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
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

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:)