Monday, December 28, 2009

A great Christmas indeed

Monday, December 28, 2009 0
So this past week was Christmas and it was a great one to say the least. Thanks for all the letters and packages everyone they were great!

This week we didn't get a lot of work done because we had to be home at 6 Christmas eve and Christmas day. But during the week we got a person to commit to baptism! His name is George and he is going to get baptized on January 3, which is this Sunday. So that was the exciting news with our investigators. Other than that nothing much else happened with the people who we are teaching. But since it was Christmas I got to call home and it was great. I got to talk to some of my extended family that I haven't seen or heard of for a long time! It was great. Even though I wasn't at home I really felt the spirit that was there as we were all celebrating the birth of the Savior. I'm so grateful to have a family and so grateful that we are all really close. Here in LA you don't see much of that and it was refreshing to talk to my family. It was funny because my parents thought that I only had like 5 minutes so they were passing the phone along really fast so i could talk to everyone haha. Gotta love those moments. But the time went by too fast it felt like 15 minutes when in fact it was about an hour. Gosh I miss you all but I know this is where I need to be.

I thought I'd share something from my journal today so here it goes:
In my personal study today I continued reading the New Testament to fulfill the mission challenge and once again something hit me that changed my view on the Savior and His atonement. In John 12 and in other parts of the New Testament there is a constant scripture in all the gospels and its something that goes along with the one in John, it says: "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. But what amazes me about the account in the gospel of John is what the Savior said afterwards. The Savior says, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?..." To me this shows the true humility that the Savior has towards our Heavenly Father for many reasons, but specifically because He has been given power and dominon over everything on this earth; yet He still seeks guidance from the one on high. How great of an example is that? To still maintain the same humility even when we have received everything. But the Savior doesn't stop there, he takes it a step further to show all mankind how we should act in our efforts to glorify the name of our Father. He said, "...Father, save me from this hour:but for this cause come I unto this hour...Father, glorify the name..." The Lord could have at this point caused a great sign to come forth for the welfare of others, but instead He follows the guidance of the Father just as we should take heed and listen to the spirit. In the Book of Mormon we also read of valiant men with true humility as well. When Nephi broke his bow he still searched and sought after the guidance of his father Lehi, even after the prophet himself had murmured against the Lord. Not to brownnose, not to gain power over him, but because we should always seek the counsel from those who are in higher authoity than us, even if we disagree. It's truly amazing how the Lord was perfect in every single way, even that of perfect humility.

Anyways I love and miss you all. It was hard being away from home but the mission is so worth it. I'm learning so much and I can't wait to share all the crazy experiences I had while I have been out here. Hope all is going well. Take Care.

Elder Leavell

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's 75 degrees...this aint gonna be an ordinary christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009 0

This week has been an amazing week....not a lot of work done but we had a lot of special events that have been leading towards the Christmas day. But for some reason the weather hasn't necessarily agreed with the christmas season, none the less, it is one of the best times of the year.

On tuesday we had zone conference and of course it was centered on the season. We were read christmas stories, enjoyed everyones company, but the best part is that we had an AMAZING dinner haha. President Blackburn made a funny comment when his wife was reading the christmas story, he said, "all of your eyes were glued to her, if only I could get that attention" haha. Thought that was pretty funny, but I think one of the best talks that we heard that day was of President, he talked about the difference between the holy ghost and the light of christ. He first described the light of Christ and its purposes and said that it is a free gift given to all people by our Heavenly Father, to know the difference between right and wrong. It influences people to do good and it helps prepare us to receive the Holy Ghost. So in summary, its our conscience, but it most diffinitely not the Holy Ghost because the Holy Ghost cannot be in an unclean thing since its a member of the Godhead. He continued by saying, that the Holy Ghost witnesses of the Father and of the Son, just as the Father witnesses of both, and Jesus Christ witnesses of both, and it reveals and teaches the truth of all things. But the thing he said we need to remember is that it is a gift that solely is given if we are obidient to the commandments of the Lord, if we are not the guidance, the teaches, and our most loving companion goes away. At that point it I started thinking about the importance of being obidient and I imagined the the Holy Ghost leaving, and I picture Him in tears, not only in tears but sobbing. It reminded me of the Savior when He was on the cross and died for us and at His last breath He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And this leads me to my Christmas thought. During Christmas we have a lot of things to do and sometimes we loose track of why we are really here and what the reason for the season is for. President Monson shared this story and I really loved it, here it is:

"Many years ago I read of an experience at Christmastime which took place when thousands of weary travelers were stranded in the congested Atlanta, Georgia, airport. An ice storm had seriously delayed air travel as these people were trying to get wherever they most wanted to be for Christmas—most likely home.
It happened in December of 1970. As the midnight hour tolled, unhappy passengers clustered around ticket counters, conferring anxiously with agents whose cheerfulness had long since evaporated. They, too, wanted to be home. A few people managed to doze in uncomfortable seats. Others gathered at the newsstands to thumb silently through paperback books.
If there was a common bond among this diverse throng, it was loneliness—pervasive, inescapable, suffocating loneliness. But airport decorum required that each traveler maintain his invisible barrier against all the others. Better to be lonely than to be involved, which inevitably meant listening to the complaints of gloomy and disheartened fellow travelers.
The fact of the matter was that there were more passengers than there were available seats on any of the planes. When an occasional plane managed to break out, more travelers stayed behind than made it aboard. The words “Standby,” “Reservation confirmed,” and “First-class passenger” settled priorities and bespoke money, power, influence, foresight—or the lack thereof.
Gate 67 in Atlanta was a microcosm of the whole cavernous airport. Scarcely more than a glassed-in cubicle, it was jammed with travelers hoping to fly to New Orleans, Dallas, and points west. Except for the fortunate few traveling in pairs, there was little conversation at Gate 67. A salesman stared absently into space, as if resigned. A young mother cradled an infant in her arms, gently rocking in a vain effort to soothe the soft whimpering.
Then there was a man in a finely tailored grey flannel suit who somehow seemed impervious to the collective suffering. There was a certain indifference about his manner. He was absorbed in paperwork—figuring the year-end corporate profits, perhaps. A nerve-frayed traveler sitting nearby, observing this busy man, might have identified him as an Ebenezer Scrooge.
Suddenly, the relative silence was broken by a commotion. A young man in military uniform, no more than 19 years old, was in animated conversation with the desk agent. The boy held a low-priority ticket. He pleaded with the agent to help him get to New Orleans so that he could take the bus to the obscure Louisiana village he called home.
The agent wearily told him the prospects were poor for the next 24 hours, maybe longer. The boy grew frantic. Immediately after Christmas his unit was to be sent to Vietnam—where at that time war was raging—and if he didn’t make this flight, he might never again spend Christmas at home. Even the businessman looked up from his cryptic computations to show a guarded interest. The agent clearly was moved, even a bit embarrassed. But he could only offer sympathy—not hope. The boy stood at the departure desk, casting anxious looks around the crowded room as if seeking just one friendly face.
Finally the agent announced that the flight was ready for boarding. The travelers, who had been waiting long hours, heaved themselves up, gathered their belongings, and shuffled down the small corridor to the waiting aircraft: twenty, thirty, a hundred—until there were no more seats. The agent turned to the frantic young soldier and shrugged.
Inexplicably, the businessman had lingered behind. Now he stepped forward. “I have a confirmed ticket,” he quietly told the agent. “I’d like to give my seat to this young man.” The agent stared incredulously; then he motioned to the soldier. Unable to speak, tears streaming down his face, the boy in olive drab shook hands with the man in the gray flannel suit, who simply murmured, “Good luck. Have a fine Christmas. Good luck.”
As the plane door closed and the engines began their rising whine, the businessman turned away, clutching his briefcase, and trudged toward the all-night restaurant.
No more than a few among the thousands stranded there at the Atlanta airport witnessed the drama at Gate 67. But for those who did, the sullenness, the frustration, the hostility—all dissolved into a glow. That act of love and kindness between strangers had brought the spirit of Christmas into their hearts.
The lights of the departing plane blinked, starlike, as the craft moved off into the darkness. The infant slept silently now in the lap of the young mother. Perhaps another flight would be leaving before many more hours. But those who witnessed the interchange were less impatient. The glow lingered, gently and pervasively, in that small glass and plastic stable at Gate 67."
It is my wish that we have that same spirit, the right spirit of Christmas, that we don't loose track of why we are really learn and try to emulate the characteristics of the Savior. I know life isn't easy but neither was the Savior's, so why should it be easier for us when He sacrifced everything for us. I'm so thankful to be serving him for these two years and I can't wait to learn more about the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I witness that the spirit is with us because without it people would not be getting closer to him through our message. George, who lives with a less active, is going to get baptized January 3rd. I'm so excited for him and the best part is Lydia, the less active, is starting to come to church again! How amazing is that?!
I love you all and miss you all, as well. I know this is a special time to be with family but I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do and that is to solely serve him. There is nothing I'd rather be doing. I hope you all have an amazing Christmas and remember the reason for the season is the Savior, Jesus Christ.
With Love,
Elder Leavell

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting a hug from a drunk interesting event

Monday, December 14, 2009 0
Hello Hello everyone,

So this week was another awkward week since we had to plan around a bunch of things but it's amazing how the Lord has blessed the work, even though we haven't had a bunch of time to work.

This past week we have been working really hard on Luis, who is 14 and through teaching him I have discovered the tip of the ice berg of why I'm here in Los Angeles. Luis has been having the Jehovah Witnesses come over every wednesday to teach him english, so us coming over hasn't been the most ideal situation for him. As we were teaching him I felt like I was looking at myself, looking at the same situation that I was in as I was trying to discover what the Lord wanted me to do with my life. Luis, since he is young, doesn't really understand fully the importance of this is, but I know that the Lord has truly testified to him that this is His church. As we got to know him, he was really stuck on the teachings of the Jehovah Witnesses and wasn't really willing to change. But as I shared my experiences with him, the Lord blessed him through me so that he can could know that there was a need for change. We talked with him the other day and he asked the Jehovah Witnesses to stop coming over and he is reading the Book of Mormon. To me there is nothing greater than that :)

On thursday, we decided that we would go through the area book and see who is interested, who has moved, etc so that day we were meeting a lot of people. On our way to one of our appointments a guy yelled across the street, "are you the missionaries I've been looking for?"-And of course we said yes- so he ran up to us, well let me be more specific...he wobbled over to us to say hello. Now I've talked to drunk people but this man was TOTALLY gone. He kept saying "forgive me, forgive me" and since I was the only one who knows spanish I got the privalage to talk to him. As we were talking he admitted that he was drunk and that he has lost his family for it, and as I was talking to him he looked up at me and said "ángel podrias pedonarme?" (which means Angel will you forgive me?) and then he fell to my feet. I can't explain how awkward that was but what made it even more awkward was that a whole crowd of people were watching. Just my luck huh? SO....I asked him to stand up and told him that we should not worship anyone but God and that we must prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. He smiled and then said, "oh ángel yo se que hay un celebración y se llama...." and I said "Christmas." For some reason I thought that would help the situation but to make the story short, me filling in his words made him think I was more of an angel because I could read his mind and gave me a hug for a long time. But that got me thinking that maybe he did. Since we are representatives of the Lord, Jesus Christ, maybe he saw the Savior's countenance in me, even though he was drunk he still thought he saw something. So yeah that might have been awkward but I know that the Lord blessed him through me, just as what happened with Luis, and I pray that that man will see the need to change so that he can live with our Heavenly Father again.

I love you and miss you all! I pray that we may be blessed with the countenance of the Savior so that we may be able to bless the lives of others. I know the Church is true.

Elder Leavell

Monday, December 7, 2009

Short Week

Monday, December 7, 2009 0
HELLLO FAMILY & FRIENDS! How have all of you been? How's the weather treating you? It's raining pretty hard here right now but other than that nothing too much has gone down. Since my last pday was on wednesday this has been a short week but A LOT of things have happened that I don't think I mentioned last time.

So wednesday and saturday we got to go to the temple and it was amazing! I think it was a little more special than normal because we have been trying to read the scriptures everyday in effort to try and finish our President's goal of reading the New Testament and Book of Mormon by New Years. Also, I have been reading some of the conference talks from this past general conference and hearing the sacrifices that many have made gave me more motivation to treasure the temple and the blessings we receive from it.The first time, on wednesday, I went with my zone and we had a really good time coming together as a zone and enter the House of the Lord. The second time we went with the Branch, and as normal it was all in ASL. But either way both times were amazing and I learned so much from both times I went.

But the best part of the week was our baptism that we had this last sunday! Her name is Ailinne and she is 9 years old and a daughter from an active member of the Branch. It was amazing! We had a couple of our investigators and recent converts come to the baptism and the spirit was so strong. It reminded me when I got baptized and how I felt the spirit after I was made clean in the eyes of the Lord. Even though it was a children's baptism, it reminded me of the times when the Savior blessed all the children that were there and encouraged us to become as a child. I know that the Lord is mindful of everyone but I also know that he is more mindful of His little children because of His actions when He was here on the earth, and to me that is something special.

For my spiritual thought I thought I would speak on something that I have learned in my reading. Recently I got to one of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon and it's Alma 26:11-12, it says: "11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. 12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." But something I hadn't remembered that came after Ammon's words was these scriptures that followed, in verses 34-37 it says: "34 For behold, they would take up arms against their brethren; they would not suffer themselves to be slain. But behold how many of these have laid down their lives; and we know that they have gone to their God, because of their love and of their hatred to sin. 35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name. 36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land. 37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen." As missionaries we are asked to bear witness of all the things we know to be true. And this is a perfect example. Yes, we go through hard times and yes, we might be struggling just to get by, but I know that we are being watched and I know it saddens the Lord when He sees us suffer because we won't rely on Him. I know that if we obtain that joy, the joy that Ammon had, we can obtain the fulness of joy and I know that it comes with relying on the Lord. I know this Church is true, I know that everything that we believe in is true, yes I might not understand it all, but who understands everything? So I challenge you to find that joy that Ammon had, to we may find that happiness and joy in the Lord, especially as Christmas is right around the corner. May we rejoice in our Savior's life and His glory.
Know that I love you all and that I miss you dearly. Know that I pray for you always and I only wish the best for all of you. I hope that I hear from all of you soon! Take care!
Elder Leavell

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And it was a Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 0
Hey how's it going? how was thanksgiving for all of you? I hope you "counted your blessings, and named them one by one." So this last week was a little bit longer because we didn't have your pday on the normal day of pday...but it was a great week, both finding new people and finding the true meaning of thanksgiving.

This past week I went on splits A LOT. I think I was in my own apartment 8 out of the 12 days, so I lived out of my suitcase. But I think that I have learned a lot from beings with the other Elders and finding a new way to do missionary work. Tuesday I had to go to 13 day training again, so that was the same old thing, except I went to the other meeting since I have been here for awhile. But my mission president pulled me out and decided to talk with me and it was great. I can't believe how inspired he is and I have come to know that he has been called from the Lord. We talked about the work and where he wanted me to be in the future, and not going to lie I'm a little nervous for the things to come. But I know that the Lord doesn't give any commandment unless we provides a way that we can overcome it. So hopefully I will be ready and prepared enough to do the things that he is going to ask me to do. Saturday I went on splits with my Zone Leader and it went great! Was nervous at first so that I didn't make any mistakes but I truely saw what the other programs are like. Wow. haha. That's all I can say. We tracted all day pretty much and it was hard trying to get people to listen and/or accept our cards. It just amazes me how people are so confused and are following silly traditions but then don't believe in it. But that is what we are hear for :)

Now for the personal things I have learned this past thanksgiving week. In spanish we say el Acción de Gracias, which the direct translation would be the action of thanks. And I think that I have truely understood the way we should be thankful for. With the challenge that our mission president has given us, which is to read the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, before new years, all of us are crampt trying to finish both of them before that time. I'm starting to catch up but I'm still behind, but I came upon a scripture that we use as missionaries all the time. This scripture is Alma 34:38 and it talks about how the Holy Ghost works and how we should act upon it. I have read this scripture a million times and I think I have finally figured out how to apply it. "That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ (which is what we do when we get baptized); that ye humble yourselves even to the dust (we already have done that when we get baptized), and worship God (baptismal commitment again), in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." But I think that we forget the "live in thanksgiving daily" part and I have come to understand that it is the most important part. Because it also says "for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." That is the part that I have learned. When we pray we ask for blessings but how many times have we been blessed and not noticed what we already have? But that's not all. When we think of everything that the Lord Jesus Christ has dominion over, He is over everything but there is one thing, one specific that our Heavenly Father has asked us, His children, to do...and that's pray directly to him. Not to His Only Begotten Son, but directly to Him. Doesn't that put more perspective on how important prayer is? And doesn't that make it seem more important to say thanks for the things we already have to our Heavenly Father? I found that to be very impactful in my life, especially since the mission isn't the easiest thing in the world.
Here is a picture! Well I hope all is well, and I can't wait to hear from all of you :) Love you all and take care of yourselves! Oh and be happy!

Elder Leavell
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