Monday, August 22, 2016

White Collar Escapades

Thank you everybody for the birthday wishes! I had a great birthday!! During the hours of 12pm-5pm there is really not much missionary work going on. People are working, and now kids are in school. We never have much success until the night. However, Saturday (my birthday) was different! On Friday night, I prayed that we would have service opportunities come our way, so we could do something during this time. We sure did get many, and they just keep coming! During companion study on Saturday, we got a call from a Hispanic guy who needed a cross tool thing to change his tire. We couldn't head over to him because he was way out of our area, but we sent the other elders to him!! Pretty cool! Then later on we get a text from a guy who comes to soccer night, asking if we could help him rent a house. He has been looking at two houses, and needed us to translate for him since he speaks no English. So that was cool! Saturday we had a solid day planned, and tried to see many people. The first people we tried to see were not home, but we saw a guy and his wife unloading groups of pine straw from their truck, so we went over and helped them out! They were very grateful for us, and of course we left them a Book of Mormon! Saturday we also set two service opportunities up with people we visited, so that was cool! We met a former named bobby and he has been investigating the church off an on for the past 30 YEARS!!! He is 38 years old!!! It is super crazy! He was super funny and basically just messed with us. He told us to ask him any question, because he heard it all. I began to ask him a question, and he finished the question before I could! It was funny. Anyway, we are having dinner at his house tomorrow night. please pray that his heart will be softened to the gospel! Sunday we got more service opportunities.....bottom line, God will answer your prayers, if it is expedient for you!! Love that principle!
Now, as district leader, I have responsibility to train those in my
district during district meetings and to assign different missionaries to train as well. I felt inspired to give a training on sacrament attendance. The zone leaders were there and said they thought it was good! (Phew!) Our sacrament attendance went up a little more than 3X from last week!! I was super excited! This week we had a sick week!!! It was super just, wow, like we were blessed! We found 10 new investigators and we had 7 of them at church
as well! We do not have anybody on date for baptism right now, but it is getting there. We have turned the area around in terms of numbers these last few weeks! We have been improving every single week. Things just fell into place this week, so don't think it was us, because it was the Lord. We met some really solid people this week, and not the usually Luke warm investigators. Yesterday we had a sick experience! We were sitting in the car waiting for a member to arrive to a lesson with us. The lady was not home, but her brother came out of the trailer and waved to us then sat in a hammock. We waited a few more minutes, and I felt that I was supposed to talk to him, but I did not get out of the car to do so. A few minutes later, He got up and approached the car. He said that he felt like he wanted to talk to us for some reason. As we got out and started talking to him, our member showed up! Talk about perfect timing! It wasn't por casualidad that he talked with us either. He had just gotten out of jail and wanted to change, since he has been in jail before. We will see where it goes, but he seems pretty solid!
We also served in an art gallery this week in Columbia! We helped remove dirt from an exhibit and it was pretty fun i guess? It was an art gallery you would see in something like the show White Collar. It was a huge spacious building. Pretty sick! Well, I am once again out of time. Don't worry, I have been writing in my journal different experiences I am having!! Till next week!!

(Brayden couldn't load all his bday pictures from his camera, so we have these few-- I have no clue the significance:)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fixin' to Serve


Trying to be artsy
To start off, I want to start with a sick experience that I had last Monday night! We went to go visit Maximo, who has been investigating the church for ages (eternigator). His two sons, Sebastian and Michael are already baptized, and Maximo loves the church and knows it is true. He will not be baptized though, because he is not married. His girlfriend will not marry him because she hates the church, and knows that if they get married, that he will join it. Maximo is in a tight spot, which is understandable. This is where he needs to take a step of faith though. He needs to ask himself if he really trusts in God's perfect plan for him! Elder Casey informed me that Maximos wife had never been in the living room with them to hear from the missionaries, and we do not know her name. As we walked up to the house, we met this lady named Judit! I got super excited because as we talked, I connected all the dots that she was Maximo's wife (or so I thought)! WE read from Mosiah 18:1-12 in the Book of Mormon and we talked about baptism. The spirit was super strong, and not only did Maximo understand what we were trying to tell him, but Judit was very intent! She shared with us that her mom was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints many years ago in Guatemala! She has had contact with missionaries and was taught everything as well! I was getting super excited as she kept on sharing her background. She finally paused and told us she had an experience last night that was super strange. I leaned in to listen very intently. She said that it was Monday morning, like 2:45am. Nobody was awake and she kept hearing a sound. She said she listened carefully and heard these words very clearly: "Cristo viene. Preparense!" (Christ comes, prepare yourselves). I felt the spirit when she said that. It is no coincidence to me that we came the same day she had that experience! We testified of something (I forget what) and then I said something like "I know that God wants you and your husband to be baptized. Will you prepare together to follow the example of Jesus Christ..." She immediately stared to laugh which killed the spirit. I was super confused. She explained that Maximo was her father in-law, not her husband. Thankfully she did not take offense to me basically calling her old, but still, that was super embarrassing! She said no, because she is attending the Pentecostal church right now, but after that it just went down hill hahah. We have a return lesson with them again tonight, but we still have not met Maximo's wife. The whole lesson I was thinking like wow, what a miracle that she is really intent and that she is listening to us right now! 
West Columbia Zone

Tuesday I went on my first exchange as a District Leader! That was cool! I guess school is getting back into session, and we helped out with back to school stuff. On exchanges we helped one of the less-active Spanish members get her kids registered st the elementary and middle school. She does not speak English, so we translated and walked them through. The office staff were staring at us the whole time, but they were grateful that we were helping this family out! I still have yet to miss back to school craziness!

On Saturday we did service for a sister in the branch. Apparently the branch had been working on fixing her trailer for a few months now , and we worked on it again! 
Lunch break while working on the trailer
We had to get the plumbing done, fix up windows, put in cabinets and sinks and fix up the yard a little bit as well. It was pretty fun being right there seeing how the Hispanics do their construction work! Got a good neck sun burn too #futureTan I already decided I will come home as a handy man. I can't wait to work on that kinda stuff when my house or apartment breaks down! I also want to learn how to work with mechanics, cause I will need those life skills!
Gamecocks Stadium from afar!

Yesterday we got invited to have lunch with the Chavez family. Brother Chavez is the first counselor in the branch presidency. Sister Chavez invited us and said that they invited our investigators over (since we cant eat with active members, investigators must be there). We showed up, and then other families in the branch showed up as well! It was such a sick fellowship event so to say! These two investigators are Miguel and Asalia. They are super cool! They have been to church twice now, and we have only taught them the restoration. They were a referral from the Garcia family. They actually live outside the zone (In Fife's area) so we have to get permission every time from the APs to go teach them. They are a little timid, but they have such good questions in gospel principles! future baptism!

In our district our number for member present lessons as a whole has been low my first two weeks here. on Tuesday I had one of the hermanas give a training in District meeting about member presents and why we have them. This week our district increased by 10 in that category! I was super happy! This week I am going to train on revelation through church attendance, in hopes to help the district get more investigators to church!
P-Day Ceramic painting

Well, it is still dang hot and humid down here,
so so so so fun! Oh, and I'm 19 this Saturday! I will be doing 2 interviews for baptism as well! The sisters will be baptizing on my birthday! Happy birthday to me! wohooo!

This morning we went to a less-actives house with the English elders and did some ceramics stuff! My cougar is going to look so sick!!
Ceramics shop at our less-active's house
NASTY spider

Monday, August 8, 2016

The chicken or the egg?

Hey! So this week was the fastest week of my mission... Like I do not know what happened! We found seven new investigators, thank goodness! Now we have a little bit of a teaching pool! We had a lot of moments this week where we did not know what to do, since so many people cancelled on us/ did not answer their doors. Specifically, on Saturday we were in our car, and decided to pray for direction. Immediately after the prayer, we looked up and this guy was approaching the car. I was like, sick! We got out and we talked to him. He asked us who we were, and if we were lost. We explained who we were, and he got super excited. Another detail to this story was that he wreaked of alcohol. He was stumbling on all of his words, so it was a little crazy haha. He repeated his same questions to us. It was funny. He asked us who we are, where we are from, how old we are and if we are virgins.

After asking these questions like 3 times, He kept saying "God is good". We simply agreed with him, and every time he said that, he gave us one of those bro handshakes. He switched up his questions and then asked, "What came first? the Chicken or the egg?" I never knew the answer to this question since middle school when I first heard it. Elder Casey said the chicken, and this guy (named Ulysses, the president) laughed super loud and said "Amen!" "God is good". This was like 15 minutes long, and we tried getting a referral out of it. We decided to leave after we said goodbye. Still have no idea why he was the answer to our prayer, but we will see I guess!

Being a district leader doesn't feel any different, but I am constantly thinking of things to do for district development meeting. We live with 2 other elders, and one is another district leader in the zone.
South Carolina flag- golf-style on water tank
Last night after getting key indicators, he showed me how I could use the numbers to figure out what the district needs help in. He showed me generally what key indicators should influence other ones, and it was pretty cool! Still learning, so its going to be like trial and error! I am constantly thinking about the district, and what things would help my companion in becoming a better teacher! That is probably why my week flew by, because my mind was so preoccupied with trying to figure out the needs of other people. That is a good lesson to learn right here! Our minds should be preoccupied with our desire, and my desire is to strengthen the district. I obviously have been called by the Lord and have His and President Turner's trust to help out these missionaries. There is something I can bring to the table that will specifically help each of them.

Our street name in San Elijo Hills. Feeling nostalgic:)
The Spanish branch is super cool! I have put more effort in being super outgoing to these members, and it seems like it has helped out! There is a sister named Hermana Enriqueta, and I approached her and her non-member husband and asked them if we could come over and teach them! She was super excited and wanted us to share some insights from the Book of Mormon. In gospel principles, She commented on the lesson, and shared a personal story, and she kept looking over to me as she was sharing it, which made me feel like she was opening up to me! I feel like this sounds selfish, sorry! Anyway, when you reach out, people feel more comfortable with you, and more confident as well! Especially among the Hispanics.
Feeling nostalgic about his pop warner all-american days

Well, one last thing, This applies to every aspect in life. We went up to a house, and before we even could get to the porch, the three people on the porch shouted, "We don't want you here, leave!" I get it, people get to choose whatever they want to do in life, but do not just shut something down before hearing it out. That is something I have had to work on in my mission. I have always thought that my way was the high way, and that I was always right. Being with Elder Douglas, he humbled me and would call me out for thinking that. This last week I did that a few times with Elder Casey, and goes to show that I still need to get better at taking other peoples opinion, and putting my opinion out there, without being overbearing. Also, another funny thing: We always pray before
I think he is getting excited for football season in SEC territory
entering someone's house, and we pulled up to the house where we wanted to go, and saw a bunch of people outside. When we finished praying, we looked up and they had gone inside! We walked up to the porch, and they had moved the couches that were on the porch, in front of the entrance so we couldn't get in! We will be dropping them haha.

Well, my Spanish is feeling good, and I love getting compliments on my Spanish throughout the week! Keep praying for me!

Love, Elder McLaugh a-lot

FYI- I am like the funniest elder out here... just kidding

Monday, August 1, 2016

Brayden's favorite word's are.....

{It's either feast or famine with the number of photos Bray sends, and today is FEAST. This momma is happy}

Hey fam and friends! I am officially blessed! I live 14 minutes from
Williams-Brice stadium, home of the South Carolina Gamecocks! I am basically right in the middle of all the action and I am ready for
football season in the SEC to get under way! So excited to see all the fans and hear and see all the craziness! Too bad I am representing Clemson! In a few weeks we will head down to the stadium to take pics! Cannot wait! I am just so stoked! My first SEC stadium!! Wohooo!

Okay onto other news, I am now here in West Columbia as a district leader! My companion is Elder Casey. We were companions in the Mexico MTC, and I guess the Lord is giving us another chance to be friends. We did not mesh too well down in Central America, so hopefully being in the states changes things! Hahaha JK, We have both changed these last 10 months (oh by the way happy 10 months to me!) and so far it has been going well! This area is super hard. They had 3 baptisms last week, but we have nobody in the teaching pool. We have been working super hard to find more people to teach, and it has been rough. Our area is super large, and there just are not enough hispanics living in the same area. The other two Spanish companionships (one sister and one Elder companionships) have smaller and more hispanic-populated areas. 

So our district is only 6 missionaries including me and Casey. The
branch is the only Spanish branch left in the mission! It is super strong, and the branch president is super sick! Having church in all Spanish is way better than the translation stuff we did up in Charleston. I am not going to lie, I miss Charleston so much, and Charleston is definitely home for me! This area will eventually get there! Elder Douglas and I started out with basically nothing as well back in February, so expect some big success in a few months! Believe it or not, we found a sick family! They actually live in Elder Fife's zone, but we will figure out on who will be teaching them. They came to church with the Garcia family (SICKEST FAMILY ALIVE!) We taught them last night, and they seem pretty interested! 

We ran out of miles fast this month so that was kind of tough on us with finding. We couldn't ride bikes because Elder Casey's (Brayden left out what... so I'm guessing arm or leg) is broken, and our area is not very bikable. It has been fun doing district leader stuff so far! Call-ins with the other companionships, and the zone leaders! I hope to be a good influence on this district! I have many ideas and I have figure out the needs of my district! The zone leaders are Elder Jacobsen and Overson. Elder Jacobsen has family in California- I think Carlsbad? He was in my Charleston zone a few months back. Elder Overson is from St. Johns, Arizona! I was instagram friends with both of them before the mish! Small world haha! Any way, I am excited to bring some more enthusiasm into the district and the zone!

I saw Elder Fife for the first time in forever! hahah! That made my weekLove that guy! He only has 6 months left! Pray for me and my companion, and we will be working super hard! Well, that is all for now! Oh and we were walking yesterday to a house down a pretty well covered (with trees) dirt road, and some guy comes out of his house and asked if we do "that religion [crap]"--other word for crap...and I was all happy and said "yessir! That is us!" He said he was atheist and said he would always be, and that if we tried to talk to him about god, he would shoot us! He did this as he was holding a beer can too. I replied, "Well, thank you sir. Have a nice day!" We continued to walk down the street. Hahah

New original MTC comp. {My muscles are tiny}

Elder Volmar & me

Elder Blackham & me

Our investigator, Santiago

Elder Finch, Vania, Sabrina (investigator on date for August 13)

Sister Tapia (has been a huge help for us!)

Elder Astorga -one of my faves- goes home Sept 7th

Elder Finch

Elder Finch

Rocio (Elder Douglas baptized her, and she is super solid!)

Maria Perez (less-active we have been working with)

Maribel- less-active we have been working with

Final Goodbyes- Bairon (super solid investigator)

North Charleston/Goose Creek area missionaries

Me & Fife at transfers! Haven't seen him in 6 months!

Lovin' the deer

Legit wooden hoop on tree