Monday, July 25, 2016

Lightning Strikes & Adventures of the "Lost" Keys

So on Saturday, I got a call from one of the Assistants. Was not expecting it. President has called me to be a district leader! I am kind of nervous, but super excited! I really have no idea what to expect! Now all of my companions including me will have been district or zone leaders. Any tips haha? On Thursday, a member from the Bishopric called me and Elder Finch, and asked if we could give talks on missionary work. I was excited because I have not given a talk in the field yet! We got to sacrament, and the first speaker went on for 27 minutes. Our talks were each supposed to be 10 minutes long, but at this point it was 9:57am and sacrament meeting ends at 10:05am. Elder Finch got up and spoke until 10:05, and I never got the chance to! One of the bishopbric members got up and said that they would have me speak next week, and told everyone if they wanted to hear me speak, then get here early! I gave a big nod and smile to the congregation, and everyone laughed. I looked over to Elder Volmar who was translating on the stand, and we smiled because we both knew I would be gone next week since I had already gotten the call on Saturday! I was literally 5 ft away from giving a talk, and 5 ft I guess just was not enough! Anyway, I think I am headed off to West Columbia. They have a really strong branch there, and the current district leader is finishing his mission this week. I will let all y'all know next week what happens! transfers are on Wednesday BTW.

I dropped the ball hard core on Saturday! It was almost a mess, but I did recover the fumble...let me explain: So a sister in the Spanish group who works at a medical clinic, (the one who referred us to Gloria) gave us another referral. With the privacy of her job, she can get fired if they know it was her who referred us. She is literally risking her career just so that people can hear the gospel! Mad respect! Anyway, we head over and we knock the door. Her husband was just deported and she has 6 kids under the age of 7! We taught a short restoration message, and then I said "your name is __, right?" I always forget peoples names upon first contact. She said, "excuse me, but did I tell you my name?" Then I realized I goofed... She never told us her name. I quickly said something like "yeah remember, you told us your name after we told you ours!" She brushed it off, but still was pretty timid, and she stood back a little. I asked for her last name to put in the area book (Already had it), but she refused to give it to us. We will see how this goes! We have a return appointment tonight. We played it off even more by telling her we had been knocking around in the complex, and after she shut the door, knocked on the apartment across. I'm praying that all will be well!

One thing I am sad about is that there will be many baptisms here soon that I won't be here for! We are teaching some really cool people. Sabrina is still on date for August 13, and came to church yesterday! I will miss the member, especially Sister Russo! After working with her to bring her back to full activation since February, she has an interview on Tuesday with the bishop to get back to the temple!! I am so excited!!!

I had my last exchange in this area with Elder Blackham. He is a stud! #futureApostle  Anyway, the exchange was not very successful. We had apartment inspections, which we failed because the kitchen was not 100% perfect, and because I did not know we needed to change filters for the air conditioning (it was nasty). That took 2 hours. We were on bikes, since the car was still in the shop from my accident, and then a nice storm rolled in. We were debating whether or not to head out on bikes, so we prayed, and felt we should. We started, and the wind got pretty strong, and the rain really stung. We were biking through huge puddles- our shoes were completely submerged as we were peddling. We got soaked not 7 seconds from being outside of the apartment. That is how much rain. We got down the street and turned into Arbys. Elder Blackham felt impressed to get under cover. We went across a big parking lot and stopped under the overhang of a building. A few seconds after we had gotten under, lightning started to strike and a bolt hit a light post in the parking lot like 25 yards away. The power of the strike pushed us back a little bit! It was crazy! Another hit in the same parking lot. I am grateful that Elder Blackham recognized the prompting and that we weren't toast! After like 20 minutes, we decided to head back to the apartment. During all this, we found out that our phone got drowned in the pocket we placed it in, in Elder Blackham's backpack! oh boy! Thanks for your prayers!

This week, we left our keys at an investigator's house! It was like 9:30pm and we needed to be in our apartment. We called the investigator, and they said they would give us them tomorrow. We headed to the ZL apartment after planning real quick, and they gave us a spare key. We talked with them and then headed to our apartment to go to bed. We got to the apartment, and the key was missing. We went back to the Zone leaders and the key was not in their apartment. We went out, and searched for it in the grass, and dirt and still could not find it! I checked my pants for them, but nothing showed up. We said a prayer and then continued on. At this point it was 10:35. Bed time is 10:30. E
lder Dillree decided to climb the outside of the apartment onto our balcony thing (we are on the second floor). The sliding glass door was unlocked!! We got in, and then later that night, found that the key was indeed in my pants! Well, the Lord answers prayers, and does give us funny mission stories along the way!

Alrighty! That's all!

English class graduation- round 2. Best tres lechhe ever!
Spanish missionaries in the district- who has the best double chin?!

Captured at a meeting
At English class graduation- more pics to come

Monday, July 18, 2016

Baptism!!! psych... not ours.

We had a baptism this week.... in the district, not us though...yet. She was found when went to the flea market a few months ago! The baptism service was huge! tons of support! Our investigator Sabrina showed up, with all of her cousins in this area! Total of 9 people not of our faith there! The spirit was super strong! Many of her cousins asked what they need to do to be baptized! They live in the sisters area, so they will be teaching them! Sabrina is doing well! She is asking so many questions and she is thinking about baptism so much! Her date is for August 13th! We are almost done with the lessons too! Last night we ate with her family, and taught the word of wisdom. We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ (la fe, el arrepentimiento, el bautismo, the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end). It was very clear to her, and she is super excited for baptism!!

We had Bairon and Sayda (from Honduras) on date for this Saturday, July 23rd. They still need to get married, and we have a few more things to teach. Bairon wanted to get baptized the 23rd, and he thought they could do all of that this week. We were like, well, okay sounds good! They needed to come to church, but they slept in, and did not show up, so their date had to be moved. We taught them last night the 10 commandments, and the law of chastity. It went super well. They understand so much! They have no problems with word of wisdom either (they are both health freaks haha) but the thing holding them back is the law of chastity, since they are living together, and not married still-with a 2 yr old daughter. Sayda especially has a light about her that is just so peaceful! she has been reading the book of Mormon a ton too! We found them through English class! One day before class, Bairon said he wanted us to come teach his family about God, and so we did! We will be working with them on a baptismal date here soon.

Yesterday, we also taught Antonio. He was refferal from sister Russo. We went in to teach him the GOJC (gospel of Jesus Christ), but ended up talking about the atonement, and the word of wisdom. Sister Russo was not downstairs teaching with us, but before we went inside, we prayed in the car that she would bare powerful testimony to him during the lesson. Almost imediately after teaching about the atonement, she came downstairs, sat down and started to bare her testimony of the atonement. She was in her room the whole time, and so she didn't hear anything, but that was just so cool! It was a little tender mercy and a reminder that Heavenly father will answer your prayers.

For now that was all that was notable I guess! But I love this mission and being a missionary! I feel so happy with my decision to serve a mission. I have grown a bunch, and I'm grateful that Heavenly Father's blessing me for my efforts. I love tough things, I'm the first to do tough things, I do tough things first, I'm a finisher! I love being a missionary!

Some cool random stuff: 
  • Tons of lightning storms this week! I love the rain storms we get!!!
  • It is also great when the humidity is not 88% or more! Its nice when it gets down to like 60% humidity haha.
Here are some clues I have gathered up to determine if a house is of a hispanic or not so we know to knock or not:) Not intended to be mean in any way, just some common stuff that is kinda funny!
  • Princess blanket in the window
  • Christmas lights still up in July
  • White vans with tons of ladders
  • Various glass bottle caps on porches/ in the dirt
  • Tools in piles on the porch
  • Mops, or paint buckets on the porch
  • Soccer cleats, work boots with paint splatter (all sizes way smaller than my foot)
  • 3 prong satellite dish
  • Tons of cars parked in front of a house in random ways
  • Smells like hispanic food
  • Any of the above with a good looking porch connected to a trailer
  • Ford Expedition
  • Catholic beads/ image of the Virgin Guadalupe or Maria (not many black or white Catholics)
This is called Papusa-- it is so good! <I have no idea what is in it-- brayden just sent it without explanation>

Elder McLaughlin

Monday, July 11, 2016

Starting to Click

I have like nooo time!!!!! It's cause I wrote president a sick letter that took like 30 mins. 

The longer I am out here, the more I appreciate parents. Like seriously, you guys did a prety dang good job. There are so many broken families, and so many people do not know how to raise kids. I realize more and more that you are like super mom- cooking, sewing, creative, smart, adventerous etc.... lol on my desk there is a picture of the family that is framed, and one missionary from my district said that "your mom is hot"---I was grossed out and put the picture away the rest of the day lol! Seems like once I'm gone you all start doing fun stuff! hahahah whatever...I'm having more fun than all of you combined!

So this week was such a great week! I feel like I have grown so much. Every day, I feel more of a deepening responsibility for the salvation of souls! It is so great. My testimony has grown much this week. I have testified of the prophet Thomas S. Monson so much and that was so cool! I feel like everything is finally starting to click. I feel more joy and it is just so great! So real quick, since I have like no time---well MOM I WILL SEND YOU MY JOURNAL ENTRY INSTEAD>>>>>>>

Sunday 7/10/16
I am feeling my testimony grow of the atonement everyday. I feel more of an urgency for the salvation of souls. I want people to be baptized, and to come unto Christ. I feel on increase this week. I feel like I have started to gain true spiritual power. It's like everything I have been learning, studying, and examining is all starting to click. I feel like I'm becoming more and more converted. I cannot wait for my family to see my personal conversion. I have been praying lots to recognize the promptings of the spirit, for months. It is so cool how much the spirit really does influence this work. Tonight we had a lesson with Vania Cortez a less-active and daughter of Yola Russo, and her relative by marriage to Sabrina. Present was Sabrina's tia, named Maria Arizinendi. 

To give a little background, on Wednesday, we had set a lesson with Vania, and we were going to teach her at the mom's house. We got there first, and then Vania shows up with Sabrina! We taught both of them the plan of salvation. It was pretty cool! The week before this, we had taught Vania the restoration, and she expressed desire to go to the temple for the first time! More about her in a second. 

Sabrina, Vania, and Sister Russo (from Bolivia) all came to church! That was super great! Side note---all 4 companionships had investigators at church today! That is the first time ever! We had a total of 7 investigators! #promisedland. Tonight, we taught Sabrina again, and this time, Sabrina brought her aunt along, who is also the mother-in-law of Vania and the mom of Jose (who we visited in jail once). 

We taught the restoration, and at the end, I asked Sabrina if she believes that God answers prayers. She said he has answered half of her prayers. We went onto the topic of prayers. Tania then asked if God could answer prayers through dreams. We said that he can answer prayers in many different ways. I had some more insight, or received insight through the spirit about a second meaning of Moroni's promise in Moroni 10:4. I have always explained this scripture to investigators that they must mediator en sus corazones este mensaje, y pida a dios por una respuesta. <Meditate this message in their hearts, & ask God for an answer>. I see it in a different way now, in terms of confirming revelation. "And when ye shall receive [revelation], I exhort you to 'pray to know if these things are not true.' It is so important to confirm revelation we receive! 

Anyway, after the lesson, Yola gave us chocolate and then Vania started to cry. She said that she felt darkness and was ready to completely leave God. She gave one last prayer that He would show her a sign. She said that the very next day, Elder Douglas and I showed up. We shared a video- and she said she felt like God was talking to her. Hearing this tonight made me so joyful. Elder Douglas and I listened to a lot of Jack R. Christensen talks. He has been the answer to so many people's prayers. 

I remember a while back, I expressed to Dad that I wanted to be an answer to prayer. Without knowing it, I was! I feel so grateful for that. The Lord has trusted me with His children. I stand as a missionary, in place of Jesus Christ, for his brothers and sisters. To me, if I feel more of a deepening responsibility to be my best, to become consecrated, and to do everything in my power to keep the spirit with me so that I can truly be the answer to somebody's prayers. I know that the Lord has put huge trust in me to take care of his children in this part of his vineyard. This week I have testified so much of the Savior, his atonement, and our Heavenly Father's love for us. I have also never testified so much of our prophet. I have truly felt that my testimony has grown of the Savior, and I know, and have a sure testimony that when we share our testimonies they do take root, and grow within us.

Painting a member's trailer...

Afterwards, she fed us chicken with mole and rice. I LOVE MOLE. You eat all of it with corn tortillas (the only tortillas I eat, cause basically, I'm hispanic)

Eating tres leeches that a member gave us... it is SOOOO good!

Pancake breakfast before church #bondingtime
My name in Arabic... Sister Housari's Dad (she is an English sister missionary) and is a Palestinian convert and did this for us! It's pretty cool! Reads left to right. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Time I Got 'Prayer Helped"

Holy cow. Tengo nueve meses en la misión! Dónde está el tiempo? Time is flying faster than ever before. June was the fastest month of my life. One year ago I was at BYU for summer term. That seemed just like yesterday. I do not know where the time is going. I have come to realize over the last few months that you really do need to forget yourself and get to work, because to be honest, two years is so short. 

We are super disconnected from the news, and main-stream America, and so we are in a complete different world. That is why it goes fast I think, and I have heard when missionaries go home they seem awkward or weird and its because they are transitioning from the missionary world and have changed into something different. I guess we will see come next September!

This week we called Veronica to set up an appointment to go teach
her, and we asked if we could help her with anything. She paused, and then said pray for my baby. We were like, Huh? Pray for your baby? She said, "estoy embarazada." That came as a surprise to us. She said she has been pregnant for 5 and a half months, but does not have a belly or anything! We will still be teaching her though, and she still has a desire to be baptized! 

We had 5 less-actives at church yesterday! That was super awesome! It makes me so happy when these less-active member we work with come to church to receive personal revelation and feel the spirit! No matter your religion, church attendance is so important! One of the 10-commandments is to keep the sabbath day holy. One way to break that commandment is to not go to church! So go to church and worship God :)

Friday night we had a ceremony for Gloria's baby. They cremated
her baby "Justin" and put the ashes in a little wooden box. The Relief Society put it all together, and there were some speakers, we sang "I am a child of God" and "families can be together forever". The spirit was super strong and Gloria loved it. The ward is really rallying behind her. Gloria is not progressing, and so we have decided to start over with the lessons. We do not think she is understanding what we teach, and she has a short a attention span. We are going to be teaching her very simple. We will see how it goes! 

Last night with an investigator named Moy, I got prayer helped, and then he took over my prayer. I'll explain. So in the south, there are many people when you offer a prayer, like to give prayer help. It may be part of their religion or something, so I am not judging, but it is pretty funny. Last night with Moy, as I was praying, he started praying out-loud, and got louder and louder and then I just ended the prayer I was giving and he just kept on praying for like another minute! It was kinda funny!

We met an american guy named Raul on Saturday night. He speaks
fluent Spanish and we did not expect that. That is why I emphasized American guy. So to give some background, he is a scary dude. He has a harsh-isa countenance. As we were talking to him he mentioned that he sells drugs, and that he does all sorts of drugs. We talked about the atonement. He told us that he wants to change and stop doing all of this "jank" that he is doing. He has already stopped drinking because one night he was drunk, he almost shot his girlfriend. This guy rides a bike everywhere and I have seen him around the last few months. He has apparently seen us around too, and said to us that he has been avoiding us. We talked about change and he said he knows that he wants to but knows that after talking to us he would just go back to being the same. I testified of Jesus Christ and His atonement, and I felt the Spirit testify through me. What was cool is that he immediately recognized that we were different and he said that I looked like I could help him out. We talked a little more, and he committed to church! Sad thing is, he did not show up! We passed him off the the English elders so we will see how it all plays out!

Well, it is Independence Day, and I am so grateful to be an
American missionary serving state-side. I love this country and I love the religious freedom. Without our founding fathers, the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ would not have been possible. I know the founding fathers were inspired by God and that we received our freedom with the help of those on the other side of the veil. I listened to a talk yesterday in the car titled: "Why 1820?" By Hyrum W. Smith. Listen to it! It is good! I know Joseph smith was a living prophet, and that he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ!

Love y'all!

Elder McLaughlin- envió desde mi iPad