered 'baptism?' to him and in that moment, the facetime call stopped working- Satan definitely knew that they were ready and that's a testimony to me that they were ready. This little break disrupted our flow a little bit, but that's okay! We finally go it working and while we were talking again, our phone started ringing! hahah- crazy! We invited them to be baptized, and they were a little hesitant. We told them to pray about it and read 2 Nephi 31. We are hopeful and have another lesson on Monday!

Sunday 11/30/15
Well we are at church every Sunday from 7am-4pm so 9 hours of church! No complaining anybody else! It's kind of cool though to have 2 wards. In word council I talked about trying something new. We want to get the wards into the missionary centered spirit. We want everyone to be excited about missionary work and we need referrals! To do this, I started the 'missionary moment' thing. Every week we will be asking for missionary experiences for members to share. This will hopefully get them excited to share on Sundays what they experience in the week. I invited the elders quorum to pray for missionary opportunities during the week as well.

We had some sick drop-ins tonight. We went to Piedmont to contact a referral we had, and turns out we ended up talking to the referral's friend instead! We had a member with us (20 year old RM) and got to know him a little. He has had a lot of trials in his life and has been trying to change it. We talked with him for 45 minutes, introduced the Book of Mormon, and he was super interested in it! He liked how it was based in the Americas and liked what we introduced about Lehi's family. We got a return appointment!

We talked to Felix, Alesandro, Gloria, Maria, and Jesus too! They are a family from one of the trailer parks and we haven't been able to get in their house again. They are all so solid. We followed up on BofM reading and they are all reading! The spirit was strong and we talked about the BofM a little more, how to read it effectively, and mentioned family reading as well! We asked that if they pray about the BofM, and found it to be true, if they'd be baptized and they said yes!! We have an appointment on Thursday with them so hopefully it goes well!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trying to Have More Gratitude

Hey guys! It feels like I have been here forever. It has only been two weeks- which is crazier. So I have been feeling pretty discouraged this last week. Satan is working pretty hard down here. It is so frustrating that all but one of our scheduled appointments have fallen through. It must be Latino culture to not like appointments or something. We have been trying super hard to find things to do instead. We have a few referrals and have visited them this week with some success, but other than that, we have to knock doors, which I have found to not be so successful. The male figures of these Latino households work super late, so we can't teach them inside and really have a solid lesson. We have been trying to teach some of the first principles in the restoration and we have been giving out cards and copies of the Book of Mormon. However, when we do teach, I do not feel like we have found our groove together yet. With Elder Casey in the MTC, once we had taught enough to realize where we were effective, our lessons became stellar. Here, we do not teach many lessons, so it is just going to take longer I guess. We have found many new investigators, but we have not been able to get back into their houses again. We will just have to keep pressing forward. 

Also, I have felt pretty incompetent when it comes to speaking Spanish. It is hard to understand most people, however there are a select few I understand, and it's taking a toll. We teach a Spanish gospel principles class in the 3rd ward and that is super hard for me as well. On occasion when I do figure out what they are saying, by the time I know what to respond with, the discussion is already past that point, which too, is frustrating. I have been praying a lot for help, and Elder Fife has had to remind me that I am only two weeks in. He is super good at encouraging people, and for me he is always saying that I am doing super well. I'm so glad he is my trainer. 

On Sunday in church, the talks were about gratitude. Some things that stuck out were:
  • ONE: If you are struggling with anything, start living in gratitude
  • TWO: Gratitude has a healing power 
I have realized that I need to stop thinking so negatively and see the good that will come from this. A witness comes after a trial of our faith, and right now, the lack of success is the trial of my faith. As I, and I guess we, are grateful and show gratitude for what we go through or what we have been blessed with, our perspective changes. In this life on earth, it is all about perspective. Having the knowledge of what my purpose is here on earth is, is comforting, because I know in the end it will all work out. I just need to stop worrying and complaining about the little things like this. 
We did have a few on the spot lessons though. We taught the restoration three times this week. Two of those appointments were solid, and they want us to come back again.The other one was interesting. We taught a pretty big Latino family and it almost went south. They liked what we talked about until we introduced them to the Book of Mormon. We said it was similar to the Bible and that it is another testament of Jesus Christ, like the Old and New Testament. We read the introduction (BTW which is really good, so everyone who sees this, read that part!), and then one of the ladies started to oppose it with the obvious, "There can't be more stuff written" because of what John says in Revelation. So this went on for like 30 more minutes and her husband liked what we said but she did not. We gave him a Book of Mormon, and he gave us his number....later this week we called it and it said it didn't exist! We laughed super hard! Ends up we ran into them again and he was embarrassed and gave us his actual number, so yeah haha. We also invited an investigator to be baptized and have had 2 member presents with her. She is super solid, but she said no at the moment. We hope she will accept in the future!

One last thing, I met a guy, Brother Taylor in the Simpsonville 2nd Ward, who works with Bishop Davis! Small World!
Us pretending to teach our English class on Wednesday. Nobody showed up! Sucks for them cause it was going to be a great lesson! hahaha

We took like 20 photos. We love our photo shoots..thank goodness for camera timers!

Simpsonville skyline... around 4pm it starts to get dark pretty early here

Some more pics that just loaded from his camera-- 
these are from the MTC
The guys in my MTC district with our hilarious Branch Presidente Torres

​Me and the Hermanas from my district in the MTC

The guys from my Casa at the MTC ( the guy with the glasses on the right is from Lake Elsinore!) we were all called to stateside Spanish-speaking missions.

Me and one of the other district's teachers I became friends with! Hermano Gomez!
He served in SLC and might move to the states! 

This is me and my night teacher at the MTC, Hermano Cruz- he is only 22!

 Look who I got to see in the MTC!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Coming to Carolina!

Elder Fife & me today at the library
Hey guys! I am back in the states! I flew into Atlanta and then took a connection to Columbia, South Carolina! It was super pretty seeing everything, like the green and the trees! They have seasons here!! U​pon arrival, we met at the mission home and had dinner, meetings​,​ and then got to go to bed 2 hours early! I think it was because some guy was falling asleep while President T​urner was talking- in the front row hahaa.

Wednesday morning we had transfer meeting where they announced the new companionships! My companion is Elder (Paul) Thomas Fife from Colorado Springs! He reminds me of Elder Richards from back home and he is soo awesome! I have heard from ​e​veryone that he is really solid!! He also happens to be our District Leader​,​ which is an added bonus! ​I am in Simpsonville,​ which is near Greenville in the upper northwest part of the state. As S​panish elders, we cover 2 wards:​ T​he Simpsonville 2nd and 3rd ward​s, which means 6 horas of church!  They just split 2 weeks ago, so we have a lot of work to do! They are English wards, but with Spanish members, so we have to translate and stuff.​ I love the Simpsonville 3rd Ward and our ward mission leaders, Brother's Felosh and Enesa (both played ball at Dixie State). It's mostly Mexicans down here, but there are Colombians and a few from Argentina as well.

I have met so many people and its all just a blur. My first day, ​w​e gave a blessing to a member and also gave a blessing in Spanish on Sunday. P​retty cool stuff! We also had to teach a S​panish Sunday School class with no knowledge before hand so that was interesting, but turned out pretty good! We have been doing a lot of tracting in trail​e​r parks,​ and have had many lessons already. It's super hard to understand the older people and their S​panish. It seems like the younger generation of Latinos speaks clearer. 
 

One of our lessons was with a family who likes to take in "stray" animals... so during our lesson, their little girl put a chipmunk on my shoe and it started to eat my laces! S​o weird! T​hey had cats everywhere and afterwards we felt super itchy- haha. So this week we have done a lot of work and now have 11 new investigators! I did not realize how tiring this all could be.

These last couple days I have been feeling pretty discouraged because of my lack of S​panish skills. People say my Spanish is good, but I think it still sucks.
There were a few lesson this week where I did not talk that much. I would try to understand the investigators and when I finally did, it was too late to go back to what they were talking about. Elder ​F​ife is really good at motivating me,​ so I have had on many occasions to just ​stop and think to myself that I can do this! ​I​'​ve only been here 6 days,​ so I shouldn't be so stressed. We did service th​is week at a less-active me​m​ber'​s home. We used a log splitter and basically made firewoood for like 4 hours. I​t was some tough stuff, especially in the cold. It gets really cold here in the mornings and at night especially. Being rejected at night sucks even more because of the cold. ​(California boy's blood is thin!)​

We had a mini mission set up for ​S​aturday and S​unday,​ but nobody who signed up came,​ so we had to redo all of our plans, but hey, gotta make d​o,​ right? I​'​m super excited for this week and hopefully get some baptismal dates set up! W​e have a goal of 14 before January 1st​,​ and have 2 already, with 8 pos​sible ones with dates right now! Okay,​ no more time, so...til next week!--

Elder McLaughlin


our apartment

our small room
The trailer park house of one of our investigators